Lori Tharps

Andrew W. Mellon Regional Fellow in the Humanities

20142015 Forum on Color

Lori Tharps

Assistant Professor of Journalism
Temple University

Lori L. Tharps is an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University. She is the author of the book Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America and her work can be read in magazines and newspapers including, The New York Times, The Columbia Journalism Review and Vogue Black. Currently Tharps is at work on a new book exploring the effect skin color differences have on family dynamics. Same Family, Different Colors will take a critical look at the manifestations of colorism and color bias in African-American, Latino, Asian-American and interracial families across the country.

Pigmentocracy: Lifting the Veil of Colorism in America

When we speak of discrimination, identity politics, and oppression, race still matters in the United States. But so does color. Indeed, incidents of colorism – the preference for or presumed superiority of a person based on the (generally lighter) color of their skin – are ubiquitous throughout this country’s ethnic communities, the mainstream media, and in individual households from New York to New Mexico. Unfortunately, colorism remains a taboo topic, and thus festers unchecked in our classrooms, bedrooms, boardrooms, and even prisons. My work – a book and transmedia project – is meant to explore the root causes and history of colorism in the United States, expose the current levels of colorism embedded in contemporary society, and offer a vision of a future unfettered from our colorist past.