Portrait of Elizabeth Murray
England (c. 1650)
Oil on canvas, 124 x 119 cm
I think I have seen pictures of this before, in high school maybe, but I don’t remember there being a second person before. I seem to remember this image being cropped differently too, which is very disturbing because now that I see the entire painting, the way I remember it being cropped was very clearly and deliberately intended to remove the person holding the tray of flowers.
Since we’re throwing haymakers at the kyriarchy today, I think this is something that we should really be talking about too, because it happens
ALL. THE. TIME.
Level 1: People of Color from Medieval, Renaissance, and other Early Modern European works were often literally painted over in later decades or centuries.
Level 2: It was very fashionable in a lot of 17th and 18th century paintings to have a Black servant featured in portraits of very important historical figures from European History.
Honestly? They’re practically ubiquitous. A lot of the very famous paintings you’ve seen of European and American historical figures have a Black servant in them that have been cropped out or painted over.
Those silly stock photos from your American History Professor’s Powerpoint?
Your Professor’s PowerPoint for “George Washington”:
The actual painting:
Your professor’s Powerpoint on Jean Chardin:
The actual painting:
PowerPoint on Maria Henriette Stuart (with some commentary about the Habsburg jaw):
But, because of whitewashed history curricula, teachers and professors continue to use the cropped images because they don’t want their lecture to get “derailed” by a discussion about race.
These images are also more commonly seen on stock photo sites, including ones for academic use.
I honestly can’t find anyone really writing about this, or even any analysis on how often the cropped photos are used.
The reason they are so easy to crop out is because of the the artistic conventions which reflect the power hierarchy:
Oil paintings of aristocratic families from this period make the point clearly. Artists routinely positioned black people on the edges or at the rear of their canvasses, from where they gaze wonderingly at their masters and mistresses. In order to reveal a ‘hierarchy of power relationships’, they were often placed next to dogs and other domestic animals, with whom they shared, according to the art critic and novelist David Dabydeen, ‘more or less the same status’. Their humanity effaced, they exist in these pictures as solitary mutes, aesthetic foils to their owners’ economic fortunes.
This is drastically oversimplified, but at least it addresses it directly.
If anyone knows more on any studies or statistical evidence on this tendency, feel free to add it.
"Things Asians Hate," by Eliot Chang.
This is terrible AND WONDERFUL.
And funny. Just watch.
Next time a white person accuses you of #reverseracism, ask them if they have two and a half minutes to watch this
I hate white supremacy, so sometimes I express that by saying “I hate white people.” But it’s not personal. At least not towards any particular white person. It’s just that white people have been doin’ the world dirty for like a thousand years. If I hate you, that’s my problem at the end of the day. Cuz me hating you is not going to keep you from maintaining your privilege. I’m not a fan of the construction of whiteness, so if you are a white person that critiques that structure and recognizes their privilege, then we prolly homies. Make sense? Basically white supremacy bad. White people who uphold white supremacy bad. White people who don’t, scarce, but good.
From Lorde to Macklemore, it’s a sentiment that’s galling for its popularity: white artists need to stop using the wealth signifiers of rap music to gesture at their self-important “anti-consumerism.” What Allen misses as she washes rims in a kitchen decorated only with bottles of champagne is that it’s not anti-consumerism when it only targets one type of consumer.
Rap owns a unique history soundtracking the triumph of financial success in a country that long barred black Americans from that success. It shouldn’t be an opportunity for white artists to wax superior. Beyond poor taste, it’s the myopia of latent racism that’s more anxious about gold chains on a rapper than an Armani tie on a hedge fund analyst.
Similarly, Lily Allen’s response to sexist industry demands for thinness becomes entirely ineffectual when it lashes out against women who succeed despite those demands. Allen is not savily critiquing the world of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus, she’s resentfully bemoaning not getting to enjoy the same success.
“Hard Out Here” is the opposite of Mileywave. Instead of using black women as props to further her career, Allen blames them for its stagnation. In full-sleeved dresses Allen mocks her inability to twerk amidst women of color in body suits who launch into exaggerated dance moves, licking their hands and then rubbing their crotch. Her older white male manager tries to get to her to mimic them. Meanwhile she sings, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you/‘Cause I’ve got a brain.” Cut to black women shaking their ass, so much for sisterly solidarity.
Lily Allen’s Racist New Music Video, “Hard Out Here”
You can say please all you want, but at the end of the day most white people honestly just don’t care. Despite widespread criticism of Miley Cyrus for her racist cultural appropriation and use of black women as props in her videos, despite criticism of the likes of Lorde for their flippant degradation of the consumer choices and desires of poor black people, Lily Allen arrives in grand racist fashion with her debut track from her upcoming third album.
The video is meant to be a critique and satire of popular culture and manages some deserved jabs at Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” videos among others, but in the end it just reduces itself down to elevating Lily Allen’s white female body and objectifying and utterly denigrating those of the black female dancers she deliberately surrounds herself with from start to finish.
Let’s just go through a few image stills from the video to start…
(Image description: Lily Allen in a golden room standing in front of a group of 6 female dancers, 4 black, 1 Asian (?) and 1 white)
Much of the video features Lily Allen dancing in a golden room in front of a primarily black group of female dancers. Of course, to contrast the sexuality and exotic nature of their bodies with the others and hers, the black women are dressed in leotards and bikinis while the others have jackets, pants and the like. But honestly, I pretty much just shrugged until the utter reduction of black women’s bodies to props and sexual objects commenced in quick haste…
(Image description: A torso of one of the black female dancers in a leotard with her hand over her vagina)
Wait… what?! We only later get to see this black woman’s face really well. Gotta start with the pussy shot of her body since clearly it’s her virile sexuality that’s the real focus here.
(Image description: the upper body and head of the black female dancer with her hands parted and her tongue out)
I guess… happy that we saw her face now at least? Oh but of course she has to be licking her hands and the air.
(Image description: White dancer sticking a dollar bill into the bra of a black female dancer with the latter dancer gasping and looking at the camera)
Any words necessary? It gets better, though, once Lily Allen switches scenes and gets to objectify them and contrast their “gratuitous” bodies with her white femaleness some more.
(Image description: Lily Allen in a fur coat dancing in front of a car surrounded by her dancers twerking around her)
And it keeps going…
(Image description: Lily Allen dancing fully covered in front of a car surrounded by her dancers twerking around her)
Literally only your black dancers are the ones with much skin showing (no problem with that in and of itself but that deliberate contrast with yourself and your non black dancers is sickening) with you as the ~innocent~ white woman dancing fully clothed around them and even one of them on all fours twerking next to you?! Jesus fucking Christ.
But it keeps going… (I told ya’ll this was bad)
(Image description: One black female dancer in a bikini pouring champagne down her chest)
(Image description: One black female dancer in a bikini twerking and slapping her own ass as champagne is poured on it by another black female dancer in a bikini)
Since you know, black female bodies and twerking (a form of black female expression with their bodies) are all so funny and a joke, WHY NOT END BY SMACKING ONE OF THEM ON THE ASS TO REASSERT YOUR DOMINANCE AND PRIVILEGE OVER THEM AS A WHITE WOMAN?
Oh wait, she did that too:
(Image description: Animated gif image of Lily Allen laughing and slapping one of her twerking black female dancers on the ass)
I feel sick to my stomach so I didn’t even have the energy to screencap and post the scene where Lily Allen is dancing alone in a dress adorned with images of The Notorious B.I.G. and another one where her and her white manager are attempting to learn how to “twerk” from the black dancers. I just don’t have it in me.
What I can say, though, is that the video is sickening. It is meant to be a critique of popular culture and consumerism but employs and denigrates black female bodies to do so and elevate her status as a white woman. The lyrics of the song are also so indicative of this:
"I don’t need to shake my ass for you because I got a brain"
So women (and I’m guessing you really mean black women, right, Lily?) who shake their asses are all stupid and have no value, huh?
What’s all so funny in the midst of this is that Lily Allen has said that her upcoming album has “feminist vibes” to it, which is all too indicative of why black women (and other WOC) feel so detached from the mainstream white feminist movement. It’s why Alice Walker coined the word “womanist” to mark a departure from that movement into one that understood and saw the wholeness of her as a black woman. Intersectionality is important and erasing it, as many white feminists (and black men in discussions about race with black women) do only reveals the real intent of said movement to preserve and enshrine white womanhood at all costs even if it takes denigrating WOC to do so.
There is an incredibly valid critique to be made about hip hop culture and music videos which consistently demean black women, but to ignore her enormous privilege as a white woman and engage in exactly the same racist, degrading objectifying fuckery as Miley Cyrus (who this video was apparently at least partially a “dig” at) is disgusting to say the least.
I keep asking myself when will white people learn, when will they stop degrading my sisters under the auspices of being “progressive,” and when will they stop lauding shit like this as “saving pop music,” but the depths and depravity of racism don’t make any sense, especially in the context of the racialized antiblack misogyny (misogynoir) that black women face every single day.
On that note, FUCK you Lily Allen and who asked you to drag your ass out of musical retirement in the first place? Despite loving your music (and finding this song catchy), I sure as hell want you to take your ass right back there ASAP.
And one last time for posterity…
(Image description: Animated gif image of Lily Allen laughing and slapping one of her twerking black female dancers on the ass)
Apparently Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent and Vagenda are saying how wonderful it is. PUT THEM ALL IN THE VAR OF PISS
Seriously, it surprises me that people still don’t get that “whitewashing” doesn’t just mean “taking a character of color and turning them white,” but also applies to “focusing disproportionately on the stories of white people,” “glossing over or altering parts of a story to make it more palatable or make white people look better,” and “treating ‘white’ as the default race”
The fact that Disney churns out film after film after film after film about white people with a maximum of one film per ethnicity that showcases a group other than white people is whitewashing.
The fact that the story of “Pocahontas” (not her real name) has been substantially altered so that some of the white people in that story don’t look like such villains, with John Smith younger and Pocahontas significantly older, as well as recounting a popular myth of her saving John Smith from near-execution (a story John Smith made up to make himself look brave, the real Pocahontas told him to stop telling and hated him for using her to make himself look good, and he started to spread like wildfire after she died because she could no longer object) is whitewashing.
The fact that the characters on “How I Met Your Mother” are all white, and they supposedly live in New York City, but apparently associate exclusively with other white people (with the exception of Wayne Brady, who occasionally visits from out of town, and a recurring taxi driver) is whitewashing.
The fact that the Doctor has now been a white man a full twelve times in a row is whitewashing even though the character’s always been white, because the idea that there’s a character whose entire appearance can change in a matter of seconds, yet ends up white twelve times in a row by pure random chance, implies that white is a neutral default and other races are a deviation from that norm.
The fact that people get really angry at the suggestion that characters like Newt Scamander or Hermione Granger could be black because the books never explicitly say “they are black” is whitewashing.
Because that’s the thing. People often assume that when someone’s race isn’t explicitly specified, they’re white. People insist that Katniss Everdeen must be white because it is possible for them to rationalize that idea in their head. People think of white as “raceless” and every other color or ethnicity as “raced,” and that’s what we call “eurocentrism.”
And that’s the thing about whitewashing. It’s this idea that a “person” is white, and a “person of color” is black or asian or arab or latin@ or whatever they might be.
It’s why people call John Stewart the “Black Green Lantern” but just call Hal Jordan the “Green Lantern.” It’s why Miles Morales is called “Black Spider-man” but Peter Parker is just “Spider-man.” If you want to throw gender into the mix, it’s why Jennifer Walters is the “She-Hulk” but Bruce Banner isn’t the “He-Hulk.”
People think “character” is white and “character + black” is black. There is no default race. Community did a whole episode about how a truly raceless character would look something like this monstrosity:
But there’s the tricky part: Once you stop thinking of white characters as “character” and start thinking of them as “character + white,” it becomes really overwhelming how many characters are white.
I mean, I know there’s a kerfuffle over Disney Princesses right now, so let’s look at the list of official Disney Princesses, shall we? That is, let’s look at the list and include everyone’s race, not just the princesses of color:
- Snow White + White
- Cinderella + White
- Aurora + White
- Ariel + White
- Belle + White
- Jasmine + Arab
- Pocahontas + Native American
- Mulan + Asian
- Tiana + Black
- Rapunzel + White
- Merida + White
Soon to be added:
- Anna + White
- Elsa + White
4 of those 13 women are women of color. All four of those women of color are different races than one another. At the moment, the number of white princesses is seven, but it’s about to go up to nine. All nine of those princesses are the same race as one another, despite a few of them being different nationalities, although most of them hail from Western Europe.
And a lot of people are saying “but they’re just accurately portraying the parts of the world those stories are set in!” First of all, the presence of a person of color has never been implausible in any part of the world, in any period of human history. Hell, a bunch of these movies were set after Shakespeare had born, lived, and died, but he still managed to write a play set centuries earlier featuring a black male lead in Italy.
Second, and most importantly, it’s not like they are being assigned a setting at random and have to accommodate it in their character designs. The people at Disney choose to set film after film after film in France and Germany and Denmark.
It’s not that those areas produce more or better fairy tales and folk tales than any of the other continents, it’s that the stories that come from those areas are the ones Disney considers universal.
In the eyes of Disney, there’s a Princess for Black little girls to look up to, a Princess for Native little girls to look up to, a Princess for Arab little girls to look up to, a Princess for Asian little girls to look up to, and nine princesses for all little girls to look up to. It’s no coincidence that in almost all promotional art featuring the “Princess Lineup,” Jasmine, Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas are all standing in the back, usually obscured by other
whitePrincesses’ dresses, while the blonde lady brigade stands in the front.
And that is whitewashing.
So I made this thing and I’m pretty proud of it, haha.
All parents of color are inferior and backwards
Until its time to look for a nanny right
Then suddenly we are just fine to raise your kids for you
Steven Yeun explains how his character has survived for so long on The Walking Dead
ooooooooooooh shit! shots fired!!!!!!
I love how he looks sideways at the camera so you know exactly who that comment is directed towards…
"If the books, websites, television and films you spend time on value white life above all others, you probably do too." - Teju Cole
One of the things that bugs me about the earliest Disney princesses all being white is that they didn’t have to be.
There are 354 variants of the Cinderella story - she shows up in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Korea.
Rapunzel has a Persian variant.
Beauty and the Beast has Jamaican, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Turkish and African (they don’t specify more precisely) variants.
The white Disney princesses are white because Disney wanted them to be. It’s got nothing to do with ‘historical accuracy’.