Racism, Still Not Dead

by Belle Waring on October 18, 2006

From today’s Washington Post, an interesting paper by Vanderbilt economist Joni Hersch on the correlation between skin color and economic success among recent immigrants. (Pdf here.)

Immigrants with the lightest complexions earned, on average, about 8 to 15 percent more than those with the darkest skin tone after controlling for race and country of origin as well as for other factors related to earnings, including occupation, education, language skills, work history, type of visa and whether they were married to a U.S. citizen.

In fact, Hersch estimated that the negative impact of skin tone on earnings was equal to the benefit of education, with a particularly dark complexion virtually wiping out the advantage of education on earnings….

Hersch based her results on 2,084 men and women who participated in face-to-face interviews for the federally funded 2003 New Immigrant Survey. All of the respondents had been admitted to lawful permanent resident status during the seven-month period, May to November 2003. As part of the survey, interviewers also rated the skin tone of each individual on an 11-point scale ranging from zero to 10, with 10 representing the darkest possible skin color and zero the absence of color, or albinism.

Why should pale people earn more? “I don’t think that any explanation other than discrimination is possible—and I am not one to draw such inferences lightly,” Hersch said in an e-mail. “I am stunned by the strength and consistency of the findings, even controlling for race, even controlling for nationality, and . . . everything that could possibly matter.”

This was true even for white european people; Estonians would apparently sail past swarthy Mediterranean types (not a particular finding from the paper, mind.) In her paper she mentions that among US-born black men there is also correlation between lighter skin and higher wages, but doesn’t say whether among US-born whites there is a premuim placed on paleness. I would be inclined to say not, but then, it seems hard to imagine how this pressure could apply only to immigrants. Rather striking results, though. It’s also easy to see why the nigh-transparent complexions of Irish university profs give them an edge in the US job market.

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10.20.06 at 8:18 am

{ 63 comments }

1

Adam Kotsko 10.18.06 at 11:22 am

I predict that this is going to fail someone’s “smell test.”

2

Functional 10.18.06 at 11:38 am

It would be interesting to see if anyone could tease out whether this is, perhaps in some small part, also due to the fact that light-skinned black people discriminate against darker-skinned blacks. (If you ask for a citation, I’ll assume that you don’t know any black people in the United States.) I’m not limiting this to *job* discrimination, mind you; it could be that darker-skinned blacks have different attitudes than lighter-skinned blacks — attitudes that inhibit their own hiring — just from facing derogatory comments all of their lives from all sources.

I don’t doubt that white discrimination on the job is present too; I’m just speculating about another interesting factor that might be involved somehow.

3

ogged 10.18.06 at 11:50 am

Maybe the darker-skinned people are spending more (too much!) time tanning in the sun, and not working.

4

Rob St. Amant 10.18.06 at 12:20 pm

This is entirely off-topic, but as I was reading the article, my eye was caught by a link on the sidebar headlined “Post-Stanford Experiments”, and I automatically thought, “They’re running a follow-up on Zimbardo’s study? Holy shit!” Of course, I was forgetting the name of the newspaper.

On the skin color survey, there’s lots of interesting data; wish I had the background to interpret it.

5

Aidan Kehoe 10.18.06 at 12:31 pm

Maybe the darker-skinned people are spending more (too much!) time tanning in the sun, and not working.

As an Irish person, I have a mild tendency to take Irish people without tans more seriously than those with them, at least if they clearly have the means to take sun holidays. Easily overridden by a couple of minutes’ good conversation, or a well-observed and appropriate joke, but there, and it’s my ethnic group, I feel fine with making superficial observations about it.

I’m about to read the paper, but am interested in how she controlled for the previously observed data that the taller you are, the more your average wage.

6

LizardBreath 10.18.06 at 12:49 pm

It’d be fascinating to see this controlled for ethnicity — say, if the effect shows up as strongly between lighter and darker skinned people from India.

7

Aidan Kehoe 10.18.06 at 12:56 pm

Hmm, the paper doesn’t mention any controlling for height, despite that the Washington Post article mentions it.

8

Barry 10.18.06 at 1:00 pm

Posted by Functional :
“… it could be that darker-skinned blacks have different attitudes than lighter-skinned blacks—attitudes that inhibit their own hiring—just from facing derogatory comments all of their lives from all sources.

I don’t doubt that white discrimination on the job is present too; I’m just speculating about another interesting factor that might be involved somehow.”

Post #2, and already we’re seeing ‘couldn’t it be their fault?’.

9

SamChevre 10.18.06 at 1:05 pm

Given that (IIRC) the primary sources of immigration to the US are Latin America, India, and China:

Given that both Latin America and India have class systems in which skin color is an important component

I wonder how much of the effect is from US discrimination vs how much is from home-country discrimination?

10

leederick 10.18.06 at 1:33 pm

I’m not sure about the cause and effect relationship either. Surely jobs like agriculture or construction are low paid but have high tanning potential?

11

Functional 10.18.06 at 1:53 pm

Um, barry, read a little more carefully. My speculation isn’t blaming the darker-skinned black people at all. If anything, it’s casting a little blame (maybe 5%? 10%? who knows?) on lighter-skinned blacks who, by denigrating and discriminating against darker-skinned blacks from childhood, might cause them to be more withdrawn or nervous or ill at ease, i.e., the sorts of attitudes that could affect employment patterns in subtle ways.

It is an undeniable fact that light-skinned blacks discriminate against, insult, and signal disapproval of darker-skinned blacks all the time, and have done so since the days of slavery. Also, if you read any literature or memoirs or news stories at all (dealing with blacks, that is), you will know that darker-skinned blacks often highly resent this sort of treatment from high yellows. So, could it be possible that resentment against lighter-skinned people might affect one’s overall attitude and demeanor, such that one’s job experience might be affected compared to those lighter-skinned people?

Seems to me that there is at least something to investigate here. But, just for the sake of clueless commenters, I’m not saying that this is a *major* cause of anything. To repeat, my concededly wild guess is that it might explain 5 or 10% of the results.

12

engels 10.18.06 at 2:33 pm

I don’t doubt that white discrimination on the job is present too; I’m just speculating about another interesting factor that might be involved somehow.

You can almost hear the loud grinding noise as functional drags the discussion towards a topic which is more congenial to his world view.

13

Functional 10.18.06 at 3:04 pm

What’s the purpose of comment boards? From the reaction of barry and engels, one might suppose that the only comment allowed on this post is something like this: “Wow, great post! Racism sure is bad. I totally agree.”

Now, it might indeed be the case that the CT folks do yearn to have a comments section of that sort. But I’ve been laboring under the impression that a comments section is available in order for people to: 1) agree with the major point, 2) contest the validity of the major point, 3) address a minor but irksome detail that seems wrong, 4) bring up some additional information on another aspect of the question, not because it’s a major issue, but merely because it came to mind, 5) ask a question about the substance or methodology of the post. And, of course, number 6) in the lack of anything informative or intelligent to say, issue non-substantive insults towards other commenters.

So obviously, barry and engels think that numbers 1 and 6 are allowed. Is it the comments policy of CT that number 4 (the category of my observation) is off limits, and that every comment must directly support and agree with the major contention of the post? If so, why?

14

Functional 10.18.06 at 3:07 pm

To be more clear, I take it absolutely for granted that white racism exists, probably in many ways that economists can’t even detect, and that it is a bad thing. Now that I’ve said that, do I have permission to bring up an additional fact that came to mind, and that might have some bearing (no matter how minute) on the analysis here?

15

pedro 10.18.06 at 3:12 pm

“I wonder how much of the effect is from US discrimination vs how much is from home-country discrimination?”

Seeing as the study controls for work history, occupation, education, language skills, etc., I would presume that the extent to which foreign discrimination matters is not all that significant. If X and Y are two Salvadoran immigrants with similar prior earnings, work history, education, language skills, type of visa, and both are or are not married to an American citizen, then whatever significant discrepancy in their salaries is observed must be (in the statiscal aggregate) evidence of local discrimination, notwithstanding the obvious backdrop of discrimination they must have experienced back in El Salvador.

16

Aidan Kehoe 10.18.06 at 3:24 pm

Is it the comments policy of CT that number 4 (the category of my observation) is off limits, and that every comment must directly support and agree with the major contention of the post? If so, why?

Functional, to my knowledge there’s no articulated comments policy here. But most blog comments self-select to the perceived world view of the blog’s audience.

Thus, you’re likely to get lots of ‘how dare they!’ to someone on a feminist blog mentioning that a random advice-giving third party in a given field had said that women should wear skirts to interviews, Volokh will get lots of people saying ‘so what’ to the widespread ignorance in US political circles as to the difference between Sunnis and Shi’ites, and there will be a suspicion of crypto-racism here if you take an interpretation of the data that does anything other than maximise white, and especially WASP, shame while minimising those of other groups. All of these things are fevered or ridiculous.

The self-selection is understandable, though, because arguing without pay against a room of people who take the worst possible interpretation of everything you say is fucking tedious. But if you’re up for it, and can maintain your composure and your arguing technique, go for it.

17

abb1 10.18.06 at 3:27 pm

Personally, as one of ‘em Mediterranean types, I’m not even trying to compete with ‘em high brow blond beasts. It’s just futile – motherfuckers beat me hands down every time, every freakin time. A man’s gotta know his limitations, that’s all.

18

taj 10.18.06 at 3:28 pm

lizardbreath (#6) – light-vs-dark discrimination is rampant and totally open here in India, so I’d be surprised if it doesn’t happen with Indians abroad too. India as a nation probably consumes more “fairness cream” than the rest of the world put together.

19

engels 10.18.06 at 3:28 pm

Functional – Feel free to say whatever comes into your head. Perhaps you can point to where in my #12 I suggested that you’re not “allowed” to do so. But will you allow me to do the same?

I’d like to take this discussion one step further away from Belle’s post than you did by asking people to discuss this issue: why is it nowadays that every time someone brings up the issue of racism in America, certain people always want to talk specifically about racism within the black community? That’s seems to me to be a really fascinating issue.

20

lago 10.18.06 at 3:39 pm

It’s a tradition in sociology to point out that variations within a category are often as large as, or greater than, variations between categories. (With regard to race, this is one of the main methods of showing that racial categories are socially constructed rather than given by nature, as in the work of DuBois.)

So one legitimate reason to point out that there is discrimination within racial/ethnic groups would be to show that the category differences are inadequate to explain the outcome differences. But in this specific case, the variation between (racial/ethnic) categories explains the difference in outcomes much better than differences within (racial/ethnic) categories. So while it’s a legitimate strategy of analysis, it’s probably not the most fruitful strategy for explaining the outcome.

21

Functional 10.18.06 at 3:43 pm

why is it nowadays that every time someone brings up the issue of racism in America, certain people always want to talk specifically about racism within the black community?

By “certain people,” you can’t mean me. If so, the comment was sloppy and stupid. I’ve never brought up that topic before now, and wouldn’t bring it up at all, except for the fact that the very thing under discussion (i.e., light-skinned vs. dark-skinned blacks) is precisely the area where certain blacks discriminate against others.

22

engels 10.18.06 at 4:07 pm

If so, the comment was sloppy and stupid.

No, it wasn’t. Have a nice day.

23

SamChevre 10.18.06 at 4:11 pm

Pedro says,

Seeing as the study controls for work history, occupation, education, language skills, etc., I would presume that the extent to which foreign discrimination matters is not all that significant.

That’s exactly the assumption I’m questioning.

Take 2 Indian programmers, both with a Master’s degree and no work experience, who come to the US on an H1-B visa and gain permanent residency status 7 years later.

It seems to me that if one’s father was a prominent businessman, and the other’s father was a bus driver, their knowledge of business, network of contacts, and so forth could still be substantially different.

24

Functional 10.18.06 at 4:18 pm

But in this specific case, the variation between (racial/ethnic) categories explains the difference in outcomes much better than differences within (racial/ethnic) categories. So while it’s a legitimate strategy of analysis, it’s probably not the most fruitful strategy for explaining the outcome.

Lago — you seem to be assuming that “explaining the outcome” means “explaining 100% of the outcome,” such that once you find the most important factor that’s involved, you can exclude all other factors. Are you aware of any social science study in which one factor alone has an R^2 of 1? That would be quite extraordinary. Please do share.

25

Crystal 10.18.06 at 4:18 pm

It’s also easy to see why the nigh-transparent complexions of Irish university profs give them an edge in the US job market.

Not to mention the desirability/status of different accents. Not all Irish people have pale skin (for example, Colin Farrell). However, Irish accents are considered poetic and charming. Whereas other accents, especially from non-white countries, are not considered nearly as adorable and charming and quaint. Witness the endless stream of complaints from students who have Chinese or Indian TA’s.

But back on to the article, the fact that these researchers did control for education, occupation, work history and such things that might be expected to impact an immigrant’s success, suggests that there is some form of discrimination tied to skin color going on.

26

magistra 10.18.06 at 4:52 pm

To what extent is the extent of tanning (by the naturally white-skinned) seen as a mark of class in the US? In the UK it definitely is associated more with the lower classes. Not so much in the old-fashioned sense of they are doing outdoor labour and the middle class aren’t, but because getting a tan is now such a public health issue. As with most such issues, it is the middle classes who tend to respond more to warnings about the dangers of sunburn. (See also an article in the Guardian this year about Glasgow as a hotspot (as it were) of tanning ).

27

kid bitzer 10.18.06 at 4:54 pm

“the nigh-transparent complexions of Irish university profs give them an edge in the US job market”

well, if you’re trying to insinuate that Kieran did not get his job *solely* on the basis of his intellectual merits, then I think that’s unfair and invidious of you.

And for that matter, I think I met Kieran once, and his complexion was, well, a bit spotty. or blotchy. Can’t remember exactly–but I’m sure he can save his scholarly reputation by posting a pic.

28

Steve Sailer 10.18.06 at 5:42 pm

At a global level, the following four factors are positively correlated with each other:

Latitude (absolute value)
Fairness of skin color
Per capita income
IQ

There are plenty of exceptions, but that’s what correlation analysis is for.

As much as everyone here will want to denounce this as crimethink, you also all know, deep down, it’s true.

29

Kieran Healy 10.18.06 at 6:09 pm

And for that matter, I think I met Kieran once, and his complexion was, well, a bit spotty. or blotchy. Can’t remember exactly—but I’m sure he can save his scholarly reputation by posting a pic

This “blotchiness” allegation is “totally unfounded.”:http://www.diepresse.com/upload/20060512/moench_.jpg

30

Witt 10.18.06 at 7:12 pm

I’m interested in the practical implications of the study. Most of us have direct or indirect influence over hiring of co-workers.

What message do we take away from this study? Try harder to make sure we’re not being prejudiced? Be more alert to potential biases?

I can see why this is useful data if you’ve been discriminated against and want broader evidence. How (if at all) is it useful to everybody else?

31

Jeremy 10.18.06 at 7:18 pm

I’m having difficulty seeing why barry and engels have such a problem with functional’s posts. He certainly doesn’t seem to be saying it’s their fault. Engels, if you could offer specific instead of ad hominem arguments, I might understand your objections.

32

Martin James 10.18.06 at 7:46 pm

Witt,

The practical use is that if combine this study with all the others and if you are short, fat, dark-skinned and ugly vote democrat – you need the redistribution.

abb1, really? I’m going to cut my laughs at your posts 15%!

33

engels 10.18.06 at 8:33 pm

Jeremy – I frankly couldn’t give a shit whether you understand my posts. (They weren’t all ad homimen by the way, but yours is.) Any time you want to contribute something to the discussion, rather than haranguing me over my personal conduct, go right ahead.

34

Reduced Form 10.18.06 at 8:36 pm

Footnote 8 on page 4 says, “Studies finding a relation between skin color and blood pressure interpret the link as arising from stress associated with greater discrimination faces by darker skinned blacks.” Another possible factor is reduced vitamin D synthesis associated with high skin melanin content.

35

Jeremy 10.18.06 at 8:53 pm

I apologize if what I said seemed like an attack; that wasn’t my intention. I didn’t (and don’t) understand your problem with functionals remarks so I’m looking for clarification.

36

parse 10.18.06 at 9:12 pm

Maybe I’m misunderstanding something: how can the study demonstrate that “racism is still not dead” if the results “controlled for race.” Doesn’t that mean that race was specifically not a factor in the results?

37

engels 10.18.06 at 9:17 pm

Jeremy – Oh dear, how tedious. The study is about racism in general. Functional said that he thought it would be “interesting” to think specifically about racism among black people. My complaint (which I stated very briefly) was that this would be changing (or avoiding) the subject. This set functional off on a lengthy rant about CT comments policy, implying that I was trying to censor him. I pointed out that I am not trying to censor anyone, and I tried to give some further justification for what I had said by pointing out that the move functional made is, in my opinion, a very common one in present day America. This brought forth a largely ad hominem post from functional, who took my post personally and responded by calling it “sloppy and stupid”. You then posted an entirely ad homimem comment, which raised no substantive points at all but accused me of making nothing but ad homimen arguments. And here we are! Isn’t this fun?

38

engels 10.18.06 at 9:29 pm

And if anyone wants an example of why I say this move is common, the first thing that comes to mind is the film Crash, which I saw fairly recently, which makes a very big deal out of the issue of racism among people with minority ethnicities, rather than among whites, but, as I understand it, was applauded in certain quarters for taking this “fair and balanced” approach to the issue. I personally thought that was bullshit, but that’s just my opinion.

39

lago 10.18.06 at 9:36 pm

engels: Judging by this comments thread, it happens because anything other than a monocausal explanation requires that we treat all possible contributing factors with equal discursive weight, irrespective of their varying contribution to the outcome in question.

40

sara 10.18.06 at 9:44 pm

Am presently unemployed, half white / half Asian, with a deep tan partly genetic and partly earned through walking outdoors.

The study offers a one-shot answer: start using 50+ SPF sunblock, wearing long-sleeved shirts and hats immediately!

Ridiculous.

41

engels 10.18.06 at 9:54 pm

Also, #1 appears to have been right.

42

thetruth 10.19.06 at 12:15 am

At a global level, the following four factors are positively correlated with each other:

Latitude (absolute value)
Fairness of skin color
Per capita income
IQ

I call bullshit. If that was true, there would be a really rich white guy living at the north pole who was so rich he could just give stuff away.

43

engels 10.19.06 at 12:23 am

#42 Who’s going to break it to Steve Sailer that Santa Claus doesn’t exist?

44

engels 10.19.06 at 12:38 am

Cripes. I just looked at Steve Sailer’s blog: it’s no laughing matter. We just had flypaper for innumerates. This thread seems to be flypaper for an altogether less pleasant genus of wingnut.

45

Belle Waring 10.19.06 at 1:24 am

parse: you have a point. it would be better to say that invidious discrimination based on skin color is not dead.

46

ajay 10.19.06 at 5:12 am

India as a nation probably consumes more “fairness cream” than the rest of the world put together.

Or, possibly, “unfairness cream”.

And steve’s right. Too few people realise the extent to which the world’s economy is manipulated by hidden cabals of hyper-intelligent, immensely rich blond Inuit.

47

ajay 10.19.06 at 5:33 am

Also, penguins. (You’ve seen the movie. What do you think they’re doing, standing around in huddles for months? Plotting, that’s what!)

48

pedro 10.19.06 at 6:54 am

Now, I know anecdotal evidence is of no value to high-minded people like the usual contrarian CT commenters, but it is nonetheless curious that most of us who are in a position to tell anecdotes about being the target of racial discrimination do detect a significant amount of racism in the US (even those of us who come from societies infused with a significant degree of racism of its own kind). But nevermind… it must all be inherited racism that comes from all those darker-skinned foreign others. High-minded white conservative men are largely blind to race, except when they study the topic assiduously, as in the case of Steve Sailer.

49

Functional 10.19.06 at 7:57 am

And here we see the tedious dishonesty of “engels”:

The study is about racism in general. Functional said that he thought it would be “interesting” to think specifically about racism among black people.

1) The study is not about racism in general. It’s about darker-skinned minorities doing worse than lighter-skinned minorities, even though they’re both minorities.

2) I didn’t refer just to “racism among black people”: I said that if the subject is lighter-skinned vs. darker-skinned, then it might be worthwhile to consider the well-known fact that lighter-skinned minorities are themselves often biased against darker-skinned minorities. I absolutely did not say that this is the only thing anyone should think about. To the contrary, I expressly said — twice — that this is surely not a *major* cause of anything, only that it’s another factor to throw in the mix. I’m not sure why anyone has trouble understanding that point.

50

SamChevre 10.19.06 at 8:43 am

pedro,

I’m quite certain that racism is still a problem in the US (less of a problem than it was a generation ago, but still a problem)–but this study ISN’T about “racism”, since one of the factors controlled for was race (as defined by white men, admittedly). So I’m trying to think of plausible reasons that light-skinned Mexicans would have higher earnings in the US than dark-skinned Mexicans; I’m perfectly happy to grant that all else equal, Mexicans have lower earnings than white USA Americans, and that this is probably due in part to racism–but that isn’t what this study is about.

51

pedro 10.19.06 at 9:35 am

“…but this study ISN’T about “racism”, since one of the factors controlled for was race (as defined by white men, admittedly).”

Discrimination on the basis of skin tone is quite deserving of the label “racism” in my idiolect. Curiously, even though I readily concede that I intuitively believe my own society of origin to be more racist than American society, I have also experienced a stronger emphasis on skin-tone in American society when it comes to defining similarity between people.

I do not perceive skin-tone as being highly correlated with an immigrant’s ability to navigate the job market competently, and the suggestion strikes me as implausible, but since there is no data, I can only speculate that it is wrong to attribute the discrepancy in salary to this and effectively give substantially more agency to job-seekers than to employers in shaping the job-distribution outcome.

(Isn’t there a study of the hiring practices of orchestras, that found that once the hiring process was blind, women started getting hired significantly more than they used to–this, hilariously after some interviewers gave assurances that they could actually tell the gender of a person just by listening them play an instrument?)

On the other hand, it is quite plausible that people unconsciously discriminate along skin-tone lines in the U.S., just as they do in other countries, and perhaps even more so than in some of those other countries. I certainly detect a stronger emphasis on skin-tone in gauging similarity among people in the US as opposed to my own home country, where facial features are more important. (By way of example, my son is perceived by Americans as looking just like me, and to my eyes and those of my family back in my own country, this is largely due to skin-tone, and decidedly not due to facial features like eye-shape.) Perhaps the history of racial relations in the US sheds a light on this matter.

I distinctly remember when I went to the US Embassy in my home country to get my student visa to come to the US. People on the queue were routinely treated in a demeaning way, but not uniformly so. And my personal experience is that there is a discrepancy in the particular ways in which different cultures associate value to phenotypical characteristics.

52

engels 10.19.06 at 9:55 am

Functional – Please don’t accuse me of being dishonest.

You are the one being tedious. Your objection is that my one sentence summary of your first comment is not entirely accurate. That is true but it does not affect my point. You were trying to drag the discussion from the general issue – of “invidious discrimination based on skin colour”, if you want to be precise – towards the specific issue of discrimination for which people of minority backgrounds are themselves responsible. That is what I objected to, and would still object to.

And you haven’t offered any defence of why you are so keen we should be discussing this issue rather than the general one. Just endlesss repetitions of your point, denials of claims I never made and various slurs directed at me. If you people to take you seriously I suggest you clean up your act a bit.

53

Urinated State of America 10.19.06 at 10:03 am

“However, Irish accents are considered poetic and charming.”

Yuuve nyever spoken ta ah fellah wyit a Byelfahst aksenht, then, huvya?

Gyuarantid ta cyut throo glahss, itis.

54

Functional 10.19.06 at 10:05 am

The point is that “invidious discrimination based on skin color” — and not merely on “race” — is something that minorities themselves exhibit on a very regular basis. Do you have a theory by which this would have no effect on darker-skinned people, who face discrimination not just from whites but from fellow minorities as well?

And you haven’t offered any defence of why you are so keen we should be discussing this issue rather than the general one.

I have expressly said no fewer than three times that it is NOT the case that “we should be discussing this issue RATHER THAN the general one.” Instead, I have said three times that my additional thought is NOT a major causal factor, and that it’s just one thing that came to mind. Are you really such a simpleton that when I say something three times, you think I’m “keen” to make the opposite point?

55

engels 10.19.06 at 10:18 am

Are you really such a simpleton

No, functional, I’m not a “simpleton”. Also, I am not “stupid” or “dishonest”. In fact, I am a lot smarter than you!

I have expressly said no fewer than three times that it is NOT the case that “we should be discussing this issue

Great. Let’s stop now then, okay?

56

Functional 10.19.06 at 10:30 am

Also, engels, you haven’t had anything whatsoever to say about the “general point.” What’s stopping you?

57

engels 10.19.06 at 10:34 am

you haven’t had anything whatsoever to say about the “general point.” What’s stopping you?

You are!

58

Functional 10.19.06 at 10:37 am

I am a lot smarter than you!

Well, then, that settles it. If an anonymous person on the Internet pronounces that he’s smarter than someone else — without ever having made an argument about anything of substance — it’s bound to be true.

59

Functional 10.19.06 at 11:32 am

engels, honey, here’s how you could do it: “I doubt that Functional’s additional factor is relevant for the following reasons _______[you'd have to come up an actual argument here]. Thus, it is not relevant to the main point, which I find interesting because ______ [again, you'd have to come up with an actual argument to fill in here.]“

See how easy that would be? So again, what’s stopping you?

60

MJ Memphis 10.19.06 at 11:54 am

On my trips to Thailand, I always found it interesting that almost all the Thais on magazine covers and television shows are lighter than I am (medium tan white-amerind mix). Thais are very upfront about the color discrimination- farangs (whites) are beautiful, lighter-skinned Thais are perceived as higher class than darker-skinned Thais, and most of them aren’t real keen on black people. In hotels, the light, pretty girls staff the front desk- the dark ones clean the rooms. Anecdotally (from an Indian ex) I have heard that India is much the same, with the lighter-skinned mostly north Indian people being considered more attractive than the darker-skinned mostly south Indian people. So, yeah, discrimination held over from origin country can definitely be a factor for immigrants, especially since many immigrants get their foot in the US job market working at businesses owned by same-country immigrants.

61

H. E. Baber 10.19.06 at 10:35 pm

Jeez, I spent most of my adolescence trying to tan–and ended up with 2nd degree blistering burns which I am now told make me a candidate for skin cancer.

Believe me, status doesn’t attach to maximal skin fairness. The status configuration for women at least is a tall, slim, blonde, golden-brown-skinned Scandanavian-Polynesian hermaphrodite with big boobs and slim hips. I’m a short, fat, flat-chested, brunette but wondering if there’s any way I can capitalize on being pale–and, at least seasonally, bright pink.

62

ajay 10.20.06 at 4:17 am

“However, Irish accents are considered poetic and charming.”

Not everywhere. You grow up in a country where your main contact with Irish accents is hearing them regularly on the news justifying the latest shopping centre bombing, and it does set up rather a gut reaction.

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brooksfoe 10.20.06 at 5:01 am

“Discrimination on the basis of skin tone is quite deserving of the label “racism” in my idiolect.” – Pedro

This is often true, but it depends on the context. In Vietnam, darker skin tone is undesirable mainly because it is a marker of low class status: dark-skinned people are presumed to be farmers or laborers who work outdoors and acquire deep tans. It would be difficult to term skin-tone discrimination among Vietnamese “racism”. This is not to say that there are not elements of prejudice against particular dark-skinned minorities, particularly the Cham, which have been incorporated into general skin-tone prejudice. But the primary discriminatory motivation is class-based.

It would be interesting to look at whether the medieval European preference for “fair” skin was related to similar class prejudice, and to what extent such class-coded prejudice against dark skin played a role in the early formation of prejudice against Africans and other dark-skinned peoples.

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