Those Racist Band-Aids!

The latest allegation of racism comes from Sweden where a blogger has declared that band-aids are racist.

First off, let’s define racism. Racism is when a person, object, or activity purports that one race is superior to another race which is promoted as being inferior.

The latest tempest in a teapot is that band-aids — or actually bandages, since Band-Aid is trademarked — by virtue of the shade of the strips, are promoting the concept that people with light skin tones (in other words, Caucasians) are superior to those with darker skin tones.

Here’s the problem with that argument. Although the default shade for bandages — not just band-aids — happens to be beige (not white), this doesn’t mean that there haven’t been other options around for nearly sixty years. According to the Johnson & Johnson website, clear strips have been available since 1957!

Clear Strips Invented In 1957Obviously if there have been clear strips available on the market since 1957, no consumer is forced to endure a bandage with a shade that doesn’t match their own skin tone. After all, a clear strip would address that issue very nicely, don’t you agree?

Clear Strips
Bandages have come with all sorts of options since 1956 when Band-Aids were marketed under another option: Stars and Strips (American patriotism). Now, I don’t know about any of you, but when’s the last time you saw someone who had naturally red, white, and blue skin that closely approximated the American flag?

I have an “Ultra Care” box of bandages with “options” that include flexible fabric bandages (which is a much darker brown than the plastic band-aids), clear strips, waterproof strong strips, and neon strips (in yellow, pink, and green because that’s how I roll). My skin isn’t neon yellow or neon pink or even neon green, but I wear those colors just the same because sometimes I like to color coordinate my boo-boo and owie coverage with my outfit when I’m out and about in the community.

Multi-Colored Strips
But while we’re talking about the shade of bandages available on the market, let’s consider something else about the allegedly offensive and racist “flesh” toned bandages. They hardly ever blend in with “white” skin either. From an artist’s perspective, the specific color on allegedly “flesh” toned bandage is achieved by blending raw umber (a shade of brown) with warm gray and adding a touch of permanent mauve (a shade of purple). Not every caucasian has skin tone that’s comprised of those colors.

Still, bandages aren’t only available in Caucasian tones or clear strips.

You can get bandages in three specific darker skin tones from manufacturers like Urban Armour and Tru-Colour, provided that your darker skin tone falls under one of three categories: Light, medium, or dark. And yet, the copy that goes with these sorts of bandages state that with these three tones, consumers will be able to find “just the right one to blend with every skin tone.”

Tru-Colour Bandages
Wrong. There are a myriad of darker skin tones that fall between the three options that are alleged to be “just right” to blend in with darker skin tones. So are those bandages racist against the in-between tones?  And what about those with skin tones most associated with First Nations peoples and those from Asian countries where those three darker tones just don’t match up to their skin tones?

You can have bandages printed on any colored background with any logo or artwork! Does this mean that bandages that don’t have creative artwork on them are racist against people with tattoos or who doodle on their skin with felt-tip markers? Oh, the shame of it all!

The blogger in question who started off this latest furor over bandages being the wrong color claimed that in Sweden she was unable to find other than the racist band-aids she spoke of. Let’s go with that premise for a moment.

In 2010, 89.4% of Sweden was European or White, and it’s projected that by 2010, that figure will drop to 74.0% — meaning that the majority of people in Sweden will have Caucasian toned skin.

Translated into business currency, businesses carry merchandise that appeals to the largest cross-section of the population to maximize profits. If customers make the businesses they patronize aware that they need to diversify what is offered for specific merchandise, most businesses will special order in those items with no added cost to the customer.

If that doesn’t work for the customer, there are always online shopping options from any number of online and brick-and-mortar stores. In other words, it’s not all that difficult — even in Sweden — to find what you’re looking for if the item you’re looking for isn’t stocked on your local store’s shelves.

What’s next? Are pole dancers going to protest because band-aids mentioned in the article that resulted in this blog article being written are being referred to commercially as strips? One would certainly hope not!

Elyse Bruce


Are Band-Aids Racist Because Their Color Better Matches Caucasian Skin Tones?

Camouflaging A Bandage

A History of Band-Aid Brand Innovation

Innovative Bandages Change To Match Your Skin

The Story of the Black Band-Aid

Svenska plåster är för ljusa – anklagas för rasism i Sveriges Radio

Sweden Scrambles to Produce Black Band Aids After a Blogger Complains About White Privilege

Where Are The Brown Band-Aids


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