Friday, March 28, 2008
I've waited about a week to bring this up, and therefore I know that in today's world that makes this semi-old news, if not completely old news altogether. I'm speaking of the latest issue of Vogue, a hoity toity, nose-in-the-air sort of magazine read by twenty-something celubante wannabes. If you haven't seen the magazine, there's been some rumblings from various groups and talking heads on cable television screaming about it being racist (Cue Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton's entrance music). What? No Jessie? No Al? Good! Because this latest "controversy" - and I use that word lightly - is ridiculous, and nothing more than the desperate attempt of a few to stir the pot.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, bring up Google in your web browser and do a simple image search using the words "Lebron James" and "Giselle" and "Vogue". You'll see a basketball player - one of today's biggest stars, and a supermodel, also one of the most famous in her field of work. What are your first thoughts when you see this image? I see a very muscular basketball player, and a very fit model. He's tattooed, in an aggressive stance, and has a very powerful, very emotional expression on his face, not unlike those he makes one hundred times a game. She's, well, a model. She's beautiful, and as close to perfection as a human can be. The photograph was shot by Annie Liebowitz, a very famous, respected photographer, and was taken because the magazine features an article about how the world's best athletes and most famous models stay in shape. Lebron and Giselle are perfect specimens to enforce the article's intended purpose. I see a ripped athlete. I also see a beautiful model. What I don't see in this photograph is racism.
I read where someone said the photograph intentionally mimics King Kong, with Lebron starring as the hairy ape, and Giselle as the desperate, helpless woman in his clutches. Please cut the crap, okay? Those who see that when they look at this image are racists themselves. If you're reading this and agree that this photograph has racial undertones, you're a racist yourself. Yes, I said it.
Let me break it down for you. What we have hear is a ridiculous double standard. If Lebron had struck this exact same pose with a black model, say Tyra Banks for example, on the cover of a magazine targeted towards the African American demographic (come on, don't act like you didn't know Vogue was for snobby white women)such as Ebony, I doubt we'd be having this discussion. Why? Because if that were the case, society would say "Oh, that's just a black athlete being a black athlete," or something to that effect. You know, a multiple tattoo having, angry expression bearing, baggy shorts wearing black athlete. Fits right into the mold of what a racist believes all black men are, doesn't it? Tattoos? Check. Basketball skills? Check. Secretly wanting to take white women from white men? Check. Someone call the cops. A black man with tattoos and muscles is kidnapping a beautiful white woman. Let's say you didn't know who Lebron James was. Let's say he was instead just a regular black man. No fame, no riches. If we saw his picture on the news and heard a story of domestic violence towards his "baby mama", would we give it a second thought? I doubt it. Why? Call it par for the course. We're used to it. We as a society have been conditioned. Are those who are bothered by this image only bothered because its primary consumer is white people? I think so.
Negative images and portrayals of black people are used in movies all the time. The difference is those movies are targeted directly at black people themselves. You know what I'm talking about. Movies like Friday portray all black men as having multiple children by multiple mothers, drug habits, gun violence habits, and a lack of morals altogether. It's in direct correlation with the idea that I can make a joke about my own race, but not about yours; and I can call my dog ugly, but you better not call him ugly if you know what's good for you.
What did you want Lebron to do, cover up his tattoos? Because if that's the case, all white men being photographed should have to cover theirs as well. Wait, you mean white people have tattoos too? Yes, it's a shock, I know. Some of them actually play basketball too, and even date black women! I hope you racists were sitting down for that.
Is the Vogue cover image a negative portrayal of a black man? Maybe, but it's a stretch. It is stereotypical? No, I don't think so. Is it racist? Only to those who want it to be.