We’ve discussed American Indian mascotsadvertising featuring anachronistic caricatures of American Indians, the ice skater who appropriated aboriginal culture, the lie at the heart of the famous crying Indian PSA, and the stunning irony that is Avatar, but we’ve never directly addressed the use and appropriation of the idea of the Eskimo.  The term refers to the Inuit and Yupik people in Eastern Russia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.

Russell Potter, a professor of English at Rhode Island College, collected a few vintage advertisements featuring the idea of the Eskimo.  He argues that they fall roughly into two camps: cheerful adorable Eskimo and the Eskimo as primitive and backwards.

These first two for apples and ginger ale fall into the first category:

But this ad presents the “Esquimaux” as “dull” and Grape Nuts as civilized:

Building on Potter’s collection, Adrienne at Native Appropriations posted some more contemporary uses of the Eskimo.

Eskimo Joe’s (Stillwater, OK) uses an image of an Eskimo looking downright ridiculous and very much like his dog:

Any child of the ’80s probably remembers the Lisa Frank Eskimo girl (which Adrienne points out looks decidely anglo):

And this ad seems to suggest that even decapitated walruses speak better English than Eskimos:

Here’s another example of the childlike Eskimo, tweeted to us by @Matthew_Kneale:


All of these ads turn Eskimos into (cute but inferior) childlike figures or (deficient and inferior) backwards adults, or some combination of the two.  For a population with essentially no contact with the Inuit or the Yupik, the idea that they are real human beings can become lost.  When real members of a group are invisible, imaginary representatives can be demonized or romanticized as we see fit.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

On January 30th a video was uploaded to youtube featuring among the most blatantly racist banter I have ever heard on or off screen.   The conversation occurred among the hosts of a BBC program called Top Gear: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May.  They discuss a new sports car made in Mexico and the racist “hilarity” ensues.  It is pretty damn horrible… and it goes on and on… so, trigger warning.

There’s a full transcript after the jump, but here are some high points:

They say the car is like the Mexican people: “lazy, feckless, flatulent, [indecipherable] leaning against a fence asleep”

They call Mexican food “sick with cheese on it.”

Hammond says, “Just imagine waking up and remembering that you’re Mexican.” Everyone laughs. Clarkson replies, “It’d be brilliant because you could just go back to sleep again.”

Hammond is the ring leader in this example, but Clarkson appears to make a habit of racist commentary. Here’s just a sampling from Wikipedia:

In October 1998 Hyundai complained to the BBC about what they described as “bigoted and racist” comments he made at the Birmingham Motor Show, where he was reported as saying that the people working on the Hyundai stand had “eaten a dog” and that the designer of the Hyundai XG had probably eaten a spaniel for his lunch…

In April 2007 he was criticised in the Malaysian parliament for having described one of their cars, the Perodua Kelisa, as the worst in the world, built “in jungles by people who wear leaves for shoes”…

This clip reminds us that there are still people out there who will make race-based attacks and plenty of people, note the audience, who will laugh.  Many white people truly do oppose racism and they want people of color to trust them; they want the benefit of the doubt.  But occasional exposure to people like this, even if just on television, and the ongoing daily experience of prejudice, some mild, some severe, plus the hundreds of things that happen every week that may have been racism or may have been somebody having a bad day, add up.  This makes it very scary to trust white people.  Every “benefit of the doubt” has the potential to backfire.

Given the daily experience of race that most people of color must endure, blind trust is too much to ask for.

(Transcript after the jump, borrowed from Racialicious.)


Malia Green, taking a writing diagnostic test while enrolled in Junior College, came across the following question:

The question was part of Pearson’s MyWritingLab, self-described as “a complete online learning program [that] provides better practice exercises to developing writers.”

I have heard rumor that young people have been adopting shorthand tweet-type language as “standard English,” using it in communications with professors and in their academic papers.  The inclusion of this question in Pearson’s test suggests that this may, indeed, be a widespread phenomenon and that young adults may not necessarily know the difference between the English most of their parents grew up with and the English they have encountered in this brave new world.

Despite the fact that each of the answers will make sense to anyone familiar with text-ese, the correct answer on the Pearon’s test is clearly d).  So, are the answers a) through c) actually wrong?  Who gets to decide what “standard English” is anyway?

The whole thing reminds me of the controversies over African American Vernacular English, better known as “ebonics,” in the 1990s.  The idea that some people “talk right” and some people do not is an excellent way to justify prejudice.  Perhaps an employer largely chooses not to hire black people, not because they’re black, of course, but because they don’t “talk right.”  Is the outcome significantly different?  And who decides what “talking right” sounds like anyway? Well, the people who have the power to do so… and they typically side with themselves.

So, is text-ese wrong?  Only according to those who are making the rules (and Pearson’s tests).  And what do you want to bet that those young people who are taught to differentiate between the kind of English they are allowed to use in texts and the kind they are allowed to use in “proper” communication are class privileged, on average?  And disproportionately white, accordingly?

So, who decides the future of English?  And will “2” and “u” be words in it, or not?

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

In the last few hundred years, dark-skinned peoples have been likened to apes in an effort to dehumanize them and justify their oppression and exploitation.  This is familiar to most Americans as something that is done peculiarly to Black people (as examples, see  herehere, and here).  The history of U.S. discrimination against the Irish, however, offers an interesting comparative data point.  The Irish, too, have been compared to apes, suggesting that this comparison is a generalizable tactic of oppression, not one inspired by the color of the skin of Africans.

Irish woman, “Bridget McBruiser,” contrasted with Florence Nightengale:


A similar contrasting of the English woman (left) and the Irish woman (right):


Cartoon facing off “the British Lion” and “the Irish monkey”:


An Irishman, looking decidedly simian, in the left of this cartoon:


The Irish and the Black are compared as equally problematic to the North and the South respectively.  Notice how both are drawn to look less human:


A depiction of an Irish riot (1867):


An Irishman, depicted as drunk, sits atop a powderkeg threatening to destroy the U.S.:


Two similar cartoons from the same source:

About this cartoon, Michael O’Malley at George Mason University writes:

In this cartoon, captioned “A King of -Shanty,” the comparison becomes explicit. The “Ashantee” were a well known African tribe; “shanty” was the Irish word for a shack or poor man’s house. The cartoon mocks Irish poverty, caricatures irish people as ape like and primitive, and suggests they are little different from Africans, who the cartoonists seems to see the same way. This cartroon irishman has, again, the outhrust mouth, sloping forehead, and flat wide nose of the standard Irish caricature.


So, there you have it.  Being compared to apes is tactic of oppression totally unrelated to skin color — that is, it has nothing to do with Black people and everything to do with the effort to exert control and power.

For more on anti-Irish discrimination, see our post on Gingerism.  And see our earlier post on anti-Irish caricaturein which we touched on this before.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

The CDC has just released a Health Disparities and Inequalities Report with new numbers detailing the uneven mortality and morbidity in the U.S.  Family Inequality‘s Philip Cohen highlighted the data on pre-term birth among whites, blacks, Asians/Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and some Hispanic subgroups.  It’s nice to see data that includes more than just whites and blacks; studies often do not report data on Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and especially American Indians because the number of respondents is considered too low (and they do not over sample these groups).  More, breaking out the different Hispanic sub-groups is also rare.  As Cohen said, it’d be nice to see such detail for other groups as well (though it’s tough to do so for black Americans because those who arrived in the slave trade have often lost track of their national/ethnic origin).

In any case, the data both confirm previous findings and offer an important insight.  In the confirmatory case, it shows that Asians and whites are less likely to give birth to pre-term babies than other groups, with blacks suffering the worst outcomes.  As for the interesting finding: notice the wide range of outcomes for Hispanics of different origin.  Reporting only “All Hispanic” hides important variation. We can be assured that that variation is true for the other racial groups as well.

Lisa Wade is a professor at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. Find her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

The color of one’s nipples varies according to the color of one’s skin. Lighter-skinned people tend to have lighter nipples, while darker-skinned people tend to have darker nipples. To add to the many racist products and procedures designed to make the bodies of darker-skinned people more like the bodies of lighter-skinned people — eyelid surgery, eyelid gluing, Asian rhinoplasty, hair straightening, and skin lightening — Theresa W. sent in a product designed to make the nipples more “pink.”  These products, featured at The Faster Times, seem to be mostly aimed at the Asian market, many of whom are already quite light-skinned.  Below is a selection of the many products one can find.

Finale Pink Nipple Cream:

Bioglo Cherry Pink Lip Nipple Cream:

The rest are after the jump because the packaging shows images of breasts.


Deeb K. and YetAnotherGirl pointed out another example of a woman apparently having her skin lightened on the cover of a magazine. The December 2010 issue of Elle features Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a major star in the Indian film industry who has also been a spokesperson for L’Oreal and appeared on the “Most Beautiful Women in the World” lists of various magazines. Here’s the cover, with a very pale Bachchan:

Let’s compare to a photo of Buchchan, found at Photoshop Disasters:

Another photo (via):

Elle was criticized just a few months back for apparently lightening Gabourey Sidibe’s skin tone on the cover as well. At that time, the editor said Sidibe wasn’t touched up any more or less than other women put on the cover. That may be true. But it leaves unanswered the question of why the women’s skin tone is considered insufficiently glamorous or beautiful as it is, and why making these stars’ skin lighter would be seen as a clear improvement.

Dmitriy T.M. sent in a link to a 13-minute video in which Van Jones discusses the problems with patting ourselves on the back too much every time we put a plastic bottle in the recycle bin instead of the trash, and the need to recognize the link between environmental concerns and other social issues:

Also see our posts on the race between energy efficiency and consumption, exposure to environmental toxins and social class, race and exposure to toxic-release facilities, reframing the environmental movement, tracking garbage in the ocean, mountains of waste waiting to be recycled, framing anti-immigration as pro-environment, and conspicuous environmentalism.

Full transcript after the jump, thanks to thewhatifgirl.