A 45-year-old black man shared a powerful message about inclusion on Twitter when he wrote about a band-aid that matched his skin tone. Dr. Dominique Apollon's tweets went viral last week and sparked a bigger conversation about race and color.
Apollon, who is the vice president of research at racial justice organization Race Forward, tweeted about putting on a bandage that blended in with his skin color, as opposed to ones that don't. But the ordinary task of putting on a Tru-Colour bandage struck a chord with him and thousands of others online.
"It's been heartwarming and humbling to recognize that this has helped give voice to the feeling of racial exclusion that so many people of color, not just in the United States, but around the world feel," Apollon told CBS News Friday. "We can all work together to create a better society if we just start with calming our defensiveness when others express a feeling of exclusion, and then just listen."
On April 19, Apollon posted a series of tweets and in them, there was one with a photo of a bandage seamlessly meshing with his hand. He said he got emotional because it was the first time he was experiencing this.
"You can barely even spot it in the first image," he said. "For real I'm holding back tears. This felt like belonging. Like feeling valued. Sadness for my younger self and millions of kids of color, esp black kids. Like a reminder of countless spaces where my skin is still not welcomed."
Apollon realizes the notion that some may see his emotional post as "ridiculous," but he clarified that it's not about the bandage color itself. He wrote the bandage was "a symbol of a much broader anti-blackness and absence of belonging. Not just for me."
His initial tweet resonated on Twitter, receiving more than 96,000 retweets and a half a million likes. The replies underneath were flooded with commenters who related to him, including "Star Wars" actor John Boyega, who is black.
Boyega tweeted, "On film sets where we get cuts a lot, makeup artists have to paint it brown to get you picture ready."
Other Twitter users said Apollon's experience was conveyed in other mundane activities as children, such as coloring with crayons.
"This was one of the first things that made me aware of 'race' when I was a kid. I remember asking my mom about the bandaid color... Also the 'flesh' crayon," a Twitter user wrote.
"The 'flesh' crayon confused me so much when I was a kid, & my mom tried her best to help me find the crayon that matched me the best, but I remember being upset that nothing really worked," said another in response.
Another commenter pointed out that the colored bandages have been around, but issue is that they're not "readily available." She then delved into how people should push their local retailer to sell them and similar requests should be made for dolls, makeup, skincare/hair care products, "flesh colored" undergarments and other items.
Apollon acknowledges there's more work to have a "truly inclusive society" than just providing bandages to kids of color.
"I'm hopeful that people of all colors, gender identities, sexual orientations, religions, classes, abilities, etc. will recognize that," he told CBS News.