Thursday, 10 March 2011

Pretending history didn't happen

This is one of those moments where I get all serious for a little bit. Racism is a sensitive subject and I ask that we please discuss this calmly here, I don't want to start a flame war, I just want to get my opinion over on this and I would like to hear your opinions too.


A few days ago Super Kawaii Mama managed to cause a massive stir in the Vintage Blogging community with this post (depending on where you work this might be NSFW).

Several commenters (quite rightly) pointed out that the figure is pretty damn racist, however I personally think some people have taken it to far.
Personally I wouldn't have that figure in my house, not because it's a racist stereotype but because it's pretty ugly in my opinion.
I do however have a miniature Gollywog and several items of memorabilia that imply the Scots and the Irish are all drunks.
These are all pretty old things, from times (now thankfully passed), when this kind of thing was common place, and if they were new and still being produced I would not want them, but they are pieces of history, they are here and they exist and I don't think they should be swept under the carpet out of embarrassment.

My opinion on this kind of thing can be pretty much summed up in one quote from Whoopi Goldberg (speaking about the racist episodes of Disney's Merry Melodies):

" The cartoons are products of their time and contain racial and ethnic stereotypes that, through modern eyes, would be considered offensive, but the cartoons are going to be presented on the DVD uncut and uncensored because editing them out and therefore denying that the stereotypes existed is almost as bad as condoning them in the first place."

Now that's just it as far as I'm concerned, yes Super Kawaii Mama's figure, my gollywog and my Irish and Scottish drunks (despite me have both Irish and Scottish Heritage) are racist, yes I'd be worried if they didn't squick people out even just a little bit, but destroying them or hiding them away would be a terrible thing, we need things like that to say to people "hey this is what happened, it was terrible, but it happened and we're better than that now."

Reading through the comments on the post, one that caught my eye was this one:

"HiredRose says:

March 8, 2011 at 10:42 am
Okay. So those of you spewing bile all over this blog and the comments, who, judging from the spelling and the rudeness are American – How many of you have gone into the corner cigar shop and abused the owner for owning and displaying a life-size Native American statue offering cigars, hmm? Or have you boycotted baseball because of the stereotypical caricatures of the mascots for the Atlanta Braves or the Fighting Irish? How many of your hometowns have high school mascots based on Native American caricatures?
Remember, a. things are different in other countries and things might not be as offensive to a native there as they obviously are to you, and b. there is a real, breathing, blinking, fallible woman on the other side of the screen who is sharing parts of her life with us, and being as rude as many of you have been is far more offensive to not only her, but to other readers than the blackamoor man was. And on top of it all, you MEANT to hurt her, which she never did.
Do us all a favor next time, and if you’re offended and don’t want to read the blog anymore, just don’t. Spare us all your spite."

I think she has a very good point, I know of at least three cigar shops in Edinburgh that have life sized, wooden, Native American Chief figure, in or standing outside of them, all three are antique and very popular with tourists of all nationalities to have their photographs taken beside, why has nobody tried to have those taken away?
A lot of sporting teams and food brands around the world use racist stereotypes as logos, television is full of stereotypes (think  of how people of different races are usually presented in sitcoms, black families almost always have a son who is into basketball and gangster rap, a daughter who wears skimpy clothing and is very materialistic, an overprotective, borderline psychotic father and a level headed working mother, Asian families often have a family member who works in a Take Away or corner shop, Irish families have at least one heavy drinker, the list goes on), these are things that are happening in the here and now, these are far more problematic than Vintage curios.
I was appalled a few years back when I visited Spain and spotted a brand of chocolate raisins that featured caractures of pig-mi tribal Africans (small fat bellies, giant mouths, loin cloths and waving spears) that I truly believe have no place on modern packaging.
I don't hear anybody complaining about those little Hawaiian Hula girl figures that are so popular with vintage enthusiasts, and those both caracture a race AND objectify women!
So in short my opinion is that people shouldn't be trying to pretend history didn't happen.
I'd like to hear your thoughts too.

4.    If you were to dress in drag, what would be your drag queen/drag king name? What kind of thing would you wear?

King Alexander Web, I'd wear Kodona (something I'm planning on trying as soon as I nail the Lolita look)

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