Danes and Swedes are fighting about whether “flesh-colored” band-aids are racist

Non-skin colored.
Non-skin colored.
Image: Reuters/Pascal Lauener
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Scandinavia may be a seemingly idyllic land of superior prisons and gender equality, but its countries aren’t exactly one happy family. Danes, for example, complain that Swedes are obsessed with political correctness and multiculturalism, while Sweden often accuses Denmark of being xenophobic.

The latest tiff is over band-aids (also known as plasters). Danish politicians have publicly mocked Swedes for convincing a drugstore chain to introduce dark-colored band-aids, or plasters, that are used to cover minor cuts and scrapes.

Beige is the default color of such bandages, and the historical reason for this is that they were designed to be flesh-toned, so as not to stand out from the skin they are stuck on. Of course, beige doesn’t match many human skin tones. In the words of some critics, ”band-aids are made for white people.

The Swedish pharmacy chain Apokteket announced this week that it will try to start selling bandages made for darker skin before the end of this year, a move that came after a blogger who runs the website Vardagsrasismen.nu (“Everyday Racism”) said it was contributing to racism by only carrying beige.

Kristian Jensen, one of Denmark’s foreign ministers, posted the news on his Facebook page with a comment that translates to “I’m once again happy that I don’t live in Sweden…”

Then Ellen Trane Nørby, the Danish minister for children’s affairs and education, remarked on her Facebook page: “Who in the world seriously believes that Pippi’s monkey is an affront to people from other parts of the world or that white bandages and plaster are made to annoy people who have darker skin?”

Sweden recently edited beloved Pippi Longstocking television episodes to eliminate the mention of “negroes.” Swedish activists also made a stir last year about a Danish toy company’s “overly white” catalogues.

Jensen has since apologized for his comment. Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom, who has been praised for her overtly “feminist foreign policy,” seemed forgiving of the faux pas, telling the press, “I think that he is new at his job as foreign minister. One must forgive such mistakes.”