Black man's reaction to matching skin-tone bandage strikes a chord

Dominique Apollon said he is happy that he started an online conversation about diversity and representation.

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By Ali Gostanian

A man’s tweet about a bandage has gone viral and prompted conversations online about race and representation.

On April 19, Dominique Apollon, 45, of Oakland, California, shared his thoughts about wearing a bandage that matched his skin tone for the first time.

“It’s taken me 45 trips around the sun, but for the first time in my life I know what it feels like to have a band-aid in my own skin tone. You can barely even spot it in the first image. For real I’m holding back tears,” he wrote in his post.

Apollon, who works as a vice president of research at the racial justice organization Race Forward, said he first purchased the skin-tone-matching bandages a few months ago after having money left over in his health savings account. In an interview with NBC News, Apollon said he had never actively sought out these kinds of bandages but decided to buy them from Tru-Colour Bandages because he “wanted to support people of color-centered products.”

“When I saw the brown bandage, it was just beautiful,” Apollon said. “I felt a tad ridiculous feeling that way, but it really just felt like I belonged, like I was welcomed, like I was valued.”

Dominique ApollonDominique Apollon

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The feelings of elation however quickly turned somber. Apollon said he felt a sense of “sadness that I had never seen that kind of bandage on my body as a kid,” he added.

Tru-Colour Bandages was founded in 2013 by Toby Meisenheimer, who is white, after he was unable to find a bandage that matched his adopted African American son’s skin tone. This lack of options for people of color inspired him start the company soon after, Meisenheimer told the Huffington Post in a 2015 interview.

"In our existence as a small business, it’s been an honor to provide skin-tone options focused toward people of color in an industry that hadn’t seen a lot of change in nearly a century," Tru-Colour Bandages posted in a statement on Facebook in response to Apollon's viral tweets. "As our name states, 'Tru-Colour,' we hope to release more products and shades in the near future."

Johnson & Johnson, which distributes the Band-Aid brand of adhesive bandages, told NBC News in a statement that it applauds "the work of Tru-Colour on this inclusive product." Johnson & Johnson discontinued its skin-tone-matching bandages due to lack of consumer interest at the time, the statement said. The company also stated that it would evaluate and provide solutions for its diverse consumer base.

People on social media also responded to Apollon’s tweets, reflecting on the lack of representation for people of color within all areas of society.

One commenter wrote: “Oh, man. 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.”

Another wrote: “Please tell me where to get these. I’ve looked everywhere to find a skin tone band aid for people of color. Recently had a scar on my face and hated having something pink on my face to bring more attention to it.”

Apollon said that he has been inspired by the conversation that has ensued all over the world from his viral tweets. He also noted that it is not just people of color responding to his tweets. Many white people have responded as well.

“My stomach just flipped Dominique. I’ve never given that a second thought as I’m white. I will now and would love to buy some for my niece,” wrote one person.

A user from the United Kingdom wrote: “To be honest it’s not anything I’ve thought about (typical white man!) and I’m somebody who goes through loads of plasters. Good point though regarding options of colour.”

Apollon said he has been encouraged to see many recognizing their privilege for the first time.

"I hope it opens up conversations," Apollon said. "I hope white people listen to the exclusion felt by people of color. Everyone deserves a sense of belonging."

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