Recently, famed tennis star Caroline Wozniacki appeared on a tennis court with the bra and shorts stuffed to make herself look curvy. It is said that she did it to impersonate another famed tennis star Serena Williams, particularly her natural curves. Many people were amused by this stint. Others, call it being racist. Word on the street is that it’s not the first time female tennis players mocked Williams’ figure by doing similar things.
Days before this WTF moment occurred, the Chi Omega Sorority in Penn State University took a picture of themselves as Mexican stereotypes. They appeared with large sombreros – some had mustaches painted – and wearing traditional Mexican garb. A couple of girls held cardboard signs that read “Will mow lawn or weed” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it.” The sorority is currently on probation for their picture.
Last but not least – for now – we have two girls from the University of Minnesota Duluth who starred in their own video depicting them in black face and making racist, derogatory comments about black people. They touched on almost every major, negative stereotype such as fried chicken, collard greens, gun violence and associating black people with apes. They did it all and more while smiling and laughing their asses off. Eventually, they got caught. The fate of these girls is unknown. However, this is not the first time racism reared it’s ugly head at UMD.
All these and other incidents show a symptoms of a syndrome where whites see people of color (POC) as something to dress up as. Usually, they dress up as their stereotypes and parade around in their fun seeing nothing wrong with their brand of dress-up racism. We’ve seen it every Halloween where mostly white people dress up as Native Americans and Rappers. This also reminds us of the parties hosted and attended exclusively by whites on Martin Luther King’s Holiday where young whites dress up as black stereotypes which include wearing blackface, Afros, throwing up gang signs and stuffed pants to simulate big butts.
It is offensive on numerous levels. It shows that many whites see POC as like living cartoon characters to impersonate in the most asinine way possible. Many of them do not realize or care that what they are doing is offensive to POC. They think that it is just harmless fun. They don’t see it as anything wrong to mock certain people based on two-dimensional images constantly reused and recycled mostly by the media through which many whites gather their “information” on nonwhites.
But this syndrome did not start at the turn of the century. Minstrel shows, where white actors performed in black face, were a form of entertainment from the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s. These shows were never meant to show support, educate or entertain with the purpose of making blacks feel good; they were shown because blacks back then, as it is today, are not seen as regular normal human beings worthy of the same dignity that whites believed they deserved. They saw black people not as people but as lifeforms more akin to dimwitted, violent primates that are to be hated and feared.
This syndrome is manifested in the world of animation and cartoons, particularly the shorts and movies of yesteryear. As with offensive stereotypes of black people were shown onstage, which also invaded the animation business, old Warner Bros., Disney, and MGM cartoon shorts. depicted First Nation people as violent savages who are easily outwitted and defeated by white or white-perceived (Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig) cartoon characters.
POC are hardly seen as people through the media because it has yet to come to terms that it is plagued with racism behind and in front of the scenes. They are seen as a group of millions of only a handful of archetypes that are constantly shown and often demonized. Most whites for generations, before the media became what it is today, could not see POC as human beings and often treated them as such. However, most whites today are ignorant of the fact that dressing up as POC opens old woulds. Many of them don’t see as a problem, and believe that insulted POC are being ‘too sensitive’. To them POC will always be something to dress up as on certain occasions, even if they know POC who are not like the stereotypical outfits that put on just for some shits and giggles.
Is this syndrome a secret way for whites to wish they were POC? It’s only spectulative. Yet, most would rather be the stereotype for a limited time than being a part of the group for which they are stereotyping for a lifetime.