If anyone chimes in with, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a chair!” I will kindly point you to the Amazon page for The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander because perhaps you need a certain kind of education that I am in no position to humor you with. Yesterday, on Dr. Martin Luther King Day no less, Miroslava Duma’s new online magazine Buro 247 published an article on Russian socialite Dasha Zhukova, Zhukova appeared on this preposterous chair.
But why, Emerald, why is this racist? It’s not as if the chair is a real person? Well this is evocative of racist imagery. It doesn’t mean that the woman in the photograph is racist, it doesn’t mean that the photographer is a racist, it doesn’t mean the magazine is—it means that they exercised poor and thoughtless judgment that you would think several adults and the many parties involved in the magazine would have eventually come to realize. They took the image down after obvious outrage, although they haven’t apologized.
Anyway, let’s talk about this image of “white supremacy” which sounds incredibly harsh but, you know, is not nearly as harsh as the actual effects of white supremacy so get over it. First of all, in the United States slavery, Jim Crow and segregation happened. Today we live in a world largely unequal across racial lines and where people of color are more harshly punished than our fair skinned brothers and sisters. This is fact. It doesn’t mean that you as a white person or your white friend is solely responsible for this injustice. It’s kind of like how older generations f-ed up the economy and yet as us millennials get older we will be responsible for correcting that mistake.
Though no one alive today is responsible for racism, we have to live our lives correcting those mistakes of past generations.
We also live in a world where people of color are used as tokens and accessories (for better or worse) in order to make misguided white people seem more cultured, exotic or interesting. For example, it’s Miley Cyrus’ main criticism because the people of color and little people are ornamental—not instrumental—to her performances. They are objectified the way women are in some men’s magazines—there to look nice, not to have agency, autonomy or opinions, like a nice bookend.
Even with this f’ed up history at play, this image is still incredibly hurtful. Even if these women were the same race. Imagine the same image of a man sitting on a woman of any color. Imagine a a man in a business suit sitting on a man in sweatpants and a white tank top. No matter what the image insinuates that the person sitting on the chair is above the person who is the chair. It should not be forgotten that this woman is a socialite. With this particular image, when you acknowledge the fact that people of color and women of all colors make up the service industry (custodial, retail, waiting jobs, nannies, maids, etc.) it is incredibly classist and demeaning to people’s whose jobs it is to serve. On top of that when we recall slavery in which people of color were completely objectified and tortured to live in service of white Americans, seeing a black woman as a chair is just so insensitive, it’s outright irresponsible.
If you think anyone who is annoyed or outraged by this photo is being “too sensitive” then I should remind you that being asked to be treated like an actual human being and not a chair is not too much to ask.
[Via. Fashion Bomb Daily]