Tag Archives: France

What’s With All the Blackface?

So much for a post racial planet.

The Minstrels, 1962
The Minstrels, 1962

Blackface, it seems, is the new black, albeit in faraway places like Australia and France.

An Australian TV show caused quite an uproar when a group calling itself Jackson Jive performed the song “Can You Feel It” wearing huge black wigs and blackened faces.

Then, French Vogue features a 14 page spread in its October issue with a model, also in blackface.

Vogue.larastone.blackface

The Australian performers apologized, but not until after being condemned by none other than Harry Connick Jr., who happened to be a guest on the show.

So what’s going on here? a fair number of equivocators are posing the “what if” scenario. It’s like, what if a black person was dressed in whiteface? Isn’t that okay? What’s the difference? Why is everyone so sensitive? Others try to chalk it up to an American sensibility.

Popular Japanese recording group, Gosperats
Popular Japanese recording group, Gosperats

Australians and the French don’t share America’s history of minstrel shows, and therefore should get a pass on this. Or so the logic goes. Trouble is, in both cases past and present history is being ignored.

Leave aside, for the moment, America’s racist past practice of reinforcing stereotypes by popularizing the minstrel show.

Let’s talk about Australia. This is a place where dark skinned people, the Aborigines, were systematically driven off their land just as Native Americans were here. It wasn’t until 1967, 200 years after Europeans settled in Australia, that Aborigines were even counted as human beings in the nation’s census. They were also the butt of numerous stereotypical jokes in Australian entertainment during much of that time.

As for French Vogue, it should be noted that nowhere in its October “blackface” issue is there a single model of color. Not to mention the difficulty black models still encounter trying to get work (Naomi and Iman notwithstanding). Sure, Vogue has a history of “over the top” presentations on its pages. And sure, with the magazine industry in steep decline everyone’s trying to something to get attention. But this?

If there are points to be made for presenting such nonsense, they escape me. And let’s be clear. This isn’t about political correctness. It’s about knowledge of one’s past, and a basic human sensitivity that seems to elude both magazine editors and television producers. Perhaps now that both the Australian show and French Vogue have been called out, there have been lessons learned, and folks can move on.

minstrel

But you tell me. Will we see more blackface portrayals in the future?

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Sex with a minor. Should Roman Polanski be Extradited to US?

It’s been 32 years since film director Roman Polanski was tried and convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old girl. In 1977, the case drew worldwide attention, with many commentators at the time using it to show the depravity and excess of Hollywood. Polanski, fearful a judge would back out of a plea agreement and send him to prison, left the country prior to his sentencing to live in France.

roman.polanski.arrest

It must have come as quite a shock when he was arrested in Switzerland this past weekend. He was there, after all, to receive an award at the Zurich Film Festival. He’d traveled there many times before, and even maintains a home in Switzerland. Yet the ghosts of 32 years past won’t go away. It’s possible Roman Polanski will be extradited to the US to face the sentence he ran away from all those years ago.

Ironically, it could also mean freedom. A lot has happened since Polanski was convicted, and his legal team has been fighting his conviction based on allegations of prosecutorial misconduct. Those were chronicled in a documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” released last year. Regardless, Polanski’s arrest has set off not just a legal tussle, but a diplomatic storm involving the Swiss, French, US, and Polish governments.

Polanski has spent the past 32 years as the world’s most celebrated convicted child molester. Despite the time facing him in the US, he’s directed films around the world apparently without fear of getting busted and sent back. He’s now a French citizen, and France has no formal extradition treaty with the US. He even received an Oscar in absentia for the 2002 film “The Pianist”. Despite having to be careful about where he went, Polanski hasn’t exactly lived as a wanted man.

Roman Polanski 2009

Which leads to a few questions. How badly over the past 32 years has the US actually wanted him back here to do his time? There are reports US marshals came close to busting him on several occasions, but for one reason or another, Roman Polanski eluded their grasp. Then there’s the question of whether Polanski’s obvious and extraordinary talent and his tragic past mitigates his original crime.

For those who may have forgotten, the guy was originally charged with drugging a 13 year old girl, then having sex with her. The original charges could have landed him in prison for life, but he plea bargained down to a single count of having sex with a minor.

The victim, Samantha Geimer, publicly identified herself a long time ago, and has forgiven Polanski.

Samantha Geimer
Samantha Geimer

She also sued him, and received an unspecified settlement. So the question remains, what to do about Roman Polanski?

Should he be brought back here to serve the typical 16 months to three years he’s avoided all this time? Should the protests of France and Poland be heeded, and Polanski released from custody in Switzerland? If he does come back here, is there a good chance the original case will be thrown out? What’s best?

Take my poll on the left and post a comment here!

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Will Iran’s Nuclear Deception Stand?

There was an article in a paper the other day that said while so many Americans were focusing their ire at Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi, their real concern ought to be Iran.

Looks like that article got it right. The Iranians now admit they have a second uranium enrichment facility. This one looks to be fully capable of producing bomb making material. So much for Ahmadinejad’s statement the other day at the UN that Iran has fully cooperated with weapons inspectors. He certainly made no mention of this second facility in his remarks to the General Assembly.

Ahmadinejad

So now what to do? Even those who might think the Iranians have a right to develop nuclear power for the nation’s energy needs are at a loss. This appears to be out and out deception.

Presidents Obama and Sarkozy, as well as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were quick to respond to Iran’s admission. President Obama said the new facility “is inconsistent with a peaceful program.”  He demanded Iran present detailed information to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) as to the scope and intention of the new plant.

However, CNN is quoting sources who say Western powers have known about the existence of this so-called secret plant for several months. It was that knowledge that led Iran to send a letter to the IAEA admitting the new plant existed.

So the question must be asked again. What to do now? President Obama and France’s Sarkozy talk about new and “serious” sanctions. Can they work, and to what end? Demanding the Iranians close the new plant is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube.

And while the West may see Iran’s nuclear ambition as war-like, what about the rest of the world. The Chinese have a longstanding problem with ratcheting up sanctions against Iran. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it has the power to veto any such action, rendering the tough talk of Obama, Sarkozy, and Brown effectively moot.

So it seems the road to getting Iran to scale back its nuclear program runs right through Beijing. Which leads to the question, what will the West have to concede to get the Chinese to pressure Iran despite their strong economic ties? It’s obvious any progress here will come in increments, and perhaps despite the tough words we heard Friday morning. Unlike the previous administration, no  one is talking about a military option.

So what would you do? How would you respond to Iran’s new nuclear plant? Do you think they want to make a bomb? You tell me.

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