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Should white women be on the cover of black women’s magazines?

Sofia Hashi | Fulcrum Staff

“WHY CAN’T WHITE women grace the covers of black women’s magazines?” This is the question that Jada Pinkett-Smith posed on a blog post last week. While the actress did make some valid points, my reply is, “Why should they?”

“Will there ever be a day in which women will be able to see each other beyond race, class, and culture?” wrote Pinkett-Smith on her blog.

“If we ask our white sisters, who tend to be the guardians of the covers of mainstream magazines, to consider women of color to grace these covers, should we not offer the same consideration to white women to grace our covers?” she continued.

While Pinkett-Smith’s heart is in the right place in striving for racial equality, she seems to be speaking on the assumption that society has abolished discrimination to a degree that would make this a possibility. And while I feel the same way as Pinkett-Smith in regard to race relations and perceptions of skin colour, I also know we haven’t come that far.

To say racism isn’t an issue in the 21st century is to be unaware of the struggles that still exist to this day for people of colour. Racism didn’t vanish after legislation banning it was put into place. If anything, racism is more discreet—it’s something that you don’t think of until you experience it; it’s like the glass ceiling women face in the workforce—you feel it when you come face to face with it.

Magazines like Essence and Ebony, both of which are black female interest publications, were created because of the lack of black representation in mainstream media. The articles found within the pages of these magazines are completely different from those in Glamour and Cosmo, and for the right reasons. Who else will report on the specific minority issues faced by black women if not black women themselves?

The types of black women featured in these magazines are more diverse than what’s featured within mainstream media. The “token black girl” seen in conventional magazines usually looks as Caucasian as possible—and you can forget about seeing any real sort of diversity.

Why shouldn’t black people have their own space? Special interest groups are there for a reason; the very words “special interest” imply that these spaces are for certain groups of people, usually those in the minority. The Women’s Network caters largely to women and features programming many women would likely tune in to—and that’s okay. No one gets upset when they have to flip channels to catch an episode of Duck Dynasty. Likewise, TLC would never include Criminal Minds in its lineup. And Oprah lands every cover of O magazine. Some things are just meant to be.

I’m all for equality, but have we come so far that black women’s magazines shouldn’t exist as they are? No. Even if we do one day achieve perfect racial equality, there’s no reason why magazines like Jet and Uptown should change their format. Black women and girls need publications like these so they can see themselves properly represented. Otherwise we’ll be looking toward mainstream media, which historically forgets the minority.