Thursday, June 18, 2009

national Reviews: Another pictorial attack on Sotomayor

And this time, the image attack is on Latinas, Latinos and East Asians (I'm being kind, if not accurate, by allowing that the artist would distinguish between the various Asian groups. After all, the popular racist notion is that "they all look alike."


The Huffington Post headline blares "National Review Perplexingly Depicts Sotomayor As Asian." The articles writer, Jason Linken, says"It seems that the National Review has confused their ethnic stereotypes, or their religions, or maybe they just wanted some sort of two-fer, because their 'Wise Latina' cover story presents Sotomayor as an Asian, in some sort of Buddhist pose." blogger writes, "Ah yes, porque a Puerto Rican can’t be wise draped in a Puerto Rican flag, eating a bacalaito, and shaking her big ass. And anyway that would be a Puerto Rican stereotype. Much better to use an East Asian physical stereotype and Asian model minority/smart stereotype, no?"

No, er, I men, yes! :) Better for the National Review to use an East Asian physical and "model minority" stereotype -- or so their editors thought. I don't think those wise white men (heh:) at the National Review are confused at all. I think they're (not so) effortless genius is the product of trying to dodge cries of "racism" by relying on "Asian" stereotypes -- and not stereotypes of Latinas/Latinos, which -- since Sotomayor's nomination for Supreme Court Justice -- a slightly broader audience of people in the U.S. appear to more readily take issue with (Maybe I'm giving non-Latina/Latina folks in the U.S. far too much credit here -- I'd love some feedback on this particular assertion). I mean, you can't represent black presidents as escaped gorilla's that get murdered by white police officers and you can't portray black presidential hopefuls as cartoon figures in traditional Arab dress and their life partners as militants doing the "terrorist fist bump" without a white man's job being threatened:) though not stripped from him. At least, National Review editors appear to think that racial/ethnic stereotypes of East Asians won't ruffle as many feathers. So, why not go with buddhist imagery! Makes total sense. Not. Generally speaking, I don't think most non-East Asian, non-Chinese, non-South Asian, and Central Asian folk living in the U.S. take offense to racist, sexist (etc.,) stereotypes of the aforementioned groups. Whereas, an obviously minstrelized depiction of a popular African American figure would elicit ire and intense criticism, minstrelized imagery of various Asian groups (as well as Middle Eastern, Muslim, Arab, and indigenous/Native American groups) would not lead most folks to bat an eyelid.

(I made up the word "minstrelized" :) Let me define minstrelsy for you -- or rather, I'll let Global Oneness define "minstrelsy" for you:)

"Popular entertainment perpetuated the racist stereotype of the uneducated, ever-cheerful, and highly musical black well into the 1950s....

Minstrel-show characters played a powerful role in shaping assumptions about African Americans. However, unlike vehemently anti-black propaganda from the time, minstrelsy made this attitude palatable to a wide audience by couching it in the guise of well intentioned paternalism.[64] Black Americans were in turn expected to uphold these stereotypes, or else risk white retaliation. Some were even killed for defying their minstrelsy-defined roles. Louis Wright, himself a black minstrel, died after being lynched and having his tongue cut out for cursing at some whites who had thrown snowballs at him.[65]"

Allow me to further support my claims:) about the widespread indifference with which racist portrayals of Arab peoples, Muslims, and indigenous/Native American people are met:

1) A popular, crude and staggeringly racist stereotype of indigenous/Native American people:

I mean -- seriously. I know how pervasive, insidious, and unexamined racism is by most white people -- but I still have a hard time believing that anyone -- even white folks:) -- could successfully convince themselves and then argue that this image is not racist and offensive, mainly to the group it targets. But, then again, the people who defend these types of images don't care about the views, feelings, or history of the groups that call for the abolition of them (this link presents you with an opportunity to sign a petition demanding the removal of the Cleveland Indians logo). And there is PLENTY of money to be made on people's indifference, lack of empathy, and conscious and unconscious and unexamined racism.

2) A MadTV skit -- brought to you by FOX Television! -- mocking Al Jazeera, a major news network, and important news source, owned and operated by Arab people for people in the Arab World:

Wow. This one hurts my heart. And my gut. Arab caricatures chanting "Death to America" and MadTV's actors in blackface! God help us. ("blackface" is defined and discussed here)

3) Which is not to say that racist stereotypes of blacks and Latinas/Latinos aren't abound in the cultural mainstream -- they are -- and they are also routinely ignored -- by white folks and people of color, including blacks and Latinas/Latinos themselves, who occasionally are the creators of said images.

Tyler Perry's beloved Madea films are a fine example of that which I speak. Here's a clip from Madea Goes to Jail:

There's a lot more I could say about films like these that are made by black artists, do well in the box office with a multi-racial audience, provide opportunities for black actors and other black professionals in a white dominated entertainment industry, while also mobilizing racist stereotypes. The subject is a complex one. For brevity's sake, I will save that discussion for a separate blog post:)

Then there's Hancock:'s Latoya Peterson entitles her blog critique of this film: "Will Smith: Flip-Flop wearing, Alcoholic, White-Woman Chasing [Black] Superhero?" So, yeah, the films got its problems:)

And Tropic Thunder:

Actually, make that "fuck me." 

Cuz that's what this film does -- it discursively bends black folks over, and forces us to take it in the rear quite non-consensually.

I hate this fucking film. A festival of white racism in blackface packaged as post-racialhipster cool that excessively wealthy white men used to get even wealthier. Fuck that. 

But this blog started with a discussion of the National Review cover caricaturing Sotomayor and her statement that "I [Sonia Sotomayor] would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life."  The white boys really hate that one:) Her words should remind us where this all started for the Rush Limbaugh's, Sean Hannity's, and Bill O'Reilly's of the world. She -- this proud, brilliant, successful Latina -- pissed these white boys off. They and their fraternity of followers -- which include white women and a few folks of color -- are, subsequently, using their institutional power in the government and media to heap racist and sexist attacks on her.

As I've said before. She will be nominated. The Supreme Court's politics, and thus, the Court's verdicts and role in making federal policy will change. White supremacy, and it's footsoldiers -- however wealthy they are -- will not and cannot stop that.

Why is it important to identify, critique/discuss, and actively work to purge such imagery from the U.S.'s cultural, social, political and economic spheres?

Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology, provides a useful response to this question in a text he provided the Jim Crow Museum (an online source): "1) during the period of Jim Crow, 1877-1965, racist images of Blacks permeated American society as evidenced by the proliferation of anti-Black everyday items; 2) anti-Black caricatured items were used to support anti-Black prejudice and discrimination; and, 3) Jim Crow-like images are still being created and distributed."

It is useful to substitute Pilgrim's reference to "racist images of blacks" with a more general reference to "racist images of people of color" -- and his racially specific reference to "anti-black" imagery and prejudice with a racially specific reference to "anti-Latino/a" or "anti-Asian" or "anti-Arab" (etc) imagery and prejudice.

Racist images of people of color and prejudice against people of color is ubiquitous in U.S. society as is "evidenced by the proliferation" of everyday racist items that attack East Asians, the Chinese, South Asians, Central Asians, Middle Eastern peoples, indigenous/Native American groups, Latinas/Latinos, and blacks.


Julie said...

whoa, LeighAnne, you covered a lot of ground here...makes me miss you!! :-( but great analysis...

butchrebel said...

I miss you too, Jules:) And T (yourButch:) too. My Goddess T has sprung up like some well fed weed!! And he is Beautiful:) Thanks for reading; Thanks for commenting.

And thanks for influencing the trajectory of my social consciousness.

Anonymous said...

"Post-racial" is something you clearly fail to even BEGIN to understand.

Stop living in the past.

butchrebel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
butchrebel said...

"Post-racial" is a figment of the imaginations of people like yourself who fail to understand that such a concept CANNOT exist as long as institutional racism is so present, so very real. Institutional racism IS the "pre" and "post" to our existence.

I don't live in the past.

I am awake to the past.

I am awake to the present.

So, I can help make a new kind of future -- in so doing, I do my part to undoing institutional racism and institutional oppression, in general.

Take your blinders off, friend.

Get real.

And get clear.

Because clinging to a fiction like "post-racial" may make you feel better -- because it gives you permission to stay blind to your complicity in the oppression of others -- but it does nothing -- nothing to combat social injustice.