Ashley Garcia ’22 got the inspiration for her summer Levitt research project after reflecting on the lack of conversation surrounding issues of colorism within the Latinx community. A member of the Latinx community herself, she began thinking about her own experiences when she returned to her hometown of Miami after beginning her studies at Hamilton.
“I didn’t actually start thinking about topics like colorism until this year,” Garcia said. “So the more I started having conversations with my family back home, the more I realized there’s this really huge confusion when it comes to identifying themselves, because as Latinx people, we still face some type of discrimination. But it doesn’t change the fact that obviously my skin tone is white, so what I face is going to be completely different from what my AfroLatinx friends face or what my Black friends face,” she said.
Majors: Sociology; Women’s and Gender Studies
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
High school: Mater Academy Charter High School
As such, Garcia’s project focuses on how Latinx individuals identify themselves and socialize within the context of colorism. Over the last few months, she has conducted a literature review, interviewed Latinx people about their experiences with identity, and analyzed how her research on colorism relates to responses from her interviews.
Her project has helped her understand some of her own experiences and refine her previous thoughts on colorism. “It’s been interesting because there are certain things that I expected,” Garcia said. “Within the city where I live, most of my neighbors are Cuban-Americans, so I, as a Honduran-American, was already exposed to certain notions and stereotypes. It’s been interesting noticing small things that I was already aware of or became aware of when I went to Hamilton, but also learning a lot from my respondents.”
Garcia said that her project has helped her navigate how to broach the topic of colorism with others — conversations that, although sometimes difficult, are also essential. “Doing this research was important to learn why, in my own community, it feels like it’s OK to oppress people of darker skin tones,” she said. “I think that’s my main thing, to just start having conversations about this stuff, because anyone who wants to do that is willing to learn.”
Garcia has learned a lot from her research, both academically and personally. “[The Levitt project has] allowed me to have so many different conversations that I would have been afraid to have before,” she said. “This project means learning a lot about myself and how I look at the world.”