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Can We Share the Center?

Susan O'Halloran

2 min read

Dec 20, 2023

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One day I was shopping in a drugstore with a friend who is Black. I was buying some mousse for my hair. I walked down a center aisle and picked up a canister of styling foam. She pointed to the sign two aisles away labeled “Ethnic hair products.”


“Now, why,” she asked, “is my Dixie Peach pomade labeled ‘ethnic’ but that gooey stuff in your hand is not?”


She was, of course, talking about the one thousand and one ways she as an African American female is made to feel like “the other.” There are “neutral” or “regular” hair products (that is, the majority’s - European American’s - hair care products) in the center aisle, and then there are “ethnic hair products” two aisles over on the wall. She and so many people who are not White are constantly told they reside on the periphery. Are they not all hair products and isn’t my red, curly Irish hair also “ethnic?”


I see the same thing happen in schools. In textbooks, I read chapters labeled “American settlers,” and then a special box labeled “Black settlers.” Are they not all settlers?


Okay, I’ll admit we have moved steps closer to being an inclusive society. Consumer needs and ethnic groups’ contributions that were once invisible are now acknowledged, but we haven’t gone far enough. What is considered “White” and everything that goes with it – hair, food, clothing, communication styles, accomplishments – is still central in our culture. In fact, so central that it’s not even seen as just one way of doing things. Whiteness just is. It’s neutral. The standard. Normal.


As someone identified as White, having the awareness that I am a multicultural being – not normal or neutral or standard but one among many – is the beginning of acknowledging that my experiences and habits are just as unique and quirky to someone else as theirs can be to me. 

My hope is that as we increase our awareness and as our actions become more inclusive, no one group will occupy the center. One day, all of us will.


This article may be reproduced by giving the following credit: by Sue O’Halloran, author, story artist and race equity speaker/consultant. Find Sue and her store at:  www.SusanOHalloran.com


Susan O'Halloran

2 min read

Dec 20, 2023

34

0

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