On the Ashton Kutcher-Popchips-Brownface debacle, lady-centric gossip site Celebitchy opined:
“Throughout the past… decade or so, I’ve become kind of jaded about this kind of “racism”. While I completely see the critics’ points about “brown-face” and the racism of the stereotype, I’m mostly offended by the stupidity. That’s what bugs me: this is just stupid. This is an awful idea, and I can’t believe someone thought, “Hey, what a great idea! This will be a perfect way to promote chips! Let’s hire Ashton Kutcher and get him do an Indian minstrel show!” How f–king dumb are they?”
CB’s readers endorsed this sentiment here…
…and in several other comments that cited some of my favorite neoliberal colorblind bon mots such as “the race card” and “politically correct” and “If we saw eachother[sic] as PEOPLE first, instead of [insert ethnicity here] first…” Though, admittedly, they are not as entertaining as the utterly tangential reverse racism references about President Obama and Mel Brooks’ 1974 film Blazing Saddles. But across the web, they stand in solidarity with similar comments, such as the ones found on the New York Times’ and Time’s own Popchip articles.
What’s confounding is that the writer — under the moniker Kaiser — acknowledges the ad’s racism and then proceeds half a sentence later to openly dismiss criticism of brownface (do you really “get it,” as you say?) and criticism of racist portrayals in general. Her readers, however, go a step further by declaring it so not racist that those who are offended by it are actually made to be the racists! I don’t know what kind of racism continuum structure these ladies have created, but by god is it fascinating.
First, I’m so sorry that this part white (and part Indian!) writer is jaded by racism. Particularly air quote racism, which I imagine creates significantly more oppression in the life of a lady who gets paid to write about celebrities all day than that other kind of racism that affects those other kind of people. I feel your pain.
Second, attempts to supplant the racism of the Popchips commercial with cries of it simply being stupid and offensive to anyone with a modicum of intelligence or sense of humor — while purposefully eliding the ad’s racism — are too contradictory to hold water.
Let me explain why. If you decry the ad for being insulting to general audiences’ intelligence, then why — in the same breath — underestimate said intelligence by completely disassociating racial and ethnic stereotyping from racism?
If you have never thought or cared to learn about the experiences of non-whites, then perhaps you are unaware that racial or ethnic stereotypes are based on somatic features (skin tone, bone structure, eye shape, weight, and stature) and perceived cultural traits (accents, body movements, personalities) made to reduce real live human beings into easily reproducible generalizations and images. As in they are less than human, less than the nuanced, variegated folks who create such imagery for their own social, political or financial gain. Those folks have historically been white, but can be anyone in a position of power, anyone with the means to produce and disseminate their message broadly to the masses.
So you’ve got 1) an imbalanced power structure upon which Popchips and their Hollywood spokesman are sitting atop 2) the reduction of human value based on physical and cultural traits, real or fictive and 3) a situation where #1 uses #2 to turn a profit selling shitty tasting snack chips.
That, my friends, is racism. And nestling close by are stereotypes, as they are wont to do. They are inextricably linked, PC-ness and race cards be damned.
Which leads me to another question: How many bags of racist Popchips do I need to buy in order to get rewards on my race card? I’d prefer to earn some airlines miles, if possible.
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