This morning I woke up to a text from my brother with an artice attached where the headline read exactly what the title of this blog post reads. It was written by Wilfred Chan at CNN and covered a Thai beauty ad promoting a pill that prohibits the production of melanin, a bleaching cream in pill form. As I write this post, I struggle with how honest I am going to be, and I have decided to be extremely honest.
When I clicked on this article, I did not feel any anger, or outrage. I thought it would be great content to use for this blog, and I also thought about how awesome it was that my brother finally understands what it is that I am trying to do, came across an article, and thought enough about me to send it! Now the disturbing part!! The article didnt really “shock” me because I know it to be true.
Yesterday I had a lengthy conversation with a colleague about a woman we know who received a promotion in her company after a history of calling out at least three times a month (which never can happen in retail), little to no product knowlege of items carried in her store, horrific leadership skills, non existent training skills, etc… Each time my colleague and I would discuss her, we would think long and hard about why she was promoted, and the only feasable answer we could come up with was her skin color. Let me take it back to my own college experience.
I went to a big ten university in the cornfields of the midwest. For my freshman orientation, I had two different ones. I had a ‘regular’ one, and one specifically for students of color. Once the administrators started passing out pieces of paper with professors names on them with instructions never to enroll in their courses because they would fail us, I knew exactly why the ‘special’ orientation was neccessary. The truth was that because of the color of our skin, certain professors hated us so much that they would give us a failing grade. This was only 16 years ago! It was at that school where I started to hear constantly from fellow students of color and professors and administrators that we had to be three times as good as white students to even be considered for the privileges, grades, jobs, etc that our white counterparts received. Now back to the world of beauty.
When I moved to Washington, DC in 2005, I immediately started working in the cosmetics industry. I worked for a company that offered a plethora of foundation shades for all women of color and because DC was so diverse at that time, I had the opportunity to work with women from all ethnic backgrounds each and every day. Coincidently I was in an African Studies graduate program at Howard University at the same time and little did I know that what I was learning in the class room would be played out right in front of my eyes when I went to match 80% of my clients from colonized countries! They all would insist day in and day out on me matching them for a much lighter or ‘clearer’ foundation. This request would come from tons of African and Asian women.
Sometimes West African business men would come into the store and request all powder foundations in ‘clear’ colors for their wives, mothers, and daughters back home. I would encounter tons of Indian women complete with colored blue or gray contacts with the same request. Lastly, I cannot leave out my Asian clients. Many women from different countries like China, Korea, and Thailand would come in with eyelid tape pressed on their eyelids to simulate a “double eyelid” which is more ‘western’, looking for porcelain colored foundation too! Sometimes fighting back tears, I would muster up the strength to ask these women why they wanted light colored foundation, and the answer was always the same. “Just being white, you will win”.