What’s pigmentocracy?

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A pigmentocracy is a social hierarchy based on skin color that can override class, gender, religion, and ethnic origin. Colonized nations often have pigmentocracies, with settlers having more rights than natives. Although many modern societies are concerned about racism, lower classes are often disproportionately represented by a particular skin color. Discriminatory practices based on skin color can still prevail in nations with active pigmentocracies.

A pigmentocracy is a type of social hierarchy that is based on the color of human skin. Pigmentocracies tend to override distinctions of class, gender, religion, and ethnic origin, with members of society using skin color as the most important metric for judging other members of society. Some nations still have pigmentocracies today, although all members of their societies may not be fully aware of them.

One of the classic examples of a pigmentocracy is a colonized nation. When nations are colonized, the colonists are often of a different color, making it easy for members of the society to distinguish between colonists and natives. Since natives were generally looked down upon as inferior human beings, a pigmentocracy emerged in many colonies, with settlers having more rights and respect, while natives were barred from entering certain areas, could not vote, and were subject to to other reductions of their rights.

The idea of ​​pigmentocracy goes back centuries; in Egyptian art, for example, people of distinctly different skin colors can be identified, and skin color is often linked to social rank. In some cases, pigmentocracies have become quite complex: in South Africa, for example, black Africans were at the bottom of the social ladder, while workers from the Indian subcontinent enjoyed better social status and whites remained at the top.

Most modern pigmentocracies are not as explicit as the historical examples, because many societies are concerned about racism and many people are actively working to break down barriers between races. In many nations, people of all colors can be seen working at all levels of government, and socially important individuals come in a range of colours. However, even in these areas, the lower classes are often disproportionately representative of a particular skin color; in the United States, for example, many members of the lower classes are black or Latino.

The signs of an explicit pigmentocracy are usually very easy to recognize. Nations with active pigmentocracies, for example, often have legislation based on skin color and discriminatory practices based on skin color prevail, ranging from signs prohibiting entry to particular places to denying basic goods and services. People with unwanted skin color can also find themselves discriminated against at borders and in dealings with law enforcement and the legal system.

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