Historical Roots of Colorism, Part I: Early Spanish Origins

The Spanish cared about skin color. Whether on the European continent, or throughout the Spanish colonial world, ancestry, and the proscribed skin colors thus attached, mattered. Long before the formation of the United States, and even before the French recognized the light-skinned “mulâtre” (mulatto) in colonial censuses during the 1690s, the Spanish attached specific social and racial values to particular skin tones, and the degrees of mixture each one implied. As early as 1533, a debate arose in Madrid, Spain’s capital, over whether or not children of Spanish men and Indian or African women should be recognized by the Crown and educated as vassals of the empire. After some debate,… Read More

Continue Reading

A New Series on the Historical Roots of Colorism

By Andrew N. Wegmann Colorism, like all modern constructs, has roots in our history. Although versions of colorism have existed across nearly every civilization throughout every time period, the most immediately available to us is that of the United States. Over the next few months, I will trace these historical roots, shedding light on where, when, and how the problem of colorism came to affect our society today. Colorism itself is nothing new; but it was only recently (in the grand scheme of human history) that a prejudice has grown around the notion of skin pigmentation, and variations thereof. From the “Casta System” of 17th century New Spain to the… Read More

Continue Reading

Colorism: Roots and Routes

The most common explanation you’ll get from Americans about colorism roots and routes has to do with American slavery. During slavery in the Americas, blacks and whites bore children of mixed ancestry, but according to the law, any trace of black ancestry meant you were black (one drop rule), and children took the status of their mother, which was slave in many cases. As a result, the spectrum of skin tones among slaves and others who were legally black, grew wider. Slave owners often granted more privileges to the lighter skinned slaves, saw them as smarter and more capable because of their white ancestry, allowed them some form of education or training,… Read More

Continue Reading