“Why didn’t I speak up?” A Mexican American woman’s narrative of colorism
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The present study uses a single-case study approach to examine how colorism manifested in the narrative of a Mexican-origin woman living in a mixed-status, transnational family residing in a community situated along the U.S.-Mexico border. Few studies have examined phenotype stratification solely within a community where Mexican Americans are the majority ethnic-racial group. A case was constructed using demographic, interview, and video data for one participant supplemented by population-level statistics. Findings suggest phenotype stratification in Mexican American communities operates outside the Black-White racial paradigm and transcends skin tone. Three themes were found, including looking Mexican, racialized language, and seen but not named. Colorism may be difficult for Mexican Americans to articulate given its persistent elusiveness and has the potential to interfere with Mexican-origin parents’ ethnic-racial socialization goals. Mental health professionals and researchers can benefit from understanding how phenotypical differences within the Mexican-origin community interact with other indicators of social stratification (e.g., class, nativity/citizenship, language, accent) to create conditions that reward Whiteness under ostensibly race-neutral criteria.