Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Shaneda Destine

Committee Members

Shaneda Destine, Michelle Christian, Derrick Brooms, Alex Moulton


Critical Race and legal scholars approach colorism as a mainstay of white supremacy. Scholars evaluate geographical consolidations of whiteness by examining white supremacy’s role in the formation of colorism and the relationship between how race leverages and regulates beauty. Colorism, also known as light supremacy, shadeism, pigmentocracy, shade stratification, and skin tone bias operate as racialized systems that stratify on the basis of complexion. Skin tone bias is a gendered, intra-racial prejudicial system implemented during slavery that prioritized whiteness. This dissertation examines how historically induced entities of racism and colonization racialize beauty and reinforce whiteness as a form of capital. This study argues that the racialized nature of beauty situates whiteness as capital within the framework of colorism. This project investigates how complexion has been cemented as a driving force of social interaction, and leverages the hierarchies that racialize beauty, restrict access to economic capital and reproduce racism via colorism.

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