Colorism, an anti-Black sentiment, and the fetishization of people with a bi or multi-racial identity is real. And while I wish these weren’t conversations we didn’t still need to have, we can’t begin to heal from this internalized racism until we call it out for what it really is.
A recent study, detailed in Vox, found that if Black people simply mentioned that are multiracial, more than Black, they were rated as more attractive. Some of these people weren’t actually multiracial. They simply said it.
Researcher Robert L. Reece, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Duke, told the Duke Research Blog that the results are partially explained because of the notion that “being exotic is a compelling idea.” He continued, “It’s also partially just racism, the notion that Black people are less attractive, so being partially not-Black makes you more attractive.”
Reece’s data came from 3,200 interviews of self-identified Black people as a part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The interviewers were people of all different races. After the subjects answered a set of questions, including ones about their racial background, the interviewer was asked to rank their attractiveness on a scale of 1-5. The people who said they were multiracial got higher scores.
Reece found that these results weren’t even about just colorism. Even darker skinned Black people, who identified as multiracial, were ranked better looking than those with lighter skin who said they were just Black. The study controlled for age, gender, eye and hair color, pointing to simply the multiracial identification as the marker of perceived attractiveness.
Reece said, “Race is more than we think it is,” Reece told the Duke Research Blog. “It’s more than physical characteristics and ancestry and social class. The idea that you’re a certain race shapes how people view you.”