Crayola's Ethnic Box of Crayons (1992)
What color are you?
I often learn a lot of things from my daughters during our little chats. For example, the other day I was having a conversation with my older daughter. She was telling me about a friend of hers, who is conservative, and doesn’t feel racism is still an issue or that there is such a thing as white privilege. She told me about their conversation and what she said to him. She explained it’s not always the big or obvious events that show racism and inequality is still an issue. She said sometimes it’s the little things that we take for granted. For example, she said, did you ever realize that band aids are “flesh” tone, but only made for the color of white people’s skin. There are few, if any, flesh tone band aids made for people of color. Then she went on to explain that even in cosmetics, white women have a wide range of colors to choose from, while cosmetics for black women are much more limited and, if they need other shades other than those available, those are considered “specialty” items. She told me, with some satisfaction, that she could see her point was getting across. I learned something too from my daughter, and started wondering what other little subtle ways racism is embedded in our society without “us” even realizing it. And by “us” I mean white people, because I am sure this doesn’t go unnoticed by people of color every time they need a band aid.
I checked on my daughters claims, and of course, as usual, she is right. Band aid skin tones and the lack of make-up for women of color are two very real examples that show being white has its privileges. So I did a little reading of my own. The “nude” bra is also an example of racism because the only skin tone it matches is Caucasian. I’ll be honest and say this never crossed my mind until now. I recall bra shopping with my daughters and the sales clerk corrected me when I told them they need white bras to wear under light or sheer clothing. The clerk said, “Actually they should wear nude.” And since that time we no longer even look at white bras. Now I wonder what she tells a mother who has a black daughter? What color does she wear under sheer clothing? Does she tell her to wear a black bra? If so, that would be equivalent to my girls wearing white bras. There are no “nude” bras for woman of color.
And, I don’t often buy pantyhose these days, but when I did there were plenty of “nude” shades to choose from. So many in fact, that I would get confused. Still, I would always manage to find shades to match my tanned summer skin, as well as my pale winter look, without a problem. And another thing I noticed, but it never struck me in this way before, is in the hair care aisle. There are so many hair products for white women in every product imaginable, that it takes me forever to pick out what I need. I can find my hair care products everywhere too. This is not true for ethnic hair care products. If you even are able to find them in a store, the section is very small and limited. Ironically, I have learned over the years from black friends I have had, that their hair is more fragile and takes more care to maintain and keep healthy. So where are their hair products hiding?
Remember when Crayola had a “Flesh” colored crayon? I never cared for the shade, but as a kid I used it to color all the people in my coloring books. I read that back in the 60’s, Crayola changed the name to “Peach,” when it was challenged during the Civil Rights Movement. And then, thirty years later, Crayola created a set of eight crayons to cover “all” skin tones . . . only problem is, it doesn’t. In fact I don’t anyone’s skin that matches most of those colors. But, on a positive note, at least Crayola recognizes everyone isn’t “Peach,” unlike the band aid, fashion and cosmetic industries.
Picture Credit: Wikipedia