The moment I saw this picture, I automatically thought negative. The image of this boy’s chocolate skin told me something was wrong. Even his surrounding environment is dark and ominous.
The story is by The Washington Post; they’re attempting to shine light on child cocoa workers in West African, Burkina Faso, and I salute them for their efforts in doing so. My critique is on the imaging of the article. I know what message they’re attempting to deliver, “Let’s make this kid look like chocolate.” But he’s not, he’s a human being, not an object.
Do we ever see this child anywhere else? Do we see a child who looks like him winning a soccer match in his village? Do we see his beautiful, beautiful, skin running off to school? No, we don’t. Everything associated with him and other children who look like him is negative. Plan and simple.
I’m so tired of the slanted representation of Black people – no matter what country or state they live in. White media fails to pull this boy out when it’s time to discuss a soap commercial or a clothing line. We only see him and others like him when it’s time to convey a negative message. The message being chocolate skin is bad; chocolate skin is dirty; chocolate skin is poor. Chocolate skin is wrong, or at the very least doing something wrong.
Why didn’t the news editor use a picture of a Mars or Hershey Bar since it’s these companies’ manufacturing practices that are being critiqued in the article? Mainstream media does Black folks (intentionally and unintentionally) a disservice when the only time it showcases this boy, he’s doing something wrong, or the message is compelling us to feel sorry for him in some way. How about we see him a time or two in a Gap commercial or hovering over some books in a Kaplan educational photo?
We have to take control of our own images and call mainstream media out when they get it wrong, time-after-time. When we see the same visuals continuously, everyone, including Blacks folks begin to believe it. And that’s just wrong – ‘cause black skin is exquisite and it’s time we depict it that way – at least some of the time.