Jan 16, 2014 - CBS Flexes It’s White Privilege: #HIMYM Cast in Yellow Face, By Danielle Miller
The readers of LastRealIndians are no strangers to issues of cultural appropriation. We have dealt with multiple offenses of red face and thankfully have been able to make progress in educating on why these depictions are harmful.
Since many have been so scrutinized for their red face depictions it seems Hollywood needed a new focus for attention. The easiest way to gain attention quickly is through shock value; we see this daily with tabloids and Reality TV. It seems television executives have become aware of how offending racial groups quickly brings names to the spotlight.
While name dropping and attention from audiences may give Hollywood the instant gratification it seeks, they need to realize that resorting to red/yellow/black face for relevance is only giving them negative attention.
You would think with the slew of appropriation and the backlash in the past few years that everyone would have learned their lesson. All the supposedly heartfelt and good intentioned apologies have been created to assuage those who react to the offenses. However, we still see the reckless appropriation and stereotypical depictions continue and the apologies become more inauthentic, predictable and redundant.
An apology means nothing if the actions which caused harm continue. With actions perpetuated it becomes obvious that perpetuators believe they can do anything as long as they can write up another generic apology. Again I will stress the significance of holding perpetuators accountable for their actions and no longer being satisfied with another generic apology.
These patterns reveal that these depictions are no longer a mistake, but ways to subconsciously uphold oppressive power structures. While many point out that there are bigger issues, they fail to recognize that the bigger issues are trivialized and silenced when stereotyped depictions are used to represent a racial group rather than true stories and depictions.
What does this say about the mainstream, that these issues go viral and yet somehow these events keep occurring? There are many possibilities, but it can be proven that it goes beyond “good intentions” and attempts to “honor” the cultures they steal and make a mockery of.
The Katy Perry performance was one that went viral and all the conversations claimed that she wanted to honor the culture and had good intentions although elements of the performance, and her reaction, and actions of appropriation (past and current) proved otherwise.
In last night’s episode of How I Met Your Mother, cast members dressed in yellow face. The video showing this depiction is listed as “no longer available” on the CBS website.
Clearly someone from CBS had to see reactions to Katy Perry’s performance and if they didn’t, they must be negligent in staying up to date on contemporary issues. While some may deem the whole issue as unimportant that still doesn’t change the fact that the issue went viral.
In my opinion, CBS isn’t a credible network if they can’t even stay updated on relevant issues or even have the decency to respect racial groups and avoid stereotypical depictions.
The fact that this happened on a comedy sitcom is even more troubling when you consider the history of yellow, red, and black face was often in a comedic context.
With increasing awareness and presence of social justice through internet platforms, ignorance becomes a very poor excuse. My cynical suspicions say these acts of stereotypical depictions and cultural appropriation become flexing of white privilege and a control mechanism to dehumanize and silence people of color. Could this be a reaction to the backlash of the Katy Perry performance or the emergence of the #notyourasiansidekick twitter social justice movement? If not than it certainly seems like a poor attempt to jump on the cultural appropriation and yellow face bandwagon. Sadly the bandwagon motivation would seem more favorable than the ignorance excuse, because if these stereotypes are really believed to be ethical or accurate than our nation really has problems.
In summation, I cannot say that I’m surprised. Appropriation is ramped even in the year 2014 and it will probably continue. The face of white privilege never learns. Not because they can’t learn but because they don’t have to and they don’t want to. My question to everyone is, what next? And what are you going to do about it?
While the issues become repetitive and tiring we cannot back down or lose hope. Every post and conversation has influence and ultimately plays into the intersectionality of the bigger issues. Stereotypes do not have to be the only representations of poc and we do not have to settle for them to appease the mainstream. By not correcting these offenses we are allowing the mainstream to define our cultures and who we are.
It’s time to raise standards and demand accuracy and respect. In relation to instances of cultural appropriation as well as native mascots in sports, It will be concluded that “Honor” should never be a negative stereotypical depiction. “Honor” should never be ambiguous or forced.