Santa Clara University students mock Latinos with “South of the Border Party”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The latest racist campus party comes to us from California’s Santa Clara University, where students decided to um, honor their Latino brothers and sisters by throwing a”South of the Border Party.” Students dressed up as janitors, female gangsters and pregnant women. (Hat tip to Rachel and thanks to Susan too!.) From the Contra Costa Times:

Photographs taken at the private, off-campus party and splashed on Internet sites reveal a crude and narrow portrayal of Latino life. One student hammed it up before the camera with a stuffed balloon on her belly, under her blouse. Another posed for a close-up shot of her puckered mouth, thickly lipsticked and lined in black. One student wore a janitorial costume complete with the long, rubber gloves commonly used to clean bathrooms.

Students have already begun organizing responses to this party. From The Santa Clara, the school’s student paper:

MEChA and La Communidad Latina both held special meetings to address the issue, while the MCC organized a silent march to Locatelli’s State of the University speech.

At least 250 students, faculty members and administrators of many ethnicities gathered in support and walked through campus behind a banner that read, “In unity there is strength.”

Supporters wore orange armbands and orange ribbons. Aguas said in her e-mail advertising for the march that orange symbolizes anti-racism.

“It’s not a particular party, nor a particular person, but addressing the whole issue of having theme parties that reinforce negative stereotypes,” Aguas said.

She cited other parties, including one in November 2006 with a “Fresh off the Boat” theme in which attendees were encouraged to dress as a new immigrant. At publication, pictures from that party were still on Facebook.

links for 2007-02-22

Real women (of color) have curves

by guest contributor Latoya Peterson

Robin Givhan, the fashion editor for The Washington Post, frequently peppers her columns and blogs with a unique perspective on how to interpret the passing fads of the fickle fashion industry. Last Friday’s column was no exception.

Titled “Rounding off Their Figures,” Givhan discusses the emergence of a new trend: fuller figured women gaining space on magazine covers and in product advertisements. This is especially interesting when juxtaposed with all the attention the fashion industry has received for creating and perpetuating unrealistic standards of thinness.

However, Givhan discovers one interesting thing that all of the fuller figured cover girls, models, and spokeswomen have in common. She writes:

The one thing that connects these three curvaceous women, other than their celebrity, is that they are women of color. On them, curves are acceptable.

While women such as actress Kate Winslet, who is white, have talked about not giving in to a Hollywood culture that demands they be super slim, it seems that only African American and Latina actresses really get away with extra pounds, or even just a round bottom. See: Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, “Ugly Betty’s” America Ferrera and “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Chandra Wilson and Sara Ramirez.

One could argue that these women, each one quite pretty, are not considered part of the mainstream — their ethnicity is still a regularly used modifier in their professional lives. They stand just a little apart, so they are exempt from adhering to mainstream definitions of beauty. They set their own standards. But being judged by a different set of rules can be both liberating and vexing.

Givhan continues in the article proposing that while all women fret about weight and diet issues, there is a smaller, more vocal contingent of women of color who are able to love and accept themselves even if their weight falls far outside of mainstream standards of beauty. These women have created an entire counterculture where big is beautiful, and have seen their efforts start edging into film and media. Givhan sees these changes as positive, but warns:

There is also the stereotype of the large black woman as the diva-like sexpot: strong, aggressive and entitled. See: the comedian Mo’Nique. There is always the looming danger of taking that caricature into destructive and demoralizing territory — black women as oversexed, or black women as impenetrable, or obesity as healthy. But that iconic image has established that big can be beautiful and desirable — at least when it comes to women of color.

She concludes the article by saying:

The larger culture has not bought into that opinion, but it seems to have been swayed. Roundness is more accepted of black women because they are more accepting of their own curves.

This article was not just provocative because of Givhan’s excellent analysis – more seemed to be revealed about our cultural attitudes about beauty and weight by examining what was not in the article, and the comments posted to the article by readers. Continue reading

links for 2007-02-21

Check out the 9th Erase Racism Carnival!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The Erase Racism Carnival is a collection of blog posts dedicated to creating a world free of racism. The Carnival is published around the 20th of every month.

Check out the latest installment, hosted by Writeous Sister Speaks.

By the way, many of you may not know this, but I’m the first woman of mixed Belgian and Chinese heritage to start a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Yes, it was quite a historical milestone. So don’t give up on your dreams! They really do come true!

Also, I’m not fat.

Tyra Banks recreates her Sports Illustrated cover – for Black History, y’all

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Ever since those photos came out of Tyra Banks looking not very svelte in a bathing suit, it seems like she’s been obsessed with proving that she’s not fat.

You might have heard about the show she did a couple weeks back where she wore the same bathing suit that appears in the photo to prove that she’s not that fat. She even got her hands on the other photos taken at the shoot that day – the unretouched ones – to show how un-fat she was. But if she was that big, it would be ok, because large women are beautiful too, but she’s not, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but she’s not that large right now, but that’s not to say she may not look like that one day in the future and if she did, it would be totally cool, but you know, she just doesn’t look like that now. (That’s pretty much how the show went – I’ve never seen anything more self-contradictory in my life.) Here’s a clip:

But yesterday’s show just put me over the edge. I guess she wasn’t satisfied with her last I’m-not-fat attempt, so she decided to recreate her famous Sports Illustrated cover – pink polka-dot bikini and all.

As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, she actually had the balls to make this a Black History Month event! Because she was the first African-American swimsuit model to appear on the cover of SI, and “it enabled young women of color to realize that they CAN…DREAM…BIG!” Check out this video:

It was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. (And don’t even get me started on how badly Photoshopped the final product was.) At one point during the show, Tyra said that when that cover came out, a “Caucasian gentleman” told her that for the first time in his life, he felt it was okay for him to be attracted to black women, because he was taught growing up that they were taboo.

So basically, to Tyra, the fact that men of all races felt comfortable jerking off to that picture, was a moment to remember in Black History. What a milestone.

Well, I was inspired by Miss Banks’ courage, so I decided to do something special for all of you, the loyal readers of Racialicious.

As you might know, it’s Chinese New Year. What better way to honor 5,000 years of Chinese civilization than by recreating my historic Stuff magazine cover shoot? I managed to hunt down the same photographer, the same crew, the same brown bathing suit, we even went to the same spot on the same beach in Hawaii. I’m really pleased with how the photos came out. Have a look yourself. :)

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