Monday, December 21, 2009

Kanye and Lady GaGa Come Out Of The Jungle

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The above photo was taken by David LaChappelle.  Is it ringing any warning bells for anyone, or is this just another example of how we celebrate the wonderful post racial world that we are supposedly living in?

We have evolved so much that showing a Black man looking like a zombie in a jungle carrying a naked blonde is no longer problematic.  We will just ignore the fact that he does not look human and his body has clearly been photoshopped (sorry Kanye those are NOT your abs), thus creating him as a mindless creature. For her part, GaGa plays a wonderful helpless White woman trapped in the arms of the mindless savage doesn’t she? There are certainly no tropes  played out in this photo that continue to be socially relevant are there?

The Black man is not constructed at losing his mind at the sight of naked White females.  He is not understood as a predator and a rapist.  White women don’t perceive Black men as a threat and all is honky dory in make believe land.  This is not just a piece of performance art, it is an affirmation of all of the negative stereotypes associated with Black masculinity; no wonder a brother still can’t catch a cab. 

To ensure that the message is clear, they are in a lovely jungle setting.  Gee, I wonder where they got that ever so original idea?  Certainly it couldn’t be from the social understanding that Blacks are savage animal creatures?  Are we supposed to just admire the flora and the erupting volcano and forget the message that this sends us? I am surprised they didn’t have a monkey swinging from a tree to complete the look.   Oh careful Missy Ann, a Black man will overwhelm you.

I am so sick of images like this from supposedly liberal people.  There is nothing ironic about the perpetuation of racism.  It does not show a level of understanding about how painful racism is and the fact that it continues to be the foundation of undeserved White privilege.  Reifying harmful social tropes only serves to substantiate the second class standing of Blacks.  Using art which has historically been a means to challenge social conventions in this way renders it useless as a form of transformative social commentary.