Dark Skin Can Increase The Likelihood Of Your Incarceration

Inmates in Orleans Parish Prison yard
William Anderson
March 1, 2020

There’s a new study that is showing us something that’s scary. Black people and our skin tone have everything to do with how we’re treated by the criminal justice system. Though that may not surprise all of us, when you see the numbers broken down it’s pretty disturbing.

Harvard sociology professor, Ellis Monk, authored a study that shows how it’s not just Black skin but it’s the skin tone that affects our likelihood of being incarcerated. So, just when you thought it was bad it’s actually worse if you have dark skin. This is what that means in practice ...

Reporting on the study Quartz notes, “African Americans have an overall 36% chance of going to jail at some point in their lifetimes. Dark-skinned African Americans, meanwhile, have a near 66% chance.” This isn’t the first time this has come up either, there’s more evidence.

Villanova researchers have also studied more than 12,000 cases of women imprisoned in North Carolina. Their findings revealed that women with lighter skin were less likely to receive harsher sentences than women with dark skin. The problem is deeper than we may imagine.

Colorism is something that impacts the Black community on an individual basis but this information shows how it plays out systematically and institutionally. We can’t allow ourselves to reinforce the prejudices against our skin the system clearly wants us to perpetuate.

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