On Sept. 21, inexpensive makeup brand ColourPop received widespread criticism from its black customers for labeling its dark Sculpting Stixs (used for contouring) offensive names like “Typo” and “Yikes.”
ColourPop’s line of contouring sticks features 12 light and dark shades with cute and humorous names like “Gummy Bear,” “Illuminati” and “Adulting” for its lighter shades. However, the adorable titles disappeared with the darker shades named “Yikes,” “Dume” and “Typo.”
Those who are offended claim that the names reflect ColourPop’s thoughts on its darker-skinned customers and in turn, are further perpetuating the racist thought that lighter skin is superior. The name “Yikes” suggests that darker skin is alarming and should be feared. The name “Dume” (its definition found on Urban Dictionary) is interestingly enough, a synonym for “stupid.” The name “Typo” implies that dark skin is a mistake.
While I admittedly am quick to jump on the “racism train,” I find myself feeling indifferent about ColourPop’s misstep. However, I do acknowledge that the names are racially insensitive.
In a world where darker skinned people, more specifically, black people, are seen as a violent threat to white society, the name “Yikes” hits a little too close to home.
Ever since black bodies arrived in America, black people have had to adapt to “double consciousness,” a theory by African-American author and activist W.E.B. Du Bois. In simple terms, the theory describes the double identity that African- Americans take on from a young age. It is the tragic idea that African- Americans are extremely cautious of one’s movements and speech in majority white spaces in fear of being seen as a threat, but contrastingly, being able to relax and be one’s true self in black, “safe spaces.”
With police brutality cases gaining more publicity every week and the demonization of black boys and men being a casual occurrence since (arguably before) the 1940’s when 14 year old Emmett Till was lynched in Money, Mississippi, for allegedly flirting with a white woman, double consciousness is certainly not just a theory. It’s reality.
When I initially saw the name “Dume,” I didn’t see its offensive implications. I had never heard of the word, and I don’t think that a lot of other people have either, which makes ColourPop appear sly racist.
I’m not exactly sure where the “blacks are stupid and lazy,” stereotype originated, but “Dume” certainly isn’t helping it faze out. For some odd reason, racists today still don’t believe in black excellence. Perhaps the most disturbing part is that the disbelief isn’t blatant. It comes in the form of micro aggressions.
I am reminded of female African- American OBGYN Tamika Cross’ concerning story published on Facebook on October 9. In the post, Cross tells the story of being discriminated against while on a Delta flight. After a man two rows in front of her became unresponsive, Cross rushed to help; however, she was stopped by a flight attendant.
Cross said, “She said to me, ‘Oh no sweetie put your hand down, we are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel, we don’t have time to talk to you.’ I tried to inform her that I was a physician but I was continually cut off by condescending remarks.”
According to Cross, the flight attendant continued to pester her with questions, inquiring about her credentials, but a white male doctor did not receive the same treatment. Cross said, “Another ‘seasoned’ white male approaches the row and says he is a physician as well. She says to me ‘thanks for your help but he can help us, and he has his credentials.’ (Mind you he hasn’t shown anything to her. Just showed up and fit the “description of a doctor.”)
This is what discrimination and microaggression look like in 2016: subtle. Luckily the unresponsive man recovered, but he most likely would have recovered faster if Cross had been allowed to help sooner. The flight attendant knew this and apologized several times to Cross, offering her sky miles for her trouble. Cross, rightfully upset, did not accept.
In the way that “Dume’s” racism is subtle, “Typo’s” is the exact opposite. It’s no secret that for years black women have been told by their white and black peers that lighter skin is more favorable. Darker black women do not need to be reminded that their skin is viewed as a “Typo” or mistake.
Black women began believing that lie during the days of slavery, where colorism originated. Lighter slaves were often given more privileges because they were believed to be more intelligent and deserving than their darker peers due to their white ancestry.
After slaves were freed, enter the Brown Paper Bag Test. If a woman was lighter than a paper bag, she would be allowed entry into certain churches, sororities, and clubs. Around that same time, black women would often try skin bleaching to achieve a more socially desirable skin tone.
Years later, there was the infamous “light skin vs. dark skin” debate that took place on social media platforms, reaching a wide audience that most likely included insecure, young black girls.
Though there has been an increase in black liberation and the belief of black girl magic and beauty recently, it is very possible for black girls to easily be triggered by something as simple as the name of a contouring stick. I may not be one of those girls, but I highly respect those who spoke out against ColourPop. Just because one black girl or member of a minority group isn’t offended doesn’t make the derogatory act right.
Due to backlash, ColourPop almost immediately issued a brief apology. A ColourPop spokesperson said, “On behalf of ColourPop, we are sorry and are extremely grateful for our customers’ feedback. We have taken immediate action to change the shade names and review our naming process to ensure this does not happen again.” The names of the Scultiping Stixs in question were also changed. “Yikes” was renamed “Bloom.” “Dume” was renamed “Point Dume,” and “Typo” was renamed “Platonic.”