Essay based on the Article

Published 16 Feb 2017

P1: Clarence Thomas stated preference for light-skinned women is colorism. [75] HP1: Clarence Thomas is an authority on color preferences.

P2: Underdeveloping the pictures of dark-skinned people in my college year book so no one looked too dark is colorism. [75]

P3: A 1989 lawsuit brought against a dark-skinned supervisor because of alleged color discrimination by a light-skinned woman is colorism. [75]

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P4: When my 80 year old aunt tells me I am too dark to wear my hair its natural gray, that is colorism. [75]

C1: Colorism is to ascribe value and privilege to a same-race person based on lightness of color. [75]

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The conclusion regarding the definition of colorism as being related in preference to the lightness in color is supported by several examples which are Clarence Thomas’ statement (P1), and particular incidents in school (P2), court (P3), and the home (P4). While this can clearly be seen as merely arguing by example, the serious fallacy is the argumentum ad verecundiam (argument from authority) committed through the use of the hidden premise in HP1. A fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam happens when basis for the truth value of a conclusion is given through a statement of a supposed “authority” in the subject. In the argument, the author assumes that Clarence Thomas’ statement is credible and uses it as one of the supporting statements for the conclusion that colorism gives value on lightness of color. The argument does not include why Clarence Thomas’ saying so is relevant and thus fails to support the authority supposedly attributed to him. The fallacy committed makes the argument violate the sufficiency criteria which states that there should be enough substantiation of a premise to use it in proving a conclusion. Thus there should be some basis provided regarding Clarence Thomas’ authority with respect to race and color politics and in the specific topic in question in order to make the premise work for the argument.

P1: In China, the light skinned are party members and functionaries while the dark skinned are laborers and farmers. [75]

HP1: The reason why people in China are party members and functionaries is because they are light skinned and the reason why other people are farmers and laborers is because they are dark-skinned.

HP2: Being party members and functionaries are superior to being farmers and laborers

P2: Blonde and blue-eyed Aryan is “preferable” to “swarthy” southern European. [75] P3: The Hispanics I met were adamant about not being Mexican and touted their Spanish heritage.[75]

P4: The Chinese assign rooms to their house guests according to color. HP3: The Chinese assigned the room according to importance of guests and in the order of the lightest being the most important.

P5: A Filipino American was told by darker Filipinos that she was “too light to be Filipino”[75]

HP4: Being a Filipino is a negative trait.

C2: Light skin is prized. [75-76]


The conclusion of light skin being prized is drawn from several instances wherein light skin was supposedly preferred over dark skin. However, the hidden premises of P1, P3, P4, and P5 indicate that this argument is guilty of committing the fallacy of Non Sequitur. This fallacy attributes an effect that might not necessarily follow from the argued cause. In P1, the hidden premise assumes that the reason why the lighter Chinese were party members was because of their light skin and that other Chinese are farmers because they are dark skinned. In P4, the hidden premise assumes that the Chinese divided the guests by color to delineate the importance of some guests from others. In P5, the hidden premise assumes that the reason the darker Filipinos were envious of the lighter one’s color.

The fallacy committed makes the argument violate another sufficiency criterion. The author fails to consider that the lighter Chinese she encountered may have been lighter due to the nature of their work, and that the darker Chinese only turned dark because they had to work under the sun. She fails to give sufficient proof that social position was truly an effect of skin color rather than skin color being an effect of social position. The author fails to substantiate that the motives of dividing guests were really out of preference and reverence of lighter colored people. She fails to consider that the organizers merely divided them by coincidence, or thought that people of the same color might want to be in the same room without specifically considering that the lighter skinned deserve better than the darker skinned. The author fails to consider whether the darker Filipinos were implying that the lighter Filipino was prettier or uglier than they were and merely assumed the former.

P1: Richard Pryor did a monologue on how Vietnamese immigrants were taught English and the first word taught was “nigger”. [76]

P2: The audience howled. I laughed, too. [76] C3: We live in and by a racial hierarchy with black at the bottom. [76]


The conclusion of living in and by a racial hierarchy that oppresses black people the most is supported by premises pertaining to a performance monologue by an American actor-comedian. This commits the fallacy of Ignoratio elenchi or irrelevant premises to the conclusion.

The argument bases its conclusion on statements made during a comedic performance which cannot be considered as credible. A performance is irrelevant to the social issue being discussed. Otherwise it would also follow that if a comedian jokes about how racism and colorism no longer exists; such a statement is true as well.

The fallacy violates the criteria of relevance. The argument fails to make the necessary link between a performed act and actual reality.

Article Outline:

The article is “Prison of Color” written by Virginia R. Harris, who is a political activist advocating against various federal policies such as education budget cuts and the “no child left behind policy”, operations in the Middle East, and the “Patriot Act” and for ideals such as affirmative action through quill designs that are put on public display in institutions such as the Sonoma State University.

The article’s main conclusion is that colorism naturally induces white supremacy into a society.

The key concepts used in this essay are colorism, discrimination, evil, white supremacy, and racial hierarchy

The article’s bulk is mainly an emotion-packed narration of one woman’s experiences with racism and colorism. The relevant arguments as well as the main conclusion are found at the beginning of the article. After the first few pages, the article degrades into a highly opinionated personal take on colorism based on what the author was feeling. The author makes the conclusion that colorism would always lead to white supremacy. This conclusion was inadequately supported by fallacious arguments that i felt did not do true justice upon the issue of colorism.


Section 1 [1st and 2nd paragraphs, 75]

Her addition to the definition of colorism to include a preference on “lightness of color” becomes one of the main relevant issues of the paper.
She defends this additional definition with several examples.
Her examples do not collective support her definition effectively.
Her example on under developing pictures and lawsuits on discrimination are sufficient to substantiate the prescience of discrimination on those areas but not the definition of colorism as being “lightness” dependent in general.

Section 2 [75-76]

She makes the second most relevant conclusion for the article which is that any discrimination pertaining to color naturally results in the supremacy of the white race.
Her support on this conclusion is weak. She makes several unfounded assumption which ends up with several arguments committing the fallacy of Non Sequitur

Section 3 [76-78]

Her topic of colorism is focused on her experiences in the family.
She discusses several aspects of colorism which she supposedly felt in her family, from her parents to her siblings, and to her married life.
Her discussions at this point give some sort of support on her main conclusion, but they are not well substantiated enough to go beyond mere opinion and self-experience.

Section 4 [78-82]

Her discussions completely leave the areas of argumentation and enter a self-discussion on the different problems and challenges that dealing with colorism has supposedly brought her.
She talks about how discrimination was present at different stages of her life and how she strived to surpass the challenges that it posed to her.


The article at best makes the reader conscious about the author’s experiences and how those experiences affected her.
The argument that the article makes can be strong when proper support is given. However, the lack of which makes the conclusions that the article makes unconvincing.


Virginia Harris expresses her beliefs on colorism based on her thoughts and experiences in her article “Prison of Color”. The author introduces the subject by adding a definition into the value neutral term of colorism. This additional definition becomes the main argumentative focus of her essay. In this addition, the author polarizes the issue on colorism to be advantageous to a particular color, white. She supports this definition by citing several examples, and them moves on to argue how any discrimination with pertains to color ends up with the lightest color on top and the darkest at the bottom.

With respect to the author’s additional definition, her argumentative defenses for her definition sadly fail to clearly support the idea that colorism is supposed to be polarized with the color white as the primary preference. The author banks on a statement made by reputable judge, Clarence Thomas but does not give substantiation as to why he can be considered as a sufficient authority on the subject. Further probing into the identity of Clarence Thomas would have revealed that he is a respected member of the judiciary who is specifically adept at gender and racial issues. Presenting his professional experience on the subject of colorism could have at least given some substance to the author’s support of her additional definition. The author spends the rest of her section on the defense of her added definition arguing by example. She states how a certain lawsuit was filed against a dark skinned man by a lighter skinned woman is colorism, and how her school’s under developing of photos for darker students and how her old relative’s criticism of her wearing natural gray hair are also instances of colorism. While they could be such cases independently, citing examples dos not necessarily allow the author to generalize her definition as valid and true. A more deductive method could have been used for this part of the article to make the idea of the additional definition of colorism sound more convincing. The author could have used existing literature to substantiate her claim and give better credence to the additional definition.

The author’s second objective is to establish that any form of colorist discrimination leads to white supremacy. She approaches this conclusion through several arguments that were drawn from her experiences. Her first support is based on her visit to China where she found that the functionaries and party members were usually lighter skinned than the farmers and laborers. What is problematic is that she fails to consider whether the Chinese people’s skin color is really the cause of their social status or whether the reverse implication is more appropriate. She commits non-sequitur by assuming one of the possible situations without providing the necessary support. She does this again on fourth and fifth support to her conclusion. In her fourth support, she discusses how also during her visit to China, her group was divided according to color by the people setting their room assignments. She hastily assumes the cause of this to be the organizers’ preference of the light skinned over the dark skinned whereas she presents no solid proof that this was actually the case. Several other factors could have played in their host’s considerations for room assignments. The hosts could have for example wanted people of the same race to stay in the same room because they felt that that was the preference of their guests without necessarily thinking that this might only be the case for their lighter skinned guests.

Also, there is no evidence that the mere separation of rooms actually means a hierarchical treatment. The author could have supported her claim by discussing how different the amenities were in the rooms where the lighter skinned women stayed over those where the darker ones stayed, or how attentive their hosts treated the lighter skinned as compared to how the darker skinned were treated. Lack of this necessary substantiation makes it unable for her argument to stand. On her fifth support, the author equates the darker skinned Filipino’s comment that the lighter American Filipino was “too light to be Filipino” as a compliment when it could have been merely a statement of identification. While this last support is colorist, it does not make white superior over brown (the natural Filipino skin color) and might as well be the other way around. The author could have discussed the high regard that Filipinos hold for Americans and their constant attempts at looking and sounding American, but failure to do so makes the argument non-sequitur like the others.

The author’s final attempt at reasonable argumentation before proceeding to expressing her anguish and sadness over the discrimination she’d felt over the years because of her color was to use a comedic performance monologue by an African American actor named Richard Pryor to establish that black was still at the bottom of the color hierarchy. She does this by assuming that the content of Pryor’s performance about Vietnamese immigrants learning “nigger” as their first word is actual reality. This is insensitive to the nature of comedic performances which is usually full of fictional content. Thus, if her statements about the actor’s performance and their reactions to it are taken at face value, it can be said that they do not have anything at all to do with her conclusion of the black color still remaining at the bottom of colorist hierarchy.

Colorism is an interesting topic which is of prime importance in today’s society. As different peoples bridge the gaps between them through advances in technology, everyone becomes more aware about the physical features of everyone else. However, whether colorism is truly a vehicle for white supremacy or not remains to be unproven. Harris’ article fails to support this conclusion and it is ultimately left for the reader to determine it for himself.

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