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So discrimination really is skindeep – at least in the USA

LatinaLista — A new study released by Vanderbilt University’s law and economics professor, Dr. Joni Hersch, just verifies what so many of us in the so-called “minority” communities have known all along – the color of a person’s skin affects their earning power.

Dr. Hersch

Dr. Hersch specifically focused on legal immigrants. She studied data from 2,084 men and women who participated in the 2003 New Immigrant Survey. An interviewer reported the person’s skin color using an 11-point scale where 0 represented the absence of color and 10 represented the darkest possible skin color.

skincolor scale used by Dr. Hersch and her researchers

Even when taking into consideration characteristics that might affect wages, such as English language proficiency, work experience and education, Hersch found immigrants with the lightest skin color earned, on average, 8 percent to 15 percent more than immigrants with the darkest skin tone.

Hersch said the effect of skin color even persisted among workers with the same ethnicity, race and country of origin. Hersch’s research also found height played a part in salary. Taller immigrants earned more, with every inch adding an additional 1 percent to wages.

Unfortunately, a study like this is old news for some of us and should prove as a wake-up call, if they care, for those who think they’re colorblind but the data reveals otherwise.

Yet, what is even more troubling than confirming this “elephant-in-the-room” practice is what Dr. Hersch further found:

Although many cultures show a bias toward lighter skin, Dr. Hersch said her analysis shows that the skin-color advantage was not due to preferential treatment for light-skinned people in their country of origin. The bias, she said, occurs in the U.S.

Another university professor, Dr. Sheldon White-Means of the University of Tennessee at Memphis said that Hersch’s study just adds to the growing body of evidence that there is a “preference for whiteness” in this country that goes beyond race.

Would this help explain the retaliatory attitude of towns across the country who are implementing measures targeting undocumented immigrants?

It’s no secret that the smaller towns and suburbs who historically enjoyed all-white populations, with just a smattering of minorities, are reacting badly to the growing dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking populations in their communites.

Measures like declaring English as the official language or not renting to undocumented immigrants, who are dark-skinned, Spanish-dominant, would seem an unconscious, or maybe not, reaction to preserve life as it has always been.

Yet, as forward-thinking as we like to think we are, the United States is far behind the rest of the world when it comes to exposure to other cultures.

Because of our size, it’s not unusual for some in our country to live their entire lives without meeting someone from another country or hear a native speaker of a language other than English converse in public.

This is a bad thing.

As much talk as there is these days about borders, the fact is that the borders one day will only be useful when drawing geographical maps.

The internet, wireless applications and cellular telephones are helping to erase borders between countries. It is fueling an economic system that is becoming increasingly globally interdependent crisscrossing oceans, time zones and yes, borders.

As is happening now, outsourcing in far away countries answering the service calls of another country further erodes the reverence for borders.

The world is moving in a direction where, to paraphrase Dr. King, people should be evaluated for the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

That is an ideal that is inevitable, but obviously still has a long road to travel – at least in this country.

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