Social Justice Thought Piece

As part of their regular meeting each month, a Social Justice Committee member presents what is being called a “thought piece.”  It can take any form: song, poem, newspaper article, & video are some of those used thus far—& its purpose is to educate, inspire, & provoke discussion. The decision was made to share these with the rest of the congregation in hopes of encouraging your own thoughts & conversations.

This two-part “thought piece” was provided by Carole Clary at the May 11, 2019 meeting, based upon a New York Times article, “A Century of Times Dance Photos, Through the Lens of Misty Copeland.”

 

I look at this photograph and I think they don’t look very comfortable. They’re also wearing sneakers with their tutus and tights, which says a lot. This photograph feels so representative of how most black kids enter dance. What really gets me are the pink tights. Those tights are such a psychological thing that’s ingrained within the ballet culture: The fact that your skin doesn’t match the tights is a subconscious way of signaling to brown people that they don’t belong without ever having to say it.

Part 1

On Sunday, April 14, the New York Times included an entire pull-out section of dance photos taken from their archives going back 100 years. I know squat about dance in general… ballet in particular, but this photo caught my attention and stayed in my mind for several days. Look carefully at how our culture can send subtle and perhaps unintentional messages that all are not invited to “the party.” In case you don’t know, pink tights are traditional ballet attire. The caption was written by Misty Copeland who made history as the first African American female principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theater.

 


Part 2

Part of the privilege of being white is having a society that considers you the norm and is, therefore, organized around you. A really nice example of this is “flesh” color.  What is flesh color? Ben O. sent us this 1952 ad for bandaids (from Vintage Ads).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next set of images come from Nathan Gibbs’ flickr photostream:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of companies have gotten a clue.  Crayola doesn’t have flesh color anymore (or so I’ve heard, let me know if I’m wrong).  And now they make “multicultural crayons.”  Though, Nathan notes: It’s interesting how “culture” here is a substitute for “race.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“White” skin is still taken-for-granted in many products.  Here are a couple examples I’ve collected (found here and here):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps trying to walk the line, EcoPencil has a “light flesh” color, but no other flesh colors to choose from (sent in by kelebek in Australia):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caroline observed that Breathe Right not only centers whiteness in their logo…

 

 

 

 

…but calls white skin “normal” (see second-to-bottom line):

 

 

 

 

 

For more examples, see our posts on (the irony of) Michelle Obama’s champagne-colored described as “flesh-colored”, the widespread use of such language to describe light tan in the fashion world,  and lotion marketed as for “normal to darker skin.” See also our Contexts essay on race and “nude” as a color.