The term colorism usually refers to when darker skin tones are preferred and lighter skin is considered less desirable or vice versa. In the U.S., the phenomenon also occurs in other populations, such as among Chicanos and other Latinos and Indian immigrants.
Also labeled as colorism, which is more discussed than others, is the phenomenon of darker-skinned people discriminating against lighter tones within the same ethnic group.
While colorism still exists in the U.S., it has diminished since the Civil Rights Movement.
The "brown paper bag test" was a ritual once practiced by certain African-American and Creole fraternities and sororities who discriminated against people who were "too dark." That is, these groups would not let anyone into the sorority or fraternity whose skin tone was darker than a paper lunch bag, in order to maintain a perception of standards. Spike Lee's film School Daze satirized this practice at historically black colleges and universities.
While stated less explicitly, colorism has been portrayed in episodes of the NBC drama Homicide: Life on the Street. Lighter-skinned African American superior officers Deputy Commissioner of Operations James C. Harris and Colonel George Barnfather appear to discriminate against main character Baltimore Police Lieutenant Al Giardello, a darker-skinned African American. Additionally, African American women have discriminated against Giardello on the grounds that his appearance is "too black".
Edward Roye was the first representative of dark-skinned African-American settlers in Liberia.(http://www.reference.com/search?q=Colorism). The light- skinned party was the Republican Party (Liberia) and the dark-skinned party was the True Whig Party.
In addition to rivalries among descendants of African Americans, the Americans held themselves above the native Africans in Liberia. Thus, descendants of Americans held and kept power out of proportion to their representation in the population of the entire country, so there was a larger issue than color at work.
The original "Blue Veins" were said to have been organized in New England. Their primary objective was to establish and maintain "correct" social standards among people who had achieved some social, educational and economic standing.
Colorism can be identified as a direct consequence of the social stratification of colonial societies, especially the ones affected by slavery. The phenomenon exists in the Americas from United States to Caribbean countries to South America.
In the French West Indies, new born children can be deemed as "sauvé" (saved) when their skin tone is light enough to represent a chance at better social status.
The same conceptions that discriminate against dark skin are often applied to other physical features that are directly linked to African heritage: hair, face features, etc.
Brazil has the second largest population of African descendents in the world. This large number was a result of the African Slave trade. In Brazil, skin color plays a large role in differences among the races. Social status and privileges are related to skin color. Individuals with lighter skin and who are racially mixed face higher rates of social mobility.
Like in the United States, there are a disproportionate number of white elites than those of African descent. The Brazilian society is set up to have white elites continually stay in power. Individuals with darker skin have higher mortality, poorer health, higher rates of physical disease and mental health problems. There are large health, education and income disparities between the races in Brazil.
In Bengali Societies, colorism affects perceptions of women's beauty. Men evaluate a woman’s beauty based on the color of their skin instead of other characteristics. The Bengali film industry filled with lighter skinned actors and actress demonstrates the low value associated with dark skin in the Bengali culture. White skin signifies beauty, purity, happiness and cleanliness. Women with whiter skin tend be more privileged than those women with darker skin. Despite the impressions of women’s skin color, skin color for men doesn’t have any significance in their roles in Bengali society.
In the Indian Sub-continent, light skin is often deemed more beautiful in both men and women. Indian actors and actress almost always have light skin, or use lots of makeup to make themselves look lighter. Indians have many skin colors, ranging from very pale to black and everything in between. Many Indians think it's natural to consider light skin to be more beautiful than dark skin. Evidence of this comes from beauty products used help women achieve lighter skin. The product "Fair and Lovely" by Lever Brothers was created to help lighten darker skin. This facial cream is one of the best selling facial creams in the world. This cream shows the importance of lighter skins in Indian societies.