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“Our discourse on race in this country has largely been framed around black or white,” said University of New Mexico civil rights law professor Vinay Harpalani.

But assumptions about varying shades of skin color can, for example, lead someone who is Indian, like himself, to be mistaken as Hispanic, he said.

Academics who’ve studied racial discrimination say discrimination based on a person’s skin-tone exists across many racial and ethnic groups and generally manifests as a systematic preference for lighter skin over darker skin.

Harpalani explains it can be the other way around in some instances, such as the bullying Clark experienced as a child.

Colorism “gives us a broader understanding of race and racism,” Harpalani explained. “It kind of shows how the same ideology of race and racism can be played out within groups and in different ways. As far as skin color goes there’s a hierarchy dating way back… to the days of slavery where lighter-skinned black slaves were treated better.”

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New Mexico In Depth

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Law Commons



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