Race, Minorities, Entertainment and Political Correctness

It seems racism is alive and well — at least that’s what’s being shouted from the hills in the wake of No Doubt’s latest music video Lookin’ Hot. Before anyone even knew it was a thing, however, the group (or it’s representatives) pulled the video from all major music video websites and fans were victim to the PC Troll.

But what exactly does this say about so-called modern society when something like this not only gets made, but made a martyr for a cause? Amy and I had a very interesting conversation about the historical ramifications of racism and its impact on entertainment and mainstream media’s treatment of ethnicity as a whole.

Amy: We’ve got tons and tons of racial stuff to talk about! are you ready with your snacks and your cookies to calm you down?
Camiele: Dude… let’s do this because I don’t even know where to begin with this video… haha

[iframe src=”https://player.yinyuetai.com/video/player/542267/v_0.swf” width=”480″ height=”334″ /]

Amy: So, guys! we’re here to talk about the latest No Doubt music video and dish about all racial stuff we can come up with.
Camiele: Is it like the In thing to try to find the easiest way to offend people?
Amy: I don’t think it’s the “in” thing, I think there’s a huge huge wave of political correctness… did you find the MV racist or just a bit silly?
Camiele: You know what, I think a combination of both. I’m 60% native american (my dad’s mom was blackfoot). so the thought of this very white very blonde woman portraying some sort of captured Indian princess had me a bit… O.o daFUQ? If it weren’t for the fact that it was completely ridiculous, I think I might have taken more offense to it.
Amy: But a similar thing happened to Gwen with the Harajuku girls, no? She made it a thing to have her Asian girls around, no? I don’t recall anyone pulling out the Hollaback Girl MV xD

Camiele: Well, I think the fact that these ladies were ACTUALLY Asian and, for all intents and purposes, ACTUALLY Harajuku may have been the reason for that.
Amy: Yeah, but there’s been opinions that Asian, especially women, are often portrayed as tokens to be displayed. Having Harajuku girls around didn’t help one bit…
Camiele: That’s true, but what this sort of borders is on “black face,” I suppose. I know actual natives felt really disrespected like their culture was just something to satirize for the sake of entertainment.
Amy: So it seems Gwen Stefani is a repeat offender… Do you think that if Beyonce would have done the Indian get-up, it would have been considered offensive?
Camiele: Well, Beyonce at one point “painted” herself, well… put on extra dark makeup, to appear to be darker. I recall LOTS of women were very offended by it. Was there a big fuss from the Asian community about the Harajuku ladies?
Amy: The Asians didn’t care much for the Harajuku girls, but some of the negative comments on it were by Asian Americans or non-Asians. I don’t think Asians care much for Gwen Stefani or No Doubt. xD do you think she’s an easy target because she’s a blond woman?
Camiele: I think there’s such a deep seated stigma with white Americans and racism that, yes, Gwen for that fact alone makes herself an easy target.

Camiele

As unexpected as my path was to loving all things weird, more unexpected is my ability to get attention for writing about the stuff.

13 Responses

  1. long comment ahead!
    I think an easy rule to go by is that if you treat a culture only as a costume, it’s probably inappropriate.
    Oh my gosh skin whitening creams. In the Philippines and in Filipino stores here in the USA, they use green papaya and placenta in the products. Colonialism really messed Pinoys up. That’s why Lucy’s Liu’s comments on a late night show (http://chrryblssmninja.tumblr.com/post/33765558534) were offensive, even though I think it’s just not thinking through words/unconscious internalized colorism on her part. Her apology afterwards just said that “the comments were taken out of context,” but in context, you wonder, why is being mistaken for dark her first reason for wanting to run indoors? I still watch her work, because she is talented and we all make dumb comments, but I can’t really fangirl her anymore because her comments were just so specific for my Filipina side.
    Japan’s race problems- from what I’ve heard and studied: treating the Ainu much like the USA treated Native Americans, looking down on darker-skinned Okinawans, discriminating against Koreans and Chinese and emphasizing the superiority of the Yamato race (which more or less came from Korea). I’m all for cultural pride, but not when it turns into hurtful racial superiority. The government recently paid Brazilian immigrants to go back home, even given the long history of immigration between Japan and Brazil. One of my (white American) friends who lived in Japan experienced some anti-gaijin discrimination- stores refusing to serve her even though she could understand perfectly what they said behind her back. Other friends and family of various nationalities and appearances who live/lived there said that they’re fine and haven’t experienced any major discrimination. It’s a mixed bag in most countries, I guess.
    I actually saw Roger Ebert on TV when he said “Birth of a Nation” was a top movie. He said that the content’s message is horrible but he picked it for the techniques Griffith used and how that particular movie was a major moment in American filmmaking. I’d say it’s a pretty important movie given its place in Hollywood history, although I don’t feel like watching it because I just don’t want to. I think he agreed with the other critic with him, who said that it’s worth watching once to see the cinematic craft, but that the message is so disgusting that you never want to watch it again.
    The thing about Tonto is that the actor who played him in the original TV show he snuck jokes in the dialogue that only people who knew his language would understand. So, within a stereotypical role, he put some subversive content. Hollywood argues that for major movies they pick “name” actors over other actors that are more ethnically suited for the role, but how can non-white actors become “name” actors with so few chances to even play a role they fit ethnic/accent-wise? If they’re excluded by the casting calls where they’d have the chance to prove their acting qualifications for a role against other candidates? This is a general chart I found last night about casting calls in Hollywood: http://wasikowskas.tumblr.com/post/35717622895/casting-practices-in-hollywood-bahstudios
    Representation is important for two reasons: jobs and showing that people with these names and these faces are worth telling stories about.
    but yeah, erasing any offensive content is exactly what you said- trying to sanitize the past or present and remove knowledge about what people had (or still have) to struggle against.
    Alright I should stop my rambling or else I won’t get anything done.

    • amy says:

      @Diandra Rodriguez, I sometimes scan the random casting calls on the American film circle newspapers, and I never find anything that would suit me hahahaha… like, I’m ‘incastable’ xD no roles for big-back short asian girls with clipped hair who can only do latin american accents.

      I think all minorities suffer in any country they would be a minority (middle easterns in Europe, Asians in America, whites and blacks in Asia… though I’m uncertain of white discrimination in Africa – does it happen?). Even though Peru has a relatively large Asian minority (and we even had a president of Japanese ascendancy), there’s never been a serious Asian-Peruvian actor. There’s one comedian known as El Chino Yufra, but his comedic act really borders on yellowface, but it really just doesn’t seem to bother anyone. I actually didn’t hear of blackface or yellowface well after I left Canada. I actually don’t know a term for those in Spanish… as a minority, I hadn’t really been teased maliciously (except for the random “chinese” Turning Japanese tune now and again) down here. However, I do remember one day walking down Vancouver for lunch, some white motorbike dude yelled at me to “go back to China.” and I just responded saying I was fraking Peruvian, so there you go. LOL

      I always thought Lucy Liu is at a weird spot, because she only seems to belong to Asian Americans since I really don’t know any Asian who like her coz they say she’s ugly. And I remember I always thought that interesting, but from her comments she seems to have that same way of thinking that Chinese/Korean/Japanese people have of the pearly white skin, which is perpetuated across south east asia because the industry perpetuates this image in not only commercials, but also tv shows and movies.

      I don’t think Peruvians are obsessed with their paleness- I think latinos are obsessed with their tans still, but we sure have that severe wanting of being Spaniard or European descent haha. It is often said that Peruvians worship the ground Argentineans walk on (loads of imported stars we have) because they’re like European, and Argentineans want to be European instead of Latinos.

      The other day I read a comment talking about the Latina wife of a black actor, and they we’re like “he is married to a white woman!” while the others corrected them saying the woman was Latino, and then the fight began coz the other person kept saying “but she’s a white latino, hence white” and someone else added that even though Latinos or more specifically black latinos would call her white, Americans would call her Latina. I was like “fakkkkkkk, race is complicated” xD

      It always bothers me when forms ask you to tick your race option, and I always tick the “other” option coz I never feel like I’m Latino or Asian. And if they ask for specification, I state “Latin-Asian”

      • Camiele says:

        @amy, That conversation about Latinos being White and so on… I’ve heard it over and over and over again.

        Race is complicated because it’s a manmade construction. “Race” is such an ambiguous term. It’s not “color” nor is it “ethnicity”. It’s some weird hybrid of the two that has nothing to do with heritage or actual physical description, rather supposed traits and historical characteristics based on what a dominating class of people considered part in parcel with certain groups of people. “Race” suggests social norms associated with someone’s skin color and their ethnic background.

        And it gets even muddier when you add to it people’s prejudices. This conversation I bet was more a commentary on the fact that Black men will always go for a woman who’s light. It’s a sign of “finally making it,” a status symbol. So, on the one hand, you’ve got one person who finds it another means of demeaning Black women to marry someone who’s light enough to be White, while you’ve got someone making the argument that Latinas are closer to being Black because of their ethnic heritage. In that sense, race becomes nothing more than a means to differentiate “White” from “Other.”

        Yeah… this shit’s deep and complex and just RIFE with historical implications.

  2. amy says:

    Btw, Cam~ I asked my mother about the history of blacks and chinese down here, and she told me something very interesting about why there must be some bitter feelings from Chinese towards black people in Peru. So back when black slaves were freed, all of a sudden people realized they had no one to work the guano islands and other farm chores, so they brought chinese as coolies – you know, through lies and later by kidnapping – and she said that some of the black slaves that had kept their jobs at their workplace, they became the supervisors of the coolies that arrived and gave the same treatment they received to the chinese, who were as well kept in chains and stuff.

    I actually recently read an article that said that when Chile was on its way to invade Peru – they made it pretty far, that Chinese coolies joined their army against Peru — which is completely understandable given their condition and treatment. Funny thing is, we never learned anything about this in school (and I was in private Chinese-Peruvian school! LOL) So education is really… I don’t want to say white-washed, but it’s really deluded to only teach you key facts about our history.

    • Camiele says:

      @amy, I would definitely say history in schools is white-washed. No getting around it. White men wrote the history books that every school reads. Anything remotely pointing to them doing anything to degrade anybody is either glozed over or ignored completely.

      You know what, I didn’t know that about Blacks vs. Chinese. It’s sad and completely unforgivable. But you look at how all power over their own humanity was taken from them and suddenly they’ve got these “new kids on the block” who were in their positions. The learned behaviour is to demean those who are meant to be lower than you on the totem pole. It all goes back to the same thing: you teach hatred, no one is born with it. It’s no different than Black policemen in the Jim Crow South making Black people out to be criminals and scapegoats to please their White “superiors”. A disgusting practice that gets passed down every generation. The rate of black on black crime is STAGGERING!

      Racism is about power: when given power, Blacks did the exact same thing their White superiors did (and continued to do after their so-called freedom) — make whoever was next in line suffer. Both parties were still considered nothing more than property, barely human. Except Blacks were given this imagined power and used it to degrade other human beings. It’s a disgusting vicious cycle.

      And because history is white-washed, Blacks don’t know about their history and how they made other races suffer. They don’t know where the hatred stems from, and therefore just allow the cycle of hatred to continue. But regardless of history or ignorance, there’s no excuse for acting out your hatred/fear/supposed power and kicking down ANY human being, regardless of ethnicity or social status.

      • amy says:

        @Camiele, Oh, and there was this other bit I heard while watching the Enter the Dragon DVD (zing!), I think they were talking to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about his involvement with Bruce Lee and they talked about the history that black americans as chinese americans have, and that black americans were the first to get into martial arts and that both communities got along of sorts. I haven’t seen the DVD extras in so long, I can’t really remember it. But you should definitely check it out.

        • Camiele says:

          @amy, Yeah, I’ve seen that. That is interesting. Not completely surprising, but it was interesting to note. You’ve got two groups of minorities who know all about the struggle to survive in “Whites Only” America learning something as steeped in history and culture as martial arts. If only that sense of community and togetherness was as strong now/stretched beyond just the commodity (because, let’s be real, in America, anything from Southeast Asia is considered nothing more than a bit of entertainment for the Western masses).

          It just goes back to one simple question: Can’t we all just get along?

  3. Yay Latinasians! Being Filipina-Puerto Rican-American, I’m glad I lived in an area where I could comfortably be all my identities, except for those tests and (optional) race profile questions on applications that ask for “What race do you identify with the most?” “Other” for me too. People have thought I was Asian Indian, or start talking to me in Spanish in English-language-dominant situations, English in Spanish-language-dominant situations, or even in Mandarin once.
    Race is complicated! And yeah, perceptions can vary so much. I can’t remember whether it was Roselyn Sanchez or Sofia Vergara who dyed her blonde hair black so she’d look more Latina for American casting calls.
    haha I totally know about the Argentinean~European thing.
    I’m surprised that happened in Vancouver! Then again, Canada had a difficult history regarding policies on immigration from China, and they also put Italians in internment camps during WWII.

    • amy says:

      @Diandra Rodriguez, it didn’t help that at that time people were talking about the Asianification of downtown Vancouver. In general, though, Chinese immigration has been… complicated in history everywhere, I think.

      And your Latina anecdote is Sofia Vergara’s one. She said her natural hair is lighter, and casting agents weren’t buying it so she dyed it to be “more Latina” and I think it’s both ways. I don’t think Latinos would identify as much with her if she had stuck with the blond hair. Which reminds me of that time she was at a Peru/Colombia storm because of the Modern Family joke where she said something along the lines of goat-tripping and street-killing “like we’re Peruvians,” [1][2]which I took as hilarious and well-played, but a lot of people who didn’t watch the show found insulting.

      I think… a lot of political correctness has gone overboard in America, though.

      • @amy, haha, yeah, people can cross the line from “being respectful” to “being ridiculously careful” so much that sometimes their attempts to be inoffensive end up offensive again. I think it’s because of all the multi-cultural history and rapid-fire litigation here- companies and institutions and people rush to cover all bases in order to save money and make money, often without really understanding what they’re doing.

        • Camiele says:

          @Diandra Rodriguez, Racism IS profitable. It’s never gonna go away because there’s too much money to be made on it either way (through being too PC or being over the top offensive).

  4. ghost says:

    Here’s another one for race sensitivity, a female character who has been often referred to as a “b*tch” for 85% of her show’s running was told off by a character, whom she has recently back-stabbed, with a simple comment of “taking you back to Cuba.” Suddenly, forums are sensitive. It seems fictional characters, even if they’re not supposed to be good people, aren’t allowed to be racially offensive any longer. Here’s a woman who’s been called a B*tch forever, and people get offended when she’s told to go back to Cuba… in a moment of not normal conversation… in fiction.

    Why don’t we just all watch My Little Pony?

    Phew. I got that out.

    Good topic on this. Just a little more on white people- we/they fight all the time too, and whites discriminate whites too… just look at how non-Eastern-Europe nations in Europe see Eastern-Europeans, or even how they or even the Russians (or Italians… and even English, though their stereotypical traits aren’t all that bad? Italian lover… lover of food, or sexy super posh spy?) get stereotypical casting in your favorite Hollywood movies or shows. So it really isn’t a race thing, but a nationality issue perhaps. There’s a whole generation around the world that grew up watching American movies where USA = Good, Russia = Bad, and both are white people. Movies like Red Dawn… or its latest remake aren’t helping one bit either.

    It’s an Us against the World issue. With any country or ethnicity.

    • amy says:

      @ghost, well… stereotypes come from prejudice, so I guess? Is there such a thing as “socially accepted prejudices”??? Like… is it somehow okay to think Italians and Russians are from the mafia? Like… when thinking about the mafia, I would first think of Italians… and Russians and then the Yakuza and then the Triads. Then again, is it because I have been more exposed to the Italian mafia in movies?

      I remember my mom told me she grew up thinking the Americans were the heroes, because… well, movies were all American. So they were naturally the good guys. Don’t we all grow up thinking that way because we are exposed to Hollywood? So it’s completely true that a nation can build itself on its soft power… on this day and age. Pop culture as a propaganda tool? xD

      A lot of people must be hating on Canada for giving the world Justin Bieber.

      ANYWAY~ like I said above, I think all minorities (not only non-whites, but whites in non-whites territories as well) are either underrepresented or badly represented. Not only in Chinese films, whites — specifically Brits — are usually one-dimensional evil foreigners (quite understanding with historical background, at times), but even when you watch an English movie featuring a random American character, these are often blond bombshells who have little gray matter (Love Actually comes to mind) or just dumb… because well, “Americans are dumb” is also a prejudice. What’s the other white prejudices… French people are snotty? They stink? Sighs… I was even told that non-Parisienne French don’t like the Parisienne coz they’re extra snotty or something. LOL I guess there’s also a capital/non-capital rivalry… like city/non-city people. SO MANY ISSUES IN THE WORLD. xD

      So… usually, city people talk about prejudice and discrimination… telling people that uneducated people are usually like this, but then we show a trailer park hick and it’s okay? Man, it sucks to be human.

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