Crayola, the colour company, renamed this colour (to “Peach”) partly, as a result of the civil rights movement and “partly because employees”, according to spokesman Brad Drexler in January 1989, “were saying, ‘Look, the description of flesh really isn’t accurate.’”
Why? Do you wonder does this make for a post from the 4×6? Last week, in the year 2016, my son, known as Young, when asked to send an email about the funniest thing that happened during his day, responded with this (verbatim, spelling and grammatical errors included – he is only ten; real names withheld):
this isn’t the funniest but today at the end of the day are supply teacher let use play the number game and then she said we would play it with colours and Classmate1 told Classmate2 that the colour that we had to guess was skin colour and then the whole class told Classmate1 that skin colour wasn’t a colour because not everyone was the same colour and she said everyone in the class was rude.
Kudos to the 23 other students in the class to object to the term and use of it, but how is it that – 54 years after the crayon company takes the name out of circulation; all the progress on diversity and inclusion; a multicultural community that we tout ourselves to be – a child of ten, born in 2006, can still refer to “skin colour” as being white!??!!!
As a kid I do recall wondering why the colour of a Band-Aid never matched my complexion. But it was one of those thoughts that I chalked up to being ‘crazy thoughts’ – no one else would get it or think like this. Back then, this is highly probable – I was one of two ‘darkies’ (and three minorities) in my class. But then I came across this blog post “implicitly deny that other people are fully human” on stuff white people do Blog. Years later, how surprised I was to discover I was not alone in these thoughts and that they’ve been around years before me.
More recently, my mind wanderings have turned towards why things formerly named/referred to by a colour are no longer? For example, nobody says “brown bread” anymore. It’s whole wheat or multi-grain. My favourite, at Starbucks, they don’t use brown sugar, it is raw – when the barista confirms, “Raw sugar?” I always respond, “Brown, please.” I also find it funny that the vanilla (white) Oreo is actually called “Golden”.
On Oreos, I believed the derogatory term “Oreo” was used to describe someone of mixed race (typically black or white) however, Wikipedia indicates the slur was in reference to a “black person perceived or judged to act in a “white manner”. I do recall being referred to – when I was quite young – as an “Oreo”. In fact, I’m not, I am ‘brown’ – of Indian descent – but I guess to some, we all just look the same. (With this new Wikipedia revelation – maybe this was a result of the years of British “superiority” influence and desire to emulate for India and its residents.)
A few years ago, my company was launching a new ad campaign. The Boss’ Boss had access to the latest TV ads and had a bit of a viewing party in his office. It was me and a few others in attendance. At the end of the airing, he asked for feedback where all the responses were positive. He noticed I kept quiet and asked for my thoughts. My response, “I don’t see me or anyone like me” (referring to any minority groups). The family scenarios didn’t at all reflect mine in either of the ads. The response was “Well, there’s the coach”. Yes, of course, the coach (the coach had a .5s moving shot that barely registered).
I was a bit nervous having shared my honest opinion. I learned weeks later the issue I raised wasn’t mine alone. But I suppose when it has never been an issue you’ve experienced, been taunted with, or pointed out to you -why would you notice? When one is of ‘flesh’ colour, my guess is, you don’t walk into a room and look around to see who else is in attendance. Sorry to say, I do.
Pulling this one out from the Bloom County Archives of 1989, a play on a cartoon published 20 years earlier in White is:
Source: Bloom County by Berkeley Breathed, January 04, 1989 Via @GoComics
This post is not intended to offend but to provide my perspective as a person of colour; now raising children who are, sadly, experiencing the same issues I, and many more before me have.
Thanks for sharing yours and your son’s experiences – I can definitely relate. Not an easy subject to talk about but I think that’s what makes it all the more important to discuss
This one was definitely difficult to post. I actually sat on it for about a week (needed some additional encouragement too – thanks DP & GS). It does surprise me that my kids are experiencing some of the same things I did. Thanks for reading.
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Difficult and hard topic to address. Good for you for taking it on!! It just as important today as it was 30 or so years ago to address it. In some ways more important today, we just need to look south of the boarder to as to why it is in some ways more important today.
Thanks Neil W. I appreciate the support. I may be naive to think that people today are exposed to and educated about other ethnicities and races – enough so to teach their children to know better.
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That is the thing technically parents teach what they know to their children, values good and bad are passed down from generation to generation. The more people out there like you and I the more people will learn and accept that diversity, is not just a government policy but a reality of the world we live in. As I see it, it goes beyond accepting and it just is what it is, the world is made up of many different people and the goal is to respect one another as equal.
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Thank you for speaking from the heart and sharing your experience and that of your son.