June 10, 2006

Opinion: Are Racist Images Still Considered Racist?

Over at Jazzymodels (which I reviewed on this site), a current discussion is brewing over a photo which has stirred quite a bit of controversy. An African-American female model with the stage name Aye Provide posted this photo on Model Mayhem (a modeling site that allows models to put up their resume and photos for free on their own page). A few members of the site took notice of the photo and began a discussion of it on their forum. The thread has since been closed by the moderators. A discussion based on that thread on Model Mayhem has begun on the Jazzyville forum since some of the members belong to Model Mayhem and have taken part in the discussion.

The concern that I and many people of any race would have is that the photo represents the worst stereotype of the African-American culture. In the past, white entertainers would put on makeup to give the apperance of being black. To add insult to the whole performance, the same performers would pretend to be what this nation thought of blacks — lazy, passive, and forever happy (with smiles and all) to remain that way.

Many years after its original release, The Birth of a Nation is considered something of a cult classic because of its controversial imagery of African-Americans as idiot savants in a largely white-dominated world. Although time has passed since the inital furor, the movie sells well on Amazon with several selections available. In film schools, the movie is also discussed and broken down despite its racial overtones.

The impact of this photo might not even be the content itself, but that the person doing it gleefully copies the expressions of the two blackface statues below her face. The only thing that would make this photo even worse would be if a chicken was in the mouths of both of the statues since that was another stereotype that was created for blacks. Offensive racist images of the past, while considered art to some, are still ugly reminders of the past. To ask for complete acceptance in the name of creativity is too much to ask for anyone of color – or any ethnic group for that matter, myself included.

Perhaps the biggest reason people don't pay these images any mind is a matter of the times. Whites and blacks marry each other and even have kids together. Network television, largely owned by whites, accept blacks into largely white shows and even allow them to make shows for a black audience. Hell, we even now get houses and apartments that were not available to us. "Why get upset over a single image?" is the answer that some would give. Not I.

Does anyone remember this image of Ted Danson wearing blackface makeup? This took place at a Friar's Club roast for Whoopi Goldberg on October 8, 1993, which apparently was allegedly suggested by Whoopi herself. I'm sure that if anyone thought this would make a fun joke at a largely black audience, the individual would up come missing for awhile.

But history forgave Danson, which must be how he wound up with Becker

As for the model who took the photo, she was probably having the hardest time trying to explain why she took it. Some have commented on her page that she took a bold step in pushing the envelope and being creative while doing it. I’m sure that’s what Dave Chappelle thought he was doing with Chappelle's Show, until he later allegedly admitted that some of his content was a bit too stereotypical. Will that same thought occur to this person as well? I highly doubt it, and that’s okay because it’s her mind and her right to think there isn’t anything wrong.

I would be interested in hearing the thoughts of 'net users everywhere on what this photo means to you and if it’s offensive (whether you are black or not). I certainly think it will arouse various opinions on what is considered racist and what isn’t.

Posted by Matthew at June 10, 2006 01:11 PM | TrackBack
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