If you’re a white (close-minded) person it is easy to assume that racism towards people of color is a thing of the past. These days, the majority of people are focused on fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, believing that racial equality has been achieved.
However, the assumption that racial equality has been accomplished is a dangerous one for white people to make. That is why it is important to shame those who believe that a person’s worth is in some way dependant on the color of their skin. A disturbing trend emerged this summer on Twitter which involved users utilizing photoshop in order to whitewash some of the world’s biggest stars of color to prove that they would be more “beautiful” if they were white, and this included Rihanna. Horrifyingly, “fans” of the Barbadian star shared whitewashed photographs of her accompanied by captions which reflected their views about beauty and skin color, making the racist claim that people of color aren’t as beautiful as those who are white. Whilst this disturbing trend appears to be a recent one, it can be traced back to 2015 when Twitter user @alexgracious shared a whitewashed a photograph of Rhianna. The racist image received a disturbing amount of attention and was retweeted and favorited hundreds of times by users including @nellyry, who is bizarrely a woman of color herself. It didn’t take long for the photograph to come to the attention of Rihanna herself, and she blocked its creator @alexgracious. Rihanna also made a point of blocking other users who had jumped on the whitewashing bandwagon. Shockingly, they failed to understand what they had done wrong… Rihanna has previously spoken out about racism in the music industry, and she has said that people of color are still frequently subject to racial profiling, regardless of how successful they are.
“I have to bear in mind that people are judging you because you’re packaged a certain way – they’ve been programmed to think a black man in a hoodie means grab your purse a little tighter. For me, it comes down to smaller issues, scenarios in which people can assume something of me without knowing me, just by my packaging.”
“When I started to experience the difference – or even have my race be highlighted – it was mostly when I would do business deals… That never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing. And it’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me; I know what they’re expecting and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed those expectations.”
Rihanna’s fans, however, were quick to jump to her defence, and they highlighted how ridiculous the whitewashing of the star was with some hilarious comebacks. Speaking about the whitewashing of Rihanna and Beyoncé, who has also been subject to this disturbing trend, the BET website (which is ran by the Black Entertainment Awards) wrote, “It has a really dark message behind it”. “These are two of the most gorgeous, talented, successful, respected, well-known women on the planet. But even they are not immune to people’s projections of Western beauty ‘ideals.’” The fact that white women are predominately held up as examples of “beauty” is further proof of this. There’s even a smaller number of cosmetic products available exclusively for women of color, and this also needs to change. If you see racism, speak out so that such prejudices can stay locked in the history books where they belong. Rihanna did the right thing by simply blocking those who had whitewashed her instead of giving them the attention they clearly craved.
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