Recently a powerful tool for analysis—really a breakthrough, in my opinion—came in the form of a sociological study, “The impact of light skin on prison time for black female offenders.” I suspect that because it’s academic—you have to buy it to read the whole thing—and because it’s wonky as hell, this Villanova University study didn’t receive a quarter of the attention idiotic party promoters, tweeps and rappers like Yung “Dark Butts” Berg do when they floss their color bias.

But the key finding in this study of more than 12,000 black women imprisoned in North Carolina between 1995 and 2009 is that those who were classified as light skinned by one or more corrections officers during intake served 12 percent less time than dark skinned prisoners. Along with height, weight, build, hair and eye color, there’s literally a color code—0 for non-light skin and 1 for light skin. (And lest you think light-skinned women prisoners in the study committed less serious crimes than their dark-skinned sistren, the study controlled for crucial factors including type of arrest, previous record, recidivism and prison behavioral record.)

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