Archive for the ‘Race and ethnicity’ Category

Melon eaters of 1937

August 13, 2019

In the NYT on the 11th (in print on the 12th), the entire editorial page given over to an opinion piece by Brent Staples, “The Radical Blackness of Ebony Magazine: The publication was revolutionary for its depiction of middle-class African-American life”, in the middle of which comes an astonishing observation:

As a close student of Life [magazine], [Ebony founder John H.] Johnson would no doubt have seen the dehumanizing images of African-Americans that appeared in the infamous 1937 issue of the magazine whose cover caption read “Watermelons to Market.” The cover photograph showed an unnamed black man — shirtless and well muscled — sitting with his back to the camera atop a wagonload of melons [on a dirt road alongside a cotton field]. The inside photos offered what Ms. Greer describes as a hierarchy of watermelon eaters, with white bathing beauties at the top and pigs at the bottom; in between was an image of a black woman holding a slice of melon to her face with one hand and nursing a baby with the other. The equating of blackness with sub-humanity is unmistakable in the photographs. The photo caption drives home the point:

“Nothing makes a Negro’s mouth water like a luscious, fresh-picked melon,” it reads. “Any colored ‘mammy’ can hold a huge slice in one hand while holding her offspring in the other. … What melons the Negroes do not consume will find favor with the pigs.”

You will say that things have changed, and to some extent that’s true: these days you wouldn’t find such flat-out unthinking racism in a publication aimed at a large audience primarily of the middle class. But the attitudes and images lie just below the surface today, to bubble up in barely coded form for mass audiences (as well as in undiluted form on flagrantly white-nationalist sites).

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Briefly noted: the disavowal drill

August 4, 2019

In today’s NYT Magazine (in print), a Jason Parham comment “This is not a drill”, on a 7/21 (in print) piece by Claudia Rankine, the comment turned into a thumbnail illustration by Giacomo Gambineri:

The Magrittean disavowal Ceci n’est pas une perceuse ‘This is not a drill’ (referring to une perceuse, a device for making — piercing — holes in things), but playing on the English catchphrase This is not a drill, conveying  ‘This is the real thing, this is serious’.

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The boys of Boris Beauville

July 22, 2019

(An politico-sexual riff, with steamy underwear photos, on BoJo, the MP for Bone Juice and South Blowjob and the Man Who Would Be PM; you should be able to tell from this description that this posting is not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Passed on to me on Facebook by Dean Calbreath on 7/20, a link to a Business Insider article, “Boris Johnson called gay men ‘tank-topped bumboys’ and black people ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles'”, by Adam Bienkov on 7/12/19.

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Pushing the boulder up the hill

March 24, 2019

This week’s inspiring words on the social progress front, from Gloria Ladson-Billings, circulated on Facebook by H. Sami Alim on the 22nd:

I know that I am 4 generations out of chattel slavery, 3 generations out of sharecropping, 2 out of legalized apartheid, and I’m an endowed university professor. Not because I’m great, but because people kept on pushing the boulder up the hill.

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Film watch: men kissing men

February 18, 2019

As furors break out here and there over same-sex kisses in the media (especially in ads) and also in real life (in public places) — disgusting! THINK OF THE CHILDREN! get that out of my sight! — I move to celebrate them. Especially men kissing men, an act that enrages a fair number of people, apparently because they have been conditioned to view it as the functional equivalent of two sweaty naked men fucking. I view it as the functional equivalent of a man and woman kissing: an act of romantic connection with a spicy tang of sexual attraction (but no more)

And so I come to two recent British films viewed on Netflix: The Pass (Russell Tovey and Arinzé Kene as footballers) and God’s Own Country (Josh O’Connor and Alec Secăreanu as Yorkshire sheep farmers). Both are fraught love stories set in intensely masculine working-class social worlds. With wonderful performances. And man-on-man kissing, both touching and moving.

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Mandolin Orange

February 4, 2019

Alerted by NPR this morning and entertained by the band’s name, I checked out Mandolin Orange and really liked what I found.


(#1) Mandolin Orange recording “Wildfire” 11/2/16 at Paste Studios in NYC

And they’ll be playing at the Fillmore in SF next month:

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The party linguist

January 28, 2019

The 1/17 Wayno-Piraro collab on a Bizarro:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

There’s a lot in this; I’ll start with the purely linguistic question: What does the N + N compound party linguist refer to? Then turn to the question of what’s happening in the cartoon, in particular how the notions of minority and diversity figure in it.

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Blue roses

January 25, 2019

Today’s ad from Daily Jocks, with a sale on men’s high-end underwear from Australian firms, in recognition of Australia Day (tomorrow, the 26th):


(#1) The 2eros Midnight Rose pattern (blue roses on a deep purple background), in a swim slip (Speedo-style swimsuit, but Speedo is a trade name) on the left and swimshorts on the right

Ad copy:

Celebrate Australia Day with DailyJocks and get 15% off your favourite Australian brands including; 2eros, Teamm8, Marcuse, Supawear & many more!

My parody caption:

Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?
Blue roses are my place on earth

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Penguin Claus

December 27, 2018

A bold proposal in Slate magazine on 12/10/13 by Aisha Harris, “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore: It’s time to give St. Nick his long overdue makeover”. No, she’s not proposing that Santa should be a black man; she’s saying Santa should be a black and white … penguin.


(#1) Mark Alan Stamaty’s vision of Penguin Claus

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Swine alive or dead

September 29, 2018

From the American tv show Gunsmoke, in the episode “Fandango” (S12 E21, first aired 2/11/67), Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) to a man he’s taken into his custody for trial:

Mister, you’re going back pig or pork, now make up your mind!

The colorful alliterative figure pig or pork, a version of the formula alive or dead (more often encountered in the version dead or alive, with the monosyllable before the disyllable). And an excellent version it is.

(It appears to have been a creation of the Gunsmoke writers: I can find no occurrences that aren’t quotations of, comments on, or allusions to the “Fandango” cite.)

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