AUSTIN, Texas - As part of black history month, the Carver Museum in East Austin is hosting a series of events to dissect pertinent issues among African American families.

Friday's topic: Colorism. It's described as the hierarchy of skin complexion.

“Having lighter skin in particular communities privileges you economically, socially, culturally. There could be a number of benefits,” said Gender and Equity Researcher Jacqueline Smith-Francis.

It’s the idea that some shades of skin color are better than others.

“Being darker is associated with being negative. Not being as beautiful, not being as intelligent, not being as desirable,” said Smith-Francis.

Researchers say this is a legacy that goes far back in history.

“A way in which white supremacy actually manifests itself in various communities of color,” said Smith-Francis.

It’s a legacy present in the daily lives of people of color, specifically, researchers say, among women. 

“A white male peer of mine told me ‘you know you’re really pretty for a black woman.’ You know and I thought 'wow—does that mean black women aren’t pretty?'” said Smith-Francis.

The effects are heavy and long lasting.

“It can be a form of trauma and it can lead to deep seeded self-hate, further marginalization from the communities of origin and a deep longing and dissatisfaction with themselves,” said Smith-Francis.

Reversing that trend, Smith-Francis said, starts with giving equal validation.

“Making sure that you give adequate and the same types of praise, support, affirmations to those individuals who are darker skinned,” said Smith-Francis.