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!