Sunday, 30 June 2019

CAN RACISM BE IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER...?


Copyright KELLOGG'S

Take a look at the above picture which was on a CORN POPS cereal packet in 2017. Now take a look (below) at the tweet from someone called SALADIN AHMED, a comicbook, sci-fi and fantasy writer.  Note that none of these cartoon characters are white, and then ask yourself if Saladin has a point.  Consider first though, that the 'brown corn pop' is engaged in legitimate employment for which (in the real world) he would be paid.


Can depicting someone involved in honest employment and conscientiously going about their business be seriously interpreted as racism?  Last time I looked, white guys are also janitors so there's surely nothing intrinsically demeaning about the position.  Since when did someone doing their job ever qualify as racism?  Ah, but it's a menial position someone cries.  Really?  I'll think you'll find that people of all colours sometimes fill 'menial' positions.

If you ask me (not that you did), Saladin has too much time on his hands and is determined to take offence at the most inconsequential trivialities.  I doubt that any kids seeing this picture would learn racism from it.  It's entirely possible that the brown pop was included for PC reasons of 'diversity', and the fact that he's shown as the only one not 'goofing off' was meant as a positive depiction.  Though we could also ask whether he's even meant to be the pop equivalent of a brown person.

However, cereal makers KELLOGG'S folded immediately when 'confronted' with Saladin's absurd (in my opinion) assertion, and amended future packaging.  Had it been me in charge, I'd simply have said that there was no suggestion of racism intended in showing a hard-working employee going about his business, and that to read such a thing into the illustration was taking things to extremes.

What's your view, Criv-ites?  Racism, or simply yet another case of much ado about nothing?         

24 comments:

Terranova47 said...

What Saladin Ahmed has clearly missed is the vast Kellogg's racism in depicting all those figures conveniently coloured yellow for corn, that are clowning around outside the NINJA SUPPLY CO. Is Kellogg's actually insulting the entire Japanese people?

Are we to suppose that consuming this cereal will make us masters of ancient Japanese martial arts? Is that the hidden message?

KId, maybe eye of the beholder is selective racism. I grew up in the UK where the only KIT KAT confection was milk chocolate around a wafer. Here in the US where KIT KAT is made under license by Hershey the range has expanded from Milk Chocolate to Dark Chocolate and White Chocolate. Is this marketing to different races now?

PS Glad you liked the photos I took at the Society of Illustrators BATMAN art on Moonbase Central.

Graham said...

I guess I could be offended by him implying that being a janitor is an insignificant, unimportant job. Try going two days in your place of business without one. They're pretty important. I was raised to never look down at anyone's job, because all jobs are important, with the possible exception of those who try to find offense in every freaking thing in the world. Like you, I think he needs something more to do and that the brown corn pop was probably added by someone for "diversity."

I live in a small town in the southern U.S. and the only time race ever becomes an "issue" is when someone from outside decides it should be one. We can't do anything about what happened before us, of course, but we're all in the same boat.....trying to make a living, raise our families, and save a little bit for when we can't work anymore. That's a full time job, no need to look for things to be offended about.

Kid said...

Actually, T47, I meant to make a similar point, but forgot by the time I published the post and retired to bed. Not even thinking of the Ninja angle, is the fact that the yellow Corn Pops are all seemingly off their faces and cavorting around meant to suggest that whichever group they're supposed to represent (if any) are all irresponsible, drunken ne'er-do-wells? The brown pop is the only one conducting itself with dignity. That's racism? Give me strength.

******

I've buffed floors myself in my time, G, and there's actually a skill to it as many people just can't control the buffers. I used to walk along corridors buffing one-handed, and other workers would ask if they could have a shot at it 'cos it looked so easy. When they pressed that button they were pulled straight into the side of the wall and had to let go. So yeah, being a janitor or cleaner is nothing to look down on.

Lionel Hancock said...

Once again we hear the mighty word racism which apparently means jump as Kellogg's so aptly did.. Honestly Kelloggs you should have replied to Saladin's pathetic winge with two words beginning with letters F & O.

McSCOTTY said...

OTT comments like that actually mask the serious issues of racism that occur, there no story in this daft illo to me.

tom said...

Very interesting post. I think the generation of people who came up after us are simply too sensitive.

Kid said...

If they'd said that, LH, he might have accused them of being racist - 'cos as we all know, nobody swears at white folk.

******

I think it's yet another case, PM, of someone determined to see racism everywhere so that he feels like he's fighting the good fight.

******

Could well be, T - though some individuals seem on a mission to be more sensitive than others.

TC said...

Saladin Ahmed is a self-imagined elite SJW with too much time on his hands. He might benefit from spending some time in the real world, working at a real job that actually needs to be done. Maybe as a janitor.

Kid said...

Apparently he's an Eisner award-winning writer, TC. However, to describe a brown Corn Pop doing a 'blue collar' job as racist is total nonsense. He seems cut from the same cloth as the guy in a wheelchair who thinks that fictional handicapped people should always be presented in a positive way in anything they appear in. (So no blind or wheelchair-bound villains then.) There's a post about it on the blog somewhere.

Dave S said...

I don't see any intent to denigrate anyone in that Corn Pops ad. I do think that Mr Ahmed's assumption that being a janitor is somehow a lower-class, unskilled job suitable only for those that society looks down on is discriminatory in itself and does nothing to help or highlight genuine examples of racism or bigotry which haunt society.

Kid said...

And I'd agree with you on that 100%, DS. Like you, I think that Mr. Ahmed is displaying a racist attitude himself in his protestations. His comment is only likely to teach his own children to see racism where it doesn't exist.

TC said...

Ahmed also once tweeted that seeing Christmas-themed TV commercials with "white people" in them made him want to "strangle someone." But, in the Bizarro world of political correctness, a cartoon on a cereal box showing a brown corn pop working at an honest (if menial) job is "racist."

Kid said...

I looked him up when I was doing the post, TC, and though he's a Muslim, he says that he actually likes Christmas and Jesus's message. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with white artists drawing white characters or brown artists drawing brown characters, or them mixing them together if they want. But really, who the hell cares? If you think there's too many white guys in a book, a play, a movie, or a comic, then chances are you're a racist who resents white people.

As for Kellogg's, I'd have said in response to Mr. Ahmed's complaint: "See that yellow Corn Pop on the upper left? He's also a janitor, but it was his day off that day."

Racism my @rse!

Phil S said...

To answer your question - yes. Racism can be in the eye of the beholder.

Kid said...

I'd be interested in your opinion about this specific instance, PS. You've probably experienced actual racism in your time - what do you think in this case?

Phil S said...

I didn’t see it until he pointed it out. Now I can’t unsee it. Much like the Simpsons, they may be colored one way but nothing else of their appearance or where they live or what they’re doing suggests anything about their race-so you’re free to substitute your own, and for most of us that means Anglo or European. Nothing wrong with that, it’s good enough you could use it in any culture which makes it a good ad. Where it runs into problems is in America many of the menial and gardening jobs are done by Mexican immigrants. Again not a problem even for our chocolate cereal. Where I suddenly strikes me is he’s the only chocolate cereal . Even in real life here, yes most of the gardeners are Mexican- but so is a lot of the crowd. If there was a suitable chocolate population enjoying themselves I don’t think this as would have had any comments . But again, it didn’t occur to me until it was pointed out. Since I’m not a gardener or Mexican even I didn’t see it. But I understand his reasoning. Your life experiences will affect how you see things.

That’s why I say sometimes racism is where you see it. For a good example of how you can be entirely oblivious and your background reveal racism (or not ) watch this hilarious clip of Key and Peele and Black Ice. https://youtu.be/efiW2K8gASM

Kid said...

Just watched it, PS - very funny. Interesting comment, but if racism exists only where you see it, then, in like manner, maybe it doesn't exist where you don't. (Though there will be occasions when you don't see it, but it does exist - and vice versa.) And if you're determined to see it everywhere, you will - even when it's not there. I think Mr. Ahmed is over-egging the pudding here, and in severe danger of shooting himself in the foot. Interesting that you describe 'gardening' as a menial job, because in Britain, gardeners tend to charge at least £15 an hour, which is better than pretty bloody good.

As for the brown Corn Pop being the only brown Corn Pop, as I said, I think that's likely a last minute PC attempt at 'diversity' and 'inclusivity', and the fact that he's buffing the floor is meant to portray him in a positive light as a diligent and conscientious worker.

We need to see racism where it exists - not where it doesn't (or at least wasn't intended to).

I've never heard of Key & Peele before, but I'm going to hunt down some more clips - really enjoyed that sketch.

Lionel Hancock said...

A quick question. Do you reckon the Black and White Minstrel Show would have made it on TV today or would it be classified politically incorrect.

Kid said...

I think it would be considered politically incorrect today, LH. I don't see why, 'cos it's not as if they were mocking blacks. And nobody said Lenny Henry was being racist when he 'whited up' for his Hollywood movie.

Lionel Hancock said...

Hey... You can't say that word you used after mocking! That's racist!

Kid said...

That would mean I couldn't say 'whites' either then. What a crazy world.

Phil S said...

Key an Peele broke up but wee hilarious. They both were products of bi racial families so their skits were particularly insightful since they could see from both sides of the fence.

Phil S said...

Oh yeah right out. Even when I first saw the show on 1970 I was going what is this ? And not just for the blackface but in 1970 who ones around dancing in a top hat singing minstrel songs. It reminds me of Benny Hill. I used to love him but when he did his Chinese character- oh dear. I stopped laughing. but Spike Milligan’s Pakistani Dalek I still find hilarious! So does my son! I think part of us laughs because it is so incorrect. Or maybe it was just a finniwr sketch !

Kid said...

One of the things about British people, PS, was that we used to be able to laugh at one another - and others - with no malice intended. Jokes like 'There was an Englishman, an Irishman, and a Scotsman (the Welsh made occasional appearances)...' abounded, and the butt of the joke depended on the nationality of the person telling the joke. No one minded. And we were stronger for it. PC pish-tosh has put an end to it. The Black and White Minstrel Show was a well-loved institution, and it could never be said that it was intended to mock Black people, or perpetuate racial hatred. People loved minstrels.

As for Benny Hill's Chinese (or Japanese?) character, he was a caricature, but so were just about all the characters he played. I think his Chinaman character was meant in an affectionate way, and it was usually Henry McGhee who ended up looking the fool in their exchanges. It's interesting that you would take offence at it, but not at the Pakistani Dalek sketch. Maybe it's just that we're touchy about perceived slights against our own 'race'. I know Scotsmen who take offence over the stereotypical portrayal of Scots being mean, aggressive, unintelligible drunks, who wear kilts and Tam O'Shanters. Personally, it doesn't bother me one jot.