Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Monolith Myth and Myriad Manifestations of Melanin: Skin Tone Bias/Colorism and Black Ivy League Undergraduates
by Abiola, Ufuoma, Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2017, 168; 10687381
Abstract (Summary)

Skin tone bias or colorism is “the tendency to perceive or behave toward members of a racial category based on the lightness or darkness of their skin tone” (Maddox & Gray, 2002, p. 250). It is “the prejudicial treatment of individuals falling within the same racial group on the basis of skin color” (Thompson & Keith, 2004, p. 46) and “the allocation of privilege and disadvantage according to the lightness or darkness of one’s skin” (Burke & Embrick, 2008, p. 17). Skin tone bias/colorism is a form of discrimination based on skin tone that typically privileges lighter-skinned individuals and penalizes darker-skinned individuals within and across racial and ethnic groups (Hunter, 2007; Jones, 2000). For my study, I focused my investigation of skin tone bias/colorism in relation to Blacks in the United States of America.

I conducted semi-structured face-to-face individual interviews with 30 Black undergraduate students (15 men and 15 women) at the University of Pennsylvania using purposive sampling. To triangulate data for this study, participants’ skin color was determined by two self-report assessments: the Skin Color Satisfaction Scale (SCSS) (Bond & Cash, 1992; Falconer & Neville, 2000) and the Skin Color Assessment Procedure (SCAP) (Bond & Cash, 1992; Coard, Breland, & Raskin, 2001). These assessments were administered prior to the interview.

Contrary to societal myth, Blacks are not a monolithic group. The impetus for my dissertation was to develop a qualitative study that necessitates the acknowledgment of the heterogeneity of Black students’ backgrounds and experiences with college, to ultimately shed light on the potential challenges faced by varying Black students in college based on skin tone, and to provide recommendations for Black students to effectively navigate highly selective institutions of higher education – with hopes to increase their persistence and success in college. Recommendations for higher education institutions, faculty, and student affairs administrators to better support Black students are also provided.

My research questions were as follows: How do the academic, personal, and social experiences of lighter-skinned Black students at a highly selective higher education institution vary compared with the experiences of darker-skinned Black students? How does this variation in experiences between lighter and darker-skinned Black students matter within the higher education context?

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gasman, Marybeth
Commitee: Burrell-McRae, Karlene, Stevenson, Howard
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 79/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Black studies, Social psychology, Educational psychology, Higher education
Keywords: African American college students, Black students at Predominantly White Institutions (PWI), Colorism, Intraracial discrimination, Skin tone bias, Stereotype threat
Publication Number: 10687381
ISBN: 978-0-355-58949-8
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