Thursday, August 28, 2008

Late Night Thoughts

Lost in thought, walking to the places I have to go to during no particular day, I feel like I'm in a racial vacuum...

During this moment, I'm completely unaware of myself as a social being--that is, of my labels as a woman, Latina, etc. I'm not really interacting with others, I'm just passing through blurs of people that I pay no attention to as I cross streets and pass buildings. I'm not even conscious of my walking. I'm practically in a dream.

It's a strange thing, that lapse in time that occurs when I'm getting from one place to another. It's not that I'm not appreciative of the day--I notice the green leaves and blue skies I pass along the way. I'm still adhering to the laws of society, but in auto-pilot mode.

I can never consciously experience these racially-vacuous dream lapses, I can only reflect upon them afterward. I wake up from my dream and I'm left with only a few remnants of the event.

I can't assume you go through this moment, but it feels so natural that I wonder if others do go through it. My question is, is this a way of attempting to escape the burden of racialized identity, or is it rather a brief return to a natural state before and beyond social identity? Both and neither?

In short, I think moments like these matter because they show that I cannot be my social self every single second of the day. Race, gender, sexuality, class. They are not a part of the fiber of my being, they are only roles I assume when I interact with others.

In this way, double consciousness can also be the literal state of the term--being conscious of your consciousness. That is, being aware of your awareness as a socialized being intersected by race, class and gender.

...The moment I hear "hi" from a friend who sees me walking by, I suddenly notice the dripping paint of society all over me. I suddenly become aware of my name, place, and time in society. No longer just a body, but now back to Sara, back to Latina in 2008, back to California-born daughter of Argentine immigrants.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Light Skin Wins Again

Beyonce's latest L'Oreal advertisment has really struck a chord with the light-skinned/dark-skinned black divide. We all know celebrities get photoshopped, but putting my sentiments about that aside, I agree that "white washing" Beyonce is going way too far.

I remember for a short time people had issues with Angelina Jolie being "ethnicized" for some movie role. That was controversial, but this is beyond controversial to me. This is just embittering:


Anyone who saw the Féria hair color ad in this month's Elle (pictured, left) might have had to do a double-take to make sure it was really Beyoncé, and not the long-lost twin of the light-skinned model on the product's box. Today, in a NY Post report cheekily headlined "O, RÉALLY?," L'Oréal reps deny altering the singer's features and skin tone. The chairman of the media-monitoring committee of the National Association of Black Journalists even chimed in, arguing that "magazines have to be sensitive to perceptions that light-skinned African Americans are more acceptable."

By now, most of us are used to pretty much all commercial images of celebrities getting the Photoshopped-into-oblivion treatment. But shouldn't there be some sort of line here? We don't know exactly what or who is responsible -- severe makeup? odd lighting? digital alteration? too much time indoors? -- for making Beyoncé practically unrecognizable. Whatever the culprit, whitewashing a well-known face in the interest of selling hair color (that is wrong for 'yoncers anyway) takes the "anything for a great shot" argument a little too far.

What do you think -- does the ad offend you, or is this sort of "optimized" commercial image safe in the plasticine land of Fictionarnia we've all come to generally accept at this point, and therefore unworthy of a second thought?

It's possible that Beyonce comes out lighter if you use flash when taking a picture. But come on, this is an advertisement for L'Oreal...they're not stupid, they know exactly what they were doing and they need to fess up.

My one question is, did Beyonce get a say in the use of this final picture? I wouldn't necessarily give her the benefit of the doubt in all this. I mean, she's a huge celebrity, I can't imagine that she'd allow them to publish the photo without her final approval...but what do I know.