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Beyond Skin Color: Do White People Notice Complexion?

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
In the black community, as in others, we still struggle with complexion. It is believed that light-skinned black people get more privileges than blacks with darker complexions. Of course those perceptions come from the history of slavery in this country. Do white people think about a person’s complexion or even care? Do they make decisions based on whether the person is light-skinned or dark-skinned? In the back of my mind, I’ve always worried that they may be afraid that I’m related to them or something and that’s what makes them hesitate to select me for a job or promotion. These are burning questions for me.

I think there is a common thread with skin color among many cultures. White people included.

In our country, I would agree with you that there is a direct link back to slavery. Although it may indeed be guilt about fear of being related to you with some people, it is my perception that many people have deeply conflicted emotional reactions from even thinking about this subject.

I wish we could all just grow up.


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