Has the world gone blackface? A quick study of global mockery of black people

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“How Japan View Black People (Part 2)” Click image to view video

 How do people of other cultures and countries perceive the black experience?   Is the art of blackface a global mockery of black people or an act of self expression? The likeness, lifestyle, language and mannerisms of cultures in the African diaspora are often distorted and used as props, backdrops, accessories, exclamation points, iterations and punchlines. Is black culture to be twisted, deformed and repurposed to fit the objectives of another culture’s agenda? Many think it is harmless fun and will defend the practice.

Recently, Dunkin Donuts Thailand franchise depicted a model in blackface with pink lips to advertise their new charcoal donut. The Human Rights Watch  and other groups were in an uproar. Though the Thailand agency felt that America was being overly sensitive. Dunkin Donuts issued an immediate apology and is in the process of yanking the ad. Was this racism or just ad art misunderstood?

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Dunkin Donuts Thailand Blackface ad

 Asia is notorious for mocking black people in their advertisements and products. Does the fact that blacks are different in skin color, hair texture and features give them the right to racially objectify blacks to sell products? To them, blacks are obviously fascinating and repulsive at the same time.

Racial insensitivity is evident in other countries. Last year, Sweden made world headlines when culture minister  Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, was photographed happily slicing into what is now infamously called the blackface or ni*ger cake at World Art Day in Stockholm. The edible installation was sculpted in the likeness of a grotesquely distorted African woman by black Swedish artist Makode Aj Linde.  it was  meant to provoke strong reaction, awareness and disgust for the brutal practice of female circumcision in Africa.  However it evoked outrage on a global scale. Regardless of who created the “art piece” or why, the installation was considered exploitation of African women and their bodies.  BlackCopy_racist_black_cake

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Model Ondria Hardin as “African Queen” for Numero magazine

France’s Numero fashion magazine caught global flack when  Caucasian model Ondria Hardin, posed as an “African Queen” in their controversial fashion expose’.  In an industry that often shuns models of African descent, Numero found the “look” of Africa intriguing on a white girl.

Mexico’s beloved dimwit, Mimen Pinguin is a longstanding comic strip character known for his street smarts, playful demeanor and ape-like features. Is this flattery or mockery?

Memin Penguin, Mexican comic book character

Memin Penguin, Mexican comic book character

Here in America we have accepted the kindly servants gracing the boxes of Uncle Ben’s rice,  Cream of Wheat and Aunt Jemima. Do we still consider these images culturally insensitive? Or have we accepted these images as harmless age old branding?

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The Mammy cookie jar, a popular souvenir in New Orleans, LA

 New Orleans gift shops are still selling blackfaced Mammy cookie jars with matching salt and pepper shakers and toothpick holders.  Should one be outraged?

If the tables were turned and we used yellow skin and slanted eyes to promote lemon donuts with slits instead of holes would Asians be offended? What about a whiteface with pink pimples selling crackers?

I don’t know. You tell me.

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