Wal-Mart's Whitewashing

By Madison Kushner

On our social media platforms, televisions, billboards across the world, and for all different sorts of brand name advertising, there is whitewashing. As a white woman, this is one of those topics that reminds me to keep my eyes open and continue to stay educated. I absolutely do not want to be an individual who perpetuates something as devious as whitewashing because I am not speaking up.

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The collage featuring seven straight white couples, and one single woman of color is a perfect current example. I took this photo in Wal-Mart a few days ago and needed to say something, as this type of advertising is something I see every day. On various air mattress boxes, there was only one type of couple being advertised: the happy and perfect seeming young white family. Sadly, there are no gay couples as examples, no one of color (although a few individuals featured in the photos may be light skinned people of color), and no one who looked older than 35.

There are millions of people in this world who are queer, transgender, people of color, and of all ages. I feel that there are too many companies who say, with their advertisements, “we have a certain customer base”, and only picture heterosexual, light-skinned couples with straight hair and skinny bodies. There is one person of color featured in the bottom right photograph. She is rightfully advertised, but there should be more like her.

It is also nonsensical that Wal-Mart features predominantly white folks on their products when their customer base is incredibly diverse. Wal-Mart has some pretty unbeatable prices on their merchandise- this brings in people from all walks of life with incomes varying from nothing to millions. I would think that a store like this would want to make everybody feel welcome. We are all just people, no one better or more beautiful than anyone else.

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To the right is a compilation of all of the yarn products I saw that same day at Walmart. Out of the fourteen people pictured, there are two women of color and two babies who might possibly be people of color. Everybody else has white skin and straight hair. It’s really sad to see this, to try and wrap my mind around how many individuals are unrepresented. Beautiful, accomplished, authentic, inspiring people who don’t get the chance to be a spokesperson for a brand or get passed over for something because they do not fit this mold.

The whitewashing problem needs to be seriously addressed. As a white person, seeing this in the media is appalling- I cannot imagine the feeling of being ostracized as a person of color witnessing like this.

We need to be a part of the collective change. We have to see something, say something, and say it very loudly. White folks can and need to take part in changing this issue: individuals who work in marketing positions, of course, need to create a more diverse and inclusive environment that they’re selling to customers. People who are active on social media platforms can use these safe spaces to emphasize the importance of ending this whitewashing frenzy for the sake of creating a safer and more equal society. Once a white individual opens their eyes and can recognize this truly heinous system of racial inequality in the country, how can they be silent? There is so much work to be done.