Images That Flip The Script On Experiencing Life As A Person Of Color

In The Oprah Magazine‘s May issue, one of the magazine’s big themes was race, marked by a section titled “Let’s Talk about Race,” which included articles written by a range of contributors. Included within the articles were three images that didn’t include a description, but were visually compelling because they challenged how many of us imagine race as it relates to roles in America.

Shot by Chris Buck, one shows a nail salon where the staff applying pedicures is white and the happy, relaxed customers are of Asian origin. In a second image, a white girl is confronted by a wall of dolls, all of which are black, and in the third, a woman of color with a cell phone at her ear and a Yorkie in her lap is waited on by a white woman.

The salon and maid image make us question who is in a position of servitude and why, while the image of the young girl is arresting because it forces people to think about the impact of growing up in a world that erases your existence.

Check them out below.

46 Comments

  • Pualani Maksoer Ella
    May 17, 2017

    yep its can have happen if you have money but in USA the sevice are collered or asian and that not ok everybody have to get the change to make money but I have learn from my paents if you have somebody who service you have repect for them they are people just like you ,you no better than them
    Pualani

  • May 17, 2017

    I would like to see more flipping the script, specifically when it comes to enslavement both past and present.

  • Suzan Bayar
    May 17, 2017

    Do you really think that there are no black dolls in the store? this does not happen anymore. I have not been in a store that only sells white dolls in I don’t know how long. Secondly, do you really believe that there are no black women who wait are being served by white women? does Operah only hire black people? I understand the need to see each other from their perspectives but lets not act like the only wealthy people in America are white.

  • Lg
    May 17, 2017

    Suzan with a Z, three pictures. You couldn’t even handle 3 pictures.

  • Angel
    May 17, 2017

    @ Suzan Bayer,
    The images are not suggesting that “ALL” Wealthy people are white or that “ALL”people in the service industry are people of color. They are exaggerations of valid stereotypes that have and do exist. To cherry pick tokens (i.e. Operah whose name is “OPRAH”) as legitimate evidence of equal contrasts only further proves how true these images are in what they infer. I’m gonna go out on a limb and take a guess that 98% of your Facebook friend list and 99% of your personal acquaintances (friends) are white, with a token or two randomly scattered in to mitigate against the obvious.

  • Charisse L'Pree
    May 17, 2017

    @LG LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE LIKE

  • Leslie
    May 17, 2017

    LOL @Lg. Spot on.

  • Marya
    May 17, 2017

    It is stunning how many people’s minds just broke at the sight of these images.
    Their processing units just went completely off line!
    These are some Powerful freaking images.

  • Jessica
    May 17, 2017

    @Cynthia Cornelius
    I’m sorry but you want enslavement flipped both past and present??? I want it eliminated, people to be educated on the subject and wish it would never have occurred but could never wish it on anyone, oppressor or oppressed. Surely you don’t pretend you are against modern-day slavery yet make these comments. That would mark you the biggest of hypocrites.

  • Carolyn Tyjewski
    May 17, 2017

    Suzan Bayar, where do I begin? First, it’s a representation of the social construction and realization of the racial contract of this society that has been around since before the signing of the Constitution of the U.S. I’m sorry that was probably too difficult for you to grasp (too many big words); I’ll rephrase. It’s an attempt to demonstrate (via imagery) what occurs, statistically in this society everyday.

    Second, while it is true that more stores do carry, for example, child’s dolls that are not white, what is also true is that the lion’s share (that means the majority) that are on the shelf of most stores (if not the entirety of the collection is white. The same can be said of employment statistics. So, for example, while it is true that one may see more whites, for example, as cleaning staff in hotels. Statistically speaking, this field is still disproportionately staffed by POC — particularly at the lower rungs. This means that where white people exist in this field tends to be managerial positions.

    Now, if one so chose, one could educate one’s self; all of this information is, after all, available for public viewing by anyone with a computer and the desire to learn. So, might I suggest that, next time, one wishes to make a statement, one first take the time to first: think critically about the subject matter in question and then do a little research. This way one can avoid public embarrassment.

  • Kimberly Knight
    May 17, 2017

    Suzan, I think you are entirely missing the point. The image of the little girl standing in front of a row of dolls is SO important. When was the last time you were in a toy store or a doll aisle? When a child of color stands in front of the typical display, yes, there may be one or two dolls that look like them, but the MAJORITY of the dolls are Caucasian. From the perspective of the child, imagine how it might feel to rarely see your face reflected back to you. Try real hard to put yourself in other’s shoes, to walk just a moment considering how they might feel in many settings where they are made to feel invisible and/or inferior. It does not diminish you to elevate others.

  • JMB
    May 17, 2017

    Many nail techs are from Thailand/Asia – so what! Are these salons owned by white Americans who refuse them rights? Not hardly. The workers are also the salon owners, family members etc. All races go to the nail salon! Not just white people. Is it racist because we are used to seeing people from another country in a certain type of job? How arrogant to assume those particular people are “downtrodden” or “less than happy” just because they don’t fit into another persons concept of success, happiness etc.

    I cannot recall seeing white only doll sections in stores. I have boys who don’t play with dolls so I’m not in tune as others may be. That pic is certainly the extreme in any event. I love seeing the diversity in dolls on shelves as it represents our real world. Kids are less aware of race and cultural divides these days and that’s a blessing.

    As far as a white maid/butter serving an African American lady? Not far fetched. There are affluent people of all races in our country, and especially in Loudoun, VA. Domestic employment isn’t sequestered to one race.

    Privilege comes more with money, not race. Money isn’t sequestered to only white America.

    How we treat people matters. Whether It’s a maid, nail tech, clerk at the store, or server at a restaurant, we are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all expected to treat one another with love and kindness. Socioeconomic divides will always be in society. White collar, blue collar, somewhere in between – this is real and it’s normal.

  • Anne
    May 17, 2017

    Wow, Suzan… didn’t take much for you to get triggered, huh?

    Even less for you to miss the entire point.

  • Lucia
    May 17, 2017

    It is very important to challenge expectations and do called norms. Perhaps for the Suzan’s if the world the photos challenge the status quo a bit too directly. We need more provocative photos like these. I owned a business for many years. The majority of my employees (including myself) were people of color. Often enough clients would call asking to please speak to the “Black gentleman”. We would respond by saying that all the employees were Black so they’d have to give me the name of the person they wanted to speak with because we all had names. There would be either sputtering or silence from the caller. Everyday we would challenge stereotypes by simply being people of color or women in a technology related business. I designed my business to work with clients primarily over the phone simply so we wouldn’t have to deal with those who would doubt our competency due to gender/color or marvel over how we were the “exception” when they would come to our sales office.

  • S Holcomb
    May 17, 2017

    I found these photos thought provoking and beautiful. What I found distasteful and disturbing was the ugliness shown to Suzan. It takes a graceful human to help a soul see a thing that they don’t. It takes an even bigger human to allow an individual to see something differently than you and express it without being bashed. She wasn’t ugly in any way. The responses were belittling.

  • JSM
    May 17, 2017

    I’m kind of confused because there is no way this blog or post says it’s talking about racism…what IT IS saying is how a person of color (which is more than just African American) may experience the world. It seems many of the previous commentors made it about wealth and even racism…talking about race does not always have to be about racism…everyone experiences the world differently. BTW, Suzan just because stores now have a few black dolls doesn’t change the situation. White children never have to see themselves “less than” because of the color of their skin. They have many choices. Children of color are lucky if they have a choice let alone two that may even resemble them the slightest.

  • Colette M Henderson
    May 17, 2017

    Love this! Comments are far more disturbing than the photos!

  • Divine
    May 17, 2017

    Suzan, I am not only a doll and toy collector, but I also own an online toy store. There aren’t that many black dolls.

    Go to the Disney store…show me the “Tiana” section…oh yeah. She’s the only princess that doesn’t have a section at the Dinsey store!

  • May 17, 2017

    This is brilliant! The photos does a good job in delivering a clear message. Look at the butt hurt people getting offended by it.
    http://theoraclejournal.net

  • Brit
    May 17, 2017

    JMB: I think the person in the last pic is Latina, not Black. The artist is likely trying to give the perspective of multiple perspectives of color. I’d love to see a pic of all white farm labor with a Hispanic boss, since that’s even more skewed than the domestic services industry.

    For anyone having trouble seeing the message in these pics, don’t worry. They’re just pictures. You may think they’re exaggerating, ok, but even still, just pictures. Are they really that offensive? Are is your ego being a little bit fragile? Just a thought.

  • Erin
    May 17, 2017

    Way to miss the point suZan

  • Sandra
    May 17, 2017

    Majority rules. As demographics shift so does the social construct. Things are changing as a result…not to worry.

  • Emma
    May 17, 2017

    BRILLIANT project! I saw the dolls one before, can’t wait to see more of this series. I’d especially LOVE to see the male contingent flipped over. Gardeners, field hands, food delivery (NYC) …. Brilliant project! I will follow closely.

  • Tiombe
    May 17, 2017

    There are so many more images that could be brought up. I still find it hard to find dolls of color for my daughters, it’s rare but most people wouldn’t know that because they aren’t shopping for ‘those types’ of dolls.

    I think these images speak volumes and if people are offended then they really need to think about why and acclimate themselves to the world around them.

  • Jen
    May 18, 2017

    I want to put my 2 cents in on the dolls photo.

    Notice how there are only about 5 little characters to choose from.

    No many in compared to white doll characters in our stores. So many hair styles, cuts and colour. The companies market these dolls with persinalities and interests for young girls to relate with. (Sally like to ride ponies, mille likes to go shop.)

    Go through the toy isles and see there is one asian doll. Its less likely you will find a brown girl doll. If you do find one its almost guaranteed to be I a box with little to no personality traits.

  • Maria
    May 18, 2017

    Am I the only one who sees a white maid serving a Latina in the last picture?

  • May 18, 2017

    I recently took a trip to south Florida and I could not find a Mother’s Day card in English in the store. The experience gave me more empathy for people who lived submerged in another culture. I agree that most of the time you can find dolls other than white in a store. However, often times little girls are seeking a specific doll and more often than not, the black dolls are scarce are not present. Additionally, when we go to buy shoes or hosiery in the color nude aligns with the skin of whites and not blacks. Nude means naked, but that color has been earmarked for whites. If and when my color can be found it’s named after a food like caramel. If this made you uncomfortable, great. It was effective. ☺

  • May 18, 2017

    Wow! It seems like ladies were more interested in slamming Suzan than just commenting on the pictures. Is she not entitled to her opionion or view? Kindness matters.

  • Phil
    May 18, 2017

    The greatest example of “white privilege” here is the framing of the article and photo series themselves. About half of my (white) family is poor enough that they work in the kind of service jobs pictured. Apparently they’re invisible to the (multi racial) privileged elite who find these images somehow startling and enlightening. Sorry, but except that these are models who look like they haven’t done a real days work in their lives, these could be family photos. The only thing startling to me here is the smugness and self righteousness of people who pretend innocence in the selfish exploitation of the (multi racial) underclass by trying to claim that it’s just a problem of racism (in others, of course).

  • Jennie
    May 18, 2017

    I am white, and worked with my British (white) partner as maids. We cleaned a home and the (black) woman of the house came home. We quickly introduced ourselves and got back to work. She proceeded to call her Mom, and after a quiet conversation, she yelled “40 acres, a mule and a limey!” I thought it was both awesome and funny.

  • Tiffany
    May 18, 2017

    I am a white female who does nails, you would be surprised the responses I get with new clients.
    (I didnt know you people did nails) my reply… u mean us people honey you are white too!
    Or my favorite one. (Hey I can understand you) yes you can because I was born here, just like most of my Asian co workers.

  • Diamond Minx
    May 18, 2017

    As a brunette child in the 1970’s I remember being so incredibly excited when I found a Barbie with brown hair. Yes, there is more diversity in children’s toys these days – but not in percentages that accurately reflect the population. …and as someone commented above, can you imagine being a small child and going into a store and finding 100 dolls that DON’T look like you, and only three dolls that do. I think these pictures are beautifully thought provoking.

  • Na'na
    May 18, 2017

    Oh my gosh! I am blind! I didn’t even understand what the pics were trying to present, and the 3rd pic I passed completely thinking it was an advertisement! Oh it is lovely not too see the world in colors, only people! I hope you all can achieve that someday

  • Keri
    May 19, 2017

    I have known a few nail salon owners, yes they were from various asian decents, they were also all sucessful, loved what they did and all said the same thing, that they were living the american dream, not even most americans that were born here can say that.
    Also, why not focus on the fact that most Asian cultures put a higher importance on education, and tend to be more successful in their chosen carrers… probably because that would mess up the white shaming

    I am white, born in America, and scrub toilets for a living, for people of every race and recent immigrants as well.
    I feel like these pictures not only sterotyped these women but at the same time implied that those of us in the service industries have something to be ashamed of.

    And finally The reason that their are still more white dolls, is because of simple supply and demand, that is whats being bought more. When I was working at Target, we had dolls of all colors, however the black dolls were always the ones that were left, meaning the option was always there but not taken as often.
    This picture, wasn’t just the opposite with primarily other race dolls, and a few white ones, there were none. So thats what is ideal to you?

    Either way, everything is getting more diverse with changing demographics so just hold your horses…

  • Hil
    May 19, 2017

    Hmm…missing the white guys mowing the lawn and doing yard work while the hispanic family lays out by the pool, and the middle eastern man buying beer and Gun World magazine from a convenient store and mumbling terrorist at the white guy behind the counter.

  • Jillian
    May 21, 2017

    I think these were done so beautifully. the doll one is heartbreaking. I’m sad to say I’ve never paid attention to the lack of diversity in the dolls before. Thank you for the awareness that these photos brought!

  • SJ
    May 21, 2017

    First the photographs are beautiful and they open the door to dialogue. We need dialogue. There are several comments above where I feel that the person missed the point of the point of pictures. Others have addressed them and perhaps we view through different lenses.

    The photographs challenges perceptions and stereotypes entrenched in our society for decades. Allow me to throw out a couple of different ideas. The photograph of the child among the dolls suggests another idea. The lack of fear among those who are different from her. It shows the lack of diversity in the doll aisle and perhaps the lack of diversity of toys for girls. Some girls do not like to play with dolls but prefer action figures, cars, or Legos. The pink shoes and the dolls suggest that this is the only toy for girls and it creates the illusion that motherhood and domesticity are roles for women. In the area of the country I live in an area that does not market to Asians or blacks until recently (the last 15 years). Only a handful of toys marketed today, if any, representing Middle Eastern, Indian (the subcontinent), Latino/Latina, or Native American/First Nation.

    The picture of the salon workers suggest that only women do this work. It challenges the status quo. To me it does not matter who does my nails as long as it done to the firm’s standards.

    The picture of the maid and young woman. it challenges the stereotype of the rich white person by showing a woman of color. She could be Native, Middle Eastern North Indian, Latina, or mixed ancestry.

    It challenges our notion of how far we have come but reflects the long road ahead. The time for understanding and acceptance at a time when we understand out past actions. We need to look beyond the societal structures and view the person. We need to understand the sins of our forefathers and the acts of subjugation of those who are different. Some people are beginning to understand the legacy of the subjugation but my hope is others will too. It is not an easy road but the photographs are a start.

  • Evelyn
    May 23, 2017

    Why is it that the people who want more dolls of different races, don’t do something about it.
    Also, these type articles just push unrest and hate. In today’s world who pays any attention to what color person helps them at nail salons, or anything else.
    I have a group of ladies who clean my house once a month because of my age and allergic to dust. I am so appreciative of these women, no matter Who they are. It’s not servitude it’s one per son helping another. My opinion.

  • Bob
    May 25, 2017

    To those defending her… I’m sure Suzan with a Z will be okay. After all, she is still able to turn on her TV and see people who look like her represented in shows, commercials, movies, etc etc. She is also easily able to see herself represented in magazines, newspaper (and not as a criminal either, which is shocking). She’ll be okay, so chill out and have an ice cold pepsi.

  • just the opinion of a white girl
    May 26, 2017

    Hey Suzan…..dont pay attention to the bullies…and that is exactly what they are. You hit the nail right on the head…even though we live in 2017, some people are still stuck decades in the past. People….regardless of color…have the ability to work hard and become what they want…I have black friends (yes, I really do…and family, too….and my facebook freind page is not all white) that make more money and are more successful than I am….but, I am sure all these people dogging you will dog me, too, and say the color of their skin has held them back. I guess no matter how much things change, they still stay the same

  • Nila
    May 29, 2017

    If I may respectfully say: White people, do more than not participate in racist behavior, be reflective, call it out whenever you see it and support those under attack. Don’t wait until it is over to say that was wrong, standup and confront it. Be actively anti-racism.

  • Lisa Bennett
    June 3, 2017

    These images are not to be taken literally, they are a provocative start to a difficult conversation. They provide an image to accompany a dialogue that needs to happen. They are not meant to be universal (yes, many poor white people are domestic workers) they are meant to reframe thinking.

    Suzan said what many people think. She shouldn’t be openly scorned, she should be encouraged to consider things from a different perspective.

  • Sharon A
    June 7, 2017

    S. Holcomb, I totally agree. The pics challenge our cultural norms, but it is unnecessary to attack someone who disagrees with us. We all are entitled to an opinion.

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