Will Black Magazines Ever Share Their Covers With White Women? This is the question that was asked in the headline of a post on Necole Bitchie’s blog in response to a discussion started by Jada Pinkett Smith on Facebook. And you want to know what? I hate this question. Because let’s get real here for a second: white women don’t need to be on any more fucking magazine covers. They’re already on most of them. White women, do you see yourself represented on the covers of magazines when you look around? Great! Then you don’t need to be on the covers of any more.
Black magazines evolved specifically because there was a lack of representation of women (and people) of color in the mainstream media. When little black girls look at the women on the covers of the magazines in the grocery store, when they look at images of the people they are told are beautiful, they do not see images that look like themselves staring back at them. Little black girls are inundated with images of Eurocentric beauty: white, thin, blond-haired, blue-eyed. How must that make them feel about their own looks? How hard must it be for a little black girl to see herself as beautiful when society is constantly telling her that to be beautiful is to be white?
I cannot image how difficult it must be, because I was not a little black girl. I was a little girl who saw myself reflected back from the TV screen, movie screen, and pages of magazines. And I do know how important that was for me. I remember having photos of women like Jennifer Love Hewitt and Britney Spears on my walls because they were brunette and I thought they kind of looked like me. I filled my room with cutouts of people that made me feel beautiful. Little girls of color deserve to have the same thing. And since they cannot just flip open any old magazine and find a dark-skinned woman with tight curls smiling back at them, they need to at least be able to flip open a magazine and find that. They deserve a magazine filled with nothing but photos of women that look like they look, reinforcing the fact that they are beautiful, too. Beautiful does not just mean white and blond. It also means black, brown, curly, thin, fat, and every other variation under the sun. But you wouldn’t know that from taking a look at the media we consume in our culture.
Furthermore, it is not the responsibility of black magazines to include white women on their covers. Mainstream magazines aren’t sharing their covers with WOC, save for a “token” here or there (Halle Barry, the light-skinned, non-threatening black person, anyone?) so why should black magazines being giving more visibility to the most visible demographic there is in print? The answer is that they shouldn’t. It shouldn’t be up to the oppressed population to include the dominant one in it’s publications. It is the responsibility of “white” magazines to do a better job representing diversity on their own covers, not the other way around. And “diversity” doesn’t mean saying, “Oh, well we had Beyonce on our cover in February,” and acting like because you had one woman of color on your magazine that year that you deserve a cookie for throwing minorities a bone. No, the responsibility lies with mainstream publications to start including women of all sizes, races, and ethnicities in their pages and not just because it’s “Black History Month” or because you want to shoot some awesome photo editorial full of “ethnic” models in a desert landscape (And don’t even get me started on the blackface shoots. As if there weren’t enough white women working in the modeling industry already, they have to go give white women jobs that could easily be taken by models of color by PAINTING THEIR SKIN. It’s so racist that I can’t even talk about it).
I don’t see that happening anytime soon. While there has been improvement, it has been minimal. So white people, stop trying to make everything yours. If you want to see yourself represented somewhere, you have plenty of options to choose from. Don’t fixate on the few publications that choose not to cater to you.