Posts Tagged: racism



Women’s interest news site, Jezebel, published a story yesterday on the possibly inadvertent, though mostly implicitly racist decision by candy manufacturer Dig N’ Dips to use Disney’s first black princess on their watermelon-flavored dip stick sugar packets. Most of us know - or should know - that there has been a history of associating African-Americans with a love of watermelon. And to elaborate, Jezebel linked readers to the original posting on the blog-site, Sociological Images, where the author touches on the “strategic usefulness” of such imagery in the past and how it was used to justify the happiness of slaves.

What’s even better, though, is that the powdered candy - which is meant to be dipped and mixed and then incite a diabetic coma - comes attached with a Vanilla-flavored repository of confectionary stereotyping endorsed by none other than Sleeping Beauty! (Honestly, who the hell would want to mix watermelon and vanilla? Forget the inferential racism, can we indict Disney for sheer lack of gustatory sensibility?)

Anyway, what led me to post about this story was that the comments section was riddled with responses by some readers, both American and foreign-born, who didn’t really know much about this “silly watermelon and fried chicken racist imagery” but  did know that “it was delicious and something that everybody ate!”


Ignoring the fact that such symbology, which has been used in part to lampoon African-Americans as simpletons, is actually racist and not just some crazy thing of the past that surely has no present and persisting implications because, well, food can’t be racist if I eat it too, is NOT an acceptable way to acknowledge the issue. 

This reminds me of the Obama Fried Chicken incident in China last October. Some of my friends, a few who were international students and one who’s from Beijing, argued that the caricature of President Obama on a chicken restaurant was decidedly not racist and that it was merely coincidental even despite the fact that the actual KFC has used an Obama lookalike in Chinese (actually, Hong Kong) commercials in the past. But of course, you know, Asia and definitely not China certainly has never had a problem with racism or blacks… 

I’m sure a lot of the commenters didn’t even take the time to look at the redirected  links to the Sociological Images site before posting a response, and if they did and still uttered such senseless poppycock, then - as rapper T.I. famously says in the “Live Your Life” anthem featuring Rihanna- “I pray for patience, but they make me want to melt their face away.”

(But actually…I don’t advocate gun use or violence, #justsayin’).

Nonetheless, for those that want a little bit of edification, take a look at the real reason why such symbology is hurtful and why Disney could have exercised a bit more prudence in this situation:

Watermelon: Symbolizing the Supposed Simplicity of Slaves (Sociological Images)

I think this is an interesting example of the way in which supposedly random stereotypes have strategic beginnings.  The association of Black people with a love of watermelon isn’t just a neutral stereotype, nor one that emerged because there is a “kernel of truth” (as people love to say about stereotypes).  Instead, it was a deliberate tool with which to misportray African Americans and justify slavery.

Now let’s petition for watermelon and vanilla to never be considered as an appropriate flavor combination. I might even be more offended by that.


(Article) "From One White Gay Male to Another: Calling out the Implicit Racism in Dan Savage’s ‘Liberal’ Politics & the ‘It gets better’ Campaign" | Feminist Wire

This was a post on Feminist Wire from a white gay male who is a researcher at Columbia University and is involved in projects concerning young African-American men who have sex with men. 

What I initially loved about this is that it decisively tackles one of the widely overlooked problems in many of the recently launched campaigns targeted toward marriage equality, anti-violence, etc. in the gay community.

This “implicit racism”, as the author calls it, in some of these albeit laudable though ultimately nearsighted and indirectly exclusionary initiatives deals with the lack of prioritization within the gay community and gay media outlets of people of color, transgender persons and other marginalized groups that do no benefit from the preferable commodification of mostly middle-class white gay males who, in the few instances that GLBT issues make national headlines, overshadow their non-white, non-bourgeoisie counterparts.

This harks back to my initial reaction regarding the hugely popular "sexy" same-sex marriage ad produced by the advocacy organization GetUp! Action for Australia. A summary from a commenter on a friend’s Facebook post about the ad said it best: 

"SO Tired of people posting this as the most "beautiful" video they have ever seen! It perpetuates the reification of a particular kind of cisgender, class-privileged white gay masculinity and works against queer radicalism by consolidating gay neoliberalism and homonormativity through the sign of "marriage" and its attendant privileging of monogamy, compulsory pair-bonding and the patriarchal nuclear family. I find it oppressive and marginalizing."

I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have said it any better.

I hated the cookie-cutter, cissexual portrayal of these white gay men whose “we’re just like you” message became so impactful and gained colossal momentum as a strong and somehow broadly representative message for marriage equality. 

In a media environment where ads like this don’t gain much traction, it surprised me that this exclusionary advertising - which in its sub-context basically says “Look, white men are being treated like minorities and that’s wrong” - resonated so well with GLBT and allies alike.

It’s one of the few ads we have representing marriage equality and once again there’s no POC, trans, lesbian, etc. representation to make this an actual, universally reflective message. 

The same kind of problem also exists in what the author talks about in this piece, in which too many of these campaigns have parochial racial parameters.

Check out the article for yourself.