Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


African Americans-Attitudes, African Americans-Race identity, Human skin color-Social aspects-United States, Human skin color-United States-Psychological aspects, Black race-Color-Social aspects-United States, Black race-Color-United States-Psychological aspects, Racism-United States, Social construction of race, Miscegenation, Hypodescent, Skin color bias, Skin tone, Skin complexion, Black, Stereotypes, Bias, Black hair, Hair texture bias, Skin color advantage, Internalized oppression, Internalized racism, White supremacy, Skin color, Protective socialization, Intergenerational transmission


This study was conducted to ascertain the kinds of messages that African Americans are being exposed to that introduce them to the existence and reality of skin color bias within the African American community. This included identifying the time frame, source, and nature of those exposures as well as exploring the efforts African Americans have made to try to protect younger generations of African Americans from the impact of skin color bias within the African American community. This study used a descriptive, fixed method research design in the form of an online survey instrument that contained both a quantitative and a qualitative section. The 93 participants in this study identified themselves and their parenting caregivers as African American and as living only in the continental United States from birth through age 18. Participant responses point to teasing, ridicule, mistreatment, lighter-skin privilege, and the replication of skin color bias within African American families. When these responses are combined with historical research on skin color bias, intergenerational transmission of this phenomenon is strongly suggested. Forty-nine percent of participants felt at some point protectively socialized against the impact of intra-group skin color bias. Education and active management of their environments were two of the most frequently mentioned efforts that were made on their behalf. Implications for African Americans and mental health clinicians as well as study limitations and recommendations for future research are discussed.




ix, 167 p. : map. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 137-146)