Did you know that ballet shoes – those delicate pointe slippers that allow dancers to stand and twirl on the tips of their toes – have always been produced in “flesh color” to blend with the dancers’ skin?
I never thought about the fact that there was only one color. But a dancer friend alerted me to a petition to have ballet shoes made to match darker flesh tones. The shoes are intended to blend, not stand out.
A dark-skinned dancer has to put dark makeup on her shoes to match her skin tone.
Not anymore. The petition got the attention of the largest manufacturer of pointe shoes, and they have decided to begin making shoes in darker shades.
Did you know that band-aids have long been made in “flesh color” to match the wearers’ skin? I never thought anything about it because they matched my skin.
Now Band-aid has announced a new line of bandages that reflect all skin tones.
This is embarrassing. I never thought of the fact that “flesh-colored” meant white skin. Now that I realize it, I’m embarrassed that I never gave it a thought.
How many things have we taken for granted that make people of color feel excluded?
The issue of white privilege is subtle and therefore, and it’s easy to look the other way particularly if products and services look familiar and useful to a white person. We are comfortable with what we know because it works for us.
It’s too bad that it has taken such a long time and such a cost to get that slap across the face and realize that we are totally naïve. I see things changing and am hopeful that we can do a better job first, of just listening and talking.
Then we need to take action because it’s the right thing to do.