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The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans
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The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color Among African Americans

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  305 ratings  ·  34 reviews
A courageous, humane, and provocative examination  of how differences in color and features among  African Americans have played and continue to play a  role in their professional lives, friendships,  romances, and families.
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 1st 1993 by Anchor (first published November 1st 1992)
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4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  305 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Sep 08, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was really, really important for me, on a personal level, as a light-skinned Black person. Still, I was disappointed because I felt like the authors did a great job of portraying the struggles of dark-skinned Black people, and a horrible job of examining the complications of being light-skinned. It was at times painful to read this book, because I feel like the authors, in their effort to explore the hurt that being dark-skinned comes with in our culture, portrayed light-skinned Black ...more
This book should be required reading for everyone who thinks they are doing anti-racist work. It is all about colorism and what that looks like in the black community (no pun intended). It's a multiperspective study of colorism and how what came before has become part of the black consciousness. It is cheeky, insightful and healing.
Jul 04, 2015 rated it liked it
While there are some interesting concepts discussed, some parts are written with a heavy bias. Also some of the book's anecdotes are difficult to believe. I would have appreciated in-text references so one could review the original sources.
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is wonderful, and I would recommend it to people of ANY race..loved it.
Stacie C
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Actual rating 3.5 stars
Dana Villaruel
Sep 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Interesting views. It would have been nice to read a more updated edition that has research from the mid 90's to the 2000's
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology, nonfiction
"Media influences are so powerful they can, in the words of one Black woman, 'make you like your own features better on someone else' -- this comment made in reference to Angelina Jolie with her 'full, sexy lips,' and Kim Kardashian and Jenifer Lopez with their 'full, shapley' asses.'"

The authors do an effective job of explaining the history of intra-racial skin complexion hierarchies based upon perceived economic status, and how that prejudice was exacerbated by European colonization.

While the
I read this book some time ago, and so much of this is correct, even now. I come from a family that ranges from 'possible to pass' to the deepest hues of enbony, and all inbetween, and I myself fall in the middle spectrum. Still, I learned a lot in this book and it would serve well as a starting point for talking about this issue in our community. A good fiction counterpart is 'Causasia' and 'Symptomatic' by Danzy Senza.
Oct 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book and it shows just how hurtful racism within the Black community can be. As a medium skinned Black woman, I never experienced the bullying and ostracism described the book. It was an eye opener. Everyone should read this.
Raya Fagg
Sep 05, 2012 rated it liked it
A little dated but this is an excellent introduction to learn about the hidden history of color politics among African Americans.
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
So incredibly informative. It's a research book but reads like a novel because the subject matter is so interesting.
According to the authors of The Color Complex-"Traditionally, the color complex involved light-skinned Blacks' rejection of Blacks who were darker. Increasingly, however, the color complex shows up in the form of dark-skinned African Americans spurning their lighter-skinned brothers and sisters for not being Black enough. The complex even includes attitudes about hair texture, nose shape, and eye color"(2).
What I liked-I think the writers' explanation of how the color complex developed from whe
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I spotted this book in an article and thought it would be a good pickup. I knew some of the basics of the book's premise (skin lightening is a huge industry in certain parts of the world, there's a difference in how light-skinned people (this focuses on Black people in the US but is also discussed on how this also happens elsewhere) are viewed, treated, seen, etc. vs. darker skinned people are, etc. Since it was available at the library, it sounded like a good read.

The authors takes us through t
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that my soul never knew it needed. It is a phenomenal text that everyone should read. It discusses the rise of global colorism in a context that anyone can relate to the population of people in the cities and countries in which they love before eventually zeroing in on the African American communities in the United States. Highly recommend.
This was just...sad. Sad and informative - though I've been aware of most of it throughout my life. I don't know black people who haven't (though they exist, I'm sure - in space). Chapter 8 on politics and the workplace was an exception, which I found surprising and disturbing. The whole point about medium/brown toned folk not being directly impacted, though not free of brainwashing, was driven home. This really read as a tragedy the way "Without Sanctuary" was a horror story. I don't know why t ...more
Jan 21, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a an informative book on the issue of colorism/shadism in the black community. It opened my eyes to another way white supremacy has had a damaging effect on black people. It also helped me understand the deeper roots of this conflict that go back to the actions of free mulattoes & light skin people before & after the civil war & reconstruction. Learning about how light skin people would exclude darker people in their social clubs & institutions was painful to learn about ...more
Tiffany Jackson
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a good introductory book for those who are unfamiliar with the history and issues of color discrimination within the black community. The pros are one, the quality of the history of color stratification in America and the black community and two, I learned about a few black historical figures I was unaware of previously. However, what troubles me about this book is one, the author(s) can't seem to properly define the color of many different black people including one of the authors. For ...more
Aug 14, 2008 rated it liked it
This book seemed more like a thesis than a book. I felt that the content was repetitive and played on emotion more so than fact.

Throughout the book, it seemed as though the main mission was to establish the fact that skin color in the African American community is a large issue, but even more so for those of darker complexions. Even with the amount of content about light skinned blacks, it always went back to their struggles not being greater than those who aren't.

Whatever happened to creating
Isaac Holloway
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Telly Ree
Oct 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a dark-skinned, mid/late-twenty something year old woman, the information in this book was nothing new to me, but still very informing. While colorism has had little impact on my life, only little trivial experiences, it is still interesting reading the historical, statistical, and personal experience of how colorism has affected both dark-skinned and light-skinned men and women. As long as interracial prejudices exist, such as colorism, another factor will remain that will keep black America ...more
May 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This a 3.5 star rating for me because the authors failed to state their guidelines for what was considered "light-skin" for purposes of the book. In my opinion, the term was applied quite broadly. I enjoyed the historical and cultural background given on colorism. Informative yet disturbing to realize this issue is still a problem.
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read that really makes you think and understand where color prejudice began and how its progressed through time. As someone who has experienced this throughout my life i think its an important read for any and everyone so hopefully we can one day eliminate the one thing that keeps us apart.
Apr 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Although I believe this book did an excellent job of bringing the intra-cultural color issue to the forefront, I believe that the exposure and treatment of this problem was imbalanced. Initially, I was excited about what I thought the book promised (a thorough, balanced view), but I felt let down at the end.
Faith Knight
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this non-fiction book and was amazed at how slavery and the slaveowner's traditions seeped into the lives of African Americans to the point that they began to be prejudice against each other. Very insightful reading.
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent book on color ism in the African American community specifically in the United States. The only reason i didn't give it five stars is because i felt like they repeated some of the same concepts, overall really good though.
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Colorism is deeper than black and white. Its not racism its almost unnaturally natural. What the world rallies around is what everyone want. If it isn't colorism, it is another status symbol the world creates that the world will chase.
Ashley Sanks
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wanted to enjoy this exploration of colorism in the Black community. However, I believe that throughout most of the book, the authors were either biased in their writing and worse, explored only the surface of many issues.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books analyzing the legacy of racial stereotypes during slavery and how they are still present today. Topics, from relationships, looks, education, urban segregation and more. Awesome book!
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great read for all black people fighting color issues.
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A truly brilliant book
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