We’re pleased to feature a post by Macon D. About himself, Macon writes, “I’m a white guy, trying to find out what that means. Especially the ‘white’ part. I live in that heart of the heart of American whiteness, the ever-amorphous ‘Midwest.’” Macon’s blog, Stuff White People Do, is an excellent source of insights about race and racism. We thought this post grappled nicely with the complicated phenomenon of (literal and figurative) black face, while addressing a difficult and contemporary form of humor:
(click here for larger version)
On the absorbing and informative blog Kiss My Black Ads, Craig Brimm responds to an ad campaign currently being run by Chicago-Lake Liquors, a store located in a largely black area of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The images above are apparently billboards, and I’ve embedded below the three TV commercials also included in this campaign. (If you can’t view them, they’re also running now on the store’s site here.)The ads include “black” language, gestures, body language and so on, as performed by white, middle-class men (why no white women?). As I understand it, the joke is that these white folks are making fools of themselves by imitating black people.
Are these ads racist? Or are they making fun of racist white people? And if they’re “only” doing the latter, does that really make the contemporary blackface here any more acceptable?
Does context matter here, with Chicago-Lake Liquors located in a largely black area? Given that, perhaps the ads allow black people to feel superior in a way to these white people, by laughing at their silly efforts to get hip by acting “black.” Maybe, but that seems like a stretch.
Speaking of context — while blackface is largely condemned in the U.S., because it perpetuates and solidifies racist stereotypes, it serves other purposes in some other countries. Take a look at these other examples; as a United States citizen trying to become more aware on a daily level of racism and my own whiteness, I have increasing trouble ever seeing blackface, literal or otherwise, as acceptable. And yet, I’m a strong believer in the meaning-generating significance of social, historical, and cultural context. Many things have different meanings in different contexts.
So, I do find the Chicago-Lake Liquors ads racist. Even though the satiric butt of their central joke is clueless white people instead of black people, their version of blackness is insultingly cartoonish. They also basically revive what amounts to an American white supremacist tradition that deserves to die, blackface minstrelsy.
Still, I wonder — if we consider geographic, sociohistorical context, are some versions of blackface okay? Perhaps even, given its urban location, the contemporary American version in Chicago-Lake Liquors’ ad campaign?
* As Restructure! notes in a comment, Ganguro is one of three such modes of teenage blackface identified in the video; Yamanba, which means “mountain hag,” is the name of the one that’s tied to a comic’s racist parody of an aboriginal Australian. Jonathan Ross, the narrator of the video, notes that when Ganguro appeared after Yamanba, “many thought it was simply an homage” to the comic’s “beloved creation,” but apparently it’s not.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Marta — June 26, 2009
Another example: when Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi commented on President Obama being "suntanned" (my, I am ashamed of my Italian passport anytime I think about it) some Italians posted pictures of themselves with a "Sorry, Mr.Obama" sign on the internet. Problem is, they tried to show their sympathy for President Obama by posing in blackface - since in Italy there is racism (a lot), but not a tradition of minstrel shows, blackface is not a taboo; so the guys did not relise they were being probably as offensive as Mr.Berlusconi.
(Were they? Or does intention mean something anyway? I'd love to hear the point of view of somebody more expert on race relations in the US on this...)
Trabb's Boy — June 26, 2009
Never thought of the language thing as "contemporary blackface" but of course that's what it is. And the ads are revolting. There's a level of "isn't it funny how stupid white folks look when they try to be black" but it's mostly a very sad assumption that this is how black people talk or even just that this is how black people from the neighborhood of the ads talk.
In general, my sense is that this kind of "blackface" is never okay for advertising or entertainment purposes, but is okay in the social commentary context. I have no idea what the Turkish worldview is, but that might have been a reasonable thing to do.
Comedy is a tricky area (can't view the Tracy Ullman bit on this computer). One job of comedy is to make unexamined assumptions clearer. But sometimes it goes waaaay to far, like Bruno does with gay men, and the social commentary becomes more like a justification for the entertainment use of a stereotype.
Nao — June 26, 2009
What does it mean to ask if something is "acceptable?" I think the fact that something is almost always offensive to one portion of the population is enough to get many (if not most) people to agree it wouldn't be acceptable to do/say that thing in front of those people. However, it would be harder to convince them that the offensive thing should never be done, ever. Because doing the "acceptable" thing to most people is about the social context in which it's done.
Further, advertisers, comedians, actors... they are all trying to get your attention, and the easiest way to do that is to try to dance the fine line between acceptably and unacceptably outrageous. The minute something outrageous becomes something blasé, is the minute they will try to move on.
I'm not arguing this as a defense to their offensive behavior. Instead, I think the question shouldn't be "is this offensive?" so much as it should be "how should I respond to this offensiveness?"
SarahMC — June 26, 2009
It doesn’t have to be black face to be blackface.
MSP choice — June 26, 2009
Wow, Chicago/Lake is in the area of town I was talking about (where Lake divides Powderhorn and Phillips neighborhoods) in my recent comment about the Pro-Life ads. I don't know if I would call it a ghetto... but OK. The section of Lake st. with the liquor store you're talking about here is the same section with all of the advertisements that, to me, seem like they are policing pregnant women's behavior.
Anyways, thanks. This kind of "white people pretending to be black" humor has always made me uncomfortable, but I wasn't able to connect it to blackface, and I always just kind of look at the floor and shuffle my feet when people I know get into it. I see a lot of it now with old friends who have gotten into the hipster ethos of "I can say anything as long as it's ironic." Sigh.
thewhatifgirl — June 26, 2009
I interpret the first ads as not just "white people trying to be black" but "white people trying to be what they think is black".
HazelStone — June 26, 2009
I live right near CHiLake, it is my neighborhood liquor store. The neighborhood is actually a focus point of gentrification. The customer base is about 1/3 latino/a, 1/3 black and 1/3 white.
I think I agree with thewhatifgirl. They may not be coming from a terribly good place, but I think the ads are at least trying to make fun of clueless whites "slumming it" at ChiLake.
Cute Bruiser — June 26, 2009
I'm not sure where this Mr Ross got his information but, as far as I know, Ganguro doesn't mean "black face" or have anything to do with aboriginals. Ganguro comes from Gangankuro which means "exceptionally dark". And I've NEVER heard of it having ANY relation to aboriginies of Australia or Africans or black face. I'd always been told it was in imitation of a Japanese folk character known as Yama-uba, who is a mountain hag or troll whose appearance the girls are trying to mimic. Like many Japanese fashion trends, the girls were originally trying to break from a traditional Japanese ideal of beauty -- in this case, pale skin and dark hair.
Theora23 — June 26, 2009
as performed by white, middle-class men (why no white women?)
The fourth image in that list is of a white woman next to the phrase "Oh no you dih-n't".
Anna — June 26, 2009
I agree with others who say Chicago-Lake is not predominantly black. It used to be. Now there are many Latino, some gentrification nearby (overpriced condos), and many of the blacks are Somali immigrants (more Somali immigrants in that neighborhood than American blacks, by far).
Ditto to the idea that it plays off the whites trying to be cool by slummin' it in the area. Still feel uncomfortable with it, though.
Michelle — June 26, 2009
What I find interesting about this is not so much how it represents whites' idea of "black" behavior, but how effectively it posits white maleness as a comparatively culture-less blank canvas. Unless you count formal language (which is interesting in of itself - what about formal language signifies whiteness?), these men have no "personality" outside of what they appropriate from what they see as black culture. Strong example of how black people are displayed as "ethnic" but white men are just "people."
Jei — June 26, 2009
Many people have tried to explain the origin of Ganguro, but it's not that simple. Yes, Yamanba does mean mountain hag, but I doubt it has anything to do with the comic as this is the first time I have heard about it. Yamanba are a traditional monster, and as such, well known. Ganguro don't usually use the term Yamanba themselves, as it is considered a derogatory term referencing the weathered appearance many Ganguro achieve as a result of serious tanning. The look of Ganguro is often traced to blackface because of how extreme the look is, but the first reference I ever came across described it as a parody of the valley girl or beach girl of California culture. Which could also be the case. The majority of descriptions I see of the Ganguro describe them as emulating American black culture, but the articles seem to be sensationalist and unresearched. With the amount of beach/barbie references the culture seems to make (leis, surfing, toy-like accessories in bright pink), as well as the blue eyes and bleached hair, the 'valley girl' idea makes the most sense to me, but I won't claim to know the full origin of this subculture.
Jei — June 26, 2009
Why does it seem like they're 'slumming'? Why is talking like this 'pretending to be black' at all? These commercials are a double-edged sword of stereotypical behavior. Most of the white people in these commercials are overdressed urban professionals in business suits or tennis gear. The contrast between their dress and demeanor is played for laughs, as it is supposed to be obvious that they are pretending to be something they are not. Assuming that using a form of speech has anything to do with someone's color instead of the culture one is raised in or the social situations one meets in an everyday experience is a stereotype in and of itself.
MSP choice — June 26, 2009
The customer base is about 1/3 latino/a, 1/3 black and 1/3 white.
many of the blacks are Somali immigrants (more Somali immigrants in that neighborhood than American blacks, by far).
Yes, and yes.
Sociological bImages/b » Is Blackface Is Okay If White People Are The b…/b « Technology Blog — June 26, 2009
[...] View original post here: Sociological bImages/b » Is Blackface Is Okay If White People Are The b…/b [...]
SarahMC — June 26, 2009
Goog point, Michelle. Even if these are "ironically" poking fun at white people, they position white as the default human being. Look at the people mimicking the Other! is how it comes across, IMO. The idea that white people don't have race, and men don't have gender, is widespread. White men are just assumed to be the standard whilst everyone else is aberrant in some way.
macon d — June 26, 2009
Thanks Michelle and SarahMC, I completely agree and wish I'd said that in the post. White-as-supposedly-blank-and-normal is indeed a big problem here, as it is in SO many other ways and contexts. At the same time, there seems to be a sort of paradoxical way in which whiteness IS getting marked here, without being directly identified or labeled as such.
I'm finding the rest of the discussion here useful too, and I'm especially grateful to Lisa for reposting this piece.
Elena — June 26, 2009
I'm with Cute Bruiser and Jei. Ganguro style does not reference Black culture. There is however a substyle of gyaru, B-gyaru, which does gets its inspiration from R&B and hip hop music. They look more like this. There is a visual overview of gyaru styles here, too.
Cute Bruiser — June 26, 2009
I don't have time at the moment to watch the video, but I'm curious if anyone knows the name of this comic from whom Yamanba is supposedly drawn? My understanding was that Yamanba was just a more extreme form of Ganguro or Gals, and that it referenced both the "mountain hag" character but also the weathered appearance that often comes with overtanning.
@Jei: I've also heard the "California girl" reference.
Lauren — June 27, 2009
I am a Japanese linguist, so I thought I'd clear up some confusion. "Ganguro" literally means "cancer black" and is a end result of young girls tanning themselves darker and darker. Back in the 90s they started out just deeply tanned, but they started one-upping each other until they looked like they were just hoping for skin cancer. The white around the eyes used to be just highlights to enhance the tanned look, but that also got taken to extremes, which is why it looks like blackface. It has absolutely nothing to do with Africans or African Americans, although I can understand how disturbing it looks.
bri — June 27, 2009
According to a Japanese friend of mine, girls who adopt ganguro as their style do it as both a satire of westernized ideals (tanned skin, bleached hair, etc) and as a rebellion of sorts against the ideals in their own culture (light skin, black hair, etc). I'm not sure about that, but that's what I was told by a beauty insider living in the country anyway.
I do know, however, that this same girl once donned literal blackface (black paint) in her cosmetology school's fashion show, along with a huge afro wig, as part of an "African" costume. My husband's Korean-born mother did this as well, for reasons I have since forgotten, when she was in high school. I've seen black-face caricatures of black people in various anime as well. It would appear at least, that it's relatively acceptable in these countries to dress up as these stereotypical black characters. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be humorous, or if that is simply what they think is a realistic representation of an ethnic/racial group which is such an invisible minority in their own countries.
Lindsey — June 29, 2009
Did anyone else get the idea from the Chi-Lake ads that black people know all about where to get cheap alcohol? Is this playing on a stereotype of African Americans being heavy drinkers?
Dan — June 29, 2009
"So, I do find the Chicago-Lake Liquors ads racist. Even though the satiric butt of their central joke is clueless white people..."
Why don't you find the ad racist BECAUSE the butt of the joke is clueless white people? If the butt of the joke were "ignorant black people," you'd find that racist, wouldn't you?
I'm also amazed that posters see portraying white people as "blank" and without a race and culture as not a blatant insult to white people.
Portraying whites as all suit wearing, tennis playing, culturally unaware rubes is just as stereotypical and insulting as portraying all blacks as ebonic speaking, gold teeth having criminals.
Angela — June 29, 2009
Thanks, Dan - that's pretty much what I ahd to say. Apparently it's always open season to be racist against white people.
Original Will — June 29, 2009
No matter how many jokes there are about clueless white people, it doesn't change the fact that they're in charge, receive better health care, have better educational options, are preferred in hiring practices, etc. etc. etc.
Making a joke about those in charge doesn't cause them self-loathing or reinforce the stereotype that they deserve to be treated like crap.
Making a joke about those who are oppressed does both of those things.
It isn't a question of whether you feel insulted by having white people portrayed as clueless and lame. It's a question of the effects on society at large.
Perhaps you should consider why, as culturally clueless as these white stereotypes are, they are still apparently well-dressed and successful or at least employable.
Does that make the stereotypes OK, or make it "open season" as you put it? Indeed no. It's not the focus of the discussion, though, because it doesn't really hurt them.
Angela — June 29, 2009
So seeing white people portrayed as clueless and lame, bland, boring, stupid does not hurt or offend me? Why is it anyone else can claim offense EXCEPT white people?
My thinking is that to combat racism, NO ONE should be "open season" based upon his or her race. To claim to condemn racism while exhibiting racist behavior is hypocritical, and damaging to any arguments one may have. If you are arguing about classism, something based upon the status and/or wealth of a class, then your arguments would make a bit more sense. BUT you cannot claim racism is bad... unless you're making fun of white people, because then it's okay. That idea, in itself, simply leads down the path of more and more division. If you want to fight the ignorance that leads to racism, you cannot display that same ignorance yourself. If the new generations are to know not to repeat the mistakes of the past WE have to be consistent. So, is racism acceptable, or not? The very nature of the "disease" of racism means that it can't be okay for one group to practice it, but not another.
I have been told many times that if I'd been discriminated against, I'd "understand"... guess what? I HAVE been discriminated against. I am a white woman in a predominantly non-white region. It's okay to laugh and make fun of me for some reason, even though AS a white person, I have been trained all my life to be sensitive to racially charged comments, AND TO NOT MAKE THEM. For some reason, groups that consider themselves "non-white" feel that they cannot be seen in a negative light when they make sweeping judgments about someone who's white, usually to their detriment, or to allow hatred of them for simply being white... a judgment based on the color of their skin. Just like these ads do.
I'm sorry groups have had hardships in the past (but please stop blaming me - I wasn't part of it, I wasn't even born and am not responsible for the actions of people centuries ago - almost all nations in human history have suffered from the stigma of slavery, classism and racism - this is not my fault because I was born white, any more than it was yours) and that there are many struggling today, but I really can't see how in a world where the US has its first non-white President, you can claim that only white people are successful.
I'm just asking for the same respect every other group is asking for... respect for me not based on the color of my skin. This includes not being the butt of a joke - I don't appreciate jokes about white people loving to eat mayonnaise sandwiches any more than others do about fried chicken or watermelons.
If something is wrong... it's wrong. And until people can see that and apply it to EVERYONE, the world will get no where.
Original Will — June 29, 2009
I feel like we're talking past each other here. I'm sorry if you've been offended by jokes and you think that means you've been oppressed. Not only did I not say that racist jokes were ok, I specifically said they were not. Please read my comment before you respond.
The main point I will stress is that racial discrimination in the US is not a thing of the past. The mere presence of a non-white president does not mean that racial equality has been achieved. There are still not very many non-white corporate CEOs, billionaires, or, for that matter, senators. There are bigger fish to fry first before we worry about negative white stereotypes.
Grizzly — June 30, 2009
Will, you are right, you did say that racist jokes were not OK. But you also said:
"It’s not the focus of the discussion, though, because it doesn’t really hurt them."
The focus of the discussion is racism. To exclude one group from that discussion because of the color of their skin, is ironically racist. To claim that racism against whites is not important because it doesn't really hurt them is ignorant. Eminem for example has repeated claimed that he 'hates being white.' Why would he feel that way, except for the negative stereotypes perpetrated against white people.
However, if you are looking for instances of institutionalized racism against whites, they exist as well. When I applied for graduate school I was given a list of scholarships offered by my school. Of the 17 listed, 13 were for minorities only. I was given less of an opportunity to obtain an education because of the color of my skin.
Racism against minorities may be more pervasive and widespread in this country, but that doesn't mean that racism against whites doesn't exist, and isn't hurtful.
You also said:
"Making a joke about those in charge doesn’t cause them self-loathing or reinforce the stereotype that they deserve to be treated like crap."
It does both of these things. This may surprise you, but the VAST majority of white people do not feel like they are "in charge" of anything. And when we are constantly and continually bombared with media representations of us as ignorant racists, I can tell you from experience that that representation can cause someone to feel self-loathing and does reinforce the notion to others that I deserve to be treated like crap.
I also find your last statement interesting.
"There are bigger fish to fry first before we worry about negative white stereotypes."
So how do we rate the rest of the fish we have to fry? Should Asians just shut up about perceived racism because they haven't suffered as much as African Americans? Where do Latino's rank on your scale of fish that need frying? How about women? Who gets top priority, and who's feelings do we get to ignore?
Original Will — June 30, 2009
Grizzly, I take from your comments that the biggest fish of all is the oppression against these poor, helpless white people. So why pretend that we have to set priorities at all?
Angel — June 30, 2009
Okay - I think the problem here that needs to be addressed is the idea that it's okay to discriminate/make fun of/be derrogatory towards white people, because they deserve it for the wrongs of the past that are still in the progress of being righted.
As I said before, you cannot claim to be fighting for equality and be against racism and still practice it. If you feel it's okay to make fun of people because of the color of their skin, then you are a racist. The skin color does not matter in the definition of the term.
I know lots of people who feel shame and loathing for the fact that they are white because they are often portrayed as ignorant, intolerant, stupid, backwards, hate mongers.... which in all honesty most white people are not. So if it's wrong to portray a black person as uneducated and ignorant because of the color of his or her skin... again I ask why is it acceptable to do it to a white person. If someone just came out and honestly said they hate white people and will do whatever it take to not be equal to them, but to put them through what their demographic has experienced in the past, then at least it would be an honest statement.
Tell me that you think I deserve low self esteem, ridicule in the job place, and the assumption that I have lots of money (I don't - went to school on academic scholarships and worked my butt off at several jobs to get my upper-lower class standing I have now) because I am white. Don't beat around the bush. Admit that it's hypocritical and stop telling me white people don't ever experience discrimination, aren't ever poor (the Appalachain Mountains have some of the poorest people in the country, and most of them are white - they can't even feed their kids real food, but they're white, so it doesn't matter), and don't suffer from low self esteem because of the prevailing media image of idiocy and ineptitude. I'm tired of being told I can't dance, I'm no good at sports, I have no culture, and I don't understand the plight of others.
Again, I'd like to mention the fact that "white guilt" has made the white community almost hypersensitive to the idea of saying or doing anything racist...Dont say anythign even close to the "N" word, not even a word that means stingy, because you'll be seen as a bad, bad person and stigmatized. Once a white person is called racist (even if they are not), there is no recourse for them - they are branded.
This hyper-sensitivity experienced by white people doesn't seem to ever apply to other groups. I hear people from Latin cultures talking badly about African Americans and Asian Americans all the time, as well as being insulting to us Gringos - my old co-workers were some of the most racist people I ever met. Upon an Asian person entering our place of business the "Chong-Ching Ching Chong" jokes would start. They had no compulsion about throwing the "N" word around as an insult. They told jokes and insults to each other in undertones in Spanish around me, thinking I couldn't understand them as a stupid white girl, until I started responding to them. Tell me how THAT'S appropriate. These are people who do not consider themselves white, but are practicing racists, but somehow it's okay for them to be intolerant. It's okay to make statements based on skin color - because their skin isn't considered "white". This relates back to the title of this posting - "Is Blackface Okay if White People are the Butt of the Joke?" The answer should be No, blackface is inappropriate, and making fun of white people for being white is no better. But in our society it has become cool to vilify white people and to think of them as the stumbling block keeping everyone else from succeeding.
I'm just trying to point out that white people are often poor. I live in a rural community and most farmers aren't rich - they also bet their livelihood on something as capricious as the weather, meaning sending their kids to college is no easier than sending a kid to college from a inner city community (I've lived in both communities - people are poor everywhere). White people DO feel humiliated, low self esteem and embarrassed of their apparent lacks upon learning that they are bland, boring, and evil.
There has to be a way to empower one group without being hurtful to another. Double standards in acceptable humor is not one. I'm sorry to ramble, but this brings to mind a friend I had - in order to feel good about himself, he had to be insulting someone else. He could not make himself feel like a success, or a good person, if someone else was there "ahead" of him. He meant to sound funny and endearing, but ended up coming across as mean and spiteful. People of minority status should not see their only path to success to be the complete degradation of anyone white. Most white people (yes, there are extremists of ANY group) have let go of the hatred and ignorance that caused the inequality in this nation in the first place, and frankly don't understand or deserve all the social backlash at them for the wrongs of generations past. In order to progress any further, other groups need to stop propagating the same hate and ignorance, too.
Andrew Cone — June 30, 2009
I agree with Grizzly and Angela that the video mocks whites as much as blacks. As a white male, I do feel mocked by the suggestion that I'm an overweight philistine, but I also think it's funny. I don't mind a bit of fun-poking, as long as it's executed inclusively and not derisively.
It reminds me that some parts of my culture, my personality, and even my race are downright laughable. There is something absurd about dorky white guys in polo shirts, just as there is something absurd about gangsta black guys with gold teeth. It is a worthy gold mine of humor.
In a society that's comfortable with diversity, people poke fun at each other, and it's no big deal. Disallowing such banter does nothing to advance racial equality; it fuels the neurotic race malaise that afflicts Americans of all races.
More generally, I'm tired of the look-mom-i-found-a-racist flamebaiting that sometimes substitutes for sociological acumen. America has a lot of racial tension, and, yes, racism. It's no news that it shows up in the media.
I can't stand the company of people who smugly deconstruct everything they see, and think they can publish a fucking review paper whenever they spot bigotry. I probably wouldn't enjoy watching TV with the author of this post.
Grizzly — July 1, 2009
"Grizzly, I take from your comments that the biggest fish of all is the oppression against these poor, helpless white people. So why pretend that we have to set priorities at all?"
I'm not the one who suggested prioritizing oppression, you were, with your "bigger fish to fry comment."
I never claimed that whites were the most oppressed people, or deserved more attention than anyone else. My issue is your suggestion that their claims should be dismissed because they are somehow less important than those of minorities.
Regarding your sarcastic dismissal of the feelings of whites; as Angel made clear in her excellent post, there are PLENTY of "poor helpless white people." We're not all golf playing CEO's.
Lindsey — July 1, 2009
It sounds like issues of race and class are being muddled. The ads make fun specifically of *middle class* white people. Lower class white people suffer class oppression and all the associated problems of poverty and negative stereotypes but I don't think these are necessarily race-based.
Grizzly — July 1, 2009
"The ads make fun specifically of *middle class* white people."
Is it OK to make fun of any specific group? I grew up poor, but consider myself middle class. I work hard to pay rent, feed an clothe my family and provide them with some sense of comfort and security. Why is OK to ridicule me in an ad? What did I do to deserve that?
To be honest, I agree with Andrew in that I can see the humor in the ad. I would think it funny if not for the double standard that society says it's OK to poke fun at people who look like me, but not the people who don't.
Angela — July 1, 2009
Thanks Grizzly and Andrew. I think the final comment fom Grizzly sums up a lot of how I feel: "I would think it funny if not for the double standard that society says it’s OK to poke fun at people who look like me, but not the people who don’t."
You have to think about things like this - once you say it's okay to ridicule any group based on their skin color, you just open up the floodgates for the precedence to do it to others. If it offends you to be singled out or made fun of, looked down upon based on your "race", then why would you defend any other group of people being put through the same experience? How can you ask me to empathize with other groups when you can't do the same for me?
If it's okay to make racist jokes about whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, or any other demographic, then it's okay across the board. If it's not acceptable for one group, then it's not acceptable for any.
Matt K — July 1, 2009
First, Andrew, if you're not interested in analyzing cultural products and images, perhaps this is not the blog for you? I don't understand why people show up on a SOCIOLOGY blog to complain that authors are taking things too seriously or are overanalyzing.
I think Will's abandoned the field, but I just want to ask if anyone here has studied race and racism from a sociological or anti-oppression viewpoint. I don't have any references at the moment, but perhaps someone can suggest some sources which might be able to shed some light on the issue for Grizzly, Angela, and anyone else who is confused.
Generally, -isms are understood to have the backing of power structures, meaning that it doesn't really make sense to say that men suffer from sexism when they are depicted as bumbling husbands on TV, or that white people are being subject to racism when called "honky" or the like.
Andrew Cone — July 1, 2009
I do like analyzing cultural products and images, and I didn't accuse anyone of overanalyzing. Rather, I think that this particular analysis was hackneyed and uninsightful.
Anyway, I do not believe that "taking things too seriously" or "overanalyzing" are characteristics of sociology, so if that were my complaint, it would be a reasonable thing to post. Chanting "SOCIOLOGY" does not excuse weak analysis.
Beth — July 1, 2009
What if the two cultures/races in these ads were switched, namely, if they portrayed black people trying to adopt speech patterns and actions typical of whites?
I doubt this would be interpreted as racism directed at whites. We'd interpret it as, again, racism against blacks--a suggestion that they should adopt white culture. This indicates an ingrained cultural predisposition to favor one culture over the other in the eyes of the viewer-interpreters. Most things can be chewed over enough to reveal power relations.
As far as reducing racism goes, it would be more productive to recognize the two disparate groups as disparate groups interacting with each other and making fun of each other. Being comfortable with this kind of interaction opens up the opportunity for equal footing group and removes the idea that blacks must adopt white mannerisms in order to be successful--"we are a white society, after all."
Korean Sociological Image #10: “Blackface” « The Grand Narrative — July 1, 2009
[...] come before them, sans non-Korean cultural baggage and angst; and finally that, in Japan at least there are: …teenagers who used to dress up, and maybe still do, in a fashion known as Ganguro [...]
Grizzly — July 2, 2009
"...for Grizzly, Angela, and anyone else who is confused."
We're not 'confused,' we disagree.
"Generally, -isms are understood to have the backing of power structures, meaning that it doesn’t really make sense to say that men suffer from sexism when they are depicted as bumbling husbands on TV, or that white people are being subject to racism when called “honky” or the like."
Your statement assumes either that the 'power structure' always favors white men, or that there is only one 'power structure' in place in our society.
There are many instances in which apower structure will favor women over men, and minorities over whites. I'm not going to bother listing all of them, but the fact that I am more likely to lose custody of my kids simply because I'm a man drives the point well. Not being able to see my kids whenever I wanted would be the WORST thing that could ever happen to me, and I live in a society where the greater risk of that happening falls to me because of my gender.
I would like to point out that my wife is a wonderful person and god-forbid we ever divorce, I know she would be as fair to me as possible, but I think its a shame that I have to rely on that. A lot of men aren't as lucky as I am.
Your statement is only valid if the power structure you mention only and exclusively favors white men. Maybe it does in the majority of cases, but not always.
Ardaza — July 3, 2009
A lot of great insight on both sides. But, I think we call all agree that the guy in the last Chicago Lake Liquor ad, "Gary" is HILARIOUS!
mim — July 8, 2009
The tv ads and the tracy ulman bit both seemed to be making fun of white people to me. If you want to call the humor in the ads racist, I would say it's directed towards whites. The thing I do think is racist towards blacks is that the store is directly targeting them for alcohol sales. As far as tracy ulman goes, I don't find it racist at all. It's just a joke.
French Vogue and “Contemporary Blackface” » Sociological Images — March 28, 2010
[...] examples and discussion of contemporary “blackface” here, here, here, here, and here. Also, Bugs [...]