Date of Award

Fall 12-14-2020

Thesis Access

Open Access Honors Thesis

Thesis Location

Honors College Thesis

Degree Name



Honors College

Faculty Advisor

Zachary W. Brewster, PhD


Along with issues like racism, sexism, and classism, colorism exists and works alongside these other “-isms” to dehumanize people with darker skin all around the world. To tackle the problem of colorism and have people unlearn it, a deeper analysis needs to be done of how it originated, how it continues to be perpetuated, and what its effects are. The causes, contributors, and consequences of colorism share similarities and vary across different cultures. This literature review will examine the three aspects of colorism mentioned within five different cultures: South Asian, Western, East Asian, Latino, and Caribbean culture. After examining previous research and studies done on colorism in each of these cultures, it was found that colorism has roots in early colonialism and slavery no matter which region of the world one looks at. In addition to the traditional preference for lighter skin and the implementation of the caste system in South Asian, East Asian and Latino cultures, colorism evolved into what it is today. Socializing agents like mass media, school, government, and family perpetuate colorism through music, movies, policies, and language. Because of how entangled colorism has become within every component of every culture, the consequences are drastic. From structural inequalities to inequalities in the justice system, dark skinned people find themselves without help at the bottom most rung of the social ladder. At the same time, light skinned people are afforded with elevated statuses in their societies and other privileges, such as being deemed more attractive and more intelligent.