Cartoonist Ronald Wimberly recently published "Lighten Up," a visually stunning and thought-provoking piece on race for The Nib. His story, told in comic-format, is about a past experience working with a Marvel comics editor (who remains nameless), who asked him to the lighten the skin tone of Wolverine's ex-girlfriend, Melita. Wimberly wonders, "Is this racist?"
To tackle the question, Wimberly looks at race through the filter of hexidecimal IDs, or web colors. Every illustrator who's worked in a digital format is familiar with these codes, and knows that coloring is dependent on a lot of things, including light and shadow. Wimberly, who is black, explains that in certain lights he is #5c4653, whereas the hex ID for "black" is #000000 (which he points out, is used for historically racist blackface imagery). Melita was once described in past issues as half Mexican, half African American, so he used #c39e73 for her skin tone. "I figured I'd make her some sort of brown," he explains. His editor asked for him to lighten her skin to #f8e0a1, because the character has changed over the years to be "latina and white." Wimberly points out in his comic out that "Latina" is actually a word for a broad range of nationalities and skin tones, from lighter skinned Arab Mexicans to darker skinned Dominicans.
In the end Wimberly didn't lighten Melita's skin and nobody ever noticed, or at least nobody ever brought it up with him. So why does this story matter? For one, if people of color and other minorities are only shown in a limited light, or limited hex code in this case, that's going to affect not only how others see those people, but how those people see themselves. As Wimberly explains, "Art is where associations are made. Art is where we form the narratives of our identity."
Via: The Nib on Medium