The Associated Press, a news service subscribed to by news outlets all over the world, distributed a story about the first Obama Administration State Dinner. In the story, sent in by Elisabeth R., Samantha Critchell describes Michelle Obama’s dress as “flesh-colored.”


[Thanks to Madeline T., Anne Marie, Therese S., and Drugmnky for the screencap!]

Gee, what could possibly be wrong with calling this dress “flesh-colored”?

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This is what happens when white people are considered people and black people are considered a special kind of people, black people.  “Flesh-colored” becomes the skin color associated with whites and darker-skinned peoples are left out of the picture altogether.  We see this all the time.  Bandaids, for example, are typically light beige (though they rarely call them “flesh-colored” anymore), as are things like ace bandages.

See our post on “flesh-colored” for these examples and more.  See also this post on lotion for “normal to darker skin.”

For contrast, see this post about how the generic human in Russian cartoons is colored black instead of white.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.