What’s in a Color Name? Racism.

Skin tone?  What’s the big deal?  We all have one!

How societies, companies, and individuals define and express defaults is important and matters.  The typical is default male and/or white in many situations.  This matters because not everyone is male and/or white.  Shocking, I know!  When a default is set consciously or unconsciously, it leaves many out, it forces some to fit into a box that does not fit them or to constantly explain to others why and how the box is exclusive, it creates unnecessary segregation.

Copic markers are popular for coloring as they are alcohol based and allow for shading.

They certainly know more about color than I do!  But, there is room for improvement.

They have a “Skin Tone” set that includes six colors, the color names are: Skin White, Barely Beige, Dark Suntan, Reddish Brass, Copper, and Blush.  While this group of markers includes a variety of skin tones, to varying degrees the default is also Caucasian.  The naming of these colors has a clear bias toward light skin. Skin White; because skin is white, amiright?  The medium tone is “suntan,” meaning the flesh color it is based on is lighter.  Also, the two darkest colors aren’t named for flesh tones at all!

In doing a search of the color names I found two that use “flesh” in the name: Flesh (R02), and Flesh Pink (E95).  Neither of these are dark.  Flesh is clearly a light color.  Flesh Pink is a medium tone beige.  If I was this color I would be tan (which I am not)!

Suntan also appears in another color name; Light Suntan.  This is also clearly based on light skin.

There is Skin White or Baby Skin Pink (!); no Skin Beige, no Skin Tan, no Skin Brown, no Skin Black nor any of the plentitude of other actual skin tones!

What message is Copic sending? What message are artists reasonably receiving?  Because Copic is using light skin tones as the default the message to light skinned toned people is that they are the standard.  The message to others is that their skin isn’t skin tone?!? Does that make any sense?

So long as we accept defaults based on race and gender we will have racism and sexism.

Kim Rippere

Kim Rippere has been creating her whole life. Currently, she is focused on paper crafting and cooking. She posts her creative endeavors at Craftisan Studios. You can purchase her work via her shop. She is the Founder and President of Secular Woman. Kim randomly blogs at, but can most likely be found on her Facebook page or on twitter. She earned a degree in Philosophy and a Masters in Business; and is a former business executive.

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  1. Mm. I have heard “Coppery” in reference to skin tones before.

    Seriously, “Skin White”? That’s pretty revolting.

  2. Just to be devil’s advocate, “skin white” could be taken to mean “a shade of white that is typically found on some humans, as opposed to pure white like snow or #FFFFFF”. So it’s not “white, because skin is white”, but “a kind of white that could be a skin tone”. It would be less racist-sounding if they had other “Skin-X” colours, but if I were them I’d just avoid labelling any colour as a skin tone. People can see what the colours are, they don’t need to be told what to use them for.

  3. You say that, but then you would be ignoring the persistent systemic use of skin tones in this way. Assuming this is a one off instance or not endemic to our culture is mistaken. Taking the stance of the devil’s advocate just props up the current system, which is biased. Knee jerk “devil’s advocate” arguments like this are all about maintaining the status quo.

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