A recent study of women prisoners in North Carolina found that lighter complexioned Black inmates served less time than darker ones.

“The Impact of Light Skin on Prison Time for Black Female Offenders,” by Jill Viglione, Lance Hannon, and Robert DeFina of Villanova University, used a sample of 12, 158 women who were imprisoned between 1995 and 2009. Those who were perceived to be light skinned received sentences that were, on average, 12% shorter than their darker counterparts. The amount of actual time served was approximately 11% less. According to The Minority Brief, the study authors controlled factors including prior record, conviction date and weight; they also considered if the woman in question was serving time for robbery or homicide, which tend to carry long sentences.

The study, which appeared in The Social Science Journal, suggests that people realize that racial discrimination doesn’t exist simply in terms of advantaged Whites and disadvantaged non-Whites. Amongst Black people, proximity to “Whiteness” via ones physical features can have a tremendous impact on one’s life.


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