Sunday, March 21, 2010

assume that vanilla frosting is "skin" and chocolate sauce is "(white) skin covered in chocolate sauce"

Please skim through these four images of cakes before reading this post more carefully. Then ask yourself, are these cakes all supposed to represent white bodies? Also, what might make a person think that they all do represent white bodies?

An anonymous swpd reader sent me a link to the "Cake Wrecks" blog post that contains these images; I've also included in italics the text that accompanies them in the original post (I haven't reproduced the entire post here).

Ladies, are you tired of that unsightly gut?

Aw. It's so sad when belly dancers let themselves go.

And, men? Do you wish you had a pectorals and not just man ta-tas?
I know this is supposed to be a dude, 
but something really makes me want to censor those nips.

Well the wait is over! Now, with the Abdopectoralbuttmastersizer™, you too can look like a goddess!
A really, really tanned goddess. Covered in oil.
With an outy... and a... wait. Is that an Adam's apple?
Okay... well... it really is a lovely shade of dark orange!

Or so studly, your woman will want to cover you in chocolate sauce and star pasties!

Oohh La La!
(Ga Ga, Romama)

That's right: with the revolutionary Abdopectoralbuttmastersizer™ you are guaranteed to get shredded in places you didn't even know you had! . . . . Call now!


Okay, that's just part of the "Cake Wrecks" post. Note what the writer of the post sees in terms of race -- four white bodies, one of which is "tanned," and one of which is "covered in chocolate sauce."

Among the post's 140+ comments, a conversation ensued about the race(s) of the represented bodies.

As one commenter points out,

Re: really, really tanned & chocolate sauce

 Maybe those were supposed to be cakes of people who aren't, you know, white?

And later, someone else writes,

Man, you wreckies are fast -- you beat me to commenting on the fact that the "tanned" and "chocolate sauce" cakes probably just represent people with brown skin. (Some of us have that, you know.)

After a couple more such comments, the author of the post, "john (the hubby of Jen)," jumps in:

I firmly believe that the man covered in chocolate sauce and pasties is actually from Laos. Or possibly Honduras. Maybe Jamaica.

And the "Really, really tanned" torso actually looks very much like one of the white bodybuilders who has spent many an hour in a tanning booth. Could be African American. Probably tanning booth.

*sigh*

john


In the first sentence, john seems to be jokingly saying that . . . race doesn't matter? That, because the body's covered in chocolate sauce, the race is indeterminate? And what does that "sigh" mean? Actually, I think I know -- isn't it, basically, "Ugh. Why do you have to drag race into this!"?

Near the end of the thread, yet another commenter points out,

It seems that you assumed that all cakes are of white people, and that all of the people who read this blog are white. That doesn't make this blog a very friendly place for people of color to hang out. I really hope that you will change the comments under the third and fourth photo. . . . the point is not the realism of the cake, the point is that, when looking at cakes portraying brown and black skin, the author of the post assumed that these _must_ be white people _painted_ brown and black rather than people who _are_ brown and black. That's offensive.

In case anyone is interested in my race: I'm white.


Finally, it seems, john has enough of this -- so much that he shuts down the comment thread. But not before another, final, and sighing self-defense:

Alright, I'm done.

I am actually stunned by some of the comments so this will be the last one.

The mottled, dark orange torso cake didn't make me think of an African American because I've never seen an African American with mottled orange skin. I thought of this guy:

http://www.bodybuilder-photos.com/galleries/2003/2003-11_dorian-yates-grand-prix/images/bodybuilder_b-IMG_0017.jpg

See the bad spray tan?

And the fourth one? The one that I so thoughtlessly called "covered in chocolate sauce?" It's because it's COVERED IN CHOCOLATE SAUCE!

*sigh*

I hope some of you thought it was a fun post.

john



Well, I suppose it was a fun post, if you like laughing at bad cakes.

So what's the common white tendency of note here?

Aside from john's aversion to matters of race, and to seriously considering the possibility that he made a mistake in terms of race, I'm interested in what I also see as an assumption that seems to be at work in the post. And in many of the comments, except those that pointed out this assumption in the post -- that normal, default people, and bodies, are "white" ones.

So, what could lead white people to see cakes that may well represent non-white bodies as instead representing "tanned" and "chocolate-covered" (white) bodies?

I'll close with a quotation that I think provides an answer, a summary of the common white mode of thought that seems to be at work here. It's from film scholar Richard Dyer's excellent book, White: Essays on Race and Culture --

The invisibility of whiteness as a racial position in white (which is to say dominant) discourse is of a piece with its ubiquity. . . . for most of the time, white people speak about nothing but white people; it's just that we couch it in terms of "people" in general. Research -- into books, museums, the press, advertising, films, television, software -- repeatedly shows that in Western representation whites are overwhelmingly and disproportionately predominant, have the central and elaborated roles, and above all are placed as the norm, the ordinary, the standard. Whites are everywhere in representation. Yet precisely because of this and their placing as norm they seem not to be represented to themselves as whites, but as people who are variously gendered, classed, sexualised, and abled. At the level of racial representation, in other words, whites are not of a certain race, they're just the human race. . . .

We have not reached a situation in which white people and white cultural agendas are no longer in the ascendant. The media, politics, education are still in the hands of white people, still speak for whites while claiming -- and sometimes sincerely aiming -- to speak for humanity.

91 comments:

  1. Ick and a trans joke on top of it all.

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  2. How strange to see the title of a post on a blog I read regularly and know exactly which post on another blog I read is being referenced. And how much stranger still to be quoted!

    I read CW daily, but rarely comment. This really irked me though, and I felt I had to say something.

    Aside from the weak sauce response from John, I couldn't help but notice that my comment on the "Adam's apple" crack was not responded to.

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  3. This is once again another instance of which white bodies are pushed to the forefront of American society as the "norm" with people of color ignored unless SPECIFICALLY noted.

    With regards to the third cake, the coloring of that looks EXACTLY like MY skin tone, and I am a black woman. The tone given on this blog reeked of " You silly little people of color...you OBVIOUSLY just want to start pulling the race card. Don't you know that I as a white person know MORE than you about skin toning?!?!? This ISN'T racism!!!1eleventyoNE!11!"

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  4. I still cannot fathom how white is supposedly the normal color when the majority of the Globe is made up of color! Therefore, white isn't the norm. It's rather abnormal. Offsets of black (e.g. brown, yellow, red) and black itself are the norm.

    I can't see how many Whites cease to grasp this fact.

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  5. This is really interesting.

    I've been thinking about something along these lines ever since the uproar over the new M. Night Shyamalan live action film "The Last Airbender". The film is adapted from a cartoon that has been running for a while on Nickelodeon and ALL of the main characters are POC. The cartoon AND movie seem to take place somewhere in ancient asia, sorry I never really got into the show that much to know specifically where, but I do know the characters and what racial back ground they are supposed to represent. The POC fans are confused over the fact that the *main* characters went from asian to white in the shift from cartoon to live action.

    when I saw the trailer for the film it nauseated me. so I went to google and searched it to see if there was any petitions up and that brought me to an anime fan site where this conversation was taking place in the comments section. some of the fans were understandably upset and correctly labeled it as white washing.
    While others (obviously white) were arguing that the characters( Sokka & Katara) who look Inuit were in their eyes just "tanned" and that the main character Aang looked and acted to "white" to be Asian. Then they started saying that ALL anime characters they see look "white" and aren't "Asian looking enough" to convince them that they were not white. Even though these shows take place in Japan or China they will STILL paint these characters white no matter how obvious the animator makes it. they have to be grossly stereotypical for them to get that these character are in fact not white. in the case of The Last Airbender the main characters have eye colors to represent the powers they have (sokka and katara of the southern WATER tribe have BLUE eyes).
    That does not make them white. The setting is in ancient asia where Im pretty sure there weren't many Europeans around, plus they just simply don't look like they were intended to be white.

    But of course just because their race is not given, but instead implied, to white people they are automatically white by default. WoW

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  6. Chance, have you visited the Racebending site? Much on the Avatar movie, yellowface, and Hollywood whitewashing there.

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  7. PlussizedwomanistMarch 22, 2010 at 4:15 AM

    @ Chance:

    Once again, whites are forcing themselves into other cultures, saying that they OBVIOUSLY are the default, even INTERNATIONALLY, even when a culture clearly says otherwise.

    The anime issue is a very pertinent one, because the TRUTH is that that all the characters are Japanese UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE.

    One example is a manga called "Gravitation" where the setting is clearly in Japan, and two of the main characters being SPECIFICALLY denoted as either half American (Eiri Yuki) or completely American (K or Claude) and they are given "American" features and mannerisms, such as K's penchant for carrying military grade weapons and speaking in English.

    Also, in terms of Hollywierd, the movie 21 was protested against because the protagonist (who is Asian IRL) was cast as a white man, with an Asian woman being the only POC in the main cast.

    One thing that just came to me:
    This is clearly a showing of the husband's whiteness showing, for he literally gave off the statement of:

    The mottled, dark orange torso cake didn't make me think of an African American because I've never seen an African American with mottled orange skin.

    Which translates to this: "Because I have not seen an African American with this skin tone, African Americans with this skin tone DO NOT EXIST."

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  8. @Chance

    I know right, I can recall a number of times when being on forums that people post their screenplays up and that junk and the race of a character was not said so they were assumed to be white.

    White=default

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  9. I like Dyer a lot, and I think your use of him here is super effective. Thanks. :)

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  10. I read CW regularly, and noticed this too (didn't comment though). The assumption that the first not-a-POC cake represents someone with a bad spray-on tan is interesting, as it would be a realistic-looking bad spray-on tan and hence not all that wreck-y. Also the degree to which john and other commenters insist that it's "orange" and "mottled". It really isn't that much. The second one is interesting in that it's hard to imagine someone deciding to ice a person-shaped cake with chocolate and not intend for it to be seen as a black person. And yet.

    The *sighs* are really patronizing and disrespectful. He's so self-assured about his utter lack of bias - perfect example of white privilege at work. I didn't read the entire comments thread. What comments "stunned" john so much that he decided to cut it off entirely?

    Do the CW folks know this post is being discussed here? They could stand to benefit from the conversation (if they stop sighing enough to listen to what people have to say)

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  11. I must echo honeybrown's statement!

    it is so offensive how fashion designers and gossip columnists and whoever else in the fashion/modeling biz and writers for beauty mags refer to white women's tone as "nude" or "fleshy" while we, women of color, are IGNORED, even though the majority of the world's population happen to be ASIAN !!!!

    Bloody cor

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  12. I also I thought was strange that the writer of the Cakewrecks post wrote, "I firmly believe that the man covered in chocolate sauce and pasties is actually from Laos. Or possibly Honduras. Maybe Jamaica."

    I couldn't figure out why he included Laos. If his point was to say that he firmly believed that the person depicted by the cake actually was black, why did he include Laos? Maybe I'm confused on this point, but everyone I've met from Laos (about twelve people) have all been Asian. Laos is in fact in Southeast Asia, between Vietnam & Thailand, I think. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laos. That doesn't mean that there aren't black people living there, but that's not a country that's commonly associated with a majority black population, as far as I know. Somebody please let me know if I'm missing something there.

    The only other reason I can think of for mentioning Laos and Honduras and Jamaica, if it wasn't to say "the cake is a black person after all," may have been to say, "Here are places where men cover themselves in chocolate sauce and wear star pasties."

    Either way, I think that remark just dug him deeper.

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  13. @ Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist!

    I remeber when Michelle Obama was wearing a gown that was described as flesh coloured. Who's flesh? It definetly not her flesh. it was then changed to beige.

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  14. @ Aiyo,

    Yes, a similar case -- that happened last November. I wrote about it in this post.

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  15. John in the CW discussion exhibits the common white tendency to imagine that race isn't present unless someone brings it up. That's what his sigh says to me: race wasn't even here until you people brought it into the discussion. Of course, race really was there all along. That's why, IMO, white people go around accusing PoC of playing race cards in situations where race cards are already covering the table. It's just that unless it's named--unless race is explicitly brought into the discussion--we white people think it's not there. As Dyer says, we think of an all-white perspective as race neutral.

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  16. I've never been to that cake wreck website before, and now I won't.

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  17. honeybrown1976 said...
    “I still cannot fathom how white is supposedly the normal color when the majority of the Globe is made up of color! Therefore, white isn't the norm. It's rather abnormal. Offsets of black (e.g. brown, yellow, red) and black itself are the norm. I can't see how many Whites cease to grasp this fact.”

    It reminds me of Southpark’s parody of the disaster film genre. Pi Pi's Splashtown Waterpark has been devastated by a tsunami of urine, after which Cartman erroneously assumes all white people to be killed off and he is in fact the last of his kind. Yet even in the company of people of color who pulls him to safety in a raft, he still views them as Minorities. So racist- so caught up in his white mind he can’t for a second realize He is now the minority. He even sings a song about it.

    Stargate was another series on the SyFy channel that became all white when the original movie had people of color; or rather people on the other side of the universe that were not white. Yet it seems that as the SyFy channel adopted the series and more portals/gates or doors opened up, the whiter everyone seemed to get on the other side. Where did the people of color go? Stargate Atlantis, Stargate SG1, Stargate Universe (with just a token minority presence) has an overwhelmingly white populous. Course, if you accuse these productions of being racist you’ll be accused of playing the race card. "No one even thought about race until you brought it up!!"

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  18. @T. Laurel Sulfate, Thank you for the suggestion.

    @Aiyo, it makes me sick to my stomach when they do that because its like they think POC can neeevvvveerr be the main character of anything *popular* and they can't relate to it unless its white, this is RACIST, but they'll never admit it. SMH

    @Plussizedwomanist said
    "The anime issue is a very pertinent one, because the TRUTH is that that all the characters are Japanese UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE."

    Thank you. That is exactly what I was trying to get across. These people can't seem to understand why POC are pissed about the live action adaptation. even though the white washing is painfully obvious(why are ALL the secondary characters asian, but only the main characters are white, this does not make sense/is hard to believe/is not realistic AT ALL), they seem to think that these characters *no matter which setting/culture/country the movie/manga/comic takes place in & no matter which audience it was INTENDED for* are open for reinterpretation/White Washing. I wonder how they would feel if Captain America was a Black Man in the live action version??? Their Heads Would Explode.

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  19. Aiyo said, "White=default"

    And that pretty much sums up how this whole thing is seen by John and many others. The closer you are to white - the closer you are to normal! It's then followed by the sentiments explained by Plussizedwomanist (1st comment) and Bloglogger. The ol' "Oh you HAD to bring race into it. We were being our blissful colorblind selves. Black people are chocolate versions of 'the norm' anyway!...like chocolate milk!"

    The Jamaica comment John made just confirmed his garish ignorance to me. How about you DON'T choose a country that wasn't built on white imperialism, white rape of black slaves, the labor of Indians and Chinese when slavery was abolished, and horrific brutality carried out by whites. I get the feeling that he sees Jamaica as this land of "beige" people... but that he forgets how they got so "beige". It's that very history which has occurred all over that is affording him his ridiculous inability to see people of color as just straight-up human beings.

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  20. I read through many of those comments on the Cake Wrecks site. It was, what, 3 comments out of 140 that pointed out how whiteness operates in the world. 3 comments was all it took to shut down a comment thread.

    And the response from John shows another side of how "colorblind" white culture works its magic. If you get accused of playing the race card, you also get your "participates in fun" card revoked.

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  21. @ honeybrown

    By your definition of majority=normal than in the US which is 80% white That would make whites normal here. most of the topics on this blog are only relevent in the context of America because it is here that white people have institutional power. So you probably want to rethink your definition of who gets to be normal and why.

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  22. Yeah, when I read that John had shut down the thread, I went there thinking there must have been some gigantic shitstorm. But no. Apparently just saying "Hey, brown people exist too, actually" is threatening enough on its own to have to shut down the entire conversation.

    I've been a casual reader of Cake Wrecks for the past year or so, and this is not the first time they've posted questionable content.

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  23. @M. Gibson,

    Yeah, I saw that South Park and had to laugh at the audacity of Cartman's reaction because it was so asinine (but, truthful to some).

    Stargate....no words. I know all about it. Just...no...words

    @DIMA

    Every time I see "nude" or "flesh-colored" on a fashion blog, I add my two cents: "That's not my nude". The back-peddling is sadly hilarious.

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  24. @Jason

    No, I don't need to rethink what's normal nor do I need someone to tell me what to rethink as normal. Also, Whites aren't 80% of the population. It's been sinking; so, rethink the numbers. For one to consider normalcy, one would have to configure a society without any other options. The USA isn't a society where there aren't diverse options.

    As this post discusses, white skin is seen as the norm all over, not just the U.S. and it's not. The burden to "rethink" anything is certainly not on me.

    Nice try.

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  25. PlussizedwomanistMarch 22, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    @Jason

    By your definition of majority=normal than in the US which is 80% white That would make whites normal here. most of the topics on this blog are only relevent in the context of America because it is here that white people have institutional power. So you probably want to rethink your definition of who gets to be normal and why.

    Are you kidding me, Jason? Are you seriously telling honeybrown that because whites are the majority, they SHOULD be the only "normal?"
    I suggest you check your privilege at the door.

    You have just proved Honey's point, and the point of this entire blog. You have clearly stated that because people are not white, they are not normal, which is a statement that whites, as a monolith, have told people of color INTERNATIONALLY for years now. That their way is RIGHT, even when they AREN'T the majority.

    So why should I, honeybrown, or any other person of color have to "rethink" normal, when we are not even PART of that definition?

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  26. "Whiteness" has been considered the norm for years and years while POC is considered the other kind of people. It's gotten to a point where everything of white people, by white people and for white people have developed the kind of thinking that white people are "normal" people, and anything other than whiteness is abnormal.

    In a way white people normally don't see race when they look at other white people, and they claim they still don't see race when they look at POC. I think it's a way of staying far away from being considered racist by POC. It's another form of denial. They're afraid that if they admit that they see color, then they would get an unpleasant conversation in return if not something worse.

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  27. @Chance

    About Avatar the Last Airbender, how do you know the "race" of all the main characters? Do you even have any criteria for determining that?

    Saying that all the characters are "POCs" and that, as such, all the actors playing their parts need to be as well is complete bollocks. Did it ever occur to you that this show takes place in a made up world? There is no "Ancient Asia" in Avatar, (I bet that the Earth Nation is roughly analogous to Eurasia though). Theres flying bison, bending, dragons and whatnot, theres no way this takes place anywhere on Earth. And if this clearly doesn't take place in (East) Asia, what reason should there be for making all the actors mongoloid?
    Oh now I see, it must be because its an "anime" (not really),it has strange writing staves that look like Chinese characters, funny sounding names that evoke a sense of “orientalness” . These are really the only links it has with any specific stead here on Earth so I am going to have to assume that is why people are expecting the racially ambiguous animated characters to be (SE) “Asian”. So basically, racial stereotypes are causing the outrage over the god-awful whiteness of the actors.
    And their race is not just implied, it is explicitly given. Sokka and Katara are part of the water tribe, Aang is an air nomad, etc…
    The show itself is American and the movie is being done by an American company, to not have a majority white cast would take an extra , and racist, effort on the part of the studio. This is probably why the cast is mostly white.

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  28. @Jasonburns:

    By your definition of majority=normal than in the US which is 80% white That would make whites normal here.

    By 2042 whites will no longer be the majority in the US, just the plurality.

    It's going to be sooner in Canada, by 2031, and even sooner in Canadian cities (2017).

    It'll be interesting to see what happens to ideas of what is "normal".

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  29. @Jas0nburns re: what is "normal."

    The fact that white people form the majority in the US is not in itself enough to prove or disprove the idea that white is the norm. It's possible that a white norm could still exist when white people are no longer the largest racial group here. When something is the norm in this context, it's just the default, e.g., "white" is the default for "person," which, as many have pointed out, casts aspersions on anyone who's not white, thus not "normal" in some way.

    But rather than establish another racial group as the norm, I think it's worth the effort to work toward "multiculture" as the norm to replace "monoculture."

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  30. island girl in a land w/o seaMarch 22, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    @ hrothgar

    "what reason should there be for making all the actors mongoloid?"

    mongoloid? did you just type the word m-o-n-g-o-l-o-i-d?

    are you aware that the term "mogoloid" comes from discredited theories of race based on biology?
    or of its close association with phrenology and eugenics?

    why don't you just call us orientals and negroids, given that you seem to be living living in the last century.

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  31. Based on John’s responses (and with heavy consideration of the cake-evidence) I got somewhat of a different interpretation.

    First, I don’t think that John was assuming that the original race of any of these cakes was white, but rather that his joke’s narrative required an all-white cake cast. John seems to be aware that at least the last cake could have been representative of some sort of PoC (Laotian, Honduran, or Jamaican). Although he does point out later that the phrase “chocolate-covered” referred more to the act of making the cake, rather than the cake’s race.

    However, assuming that John originally made the connection “the last cake has a non-white heritage,” he is still creating a potentially racist cake-joke. At least in the regard that it portrays WP cakes as intrinsically unattractive, fat, and having very bad pectoral muscles, and PoC cakes as muscular, attractive, and sexualized.

    Really the main point of interest to me was the third cake and John’s attempt to convey the idea of tanning as the ritualistic destruction of whiteness in the ultimate goal of acquiring ethnicity. His comment regarding the ambiguity of the third cake only serves to underscore this point. Who knows what race the last cake is, but it certainly isn’t immediately white.

    Do you think tanning could be an upcoming related post? Or even just assumptions people make based upon color, and the complication of tanning? It seems like a pretty fertile topic.

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  32. @Hrothgar re: "The show itself is American and the movie is being done by an American company, to not have a majority white cast would take an extra , and racist, effort on the part of the studio. This is probably why the cast is mostly white."

    So . . . if an "American" company does a film of the American show Porgy and Bess, is the studio obligated to cast it mostly white just because white people are the majority in the US? Does that fit with what you're saying? Would any effort to cast a film with other than white people be "racist" in your estimation? Are you a real person or a troll?

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  33. lol.

    do you even know what avatar was based on? do you know that the creators were also disappointed with the casting of whites as the main characters? i know i'm wasting my time, but seriously, that post is ridiculous.

    american? oh, i guess american = white, no matter what, and since it was an american show, even if based on asian, native and inuit mythology and culture, it should be white. lol.

    who knew, since lord of the rings is fiction in some imaginary world, we should have demanded a black gandalf played by denzel, ming na as that fairy, and .... (you know, i'm finding it hard to remember a young non-white latino male actor, i wonder why) as that hobbit. i'm sure you would have been there for the fight.

    now, that it seems like the same folks (different producers)that have bought the rights to make akira (based now in ny) may also get bleach, we can expect more whitewasing. because lord knows, if it takes place in america, they must be white.

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  34. Yup, seems like a classic case of "flesh colored crayon" syndrome. That's not particularly suprising for a white person, since his skin, after all, is white, and I'm going to assume the dude lives in a majority-white country.

    What's more shocking is how defensive he gets when a PoC calls out his mistake. Most white people know that PoC are the majority internationally, but they have a real problem with forgetting that fact in a context where media and entertainment - even that which is set in nonwhite contexts, is almost entirely filled with white people.


    On the subject of anime, I once had a (white) friend tell me that the characters aren't really supposed to be Asian (unless it's clear that the show/film is set in Japan), because they're deliberately drawn with anatomical features that are supposed to emulate whiteness (think "white" skin, large eyes...that kind of junk). She failed to understand the disgusting truth of what she was saying, in a racial context. It seems strange to me that in Science Fiction and Fantasy written by white people, the characters are assumed to be white unless otherwise stated. Shouldn't an Asian artist be allowed to legitimately envision a "human" race that's Asian by default?

    @Hrothgar. I get what you're saying (sort of), but with white actors, you've got straight cultural appropriation going on. If the studio had cast PoC actors, at least they'd be making the most of an opportunity to promote diversity in Hollywood. Isn't an "asian stereotype" still more respectful with PoC actors than white actors? Shouldn't they at least give a nod to the cultures that inspired the movie rather than ignoring their existence?

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  35. Just thought I'd mentionMarch 22, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    @Hrothgar

    "About Avatar the Last Airbender, how do you know the "race" of all the main characters? Do you even have any criteria for determining that?"

    Yes, there's a criteria. While ATLA is not anime, it is heavily inspired by it. The criteria to determine race is exactly the same as anime. While you could argue the characters look racially ambigous (though I would disagree), there are plenty of indicators - the indicators anime traditionally uses, which include names, culture, dress, food, and language, to name a few - that point to them being Asian and Inuit. Previous posters have that covered, so I won't go into more detail there, but read this if you're not convinced: http://www.matt-thorn.com/mangagaku/faceoftheother.html. Furthermore, many of the characters were based on Asian staff members [source: http://www.racebending.com/v3/featured/the-last-airbender-primer/#reaction]. Aang, for example, was based on Sifu Kisu's son. Plus, there is NO evidence for the characters being white.

    "Saying that all the characters are "POCs" and that, as such, all the actors playing their parts need to be as well is complete bollocks. Did it ever occur to you that this show takes place in a made up world? There is no "Ancient Asia" in Avatar, (I bet that the Earth Nation is roughly analogous to Eurasia though). Theres flying bison, bending, dragons and whatnot, theres no way this takes place anywhere on Earth."

    Yes, it's not Earth. Just like Lord of the Rings can't take place on Earth, but is clearly European-based fantasy, Avatar is Asian-based fantasy: Mike and Brian have explicitly said so, Shyamalan has said so, Nickelodeon has said so. The IP Bible used for the movie states this [source: http://www.racebending.com/v3/background/the-last-airbender-timeline/]. There's no denying it.

    "And if this clearly doesn't take place in (East) Asia, what reason should there be for making all the actors mongoloid?"

    Island girl in a land w/o sea has pointed out how problematic the term mongoloid is, so I'm not going to get into the pseudo-scientific racism in your statement. The actors should be Asian and Inuit because the characters were, period. At the very, very least, Asian and Inuit actors should have been given an equal chance to play these characters as white actors, and were not given that. Ideally, though, Asian and Inuit - as well as all POC - actors should be given the same opportunities to play POC characters, especially protagonists, as white actors have to play white protagonists.

    "Oh now I see, it must be because its an "anime" (not really),it has strange writing staves that look like Chinese characters, funny sounding names that evoke a sense of orientalness. These are really the only links it has with any specific stead here on Earth so I am going to have to assume that is why people are expecting the racially ambiguous animated characters to be (SE) Asian."

    The writing doesn't just LOOK Chinese, it IS Chinese. That's why they hired cultural consultants and even a Chinese calligrapher, Professor S.L. Lee (who has spoken out against the whitewashing of the cast on radio) [source: http://www.racebending.com/v3/background/avatar-calligrapher-professor-s-l-lee-shares-a-statement/].

    (cont'd next post)

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  36. (cont'd)

    Funny-sounding names that evoke orientalness? THOSE ARE REAL NAMES. People on Earth do have those names. And guess what? The people that do? They're Asian and Inuit.

    Avatar has A LOT OF links to Earth and reality. The spirituality, philosophies, cultures, names, food, music and architecture HEAVILY borrow from Earth's cultures. Specifically, Asian - and here I mean East, South and Southeast - and Inuit cultures. The word Avatar itself is Sanskrit. Just because you haven't seen the aspects of real cultures in Avatar irl, does not mean they do not exist. I've lived in Asia (South, East, and Southeast) for thirteen years. One of the most impressive things about Avatar was the amazingly detailed research and respectful portrayals of Asian cultures, cultures I've been immersed in since childhood. It was easy for me - and many, many other fans of Avatar - to see those influences in the show. I'm sorry you missed out on such a beautiful part of the series.

    "And their race is not just implied, it is explicitly given. Sokka and Katara are part of the water tribe, Aang is an air nomad, etc…"

    Which obviously defaults to white when translated to reality, even when EVERYTHING in the show suggests otherwise?

    "The show itself is American and the movie is being done by an American company, to not have a majority white cast would take an extra, and racist, effort on the part of the studio. "

    The only "extra" effort it would have required was to type out "All ethnicities" (at the very least) for the casting calls instead of prioritizing "Caucasians" for the main characters, as well as hiring someone less ignorant than Dee Dee Rickets for the casting director [http://www.racebending.com/v3/background/caucasian-or-any-other-ethnicity/]. There was no "extra" effort required in utilizing the amazing resources they had at hand - the Avatar staff, for one - to recreate what drew so many fans into this world. If they'd merely talked to members of the staff, instead of silencing them with NDAs and preventing the VAs from auditioning, we'd have a way better movie. And we'd have one, likely, that wasn't racist, and had a majority Asian cast. At the very least, we'd have Asian protagonists.

    I agree the show is American, but American does. not. equal. white.

    "This is probably why the cast is mostly white."
    No, the reason the cast is white is because the producers and director were adamant about having white protagonists.

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  37. @ plussizedwomanist: "Are you kidding me, Jason? Are you seriously telling honeybrown that because whites are the majority, they SHOULD be the only "normal?"

    what? um, no actually not at all.

    hilarious that by pointing out the inconsistency in Honeybrown's statement, that statement was somehow attributed to me.

    Honeybrown said: "the majority of the Globe is made up of color! Therefore, white isn't the norm."

    now I personally don't think there is any correlation between majority and normalcy. honeybrown stated that there WAS a direct correlation. i am calling attention to it BECAUSE i disagree.

    if non majority=non norm as honeybrown stated, than by that (faulty) reasoning, majority=norm. that's the flip.

    ReplyDelete
  38. @ avatar thread

    the show is about magic kung-fu for christ sake. making the cast white is actually insulting to everyone white people included because it makes us look like bigger assholes. i think i might boycott this one even though i like the show.

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  39. @Hrothgar

    I really shouldn't address you because it seems as though you are reeeaalllyyy TRYING to get a reaction out of us, but Thank you for being a first hand example of what is being discussed in this post and my comment.

    you are really one of those racist delusional white people who believe that:
    american = white(do you ever leave your own neighborhood)
    popular = white(SMH)
    POC = do not equal box office success(SMH)
    racially ambiguous = ALWAYS white(white-colored glasses)SMH

    all of this is apart of a very (intentional) racist mind set, so Im not even going to try................

    as far as Avatar taking place a fictional world, I know it does, but it is an ambiguous ancient Asian setting. the setting is DERIVED from asian cultures and influences. I can tell their races based off the cultures that influenced the character(the way they dress AND LOOK)
    and before anyone says this, because I know its coming lol, just because they have "big eyes" or "american accents" that does not mean they are white, cartoon characters don't have look completely REALISTIC and all POC characters are NOT going to be some stereotype delusional white people think of that particular group, and just cause its not, doesn't mean that character isn't the race it represents.

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  40. That person that's over CakeWrecksMarch 22, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    I have to write before I read everyone's comments, (so I don't know if anyone already mentioned it) but I have to talk about the CakeWrecks site: this doesn't surprise me.

    I basically used to visit that site every day. I loved it. Then one day Jen posted about "Zwarte Piet" (if anyone doesn't know what that is, wikipedia gives a good rundown).

    It was just picture after picture of blackface.

    It felt like a slap in the face - what I thought had been a "safe" place online to waste time -- was not. I suppose what bothered me most about the post was that there was nothing that technically "off" about most of the cakes. The only reason they were posted was because they were in blackface. And that the text alongside the pictures went something like this:

    -"Get your hand off my robe; you'll make it dirty."
    - "We all know Bert liked his lipstick."
    - And then references Aunt Jemima.
    - And then shows blackface cakes that have nothing to do with Zwarte Piet.

    But hey, it’s all for laughs, right?

    She begins the post by writing:

    "Christmas in July: Going Dutch

    Ok sure it's July and the last thing on your mind is broadening your...uh...mind with exposure to international holiday traditions - I get it. However, this particular post was deemed by the powers that be too controversial to post back in December, so all my hard work and sparkling wit got shelved, its radiance cloaked all these long months."

    Yeah, cause if it’s going to be controversial in December, just wait ‘till the 8th of July…? Nothing about this post sparkled OR radiated. It plain stunk.

    The blind nonchalance with which this post was slapped up was astonishing to me. It seemed impossible to the poster that anyone should think that this was anything but hilarious. Yet at the same time she seems to write knowing that this is somehow ‘wrong’:

    “Yes, I’ve officially crossed the line from horrified disbelief into horrified humor. It’s more fun over here – won’t you join me?”

    And ends the post with:

    “To those of you offended by this, you should know that Zwarte Piet was not intended to be offensive…And to those of you who see nothing wrong with outdated and racially offensive traditions…”[shows a demotivational poster]

    So…don’t be offended, but if you’re not offended you ought to be…?

    Reading it, I felt she liked showing something she wouldn’t ordinarily get to show but had a handy excuse to. As if she was slyly “getting away” with something. It’s labeled “Beyond Bizzare”, but it’s not bizarre – it’s racist. And no matter which country it comes from, and how hard you try to downplay or deny the racial context – in this country there IS racial context. And to ignore that, and how it will adversely affect readers, for whom blackface will NEVER be funny in ANY context – is truly offensive.

    I haven't visited their site since.

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  41. That person who's over CakeWrecksMarch 22, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    I initially didn't want to drive any more traffic their way, but this is the link for anyone who wants to see the Zwarte Piet post.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I'm just wandering ( being a big anime fan and all) why is it mandatory for Asians to make themselves look Asian on Amie? Also do white people make anime characters defult in their minds because they are able to relate to them then? Another example of this is Taylor lautner. ( faka Jacob black in the twilight series) it is painfully obvious that he is not white, but you have alot of magazines telling you that he his.

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  43. After thought: even when white people are the minority in the U.S it won't change anything. they will find some way to stay in power. ( example South Africa)

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  44. @class of 13

    yeah I noticed that with Taylor too, he is racially ambiguous and most (white)people assume he is white even though he does not look white, but Asian or at least part asian or Native American.

    With another of the Twilight kids Kiowa Gordon, I saw an interview he had and the interviewer asked him how did he get such a good "tan", he looked confused and then said "from Genetics" or something like that. I thought it was weird like she(the interviewer) didn't realize people could have naturally brown/medium brown skin.

    ReplyDelete
  45. After reading " That person who's over CakeWrecks" comment--who mirrors my own (and likely so many others) in sooooooo many personal hobbies and recreations--I gotta ask: is there a some sort 'make recreational spaces unsafe' floating about the archives?

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  46. @Jason

    I was pointing out the inconsistency of the reasoning behind this white aspect. They are not the norm; yet, the continuously tell others that they are - when they aren't. They imperialistically shove it down everyone's face like a virus. People of color do not do that (despite knowing otherwise).

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  47. @class of 13.

    The character that Taylor Lautner plays is supposed to be Native American, as are all of the "wolf pack" characters. I'm not sure about the other actors, but I know that Lautner is of mixed European and Native American heritage. Why any magazine would gloss over this is interesting, given that his character's race is an important part of the plot.

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  48. RE: Taylor Lautner. There are several interviews where he states he is English,Dutch, and French and that his skin color came from the French side. He only claimed to be part Native when he was cast in the Twilight movie.Post movie he has done several more interviews where he is asked about his ethnicity and only mentions European countries. Clearly the kid doesn't "read" as white but he seems to have been raised to believe he was, or maybe he just says he is to get more acting jobs.

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  49. Offsets of black (e.g. brown, yellow, red) and black itself are the norm.
    Yellow isn't really any more an "offshoot of black" than beige is...

    ReplyDelete
  50. to describe a white woman's skin tone I would say "peach toned" or "ivory." For black and brown sisters, I'd use words like chocolate, caramel, brown sugar...

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  51. @That person who's over Cake Wrecks: the same thing happened to me. I liked the site, followed it, and then their comments started getting to me (stuff like the ones in this particular post - sizeist references, etc). But I kept reading it and just skimmed over the comments, until the blackface post. That was the end of it for me. And the site creators have a history of closing comments if a whiff of criticism so much as floats in their direction.

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  52. God the excuses I hear for Airbender are so freakin tiresome and ridculous. So what if it does not take place on earth it does they are obviously not white they are brown skinned and no amount of tanning will achive that.

    As for anime characters being white come the hell on, Have you ever really seen a white person with eyes that take up half of their face? Cartoons don't always have to resemble real people people are not natural born with pink or purple hair and eyes. I mean the simpsons don't have chins . (ranting here so I'll stop)


    It reminds me of what Paul Mooney said on Dave Chapelle when he was talking about how white actors play film roles about people of colour i.e The Mexican and The Last Samurai.

    "The last nigger on earth starring Tom Hanks." -Paul Mooney.

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  53. @Robin and @That person who's over Cake Wrecks:

    Me too. I went from being a daily reader to not being a reader at all after that bullshit.

    Racism, fat hate, transmisogyny... Cake Wrecks has got it all.

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  54. Ugh, why can't they just post the ugly horrible cakes WITHOUT the commentary? And I was gonna go over there and see what shit storm had unloaded to cause the comments to be closed, but it seems some people here already did. Only 3 or so people just pointing out that black people exist is not a good reason to close a comment thread. Apparently just mentioning that some people aren't white is too much for those people to handle.

    @Juan: I agree, a post about "Making recreational spaces unsafe" would be interesting. I see it way too often around goofy blog sites like Cake Wrecks and so on.

    And since Avatar was brought up, I am NOT going to see that movie. That show is one of my all time favorites and I was really happy when I heard about it and then they go and white wash it. It's complete bullshit and no excuses will make it acceptable. ESPECIALLY when they manage to white wash all the characters EXCEPT for the fire nation, the villains. I mean COME ON. How obvious does this shit have to get before everyone who loves that show goes WTF?! I had hoped that since Avatar is such a popular series that more people would be making a fuss about it, but so far I've only heard complaints from anti-racists blogs and sites and a few friends of mine. :\

    And of course the white washing never stops there. They white washed one of my all time favorite games ever in the The Prince of Persia movie coming out (who the hell thought Jake Gyllenhall would make a good Prince?! I mean really?!). And when it comes to anime they already got Dragon Ball. I can only hope that the movies that are coming out that have a huge fan base (Avatar and PoP and so on) that are getting white washed are boycotted enough that studios will actually take some notice and realize that hey, maybe people don't like their beloved characters being changed to suit the white racist asshats in Hollywood.

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  55. CakeWrecks works on the assumption that everyone comes at it from exactly the same frame of reference for humour, i.e., white hipster "irony".

    Which is such an expression of privilege, that I don't even know what to say after that.

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  56. Though I agree that John's "sigh" responses are obnoxious (i.e. he received the comments poorly and should have been willing to consider what people were saying), when scrolling through the photos I also thought the third cake was of a fake-tanned bodybuilder. That is, I thought that was the intent of the cake, given that it was shaped like an extremely "ripped" torso and on my screen it looks mottled orange-ish.

    However, after reading the comments I can see how the whole thing would be irksome if that is your natural skin color and he's saying, "well, duh. of course it's a tanned white person because I said so."

    I don't know if he's saying that people of this skin tone don't exist - that's just how the cake came across to him, as it did to me. He doesn't present himself well by being so exasperated by people who DARE mention anything about race.

    Sadface said, "Shouldn't an Asian artist be allowed to legitimately envision a "human" race that's Asian by default?"

    Perhaps John would have been extended the same courtesy - to envision things as being white - if he had been more considerate with his responses. maybe?

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  57. I don't like when people get weaselly with language. He goes back and snarks that he said the cake was chocolate-covered, because duh, it is... eeexcept he didn't say the cake was choco-covered. He said you (as the imaginary boyfriend/cake analogue in the joke) would be choco-covered. Weasel. I mean, come on: it's the internet. If you can't admit you made a booboo there... yikes. This wouldn't even be post-worthy if he could just own up.
    ---

    [For the record, #3 looks brown on my monitor, no hint of orange.]
    I get the strong sense that to him, the salient difference between the colors of the last 2 cakes is that the 3rd one is clearly unnatural/improbable and so is clearly a badly spray-tanned white person, whereas the last one seems possible for "actual black people." Plussizedwomanist got this: apparently, he's never seen anyone with #3's skin tone or something? (Ahem, I'm about that color.) But I'm with diddo; I'm stuck on how he ascribes the color of #4 to people from Laos, Honduras and Jamaica— apparently at random. What's that about? I'm wondering if his mind is playing some kind of selective recall trick on him? Does he think "black" people are like, black? Or— and this is even WTFer— that people who aren't "white" are black? Because while there certainly are people that dark in those countries, the vast majority... um, aren't. (Besides, if you're going there, you might just as well say the cake-person is from NYC.)

    Meanwhile, isn't there a continent rather missing from that random list of places-dark-chocolate-colored people-come-from?? Does he know Africa exists?

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  58. Hi all,

    I grew up in a small town in Maine. Oddly enough, we didn't really have racism. We knew there were those who looked different but it didn't change the way we saw them as human beings. My mom actually dated a Black man for years. His name was John too and he was as true a gentleman as could be. Because of this relationship, I knew from a young age that character far outweighed color.

    Over the years, I have come to realize that the little town where everybody is "normal" is the exception and not the rule. Character seems to be secondary to nearly every single aspect of a person's makeup. Being color blind is expected in certain situations and scorned in others. An example: if a Latino Woman is appointed to the supreme court, she is a Latino Woman. If a Latino Woman robs a bank, it is considered racist and insensitive to point out her race. It has come to the point where a person has to watch literally everything they say, everything they don't say, everything they imply, and everything that could be taken as an implication. And yet it is still perfectly acceptable for a Black comic to cruelly mock white stereotypes.

    I wrote the post on Cake Wrecks the way I write all of my posts: with humor in mind. I saw what I thought looked like a spray tanned bodybuilder and that's what I called it. It was funny that way. I didn't see it as a Black individual and so I didn't write it that way. I had no ulterior motives for the line.

    I wrote the chocolate sauce line because that was what was funny about the cake. It was shiny, covered in chocolate sauce and had pasties. There was no assumption made about race at all. My explanation in the comments was meant to convey that the person underneath the chocolate could be Asian, Latino, Black and yes, even white.

    And my sighs were not of arrogance. It was an expression of my true exasperation that even in this post, where there was literally no mention of race of any kind, I was being called out for being thoughtless.

    Finally, I shut down the comments because it stopped being fun. Cake Wrecks is about bringing joy and comment threads that become that serious belong on more serious sites like these.

    For those commenting on Zwarte Piete, Jen called out what is an insensitive tradition in what was an uncomfortably funny way. It was vigorously debated by 363 people and, though it hasn't been pointed out, the motivational poster at the end said, "Tradition. Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid."

    Let me end with this: I have read your hurtful comments for two days with a great deal of sadness. I respect that there needs to be a debate like this on the internet. I know how important it is that we, and more importantly our children, learn to live in a society of respect. But I am not your enemy. I will not be ashamed of something I didn't say and I won't apologize for something I didn't imply. I would ask that you read this over again before trashing me further in the comments.

    -john

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  59. @John,
    I also grew up in a small town in Northern New England - Vermont in my case. I would also have told you that there wasn't racism where I lived. Having left and started educating myself about race and racism, and now having moved home, I amd seeing things in new ways.

    One of the things I didn't notice in the (overwhelmingly white) small town I grew up in is that race is ALWAYS present. You said that you felt "exasperation that even in this post, where there was literally no mention of race of any kind I was being called out for being thoughtless."

    To not see race - to ignore it and its implications - is a function of white privilege. We white people get to decide when we engage with issues of race and racism in a way that PoC don't, and we get to decide when we're just going to not see it at all.

    In other words, you don't have to expressly mention race to be thoughtless. In fact, I would say one of the major ways that white people perpetuate white privilege is to just keep silent about race and racism, to just refuse to see it.

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  60. Ugh. Another former CW fan here.
    I think attack_laurel hit it on the head when she mentioned "white hipster irony."
    I've seen this many a time on popular humour blogs, when a joke is made that both caters to the perceived majority of readers (white/het/cis/able-bodied) and marginalizes, intentionally or otherwise, particular groups of people. Then if anyone, even just one person, objects, they are piled on by the majority of commenters and sometimes the blog's author as well, for "acting butthurt," playing the race card, being too serious, ruining the fun, and being hypersensitive. It seems like some people think it's cool to just say or do anything and as long as it has HUMOUR stamped on it, and the hardcore commenters approve, it's all good. I love reading funny blogs and have a pretty good sense of humour, but I'm getting increasingly sick of watching these situations play out...one or two criticisms don't harsh a buzz, but 70 unmoderated commenters reacting with grade school bullying tactics to the one or two commenters most definitely does (and I'm speaking of these blogs in general).
    I feel like it's lazy humour, going for the cheap laughs. There are so many comedians and writers who manage to be hilarious without mocking marginalized groups.

    If bloggers of any type aren't interested in putting that bit of extra thought into creating safe spaces for their entire readership, you kind of have to wonder just who is, and is not, most welcome as readership. Taking it and blowing it into this big deal where OMGwe have to watch every syllable we say or else the word police will come after us, seems like a bit of an overreaction. If someone feels marginalized by a post, a simple apology is a lot classier than a sarcastic rebuttal and/or cheering on the troops.

    Anyway I'm kind of rambling (longtime lurker here), and I hope that in the future there might be a post about making recreational spaces unsafe, as someone suggested.

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  61. I just found out the popular anime and manga Bleach will be made into a live action and Warner Bros has the rights to it.

    We shall see who will be in the cast.

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  62. (con’t from previous comment)

    @John, With regards to your remarks about comics: because power & privilege flow along identity lines, there is often a difference about the larger meaning of comments made about marginalized and privileged identities. When a white comic mocks black stereotypes, she taps into a history of white supremacy that includes the oppression of people of color. When a black comic mocks white stereotypes, I imagine that she speaks out of the frustration of having white people still not listen to the truth about how people of color are treated in this country, even after all this time. I think the difference is significant: when a person has spent so much time having their viewpoint discounted by members of another group, it makes sense for that person to resort to mocking that group's unwillingness to listen if it's the only thing that that group will pay attention to (heck, that's partially the point of this blog). Probably if a black comic felt that white people were listening and being accountable to people of color, she wouldn't make fun of white stereotypes.

    If you think it's exasperating to be criticized for how you talk about race, I wonder how exasperating it is for a person of color on the other end who's being told by a white person--for the thousandth time--that their view on what is and isn't appropriate to say about race isn't valid.

    Your Cake Wrecks post has become a topic of discussion on a blog called "Stuff White People Do." It's garnered ~50 comments concurring that it was racially problematic. Doesn’t that give you any pause? I understand how you might not have seen the problems when you wrote the post, but now that people are telling you that there’s a problem, maybe it's time to reconsider what you wrote.

    I know this isn't an easy conversation & it's never fun to feel accused, so I really appreciate your willingness to read & engage in this dialogue.

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  63. @John, Thanks for letting us know you've read & thought about the things we've written. I don't consider you my enemy. Rather, I think that the post you wrote & your response to the critical comments are racially problematic.

    Like you, I'm white & grew up in a small, mostly white town. I said unknowingly racist things & was called out for it by people of color. It made me want to avoid talking about race because I felt like I could only mess it up. I've discovered that the best way to learn what's offensive is to listen to people of color, and apologize when I mess up.

    Strangely, find that that’s hard for a lot of white people to do. I think white people internalize a feeling that if we acknowledge that we said something racially problematic, it means we’re a racist. So ironically we channel all of our energy into justifying what we said in order to avoid being labeled racist, rather than believing that a person of color had a good reason for being hurt (which is really racist!). If a person of color tells a white person that something offends them, then _why _wouldn't _the _white_ person _believe _them? Is not being wrong more important than honoring the person of color's viewpoint? Admitting to having said something racially problematic doesn't make a white person a racist; it makes them an ally.

    You wrote that your caption for the chocolate sauce cake contained "no assumption about race at all," but I think it did. How many times has Cake Wrecks posted cakes with people whose skin was represented with vanilla frosting and taken that frosting to be anything other than white skin? Then, when a cake representing a person with black skin is posted, suddenly the color of the icing becomes something painted on rather than something natural. It is false to say that there was no assumption made about race.

    The bikini picture showed up in my monitor as brown, which made your comment about the tanning shocking--it rested on the assumption that the only way a person's skin could be that shade was by fake tanning, not genetics. Maybe the picture looked orange on your monitor, but now that you know that it looks like brown skinto others, why won't you consider revising the caption below the picture? It's one thing to think it looks orange at first glance & write the post, it's another to not only have a lot of people tell you that they see it as brown, but also have people tell you that it even matches their own skin color, and refuse to correct the caption.

    (cont’d next comment)

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  64. @john (the hubby of Jen)

    I get that these comments have been hard for you to read. Don't take it personally. It's not really about you as an individual. It's not about policing you and your writing. It's about all of us: white people and the way our culture works.

    The best thing you could do right now would be to stop explaining yourself. Because it's not about you. The best thing you could do next would be to pick up a book that challenges you to think beyond your comfort zone and read it with an open mind. I'd recommend "Racism without Racists" by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva explicitly because you mentioned you grew up in a town without racism. You didn't. You grew up white in a structurally racist society and you were indoctrinated with a narrative that racism was a thing of the past. It isn't.

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  65. Uh, really, Kinsley? John (the hubby of Jen) shouldn't take it personally? I really think he should. The "two days of hurtful comments" really pales in comparison to a fucking lifetime of being told that you're not normal, less intelligent, less attractive, or in the case of his post, or don't exist! Seriously, John, cakes are USUALLY covered in sauce or frosting, but when it's beige it's just the color of the person, but when it's brown it's a person covered in sauce? Do you not see how illogical that is? I was a big fan of Cake Wrecks until today too, but won't be reading it anymore after today.

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  66. Wow, John's been getting a serious soft-pedal here. When I read his comment all I could think about was how many Racism Bingo squares he was hitting. Why is it that when an average white joe shows up and starts spouting BS like what John said, we cluestick that person down quick, but John shows up and suddenly everybody is all, "Don't worry, it's okay, let me explain this gently to you."

    Having racism explained gently and sweetly is a mark of privilege in and of itself. PoC don't get the privilege of having racism explained gently. Furthermore, he clearly is obstinately refusing to get it, and came here to gripe about his disappointment that we just don't understand how Cake Wrecks isn't offensive and that we're harshing his squee ("it isn't fun anymore!" - yeah, guess what, it stopped being fun for your PoC readers quite awhile ago).

    I don't get the soft-pedal. John, you fucked up. What you said was racially insensitive and you're just digging yourself in deeper.

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  67. To Kinsley, Lisa and Parsley,

    I was told by my friends that coming here to talk about this would make no difference, that no matter how logical I was about what I wrote, you would either ignore it or tear it apart to find some internal and previously unnoticed racism.

    I think therein lies the problem. You assume that all white people are, by default, racist. This is at best a hasty generalization and at worst downright prejudice. I have read my fair share of racial analysis. I know about white privilege though I disagree with some of it's core principles. And I have had open and frank conversations with many, many POC. But I don't agree that this deep, hidden racism is as widespread and all encompassing as you seem to think. I think that white people are trying very hard to understand what to actually do about this whole issue but it really is a no win. I remember, when I was in high school, having long and heated debates with my black friends and realizing then that nothing I could say or do could make up for the sins of old, dead white people, even though my own ancestors were persecuted Irish who never held slaves.

    I believe that there are things about a person which are beyond judgement. Race. Place of birth. Intelligence. Looks. Sexual orientation. All of these were bestowed upon a person by the universal lottery system. It's the reason, the very core, that I can know I am not racist. Maybe you're a lady who was born darker than me. Maybe you're a guy who was born gay. I'm a guy who was born straight and white. IT DOESN"T MATTER. We didn't choose.

    This is where I would normally throw in a sigh of exasperation. I know that none of what I say will change your own sense of veiled racism or your guilt at the sins of the father. I get that. But sometimes a cake is just a cake. And a joke is just a joke.

    I'm going to issue you a challenge: tell me what I should have written. Keep in mind that a: it has to be funny, b: it has to flow with the overall commentary, c: it has to be completely inoffensive to every national and international people group everywhere, and d: you have to put the pictures up because not doing so and ignoring them would be, by your definition, racist.

    Thanks for having a dialogue with me. I have not read every post on this site but I wonder how many folks who disagree with you would dare comment on this site for fear of being summarily rejected as a racist. And I am well aware that, in your eyes, just this response will be considered ignorant and, there's that word again, racist. I've spent too much time here. My main jobs in this world include loving my wife, loving my fellow man and making people laugh with our silly little website. I think I'll get back to work now.

    Yours,
    john

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  68. All right, I was still annoyed enough to write a post about it, including his Bingo card. (Although in hindsight, I probably should have circled "just a coincidence that it looks like racism" as well.)

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  69. @john
    May be useful to read through and understand all the previous comments.

    We may not have a choice who we are but we have a choice as to how we are. If you are (continually) doing something offensive, whether or not you know it or have it pointed out to you, you have a choice as to what you want to do about it.

    “You’re still being offensive,” I say. “Please stop.”

    And I have an even better challenge: do it your damn self.

    Thank you for your non-dialogue.

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  70. DING! DING! DING! DING!

    BINGO! we have a BINGO!

    it's not worth the effort

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  71. John, you're embarrassingly oblivious. Your 2 comments have totally sealed the deal. You never will "get it" - so yes, please go back to work and continue to enjoy that white privilege. It tastes particularly sweet when there's no chocolate-brown to "make you feel" guilty about it.

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  72. john (the hubby of Jen)March 24, 2010 at 9:39 AM

    Ah,

    I see you guys aren't interested in a discussion or in reading anything I have to say with an open mind, possibly even giving me the benefit of the doubt. I'm sorry you were offended by something that was not meant to be and I wish you the best.

    john

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  73. Dear John,

    Thanks for stopping by and trying to engage.

    It's not that "we" aren't listening to you -- the point of the White Privilege Bingo-card references and of many other commenters above is that "we" who seek to understand and counter egregious common white ways have heard all that you're saying in your own defense many, many times before.

    You see, what's really going on here is that although you claim to want a "discussion," you're not indicating any real interest in that -- you're clearly just not listening to any of "us."

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  74. @John re: "You assume that all white people are, by default, racist. . . . I think that white people are trying very hard to understand what to actually do about this whole issue but it really is a no win."


    I am a white person, as is the host of this blog, and I don't think that people here believe that all white people are racist, as you say earlier in the post. In fact, I think that most of the people who post here have come to realize that the idea of dividing society into racist and not-racist is an exercise in futility. Most of the posters have called what you wrote "racially problematic" or words to that effect. You chose to interpret that as a label of "racist." That's where your head is.

    Also, your statement that trying to do the right thing is a no-win situation demonstrates the problem with your whole approach. It says to me that you just want to find what's gonna please "those people," so they'll leave you alone in your white cocoon and stop demanding that you do anything to make your society a better place in terms of racial equality. You are, in other words, "us-and-them-ing" the situation when to really act on your beliefs, you should see it as just us (that is, all people) and listen to what PoC (and other white people) say as if (imagine!) they really are your brothers and sisters trying to open your eyes.

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  75. Oh man! Why is everyone picking on John, the Special Snowflake?! D: This wasn't his fault! He can't help it that everyone else is just so SENSITIVE! If we all had just gotten a chance to grow up in a nice town like his where racism doesn't exist and everyone (I assume) skips around arm in arm and ride unicorns to school then we'd all just let this go! Because then we'd see that racism is something that we anti-racists keep talking about so we'll just have something to bitch about and pick on kind and unsuspecting blog owners about! Seriously, leave the Special Snowflake alone! DDDDD:

    Seriously, all the comments in this thread have laid this issue out for you. Now it's you're choice to either continue using your privilege as blinders or to own up to your mistake and work to not let it happen again. Maybe people are reacting so negatively to your comments because the comments are so seeped in privilege it is honestly hard to read through even half of it without my eyes rolling a complete 360.

    So quit acting so butt hurt. No one cares about your Special Snowflake status.

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  76. On the one hand, I'm really glad to see this because I was also bothered by that Cake Wrecks post.

    On the other hand, I'm sad that I'll have to stop reading Cake Wrecks, now that John has so clearly exposed his ass for everyone to see. Ugh.

    Oh well, more time for me to do other things.

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  77. I'm going to issue you a challenge: tell me what I should have written.

    It's pretty straightforward, John. If you can't think of anything to say that isn't offensive, then just don't post the cake. The whole "don't say anything if you can't say something nice" isn't exactly a new principle.

    As for why you think it would be racist not to post the cakes if the only possible accompanying text is offensive, I'm not sure. I have zero doubt that it's better to have no cake and no racism, than cake and racism.

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  78. Nobody's giving him the benefit of the doubt???
    Did he really...?

    The. Fuck.
    Whenwhenwhen will clueless white people realize that POC give them buttloads of unearned doubt-benefit 24/7/365? When will they appreciate (in both senses) that before a racism-related complaint ever passes our lips, we've done all the rereading, generous reconsidering and all-around minimizing on their behalf that they could do AND MORE, only to reluctantly conclude "aww dammit, I kinda have to say something."

    POC (and white anti-racists, for that matter) DO NOT simply fly off the handle at the merest whiff of assholery. We have been trained too well for that. What benefit do these people think we get out of just "bitching"? We get NOTHING and then some for pointing out racism! We get white tears, angry denials, finger-wagging, dismissal as "pc," ostracization... it's called aversion therapy. Which is why we suck it up and say NOTHING 85% of the time.

    Let me make this perfectly clear:
    You DID get the benefit of the doubt, I guarantee it. [¡DE NADA!] But it wasn't enough. No matter how kindly it's looked at, you still fucked up a l'il bit there. And did you not notice how politely it was pointed out? Repeatedly? But there's been no edit, or even any real acknowledgement of the problem; instead, you pull a "you can't be hurt, because I'm hurt!!" Guess what? We're not going to forget about your fuckup in our rush to comfort your "hurt feelings." OUR feelings are hurt. Yours are not. I do not buy it. You're just resorting to white tears to cover the fact that you're (presumably) a little embarrassed. It's a classic gambit, and frankly, trying to pull it is a bit of an insult. How stupid do you think we are? How lovable do you think you are?? We do not know you! All we know is what you wrote. And where you grew up, or where your head was at— who fuckin' cares? None of that changes what you wrote.

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  79. What has humored me the most about this whole exchange was the assumption that the people who were offended were all POC.

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  80. @John. Hi, so I'm a white male, and a noob to the discussion here. I've recently said and thought some of the same stuff you've posted and I've had my ass handed to me a few times Just like you. I've felt attacked as you do now. I just want to tell you that it is worth it to listen and start to educate yourself. instead of feeling as if you need to defend yourself, I suggest you see this as an opportunity to better yourself and deepen your understanding of the world around you and the people in it. If a voice inside you is telling you that there might be something going on here that you don't understand, listen to that voice, Not the one that's telling you to defend yourself because you know what's up. That's your ego and it's lazy.

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  81. (To John, if he's still reading here)

    Earlier, Lisa Swanson posted something that I think really bears repeating:
    "How many times has Cake Wrecks posted cakes with people whose skin was represented with vanilla frosting and taken that frosting to be anything other than white skin? Then, when a cake representing a person with black skin is posted, suddenly the color of the icing becomes something painted on rather than something natural. It is false to say that there was no assumption made about race."

    ...in light of the last comment you (John) made in the original post:
    "The one that I so thoughtlessly called "covered in chocolate sauce?" It's because it's COVERED IN CHOCOLATE SAUCE!"

    Put another way, would you as soon make a comment about the other cakes being covered in frosting? The other cakes are afforded the privilege of suspension of disbelief (stuff covering the cake (light frosting) = skin) that the 3rd and 4th cakes are not granted (stuff covering the cake ( darker frosting or chocolate sauce) = *stuff on* skin). It's not about skin covered in chocolate sauce, it's about chocolate sauce itself being considered skin. Indeed, the very first comments after the post merely point out that different interpretation.

    As for how to have handled the whole situation: perhaps something like the caveat for the first cake's caption that shows awareness of other ways of perceiving the cake. Or, after the fact, simply acknowedging that yeah, the cakes could just as easily represent POC's *and leave it at that* instead of defending your own interpretation (thereby invalidating others by implying that yours is somehow more true).

    Ask youself this: if you step on someone's foot, is it more important to explain how you didn't mean to step on their foot ("It's really hurtful to hear you accuse me of stepping on your foot! I would never dream of stepping on anyone's foot so I know couldn't have stepped on your foot.") or to apologize for having done so ("Wow, I was so caught up in my dancing that I didn't notice where I was stepping. I'm sorry I stepped on your foot and I'll try to be more careful.")?

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  82. Cake Wrecks is one of my favorite sites. I recognized the belly cake immediately and the other pics as well.

    I get so caught up in the cakes, I rarely read the the comments after (they're usually complimentary and mirror my own thoughts, I just gloss over them but I won't be doing that from now on) and Jen's commentary is usually spot on.

    The cake about the brown-skinned person being a " tanned goddess" I actually thought was complimentary to black women. Maybe it was just wishful thinking. But to me, as a woman of color, I assumed the bikini cake was a person of color. The "chocolate covered" one, not so much...hmmm...my own thinking bothers me there.

    It's only in the past few years how many code words there are for "white people" and how, if it's inclusive of others, must come with quantifiers. There's the "middle class" and then there's "the Black middle class". There are "citizens" and then there are "people of color". There are Americans and then there are "Black Americans".

    But the default words without the race quantifier always mean white people only. Especially in the media and even on liberal blogs that should know better (Crooks and Liars, HuffPo, TruthDig and such).

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  83. Doesn't the last cake look like it is covered in chocolate sauce because the substance is thick and shiny? It doesn't look like skin or even frosting- because it is THICK and SHINY. (A better baker would have used fondant.) Isn't that the is the point of the joke? If it was thick and shiny and white, I'm sure there could be a good pudding joke in there.

    Can no one really admit that it really does look like a headless torso covered in chocolate sauce?

    I'm just saying.

    Pecaspexit said: "It's not about skin covered in chocolate sauce, it's about chocolate sauce itself being considered skin."

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  84. This reminds me of the old 'flesh' colored crayola crayon. White flesh of course.

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  85. its strange that you take one isolated incident, albeit, if you take every incident and try to catalog them, it may indeed seem as tho there is some sort of hateful scheme at work, and apply it to a whole class of people. this is also known as a hasty generalization.

    im not defending any of these actions i find them vile in most occurrences, and just pointless in others. I do tend to think this blog seems to prolong or exacerbate racism by breaking your topics down to such simplistic arguments without much detail.

    in a more recent post, an individual posited that there was little someone from a different perspective can do to understand other than immerse themselves in this blog and its community and that one should do this for a few weeks before they ask their own questions.

    This post is pointless because the audience will vehemently deny and post links to 'white dudes being apologetic' article or 'white people downplaying racism' or some such other article, you might even make a new article based on this post. who knows.

    regardless i dont find this place to be very eye opening, i came here hoping to find some sort of... way to understand how a lot of people feel, but all i found were gross generalizations, the same kind i can make of any individual regardless of race, nationality, creed, ethnicity, gender, occupation, educational level, blood type, height, age, weight, religion, hair color, etc

    my point is. i hope your future topics lends itself to dialog rather than fan thumbs up. i hope your future posts are more healing, or have a more expository nature than a damning one. i dont see any posts that seem to offer any aid or hope for anyone on any spectrum regarding this. it seems only a place were loathing coalesces.

    still, i encourage whatever journey you're on, but be mindful of what good bad or indifference you might be abetting.

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  86. be nice,

    Have you noticed the subtitle of this blog?

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  87. @be nice

    I doubt there likely would be a need to make a post devoted to you because it's likely there are topics in the archive about your condescending behaviour at just this site alone.

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  88. Oh, look, the defenders have come.

    "You're not interested in discussion" always translates to me as "you aren't telling me what I want to hear, and I want my cookie, or I'm going home".

    Call the wahmbulance.

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  89. !Delurking!

    I find it interesting that we've heard zero from Cake Wrecks' Jen on this subject.

    Also, I wonder if there were any POC among the people who John consulted before commenting. Y'know, since he used to have all those deep conversations with all those POC friends of his.

    Also also, @PMS Rhino, LOL, school would have been a billion times awesomer if I'd had a unicorn to ride every day.

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  90. I read a quote today that reminded me of some of the things written in this comment thread that have implied that conversations like this one or this blog are responsible for the appearance of racism (I'm summarizing, but a good example is Be Nice's comment above). Anyway, here's the quote:

    "To blame the conversation about race for racism is like blaming the speedometer on your car for the ticket that you just got." -- Tim Wise

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