I can’t pinpoint exactly what urged me to count the number of white faces vs. minority faces on the cover of random magazines at Borders. But I knew I just had to.
It took me half a dozen ethnic and media diversity classes, conscious friends who protest against modern-day white privilege and supremacy, and an open mind to educate myself. Now it eats at me daily whenever I notice how a minority is under represented, drowned out by a sea of white faces.
Borders Book Stores houses well over 500 magazines. I jotted down and categorized the faces on the cover of magazines as I saw them, choosing random shelves in the Women’s Interest, Culture Eclectic, Culture Society, Sports Teams, and General Interest sections.
Out of 177 magazines, 143 of the glamorous Photo-shopped portraits feature white men, women, teens and children. From Cosmo to Vogue, Shape and Swindle, from Maxim to Newsweek and ESPN, people of color adorned the cover of ethno-centric magazines, but not in the general, mainstream public interest publications.
What happened to the black woman’s God-given fro and kinks? It’s been replaced with a relaxed, straight coiffures and bodices that lack curves.
These images only perpetuate white privilege within our society – one dominant culture in a nation that supposedly represents equality for all. Hell, not including African American representation, there were even more graphics, art work and weed photographs than other minorities represented.
Why is there such an under representation when in 2006 the nation’s minority population hit over 100 million? It increased more than 1.7 million the year before, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s one-third of the U.S. population today, larger than the total population of all but 11 countries, and more than there were people in the United States in 1910.
If you’re constantly bombarded with white images (not forgetting the uncountable white images in movies, television, books and advertising) it becomes ingrained into the American psyche to the point that no one questions it. Everyone must emulate this status quo that has been pervasive throughout American history for hundreds of years – beauty lies in the image of a tall, slim, ivory-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed female and her counterpart, a clean-shaven, blond-haired male with six-pack abs.
Ethnic media shouldn’t make up for what the mainstream media should already be accomplishing, but instead should reinforce it like a sidebar that compliments a well-written feature. More than 500 new ancestries were reported in 2006, and these magazines represented only nine groups of people of different colors.
This type of imagery also perpetuates stereotypes. Light skin individuals always win over dark. I found more black faces in sports, as if that’s all black Americans can excel in. Covers embellish their bling, Du-rags, sagging pants, ripped guns and abs on Hip-hop magazines. What happened to the black woman’s God-given fro and kinks? It’s been replaced with a relaxed, straight coiffures and bodices that lack curves.
It’s not about having one token black, Asian or Latina girl on the cover of the latest tabloid alongside white profiles. Rather, it’s about equal opportunity for ethnic minorities in media representation. On the cover of Empowering Women, four white women and one Asian woman are dressed in business suits. Who is really being empowered?
After three hours at Borders, my eyes grew weary. I had to take a step back from my hunt for the beautifully colored faces –sun-kissed tan, golden-yellow, chocolate, and caramel. I cringed. I couldn’t look anymore. I could predict the skin color of the next person I’d see on the cover of a magazine, and there would be close to an 85 percent chance that I’d be right — they would be white. But what’s worse is that most readers probably wouldn’t even notice.
The Faces We See
No. of Magazines 177
White faces – 143
Black faces – 60
(Sports magazines account for 29 of them)
(Two women were mixed with Asian and European).
Middle Eastern – 2
Sri Lanka – 2
Native American –1
Ottawa Native, Canada – 1
Food and Graphics – 20
Unknown biracial- 2