I Get Passionate About White-Washing in Hollywood and Write Much More Than I Should

hollywood white washed
Source: http://www.entertainmentfuse.com/10-times-hollywood-whitewashed-east-asian-roles/

I don’t actively buy magazines. I do, occasionally, pick up a gossip or fashion magazine to flip through when the opportunity presents itself like in the check-out aisle at the grocery store or in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. I think it’s more about having something to do rather than actually subscribing to whatever information is being thrown my way with high resolution photos of gorgeous people and large text graphics. And even as a ‘few and far between’ magazine reader, I can still see the obvious problem in the exclusion of people of color in magazines. So, what’s stopping avid or even regular magazine readers from recognizing this and acting on it?

It’s simple, Hollywood is white-washed. Regardless of your race, it’s impossible to deny that Hollywood is dominated by white people and people of other races have to claw their way up the social hierarchy. They have to fight in order to get auditions or photoshoots or job opportunities that fall into the laps of other white celebrities. Just as Ifemelu mentions, look across the covers of a dozen popular and mainstream magazines and you’re unlikely to find a person of color on the cover.

magazines
Source: http://vibeauty.blogspot.com/2011/06/wednesday-sights.html
essence
Source: https://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahgiorgis/black-herstory-month

Specifically non-white characters are being handed over to white actors, not only destroying the creative liberty of the piece but also even further limiting the opportunities of non-white actors. When people of color are considered for characters who everyone assumes are supposed to be white, protests explode all over the internet despite their hypocritical nature. People like Curt consider magazines like Essence to be ‘racially skewed’ because they attempt to provide people who aren’t white with some of the attention they deserve. TV shows or movies with decent characters that are played by people of color are considered ‘modern’ or ‘revolutionary’ because they’re proving that guess what: PEOPLE OF COLOR CAN ACT OR MODEL OR SING OR DANCE OR PERFORM JUST AS WELL IF NOT BETTER THAN WHITE PEOPLE CAN!!! Insane right?! We had to boycott the Oscars because they were excluding people of color, do you realize how insane that is? How hard is it to include everyone equally, to allow everyone the same opportunities and the same treatment? (This is why I’ll never understand racists.)

And there is no way that anyone can claim that people of  color ‘just aren’t as good’ at certain things like acting or singing. Have you seen some of the people of color who do manage to gain traction in Hollywood? Viola Davis, Diego Luna, Idris Elba, Rami Malek, Aja Naomi King, Aziz Ansari, Harry Shum Jr., Kerry Washington, Dev Patel, John Cho, freaking Beyoncé! The list goes on and on and I’m sure there would be waves and waves of other people of color who are phenomenal and extremely talented that will never have a shot at proving themselves because of how white-driven our society is!

I think the reason behind Hollywood clutching onto white-washing like a 50’s housewife clutching her pearls is because they’re afraid of what will happen if people of color actually start to get some positive attention or a platform from which they can speak and actually be listened to. Allowing people of color to become more prominent in Hollywood means opening society up to conversations on race that so many people are so desperate to avoid. And that’s crazy! Tying back to my Dinner Party post, I think it’s so important to have discussions on controversial topics like race and it’s impossible to do so in a mature setting if Hollywood is so insistent on ignoring the problem.

obama
Source: http://media4.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_10/233266/140306-obama-ukraine-briefing-jsw-124p_0c3a31d984edfa75eff6ee4b71292e98.jpg

To wrap this up, I’m going to quote Dike in the text he sent Ifemelu after Obama was elected President of the United States, “I can’t believe it. My president is black like me.” (447). That is why representation is so important. Not only is it encouraging discussion on race, it’s also providing security and hope to people of color, assuring them that they do matter and they are important regardless of white-washing. That even if they aren’t white, they can still suceed. It’s ok not to be white. We know that and it’s about time Hollywood acts on that.

That’s it for now.

[Note: I am so sorry, this got way longer than it was supposed to, whoops.]

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The Dreaded Dinner Party: Which Opinions to Reconsider Voicing Unless You Plan to Stand Your Ground

dinnerparty2
Source; http://fashionablehostess.com/host-dinner-party-kitchen-surfing/

I hate talking about anything remotely controversial with anyone I’m related to or anyone I don’t know well. Maybe it’s because I’m stubborn or because I have a tendency to argue passionately with anyone who disagrees with me. But, at the same time, I jump at the chance to argue and debate with friends or classmates. It’s most likely the setting of the conversations. Non-best friend get togethers usually involve sitting around a table, chowing down in the midst of debates (and there’s usually drinking involved in some way) where as friendly debacles occur in casual and comfortable settings with people you can act more loosely around without the fear of being condemned. And that brings us to the crux of this post: the Dreaded Dinner Party.

dinner party arguement.jpg

The Dreaded Dinner Party is rarely held by friends you’re comfortable with because if it was, there would be no need to include ‘Dreaded’ in it’s title. Usually it’s family members or neighbors or even coworkers. People who you see enough that it wouldn’t be strange to spend time in their house but who you wouldn’t spill every detail to. The Dreaded Dinner Party begins as any other meal would, with polite small talk while everyone plays catch-up. And then, as the meal progresses and the minutes pass, the conversation begins to transition into a debate. Opinions are tossed around without consideration as to how their listeners may react and differing views clash.

Here are a few topics common during the “Not So Happy Hour” of the Dreaded Dinner Party: politics, racism, sexuality or anything of the LGBT+ variety, sex (slut shaming, sex education, etc.), sex in the media, the media in general, foreign affairs, religion (especially when religious views are not unanimous among the group), drugs, immigration, the American education system, economics, terrorism, poverty or class in general, abortions, etc.

controversy
Source: http://charlesstone.com/the-controversy-behind-top-10-reasons-people-dont-tithe/

Personally, I find nothing wrong with healthy debates about any of the topics mentioned above and I believe these topics do need to be talked about in a mature environment. I’m not saying intellectual discussions can’t be had at dinners parties, I mainly saying that opening up to discussions about these “controversial” topics is also opening up to the possibility of a level of awkwardness if someone in the group shares an unpopular opinion. The dinner party Obinze attends is a prime example. He arrives, has pleasant conversation, eats some of his dinner and proceeds to have a very levelheaded conversation that includes a woman named Alexa who has opinions that both I and the others at the dinner party disagree with. These opinions jumpstart an interesting discussion on racism and America that leaves Obinze feeling uncomfortable and alienated.

I can usually see the reasoning behind opinions I disagree with but that doesn’t stop me from firing back. And because of that, I do feel certain topics can initiate heated debates that can spiral out of control if people aren’t smart with what they say (or if they drink a bit too much). Because of this, I am among many that fear the Dreaded Dinner Party.

That’s it for now.

The Paper Bag Test and SpongeBob SquarePants: How to Introduce Racism to Children

“Many churches, fraternities, and nightclubs used the “brown paper bag” principle as a test for entrance. People at these organizations would take a brown paper bag and hold it against a person’s skin. If a person was lighter or the same color as the bag, he or she was admitted.”

I’ve taken this quote straight from Wikipedia, so who knows how reliable it is, but either way, this concept still exists. And the fact that it does is ridiculous. When Ifemelu first mentioned this idea, I immediately Googled it because I had suspicions about what it was and wanted to confirm them. Once my suspicions were confirmed, I immediately thought of an episode of Spongebob. I know it might sound crazy considering we’re talking about race and racism but I am going to draw some connections between this concept in Americanah and an episode of one of my favorite TV shows as a child.

sunbleached 3
Source: http://www.spongebobia.com/spongebob-captures/gallery.php?prod=106b&page=3&limit=60#

This episode begins with Spongebob and Patrick being excluded from a popular party because of their lack of “tan”. The host of the party then proceeds to mock them for the lack of pigment in their skin. Obviously, right off the bat, this is a reference to racism. What’s interesting is that Spongebob and Patrick are ridiculed and excluded because of the lack of color in their skin whereas the other characters who are considered cool are much darker in color. The episode continues with Spongebob attempting to acquire a tan and then becoming even “whiter” than he had been previously, further alienating him from this “popular” society. Spongebob is considered ugly after this attempt to alter his appearance and because of that, it’s possible to draw a parallel between that and the people who attempt to “whiten” their skin in order to fit in to Western beauty standards. Society draws them in by telling them that whitening their skin will guarantee them a place in white society but when it backfires or doesn’t work as effectively as they’d hope, they’re ridiculed and distanced further from Western society’s image of “beauty”.

Spongebob continues to alter his appearance in order to achieve the color accepted in this society and at one point while he’s attempting to get into the party being held, they hold up what looks like a paint strip and compare it to Spongebob’s skin. That is a distinct reference to the paper bag test which is what originally reminded me of this episode to begin with. The entire reason I’m discussing this is because the concept of racism was introduced at such a juvenile level that it’s surprising to see the blatant connections now that I’m older and much wiser.

Sun Bleached 2
Source: http://www.spongebobia.com/spongebob-captures/gallery.php?prod=106b&page=11&limit=60

Does this episode of Spongebob paint a positive message? Does it teach kids that discrimination is wrong? I’m not exactly sure. But I do think it’s important that kids be exposed to such issues in order to facilitate in their understanding. But are children’s television shows the correct way to introduce kids to racism and discrimination within society?

That’s it for now.