Is Lighter Better?: Skin-tone Discrimination Among Asian Americans

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Rowman & Littlefield, 2007 - Asian Americans - 148 pages
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Colorism is defined as "discriminatory treatment of individuals falling within the same 'racial' group on the basis of skin color." In other words, some people, particularly women, are treated better or worse on account of the color of their skin relative to other people who share their same racial category. Colorism affects Asian Americans from many different backgrounds and who live in different parts of the United States. Is Lighter Better? discusses this often-overlooked topic. Joanne L. Rondilla and Paul Spickard ask important questions such as: What are the colorism issues that operate in Asian American communities? Are they the same issues for all Asian Americans--for women and for men, for immigrants and the American born, for Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, and other Asian Americans? Do they reflect a desire to look like White people, or is some other motive at work? Including numerous stories about and by people who have faced discrimination in their own lives, this book is an invaluable resource for people interested in colorism among Asian Americans.

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Growing up as an 70 and 80s child, I was praised for my whiter skin, and taught to stay out of the sun to avoid looking like a chocolate. I was told that lower class people in China had darker skin, where higher class people has lighter skin. If my kids' skin were light like mine, they would be praised too. Even white people admired my skin because it was lighter and fairer than theirs. I grew up feeling and thinking that white is better than dark, even passing on those principles to my own kids, without realizing the harm I've done. This was the "norm" that I was taught. It doesn't have to be that way. Now I tell my kids, just stay out of the sun to avoid the UVB/UVA rays as an more practical way of handling the issues. But am I really avoiding the issues of colorism? 

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If you or someone you know carries an umbrella in the sunshine you're Asian American and this book really sheds some insight into the complex dynamic that exists for Asian Americans - the pull between the culture they originate from and the country they live in now combined with traditional vs. modern standards of beauty combines to make a very unique read from a group voice not often heard from regarding this subject. 


1 Colorism in Asian America
Telling Our Stories
3 The Survey
4 Making a Better Me? Pure White Flawless
Cosmetic Surgery
Colorism Interview Schedule
Interview Respondents Demographic Data
Cosmetic Surgery Interview Questions
About the Authors

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About the author (2007)

Joanne L. Rondilla is a doctoral candidate in ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Paul Spickard is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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