Addressing Colorism

The Source
By: undefined, Tue Mar 15 2022

Springer Nature supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the researchers and practitioners in policy and business tirelessly working towards them. For International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination we spoke to Professor Ronald E. Hall, author of the books, The Historical Globalization of Colorism (2021) and The Melanin Millennium: Skin Color as 21st Century International Discourse (2013), both published with Springer.

Please tell us about the nature of your work.

My work focuses on colorism, in which I have been interested since my graduation days. In 1990, I had testified as expert witness for America’s first case of African-American colorism litigation documented as Morrow v IRS, Atlanta Federal District Court. My concern at the time was on the global reach of colorism beyond the African-American experience. For about ten years I traveled the world and collected quantitative and qualitative data on colorism. I consulted every major racial population worldwide, including those residing on a mid-western Indian reservation. And I found that colorism in reality supersedes race and racism. Since then I have published a lot on the topic.

Does your work intend to directly address ways in which we can further reduce inequality and with it racism? If so, in which way? 

Currently, I am writing a book about the emotional and psychological impact of colorism on people of color. I am also in the midst of publishing several peer-reviewed papers on the subject. These works conform to my opposition to inequality and race and my contention that the way to end racism is to end the concept of “race”.

What are the short and long-term goals of your work?

The thrust of my work in the short term is ending racism. In the long-term it is unity of the species. But I contend that we need to go beyond race and racism to understand the prejudice in its entirety. The concept of race categorizes humanity into divisions that have proved to have little biological basis at the current time, while skin color and prejudice based on skin color cross racial boundaries and are a more meaningful way of understanding this form of inequality in today’s globalized world. Race is also less given to mathematical measures than skin color, while skin color pertains to an accurate measure of melanin and can be statistically calculated. Understanding these complexities of the prejudice need us to go beyond race and racism. A better understanding will help create inclusive civil spaces and bring people of all color together.

How important do you think it is for organizations to make a societal impact?

This is an extract from Chapter 1, that answers the question nicely.

In this new era of stakeholder value, maximizing shareholder profit is no longer considered a corporation’s primary duty. Instead, creating value for all stakeholders is the new organizational mandate. Stakeholders—customers, consumers, employees, citizens— expect institutions to step up and do their part to address the daunting global social and environmental challenges we face, not least growing inequity. And as #MeToo and #BLM show, they are making their voices heard loud and clear.

This rallying cry for change is loudest among Generation Z (Gen Z), who will soon eclipse Millennials as the most populous generation on earth—more than one-third of the world’s population. Gen Zers are the most connected and ethnically and racially diverse generation and they are calling for a more equitable and sustainable world. This matters to the strategic leader, because it is Gen Z who will soon make up the majority of voters, citizens, consumers and the future global talent pool.

The priorities embraced by Gen Z are also being advanced on the global stage through the United Nations 2030 Agenda. This ambitious global roadmap sets out 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a cross-cutting commitment to “leave no one behind” and target support towards vulnerable populations first. Equity is a central theme throughout Agenda 2030, and it includes a standalone goal to achieve ‘Reduced Inequalities’ both within and between countries. In spite of pockets of ‘progress,’ SDG10 is considered to be one of the goals most unlikely to be met and inequalities are actually growing in most countries, not shrinking.

Tackling complex challenges like inequality cannot be done by any single institution and all organizations have a role to play in driving progress on the SDGs. To ensure they are aligned with stakeholder expectations, leaders can use the blueprint of the 2030 Agenda as a roadmap not only for how they run their organizations, but how they create value for society going forward.

What does public engagement look like in your field and how important do you think it is for researchers to make a societal impact with their work?

Since my testimony in 1990 hundreds of colorism cases have been filed. While most social science disciplines have begun to take part in the necessary changes being made in social policy, social work has been slow getting involved. Social work as a profession is affected by Eurocentrism, where issues external to the European experience are trivialized. As someone from a social work background, I hope that I have helped researchers and professionals in the field to take cognizance of a diversity of issues outside the Eurocentric experience. But to correct its shortcomings social work as a discipline needs to eliminate the gap between its social justice/ethical rhetoric and its actual activity. It is very important for a larger volume of research to be published in this area and for researchers and policy-makers to work together in creating inclusive social policies.  

How can progress on reducing inequalities translate to progress in science & research?

If social work and other less astute societal institutions can carry out the necessary changes needed inequality and racism will be short-lived. Indeed, given that social work is an international endeavor the benefits will extend worldwide. If people are categorized by skin color rather than race, social science investigations will have no use for racial categories. Racism will become irrelevant, and the study of mankind framed in a more holistic view.

Discover Springer Nature's SDG10 Hub about Reduced Inequalities.

About the Ronald E. Hall
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Ronald E. Hall is Professor at the School of Social Work, Michigan State University. Before obtaining his doctorate, Dr. Hall enabled his professional career as a clinical social worker in the city of Detroit. His occupational role encompassed the practice of individual and group psychotherapy with schizophrenic and manic-depressive clients. Subsequent to numerous clinical observations, Dr. Hall advocated skin color, among people of color, as a critical dynamic relative to mental health. In 1990 Dr. Hall testified as expert witness to America’s first colorism, discrimination case between African-Americans in Morrow v. IRS. He is the author of the Springer books, The Historical Globalization of Colorism (2021) and The Melanin Millennium: Skin Color as 21st Century International Discourse (2013).