Archive for popular culture
It’ll be awhile before I can listen to a Whitney Houston song without choking up a little. When she died recently, I followed most of the news of her death on Twitter and avoided the mainstream press because I just knew it was going to be ugly. Sure, enough, it was worse than I’d even suspected. Here’s Lewis Black’s (from The Daily Show) – a short clip (4:45) after a short advert, and contains some mild profanity:
|The Daily Show with Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Back in Black – Whitney Houston’s Death|
If you follow basketball at all, you’ve no doubt heard about Jeremy Lin, the basketball sensation currently playing for the NY Knicks. Lin’s story is one of a classic underdog. No NBA team drafted Lin out of Harvard. The Golden State Warriors signed him and then waived him after one year; the Houston Rockets waived him after two weeks. Until just a few weeks ago, he was sleeping on his brothers’ couch. Once he got the chance to play with the Knicks, scoring an astounding 38 points (against Kobe Bryant’s 34 points), Lin became a sensation, puns abounded (“Linsanity!”) and remarkably, almost no one – hardly an NBA coach, general manager, scout or fan — saw it coming.
Jeremy Lin is also Asian American, and the NBA’s first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. So, in the white-dominant culture of the U.S., this necessarily means that race is central to Lin’s story. As David J. Leonard point out, Lin’s success has energized many in the Asian American community who see in Lin a role model, while at the same time, highlighting the persistence of racism.
The most recent, and high profile, form of racism directed at Lin has come from ESPN, the sports network, which ran the headline, “Chink in the Armor” on Friday, under an image of Lin in action, on its mobile website:
ESPN has now fired the employee responsible for an offensive headline. In a statement today, ESPN says it conducted a thorough review and dismissed the employee responsible for the headline “Chink In The Armor” about Lin’s nine turnovers during Friday night’s game. ESPN says it removed the headline 35 minutes after it was posted. The term “chink” is a racial slur, used to denigrate people of Chinese descent.
But this is not the only racism toward Lin from ESPN. A similar incident went mostly unremarked upon. On Wednesday, an ESPN anchor Max Bretos asked Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier: “If there is a chink in the armor, where can he improve his game?”
In a statement, ESPN says that Bretos has suspended for 30 days for his comment. Kevin Ota, the director of communications in digital media for ESPN, posted a message today that reads, “We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN.”
More than apologize, it seems that ESPN needs to review its internal policies and beef up the corporate diversity training on the use of racial slurs.
Don Black, the founder of Stormfront, the largest (currently over 236,000 registered users) and longest-running white supremacist site on the web, appeared on the show “Young Turks” yesterday and said that he and many of his followers agree with Ron Paul on the issues, currently a Republican hopeful in the U.S. presidential race.
Ron Paul’s newsletters have recently been in the spotlight of the mainstream press in a bit of a johnny-come-lately attack on Paul’s long standing racism and homophobia. In 2007, Daily Kos ran a story “Ron Paul: In His Own Words,” which exposed much of this (and so have many others prior to the current dust up), but this round of attention seems to have been sparked by Paul’s surge in the polls and support among some white liberals and libertarians.
There is a tendency, especially among white liberals, to dismiss white supremacist rhetoric – like that of Don Black and those who agree with him at Stormfront – because it exists outside the ‘mainstream.’ I argued in my first book that the extremist rhetoric of white supremacists and the mainstream rhetoric of politicians elected to public office overlap in significant ways. While the standard way of viewing these groups is that they are “fringe,” I contend that much of what they are saying is very similar to what mainstream politicians are saying. Here, Don Black and Ron Paul are simply the most recent example in a centuries-long tradition of this sort of overlap in American politics.
I did not attend Wednesday’s movie release of “The Help” from DreamWorks Pictures, based on the New York Times best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett. Why, you ask? Because I read the book.
Last week New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni saw an advance screening of the movie and referred to it as “…a story of female grit and solidarity — of strength through sisterhood.” He wrote, “The book’s author, Kathryn Stockett, told me that she felt that most civil rights literature had taken a male perspective, leaving ‘territory that hadn’t been covered much.’” What neither Bruni nor Stockett acknowledge is that the real territory remaining uncovered is civil rights literature written by the Black women who experienced it.
I recently read The Help with an open mind, despite some of the criticism it has received. I assumed the book would be racially problematic, because for me, most things are. The novel opens on the fourth Wednesday in August 1962, at the bridge club meeting in the modest home of 23-year old, social climbing Miss Leefolt. The plot unfolds when her “friend” and the novel’s antagonist, Miss Hilly, the President of the Jackson, Mississippi Junior League, announces that she will support legislation for a “Home Help Sanitation Initiative,” a bill that requires every white home to have a separate bathroom for the colored help. (10)
We learn early on that Miss Skeeter, the only bridge club lady with a college degree and no husband, opposes the idea. By page 12, she asks Miss Leefolt’s maid Aibleen, “Do you ever wish you could…change things?” This lays the groundwork for a 530-page novel telling the story of Black female domestics in Jackson.
The first two chapters were written in the voice of a Black maid named Aibileen, so I hoped that the book would actually be about her. But this is America, and any Southern narrative that actually touches on race must focus on a noble white protagonist to get us through such dangerous territory (in this case, Miss Skeeter; in To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch). As a Black female reader, I ended up feeling like one of “the help,” forced to tend to Miss Skeeter’s emotional sadness over the loss of her maid (whom she loved more than her own white momma) and her social trials regarding a clearly racist “Jim Crow” bill.
What is most concerning about the text is the empathy that we are supposed to have for Miss Skeeter. This character is not a true white civil rights activist like the historical figure, Viola Liuzzo (April 11, 1925 – March 25, 1965), a mother of five from Michigan murdered by Ku Klux Klan members after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama. Instead, Skeeter is a lonely recent grad of Ole Miss, who returns home after college, devastated that her maid is gone and that she is “stuck” with her parents. She remarks, “I had to accept that Constantine, my one true ally, had left me to fend for myself with these people.” (81) Constantine is Miss Skeeter’s Black maid, and it’s pretty transparent that Stockett is writing about herself. We learn this in the novel’s epilogue, “Too Little, Too Late: Kathryn Stockett, in her own words.”
“My parents divorced when I was six. Demetrie became even more important then. When my mother went on one of her frequent trips[…] I’d cry and cry on Demetrie’s shoulder, missing my mother so bad I’d get a fever from it.” (p. 527)
“I’m pretty sure I can say that no one in my family ever asked Demetrie what it felt like to be black in Mississippi, working for our white family. It never occurred to us to ask. It was everyday life. It wasn’t something people felt compelled to examine. I have wished, for many years, that I’d been old enough and thoughtful enough to ask Demetrie the same question. She died when I was sixteen. I’ve spent years imagining what her answer would be. And that is why I wrote this book.” (p. 530)
It would have behooved Stockett to ask her burning question of another Black domestic, or at least read some memoirs on the subject, but instead she substitutes her imagination for understanding. And the result is that The Help isn’t for Black women at all, and quickly devolves into just another novel by and for white women.
But when the novel attempts to enter the mindset of the Black women, like Aibleen or her best friend Minny, suddenly we enter the realm of the ridiculous. Although Stockett’s writing shows her talent, her ignorance of the real lives of the Black women bleeds through. Her Black characters lack the credibility reflected in Coming of Age in Mississippi, a 1968 memoir by Anne Moody, an African American woman growing up in rural Mississippi in the 1960s. Moody recalls doing domestic work for white families from the age of nine. Moody’s voice is one of a real Black woman who left her own house and family each morning to cook in another woman’s kitchens.
So instead of incorporating a real Black woman’s voice in a novel purported to being about Black domestics, the Skeeter/Stockett character is comfortingly centralized, and I can see why white women relate to her. She is depicted as a budding feminist, who is enlightened and brave. But in reality, she uses the stories of the Black domestics in the name of “sisterhood” to launch her own career, and then leaves them behind. In my experience, the Skeeters of the world grow up to be Gloria Steinem.
In a certain sense, The Help exemplifies the disconnect many Black women have felt from Feminist Movement through the second wave. For 20 years, I read accounts of Black women who were alienated from that movement primarily populated by middle-class white women. Black women have asserted their voices since the 1960s as a means of revising feminism and identifying the gap previously denied by the movement and filled by their minds, spirits and bodies. Yet, because I was born in the midst of the second wave and the Black Feminist Movement, I never felt alienated, myself, until the 2008 Presidential election.
It started with the extremely unpleasant showdown between Gloria Steinem and Melissa Harris Lacewell, (now Perry) surrounding Steinem’s New York Times op-ed about then-Senator Barack Obama. This was followed by the late Geraldine Ferraro’s dismissive comments that Senator Obama was winning the race because he was not White. “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. … He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”
And even now that we have an elegant Black First Lady, I’m troubled that our popular culture obsession is with the “largely fictional” book, The Help. Sounds like an opportune moment for second wave feminists to engage in some serious deconstructionist critical analysis.
Or maybe not.
Once again, it seems that the sisters who make up the “sisterhood” are left to fend for themselves, while second wave feminists like Salon.com writer Laura Miller give a tepid analysis of the legal controversy surrounding the novel.
In February, Ablene Cooper, an African-American maid and babysitter working in Jackson, Miss., where “The Help” is set, filed suit against Stockett. Cooper accused Stockett of causing her to “experience severe emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation and outrage” by appropriating “her identity for an unpermitted use and holding her to the public eye in a false light.” In her article, “The Dirty Secrets of The Help,” Laura Miller writes:
“Cooper’s lawsuit does manage to unearth two remarks from the novel in which Aibileen seems (arguably) to disparage her own color, but they are tiny scratches on an otherwise glowing portrait.”
Here’s one of those “tiny scratches” posted on ABCnews.com.
“That night after supper, me and that cockroach stare each other down across the kitchen floor,” Aibileen says in the book. “He big, inch, inch an a half. He black. Blacker than me.”
Laura Miller sees no problem with this, and focuses more on the depiction of the white women in the text:
“Although it’s difficult to believe that anyone would feel “outrage, revulsion and severe emotional distress” at being identified with the heroic Aibleen, her employer, Miss Leefolt, is another matter. A vain, status-seeking woman married to a struggling, surly accountant and desperately trying to keep up appearances in front of fellow members of the Jackson Junior League, Miss Leefolt is the one who insists on adding a separate “colored” bathroom to her garage. She does this partly to impress Miss Hilly, the League’s alpha Mean Girl (and the novel’s villain), but she also talks obsessively about the “different kinds of diseases” that “they” carry. Furthermore, Miss Leefolt is a blithely atrocious mother who ignores and mistreats her infant daughter, speaking wistfully of a vacation when “I hardly had to see [her] at all.” Like all of the white women in the novel (except the journalist writing the maids’ stories), Miss Leefolt is cartoonishly awful — and her maid has almost the same name as Stockett’s sister-in-law’s maid. Fancy that!”
Of course, Miller insinuates that the real life Aibleen lacks the agency to have initiated the lawsuit, and that Stockett’s sister-in-law surely coerced her.
I have never met the real-life Aibleen, but if she went to the grocery store yesterday, she would have seen that The Republic of Tea introduced its new limited-edition The Help Tea – Caramel Cake Black Tea, and despite her educational background, she would have understood that she won’t get a cent of the royalties. According to the website, The Help Tea – Caramel Cake Black Tea, is inspired by Aibleen’s best friend Minny’s famous caramel cake. The tea is being marketed to drink with friends in celebration of a movie where a “remarkable sisterhood emerges.”
What no one wants to acknowledge is that the fictionalized Skeeter leaves the Black domestics in the South—similar to the white freedom riders during the Civil Rights Movement. In real life, after appropriating the voice of working class Black women, profiting, and not settling out of court, Kathryn Stockett admits in a Barnes and Noble audio interview that even her own maid was not fond of the novel: “My own maid didn’t really care for it too much, she said it hit a little too close to home for her,” Sockett reports seven minutes and 35 seconds into the 10 minute interview with Steve Bertrand. So, in the end, The Help and the lawsuit are about white women who don’t want true sisterhood. They just want Help.
~ Duchess Harris, PhD, JD is Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College, and the author of Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton and Racially Writing the Republic. This post originally appeared on FeministWire. You can follow her on Twitter @DuchessHarris.
New Orleans is one of the most fascinating cities in the U.S., in part due to the richly diverse history of the area. In particular, the neighborhood Faubourg Treme holds a special place in American history as one of the oldest black neighborhoods and the birthplace of jazz. During slavery, Faubourg Treme was home to the largest community of free black people in the Deep South. Unlike the rest of the U.S., in New Orleans people who were black and white and Creole, free and enslaved, rich and poor came together socially, politically and culturally in ways not possible elsewhere.
A recent (2008) documentary, Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans conveys some of this history. The following short (2:52) clip of the film gives you a taste of the film:
While the Treme district was damaged when the levees broke following Hurricane Katrina, this is not another documentary about that disaster. The filmmakers Lolis Eric Elie and Dawn Logsdon began documenting the historic district years before Katrina and, in turn of amazing good luck, their tapes survived unscathed. Critics have called the film “devastating”, “charming”, and “revelatory.”
On Wednesday, President Obama released his long-form birth certificate. Of course, the document confirms that he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii as those in the reality-based community have known for some years now. Yet, this faux controversy has been taken to new depths of media attention with the recent addition of Donald Trump to the mix of Tea Party conspiracy theorists, whom President Obama did not call by name, but referred to as part of a panoply of “sideshows and carnival barkers” that distract the nation’s attention from the real issues. The comparison between Trump and P.T. Barnum is an apt one, but it misses the deeply racist roots of “birtherism.”
How is the call for President Obama’s birth certificate racist? No one breaks it down better than Goldie Taylor, contributing editor at The Grio, in this short video (4:13) featured on The Rachel Maddow Show (apologies for the ad at the beginning):
Taylor is eloquent in her description of her great, great grandfather’s encounter with a white power structure in 1899 and weaves that into the present-day call for President Obama to demonstrate his legitimate right to hold the highest office in the country.
You can read the full text of Taylor’s commentary here.
The documentary “Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues,” tells the story of the blues, a uniquely American music form. Born out of the economic and social transformation of African American life early in the 20th century, the blues eloquently capture both suffering and resilience. The film features many of the often overlooked women who were pioneers of the blues, including Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Alberta Hunter, and Ethel Waters. This short clip (7:04) gives you a preview:
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the good folks at California Newsreel are offering by a free preview of the entire film through the end of March. Great for classes on race, gender, culture, American studies and women’s studies.
Over the holiday break, my best friend and I decided to invest in some “Day Trippin” to Chicago for a day dedicated to escaping the tribulations associated with living in a small town. Growing up in small towns, you are imprinted with the need some time to avoid major highways and explore the labyrinths of back roads that most outsiders are unaware exist. As we were taking in the new Bob Dylan CD I had bought myself for Christmas, a daunting song began to play that I had never heard before. “Only a Pawn in Their Game.” caught us both by surprise. “But he can’t be blamed…He’s only a pawn in their game.”
As we continued to listen in silence, we passed a house on a modest farm. Plainly out-front was the American flag being flown proudly upside-down. Next to the large flag pole were
photo credit: vistavision
dead withering bushes and a weathered Black lawn jockey like this example [Photo Credit: vistavision] but with an apparent noose around the neck. The symbolism forced us to simply look at each other and shake our heads. My best friend, being a White male with no idea of fancy racial construct talks or academic racial pedagogies to throw out, surprised me with the comment, “He must be upset with what Obama is doing.” Then the words of the song rang louder in my head, “He’s only a pawn in their game.”
As we have watched the national news over the past two years, the country has witnessed a rise in the level of anger toward the direction of the country, and the person ultimately responsible for it−President Obama. I assert that this tide of frustration is nothing new. In fact, the tactics we are seeing today are simply the tactic of riding the wave of racial conflict for the purpose of political gain. Many swear by the philosophy that views the conflict-ridden racial affairs between Blacks and Whites within the United States as a natural and simple element of the natural order within our society that views White supremacy as entirely normal and even unavoidable. Many have taken the existence of racial conflict and used it to their political and economic advantage. It was used by Hitler in Nazi Germany toward the Jews, and it has and continue to be used within the United States.
Historically, this has been illustrated by the divide and exploit in the South before and after the Civil War. For example, slave masters at times would hire out their slaves as laborers to businesses in urban areas for extremely cheap rates that undercut White free labor. Instead of focusing their frustration out on the manipulation of business and slave owners, free White laborers vilified slaves themselves. Today, this same example can be applied to the outsourcing of jobs and illegal immigration. So called Right political leaders such as Senator John McCain, Governor Brewer of Arizona, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and other Tea Party legislators, have used covert racist tactics toward the issue of immigration to misplace the blame on the loss of jobs, threat to national security, and loss of American identity squarely on the backs of Mexican workers. The blame is never placed on the businesses, companies, or home owners that take advantage of these people for their own economic gains. This is foreseeable when one takes into account that politicians do not want to bite the hand that feeds them. Therefore they are obligated to protect the economically elite, but do so by manipulating the masses. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” The reaction from the average, mostly White citizens, is to decry foul and follow the pied pipers as they blow their whistle of righteousness.
Next, after the Civil War during Black Reconstruction (Era of the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, Civil Rights Acts of 1986 and 1875), newly freed Blacks enjoyed, for a short period, political power (elected officials, legislators, and etc.), own businesses, and property to farm. Black farmers even joined forces with the newly formed White farming Populist movement that demanded economic justice. White and Black farmers and workers joined together to stand against the ruling class that attempted to control their economic interests. This alliance threatened the existing economic and power structure in the South. Therefore, the ruling class appealed to working class White farmers through the implementation of Jim Crow laws. The institution of these laws was a symbolic message to all Whites that if you can’t have economic incentive, you at least have a racial one. In essence, “A South politician preaches to the poor white man…You got more than blacks, don’t complain…You’re better than them.”
Today, we see the racially divisive measures used in political maneuvering toward President Obama. From The birthers constantly getting television air time to spout that the President is not truly an American, people frantically crying on television that they want their country back, to tea party rallies that illustrate sign that depict the President as a communists and cartoon savage; the manipulation of racial overtone is evident. By listening to conversations the average White person is noting; the Kool-Aid has been drunk Mr. Jim Jones.
Another historic example can be seen by leaders during the suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, advocated alongside Frederick Douglass for the voting rights of both White women and Black men during the 1860s. But, once the fourteenth amendment was enacted, White women began to target Black males’ voting rights efforts for they felt the legislation, franchising Black men before White women, was an act of racial transgression. “What an insult to the women who have labored thirty years for emancipation of the slave now, when he is their political equal, to propose to lift him over their heads” (Catt, 1923, pp. 62–63).]
The anger felt by White women in the movement grew and was illustrated in White supremacist overtones. I argue that even the threat to grant Black men the right to vote was a political tactic to divide leaders of the suffrage movement from people like Fredrick Douglass. The sadistic beauty behind the tactics I have described to divide, conqueror, and exploit is that people are so entrenched in the construct of racial supremacy, and thus have become emotionally invested, create psychologically protective barriers, and become enraged; that they refuse to notice that the joke has been played upon them. They are in actuality−The Fool. All the while, those pulling the strings are continuing to secure their social and economic dominance. As I sit and write this, I am once again drawn to Bob Dylan:
“But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.”
Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s governor, is interviewed in the conservative Weekly Standard and his remarks there reveal much about how white racism operates. The profile and interview with Barbour is long, and there’s a lot to take objection to in there.
Perhaps the one thing that people are pulling out as most offensive is Barbour’s defense of the segregationist era Conservative Citizens’ Council (the CCC instead of the KKK, get it?) and his description of how it operated in his hometown of Yazoo City, MS. Here’s the passage that’s lighting up the blogosophere and the mainstream news outlets:
…Yazoo City was perhaps the only municipality in Mississippi that managed to integrate the schools without violence. I asked Haley Barbour why he thought that was so.
“Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it,” he said. “You heard of the Citizens’ Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”
Most of the reactions from bloggers calls out Barbour for defending white supremacists (e.g., the CCC) and they’re right. But, this analysis of Barbour’s remarks misses part of how white racism works. In fact, the Citizens’ Council did see themselves as ‘better than’ the KKK. While Barbour’s absolutely wrong that the Citizens’ Council was just “an organization of town leaders,” in fact, they were as committed to racial inequality as any robe-wearing Klansman. What’s true is that there were divisions among whites during the civil rights struggle. Barbour reveals more here about his class standing that perhaps he intends to, but it the Citizens’ Council was the refuge of upper-middle class racists while the KKK drew more from the working class. This move – distinguishing the ‘good (supposedly) non-racist whites’ from the ‘bad (obviously) racist ones’ is always the way that upper-middle class whites let themselves off the hook when it comes to racism. It was true in 1954, and it’s true today. (This good whites vs. bad whites game is something sociologist Matthew Hughey has documented in his research and written about here.)
The fact that upper-middle class whites like Barbour thought the KKK was unseemly in their overt displays of racism doesn’t mean that the Citizens’ Council embraced the end of segregation. This is clear in another part of the Weekly Standard profile. When recalling a visit to Yazoo City by Dr. Martin Luther King, Barbour offers this account:
“I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.” [...] I don’t really remember. The truth is, we couldn’t hear very well. We were sort of out there on the periphery. “We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King,” he added.
Barbour gives us another textbook example of how white racism works. First, it’s clear from this anecdote that Barbour didn’t see the speech by King as any that was interesting or relevant to his life. And, second, there’s the positive view of himself in the rear view mirror. Barbour’s patting himself on the back here for even attending this speech, while at the same time minimizing the importance of King, his words, and the civil rights movement as a whole. And, you know, throwing in a little gratuitous sexism just for fun. This sort of positive, retrospective labeling of white involvement in the civil rights movement is a key feature of the white racial frame in the post-civil rights era. For a glimpse of this in popular culture, take a look at the Gene Hackman and Wilem Dafoe roles of white FBI agents in the Hollywood film, “Mississippi Burning.” Uhm, it didn’t happen like that (e.g., SL Brinson, “The Myth of White Superiority in Mississippi Burning,” Southern Communication Journal, 1995). When whites – especially upper middle class whites – look back on the civil rights era (or, slavery, or the Holocaust) they like to imagine themselves as the hero in that story. I’m sorry white people, but you just do not look good in the story of the civil rights movement, or lynching, or slavery, no matter how much you try to re-imagine history. That goes for you, too, Haley Barbour.
Barbour offers us yet another lesson on how white racism works. When recalling the atrocities of white people do all you can to minimize. Here’s Barbour on how he recalls the civil rights struggle in Yazoo City:
“I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”
Yeah, well, you wouldn’t. This is classic white racism. Horrible years of grueling oppression? Ah, get over it. One of the white supremacist sites I looked at in Cyber Racism makes a similar argument about slavery – a supposedly ‘humane institution’ that slaves ‘loved and wanted to return to’ after emancipation.
This would be comical (on a par with Privilege Denying Dude) if it weren’t for the fact that Barbour is a governor with aspirations for high office. We don’t need someone like this leading the country, but he does offer a good object lesson in white racism, upper-middle class flavored.
The Vancouver Sun has a story about a new cupcake/cake glaze product. The commercial company DH had the film company Filmaka create some YouTube commercials
designed to portray how the new product “makes dessert sing.” The first video in the series was themed “hip hop”, created by director Josh Biner. In it, a series of vanilla cupcakes sit on a counter until topped with the chocolate flavoured Amazing Glazes – as the glaze hits them they sprout lips and eyes and break into singing and dancing.
Clearly, the company’s media staff is not familiar with (or did not think it serious racism) the long racist tradition of blackface minstrelsy– in which images of Black Americans (such as big lips and buggy eyes) are stereotyped in extreme and degrading ways for white entertainment—now for at least 180 years or so
The Sun notes too the music that went with the commercials, which were quickly pulled from Youtube when there were protests:
[They] chose not to soundtrack the commercial with hip hop, but an instrumental electronic and beatbox track. Hip hop magazine The Source furthers the argument: “First, they aren’t even rapping! If you’re going to have inanimate food objects make music then they should at least have a real song or beat.”
Reportedly, nearly 20,000 people viewed these racist-image commercials. Was this commonplace ignorance of our extremely racist history, or much more? I suspect many whites (and some others) today do not see this type of conventional racial imagery as racist mocking and like old minstrelsy.