When Johanna Burai searched for a hand on Google Images last autumn, the search engine returned results featuring only white hands. You might have had a similar experience, too, if you’ve ever searched for simple terms like “woman” or “man,” or for images with qualifiers like, “cute baby.” The phenomenon is part of the internet’s normalization of whiteness, whereby non-white images require specific search terms, Burai says.
“It’s insane,” she told The FADER. “This is a crystal clear example of how the norm of whiteness manifests itself—the white body is neutral. The search result is just one example of how being white is a norm in society. A lot of people choose to turn a blind eye to the privileges you get simply by being white, as well as to the systematic racism experienced by people of color in their everyday lives,” says Johanna.
In her last semester of school at Stockholm’s Beckmans College of Design, her final project is World White Web, a digital endeavor that is both raising awareness and actively campaigning against what she calls “the whiteness of the Internet.” On the site, she has published six images of different non-white hands, with the general hope that the more interaction they receive—visitors can directly download or share each image on highly ranked social sites—the more likely they’ll climb up Google’s search results and add diversity to the present norm. “The more people who share these images, the greater the possibility for change,” she says.