By: Lexi Fleck

Colorism: discrimination based on skin color, also known as shadeism, is a form of prejudice or discrimination usually from members of the same race in which people are treated differently based on the social implications from cultural meanings attached to skin color.

Colorism is a relatively new social issue. Coined in the 1980s, colorism can occur within racial groups, making it similar, but not the same as racism. Colorism is when people with darker skin are seen as less than those with lighter skin. Those who embrace colorism not only tend to value lighter-skinned people over their darker-skinned counterparts, they also view people with lighter skin as more intelligent and attractive. Colorism is deeper than just skin tone, colorism discriminates against those already discriminated.

This is an issue that is seen on an international scale. For instance, colorism was seen in Africa during the slave trade, when slaves with darker skin tones were perceived as less monetarily valuable than slaves who had lighter skin tones. In the modern-day, skin tone is still a large determinant of social class.

Colorism yields real-world advantages for individuals with light skin. For example, light-skinned Latinos make $5,000 more on average than dark-skinned Latinos, according to Shankar Vedantam, author of "The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save Our Lives." Colorism is also seen in family communities, potentially leading to parents favoring one child over the other solely based on skin tone. This can negatively affect the less-favored child's feelings of self-worth. Rather than acknowledging that charm can be seen in all skin tones, colorists narrow beauty standards by saying that some skin tones are more beautiful than others.

The average rate of imprisonment of African-Americans in state prisons is more than five times that of white people. In some states, such as Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin, there is ten times the number of Black people in prison compared to white people. Around 3% of people who live in the United States are in prison. What’s even more horrible is one-third of the black population is in prison. A new study done by a Racial and Ethnic journal breaks down this problem of prejudice in the American judicial system in even more disturbing detail. According to the study, being Black is not the only thing that makes someone more likely to be sentenced to jail in the US, it’s how Black they are. The darkness of a person’s skin, the study found, is directly proportional to the likelihood of them being arrested.

It is important for everyone to understand their worth. Commentary such as, “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” or, “She is pretty because she is light-skinned,” are insulting and belittling. These statements should never be said; they are ignorant. The power behind maintaining colorism lies in all of us who participate in applying hierarchical value to someone’s physical features. Dismantling colorism lies in correcting those who perpetrate it.


Forbes-Vierling, Suzanne. “Dark Skin Pain, Light Skin Privilege: Nine Solutions to Dismantling Colorism in the Black Community.” Medium, Medium, 19 Oct. 2017,

Merelli, Annalisa. “The Darker Your Skin the More Likely You'll End up in an American Jail.” Quartz, Quartz, 16 Oct. 2019,

Nittle, Nadra Kareem. "Why the Effects of Colorism Are So Damaging." ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020,

186 views0 comments

By: Olivia Tyler

The police system was born out of a necessity to maintain order. Disorder was largely regarded to be from the poor, prostitutes, and the African American and immigrant population. In the North, Boston created a night watch in 1636, New York followed suit in 1658 and Philadelphia in 1700. The night watch was not very effective, many slept and drank while on duty and others joined just to avoid doing military service.

Policing in southern states came from a slightly different origin. The creation of the modern police in the south was born from the slave patrol, alternatively known as “paddy rollers”. The first official slave patrol was created in the Carolina colonies in 1704. This patrol was born out of response to the Stono incident, the first major rebellion by slaves in South Carolina. Service in the patrol was required by law, and refusal to perform the duties resulted in a fine. Their main duties were to return runaway slaves, instill terror to deter slave revolts, and maintain a form of discipline. They were a means to control freed slaves and to enforce Jim Crow segregation laws. After the Civil War, the slave patrol evolved into modern Southern police departments.

The abuse towards people of color was not only local to the South. Connecticut, New York, and other colonies enforced laws to criminalize and control slaves. Congress passed fugitive Slave Laws that allowed the detention and return of escaped slaves in 1793 and 1850.

In regions of the United States, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, policing took on a new form: the vigilante. These committees of vigilance” formed in areas that lacked a formal justice system. They resisted the Reconstruction after the Civil War. These so-called regulators grouped together to combat crime and to introduce their system of order where none previously existed. This produced a socially constructed form of vigilantism, “lawlessness on behalf of lawfulness” was their motto. Sound familiar? That’s because it became the slogan for the most infamous American vigilante group, the Ku Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan, or KKK for short, started in the 1860s and became known for assaulting and lynching Black men for transgressions solely based on their race.

In the early 19th century, large numbers of immigrants from Germany and Ireland began to settle in urban parts of New York City and Boston. This growing population of immigrants was perceived as a threat to the foundation of American society. To combat this resulting unrest from the locals, the constable and night-watch system were tested as a form of enforcement. Additionally, volunteer-based groups were encouraged to step in.

The establishment of the modern police force altered the definition of police function that had been known before. The previous system consisted of groups that would be deployed in response to crime. The modern police force functioned as a way to prevent crime, establishing themselves into people’s daily lives to patrol for crime. This insertion gave police the opportunity to racially profile and target minority groups, justifying their actions by saying they wanted to protect the people.

State police began to establish many of the same goals. The Pennsylvania State Police Department was modeled after the Philippine Constabulary, an all-white force that occupied the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. The police department was created to break strikes in the coalfields of Pennsylvania and to control local towns with large immigrant populations. This force frequently engaged in anti-immigrant and anti-catholic violence. One of the most frequent actions of the department included attacking community social events on horseback with the intent of enforcing public order laws. Similarly, the Texas Rangers were a group of vigilantes and guerillas, with the main intent of suppressing the large Mexican communities in Texas. Guerilla tactics in this time were unarmed civilians that used military tactics including sabotage, ambushes, raids, hit-and-run tactics, and more in response to the large Mexican community.

By the end of the 19th century, police were a core factor in large city political machines. Police provided service to political allies, harassing, arresting, and interfering with the political activities of machine opponents. This was odd for what was supposed to be a crime control organization. Police were widely used as enforcers of the political machine, functioning and carrying out a corrupt policy. Doctor Gary Potter reflects on this time stating, “It is incorrect to say the late 19th and early 20th-century police were corrupt, they were in fact, primary instruments for the creation of corruption in the first place.” The police force has never been broken, it has been functioning correctly based on the way it was institutionally built.

The police force was also important to help keep track of infectious diseases and sheltering the homeless. Doctor Gary Potter states, “And while there is no doubt that these police services were of public value, they must be viewed as primarily political acts designed to curry public favor and ensure the continued dominance of their political patrons.” Police were known to take bribes to enforce the political agenda.

Later in the 1920s, prohibition prompted the creation of organized crime, underground and hidden bars were opened, and police raids were a regular occurrence. The continued corruption of the police system led to demands for reform that eventually started the conversation of professionalization. By the 1950s it was seen as a way to improve police effectiveness and a viable policy reformation opportunity. O. W. Wilson, a police officer at the time, set the standard for police professionalism with his publication of Police Administration. Wilson argued for the centralization of the police and emphasized military-style organization and discipline. Professionalism raised tension between police and the communities. New aggressive stop and frisk procedures were implemented, creating community resentment particularly from minority males that were frequently targeted. As Dr Gary Potter states, “Police professionalism and the military model of policing became synonymous with police repression.” Professionalism in turn did nothing to rid the police department of racist and sexist practices that had been created in the 1830s. Internalized police professionalism within the police department led to a tighter chain of command and contradictory rules and regulations. This authoritarian police system isolated itself not only from the public but the police it was trying to control. This led to widespread unionization campaigns in the mid-1960s, with nearly every large city police department having one by the 1970s. Unions were campaigned to include officers in discussions but in turn, failed. The group anonymity led to resistance to the projected increase of charges of police brutality, corruption, and other forms of misconduct.

The aforementioned professionalism, in turn, failed as seen by the economic recession that occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s, and fiscal mismanagement, which led to many layoffs of police and other municipal workers. Unions became an attractive scapegoat for municipal problems. Politicians, administration, and the media blamed demands by public workers for financial issues. This blame was despite the fact that the crisis had been caused by a larger social and economic trend. Blaming the police and other workers allowed for police administration to reorganize. This reorganization has come to be named “Taylorization of the Police” by Historian Sydney Harring. Under these “Taylorization” reforms, they served to isolate the police from citizens and separate the police directors from lower police.

Alongside police reform, technological and scientific advancements brought more in-depth investigations. There was a new focus on efficiency and crime-fighting, diminishing, and discouraging the social work aspects. The hope for these scientific-crime fighters was that they would be less susceptible to corruption.

By the 1960s, with the major uprising of Civil Rights forces, more police corruption came to light. The police were used to suppress the movement, often using brute force. From 1964 to 1968, widespread riots were started in response to police brutality and oppression towards African Americans. During this time, with major unrest within the country and a negative image of the police coming to the forefront, police hurried to protect their image. They did so first bypassing the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Street Acts, in 1968, whereby large amounts of federal money was focused on cosmetic police-community relations programs; these in large were media focused attempts to improve the police image. In the 1980s, police departments began to consider a new strategy: community policing. This strategy attempted to improve relations between the police and the community, decentralize the police, and due to the fact that police had no positive impact on crime, find a way to make citizens feel safer.

The police in America have never been built with the intent to serve all people. They protected white people and served the political machine. It is important to understand the history of the police to see that the system they were built on has and always will be corrupt unless a real change is made.


Harring, Sid. “Taylorization of Police Work: Prospects for the 1980s - Sid Harring, 1981.” SAGE Journals,

Ho, Ro. “Slave Patrols and the Origins of the Police in America.”, 25 Nov. 2014,

“The History of Policing in the United States, Part 4.” The History of Policing in the United States, Part 4 | Police Studies Online,

35 views0 comments

By: Khanya Dalton

As we educate ourselves on police brutality and the prison industrial complex, many people have asked me how and why so many black people are arrested and subsequently incarcerated. This question doesn’t have one answer. The criminalization of black people directly after the abolition of slavery, the implicit biases of police officers, and discriminatory laws such as Jim Crow Laws, Black Codes, and the War on Drugs all play a part. But I want to focus on the over policing of black communities, and how redlining contributes to it. 

Redlining is a classic example of systemic racism. After the Great Depression, the United States government examined neighborhoods big and small to evaluate the risk of mortgages in different areas. The Home Owners Loan Corporation graded neighborhoods on a scale from A to D. Those graded D were marked in red, hence the term “redlining.” Unfortunately, race was a huge determining factor in what grade neighborhoods received. “Infiltration of Negroes” was a  common reason cited for lower grades. “Respectable people but homes are too near to a negro area” was said of a B grade neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia. Neighborhoods across the country were frequently graded not just on income and population, but on their proximity to majority black neighborhoods. Black neighborhoods were rarely given high marks, and were more likely to be outlined in red. The maps the Home Owners Loan Corporation drew were available to local government and mortgage lenders, allowing both to precisely and easily discriminate against Black people. In the 20th century, one of the biggest contributors to upwards social mobility was home owning. However, mortgage lenders were wary to allow black people to obtain mortgages, as they often lived in red or “high risk” neighborhoods. The Federal Housing Association did not make neighborhoods rated D or marked red available for backing and loans. This meant that in order to purchase homes, entire black communities were forced to turn to less legitimate mortgage lenders. Unfortunately, this meant black people often became stuck in predatory loans which prevented their upward social mobility and actively impoverished them. It also effectively kept communities segregated, as black people were not given the opportunity by banks or government associations to move into wealthier, higher ranked white neighborhoods. The process of “redlining” became much larger than racist maps drawn by the Home Owners Loan Corporation. It became a systemic denial of funding and public investment into black communities.  

As the government cemented the segregation of Black communities, suburban developers offered low interest rates to white families to encourage them to move into new suburbs. This became what is known as “white flight.” White families were given the incentive to move into newer areas with better public spaces such as parks, good schools, and hospitals. Their low interest loans allowed them to continue growing their generational wealth, and pump money into improving their communities, reducing crime. Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Association told suburban developers not to sell to Black families if they wanted to keep their low interest loans. 

Most crime is a direct response to social conditions. As Black people were forced to continue living in underfunded communities with no way out, generational poverty was strengthened and their social conditions worsened. And so, crime increased. Black people are not predisposed to commit more crimes, years of disinvestment and underfunding cause more crime in their communities. Local government’s response to crime is to send in more police officers to regulate it. Instead of pumping funding into schools, hospitals, and public spaces for Black communities, governments fund the police forces operating within those neighborhoods. And so a self fulfilling prophecy was created. As Black neighborhoods were labelled as high crime areas, more police were sent into them. With a higher police presence, it is inevitable that more crimes will be caught. And so Black communities did truly become high crime areas from a purely statistics standpoint, based on the numbers of arrests made and crimes witnessed by law enforcement. 

But this over policing of Black neighborhoods has not decreased crime. Instead, more and more police officers are sent into to Black communities, decimating them. Stop and frisk laws and Broken Windows Policing have allowed police officers to criminalize Black people based on their race, and contribute to their mass incarceration. When members of families are imprisoned, that family loses a source of stability and income. The higher rates of incarceration for Black families further prevent them from achieving upward social mobility and creating generational wealth. Instead of investing in largely segregated communities of color, governments continue to deny loans to these “risky” communities and fail to adequately fund any institution within the communities except for the police. This is what we mean when we discuss systemic racism. Systemic racism is the intentional and insidious intersection of all institutions, which work to oppress Black people and prevent them from achieving social, political, and economic equality. 

The disparity in criminal justice created in part by over policing of redlined communities has not disappeared. Black drivers are 30% more likely than white drivers to be pulled over by the police. 1 in 3 black men is likely to serve time in prison, compared to 1 in 17 white men. 1 in 18 black women is likely to serve time in prison, compared to 1 in 111 white women. Black people are 20% more likely to be sentenced to jail time than white people, and receive sentences 20% longer than their white counterparts. In total, Black people make up 13% of the United States population, but account for 40% of the US prison population. Beyond criminal justice, the effects of redlining can be seen in wealth disparity between black and white people. 72% of white adults are homeowners, while only 42% of black adults are. Black adults also continue to be shown fewer apartments and homes than white people. And lastly, white families hold 90% of US national wealth, while Black families hold only 2.6%. 

Redlining is just one example of the systemic racism that prevented, and continues to prevent, Black people from avoiding persecution and building generational wealth. The police force as an institution has historically operated to unfairly target and persecute Black people in this country. The only way to dismantle the corrupt police force and reform a cruelly designed criminal justice system is to understand the intersection between all the systems in this country designed to oppress Black people. 

102 views1 comment