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A Story About Representation

Updated: Apr 1, 2020


I have a friend who studies in New York. She's brilliant. She has a natural ability with numbers, which makes her a significant architect, but her artistic eye beckons her. While she pursues a professional career in architecture, she also practices graphic design, art, and fashion. Recently, she had the opportunity to attend a seminar hosted by one of the largest social media giants in idea exchange.


My friend was able to ask the co-founder of the company a question. What she chose to ask was something I had always questioned about the company inwardly but refused to admit aloud. Why does the site’s search engine consistently populate results for white Americans? Or in my friend's words, "why is whiteness the default in y'all's algorithm?"


She received an honest, although underwhelming, answer. The skilled co-founder reminded my friend about the available array of search filters the site possesses. Specifically, the one that becomes available when searching for make-up ideas. The filter for skin tone.


My friend and I exchanged opinions and concerns over the interaction since we both represent minorities in America. She is black, and I am brown, neither one of us was flattered to be an "afterthought". While we've had opportunities that have allowed us to achieve success respectively, we would be denying ourselves a truth if we ignored the fact that, although existent, some are not obvious.


I've tried to wrap my head around the fact that perhaps the company simply targets a demographic, but that always begs the question; why? Why does the company target the demographic? Is that demographic more likely to appreciate fashion? Does it have a greater chance of affording the latest fashion trends? Why is that demographic more likely to afford fashion trends?


Simply, why?


I'm not struck by anguish nor does the lack of representation impede my ability to pursue happiness. I don’t toss and turn at night wishing corporate America was less cruel. I’m moved. I'm touched. I'm faintly caressed by the ghost of a younger me who thought I had to act less Mexican to succeed.


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