Monday, July 10, 2006

So, How Do You Like Your Racism???

I like mine big, bold, and in your face. Like this:

I think right around the time the movie Crash was out, racism was cold. Kind of like heterosexuality during the Brokeback Fever days. Crash needed better racism, Chappelle's Show was in production purgatory, Carlos Mencia sucks ... there were very few outlets for some good hot-ass racism. But this picture/ad, and the return of Chappelle's Show gives hope that racism is back. It is en vogue. Thank heavens. I thought I was never going to feel comfortable wearing my vintage distressed designer Jim Crow Jeans again.

That said, I don't think Al, Jesse, Spike, and the rest of the Race Regulators are going to likey. I'd bet my seersucker shorts that the Ku Klux Ad-company responsible is going to feel some heat over this. And I'm definitely surprised Sony is going with it. Must be because they, like me, feel these young hipsters are from the "racism is dead" generation. It might very well be impossible to offend minorities under a certain age with race rigamarole, but they do still have to answer to the old-fogies who will surely have a problem with the platinum blonde amazon from Caucasia manhandling Tracy Chapman.

bits&bytes has the full series of pics. There is one where amazon-women dominates, another where Chapman is winning, and another where the dominant position is more ambiguous. He also has a link to Sony response to the hubbub the campaign has caused.


  1. I just read your original Crash review, and I disagree with a lot of it. You ask if racism can be properly depicted by someone who's never experienced it. How can you assume that because someone is white they've never experienced racism? Minorities don't have a monopoly on receiving racism, I've seen many whites in gentrifying neighborhoods or getting customer service from blacks receive racism as well. I thought Crash was pretentious, overlong, heavy-handed and improbable personally.

    That being said...that IS a bizarre ad. What does it symbolize? Was the old Playstation Portable black or something, and the new white one is replacing it (hence the manhandling)?

  2. haha that girl does look like tracy chapman. thats hilarious

  3. Anonymous7/10/2006

    whoah. that ad is pretty crazy. is that for real. i wonder if it's for real.

  4. Anonymous7/10/2006

    there's no way that's in america, is it? has to be europe or something. only they could get away with that.

  5. "You drive a fast video car...
    I have bruises on my face..."

  6. Anonymous7/10/2006

    It's in the Netherlands, and apparently it's part of aseries of ads depicting the two chicks fighting each other in anticipation of the psp portable in white.

    I don't think it's Racist or Racism simply because Racism doesn't exist in a vaccuum. It involves a context that they don't have (not that everyone in the netherlands is hunky dory with race or what not, but they don't have the home grown historical baggage that we in the good ole US of A do).

    As for not being able to understand Racism because someone is white. I've been thinking about this a lot and I don't think a white person with a few exceptions can understand racism, because while they may experience an individual racist act (like being treated poorly in a community that's being gentrified) racism isn't just about that. In fact I'd hazard a guess that as much as fifty percent of black people under the age of 30 have never experienced overt racism. It's about a culture of fear, that almost anywhere you go your skin makes you a target.Nevermind all of the implications - that you're dumb, slow, lazy, somehow worth less than white skin. When a white person gets treated poorly at a corner bodega it doesn't undermine their sense of self; racism in this country for many minority groups however does just that. I think that's what TAN is getting at. It's not just being treated poorly but having your sense of self daily and repeatedly attacked for nothing but a genetic quirk.

  7. I think the backlash to these ads already started: I'm pretty sure I read something about it last week, and a Google search brought up a ton of commentary.

    I don't understand ad agencies or companies who actually believe that "blatantly offensive (racist, sexist, whatev)" somehow translates into edgy.

  8. I think that's what TAN is getting at. It's not just being treated poorly but having your sense of self daily and repeatedly attacked for nothing but a genetic quirk.

    "Genetic quirk?" I hate to think of my race as a "genetic quirk." Being that life originally started in Africa, it's strange to consider having melanin to be a quirk.

    And as a black person my sense of self is not attacked daily at all. People only believe that to be the case because they're constantly trained to be on the lookout for racism and reasons to be offended. Racism cuts in many directions in this country and makes everyone feel bad, no matter who receives it. I think blacks are just conditioned to dwell on it more. Everything from the media, the news, politicians, white liberals to black radicals and civil rights leaders focuses on telling us how racism is pervasive and is the source of all our problems. Blacks, unlike whites, are taught from society that defeatism is acceptable.

  9. I think I agree with the spirit of your sentiment T, that the "race issue" is something everyone deals with. Ultimately, I think that's part of the premise of "The Assimilated Negro" - to be all-inclusive.

    But it's also to be inclusive within an honest portrayal of the reality of the situation. I linked 3 bits in this post. One about crash, another one with jokes about race and technology, and the third about a quest for the negro hipster, and how younguns today don't look at racism the same way. there's been a fundamental shift in how race relations are played out now. Oprah, Eminem, Chappelle ... people like this have changed the landscape for various reasons. So I think your sentiments are echoing that idea. But that doesn't change the fact that there's still a lot of inequity, and that while you may not be explicitly "attacked" on a daily basis, there are certainly reminders, cultural and otherwise, every day of that inequity.

    You talk about how blacks are conditioned to dwell on it. And are taught defeatism. But what do you mean by this? I don't think there's Defeatism 101 (for blacks!) at any universities. And we're conditioned to think about the race issue because of the race history in this country. I think the anon commenter you responded to hit it on the head in referencing the historical baggage and context. The conditioning comes from an established history, that would be hard for just about anyone to avoid.

    as evidence of acknowledged entrenched inequity i'd point to the report i did for gawker on the lily white mag industry. all ethnicities seemed to be in agreement that there was an issue.

  10. i like the ad myself. i am white, but I've kissed both a black guy and a black girl. has to give me credit for something, no?

  11. Anonymous7/10/2006

    I was the original anonymous and what I meant by genetic quirk is simply that race is something beyond any one person's personal control. Just like one doesn't pick their family, one doesn't pick one's race. I didn't mean it as though being black (or white, or hispanic or what not) was an abberation.

    The thing that I think you're missing is that Racism implies power as to my point agreeing with TAN why white people can't know racism. As Chris Rock puts it - I am a rich black man and still most white people wouldn't be willing to switch places with me. In this country, and in most countries around the world white people, or their lighlty mixed descendants wield the power. The skin color = power.

    Why is it only in only in 2001 that Peru finally elected it's first Indian president? And that he's the only Indian president in a hemisphere filled with Indians (as in Native American)?

    Chris Rock also points out that everyone think's Shaq is rich...but that the real rich man is the man writing Shaq's check. There are only a handful of minority people in this country that wield that kind of power: offhand I can only think of Oprah and the guy who started BET. Most other celebrities are pawns of other (white run and operated) corporations - J.Lo's clothing line for example is actually made by Tommy Hillfigger.

    Power is why Racism exists invented in this country - both so that the white indentured servants would stop running off with the black slaves to join the Native Americans (putting a crimp on productivity), and so that the white slave masters (even that term implies a power structure) wouldn't feel guilty. A white person can go days without being reminded of their own whiteness; I don't know if a black person (or asian etc) could so easily in this country.

  12. kaytee7/10/2006

    I just watched The Lost Episodes and I have mixed's like watching that World Cup head-butt on your friends stolen plasma screen (he got it 'discount' you know...)

    uhmm. What I think is strange to consider is race. It sounds dated to me. Like flat Earths and revolving suns kind of dated. For what it's worth, I'm considering buying a DS Lite (I mean really, what IS my Brain Age..?)

    and Mind of Mencia does suck. (Ned Arnel Holness-Mencia? where is the Robot Man?!)

    race is dead. long live racism! or not.

    ..finished. the spaz go next. I'm going to do pilates...

  13. There are a few things I disagree with about the "disgrace" about blacks on editorial staffs: just because there aren't a lot of blacks on editorial staffs doesn't mean they're necessarily racist. There's just to much info missing from the analysis. Disparate impact doesn't necessarily mean racist intent. I'm sure Cosmo has mostly women on its staff. Does that mean its anti-man or that most men don't feel like writing about "20 ways to drive your man crazy in bed?" I'm sure Ebony/Jet have mostly blacks on staff, but does that mean they are racist against whites or that most whites aren't that interested in writing about that subject matter.

    Likewise, look at whites and blacks in publishing. Maybe most blacks that write really aren't that interested in the subject matter of the New Yorker, Conde Nast Traveler or Vanity Fair. Maybe they CHOOSE to write for more urban black publications simply because they're better-versed in that subject matter. Most of the black writer friends I have actively CHOOSE to write for hip-hop magazines and never even approach the New Yorker-type mags.

    Blacks make up about 13% of the population in America. Out of that small percentage, 30% of black males have criminal records and more black males get their GED in prison than graduate high school. In the inner cities, more than 50% of black males don't finish high school. You take away all these things, and you have an even smaller pool of blacks qualified to write at the New Yorker and Conde Nast traveler.

    Now out of all the blacks you have left that are qualified and interested in magazine writing, next you have to see how many actually want to write for upper-crust publications like the New Yorker. I'm willing to bet its a pretty small percentage.

    The only way we can really figure out how racist the magazine industry is is to take a comparison of blacks and whites with comparable pedigrees, education background, interests, areas of expertise and grades and compare the career paths of both people. A lot of studies show that when blacks and whites of comparative backgrounds and lack of criminal records compete, the blacks actually are more successful on average.

  14. Anonymous, I don't believe that power is a necessary ingredient for racism, but for the sake of argument let's say that it is.

    White people CAN know racism through the use of power. How about Mugabe who took land from white farmers, ran them off and redistributed it to blacks? If you want to use America for example, how about the Black DA in New Orleans who was just ordered to pay $3.58 million for discrimination for firing whites to make room for blacks in the DA's office? Or the 40 white professors who won $1.4 million for discrimination because raises were given to minorities and women and not men?

  15. Not to get too controversial, TAN, cuz you know I've praised this place on the web many times, but perhaps the Playstation people and the guy who added "Kill The White People" to his blog on July 5th intended the same thing: just joking around, not really tryin' to start anything, just chillin'.

  16. herb - yeah, i have no problem with the ad. i think it's creative and compelling, which i certainly prefer to safe and boring.

    thanks for reminding me about kill the white people though ... I love that clip.

    I haven't been in my comment boxes this much in some time. yeee haaaaa!!!

  17. oh by the way, Mencia really does suck HARD. Who watches that crap?

  18. everyone's in agreement that mencia sucks ... that is of primary importance.

    T - I think the points (or is it one primary point?) you make are valid, and also addressed either in the original story, or my response, or the comments. Perhaps "racist" is too strong a word. Are you making a semantic point? If you keep the convo broad enough, you inevitably end up with some miscommunication.

    I think the bottom-line premise was that these were New York magazines, a city with a population that is 65% non-white. And in that context having editorial staffs that are 6.5% non-white raises an eyebrow.

    but I wonder now, looking at your thread of comments, have you ever experienced racism? I presume in the crash post, i think, that every minority feels they can relate to racism, at least a little. But maybe not?

  19. Looking back at this commments field, I feel like I kind of hijacked it and made it too serious. Sorry about that. Won't happen again. But since I already started, I may as well finish my original point.

    I think that the New York magazine scene may be racist, it may not, but putting up percentages alone is not proof enough. New York magazines compete for and use talent from across the country, not just home grown, and most of the country is white. In addition, there are lots of factors that make blacks less likely to want or compete for the particular magazine jobs you mention, like education, criminal backgrounds and personal preferences. You could be right that there's racism at those magazine, but to me it's hard to tell just by the percentage of blacks working at them, it leaves out too many other mitigating factors.

    The reason it bothers me is that I don't want people to hire just for the sake of diversity, because that's what happened with the NY Times and Jayson Blair, Howell Raines so desperately wanted to be diverse and progressive and kept promoting Jayson Blair even though he wasn't qualified, and it blew up in everyone's face. That was an embarassment for young black writers everywhere I think.

    I've experienced racism, as I think everyone in America has. I don't want to get into my views on it here cuz I feel like I hicacked this comments field too much already.

  20. The problem is that intent is too weak to tell if there is really racism. I mean, by that standard, nothing is racist- a guy could beat you up with a bat and call you the n word, and he could say "I didn't mean the n word in a racist way" and yay! that's totally not racist!
    It's the get out of racism free card.

    I'd complain about your other points dude, but I'd just like to say, like the old folks say, keep living, and you'll understand why we're not all het up about the poor crackas.

  21. I like the hijacking. It's nice to read a comment field actually filled with intelligent conversation.

    I don't think the New Yorker/New York mags scene is racist, I think that - and stop me if you've heard this one - education in urban (and predominantly minority) areas is truly screwed up and racist, so fewer minorities have the chance to get the credentials and connections you need to get the juicy media jobs. Fewer candidates, fewer hires. But I'm admittedly an "education is the root of everything" type.

    I agree with T. that comparing, say, Vanity Fair's hiring rates for different race candidates with equal credentials would be a bit more damning than just looking at the fact that magazine types are a bunch of white ass whities.

    That white v. black ad is very very strange.


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