Here is a detailed explanation of what happened.
I wasn’t going to write about this, but I’ve been reading a lot of discussion in response to the incident, and I just wanted to get into some of the points that have been coming up repeatedly.
Point 1: I don’t understand why this is offensive because I wasn’t taught about this in school, and you can’t expect everyone to know about why this is offensive because Blackface is an American thing.
Blackface does its roots in the US. It has (hopefully) been ingrained into the American consciousness that painting yourself to look Black (or Asian, or Native American, or Hispanic) is offensive.
But, just because this is a unique to American history doesn’t mean that anyone outside of America or anyone who does not know American history should be exempt from understanding why this is offensive.
The very fact that someone has the luxury of painting some makeup on his/her face in order to be a person of another race, and then gets to perform/entertain/amuse an audience, and then has the luxury to take that face color off means that it is a thing of privilege, appropriation, and disregard for another person’s condition.
Someone else’s race and identity can be used at your disposal without you having to suffer any of the real consequences that are associated with having that skin color. That is not okay. Understanding this does not require a nuanced understanding of American history. These offenses exist independently of the circumstances that gave rise to them, so saying that you’re not aware of how something is offensive because you were never taught about it in school does not fly.
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This is just fucking depressing.
We counted the number of spots in each of the 122 fall, 2010, shows held in New York that were covered by Style.com. [...] The numbers, as you can see, were not encouraging. Of 4,095 turns on the runway, only 662 went to models who weren’t white. That’s barely 16%.
Black models, at 323 bookings, were used the most of any single ethnic group, aside from whites. Asians were second, with 264. Latinas were a distant third, with 61 trips down the catwalk. Fourteen times during this fashion week, models of other races were used in a runway show.
I’ve been reading lots of entries across the blogosphere about VF’s “it girl” issue and here are a bunch of interesting ones:
Putting the “Fair” in Vanity Fair
“Pretty Young White Girls On OUR Covers:” Racists Come Out In Support Of Magazine Segregation
Vanity Fair’s “Hollywood It Girls” lacking some color
Young Hollywood is white, thin
Vanity Fair’s “New Hollywood” issue completely lacks diversity
I don’t think Vanity Fair editors set out with the goal, “Hmm, let’s see, who are the prettiest white girls we can feature on the cover of this issue?” I think that there actually is the issue of not having enough representation in Hollywood from girls of color. (Zoe Saldana and Frieda Pinto should’ve made this cover, though.) I think the problem here is less about VF editors wanting to sell whiteness over coloredness, and more that there is a severe lack of girls of color who make up the Hollywood circle (although the former is still a pretty prominent problem — just not relevant in this case).
And the thing is that Vanity Fair apologists shouldn’t be defensive about the backlash that VF gets from this issue, because it’s not fair to have to give an answer to, “Well which colored person would you put on the cover?” You’re right, there aren’t as many girls of color, but why aren’t there? There has to be a reason, and that reason absolutely is not that there are just no good colored actresses.
I’ve been coming across a lot of posts from writers who are complaining about the lack of iPhones in Korea, and so many of the writers always manage to include a line like this, the non-Korean countries changing from writer-to-writer depending on mood:
When countries like Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, and Qatar are getting their iPhones soon (nothing against those countries, by the way) and yet South Korea, the world’s 11th economy, isn’t getting one, there’s something seriously wrong there.
As if to strengthen their point about how sad it is that Korea (which is the world’s 11th economy by the way!1!1!!!) is not getting an iPhone, they have to put down these other smaller countries who are getting iPhones. I *hate* when people complete their arguments by presenting Offensive Point A and then saying “no offense, by the way.” No, you are being offensive, end of story.
And from what I’ve been reading about South Korea’s phone companies, it’s not really whether or not South Korea is An Almighty Nation With A Great Economy or not, it’s that the cell phone companies cannot reach deals with Apple. So obviously companies in Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guina, and Qatar have reached agreements with Apple that SK companies have not been able to for whatever reason. So this isn’t about how much “lesser” these other countries are, it’s about how there are conflicts within SK companies.
I don’t really ever read GQ (Details FTW) but this definitely caught my eye. From Racialicious, GQ’s Jim Nelson Frankly Talks About Race in His Editor’s Letter:
Here are some of Nelson’s greatest hits:
[The birthers] do not seek documents; they seek time travel, a machine to shoot them back to the magical time when black men could not get elected. For them, this supremely white fantasy of No Change is more important than silly matters such as health care.
Everywhere you look, people keep making batshit-crazy comments about race and ethnicity, stream-of-consciousness-style, as if the election had unleashed some Freudian anxiety in the cultural air.
Then [Pat Buchanan] made his more ignorant racist claim yet: “This has been a country built basically by white folks.” Which, apart from ignoring the entire history of slavery, is the subtext of every song I’ve ever heard by Toby Keith.
Fox News commen-hater Brian Kilmeade, while chatting about a Swedish study that shows marriage can delay Alzheimer’s suddenly went all Third Reich on his co-hosts: “We keep marrying other species and other ethnics. The Swedes have pure genes, because they marry other Swedes…They have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody. So we’ll marry Italians and Irish. [This study] does not apply to us.
My Irish-English-German-American head spun. Does that mean I’m definitely getting Alzheimer’s?
[I wish Obama would] address the nation like [he did in the race speech] more frequently, to resolve to move and persuade us. Maybe he could even address the National Association for the Advancement of White People.
Otherwise known as the U.S. Senate.
I still can’t get over how Jim Nelson looks like Ty Pennington but he makes a lot of good points. He’s very subtle about his criticism but does it without disturbing the peace in the air (metaphorically speaking of course ;)). It’s really hard to do that, and I think it’s even harder to do that in a magazine like GQ. It’s harder to make people care, because let’s face it, people don’t turn to GQ for sociopolitical commentary. And even if they’re given something sociopolitical, you have to be nuanced and “in” enough with your words to make your thoughts seem relevant. GQ is a lifestyle magazine but it’s never been super duper into politics like, let’s say, Vanity Fair.
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And then on the flip-side, in a similar-ish but unrelated issue of how affective the all black issue of Vogue Italia was,
The black issue of Italian Vogue was great but I feel it was great for just a moment. It didn’t work. You still don’t see black models, ethnic models, and models from different cultures in advertising very much.
– Naomi Campbell
Tru dat, woman. I wouldn’t call that issue a gimmick, and it’s a valiant effort from Vogue Italia, but one issue isn’t going to make up from years and years and years of campaigning with white faces. I just recently found out that Tao Okamoto, a Japanese model, was the first Asian model to walk the AW shows for Miu Miu since 2007, even though Miu Miu’s biggest market lies on Hong Kong. What the eff is up with that? We’re not even talking about having season long ad campaigns run in all magazines every single month for half a year, we’re talking about 30 seconds tops in a 15 minute show. Seriously?