Colors of people – version 1.1

There was a lot that I liked about naming colors for different skin tones. I have learned a lot about skin color as well as learning some new things about myself. While it is true that I don’t want to spend an excessive amount of time trying to come up with skin colors, I also can’t leave them completely alone.

I have been disabused of the idea that this will be the final list. It seems like there will always be some other color or shade that sounds like a better description. With that in mind, here is my current list of skin colors:


Also called


Tanning behavior


I Light, pale white Often Occasionally Frosted ivory
II White, fair Usually Sometimes Moonlit tusk
III Medium, white to light brown Rarely Usually Satin rawhide
IV Olive, moderate brown Rarely Often Umber bronze
V Brown, dark brown Very rarely Sometimes darkens Velvet onyx
VI Very dark brown to black Extremely rarely Naturally black-brown skin Polished jet

One of the things that I learned is that I gave considerable more time to coming up with just the right name for my skin type. Like it or not, I see that skin type every day when I look in the mirror. I could tell that the descriptions weren’t all that accurate. What I didn’t worry about was whether the other colors assigned to skin types reflected the color of their skin accurately. Part of the problem can be seen in the chart itself.

Arguably, type 1, 2, and 3 would be grouped into a “white” category while type 4, 5, and 6 would be grouped into people of color. There would also be some debate whether the darker type 3 people should be considered people of color or whether the lighter type 4 people should be considered “white”. The reality is that there is no clear distinction and accurate color for individual groups of people. We are all just a point on a continuous smear or color ranging from an almost complete lack of melanin to skin so saturated with melanin that color descriptions are almost meaningless.

Race is a concept created by humans, but it doesn’t map very well to the reality of the natural world. Still, if trying to get the color of my own skin right was so important to me, I can only imagine that it must be as important to the groups that rarely – if ever – get to see themselves represented in stories. I can only hope that this list will allow people who read my story to see themselves represented. But more than seeing themselves represented by any particular color, I hope that my readers won’t find any part of the story that excludes them.


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I am a writer of words, a thinker of thoughts, a changer of genders, and a queerer of life. I am an antagonist of the ordinary; and while I do tolerate it, I also look at it with contempt.

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