Political Correctness

Impartial Skin

My whole life I’ve been told how fair I am — fair skinned that is.

When my mother had to describe her children, it was always,  “See the big one — he’s very fair.”  

Now that shit is unacceptable and the PC police have been attacking “fair” skin for being unfair.

I have to confess I have not really thought about the hidden qualities of “being fair.”  I’ve thought a lot about what my skin should be called — and I say this shit is a condition — “Pigment Impaired.”  The “unfair” mix of sun burns and skin cancer.

Sure, I’ve understood that light and dark metaphors for good and evil is fucked up.  

Sure, I’ve read about unconscious bias studies that show people make instantaneous decisions based on nothing more than pigment.

Sure, 30 years ago, I learned Bandaids are racist… ok let me explain that one. 

I was teaching and coaching softball in South Phoenix.  I was demonstrating how to slide — got a boo boo. We went to one of the parent’s house after practice.  The mom gave me a few bandaids and a towel.  She wanted me to stop bleeding on her floor.   I wiped away the road rash and put a couple of bandaids on the bleeders.

 “What cuts?” her daughter asked looking at my knee.

“You can’t see the bandaid, because he’s white,” the mom said.  And we all laughed and laughed and laughed at how obvious the racism was in Bandaids.

Before then it have never occurred to me that bandaids only blend with my skin but they look like a disease on anyone in her brown family. 

But it’s just a Bandaid. I’ll stick a dark Bandaid on my pigment-impaired skin.

Who cares about the color or just a word we use for one type of skin color.  Isn’t  “fair” just a synonym for white or light skinned?

Siri, what are synonyms for dark skinned? Internet thesaurus says:

  • Swarthy
  • Tawny
  • Dark

Yeah, that doesn’t seem fair.  I wouldn’t mind being called “swarthy” but that’s easy to say  since I’ve spent my life in the “majority.”  Nobody has every followed me around a store for being swarthy...

I actually don’t give a shit whether we remove the tag “fair” for the pigment impaired.  It’s not terrible to be called “fair.”

But like Oprah says, we have to be more than just not racist, we have to be anti-racist — whatever the fuck that means.

In this case, I think it means we should replace what we currently use and create some new descriptors for all shades of skin.

Those racist Bandaids would be a great example.  Because this year Bandaids aren’t racist any more.  They come in “shades” of color.

Bandaids new shades of color. Racism solved.

So from left to right, let’s put some anti-racist synonyms on those colors:

  • Square
  • Objective
  • Thoughtful
  • Ethical
  • Good

That should make for some interesting descriptions from parents…

“When he was younger, he was very, very good.  But as he has gotten older, he has become more ethical.  Hell, someday he might even be thoughtful.”

“My mother was very square, and my father was very thoughtful, I don’t know where this ethical skin came from.”

“When our baby was born, we thought he was just objective, but when he started playing outside, he got more and more good.”

OK, that detail may be a little hard to track without the Bandaid scorecard.  

Maybe we should start by just getting rid of “fair” and “light” as the descriptions for white and whiter.

It’s going to take a little longer for all of us to recognize that our first instinct should be to think “ethical” and “good” when we see brown or black skin. Then maybe the words will follow…

10 replies »

  1. Excellent essay. It’s only been recently that my pigment impaired brain has recognized the white privilege that’s hovered over my entire life. And now, of course, you’ve made me feel doubly guilty that I tan so well. sm

    Liked by 1 person

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