Separate But Equal Holiday Gifts

I like to think of myself as thoughtful gift giver, but after spotting The New York Times gift giving guide, I might have to reconsider. The New York Times has thoughtfully created a separate – but equal – guide guaranteed to other your friends of color in style.

As Gawker puts it:

So, if that special someone says, “This year, what I’d really is stuff that focuses exclusively on my race, with little to not attention to my interests or our personal relationship, other than your horror with the fact that I am not white,” here’s NYT’s guide to “gifts created for and by people of color this holiday season,” including a “Wise Latina” tee-shirt and The Mocha Manual to Military Life: A Savvy Guide for Wives, Girlfriends and Female Service Members.

Relax, there are no Sambo print tablecloths. That’s not what’s going on here. Racism isn’t always dressed in the white sale collection from JcPenney. What is going on here is the covert form of racism, which seeks to reaffirm POC status as the other. The gifts aren’t horrible, but they also cannot anticipate the preferences of ALL POCs.

It’s one thing to create a gift guide based on some other unifying characteristic – like a guide for foodies. Granted, the guide probably wouldn’t be comprehensive enough to satisfy every food enthusiast, but it’s unlikely your hypothetical foodie friend would scoff when presented with a set of mixing bowls.

On the other hand, I would very much be offended if presented with a book like say – The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships by Hill Harper (featured in the guide) – especially since its very inclusion makes some problematic assumptions.

When I give diversity presentations these are kinds of examples I use to demonstrate the insidious ways racism is woven into the very fabric of our society. This guide, while seemingly harmless, is in fact reductive.

And Gawker again:

It’s a celebration of the racist assumption that “people of color” are defined by their colors—but white people get to self-define with their interests, hobbies, and desire for “Home and Decorating Gifts for $25 and Under.”

Yeah, I’ll take a hot bag of no thanks on that. Bring on the mixing bowls!

Posted in Fat

174 thoughts on “Separate But Equal Holiday Gifts

  1. OMG. That’s… OMFG. What Gawker said, to a T.
    Bloody hell, who gets to have a personality and tastes of their own these days?

    And oh my, do you see about the hair thing? The hair thing?

    “We live in a multitextural world, especially when it comes to hair. Anthony Dickey is to women with “problem hair” what Batman is to Gotham City.”

    PROBLEM HAIR! They went there! They went right there with only a pair of quote marks to cover their shame!

  2. *boggle*

    I can’t really add anything to your succinct summation, but a sarcastic “way to go, NYT”. To continue in the sarcasm, I’m suprised they didn’t suggest a gift certificate to KFC, or a “traditional” food basket of “soul food” (in scare quotes because I sincerely doubt the writer of that article has any idea what soul food actually is).

    …And add that in the grand traditions of the intarwebs, that article is Full of Fail.

  3. What I find offensive is that the guide seems to imply that only POC would appreciate these gifts, where in reality some are targeted that way but others shouldn’t be – don’t white kids want to learn about our president?

  4. WOW. I’m for once unable to think of anything to say on this one. This quite spectacularly removes all the joy and happiness of giving and being given gifts. Shit, how BORING it makes it all…and sneakily offensive.

  5. And this is why I’m glad I come here every day. If I had seen that NYT article, I probably would have had a vague thought of “how nice that they’re being inclusive” and then moved on. I’m guessing that the author/editors thought they were being very pro-diversity and deserving of praise for their efforts, and I probably would have agreed. But you’re absolutely right that this demonstrates a very insidious kind of racism – even if the perpetrator is actively trying to be not-racist and inclusive, it can still be completely racist if you just think a little harder about it. (At least I have to think a little harder to see these things, which again, is why I come here.) Thanks!

  6. Any reason why they couldn’t just put the Sonia Sotomayor and Barack Obama books in their gift guide for children, or the POC-run fashion labels in with their gift guide for fashionistas, or something like that? Almost every item on that list could be recommended to the readers in a way that wasn’t othering, but whoever compiled this failed to take that opportunity.

  7. Oh. Oh my. That’s just awful. Gawker’s post on the subtext was right on. I can’t picture getting someone make-up tips or hair care products unless it was something they wanted and had asked for, because of the implication that they don’t do their hair or make-up well. There’d be a pretty good dose of fail there even if it wasn’t othering–put “You need help with your beauty routine” on top of “All I know about you is your ethnicity” and it becomes a metric crap-ton of fail.

    I mean, I can picture specific situations where I’d buy beauty products for people. The guy friend who has hair down the middle of his back and has asked me where I find this magical “spray-on split-end reducing conditioner” that I’m so fond of, I might get some of that conditioner. Or the coworker who’s mentioned that she’s addicted to make-up. Sure, I might get her one of those make-up gift baskets that have a bazillion colors to play with. But see where I’m basing that on things I know about them as individuals with interests?

    I see a similar problem with the “what to get your guy/girl” guides that always pop up around this time of year–let’s ignore the personality of the individual and assume one characteristic defines them. (I hope that doesn’t sound like a derail. It’s to point out a similarity of gift lists for people who don’t actually pay attention to the individual likes of someone who’s a different race or gender, not to turn the conversation into “What about the white girls?”)

  8. *facepalm of DOOM* Oh, God. The sad thing is that there are some awesome things in there amidst the fail, but the general tone of the article is, yes, failtastic. A possible alternate title is Things To Buy For Your [Insert Race Friends Here] Because They Are Not White And You Are Being Inclusive. See How Post-Racial You Are?

    (As an example of one of the nice items amongst the fail-y narrative, there are times I really wish I was the kind of person that wore nail polish, because those colors are PRETTY. That doesn’t stop me from agreeing with you, mind you.)

  9. @KellyK, “where I find this magical “spray-on split-end reducing conditioner” ”

    Where? Cause I need some of that.

    Someone on facebook linked to this story and the massive fail therein. I am doubly disappointed because I somehow hold the Times to a higher standard. Well, used to anyway, before this.

  10. I would agree that this reminds me of how much I HATE the “what to get the girl/guy in your life” that always encourages you to ignore what the individual is like. Men want gadgets, girls want smelly lotiony things! Every year I end up with several Bath and Bodyworks gift baskets that sit under my bathroom sink until I finally realize that I can just throw them away. I keep hoping every year that maybe this year is the year that we’ll start moving away from that kind of thing, and start encouraging people to put some thought and feeling into the presents they buy for others. Instead we’re finding more ways that we can over-generalize people. But at least we can pat ourselves on the back for being so in-touch with what POCs are into!!!!!!!! Good job, NYT. My faith in humanity just received a round-house kick to the head.

  11. I agree with The Gawker article, though it sort of drips with irony that it’s anti-othering, while using the ableist term “lame” in the title. Yeesh.

  12. (As an example of one of the nice items amongst the fail-y narrative, there are times I really wish I was the kind of person that wore nail polish, because those colors are PRETTY. That doesn’t stop me from agreeing with you, mind you.)

    They are all – for the most part – really nice things. Well, I have that Iman book and while the pictures are really cool, it hasn’t helped much with my application technique.

    Anyway, those items would be nice for the kind of people WHO WOULD WANT THEM. It’s just naughty to assume only POC would like those items. I think Carol’s Daughter is for anyone with kinky/course hair texture regardless of race/ethnicity or whathaveyou.

    That said, a lot of the items seem like the kind of thing folks buy for themselves, which is another issue – albeit minor by comparison – I have with the guide.

  13. I agree with The Gawker article, though it sort of drips with irony that it’s anti-othering, while using the ableist term “lame” in the title. Yeesh.

    It’s not ironic; it’s problematic. I sent an email alerting them to the use of the term and suggestion for words that don’t hurt folks. It’s probably a better tactic, particularly if the goal is to get them to change the title.

  14. TM, if you have a local women’s shelter they will most likely accept your gift-basketed toiletries.

    I have no comment on the gift guides other than the slow, rhythmic thunking of my forehead against my desk.

  15. Of the list, I’d most like the Iman book and Asian faces book – I’m not a POC, but I enjoy looking at faces and make-up generally. I’m not sure looking at Iman’s face would be a good self-esteem booster though just after Christmas day or on New year’s day….I don’t think that looking at my own bleary mug then straight to her face of elegant wonderment would be a good way to kick 2010 off. Especially as I’ll probably be more like Keith Richards.

  16. Anyway, those items would be nice for the kind of people WHO WOULD WANT THEM. It’s just naughty to assume only POC would like those items.

    Co-signed. A lot of the stuff (well, the stuff that wasn’t the books, which… well.) was really nice. And yay, I suppose, for supporting POC designers and artisans, although I don’t know why it’s supposedly only other POC who should want to do that. Sigh.

  17. I know what to get the NYT for Christmas: a whole roll of quarters and a map to the clue machine.

    Agree with aliciamaud74 on the usage of “lame” in an article about othering. I’d offer to beat the Gawker writers with my cane, but ironically enough, a new cane is one of the items on my Christmas wish list.

    Obviously, NYT thinks that I would probably also like a t-shirt that says “Sexy Crip” and a half dozen books on relationship advice for the disabled. It’s so hard to actually talk to your friends and find out something personal about them, or even to pay attention for half a second!

  18. “We live in a multitextural world, especially when it comes to hair. Anthony Dickey is to women with “problem hair” what Batman is to Gotham City.”

    PROBLEM HAIR! They went there! They went right there with only a pair of quote marks to cover their shame!

    And on top of the horribleness, a weird analogy – does Anthony Dickey live inside these women? Sounds like a bigger problem than any hair (non-)issue!

  19. As an example of one of the nice items amongst the fail-y narrative, there are times I really wish I was the kind of person that wore nail polish, because those colors are PRETTY.

    There are lots of nice items on the list. And I think (as redlami mentioned), another problematic thing about the framing of the list the implication that white people wouldn’t like these things. When a nail polish or scarf is designed by a white person, it’s c0nsidered universal, but when it’s designed by a person of colour, it’s considered something only people of colour would want.

  20. Re: Ableist language-good luck with that. Jezebel is full of ableist language, by both the writers and the commenters. Recommendations of change in that regard is met with blank stares or silence, in my experience.

  21. @snarkysmachine: “Ironic” and “problematic” aren’t mutually exclusive. There is dischord between what they were trying to express and what they expressed, based on choice of language. That type of incongruity is one kind of irony. It’s also problematic. Anyway, thanks for writing to them. I hadn’t thought to do so.

  22. But, but, but… what am I supposed to buy for my skinny blond sister-in-law? Clearly, the fact that she’s thin and blond outweighs everything else about her character and personality, like her love of the city she lives in, her interest in wine, and her work with autistic children through Surfers Healing. So what do I get her? A bottle of peroxide and a Sweet Valley High box set? Help me, New York Times!

    (And, evilsciencechick, the gift list for Mocha Latino Foodies with Problem Hair and Relationship Troubles doesn’t need to be 25 items long! Give ‘em olive oil! You can cook with it, use it as a leave-in conditioner, and it doesn’t damage latex condoms!)

  23. There is dischord between what they were trying to express and what they expressed, based on choice of language.

    Let me get this straight, they made a very fucked choice of wording, which they really should correct, and now the entire message is tainted? Seriously? What always amazes me is how this only seem to happen if the discussion centers around race. I can’t tell if it’s because people don’t know how to talk about race so they try to focus on other things (NOT SAYING THIS WASN’T A SERIOUS ERROR, LET THAT BE FUCKING CLEAR) or play the “Gotcha” game.

  24. I thought the henna suggestion was particularly bad. I mean, if you’re from a culture where henna is used and you take part in it, you probably don’t need your clueless white friend giving you a henna starter kit. And if you’re not or you don’t, you . . . also don’t need your clueless white friend giving you a henna starter kit. I can just imagine someone walking up to a friend of Indian descent and being like “Look! I got you henna for Christmas! Your people love that!”

  25. @TM

    Don’t throw out your unwanted giftbaskets of lotion! Your local women’s shelter, homeless shelter, YMCA, or clothing closet would be utterly delighted to have them, and you can use it as a (probably small, but still valid) tax write-off! Happy holidays indeed!

  26. “With only a pair of quote marks to hide their shame” is my new favorite grammar-and-society comment.

    I’m with Ajay… they’re making W.E.B. Dubois sound like an interior designer or high-powered florist. Which are both admirable roles (I’d like to be a high-powered florist), but not the same as “scholar, cultural critic, and public intellectual.”

    I’m not sure my first description word for Baker would be “tastemaker” either.

  27. I’m with Ajay… they’re making W.E.B. Dubois sound like an interior designer or high-powered florist. Which are both admirable roles (I’d like to be a high-powered florist), but not the same as “scholar, cultural critic, and public intellectual.”

    I have to assume they aren’t familiar with W.E.B Dubois because the alternative is far too disturbing.

  28. @Lilah, lolz.

    Also, I can’t imagine a universe in which a book on relationships would be seen as a welcome gift. Plus another possible subtext (not mentioned by the gawker piece) is that you black people need to do a better job of sticking with your own kind. Which kinda bothers me on a personal basis.

  29. snarkysmachine: I’m confused by your response. Not trying to be a pain here, and don’t know if you mean I am playing the “gotcha” game. (??) It sounded like you were correcting my use of the word “ironic” and I was explaining myself. And I agree/d with you that the original article was fucked up. Pointing out the terrible choice of wording in title of The Gawker article wasn’t intended to take away from your point or theirs, or to suggest that the article’s message was tainted, or that we shouldn’t talk about the main point of the article, which was race. I don’t think that, and I didn’t say that.

  30. Aliciamaud74 – okay, cool.

    The “Gotcha” game is often a way for allies to get cookies for pointing out other allies’s mistakes. It’s often used against folks lower on the oppression totem pole to say, “Hey, they can be as fucked up as us.”

    Usually the response to the mistake is often out of proportion to the kind of response that a person a little higher up on the food chain would get. Thus reinforcing a whole heap of weird power stuff.

    It’s kind of staple of anti-racist activist spaces, which is why I don’t tend to run in those circles.

  31. I’m gobsmacked that the list recommends advice books as gifts, and especially ones that promise insight into the ‘nuanced complexities of African-American relationships.’ Good grief. I have no words. But the fail just keeps on coming … there are two selections featuring music on it: one’s a kiddie hip-hop record, the other’s a gospel cruise. Uh, yeah. I guess if it were a longer list, they’d’ve included an instruction record on the merengue.

  32. Okay… so I have to go grade papers. Which is why I am pretending to be a writer at the NYT Gift Guide Desk instead. Thus did I re-write that copy:

    Box Kitten Clothing

    Designer Maya Lake’s clothes are worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Erykah Badu and Christina Milian. Her designs are inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’ pan-African aesthetic and the sexy, witty style of stage performer Josephine Baker.

    (Also… I really like that dress. If the knock offs show up in Target, I hope they come in my size.)

    Lilah Morgan: I laughed out loud. I would be very interested to know who the intended consumer of this product is, according to the marketing whiz kids over at Ash Kumar HQ.

  33. Is it cynical of me to think that someone at the NYT calculated that getting bad attention for being politically incorrect would be better than getting no attention?

  34. Snarkysmachine: Thanks for the explanation. I recognize what you’re saying from other spaces I used to frequent. I didn’t realize there was a name for it, though I did get that it was never constructive and frequently pissed me off. It definitely wasn’t my intention to play that game, and I’ll be careful of comments that could be interpreted that way.

    Two other things I was thinking about as I reread the article:

    1st: a couple of the items on the list seem *really* personal to be giving to someone you don’t know well enough to find a present for based on shared interests/intimate knowledge of likes/dislikes. Maybe it’s a quirk of mine, but I think makeup is pretty personal, and hair stuff DEFINITELY is, and that relationship book. . .UGH. Beyond an invasion of privacy. A few seem like pretty intrusive presents, and I wonder if they are disproportionately so. (Would a list intended to be “racially neutral”, but probably geared toward white people, include as many personal care items?)

    2nd: I wince to imagine the “post-racial”, white, hipster who’s going to buy the Wise Latina teeshirt to show that they are so *over* race.

  35. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    “I’m with Ajay… they’re making W.E.B. Dubois sound like an interior designer or high-powered florist. Which are both admirable roles (I’d like to be a high-powered florist), but not the same as “scholar, cultural critic, and public intellectual.”

    I’m not sure my first description word for Baker would be “tastemaker” either.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    In fairness to the NYT author, the designer’s own web page *does* say that her work is inspired by Josephine Baker and W.E.B. DuBois. However, I agree that “tastemaker” is an odd choice of wording and it does not at all accurately convey the sense of the designer’s bio.

    http://www.boxingkitten.com/ — click on “About” to read the designer’s interesting bio.

  36. I guess in this instance my definition of “personal” is: would it weird me out to get this gift from one of my students or my mother-in-law? And several of these gifts totally would.

  37. Oh definitely, Aliciamaud. Neutralize the racial component and they still seem oddly inappropriate gifts. It seems to me the kind of person who would find this information useful would probably be a person unfamiliar with the preferences of the recipient. They all are the kinds of gifts that require you have some intimate knowledge of the person. Or maybe the recipient has expressed a desire to receive that particular item.

    Taking the suggestions presented by this piece will probably result in the recipient cursing your name while waiting in a long line to the exchange the item for something they actually want.

  38. Yeah, nothing like getting a gift-wrapped box of errands that will eat up all your free time for the month of January.

  39. Why are commenters assuming that readers of the NYTimes who would purchase gifts from its Gift Guide would be white folks buying for their friends of color? Maybe people of color read the NYTimes and would consider buying those gifts for their friends and loved ones of color. Of course that doesn’t help the “separate but equal” grouping issue at all — definitely problematic.

    But it sounds to me like it’s trying to respond to a real problem in which people of color have a hard time finding beauty products that work for their skin color and hair texture, dolls and book characters that look like their children, etc. How would the NYTimes respond to that appropriately in its gift guide without still contributing to the othering?

  40. From the guide it appears that non-white people do nothing but groom and dress themselves, have bad relationships, have children, watch Bollywood movies, and listen to gospel music.

    This entire guide reminds me of the diversity episode from the first season of The Office.

    I also doubt that most African American kids need a book about Barack Obama to “open their minds.”

  41. But how are they overly personal? You know everything you need to know about that person, they are not white. That’s their most important characteristic guys, duh!

    I think a lot of this comes from people who are trying really hard to be understanding, and inclusive, but in the Micheal Scott way. They understand that being black affects peoples lives and job and education options, then they stop. They just stop, and think instead of black people are stupid savages, it’s become black people are oppressed, stop. There’s no, black people are oppressed, but my friend Jim really likes horror movies, just like me a white person. I think maybe this guide would have worked (though still be problematic, just not as laughable) if it had been about gifts to avoid. If you’re buying a sincere gift for someone, and they’re of a historically oppressed group, you might worry that what you’re buying contains something offensive that you as a white or less oppressed person might not notice.

    But then again it’s still all about them being black, and even something that is offensive might not bother someone if it’s something that they like enough to ignore the stupid parts. I’m a feminist, yet shockingly I love love love horror movies, seriously. One of my absolute favorite things in the world, the horror genre is. I’ll ignore any ridiculous othering of women in horror films, unless it’s too ridiculous like in “Quaratine,” (yeah, the smart, strong female reporter at the beginning turns into the crying screaming whining simpering miss, the menz stay strong though) and will be over joyed to recieve one as a gift.

    Perhaps it’s just best to stick with a guide for horror movie lovers, and maybe include an offensive warning instead, or let people think for themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever needed a guide to buy presents, and when ever I look at them, everything on the list is stuff my personal book lovers and foodies would not actually like. There’s generally a lot of class issues involved with those lists. Even BUST’s guide has gifts that are supposed to be cheap, but each useless decorative thing goes for like 50 bucks. I’ll have to go check that guide, I wonder if the items on it were cheap, because black people and the friends of them would probably be poor, amiright?

  42. But it sounds to me like it’s trying to respond to a real problem in which people of color have a hard time finding beauty products that work for their skin color and hair texture, dolls and book characters that look like their children, etc. How would the NYTimes respond to that appropriately in its gift guide without still contributing to the othering?

    By not segregating the products and lumping all POCs into one group. There are some POCs who don’t care about hair products, cosmetics, or cheesy self help books. Where are the gift ideas for them? Most of these gifts are framed in a manner which suggests there’s something wrong with you that needs correcting and honestly, I’d rather get a lump of coal than have the NYT tell people – irrespective of color – I need some hair condition or a book about talking nice to Black men.

    Here’s another wild thought; If you want to know what a POC wants for the holidays (after first finding out what holiday traditions they actually observed, I’m a Jew. I don’t do Christmas) why not ask?

  43. Yeah, that’s just.. kinda weird. I saw the first entry on the list and didn’t see what the problem was (“Hey! A list of cool clothes made by black designers? Neat.”) But then the list went on through Bizarro land…

    I particularly find it hard to imagine any circumstance in which that “fix your relationship” book would be appropriate to give to a friend, acquaintance, or even a stranger as a holiday gift.

  44. In fairness to the NYT author, the designer’s own web page *does* say that her work is inspired by Josephine Baker and W.E.B. DuBois. However, I agree that “tastemaker” is an odd choice of wording and it does not at all accurately convey the sense of the designer’s bio.

    There are a long list of adjectives I’d use to describe DuBois, but “tastemaker” doesn’t make the list. And when used to describe him it’s rather dismissive. The label “tastemaker” in and of itself isn’t dismissive – Carrie Donovan was a wonderfully, cheeky tastemaker. – but considering Dubois was a social critic, among other things labeling him a tastemaker is quite the stretch and unintentionally hilarious.

  45. But it sounds to me like it’s trying to respond to a real problem in which people of color have a hard time finding beauty products that work for their skin color and hair texture, dolls and book characters that look like their children, etc. How would the NYTimes respond to that appropriately in its gift guide without still contributing to the othering?

    I could be wrong, but I think that each of those subjects sounds like sufficient grounds for an article of its own.

    I’m sure there’s more than one kind of makeup/hair product/doll aimed at that market, and I’m sure there’s more than one kind of such product that isn’t aimed at that market but will actually work pretty well anyway. Comparing and contrasting such items would actually be helpful if you were trying to find one to buy.

    What we have here instead is a haphazard list of things that don’t really go together with little theme but “someone of color was involved somehow”. No matter what your actual goal in gift-picking is, most of the items on the list will probably be completely irrelevant, unless your only thought is “Well, e’s X so e’ll like Y”.

  46. Neutralize the racial component and they still seem oddly inappropriate gifts.

    This seems to be fairly common with gift guides. I think that despite purporting to be “gift guides” they are more “publicity slots available to be filled” and writers will wedge in any damn thing that will benefit the publication or themselves (advertising dollars, the “discovery” of a new designer, whatever). Same as the products in “10 hair essentials for the summer” type pieces.

    Looked at in the light of actual gifts for someone who is actually deciding what to give a friend I find that there are lots of faintly bizarre items in these “guides”.

  47. One of the 101 lessons about race is that color-blindness is not an acceptable substitute and is, in fact, counter-productive in addressing race issues. “Believe me, your friend knows she’s black.” This NYT article seems like a good faith effort to give the color-blind white moderate a black eye. This public reaction creates an appropriate aura of conscientiousness around a delicate subject, but… while I see fragments of fail, I really have to ask whether the whole approach is really wrong.

    … And then the lazy lurker (me) decided to do due diligence and look back through the comments and did infer a broader consensus that the issues are generally with the products, not the approach. Which leads me to the more pointed question: Is the majority or at least a significant chunk of the outrage in other spaces inappropriately driven by a reaction to the challenge of color-blindness?

  48. This gift guide is so horribly offensive I don’t know where to start. I would be weirded out if one of my white friends gave me a gift that was from this list, because if they are my friends, they should be somewhat thoughtful and think about what I like, as a whole person, as opposed to some generic Latina (I am Mexican-American btw). I can’t imagine why someone thought this would be a good idea to put together such a list. Yeah, this is a total “michael scott from the office” gift guide.

  49. kristenc, the publicity aspect makes some sense. Because they can’t actually be expecting anyone IRL to think, “I don’t really know him, but he’s a POC, so. . .perhaps $1000 dollar gospel themed CRUISE will hit the spot!”

  50. In looking through the items listed, I’m also noticing the racist idea that white people wouldn’t want any of these things. Like, why on earth would I want to wear clothes designed by black people!? Or have my kids (if they existed) read about Barack Obama or Sonia Sotomayor? It seems a bit like the idea that boys won’t read books about girls.

    Some of the gifts are clearly inappropriate (like the self-help books), but the more appropriate products should have simply been placed into other categories, like Children’s Books or a different Style category.

  51. I can’t imagine why someone thought this would be a good idea to put together such a list. Yeah, this is a total “michael scott from the office” gift guide.

    Except the list was put together by an African-American woman. Simone S. Oliver apparently thought it was a good enough idea to write the list and the commentary and submit it with her byline.

  52. wow, really? sweet jesus, NYT. when will you learn?

    also, isn’t it generally considered rude to give people self-help books as gifts? what message is that supposed to send, “happy holidays to a great, screwed-up couple”??

  53. Can you imagine the whirlwind shit-storm that a book called ‘The Conversation: How White Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships’ would cause? But yet it’s ok the other way round. Holy mackerel on a side plate.

  54. The inclusion of the “Wise Latina” shirt seems like a really bad choice, too, considering all the racism attached to it. I can’t really imagine someone being happy about receiving that as a gift.

  55. I never make my gift giving choices on “gift guides”!
    I rather like to take the time to think about that individual person and think about what I see them doing when I’ve met them or hung out with them. You know spend time noticing the small details about a person.
    It’s not that hard really to just look at a person and spend time noticing what they like or actually listen to the things they say they need!

    If I have to go to a gift guide, then IMO I should really just give them a gift certificate and let them be the decider! I would never consider getting someone a shirt that said “wise latina”, unless they came up to me and said, hey Melissa, I want you to get me that Wise Latina shirt: or unless I knew they were avid shirt collectors of that sort.

  56. I actually would have liked the “Wise Latina” shirt for no other reason than it benefited a charity. It could be a comfy sleeping shirt or something. Still I think it could be really offensive. Most of the stuff isn’t though, having checked the list (I was right about a lot of it being cheaper than I usually see on these lists, though they had some really expensive things on there too) I want like half the things on it. I don’t wear make up, and not a fan of gospel music, in fact there’s not a single type of music that I would want to go on a cruise devoted to, but the rest was nice stuff.

    But only for people of color of course, no one else would want a nice scarf, a book about Barack Obama, or expensive lip gloss (ok, I don’t wear makeup but lipgloss is second only to horror movies on the list of things I love) or cute clothes designed by a black person. Those are for the OTHERS dun dun duh!!

  57. Wow, I have to actually delurk to comment — finally!

    Namely, I have a real problem with the implication that because a product is designed by a POC, it can be enjoyed exclusively by other POCs. I’m sorry, did I miss the memo where you can only enjoy nail polish designed by a member of your own race? Plus, honestly, the other beauty-related things on that list — and don’t get me started on the relationship-help book, because CLEARLY African-American relationships are so different from white ones that there has to be a SEPARATE book, setting aside the “wow, invasive much?” factor — seem incredibly personal for someone you evidently can’t identify beyond their skin color.

  58. But it sounds to me like it’s trying to respond to a real problem in which people of color have a hard time finding beauty products that work for their skin color and hair texture, dolls and book characters that look like their children, etc. How would the NYTimes respond to that appropriately in its gift guide without still contributing to the othering?

    They don’t. Not as part of a gift guide. Makeup and hair product are in particular (as Snarkys said) things people buy for themselves. They’re not appropriate gifts to give someone else, because people know their own skin tone and hair qualities. Buying it for someone else – especially solely on the basis of race, as if all people of colour have identical hair and skin tones – isn’t likely to have a good result. Unless maybe it’s a product you personally love and you’re giving it to a friend or family member who has a similar skin tone or hair texture as you. But then you don’t need the guide.

  59. “Except the list was put together by an African-American woman. Simone S. Oliver apparently thought it was a good enough idea to write the list and the commentary and submit it with her byline.”

    No, I still think it’s got a “michael scott” flavor to it, it still has a certain cluelessness to it. I noticed it was a heavily African-American themed list, with very few “Latino” advised gifts and with only one Asian themed gift. That being said, I think the whole idea of this list is ludicrous no matter who puts it together, or what’s on it frankly.

  60. Eve:

    Think about how terrible that might have been for Ms. Oliver!
    Her boss sends her an email:

    Oliver:
    I have noticed, in passing, that you are darker complected than many of the people who work here. For that reason, we would like you to compile a list of things other people who look like you would like for Christmas. Let’s say 500 words, and nothing that’s going to get us in trouble with the p.c. police, like fried chicken or anything like that. LOL!

    P.S. That pasta dish you brought to the potluck was delicious. Where did you learn how to cook Italian food?

    Then Ms. Oliver goes home and bitches to her friends and relations about what an insensitive stupid ass her boss is, and how there is no way to get out of this stupid assignment and it’s going to be out in the world with HER name on it.

    All to say, people collude with their oppressors all the time, for many different reasons, including wanting to stay employed, and eat, and stuff. That doesn’t make this less racist.

  61. “Racism isn’t always dressed in the white sale collection from JcPenney.”

    Can I get that printed on cards to hand out and posters to nail on walls? I live in the South and damn do I get tired of people assuming that you can’t possibly be a racist if you don’t wear the sheet and pointy hood.

  62. The first thing I thought of when I saw this was that this must be where all the racist people who insist they’re not racist by claiming friendship with POC go to shop. But they have a BLACK friend!!! How can they be racist?!
    Yikes.

  63. All to say, people collude with their oppressors all the time, for many different reasons, including wanting to stay employed, and eat, and stuff. That doesn’t make this less racist.

    Yeah.

  64. I just… Seriously, what sort of person would ever BUY any of this shit with the thought “hmmm… I need to get a gift for my workmate of 5 years. Well, they’re POC, so I guess I’ll get them Black Stuff.” I mean, that makeup collection that actually sells makeup in a half-decent range of shades (beyond white and various shades of tanned white) and actually sells in an ACTUAL WELL KNOWN HIGH STREET SHOP is pretty damn cool, but I’m betting if the Times ran a “gift guide for people in general” their “beauty-mad make-up lovers” guide section would mysteriously not have anything at all to do with this in. Because that guide would be for white people, duh.

  65. Oy vey. As someone from a mixed marriage (Jewish/Scandinavian Lutheran, raised in both traditions, self-identifying Jewish now) I NEVER thought I would see anything worse than the shoehorned-in silver-and-blue “also-rans” “Channukah-ized” items in predominantly Xmas-themed stores and gift lists. Y’know, the “thoughtful” gift of a menorah (most Jewish housholds HAVE one and you only NEED one), “Holiday Lights” themed cookies in said blue and white tin (the red and green ones are for Xmas), and the “Festival Lights” scented candle from Yankee Candle Company (I think Chanukkah smells like frying latkes and my Mom’s brisket, NOT patchouli and bayberry–wonder how a latke-scented candle would sell).

    But now I have.

    This takes the cake for “offensive, shallow, and self-consciously privileged gift giving.”

    OTOH does anyone else remember when the NYT once ran a “suggested Kwanzaa gift” guide that pretty much looked like someone raided Huey Newton’s old pad? Tons of Afrikitsch and obvious book choices. Same thing.

    My problem with the NYT gift guide presented here (as well as the Kwanzaa one) is the implication that it’s up to folks OUTSIDE of the receiver’s culture to teach the receiver about their culture, and it also makes the assumption that the giver understands the receiver’s culture MORE than they do and of COURSE would get them a culturally-related item that they would NEVER think of getting.

    It’s one thing if my Mom buys me a mezuzzah when I move to a new apartment, or a Jewish friend gives me a seder plate. It’s another thing for someone outside of the culture to assume that I don’t have one, but WANT one.

    The item that really grated me in the NYT list was the kids’ items. It just seems like the kind of thing that parents would want to teach a kid about in their own way…having trouble articulating my feelings on this one, but it’s sort of along the lines of “yeah, I’m glad that you know that my kid isn’t white in a majority-white culture, but let ME help him/her how to navigate that issue.”

    In related feelings: I had to go buy Chanukkah candles at a big Hallmark near my office. When I walked in, it was NOT blasting Xmas music, nor was it dominated by Xmas-only stuff. The Chanukkah selection was actually pretty good (not ghettoized/thrown together), they had lots of nondenominational wrapping paper, etc…and they were playing an 80′s music mix. The entire staff was Sikh. They have my business for life.

  66. Jenonymous – Your comment was hilarious. And as a fellow Jew, let me be the first to say, Happy Chaka Khan to you this season!
    Or Happy Wrath of Khan, depending which way you bend.

  67. My problem with the NYT gift guide presented here (as well as the Kwanzaa one) is the implication that it’s up to folks OUTSIDE of the receiver’s culture to teach the receiver about their culture, and it also makes the assumption that the giver understands the receiver’s culture MORE than they do and of COURSE would get them a culturally-related item that they would NEVER think of getting.

    I think maybe what’s going on when people get or suggest getting these sorts of culturally obvious (and inappropriate) gifts is that the giver is trying to win brownie points for knowing SOMETHING about the receiver’s culture. Which is stupid and selfish. But e.g. giving a Jewish friend a seder plate, for example, is meant to say, “Hey look, I know something about Jewish culture! I’ve heard of seder! Yay me!” I.e. it’s not about the recipient at all.

    I think it’s the same thing when it comes to white people buying stuff from black designers for black friends. The idea is probably that the white person can say, “Hey, by the way, the designer of this is BLACK.” I.e. “I know something about the black community and actively seek out stuff black people create.” The fact that the person in question probably won’t like your gift is trumped by the fact you’ll feel good about giving it.

    It’s the same thing as “I can’t be racist: I have a black friend”, just spelled out in gifts instead of words.

  68. “In related feelings: I had to go buy Chanukkah candles at a big Hallmark near my office. When I walked in, it was NOT blasting Xmas music, nor was it dominated by Xmas-only stuff. The Chanukkah selection was actually pretty good (not ghettoized/thrown together), they had lots of nondenominational wrapping paper, etc…and they were playing an 80’s music mix. The entire staff was Sikh. They have my business for life.”

    This makes me happy. I’m in Norway and Jews weren’t allowed in the country until something like 1880 or something due the constitution. I miss any Channukkah stuff.

    On the topic of the article, if I don’t know someone well enough to know their tastes and know “their” present when I see it, I’m probably not going to get one for them. If it’s a secret santa thing, then it’s time to start paying attention.

  69. The date on the comments on my computer says December 11, whether due to a glitch on the website or in my computer’s internal calendar, I do not know. But at first I thought I had missed lighting candles! Then I checked my clock (which also has date) and saw that no, it is indeed December 10th and tomorrow evening is the first night of Chanukah.

    I don’t think I have much to add, except that I would buy a candle that smells like latkes. I’m 35 and my home will smell like latkes at least once in the next few days, as will my mother’s and probably my sister’s when I visit them later in the week, but a candle that smelled like Chanukah would be great to send to college students along with a hanukkiah for the dorm room, or ones studying abroad and living with host families who are doing the cooking. Evergreen and gingerbread candles I associate with homes of friends with Christmas trees. December at home or with my grandparents had a smell that no one has yet bottled.

    Oh, and in the blurb for “Hair Rules,” the author managed to describe hair as “kinky, wavy, and curly” in the very next sentence, so obviously there are alternatives to the word “problem” as a descriptor for black (and some other) women’s hair.

  70. I’m not saying it’s less racist. I’m saying it’s not a clueless “Michael Scott” (white male character) writing the commentary.

  71. I’m not saying it’s less racist. I’m saying it’s not a clueless “Michael Scott” (white male character) writing the commentary.

    Yes, but you’re making assumptions about the power structure involved. NYT is a paper run by white folks who are dictating the content. At any point they could have opted for a less inflammatory version of the piece, but opted not to. As the power lies with them, so does the responsibility.

  72. I’m not saying the paper’s owners aren’t white or aren’t responsible for content. I’m saying the author of the piece is not white. So, the fact of segregating the POC gifts into one section — the really problematic decision — yes, I’m sure that was editorial. But presumably Ms. Oliver had some input into the piece that bears her byline, perhaps selecting some or all of the gifts? Perhaps writing some or all the commentary? And I’m not saying her work should be immune from criticism. Still racist, otherizing, colluding with the oppressor — sure. But clueless? Outside minority culture? No and no.

  73. “Still racist, otherizing, colluding with the oppressor — sure. But clueless? Outside minority culture? No and no.”

    If someone is colluding with the oppressor, that very action is clueless, and that action is in fact, being influenced by factors outside minority culture. To otherize minority culture which is what happened in that gift guide, is an attempt to look at minority culture from the outside. I can’t imagine myself as a Latina, writing a gift guide that was solely focused on people of color for the typical reader of the New York Times, what a strange endeavor. That doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m not the only person of color that thinks that, as evidenced by this thread.

    Because guess what? People of color can be clueless and otherizing too (i.e. pesonally I think Michael Steele and Michelle Malkin are off their collective rockers – i really don’t want to drag all of poltiics into this, I just used those two as examples of clueless people of color). And I think this writer may have some strange, off-the-mark intention to help advise white people, in a weird off-putting way.

  74. And the “michael scott” metaphor, at least for me, should not be taken too literally. When I typed that I didn’t mean “yes, this person who wrote it is a white male.” But I could definitely see someone who is Michael Scott-esque thinking this list was a good idea. Also keep in mind, that Michael Scott is a character that seems hopelessly out of sorts when it comes to reading what is socially apropriate or not, especially when it comes to multicultural issues. Sometimes he’s well-meaning, sometimes he’s not. A person of color can definitely take on these characteristics too, it’s not unheard of.

  75. What. The. HELL?

    “Problem hair?”

    Really? New York Times, please fall off the face of the Earth. It would save us SO much time.

  76. PROBLEM HAIR! They went there! They went right there with only a pair of quote marks to cover their shame!

    I love that you said “cover their shame.” So biblical!

    And on top of the horribleness, a weird analogy – does Anthony Dickey live inside these women? Sounds like a bigger problem than any hair (non-)issue!

    Ha!

    Yeah. This is pretty terrible.

    Merry whatever-you-celebrate, non white person! You look like crap, will never get a man, know nothing about your culture and have no idea how to raise your child, thank God I’m here on my white horse to save you from your own incompetence!

  77. Yeah, the Micheal Scott metaphor isn’t meant to mean white so much as it means someone who is sincerely trying not to be racist or sexist or homophobic but has know idea as to how he should do it. He has the best of intentions, he is just fucking clueless beyond belief. It’s possible this author was just universalizing her own experience, she would like these things, but it’s not something she wants to buy right now or what have you, so she would enjoy it as a gift. Then she just projected that on to all black people, because well she has no better idea of what all black people want for christmas or what have you than a white person does. Not because she’s white, but because black people aren’t all the same.

    I imagine she never wanted to write this article, and had to anyway so she did the best she could, she would’ve had to deal with other people when writing it as well. Editors and such, who there’s a good chance would say, “are you sure, are you sure black people or other people of color would want a good book, a gift card, expensive candy, or a delicious home cooked meal (just examples of what I would get my friends and family) and not a gospel cruise and a book about failing relationships, because that sounds more colored to me.” Once you get a job at NYT I think you do what you can to keep it.

  78. “It’s possible this author was just universalizing her own experience, she would like these things, but it’s not something she wants to buy right now or what have you, so she would enjoy it as a gift. Then she just projected that on to all black people, because well she has no better idea of what all black people want for christmas or what have you than a white person does. Not because she’s white, but because black people aren’t all the same.”

    If this is what happened, why is it a guide for “people of color” and not “black people?”

    There seems to be an effort to include asians and latin@s so there’s at least some indication the effort was meant to be general and doesn’t come directly from the writer’s tastes. (Though I do understand the point about how sometimes people write for a paycheck.)

  79. Also, in a strange twist, it seems that your friend of color is a woman. Finally the NYT sees through the white women vs. people of color primary myth, but….

  80. gnatalby, yeah, it was a list for people of color, but my point was more that just because she’s black doesn’t mean the writing is any less othering, so I used black instead of POC. I should have put that instead, but my point still holds. Plus, was it just me, or did it seemed more aimed towards black women than any other group?

  81. @Alibelle: No, you’re not wrong, I don’t think there’s a gift on that list that typically for men only as makeup is typically for women (although yes, of course I know some men use makeup).

    Perhaps it’s only women of color who have no individual personalities.

  82. Intersection of oppression and all that. And all the relationship books which could supposedly be for a man would end up going to a woman because who has to “fix” the relationship?

    It’s weird that this article seems to be aimed at women buying present for other women, when media always portrays men as the ones unable to buy acceptable gifts.

    But, I’ve really got to stop pondering this for now, I have an astronomy final to study for, so instead I’ll be pondering why it appears that the constellation Andromeda has her head stuck up the Constellation Pegasus’ ass.

  83. Just curious, is Essence magazine equally clueless and otherizing? It targets an African American woman demographic. That’s the only thing that unifies the articles/ads chosen — readers of a particular race and gender are supposed to enjoy them. Essence is owned by Time, Inc. The CEO and Editor in Chief have pics on the website, and they look white. The other 20 magazines in the Time stable have some sort of topic or interest focus — news, celebrities, business, cooking, golf, etc. If the NYT gift guide for POC shouldn’t exist, neither should Essence magazine. Essence’s celebrity articles should go in People, its personal finance articles should go in Money, etc. The whole existence of Essence magazine is otherizing, and its sub-editors and authors are colluding with their white oppressors to keep their jobs.

  84. Eve – you seem to be conflating things.

    Essence from wiki:

    In 2000, Time Inc. purchased 49 percent of the magazine from its original publisher, Essence Communications Inc. By March 2005, Time Inc. became the majority owner, buying the remaining 51 percent in a deal reported to be worth US$170 million. In 2008, Essence won 12 New York Association of Black Journalists awards in the Investigative, General Feature, International, Business/Technology, Science/Health, Arts and Entertainment, Personal Commentary, Public Affairs and Online categories.

    Essence was created to serve a market ignored by magazine publishers. It was created by black folks for black women (primarily). It’s relevance of late is of some debate in the wake of the retirement of its editor Susan L Taylor in 2007.

    That said, Essence can definitely be clueless on issues and does tend to be silent on intersectionality, as most lifestyle magazines often are. If it suffers from anything it is the burden of having to be all things to black women while also attempting to serve as a “lifestyle” mag. It tended to succeed more than failed (pre-departure of Taylor). However based on the last couple of issues I’ve read its quality has declined considerably. (in my opinion)

    There’s a difference between marginalized folks creating media which speaks to their experiences and addresses a lack of representation (Essence Mag) and content created for non-marginalized folks which frames marginalized folks as the other. (NYT gift guide)

  85. Eve, I think there’s a big difference between having a target demographic (i.e. Essence)and “otherizing.” Among the problems people have with the article in the NYT are what it assumes about its readers–that they are white (as if POC do not read the Times?), and that as whiteys unfamiliar with the preferences of their token POC acquaintances, they need help understanding the zany, alien worlds of non-white culture. And that non-white culture is as simple as having “problem hair” or liking gospel music.

    As Inigo Montoya might say, “Otherizing: I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

  86. “Essence was created to serve a market ignored by magazine publishers. It was created by black folks for black women (primarily). … There’s a difference between marginalized folks creating media which speaks to their experiences and addresses a lack of representation (Essence Mag) and content created for non-marginalized folks which frames marginalized folks as the other. (NYT gift guide)”

    I understand that Essence mag does the former. What I don’t understand is why you think the NYT gift guide is addressed to non-marginalized folks. The NYT gift guide was created by a black woman. The headline on the NYT gift guide says “by and for people of color.”

    “Among the problems people have with the article in the NYT are what it assumes about its readers–that they are white (as if POC do not read the Times?)”

    It looks to me that it’s you and snarkysmachine and other commenters here making that assumption, not the NYT.

  87. I understand that Essence mag does the former. What I don’t understand is why you think the NYT gift guide is addressed to non-marginalized folks. The NYT gift guide was created by a black woman. The headline on the NYT gift guide says “by and for people of color.”

    You don’t really have to understand it. I didn’t create the system which privileges white skin over darker skin, thus white being somewhat of a “default setting”. With an awareness of such a system it’s not hard to accept that NYT largely expects its readers to be white, not POC.

  88. Frankly, your point is a fair one in that my assumption was likely framed by starting with the Gawker article and then reading the NYTs. So, the stage was set for me to read the article in that vein.

    Nevertheless, I can only speak for myself, but I think that assumption is somewhat affirmed by the fact that I would be very unlikely to buy a gift for any of my white friends that was inspired by or focused on their race, and the NYT would be very unlikely to run an article that said, “Having trouble finding the perfect gift made exclusively for your caucasian friend?”. If stumped for gift ideas for my pasty Irish family, I wouldn’t start with, well, we all need sunblock, so put a bow on zinc oxide and my shopping is done! (:

    The list is framed in such a way that we are to see the recipients of the gifts as “others” because the gifts focus on race; it makes it seem like the default setting for recipients of gifts is “white”, and that those “other” kinds of people are difficult to buy for.

    Aren’t a fuzzy blanket or the perfect novel or a piece of art that I selected appropriate gifts for POCs? (My friends seemed to like them last year.)

  89. This is ridiculously insulting and completely offensive. I can’t imagine anyone getting ANYONE gifts like some of those on the list – the relationship ones and the whole “problem hair” thing, gosh. That’s just too personal, and completely inappropriate.

    That’s like deciding that because someone is Chinese they’ll want a calculator or someone from Japan would want anime. It’s awful.

    I have to say – I work in a multinational company currently, and used to work in a very white-centric, xenophobic company, so it was a big change to come to where I am. This blog has really helped with that! Being aware of what is appropriate and what isn’t, learning about cultures and learning to accept and appreciate them, has been so valuable. It has changed from my originally thinking that something like this article is “funny” to being irritated and bothered by something like that.

    A note – I don’t know if anyone else saw last week the article regarding Obama and the reparation-type things for Native Americans, and I personally was bothered by the multiple uses of “Indians” in place of Native Americans (some distant relatives and great-grandparents were Native Americans). I’ve always disagreed with using “Indians” partially because it is incorrect, but partially because, to me and my family, it has a negative connotation. Am I incorrect? What is the appropriate term? I know what bothers me, but I want to ensure that I am not using the incorrect term due to personal feelings.

  90. I’ve always disagreed with using “Indians” partially because it is incorrect, but partially because, to me and my family, it has a negative connotation. Am I incorrect? What is the appropriate term? I know what bothers me, but I want to ensure that I am not using the incorrect term due to personal feelings.

    Some people do prefer to be called Indians or another term other than Native Americans. I don’t think it’s a “one appropriate term” situation – it very depends on the individuals in question. Indian does tend to be used in governmental or legal contexts because that’s still what’s on the books – e.g., the “Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

  91. In my experience with my Native American friends and faculty, Native American or the name of the particular nation are the terms they prefer.

    In Canada I believe the preferred term is First Nations.

    (this is based exclusively on what my friends & faculty have shared with me. my white ass has no experience being part of an indigenous nation in the Americas)

  92. ZOMG I just had an Illustrative and Relevant to this Thread moment an hour ago at lunch today.

    SCENE: Cafeteria in my building (steamtable-style joint)

    CHARACTERS: Me (standing nearby), Caucasian male manager, Asian (American Born Chinese actually) co-worker.

    Me: Oooh, they have meatloaf today! (this place actually does pretty good meatloaf)

    ABC: Oh, wow, I LOVE meatloaf, I’m getting that also.

    Clueless Manager to ABC: Wait, you grew up eating MEATLOAF?

    I almost dropped the serving spoon when I heard that. WTF, she grew up in central New Jersey, did she think that Mom fed her Gerber Sea Cucumber and Kung Pao Chicken baby food or something?

    *suppressed scream*

    aliciamaud74: LOLZ RE zinc oxide. THAT would actually make a great scene in a Cultural Sensitivity Training Movie for Employees too Important to Fire Despite their Abysmal Behavior or somesuch.

  93. Eve, the reason why I don’t buy that this gift guide was no created for “non-marginalized” folk, is because the NYTimes knows their audience. They know the average reader is not a person of color. As a Latina, I know for certain, that people of my ethnicity and background, do not look to the New York Times to tell us, what is going on within the Latino/Hispanic communities, including gift giving: the very idea of that is ludicrous. That is why this whole gift guide is so strange.

  94. BrieCS, re: what Indians/ First Nations/ [name of tribe or band]/ Native Peoples/ Natives/ Indigenous People/ Indigenous Americans/ unserweite prefer to be called.

    It depends. It really does. Unsurprisingly, since this is about individual as well as group identities and individual desires and group well-being. It can depend on who you’re talking about, how many of them, where you are, and all that context stuff. Indian individuals have preferences couched in their experience, what they’ve been called by others, who does the calling, social position and political persuasion, and other details. “Indians” may be offensive to one person, and “Native Americans” to another.

    In my experience, I’ve been better off not making assumptions. I use Indians as a general term and [name of tribe] in specific. If someone cares to correct me, I am happy to listen to what their wishes are. Don’t use a slur (the term Injuns, or Induns, for ex. is something Indians may or may not call one another but that I would never, ever, under any circumstances use, ever). After that, I think that’s about the best you can do. At the end of the day, I think this is a living reminder that Not All Xes Are The Same.

  95. PS: It’s a good time to remember not to take being called out on terminology personally and to engage in gracious apology. I figure, the goal is communication, so I do what it takes to communicate.

  96. Sure, I can accept that most readers of the NYT are white. That’s what makes minorities minorities. There are fewer of them. But is every article in every section of the NYT addressed to the average reader, or does the NYT sometimes tailor articles to appeal to particular segments of its readership?

    No one’s obligated to explain it to me, because it doesn’t matter if I understand or not. But I still think that a valid way to view what the NYT did by giving a woman of color the opportunity to write an article addressed to people of color was to create a space within its pages for “marginalized folks [to create] media which speaks to their experiences and addresses a lack of representation.” And I think the NYT should do more of that, not less.

  97. Even were they trying to tailor it to PoC, there was nothing whatsoever to indicate that in the framing of the list. So even if you think it wouldn’t be problematic if they framed it that way, they didn’t.

  98. Thank you all for the great responses! This gives me a lot of food for thought.
    I think part of what this means, to me at least, is that it’s better to learn more how to not identify people by ethnicity. I am still learning a lot of this stuff – I don’t think about it enough, I guess! While culture is important and a huge part of people, it isn’t what defines them – they define themselves, and they should be able to decide what terms people use to define them – even if it’s just “x is awesome” instead of something different!

    I still have much to learn, but this was enlightening! Thanks!

  99. I found the article racist, not even covert, but the straight-up thing. Eve’s point about Essence magazine is an interesting one, though. The question is would the inclusion of a recommended gift list “by white people, for white people” in Essence be as offensive? For example, what if they recommended giving tartan plaid kilts, a copy of Sarah Palin’s autobiography or The Rules, a cruise with the Osmond family and self-tanner to masquerade problem, pasty skin to one’s white friends? I would find it inappropriate, if not as offensive, since Essence does not have the influence and wide readership of the New York Times and white people do not have the same history of extreme oppression in the U.S.

  100. Eve – in what world is giving someone a balm for their “problem hair” a good gift? If the article was written by Maya Angelou, it’s still a hideous gift suggestion. Period. Gawker said it pretty well.

    I hope none of my friends of ANY race decide to give me zinc oxide or How To Talk With Your Middle Aged Over Educated Liberal Man or Make Up Tricks For Pale Suburban White Women or a book about Hillary Clinton just because I’m white. But I would take the HRC book, btw.

    If there was a gift guide in Essence written by me, a white woman, with a list of gifts for my white friends, wouldn’t that be incredibly fucking odd?

  101. Eve:

    My only concern about the point you are making is that you seem to assume POC are able to act with complete and total agency even in a situation where they have historically been excluded due to racism. That is just not true.

    The difference between a reporter of color being asked to write this article at the New York Times and the same thing happening at Essence is that at Essence the reporter “might” be more likely to feel comfortable telling their editor that it is a bad idea.

    Yes, the New York Times should include content that is representative of non-white opinions and reality. But perhaps they should do a little research first, maybe by looking at Essence and asking real, actual POC what they would be interested in reading and seeing. Then they would be able to create media that is actually representative of people’s lives.

  102. Yeah, that’s pretty bad. Reminds me of how breast cancer survivors are often defined after treatment by their disease – pink stuff galore, given as gifts for every occasion. They are no longer fully-realized women, but only as breast cancer survivors.

    I have to wonder why the Obama book for children is in this category. Might it be nice if all children in this country were to learn about his story?

  103. This kind of stuff drives me insane.

    I’m the only White person in my group of friends… the others are Black, Black and Hispanic, and Iranian. I have NEVER, in the 7 Christmases that we’ve been together, ever wondered what a Black person would like or an Iranian person would like. WHO does that?! Apparently we should do that, according to that guide. I really hope no one takes that seriously.

    I just want to say, I love you Nana, Adri and Shika! <3<3<3

  104. BrieCS: In a broader way, there’s a reason why people want to have this term versus that term used as an identifer for themselves and their communities. Words like “Indian” “Native American” “First Nation” and so on are linked to social movements and political action (among many other things). Achieving social parity, civil rights, reparations, determining tribal membership, and so on, have not been unified experiences within native groups and across them.

    When someone says they are an X or a Y, it’s about individual identity and also may be about how that individual wants to shape the discourse about the group to which they belong.

    In an interpersonal interaction, I’m with you all the way. People are who they are, not who they say they are, as someone pointed out on another thread here recently. Trying to have a dialogue with someone goes much better if that’s at the forefront.

    It may be important to the person or people you’re talking to, however, to recognize that there’s a critical intersection of self and society going on, and it helps me at least to be aware of that underpinning reality when choosing words.

  105. “Even were they trying to tailor it to PoC, there was nothing whatsoever to indicate that in the framing of the list.”

    Really? Nothing whatsoever? Here’s how the list was framed: “It’s not hard to find gifts created for and by people of color this holiday season. Here are some possibilities.” I see a clue in there.

    “If there was a gift guide in Essence written by me, a white woman, with a list of gifts for my white friends, wouldn’t that be incredibly fucking odd?”

    That’s not what I’m asking, but since you asked, yes, it would be incredibly fucking odd and downright wrong, because Essence is explicitly for an African American audience. Sounds to me like you’re saying the NYT is written by whites for whites, and POC have no business writing articles directed toward POC in the NYT. Counterproductive much?

    “you seem to assume POC are able to act with complete and total agency even in a situation where they have historically been excluded due to racism”

    By situation, you mean the United States of America? You seem to assume POC have no agency. Let me know when you’re ready to stop talking past each other.

  106. Wow, Eve. Last time I checked, I was free to buy and read Essence. And Men’s Health. And WaPo. Or Teen Beat. Or any other publication I chose for that matter.

    And I implied NOT ONE BIT that the NYT was written by whites for whites. You brought that to the table all by your lonesome.

    Or, what Snarky said.

  107. Indeed, Eve, I’m not sure what your dog is in this fight. Reading your comments, I’m left wondering whether you believe that tokenizing exists, and that vaguely “multicultural” gestures by white-dominated institutions can serve to reduce all POC into a single group whose most noteworthy characteristic is their not being white — thus reinforcing the notion that white = default? Do you believe that it’s possible to say “There’s a history of oppression in the United States against people of color,” while NOT saying “People of color are always and in every instance passive victims of racism and nothing else?” And not to compare or rank oppressions, but by way of clumsy analogy, can you see how a white woman writing a gift guide for the laydeez to run in the laydeez section of, say, the Wall Street Journal — on which gift guide are things natural weight loss products and books about how to put your husband and children first — can actually *reinscribe* oppressive narratives? Is that not formally the same as this gift guide?

  108. (I think my analogy to weight loss products and books on putting your husband/children first doesn’t quite work, actually, in the sense of being equivalent to the items on the NYT gift list. So I’ll mull that one over further as I put my kids to bed presently.)

  109. Eve:

    Somehow I doubt we will be able to stop speaking past each other.

    But let’s try an analogy, because I just thought of a good one:

    I have a gun, but there is a system of laws in place which limit how and when I can use that gun.

    In the same way, all people have agency, but there are systems of oppression in place which limit where some members of society are allowed to exercise that agency.

  110. I think a comparable article about gifts for the laydeez would contain weight loss aides, a “why can’t I get along with my daughter/mother!” book, a diva cup, a couple dresses designed by women, something gender neutral from a woman owned business, utilitarian cookware, a book about hiking for widows, some body-positive books for girls going through puberty, a pink chemistry set, a “this is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt, a hairdryer, floral sparkle bubble bath, a Hillary Clinton picture book, and the complete set of Star Trek: Voyager DVDs.

    You’ve got gifts that are invasive, gifts that will benefit women, gifts based on stereotypes, gifts that have nothing to do with gender, gifts that only a small subset of women would like, gifts which any woman who wants them probably already has, and gifts that will hopefully instill a sense of pride and optimism in young women.

  111. Ugh, I just had to read a status update from one of my friends about how ridiculous it is to try and be more inclusive by calling this season the holiday season. “What’s up with the media referring to Christmas trees as “Holiday Trees” now? What, is there a “Hanukkah tree” now? A Kwanza Tree? It’s stupid that they’re trying not to “offend” anyone, when it’s a custom specific to only one holiday. Call the damn thing a Christmas Tree, I don’t want to hear any of this holiday crap.”

    What?!?! The media isn’t focused on just white christian folk? Fuckers.

  112. A Sarah,

    I’m left wondering whether you believe that tokenizing exists,
    YES.

    and that vaguely “multicultural” gestures by white-dominated institutions can serve to reduce all POC into a single group whose most noteworthy characteristic is their not being white — thus reinforcing the notion that white = default?
    YES, for example where I said “segregating the POC gifts into one section — the really problematic decision — yes, I’m sure that was editorial”

    Do you believe that it’s possible to say “There’s a history of oppression in the United States against people of color,” while NOT saying “People of color are always and in every instance passive victims of racism and nothing else?”
    YES. I would agree with the first statement and disagree with the second.

    Do you believe it’s possible to say “a woman of color wrote this list” while NOT saying “POC are able to act with complete and total agency even in a situation where they have historically been excluded due to racism”? (again, for the record, the entire United States of America is a situation where POC have historically been excluded due to racism, which unfortunately circumscribes their agency to some extent)

    Do you believe it’s possible to say “this list was probably addressed to readers of color” while NOT saying “I think tokenizing doesn’t exist”? (again, for the record, tokenizing does exist, and the NYT gift guide is an example of it)

    Snarkysmachine, you’ve asked me to step back. I’m stepping back.

  113. Eve — [no snark] Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions! I appreciate it. (And yes, in answer to your question to me.)

  114. Oh dad blame it… avatar picture didn’t show up. I swear it’s me, y’all! I was that pink screaming Christmas tree before I had an icon.

  115. I’d like a real dog for Christmas. My imaginary one has decided to live outside all the time, which is a nuisance. I stand and shout “Professor Otto Von Bruno! I’ve got a snack for you!” outside and bang his food dish with a spoon, but no response. So, a proper dog would be a step forward I think. My imaginary lemur isnt much better either. He only seems to want to watch those Monster Trucks programmes while eating highly processed cheese slices, which is a world away from what I would prefer him to be viewing.
    Any advice on how to curb my lemur’s viewing habits would be greatly appreciated. By the way, I’ve tried him on proper cheese and it made him swear and shout “Pissbags!” at visitors, hence the processed stuff.

  116. For me, this is the thing… Take everything that is othering away from the article. Ditch abelist, racist, sexist, any other kind of -ist bullshit. What are you left with?

    A Guide to Buying Gifts for People.

    If I wrote a crap article like that thing would be short as hell. Something along the lines of, “don’t your know your friends and family at all???? Pick up a phone and get to know the people you claim to care about dipshit!” Of course, to keep from getting fired I would probably say it in a different way. Knowing me though, the disdain would come shining right on through.

    LOL I can just see me now with my big old white face hanging out while my friend Renee opens my obvious BLACK gift. “Look Renee! BLACK people made it! For BLACKS! I got it ’cause y’know, you are BLACK!” Then I sit and grin and wait to be patted on the head for being a good little white girl. BLEH.

    As Renee would say, the magnitude of the suckitude illustrates the plain wrongitude of YOU.

  117. Well, to speak a bit on Eve’s side, I initially read the article as written by a POC, directed towards POC. Still think that was the intent. Given that assumption, I thought that:

    – ‘The Beauty of Color: The Ultimate Beauty Guide for Skin of Color’ by Iman
    – ‘Contemporary Indian Fashion’ Edited by Federico Rocca

    would both be great gifts for my (Sri Lankan-American) sister, better than what I actually got her. So I wish I’d seen this gift guide earlier, as it would have been very useful. She’s a stylin’ New Yorker and those are definitely books she’d love, dangit.

    The henna kit (Ash Kumar’s Bollywood Henna Kit) is less likely to make a good gift, since most S. Asians I know don’t wear henna on a daily basis (and if you’re getting married, you’d get your henna done by a professional, which is what my other sister did for her wedding). But I could imagine it being a fun thing to do at a sleepover party with the other desi girls, along with our mango martinis.

    The Asian make-up book was briefly intriguing to me, until I realized that probably 75% of the book wouldn’t apply to S. Asians. We really need a more targeted book, as S. Asian, SE Asian and E. Asian faces have very little in common. It’s a shame that book doesn’t exist, as I completely suck at make-up and would have bought it for myself, so that I wouldn’t have to keep relying on professionals to do my make-up for weddings and big public readings. (I’ve heard it helps the audience further back actually see your face. True? I don’t know, because I suck at make-up.)

    Frankly, I’d have preferred a much more targeted list — a desi-focused list would be really helpful for my sisters and good girlfriends, even if it were mostly make-up, fashion, etc.-type stuff. One that covered other types of gifts (food!) would be even better. Where can you get the best Tellicherry black pepper online, for example? (Penzey’s is the answer, but you might want to try their Sarawak too — more delicate, less pungent.) What about mail-order Sri Lankan ingredients? (There are a couple importers, based in Ohio and Florida, oddly enough.)

    Anyway, not really arguing that the list isn’t problematic — it is. But I can also see where Eve’s coming from. If the list had been framed more explicitly as being directed at minorities, if it had chosen better items overall, if it hadn’t been as sexist in its assumptions, if it had been divided into a series of lists centering on different ethnic groups, and specific white groups had been included in that (best Polish-American source for mail-order frozen pierogies that cook up to taste just like your mom used to make?), I don’t think I’d have much of a problem with it.

    Of course, that isn’t what they published. Sigh.

  118. All gift guides suck; we can this one to the list.

    Also, “oppression totem pole” – ??? “Totem pole” isn’t problematic? Maybe “hierarchy,” or some other such term would be better?

  119. Snarkysmachine, my dog is an adorable 3-year-old lab mix. I didn’t intend to start a fight, and still don’t want to fight. Somehow lots of assumptions I’m not making are being read into what I’ve written. I’m sure that’s a weakness in my writing, and is my responsibility. But I’m tired of defending myself from accusations that I believe things that I’ve never said, that I don’t believe, that I find offensive myself. I’ve read the blog for a long time, and plan to continue. But y’all can be the writers from now on. This place is better off with me as a reader only. Bowing out.

  120. Wow, this place always makes me think long and hard. (thanks for that!)

    I don’t believe that piece of journalism (and I use the term with reservation) would have been printed in England.

    I thought it was racist

    How can I remotely judge what a friend would like as a gift based on the colour of hir skin? What about the colour of hir hair? (Should all red-haired people have gift lists written for them?) Or their eyes? (ditto all green eyed people)?

    No.No and a thousand times NO.

    So why a gift list for people who are a colour other than white? Goodness me! Any other Brits here have an opinon on this – I think it would unlikely to be published here. I hope.

    Hx

  121. Snarkysmachine, my dog is an adorable 3-year-old lab mix. I didn’t intend to start a fight, and still don’t want to fight. Somehow lots of assumptions I’m not making are being read into what I’ve written. I’m sure that’s a weakness in my writing, and is my responsibility. But I’m tired of defending myself from accusations that I believe things that I’ve never said, that I don’t believe, that I find offensive myself

    I didn’t think anything you wrote was offensive. Actually, quite the opposite. You posed very pointed, reasoned arguments and hopefully I responded to them in a respectful manner. I think debate is healthy here.

    I asked you to step back because it seemed as though you were playing “Devil’s Advocate”, which is often used to silence discussions. It’s still unclear what your agenda was, but it doesn’t mean your contributions aren’t welcomed.

  122. I think there is validity to calling this article racist, but I think there is another way of viewing it that renders it not racist- it says “by and for” in the headline, and all of the products, from what I can tell from the creators bios, are made by POC. In other words, the “for” in the headline is referring back to the clear intention of the POC in making the products in the first place. I would second Eve’s comment about the article being written by an African American woman as well, and the hypothetical conjecture as to her oppressor boss forcing her to write this article, while possible, is not giving thought to the possibility that maybe the author herself noticed all of these POC who were making gifts for POC and she wanted to draw them all together into a list. I think the “problem hair” comment is appalling, and yes, if we’re subscribing to the idea that this woman was forced to write this article by her oppressor boss, and if we agree that this article had the unwritten sub title of “Hey White People, Buy Your Friends of Color these Gifts” then wholeheartedly the entire thing is trash. I’m just saying that it could also, hypothetically, be interpreted completely differently- no understood yet unwritten subtitle to white people, it was the author’s idea to highlight creative objects and products from POC and to bring them to the attention of other POC since that was the whole purpose for the products being made in the first place.

    However, even in this opposite, more positive theoretical situation I too am totally baffled by the inclusion of the Barack Obama/Sonia Sotomayor books- that is weird either way, because I agree with the previous comments regarding how closeminded it is to assume that white people wouldn’t want to read those books.

  123. I’ll admit – my experience with (less prestigious than the NYT) newspapers suggests that it’s unlikely she was forced to write the piece, which makes what y’all are suggesting seem fairly plausible. But in that case, I’ll argue that the framing of the article was spectactularly off and that “by and for” was not enough to convey the intended meaning. Which is, no doubt, an editorial issue.

  124. I have to share Eve, Courtney, and LilahMorgan’s view (although let me be careful to say that I don’t intend to speak for them). The lack of clarity about intent in the article is highly problematic, and the comment about problem hair is inexcusable. Overall, though, I think we’re seeing a broader reaction due to a well-meaning but generally inappropriate sense of colorblindness — the kind lampooned by Steven Colbert. The opposite of colorblindness isn’t othering, or if it is, it’s an abuse of the term, IMO. I really don’t mean to paint myself as an expert on race issues. Far from it. But these are hard questions, and I don’t think they’ve been, on the whole, addressed critically here.

    I really enjoy this blog. It’s nice, beyond nice, to have a space/community of practice where there’s a well-cultivated norm among both bloggers and commenters in regards to gender issues and fat acceptance. I don’t think this space is there yet in terms of race issues. If I can be forgiven for using the term, teachable moments like this one help, though.

  125. Pfffft. “Problem Hair”– Is there a woman in this world whose hair DOESN’T give her problems of one kind or another? and if so, where does she live? I’d like to chloroform her, shave her head, and make myself a wig to cover up my own hair on its Problem days.

    (For the record, my hair’s problem is that it’s boring, straight, brown, and apparently sentient.)

    Also, yes, white kids definitely DO want to read about Obama. My almost-neice used last year’s Xmas money to buy a book about him. (Maybe even that one. Not sure.) But then, she’s cool like that.

  126. Can I just make a general comment about FA? Please – I’m SO cross about this I can’t wait for the next open thread!

    I had my daughter on Wednesday (yay!) and it took seriously less than 24 hours for people to start talking about “losing the baby weight.” I mean, my daughter is less than 24 hours old and I had already had THREE separate conversations about “how hard it is to shift the weight after the second child.”

    I spent the whole pregnancy not eating chocolate or Camembert (due to nausea and food aversions) so now she’s on the outside I am going to ENJOY MYSELF and have BOTH! For fuck’s sake – when you are in hospital having just given birth aren’t people SUPPOSED to bring you chocolate?? And it ain’t just for looking at…

    Thank God for my sister, who brought me a whole Camembert, a box of chockies and a bottle of champagne! And yes, I ate half of the round of Camembert on the spot and it was GREAT!

  127. Cortney said:

    I would second Eve’s comment about the article being written by an African American woman as well, and the hypothetical conjecture as to her oppressor boss forcing her to write this article, while possible, is not giving thought to the possibility that maybe the author herself noticed all of these POC who were making gifts for POC and she wanted to draw them all together into a list.

    If I didn’t have experience writing articles for money – albeit not at the NYT level – I would be less inclined to be suspicious. Without speaking directly to the author we have no idea what happened to the article once she passed it to the editor. Yes, she created the content, but mostly likely the NYT further shaped it. It is entirely possible the “for and by” line was added later and without input from the writer.

    Of course this is merely conjecture on my part, but given what I know about this particular industry it is not entirely out of the realm of reality.

    Again, the items themselves aren’t horrible, but the combination tells a story, which reinforces racist messaging – POC hair is “problem” hair – and the idea that white = individual and POC (regardless of ethnicity or race) = monolith.

    At the end of the day, how many of these messages does one need to be subjected to before they should say, “enough is enough.”? Better yet, how much more explicit does the messaging need to be? I mean I feel like POC as the other should be enough.

  128. Elizabby – Congratulations!!! Lovely to hear about your news, and sorry to hear other people being small-minded. I don’t have any children (yet?) but it would be piss me off terribly if people started talking about weight at such a time. It’s a new life for heaven’s sake! Terrible to mention such petty and unimportant things at such a great time for you.
    Enjoy this time and have great fun making up for lost chocolate time. And anyone who mention’s weight should be told to sod off to the shops and get more Camembert and make themselves useful.

  129. “Devil’s Advocate”, which is often used to silence discussions.

    “Devil’s Advocate” is also a technique to challenge assumptions and prevent groupthink. I have never heard it described as a way to shut people up. In my Organizational Behavior class in grad school, my prof recommended that we appoint a devil’s advocate in meetings/on boards specifically to prevent the group from making bad decisions. (Said with a smile.)

  130. Class Factotum, there’s a huge discussion in the post by A Sarah “I Can Be Reasoned With,” where everyone discussed how playing Devil’s Advocate is rarely helpful. Especially in discussions like these.

  131. RE Alibelle’s comment:
    Ugh, I just had to read a status update from one of my friends about how ridiculous it is to try and be more inclusive by calling this season the holiday season. “What’s up with the media referring to Christmas trees as “Holiday Trees” now? What, is there a “Hanukkah tree” now? A Kwanza Tree? It’s stupid that they’re trying not to “offend” anyone, when it’s a custom specific to only one holiday. Call the damn thing a Christmas Tree, I don’t want to hear any of this holiday crap.”

    What?!?! The media isn’t focused on just white christian folk? Fuckers.
    —-
    This is a tangential to the main topic here (not meaning to derail) but wanted to briefly address it. Christmas trees aren’t holiday trees because there’s no such thing as a holiday tree. There is no Chanukah tree. When the media or anyone else tries to paint the trappings of Christmas as generic holiday stuff, they’re just continuing to marginalize non-Christians and perpetuating Christian hegemony. I’m fine with y’all having a Christmas tree, but that tree has nothing to do with any holiday me or my peeps celebrate in December or any other time of year.

  132. Well, I’m a non-Christian and I have a Christmas/holiday tree; I’m not saying all non-Christians should do that (obviously), but I don’t see anything wrong with calling it a Holiday Tree to take into account those non-Christians who do partake in that particular genericized, not-particularly-Christian piece of ritual. I don’t think it necessarily implies that all non-Christians are doing so.

  133. My argument with her was that it wasn’t originally part of the celebration, and has nothing to do with christianity, so why not call it a holiday tree? Every store I’ve been in the the past 2 weeks has had a christmas tree up. So it’s solely for christmas, then they need to not be in stores anymore. However I feel they are so general and meaningless that there’s no reason not to call them holiday trees. They also put them up in public schools in my town, so they either need to be fucking holiday trees, or they need to go away from the public areas of the country.

  134. Growing up as a member of the only Jewish family in my small town, Christmas trees weren’t general and meaningless. They were one of the major symbols of how I didn’t belong and wasn’t a part of the mainstream culture of my hometown. They were a constant public reminder of what I wasn’t a part of.

    I wouldn’t go as far to say that all decorated trees in December are solely for Christmas. (i.e. DW’s pagan tree. My best friend celebrates the Solstice and has a Solstice tree, etc.) However, they are not universally for all holidays in December and, for me, the suggestion that they are tells me that cultural American Christianity has become so the norm that we no longer recognize when it is imposed on other people.

  135. Or it’s drawing a bit of separation between Christianity and something that has often been tied to it but is used and celebrated by many non-Christians.

  136. My thing is this: Christmas trees have nothing to do with christianity at all, it’s a pagan custom that christians began using. I guess mainly I’m hoping for it to be seen that way, because seriously, they’re meaningless to the actual holiday. I was hoping stupidly that everyone could go “Hey this isn’t christian, it’s just a pretty tree.” Maybe have it be like snowmen, just fun and pretty and something that’s part of most people coming together during the holiday season even if it’s for no other reason than because it’s too cold to go anywhere else. It is unrealistic, and I mean what I said about them needing to be removed from public spaces. If they could function as holiday trees that would be great, but since that’s unrealistic, they need to be in homes and not anywhere else.

    The 1st grade class I’m observing put up a christmas tree and I was honestly dismayed. She asked everyone if they had put up theirs yet and I half expected her to ask me. If she had I considered briefly telling her that I was jewish (though truthfully we haven’t put up a tree in my house for years and it has nothing to do with me being jewish, cuz I’m not) before I realized how offensive that would be to actual jewish people. Then afterward she said that it was probably the only tree some of these kids were going to get to put up. For a second I felt like that was a sweet sentiment then I realized it was still crappy, it divides the kids along relgion and socio-economic class as well.

    I also overheard her telling a little boy that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday (ignoring everything else wrong there, it’s for a fact not Jesus’ actual birthday even if you are christian) so it was a birthday party.

  137. Is there a woman in this world whose hair DOESN’T give her problems of one kind or another?

    The only problem my hair gives me is that it stubbornly refuses to stop growing at 3/8 of an inch, so I have to get the clippers out every two weeks. :D

    Also: it always cracks me up when people whine about how unfair it is to call those decorated trees something other than “Christmas trees”, as if they were invented by little baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Next thing they’ll be claiming that dead-and-risen gods are unique to their religion or something. Learn to history, people!

  138. Henrietta, I’m British too, and I don’t think it would have been published here. That said, I wonder if the fact we have a much larger percentage of the population who are white makes a difference, in that people of colour are probably less visible than in the US, and so a lot of things in our culture automatically defaults to ‘everyone’s white, even if they’re not’ also plays a part in it. I can imagine clunky articles on, “How to celebrate Eid with your muslime friends” all too easily.

  139. I’m also British. Dominant culture racism here is different from dominant culture racism in the USA — we’re two different countries with different histories (the main influence of our dominant culture racism is colonial imperialism rather than slavery* and segregation).

    So there are some things that happen in American culture that shock us Brits as horribly racist and wouldn’t happen here, and there are things that happen in British culture that shock Americans as racist and wouldn’t happen there.

    *we participated in the slave trade, I am absolutely not denying that!

  140. @henrietta and badhedgehog – I lived in the UK for a number of years, and I agree that nothing so crude would be published in a quality magazine/newspaper over there, and not in most of the crappy ones either.

    While there is plenty of overt racism in the UK – hello BNP – there isn’t the remnants of segregation the way there still seems to be in the US. You lot just have the left-over class system. :-) (Not that there isn’t a class system anywhere else in the world, including the US, but it is flatter and less overt)

    So, yes, I think it’s at least partially the leftover effects of segregation that leads to this us-and-them mentality in the media in the US. There are publications in the UK that are devoted to particular subcultures (such as Pride for black women), but you would not get a mainstream mag assuming that their readership is (almost?) exclusively white – communities are much more mixed in Britain, in the big cities especially.

  141. Thanks for bringing attention to yet another way in which racism is still a major part of our society, despite what many mainstream nyt readig liberals would like to think. I hope folks done forget that our news still comes from sources entrenched in racism both subtly and outright.

  142. Knithappy, I don’t have time just now to dig out figures, but I would think that whether POC are less visible in the UK or not, cf the US, is hugely variable by area (as indeed it is in the US, of course). The town near London where I live has a population that at a guess is about 20% Muslim, mostly of Pakistani origin, and 5% or so other non-white races; but in many parts of London, 15 miles north of me, there are large areas where white people are in a minority, and 15 miles south of me on the Sussex border it’s rare to see a non-white face at all, even now. So white people’s awareness can’t help but be somewhat influenced by the demographics where they live, which is very variable. Having said that, most media people live in London, which is hugely ethnically diverse, and I don’t think a British paper would publish an article like this one, either.

  143. @snarkysmachine- I’m making it my personal goal to wish as many people “Happy Wrath of Khan” as possible.

    I’ve been trapped in holiday hell this year (I’m a stagehand for a Christmas show that’s been running since the beginning of November), which is why I’m jumping onto this thread so late. I don’t think I have anything else new to add to the NYT article teardown, but it’s definitely been fun reading. Maybe if there’s a thread on holiday culture clash in general I’ll share some of my work stories, but I don’t want to derail from the current topic at hand.

    Until then, Happy Wrath of Khan!

    :-D

  144. Oh Sweet Baby Jesus – Have you all seen the new cover of Publisher’s Weekly. Oh, Oh, Oh my. I have no html skills but it is on their home page at publishersweeklydotcom.

  145. Jesus H. Flying Spaghetti Monster, Amy.

    I mean…yow.

    OTOH you’re not going to believe this, but by showing us this article, I came across the name of someone I went to college with whom I have been DYING to get back in touch with, and now I found her on LinkedIn with the article’s help!

    It’s an AfroTastic Xmas/Kwanzaa miracle I tell ya!

  146. “NYT is a paper run by white folks who are dictating the content. At any point they could have opted for a less inflammatory version of the piece, but opted not to. As the power lies with them, so does the responsibility.”

    Yeah, this. I work for a newspaper. Nothing that any given writer submits gets published without at least one senior person in editorial going over it and making corrections. The NYT is not a blog – someone in management actually read that article and decided that “problem hair” was a perfectly acceptable thing to print.

    I wonder if the scare quotes were put there by the writer or if someone in editorial read the piece, realised that it was an offensive thing to say, and yet decided to leave it in there anyway hoping that the scare quotes constituted sufficient ass covering.

  147. Look on the bright side (if there is one)–at least the NYT (thank the FSM) has pretty much stopped most of the stupid Judaikitsch articles (the mainstream media pretty much leaves that for the TimeOut city guides and regional newspapers as well as regional papers for areas that have a handful of Marginalized yet Socially Important Jews. The only tokenism the NYT does on this front is a ton of crappy “holiday cooking advice” for traditional dishes (duuuuh, most folks have the same recipes they’ve been making since they were born) or worse yet “modern updates” on “old classics.”

    FWIW, you can’t be too surprised by the NYT here. After all (for all us shapelings in the NYC area) just think about the way that their UES-dwelling horde of interns and writers write about any neighborhood that’s NOT lilly-white. You’d think they were taking a safari to the ends of the earth.

  148. I wonder if the scare quotes were put there by the writer or if someone in editorial read the piece, realised that it was an offensive thing to say, and yet decided to leave it in there anyway hoping that the scare quotes constituted sufficient ass covering.

    Scare quotes are like gravy hiding bad meat.

  149. The only tokenism the NYT does on this front is a ton of crappy “holiday cooking advice” for traditional dishes (duuuuh, most folks have the same recipes they’ve been making since they were born) or worse yet “modern updates” on “old classics.”

    To be fair, they do this for Thanksgiving and Christmas, too. “We know you all know how to make a pumpkin pie/latke/goose already if you’re into that sort of thing” doesn’t really sell newspapers.

  150. Ugh. And the fact that there is an “All American” gift guide, a separate category than people of color, really makes me sick.

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