15 Reasons Why

Have you ever paid attention to the subtle ways whiteness is reinforced as the norm/regular? Here are fifteen* covert ways you learn you’re different from the standard.

  1. You’re looking for a new way to braid your hair, so you google “braids,” and the results that come up are white women with braided hair. Same goes for locs. But the results for “weave” are all Black women with straight or wavy hair.
    2. You google “World’s Most Beautiful Woman/Man” and all the top results are white women and white men.
    3. You need to call your cable company because there’s something wrong with your bill, and the automated service person sounds distinctly white. So does Siri. And Alexa. 
    4. You’re shopping for a new dress, and all the mannequins in the window are white-colored with flowing hair and slender, curveless frames.
    5. You’re in the dollar store going to pick up some popsicle sticks, and the picture on the package is three white children laughing. 
    6. You’re in the grocery store, looking for some chips for a party, and the advertisement in the chip aisle is a party with five white guests and one racially-ambiguous person. 
    7. You go on the website for the DMV, and you see a white man smiling back at you, directing you through the tabs. 
    8. You go looking for natural hair products, and you know you can’t look in the huge aisle with all the options, you need to go to side aisle in the corner. 
    9. You’re looking for coconut milk, and you know it won’t be on the aisle with the other canned milks; it’s in the “ethnic” section. 
    10. You’re at the mall, and you want to pick up a new shirt, and you notice the slang on the shirts is supposed to be cool and kitschy with “Bye, Felicia” and “Coffee is the New Fleek.” 
    11. You’re buying textbooks for class, and the authors are all old and white… unless you attend an HBCU and the professor wrote the book. 
    12. You randomly scan ESPN for highlights, and you see the Black players on screen, but then you remember Donald Sterling, and you know who’s really running the plays. Same goes for CNN, NBC, and ABC.
    13. You turn on the TV on a Saturday for background noise, and you know you’ll need to turn to BET, Centric, Aspire, Bounce, or OWN if you even think of hearing Black voices or seeing Black faces. 
    14. You go to Big Lots/Family Dollar on the search for a coloring book for your goddaughter. The only options are white princesses, white superheroes, animals, and nature. 
    15. You stop by Starbucks on your way home from a long day, and the reflection on the cup is (literally) a white woman with flowing hair. 
    Bonus: You go to take a Buzzfeed quiz, and the options for “what country would you live in?” are Italy, London, and Switzerland and the options for “greatest writers” are Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Shakespeare, and Mark Twain.

*This list is by no means exhaustive

That’s why the SheaMoisture debacle hurt, we celebrated a brand that was “for us” in the ethnic aisle with Motions and Cantu and coconut oil, then a commercial comes out that looks like it’s for Garnier Fructis. 
That’s why the Pepsi commercial was so offensive. We saw Black men and women face police during unrest, and the last thing any of us could do was reach for anything, much less a Pepsi. 
That’s why a Nivea ad that reads, “Civilize Yourself” with a Black man holding his own head (with an afro) in his hands is so demeaning. 
That’s why Chrisette Michele supporting that man was so offensive. We were rooting for her.

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