Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dear White People

Dear White People,

You know that situation where you're talking with a person of color and the topic of tanning comes up and you say something to the effect of, "When I tan, my skin is as dark as yours!"

Stop that.

Please, please stop.

One of my friends (let's call her V) is a black woman.  Her skin is a chocolate brown shade.  White people insist on telling her all about how their skin becomes as dark as hers when they tan.  They say this as if they expect her to bond with them over a shared skin tone, as if she'll merrily reply with, "Oh, that means that we have something tremendously important in common!  Obviously, you understand the black experience so much more than other white people do!  You and I are forever bonded by our dark skin!"

In V's particular case, these white people are lying.  At the very least they're exaggerating.  However, even if she weren't chocolate brown, even if her skin were a light caramel shade, it would still be rude, insensitive, and racist for someone to try to bond with her over some perceived shared experience of color.

If you, for some reason of your own, insist on talking about the various shades of brown your skin changes to when you tan, please stop trying to relate that particular color to the people around you.  Simply determine on your own how you want to describe that color.  Try using color names relating to food and/or trees, like mocha and mahogany and cappuccino or something.  If you can talk about your own skin tones as if they aren't a commentary on someone else's, that would be terrific.

With love,
Frank Lee

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