Our Skin Problem: America’s Toxic Bias of Color

Brittany Talissa King
10 min readSep 5, 2020

We cannot dismantle race, but perhaps there’s another way to escape it.

For the last decade, many Americans have steadily fought the structure of race to achieve a united-country and post-racial state — some opting for colorblindness, and others challenging the historical bias attached to skin color. Even right now, as we’re surviving a novel pandemic, the racial one is met with more urgency. But to find a cure, we must analyze the problem. So, let’s rewind four centuries to the genesis of race.

Historians say racial categories weren’t officially established until 1790. After the European Spaniards stole West Africans and native lands, other groups migrated over the Atlantic to America. Once the Dutch, the British, and the French arrived — the Spaniards recognized in order to keep their dominion, they needed a structure to uphold their power. So, they considered constructing a hierarchy based on ethnicity. But there was one huge problem; the foreigners’ skin was identical to theirs. And because of that, each group could homogenize with “Spaniard” to acquire control. Not only that, but another pigment was also in question. There were also brown Dutch people, brown French people, and brown Spaniards. Even their slaves were “brown” — and after recognizing these “color loop-holes,” they understood ignoring them could inadvertently dismantle…

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Brittany Talissa King

Writer and journalist. I explore race and social issues through history and pop-culture. @b.talissa IG. @KingTalissa Twitter. Journalism MA — NYU.