Are race-y issues heating to a boiling point? Yesterday, Chinese-South Africans were given a surprising notification: according to a high court they're not any sort of Asian — they're actually black. The classification is supposed to make them eligible for government affirmative action policies aimed at making amends for apartheid. The term "black" also refers to Indians, making it a confusing system of taxonomy when instead of race, it seems they really mean to describe oppression.
Like the South African court, July's issue of Italian Vogue is making a black statement of its own. Aiming to call attention to and reverse the pattern of a dearth of darker faces in fashion, the magazine's upcoming issue only depicts black models. The photographer of the issue says of the decision to make the statement, “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination. It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place."
Perhaps Vogue's point is a good one: certainly the inclusion of minorities in television is a pale example. According to an Entertainment Weekly study of scripted programming, casts for the upcoming fall 2008 season, each of the five major broadcast networks is whiter than the Caucasian percentage (66.2 percent) of the United States population. The only minority character anchoring a new series on a major network is a cartoon: Cleveland Brown from The Family Guy will get his own spinoff. No word if he gets the biggest dressing room.
The creators of the Obama-shaped monkey toy (or monkey-shaped Obama toy?) ran a letter in the Salt Lake Tribune criticizing the public uproar over the doll. To see what they said,
The creators said:
TheSockObama politically plush toy has been discriminated against in the marketplace of the United States of America. . . . The questions we still find perplexing are; is America really ready for change? . . . Are we now censoring one another's liberty as Americans to freely purchase goods and services on our own terms? Is this the kind of America we want?
What's the happy racial utopia? Do we allow any and all comments and depictions like the SockObama because it's a question of liberty and equality? Do we push for complete homogeny to make an argument about the lack of diversity like Italian Vogue, and should we press television and media to make sure we see an accurate depiction of the full spectrum of humanity? Do we need to ignore specific racial labels to make sure all of those oppressed minorities benefit like the "black" Chinese in South Africa?
Has racism been erased — or just become a chameleon?