Many people believe that because we had an African American President, we live in a non-racist country. However, clearly we do. It is impossible to fix the system of white privilege and inequalities that have existed for hundreds of years. Recently, Nivea released a deodorant ad with the saying “white is purity.” There were many responses on twitter to the ad, and since then Nivea has apologized, not intending to be racist. Society tends to portray blackness as bad and ugly where as whiteness is beautiful and good, this idea is portrayed throughout the book The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
Race is an issue within The Bluest Eye where girls, like Pecola, are seen as “dirty” and “ugly” because they have dark skin. Whereas, light skinned girls like Maureen are “cute” and “innocent.” According to Smith, in her Keywords on Race, critics view “race as a concept is a social construct, and have worked to displace the idea of race from biology.” The social construction of race is clearly seen throughout the novel by the way the girls of different skin tones are seen and treated by those around them. As soon as Pecola begins menstruating, the boys torment her about her blackness and the fact that her father sleeps naked. Originally, we see Maureen “feel sorry” for Pecola, but then come to realize that she is trying to accuse Pecola of seeing her father naked. These events result in others seeing her with a loss of innocence and purity. This is continued through the end of the story when Claudia and Frieda overhear women talking about Pecola being pregnant, and none said words like “‘poor little girl,’ or ‘poor baby,’ but there was only head-wagging where those words should have been.” The social construction is that African Americans and dark skinned people are ugly and deserve what has happened to them because they are not pure or clean. No one feels sorry or wants to help “dirty” girls like Pecola. Pecola continuously dreams of blue eyes and blond hair and the beauty of whiteness through the Shirley Temple cup, and the Mary Jane candies, she thinks being white is what will make her beautiful, pure, and not ignored by others.
It is a shame that racism in America has not improved and that African Americans and other minority groups are pushed to feel like whiteness is what will give them desirable qualities. The media is one of the main sources of racism whether it be intentional or not. Media ads like this show that being white is “better” than a minority, and that minorities need to change in order to fit in and feel liked. The Nivea ad was directed for users in the Middle East, and shows a white American women, dressed in white clothing, giving off the idea that if you use the cream you will become pure just like this white women is. This may not have been the intention of the ad, but that is the idea that comes from its unintentional racist remark. The urge to push people to be or feel a certain way to be beautiful is exactly what explains Pecola’s feelings in seeking blue eyes through the ads on candy and cups. The media that is around us is a social construction of racial identities and differences, and what makes one race “better” than another. When Pecola finally “receives” her blue eyes, she immediately feels pure and beautiful, as she makes her imaginary friend compare the blueness to everyone else’s.
It is clear that racism is still very prevalent today, and there is still a draw and desire to have white features and become accustomed into the white culture. America is supposed to be the land of the free where people can live how they want to without being discriminated by their race and culture. However, the reality in this is that America will always be a “white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed” society. If we actually want to make a change we must start on an individual level and make those who are minorities feel like they are beautiful and worthy of acknowledgement and purity despite not being white.