Colorism Among African-American Teachers: A Qualitative Study of Intra-Racial Discrimination in the Classroom

Shannon Moore

Document Type Article


The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the presence and effects, if any, of colorism among African American teachers and their African American students in two public high schools in the Southeast region of the United States. The sample size consisted of 10 study participants. The theory guiding this study was Serge Moscovici’s Social Representation Theory. This theory studies people, ideas, and values of institutions in a cultural context. Most recent studies on the phenomenon of colorism have focused on preferential treatment in the workforce and media. These studies concluded that lighter-skinned Black people are frequently provided opportunities and believed to be more capable than their darker-skinned counterparts. This study examined the phenomenon of colorism as it relates to African-American teachers and their African-American students. The way in which teachers perceived a student’s academic potential, behavioral expectations, and overall capability for success was examined through in-depth interviews of each participant. The data collected were then coded, which allowed the researcher to organize the data into a logical group of categories and common themes. The findings of this study identified the existence of colorism in the classroom and as well as the way in which some African American teachers view their African American students as it related to intelligence, behavior, and attractiveness. Further research should be conducted in order to ascertain how colorism affects African American students in the primary classroom. Elementary school is the critical time in which students develop self-esteem, and it is imperative to explore this area. Furthermore, the degree to which colorism may impact the relationship between White teachers and African American students would also be valuable research.