Pigmentocracy Today

By Jessica D. Ayala

Global Pigmentocracy is a society in which blacks, Asians, and Latinos have different social statuses pertaining to their skin color.  For example, in the United States, people with lighter-skin color statistically have higher education as well as incomes than darker-skinned individuals.  Pigmentocracy is a strong form of discrimination that not only emphases one’s skin color, but one’s hair texture as well.  Throughout history, pigmentocracy has unknowingly stigmatized Blacks, Asians, and Latinos.

Pigmentocracy operates differently in different countries around the world.  For example, pigmentocracy in the United States and in Mexico are very dissimilar.  In the United States, pigmentocracy is based on the history of slaves and genocide in America.  Many argue that the preference for lighter skin is basically a preference for whiteness, and that colorism is the same as old time racism.
In Mexico, pigmentocracy hierarchy has existed for centuries.  Mexico is primarily based on the Spaniard “castas” system.  In the castas system, the status of ancestors determines a person’s social and legal ranking in society.

Being Latina in the U.S., I have personally felt the pressure to have a light skin color from a very young age.  The pressure to possess this social status symbol is incredibly high today.  Because society gives us a certain image to obtain, many individuals have gone to extremes.  Certain celebrities and influential people have gone to a life-threatening point to try to obtain this image.


In 1984, Michael Jackson was diagnosed with vitiligo universalis due to skin bleaching creams. Jackson officially denied the diagnosis, saying it was not vitiligo, but lupus.  In 2009, after Jackson’s death, an autopsy report discovered that he did indeed have vitiligo universalis as a result of skin bleaching creams.  African American celebrities like Tamar Braxton, Sammy Sosa, and Halley Berry have reportedly utilized skin bleaching creams as well.

Pigmentocracy is still very common all over the world, especially for people living very diverse communities.  Pigmentocracy should not be allowed to create societal divisions.  Rather, we should strive to unite individuals of different racial backgrounds.  It is important to educate youth and society that skin color and hair texture don’t define people, and it what lies within that is more important.


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