Seeing Difference Differently
"In recent years, a generation of race-conscious medical students who are used to choosing the exact skin colour of their emojis have raised concerns that the images through which they study are almost exclusively white. From the anatomy posters they hang above their beds, to the plastic mannequins they practise chest compressions upon, the default patient is almost always the same: a white-skinned man (only a woman when showing a relevant organ) with a hairless body and a neat side-parting of trimmed, mousy hair. This persists, despite the fact that white people are a global minority." Neil Singh
There has been a lot of light shone on the lack of diversity inbuilt within our British Culture the last couple of years. Growing up and schooled in the UK as an Asian in a predominantly white area and entering university to study Art History, I became aware that the histories taught and presented to me were non representative of myself, despite my heritage spanning two British Colonies. Throughout my life people have been surprised to find my parents speak with a native British accent and to not be fluent in a second language. Our colonial history is very much absent from the curriculum.
Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk
Perhaps the most impactful element on my own self esteem was the lack of representation of my race and other people of colour in magazines and on the tv and as role models. It was only in my late teens that I could buy a foundation that matched my skin-tone. Too late to appease my younger ambitions to 'fit in' and after years of lingering next to excitable friends trying powders and creams in outlets like Benefit knowing I couldn't try anything on. As I now raise two younger boys I already notice my 5 year old working through his feelings of difference.
In 2020 I read an article called 'Decolonising dermatology: why black and brown skin need better treatment'. by Neil Singh, It discusses how medical students have very little training and visual access to how conditions may look on darker skin. The quote at the beginning of this page comes from this article and really resonated with my experience as a student studying anatomical art, as well as being a mother searching for pictures online to see what say chicken pox may look like on my child's skin. The default patient is still very much the same. This article, as well as the conversations around Black Lives Matter very much inspired our commission of the artworks by Charles Msoga. We wanted to create a simple and educational poster where all children can see darker skin tones as a mannequin. We hope this will play a part in celebrating and decolonising the educational poster. If we can see ourselves represented and normalised in the small stuff for the small people, the ripple effect will be magnificent.
As part of our pledge to make progress in this area we will also donate from our sales of the prints to Blueprint For All, the charity formally known as The Stephen Lawrence Foundation. Their mission is to create an inclusive society in which everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or background is provided with tangible opportunities to thrive.
We'd love to hear from you if you have any stories, insights or comments on this topic - send us your stories at email@example.com
You may find some of these other resources listed below of interest:
Best books for children on black British history:
Documentary about skin bleaching - following Tan Frances personal story and life growing up in the UK: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0016tzr/tan-france-beauty-and-the-bleach
How the lack of Colonialism in teaching is affecting attitudes in UK about migration: https://metro.co.uk/2020/03/17/teachers-explain-british-colonialism-taught-schools-12381849/
Make up industry still failing darker skin tones: