As I’ve mentioned, one of the impetuses for starting this blog was the glaring lack of representation I noticed of women of color, especially women of darker color, in cute fashion/lifestyle photos. Not only was there the absence of our bodies but even starker was the near non-existent visibility of our hands. What I mean is, consider all the photos you’ve seen of hands doing something on social media, for example: a hand holding a bouquet of flowers, hands holding a pineapple, a hand gesturing a peace sign to the sky, hands cooking those incredible recipes in the little videos that float up and down our Facebook feeds. What color are the wild majority of those hands?
I understand this point can feel nit-picky, or innocuous— very “so-what?”— but I think therein lies its power. The way that racism functions is not to say that white people are superhuman while the rest of us are average. Racism doesn’t say white people can fly, read minds, or teleport. Worse, racism functions to say that white people are normal. Or rather, Whiteness is The Norm, and everything else is either a novelty, subpar, or both. Racism says Whiteness is the baseline for personhood—the John Everyman, the archetypal human. So when we repeatedly only see images of white hands doing everyday things, it subconsciously reinforces the Normalcy of Whiteness, which inherently pushes out the normalcy of everyone else. I didn’t realize, until I saw something as basic as a person of color’s hand reaching for a glass of champagne, how revolutionary it is to see black hands doing ordinary things when white hands usually occupy that space, and how important it is to increase the visibility of something so apparently meaningless.
See, racism is a bitch because it’s a complex system. Yes, it’s the madness of a Klansman riding a horse burning a cross, but it’s also the regularity of things like this, subtleties we don’t even think to question because we’re so used to them. And I would argue these subtleties are more powerful, because they can sneak by with the least resistance. Most people would condemn a Klansman on a horse, but it’s harder to see the big deal about white people’s hands in everything, or notice the absurdity that the color “nude” is not universally applicable. Nuances like that are how racism is reinforced, and vigilance like this is what’s needed to combat it.