Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Band-Aid of Any Other Shade Would Heal as Quickly

Have you ever wondered why Band-Aids aren’t available in a rainbow of racially inclusive colors? Or are they?


I did last Saturday while at the nail salon having my toenails painted jet black with sassy, sparkling big toe pumpkin accents for Halloween.

That wasn’t the first time I’d wondered about the limited bandage choices for people of color. I think I was five or six when Band-Aid’s color inequity first struck me.

One of my first childhood friends was a bubbly Puerto Rican girl named after an exotic flower. She was born without legs but had small toes just under her hip bones. Lush ebony hair spilled down her shoulders in tight, perfectly corkscrewed ringlets.

I eagerly whipped her all over our suburban New England neighborhood in her wheelchair and played kickball with her when she earnestly sported her prosthetic legs. Her prosthetic legs seemed to match my pale peach skin better than her rusty cinnamon skin. Mean kids in the neighborhood, regrettably including me, used to make fun of her behind her back about what we cruelly called her “toe stubs,” "penguin body" and “mismatched peg legs.”

Some two-plus decades later I still feel hideous about backstabbing my disabled childhood friend. (Name me anyone meaner than the kids around my old block. I learned from the best at being the worst and now I feel the need to repent. I hope no schoolyard bully ever cashes in my bad kid Karma by making such twisted, cruel fun of my children.)

My outcast friend went hurlting from her wheelchair one time when I pushed her a tad too briskly on our way to the ice cream stand. You can’t imagine how bad I felt. I never told my mother for fear I’d be grounded for life. I was a good Catholic girl (at the time) and prayed to God for forgiveness for what seemed like months. I nearly wore out my faux crystal rosary beads.


When my friend’s mom finished treating her daughter's scraped knee with peroxide and Neosporin, she pressed a Caucasian-colored (can I say that?) Band-Aid onto her boo boo and sent us back outside to foolishly tool around the neighborhood once more.

I couldn’t help but stare at that darn Band-Aid. It stood out like crazy, just like her prosthetic legs. My friend finally noticed my rude, unaverted stares. Soon after we got into a fight and went our separate ways. It was the summer when I inconsiderately told her that her bandage didn’t match her skin. I was so young and didn’t know any better, even encouraged by several adult role models to make fun of her to illicit laughs.

Flash back to 2006 while I gaze at the barely clad booty shakers on Soul Train, as I jiggled in places I didn’t even know existed under my chin in a much too vigorous massage chair at the nail polish remover and incense reeking nail salon.

So there I was, gazing blankly at the TV, just barely distracting myself from the tickle-pain of having my perma flip-flop calluses shaved down with a scary spinning electric sandpaper file contraption, when I remembered my easy-target friend and her mismatched Band-Aids and mismatched bendable plastic legs.

A rapper I hadn’t yet heard of was flaunting ludicrous amounts of ice in his golden grill on the Soul Train stage when something curious on his face caught my eye. He had a big, fat Band-Aid on his left cheek. It was the standard color Band-Aid. I chatted with the nail salon neighbor to my left, who was also perplexed by the no-name rapper’s boo boo. Was it really a wound or just a fashion statement? Did this guy care that his Band-Aid stuck out like a sore thumb? And why should I care? But I do. Does that make me racist? I sure hope not.

As soon as I got home and once the kids calmed down about my silly homage to Halloween pedicure, I Google’d search pairings like: “racist bandages,” “Band-Aid color disparity” and “Band-Aids for people of color.”

Perhaps somehow if I could locate and publicize a more racially inclusive Band-Aid and share it with the blogging world, I could make things right with my old friend Iris. Maybe I wouldn’t burn to a crisp in the hell pyres after all. In a sad, half-attempted way, I might now atone for my childhood unkindness toward her (and behind her back).

Thanks to Google, I stumbled across Ebon-Aide. I couldn’t believe it. These bandages actually come in a broad color palette featuring hues “from the licorice look to mocha, coffee, cinnamon, and honey skin.” Ebon-Aide is “the adhesive bandage specially designed for people of color” and “… comes in three different sizes and five different shades … At last you've got it made in your shade.” It's wierd, but I feel better knowing these new, color-inclusive bandages exist. Would I feel funny putting a deep brown-shaded Band-Aid on my pale skin?

While I can’t Band-Aid (or even Ebon-Aide) my guilt about knowingly (and yet childishly unknowingly at the same time) taking racist digs at my childhood friend, I can now take ownership of the vile things I said about her.

Maybe I can even find her on and say a sincere “sorry” once and for all. Would she even remember me, the knock-kneed skinny girl with the bad 80s perm from the mustard colored house down the way? Will any of this matter in the end?


At 9:10 AM, Blogger Mad Hatter said...

Those Ebon-Aides come in all the shades of my wardrobe (except for burgandy and orange). I wonder if I could wear them as an accessory? I think that Nelly only uses them as a fashion statement (if he is the rapper you saw in the video at the salon). What do I know, though? Maybe he does wear the band aid for a broader political reasons and I am just clued out as usual. The long and short of it is, I like the colour of those Ebon-Aides despite having nuclear-winter white skin. Maybe I could sart sporting them like a latter-day Les Nesman.

A disabled woman of colour in New England in the 80s? Her life must have been hell. It's hard to look back on our own cruelty as children, isn't it? I appreciate your frankness.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous John said...

Great stuff. I am the secret Westerly spy.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Lucia said...

Once I went into a mall in a wheelchair with a friend who was always in a wheelchair. Things looked very different from there, and the looks people gave us were downright frightening. These Ebon-Aides make me want to do the same thing. To try them out. I suspect people wouldn't think much, though, since there are now bandages out with all sorts of things on them and in all sorts of colors. Doing a web search a few days ago, I found Jesus bandages. "Let the Son of God heal your hurt."

At 7:16 PM, Blogger crazymumma said...

I was once Horrible to a 4 year old boy I was walking to and from school, I was 10 at the time, and so mean to him! I regret it to this day and wish I could find him and say sorry....

At 10:17 PM, Blogger jen said...

what a terrifically real confession and absolutely brilliant and honest post.

At 7:53 AM, Blogger Little Miss said...

Oh my gosh! PLEASE tell me you're writing a book??!!

I cannot get enough of these laughs. It's like I'm addicted or something.

and I'm sure your Ebon-Aide friend has forgotten all about that little incident since the...

oh, nevermind. i CAN'T go there. Comedians can get aways with talking about racially fueled events in history, but me?? I'd just get my ass kicked.

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Just Me said...

Seriously why do they not have these at Wal-Mart? The fact that you had to google them to even see if they exsisted made me laugh! You are a riot!

At 10:51 AM, Blogger supreem said...

this is amazing! i was just talking about the same thing with my professor on friday!! I was planning to come home a write a post on my blog wondering why bandaids were racially exclusive. I guess i'll just post a link you your blog!

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