A couple days ago I was at Hull's Art Store in New Haven, killing time and trying to maximize the purchasing power of my tight budget. I found myself in the children's section looking for something cheap enough to keep me amused until my therapy appointment and I found Multicultural Broad Tip Markers. Jackpot.
There shouldn't be much of a fuss over a box of markers intended to reflect the wide spectrum of the flesh rainbow, however the word "multicultural" is loaded. It brings to mind well-meaning education programs of the late 80s that attempted to remedy racial injustice by lumping all non-white racial groups under the heading "Multicultural." There was a "Multicultural" themed Whitney Biennial that featured the race-related work of black, brown and asian artists; this show was criticized for re-enforcing ideas of a non-white ethnic 'other.' (It's along the lines of the concern: If February is black history month, what are the other 11 months?) Similarly, there was the 1989 Magiciens de la Terre exhibit at the Centre Pompidou which aimed to represent the works of the "ignored 80% of the world," yet was accused of reenforcing racial stereotypes and a French colonial agenda that showcased her grateful colonized.
Anyhow, I bought the markers. The colors were really hot and the name was thought provoking. I take no issue with the product, I'm glad it exists. I'm just struck that this completely innocuous pack of kids markers can seem so political and require delicacy of approach. The colors include: Bronze, Light Brown Fawn, Olive, Terra Cotta, Sepia, Tan, Beige, and Mahogany. To my surprise, each marker is distinctly different from the rest...I was expecting something akin to those 400 color marker sets in which all 10 of the different shades of purple mark the exact same color. But no, these are good.
I drew a picture of my boyfriend using all 8 markers. It's funny, but in this picture doesn't he look like he could be black, white, latin or asian? It wasn't my intention, I guess it was the markers.