Category Archives: colour-face

‘No Light, No Light': White Supremacy all dressed up in a pop video is still White Supremacy

By Guest Contributor Julia Caron

Florence + the Machine released the latest video this past Friday, for “No Light No Light,” the third single from their new album Ceremonials. Since frontwoman Florence Welch is known for her theatrical music video productions, the clip was eagerly awaited by her fans.

The video, directed by Iceland-based duo Arni & Kinski, has already garnered over 800,000 views on Youtube, in addition to generating countless responses over the images in the video. It’s actually slightly astounding how much racist imagery they managed to pack into just four minutes and 15 seconds.
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Open Letter to the PocaHotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween

by Guest Contributor Adrienne Keene, originally published at Native Appropriations

Dear Person that decided to dress up as an Indian for Halloween,

I was going to write you an eloquent and well-reasoned post today about all the reasons why it’s not ok to dress up as a Native person for Halloween–talk about the history of“playing Indian” in our country, point to the dangers of stereotyping and placing of Native peoples as mythical, historical creatures, give you some articles to read, hope that I could change your mind by dazzling you with my wit and reason–but I can’t. I can’t, because I know you won’t listen, and I’m getting so tired of trying to get through to you.

I just read the comments on this post at Bitch Magazine, a conversation replicated all over the internet when people of color are trying to make a plea to not dress up as racist characters on Halloween. I felt my chest tighten and tears well up in my eyes, because even with Kjerstin’s well researched and well cited post, people like you are so caught up in their own privilege, they can’t see how much this affects and hurts their classmates, neighbors and friends.

I already know how our conversation would go. I’ll ask you to please not dress up as a bastardized version of my culture for Halloween, and you’ll reply that it’s “just for fun” and I should “get over it.” You’ll tell me that you “weren’t doing it to be offensive” and that “everyone knows real Native Americans don’t dress like this.” You’ll say that you have a “right” to dress up as “whatever you damn well please.” You’ll remind me about how you’re “Irish” and the “Irish we’re oppressed too.” Or you’ll say you’re “German”, and you “don’t get offended by people in Lederhosen.” Continue reading

Blacking It Up: Hip Hop, Race and Identity

By Guest Contributor VC, cross-posted from Postbourgie

Not long ago I had the pleasure of seeing a documentary released by California Newsreel entitled Blacking Up: Hip-Hop’s Remix of Race and Identity by filmmaker Robert Clift. The film opens by taking us on a kind of behind-the-scenes look at white american suburban culture in a way that mass media rarely does.

We see high school dance team routines that include bandanas and hip-hop-inspired choreography. We’re introduced to white people who have dealt with harassment from their white peers for allegedly  “acting” black. We hear from personalities of different occupations and opinions (from Paul Mooney to Russell Simmons) concerning their thoughts on race in hip-hop and the ways in which white participation plays into the racial history of music in America. It is basically an entertaining and very well-thought-out exploration of the racial, residential and historical aspects that influence how we begin to consider the complex and ever-enduring question of where to “draw lines” when discussing white enjoyment and/or consumption of black cultures. Continue reading

Re-enter Charlie Chan?

By Arturo R. García

As Angry Asian Man noted this week, the images of Warner Oland playing Charlie Chan are associated with a side of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” it would prefer nobody remember. Oland, who played Chan in was arguably the face of Yellowface in the 1930’s, playing not only the “Honorable Detective,” but Fu Manchu in another film series. But a forthcoming book has renewed interest in both the character and the men who brought him to both the printed page and the silver screen.

Yunte Huang’s Charlie Chan: The Untold History of the Honorable Detective and his Rendezvous with American History tells the story of Chang Apana, a detective with the Honolulu Police Department who was the inspiration for Chan. As detailed in a review of the book by The New Yorker, Apana – son of a Chinese immigrant father and a native Hawaiian mother – was allegedly “discovered” in 1924, when novelist Earl Derr Biggers noticed his name in an arrest record in a Honolulu newspaper. Within two years after Chan’s first appearance, Huang writes, Chang was being called “Charlie Chan” around Honolulu. But the detective’s job went beyond the usual police beat:

One of Chang’s jobs was to capture lepers, for forced transport to a leper colony on the island of Molokai, to die. Hawaiians called leprosy mai pake, “Chinese sickness,” because it came to the islands in the eighteen-thirties, and appeared to have arrived with the Chinese. Chang got that scar above his right eye while trying to capture a Japanese man who had contracted leprosy and who, armed with a sickle, refused to be sent to Molokai, on a journey over what came to be called the Bridge of Sighs.

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Nudie Neon Indians and the Sexualization of Native Women

By Guest Contributor Adrienne K., originally published at Native Appropriations

Neon Indian is a hipster-indie band that has been gaining some notoriety as of late. They performed on Jimmy Fallon, and have been making the music festival circuit as well. Though the name annoys me, I hadn’t actually associated them with any cultural appropriation, since nothing I’ve read about the band references anything Native. I figured maybe they were talking about the other kind of Indian. Their name actually comes from (if you believe teh blogz) a make-believe band front man Alan Palomo (who is Latino) had in high school.

So, even if the name wasn’t a direct reference, and the band has avoided Native stereotypes (send me images if you find otherwise), you can’t control your fans (Clearly, as we saw with the Blackhawks and Flyers fans last week).

The fans in that picture above crashed the Neon Indian stage at the music festival Bonaroo (more music festivals and headdresses, of course), wearing headdresses, feathers, and pasties on their bare breasts. According to hipster runoff, this is how it went down:

And it got even stranger during a riveting, bulked-up version of “Deadbeat Summer,” when a crew of scantily-clad ladies wearing homemade feather headdresses (two of whom were fully topless with colorfully painted boobs) bounded onto the stage, seemingly by design, and cavorted around aimlessly, jiggling to the wistful musings about sunlit streets and a starlit abyss. Depending on your vantage point, it was either hilarious or pathetic, but Palomo just laughed and shrugged.

Apparently the girls jumped up there on their own, and it wasn’t actually part of the set at all.

Here’s another image of the girls:

(image source)

Yes, the headdresses are wrong. But what gets me even more is the topless/feather pasties part. There’s a legacy and history there that many people don’t know or understand.

Native women have been highly sexualized throughout history and in pop culture. There are any number of examples I can pull from, the “Indian Princess” stereotype is everwhere–think the story of Pocahontas, or Tiger Lily in Peter Pan, or Cher in her “half breed” video, or the land ‘o’ lakes girl, seriously almost any image of a Native woman that you’ve seen in popular culture. We’re either sexy squaws (the most offensive term out there), wise grandmas, or overweight ogres. But the pervasive “sexy squaw” is the most dangerous, especially when you know the basic facts about sexual violence against Native women:

  • 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime
  • 70% of sexual violence against Native women is committed by non-Natives

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Gene Luen Yang: Why I Won’t Be Watching the Last Airbender Movie

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man


Award-winning graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese is a huge fan of Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series. So when he found out the live-action movie adaptation would feature an all-white principal cast, he became one of the more vocal voices against the casting controversy.

With the movie’s release just over a month away, Gene has spoken out again against The Last Airbender (“the last stone from my slingshot on this topic”) — using a comic, of course — calling on folks to boycott the movie: Why I Won’t Be Watching The Last Airbender Movie. I’m re-posting it here:

Nicely done, Gene. To see more of Gene Luen Yang’s comic books (they’re great!) visit his website here. And for more information on The Last Airbender’scrappy casting choices, go to Racebending.com.

Frank Marshall: “We didn’t discriminate against anyone.”

By Guest Contributors Mike Le and Marissa Lee, originally published at Racebending.com

Last week, Frank Marshall released “original” casting documents for Paramount’s The Last Airbender film to UGO.com. He announced that a third-party “local extra casting entity” inserted the “Caucasian or any other ethnicity” casting breakdown language that was used in August 2008 on the production’s official audition materials–including the website and fliers–as well as on Actors Access and other casting call databases.

Marshall calls the casting language “poorly worded and offensive” and writes that Paramount and the production “take responsibility for not doing a more thorough job monitoring these frequently used third-party agents.” He also reports that Paramount has been “in regular dialogue” with Asian American advocacy groups “to ensure that such a mistake does not happen in the future.”

Almost a year ago, Marshall dismissed repeated fan concerns about a discriminatory bias within The Last Airbender’s casting process: “The casting is complete and we did not discriminate against anyone. I am done talking about it.”

A year later, comes Marshall’s justification: The production didn’t “intend” to discriminate–and these documents, pulled from the producer’s private files, are the proof.

Unfortunately, Marshall again misses the point. This isn’t about the “intentions” of the production – it’s about what actually happened: The production’s concrete actions.

We can absolutely discuss the production’s actions and the impact of those actions:

  • Action:
    In 2008, regardless of who drafted the language, the production released casting sheets for the principal roles with a clear preference for Caucasian actors. “Wanted: Caucasian or any other ethnicity.”

    Impact:
    The language used varies from standard ‘colorblind casting’ breakdowns which typically read “please submit all ethnicities.” Despite the fact that the characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender were all ethnically Asian and Inuit, the wording choice otherizes “other ethnicities” and specifies one ethnicity above all others. The casting breakdown impacts what actors are submitted and vetted for the lead roles.

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Campus Minstrelsy: On “Compton Cookouts” and More

By Guest Contributor Mimi Thi Nguyen, originally posted at Threadbared

Western discourses of beauty as coextensive with humanity, morality, and security bear long and bloody histories of undergirding imperial racial classifications. It is as such that the racial Other has often been found under the sign of the ugly –which is to say, the morally reprehensible, the sexually and spiritually threatening— as the limit of the human and the enemy of beauty. Both beauty and ugliness have civilizational dimensions, dividing and valuing peoples hierarchically.

In this way, the off-campus party, dubbed the “Compton Cookout” and designed as a deliberate mockery of Black History Month at the University of California, San Diego, aptly demonstrates the terrible legacy of this politics of beauty. (If you’re not sure what this event and the resulting furor are about, please see here and here.) The Facebook invitation featured detailed instructions to party-goers on how to enact caricatures of black racial deviancy via “ghetto” dress and a performance of ugliness-as-subhumanity:

February marks a very important month in American society. No, i’m not referring to Valentines day or Presidents day. I’m talking about Black History month. As a time to celebrate and in hopes of showing respect, the Regents community cordially invites you to its very first Compton Cookout.For guys: I expect all males to be rockin Jersey’s, stuntin’ up in ya White T (XXXL smallest size acceptable), anything FUBU, Ecko, Rockawear, High/low top Jordans or Dunks, Chains, Jorts, stunner shades, 59 50 hats, Tats, etc.

For girls: For those of you who are unfamiliar with ghetto chicks-Ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes – they consider Baby Phat to be high class and expensive couture. They also have short, nappy hair, and usually wear cheap weave, usually in bad colors, such as purple or bright red. They look and act similar to Shenaynay, and speak very loudly, while rolling their neck, and waving their finger in your face. Ghetto chicks have a very limited vocabulary, and attempt to make up for it, by forming new words, such as “constipulated”, or simply cursing persistently, or using other types of vulgarities, and making noises, such as “hmmg!”, or smacking their lips, and making other angry noises, grunts, and faces. The objective is for all you lovely ladies to look, act, and essentially take on these “respectable” qualities throughout the day.

The “Compton Cookout” continues in the American theater tradition of blackface minstrelsy. As nineteenth-century free blacks used dress and clothing to distinguish themselves as also human, blackface minstrel performances subjected this self-fashioning black person to ridicule and loathing. In this, and as evidenced by the above, the defamation of black style is absolutely crucial to the racist imagination. Continue reading