Drop Everything: Systemic Racism Affects White Tanning-Bed Enthusiasts

By Channing Kennedy Apr 01, 2010

Two Sundays ago, with the passage of health care reform, the racial hierarchy of America changed forever. And with it, the racial justice movement must change.

For years I’ve suggested that racism was in decline and yeah, there are some, you know, incidents that still happen with regards to racism, but most of the claims I’ve said for years, well, they’re not really real. But I realize now that I was wrong. For I now too feel the pain of racism. … Why would the President of the United States of America — a man who says he understands racism, a man who has been confronted with racism — why would he sign such a racist law? Why would he agree to do that? Well, now I feel the pain of racism.

Doc Thompson, guest host on the Glenn Beck Show, March 30 2010 We’re not changing our destination — it is, and will always be, to eradicate the systems in our society that perpetuate disparity and disenfranchisement in our most vulnerable communities. To realize the dreams of those fearless men and women who came before us. But in our post-HCR America, systemic racism is alive and well, with a new set of victims more important, and more deeply affected, than any ever before in history. Under new law, light-skinned people are suffering the racially disparate effects of a 10% disincentivizing tax on the carcinogenic practice of indoor tanning. This is what systemic racism has always looked like: a structure that creates racially disparate outcomes, regardless of intent and absent any explicit interpersonal racism at the top. Only this time, it’s more important than ever, because it affects white people.

Racism has been dropped at my front door and the front door of all lighter-skinned Americans. The health care bill the president just singed into law includes a 10 percent tax on all indoor tanning sessions starting July 1st, and I say, who uses tanning? Is it dark-skinned people? I don’t think so. I would guess that most tanning sessions are from light-skinned Americans.

Doc Thompson, guest host on the Glenn Beck Show, March 30 2010 This matters. Because things that affect white people are the only things that matter. The mechanisms that create and perpetuate injustice in communities of color still exist, of course. Public schools are still funded with local property taxes. Felons still lose the right to vote. Laws requiring hospitals to offer translation services aren’t enforced. Public transportation in poor communities gets cut first. People with Muslim-sounding names get harassed by airport security. Corporations have more political rights than the people whose land they build on. And actually, the new health care legislation doesn’t do communities of color a lot of favors. But we have to prioritize! These issues merely primarily affect people of color — Black, Latino, Asian, Indian, Arab, First Nations, people of mixed race, and anyone else who hasn’t been on the lighter side of our planet’s dialogue on race and society. But compare those against a tax on tanning beds. That hurts white people! And, I guess, light-skinned people of color who use tanning beds. Surely we can all see the greater injustice here: the injustice that affects some white people to some degree. You’re probably asking: is there room for people of color within the racial justice movement? Of course. We welcome allies of color, and we welcome the contributions of those in a position of melanin. Because tanning justice is a moral issue that affects all of us, somehow, if you think about it. I may not get there with you. (I burn easily.) But I’m not worried about anything. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the return of tax rates on tanning beds to their pre-HCR legislation rates, Hallelujah! In solidarity, Channing Kennedy ColorTanLines Magazine