The intent doesn’t matter, what matters is how people feel. I think this is really important to remember whenever someone calls out someone else’s racism (because usually people don’t admit that they’re racist themselves). In addition, most people who are racist, when they get called out on it, say that that’s racism. People think acknowledging race, is racism. People are more conscious about being called racist than actual institutionalized racism.
There were two controversies this year that led to the internet to the edge. The first one was the GAP Kids ad; it illustrated a tall white girl resting her elbow on a shorter black girl’s head. This was racist because it mimics so many historical photos of white people using black people as objects. It adds to white people seeing people of color as nothing more than a place to put their arms. A GAP Kids ad from the early 00s showed the racial reverse. Of course, this one is not racist because for the last time, white people cannot experience racism. Perhaps prejudice, but never institutionalized racism. I have no idea how the ad from this year made it through hundreds of people working at GAP without a single person questioning it. Maybe people were afraid to call out race because they think that’s racism and would lead to people labeling them a racist. These products aren’t created in a bubble, people know the racial climate, but it was released anyway. Again, it doesn’t matter if you didn’t think it was racist personally, what matters are that some people did find it offensive, and you should respect their feelings. The people in the ad could have been oblivious, but that doesn’t change how people viewed it. GAP issued an apology for the photo.
The second photo was published by Ellen Degeneres. It was of her riding Usain Bolt with the caption “this is how I’m doing errands from now on.” Many people called her out of being racist while some defended her. She didn’t issue an apology to those she offended, but she did say she was aware of the racial climate in this country, and therefore, would never do something intentionally racist. But again, the intention doesn’t matter. If people found it wrong then she should apologize and be respectful of them. Same thing goes for Jennifer Lawrence and her “butt scratching” on sacred Hawaiian rocks. Speaking of which, fuck Emma Stone who white washed an Asian American role and never apologized. Race is visible. We have to stop hiding from it and saying that things aren’t race issues when they clearly are. Even if race wasn’t the predominant factor or motive, it might have been the secondary or third one. So before you do something that you might think someone will see as racist, don’t. Or be prepared for the “backlash” that ensues.
21 year old English major and ESL Teacher. Currently living in Fortaleza, Brazil. Feminist and kill joy with a cause.