Taking the work out of altering photos by hand to add stereotypical racist features, there is now a Make Me Asian App.
According the promotional material:
“Have you ever wondered to present himself as a person of another nationality? You can imagine, for example, Chinese or Japanese? No? Then immediately take your phone and download it amazing Android-application called «Make me Asian».
This is just a fun app lets you indulge you and your friends! You can for a few seconds to make himself a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asians!”
Here is an example of what it does:
I would just say that this seems like a bad idea put together by someone with too much time on their hands and just enough tech savvy to be dangerous, but I am afraid that somewhere in the world there are some impressionable youth using this app to modify photos, laughing uproariously and not at all understanding the actual import of their actions.
(Also available from the same brain trust the Make Me Indian App.)
Imagine an institution that remembers long serving employees by putting up pictures of them on a wall in a main hallway. This tradition has been in place for a long time so there are many pictures. The problem, all of the honored former employees are white. The institution wants customers, employees, visitors and others who walk down that main hall to feel welcome regardless of race. The institution does not want to present an image as a historically white place. What should they do with the photos?
1. Keep the photos where they are. They represent the history of the institution. At some point an employee of color will stay long enough to be honored on that wall.
2. Move the photos to a less prominent wall preserving history but in such a way that its monochromatic nature is not a striking feature of daily life.
3. Add another wall of photos of famous customers or long time community partners making sure this wall contains diverse photos to counterbalance the wall of white retirees.
4. Take the photos down. Perhaps during the remodeling of the building remove the wall and hence the photos.
5.Take the photos off the wall and put pictures of the individuals on a rotating computerized screen in the hallway, a device set up like a screen saver. Set the delay in such a way that one would have to stand in front of the screen for 10 minutes to realize all those included are white.
Imagine a wall like this. (Note this is a photo from a random business found online. This post is in no way a commentary on the EBO Group whoever they may be.)
I just finished trying this exercise from the Race–Power on an Illusion site where one must sort 16 different photos of individuals into categories by race. It is a very revealing exercise. I was less than 50% accurate. I have never trusted my ability to look at a person and determine his/her race. Now not only am I even less likely to make judgments, but I also realize how subjective such judgments can be.
This photo inspired a lot of reaction when it ran in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
The piece was actually on the potential environmental impact of the demolition of a building near the project; however, a lot of the reaction came from readers who decried the fact that a boy in public housing would have an iPad. Times-Picayune columnist Jarvis DeBerry wrote about the controversy and the idea that there are certain things that are thought to be appropriate for those seen as poor (particularly those benefiting from government programming) to have and certain things like an iPad that are seen as inappropriate.
DeBerry lists a range of items judged to be expensive or otherwise inappropriate for the poor:
“Fancy rims have been known to set me off. Maybe for you it’s gold teeth, Air Jordans, the latest mobile phone. City Councilwoman Stacy Head used her taxpayer-funded phone to send an outraged email when she saw a woman using food stamps to buy Rice Krispies treats.”
He then goes on to look at the vindictive, unkind tone of many of the responses to the photo and take the writers to task. However, the larger question remains, what right do observers particularly taxpayers have to criticize? I could look at the photo and say that the iPod shows the availability of hundreds of dollars that should have gone toward rent thus perhaps enabling the family to move out of the projects. But that would be a huge stretch based on a large basket of assumptions. Who can get out of the projects for the cost of an iPad? Where did the iPad come from? Was it a gift? The questions can go on and they are really none of my business. Who am I to invent a hypothetical family situation and then use that hypothetical situation as a launching point for ill-informed opinions?
I know it is easy to project value judgments and assumptions, I think this photo and the subsequent discussion show the virtue of knowing what one does not know and thus knowing when not to judge.
I am currently reading my way though the “Who Needs Feminism?” tumbler put together by a group of Duke undergrads. The various answers to the question posted by hundreds of women come together to make a powerful mosaic of ideas.
There are many, many great responses, but the one that sticks with me at the moment:
(Perhaps it resonates because I teach and spend a lot of time observing gender dynamics in extracurricular activities.)
This book of photography by Raina Matar, A Girl and Her Room, really strikes me as worthy of study and analysis. I am curious as to what the images reveal not only about the girls presented and their rooms but about the perspective of the photographer and the point she makes through the photos. (I also wonder about girls who do not have a room of their own.)
The images from the Slate slideshow really pique my interest given that they range over a wide diversity of races, body types, nationalities and room decorating choices. Here are three representative images.
Hiba Shatila Palestinian refugee camp, Beirut, 2010 “I stopped going to school to learn hairdressing. I don’t want to work. I am engaged to get married. I said yes and I will learn to love him. He is nice to me. I will get veiled when I get married.”
Siena Brookline, Mass., 2009 “When I was being photographed, what was running through my head was how the models on my wall are the people I strive to look like. I was wondering how we define beauty and where I am on the scale of beauty in relation to the pictures on my wall. Am I good enough?”
Althea Boston, 2010 “My inspirations are Frank Lloyd Wright, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi. My gender won’t hold me back. Great women have changed the world, but these men represent all I want to be.”
I just read a piece about the Fearless campus photography tour, a tour of photographs by Jeff Sheng, “documenting high school and collegiate athletes who openly self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender and are “out” to their predominantly straight teammates and coaches.”
The piece was a reflection by one of the athletes pictured, Avery Stone, a hockey player for Amherst college, in which she visited Bryant College to meet with students as the exhibit was visiting the campus.
The reflection was made even more poignant because on the day of Stone’s visit the photo exhibit (including a photo of Stone) was found to have been taken from the walls of Bryant by person’s unknown.
I was impressed by the article, Stone’s meditations on the difficulty of being an out athlete even at a supposedly liberal college, and her reactions to finding her picture gone. Needless to say the series of photos itself is indeed powerful.
Gordon Hirabayashi, who resisted Japanese internment during World War II, is receiving the Presidential Medal of Honor. This story connects with a slideshow of “Top 10 Iconic Japanese American Photos” posted recently which also emphasizes the internment experience and reactions to it. When I lived in California,this part of history received a lot of emphasis and I remember going to the Japanese American Museum. Now that I am in Ohio, I do not hear as much about these historical events. Still, I think it is important though to remember the way United States government imprisoned its own citizens. ”Today is the first time, so far as I am aware, that we have sustained a substantial restriction of the personal liberty of citizens of the United States based on the accident or race or ancestry” wrote Justice Murphy concurring in the Supreme Court decision authorizing the internment. It is also important to note that the government and the Supreme Court make mistakes, that bodies comprised of human beings are fallible, and that the key is to recognize, admit, and rectify errors. Individuals like Gordon Hirabayashi play a key role in forcing this process to occur.
Internment camp barracks flying the American flag
Japanese American children behind barbed wire
Bainbridge Island, Washington, Japanese American mother and child
As Life writes, “Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen, Iraq’s 17-year-old King Faisal II (invited to the U.S. by President Truman) and Jackie Robinson chat in the Dodger dugout in 1952. The caption — in the odd, clipped language LIFE employed at the time — that accompanied this picture when it ran in LIFE: “Baseball badinage in Dodger dugout pleased king until his uncle made him remove ball cap as undignified. ‘I guess I’d better leave now,’ said king.”"
What an amazing intersection of foreign policy, racial politics, and sporting diplomacy. The photo says so much about US policy toward freedom and democracy both internally and externally as well as the role of photography in presenting images of America. The American pastime, usually innocent, but with epic undertones.