by Carmen Van Kerckhove
This is the last in my series breaking down the top trends in race and pop culture of 2006. If you missed it, check out Monday’s trends 10 through 8 and yesterday’s trends 7 through 4 . Here’s the final list:
10. Race-swapping undercover experiments
9. Hipster racism
8. The continuing obsession with interracial relationships
7. The new minstrel show
6. Racism on college campuses
5. Fear of a Latino takeover
4. The return of the white man’s burden
3. Colorface everywhere!
2. Celebrity racial slurs
1. Race baiting
3. Colorface everywhere!
It seemed like blackface, brownface and yellowface was everywhere in 2006, even in the most unexpected places. Some of these blackface incidents we’ve already covered. For example, Kate Moss in blackface for The Independent’s Africa issue, the many “ghetto parties” and blackface incidents included in racism on college campuses and the Tyra Banks Show episode where she had Angela Nissel go on dates with three men both as a black woman and as a white woman .
Liberal blogs Firedoglake and Billmon (who has since stopped blogging) both decided to use blackface images to mock people they didn’t like/respect. Firedoglake blacked up a photo of Joseph Lieberman in a post accusing him of race-baiting. Billmon blacked up a photo of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer after he complained about Lynne Cheney being uncooperative during an interview. Both issued the standard “I’m sorry you’re offended but I’m just so brave and un-PC” apologies, leading ebogjonson to create a flowchart for those bloggers asking themselves if they should use blackface on their blog. In case you were wondering, if you answer yes to being white, the answer is “STOP! You CANNOT use blackface EVER under any circumstances.” Also, be sure to check out Kai Chang’s series on racism in the liberal blogosphere .
A movie based on the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu” is in the works. As you probably know, biracial Asian/white protagonist Kwai Chang Caine was played by David Carradine in the series. And he’s been milking the virtual yellowface gig ever since, from his role in Kill Bill to his stupid Yellowbook.com commercials. The question is, which white guy are they going to get to play Kwai Chang Caine in the movie version? Who has enough “Asian flavor?” I’m putting my money on Steven Seagal.
Eddie Murphy will be engaging in some yellowface in his new film, Norbit. Jenn from Reappropriate summed it up thus: “In it, Murphy plays a dorky, meek Black man adopted as a child by an old Asian man and, in adulthood, who is dominated by a fat black woman stereotype. The catch? Murphy plays Norbit, Norbit’s girlfriend, and the Asian man who adopts him. As the Asian man, not only does Murphy wear yellow-tinted skin, but plays up the old Asian male stereotype, complete with poor Chinglish accent.” By the way, I hope now that he’s won a Golden Globe, he’ll stop making these god-awful movies.
And of course, the most talked-about colorface incident of 2006 has been Angelina Jolie playing Mariane Pearl in the new film “A Mighty Heart.” It’s still unclear why they decided it was necessary to pile on the bronzer and wig when Mariane’s race plays no role whatsoever in the film.
2. Celebrity racial slurs
Making racist remarks in 2006 rivaled nipslips and pantylessness in its ability to garner press attention for celebrities and public figures.
The Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger was caught on tape debating the spiciness of Latinos: “I mean Cuban, Puerto Rican, they are all very hot…They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it”. And of course, George Allen was caught on tape calling an Indian-American man a “macaca.”
Miss Jones, a DJ at New York hip hop station Hot 97, called New York City Transit Workers Union president Roger Toussaint a “dumb coconut who probably don’t even have a green card.” New York’s other big hip hop radio station Power 105′s DJ Star made all kinds of disgustingly racist and violent remarks about the wife and children of a rival DJ, threatening to “do an R. Kelly” on his daughter and calling his wife a “whore,” a “lo mein eater” and far worse anti-Asian slurs.
Kanye West told Essence magazine that “If it wasn’t for race mixing, there’d be no video girls.” As if that wasn’t offensive enough, he went on to say: “Me and most of my friends like mutts a lot … Yeah, in the hood they call ‘em mutts.”
Michael Richards was caught on tape in a racist tirade at Los Angeles’s Laugh Factory, repeated calling a black hecler the n-word and saying: “Fifty years ago we’d have you upside down with a f***ing fork up your ass.” It was interesting to see how mainstream media outlets focused exclusively on Richards’ use of the n-word, when really the most offensive thing about the tirade was his overt reference to lynching .
Rosie O’Donnell decided to mock Chinese people on The View with a long “ching chong” joke. The most depressing thing about this incident was how the Asian American community had to explain, and even prove, that yes, “ching chong” is indeed a racial slur and highly offensive. O’Donnell’s eventual non-apology was perhaps even more insulting than the original joke.
1. Race baitingIt seems like ever since Crash won the Oscar for Best Film, everyone has felt like race is the best way to get attention for their projects. Unfortunately, people also felt like it was necessary to use race in the most exploitative ways possible.
We’ve already discussed reality show Black.White, Tyra Banks’ sending biracial writer Angela Nissel on dates as a black woman or a white woman (as if she isn’t both anyway), Oprah’s voyage on The Human Race Machine, Dr. Phil’s “curing” of the racist white man, Trading Spouses’ race-swapping episode, and all the hoopla over interracial relationships as a result of the movie Something New. But that was just the beginning.
Survivor played the ultimate race card when it announced that its idea of diversity was to have four racially segregated tribes: black, Hispanic, Asian and white. Jen and I went around doing our talking head thing, speaking out against this very bad idea. Jen also wondered, where would she and I end up if we were on this show? Would we have to double-team? Play for both the Asians and the whites? In the end though, something positive did come out of this whole ordeal. Yul Kwon won the competition, and we’re excited to see what will come from this very politically-minded Asian-American man. Also, the next season of Survivor appears to have another very diverse cast because the powers-that-be apparently realized that America is willing to watch non-whites on TV too. Shocker!
We’re always railing against oppression olympics on Racialicious – the way different communities compete with each other over who’s more oppressed. But Tyra Banks apparently decided it would be a good idea to find out once and for all who has it the worst when it comes to racism and discrimination! The show was just as absurd as you’d imagine it would be. And if memory serves, the episode ended with audience members holding hands and swaying. Oh that Tyra, she’s such a healer.
The dirtiest race-baiting tactics, however, were definitely found in the political sphere in 2006. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but just some of the incidents we covered on Racialicious. Florida congressional candidate Mark Flanagan aired a commercial promoting racial profiling and was quoted as saying “We’re at war, and if we’re going to win, we are going to have to abandon all political correctness.” Illinois’s Bob Flider went with a TV spot that had Indians and Chinese endorsing his opponent because he would outsource American jobs and benefit them. Minnesota’s Jeff Johnson ran a commercial warning people against identity theft, and apparently decided that the big bad identity thief was an American Indian man. Anti-affirmative action activist Ward Connerly was caught on tape singing the praises of the KKK: “If the Ku Klux Klan thinks that equality is right, God bless them. Thank them for finally reaching the point where logic and reason are being applied instead of hate.” But Harold Ford Jr.’s bid for the Tennessee Senate was by far the most racialicious ride of all: from the kerfuffle surrounding his revelation that his grandmother was white, to the New York City public relations firm that called Ford a “Southern sellout” who had a severe case of “jungle fever,” from Corker darkening up a photo of Ford, to the now-infamous miscegenation TV spot .