Posts Tagged ‘racism’

It’s obvious what the issues with Barbie are. She perpetuates an unattainable beauty standard, influencing impressionable, young girls globally. Barbie also maintains sexism against women with her stereotypically female careers. What I want to talk about is how white she is. Launched in 1959, it would be eight years until an African American version were released in 1967, but only “Colored Francie’s” skin was darker, her facial features were still Caucasian. In 1968, the popularly adopted “official African American Barbie” named Christie was released with more genuine African American features. Then, 20 years later in 1988, Teresa, a Hispanic Barbie, was released.

BARBIE® 2015 Birthday Wishes® Doll – Hispanic

Mattel has been applauded for their efforts of including ethnically correct African American features in their doll line, but you would never be able to tell that Teresa is in the least bit Hispanic. Mattel now has 27 versions of their African American doll, varying in shades of skin, facial features and names, but major retailers like Target and Walmart have been cited for variations in pricing between identical versions of Caucasian and African American Barbies. Teresa stands along side her only variation, a new Barbie labeled on Mattel’s website as “BARBIE® 2015 Birthday Wishes® Doll – Hispanic.

BARBIE® Fashionistas® Teresa&® Doll

The progress of racial inclusion is incredibly slow at Mattel. Where are the 27 versions of Hispanic dolls? Where are any Asian dolls? As the widely accepted American icon of current, feminine beauty standards, Barbie excludes the representation of a significant part of modern America. Therefore, Barbie devalues those women as Americans because they don’t fit the mold of the ideal American woman: white, sometimes black, barely Hispanic.

Read Full Post »

Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali are two of the most iconic Americans to have ever lived. The readings that covered these two icons uncovered a new side to them that I haven’t seen before. Muhammad Ali and Rosa Parks are two people that were very looked up upon at their time, and still are today (maybe even more so). These are leaders who formed the path for human rights today.

Pretty much everyone knows that Rosa Parks refused to give her seat to a white passenger when the bus was full. What I found to be interesting was Rosa Parks’s female weakness which makes her an acceptable figure to crossover audiences: The Rosa Park’s Story closing sequence further indicates that Rosa Parks’s integration in the “official narrative of national progress” resides in her nonthreatening image as an elderly person (Letort, 36). She was not only an underdog, but by being an elderly woman all hated is put aside. She is seen as innocent and harmless.

Unsurprisingly, Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time. It is important to note that he was born with the name Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. and later changed his name to Muhammad Ali because he converted to Islam (Biography Online). Muhammad Ali underwent an extensive legal, political, professional, and personal battle. He was even convicted of draft evasion resulting in being stripped of his boxing title, and became a lightning rod — and a voice — for opinions on the Vietnam War. Muhammad Ali’s willingness to speak out against racism in the United States, and the affect it had on domestic and foreign policy, earned him many supporters and critics (aavw.org). As demonstrated by this poster, Ali was a new type of boxer who had a huge personality and spoke his own mind. He even developed a reputation as the “Louisville Lip”, known for his wit and fast-talking personality. This was unheard of at the time when managers “spoke” for their boxer (BBC, 2004).

Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali are usually put in the same category because they fought for human rights, however they are actually very opposite from one another. Rosa Parks was an innocent victim caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, or some might say the right place at the right time. On the other hand, Muhammad Ali was outspoken about his beliefs and defiant towards the war. Nevertheless, both will always be remembered for their courage and strength.


Letort, Delphine. “The Rosa Parks Story: The Making of a Civil Rights Icon.” Black Camera 3.2 (2012): 31-50. JSTOR. Web. 31 Mar. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/blackcamera.3.2.31?ref=search-gateway:68c41c984b9d447efc726e73dbe9b04d&gt;.

“Muhammad Ali Biography.” Muhammad Ali Biography. Biography Online, n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

“Muhammad Ali.” Muhammad Ali. Aavw.org, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

“Muhammad Ali – The Greatest!” BBC News. BBC, 7 Apr. 2004. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

“Press Release.” Upcoming Muhammad Ali Center Exhibit to Honor Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks. Muhammad Ali Center, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Read Full Post »

When we think of American culture and its icons it is inevitable that the subject of music should be addressed. Not only has America influenced the music industry globally, it is the music industry! The appeal of American music could be due to the fact that it is an amalgamation of voices from every depth of society. From the yearning laments of Irish immigrants to the soulfulness of the African-American Gospel choirs, American music is perhaps more poignant and penetrating. It represents the struggles of its people, the triumphs, diehard patriotism and the faith that ‘change is gonna come’ where change is needed.
Automatically, Springsteen’s ‘Born in the U.S.A’ and McLean’s ‘American Pie’ spring to mind as the forefront runners of iconic American songs. This promotion of American ideals and staunch patriotism dominates our perception of what it means to be American, ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ But perhaps a more fitting icon of song would be Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change is Gonna Come.’ This song acknowledges the everyday adversity of American citizens whilst asserting that America the Great has the capacity for change.
Cooke, like too many American legends, died prematurely yet his legacy as the ‘King of Soul’ lives on in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His role as prevalent pioneer in the world of soul inspired many of the greats from Aretha Franklin to Marvin Gaye. As an African-American of Chicago, Cooke was a fervent activist of the Civil Rights Movement. However, his popularity was owed to happy go lucky tunes i.e. ‘Wonderful World’ and ‘Twistin’ the Night Away.’ The jovial nature of such songs exemplified all that was good in American life. For the ‘King of Soul’ such trivial tunes lacked punch and passion which served as a constant inner turmoil. It wasn’t until Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ that Cooke was truly worthy of the sobriquet ‘King of Soul.’ Moved by a white man’s accuracy and poignancy in depicting the struggle of African Americans, Cooke came to the realisation that music was key in projecting mass values, therefore the key to change in regards to racism. Losing his white fan base was no longer a fear as the quest for the greater good took centre stage.
Ultimately ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ became the anthem of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The song alludes to the long African-American struggle from the middle passage to present day. But most importantly it stays in the realm of optimism of Cooke’s prior works. It does not denounce the government nor sully white Americans. In an avant-garde fashion, it acknowledges discrimination, violence and hate however only as a temporary condition. Change will come and humanity is not void of good. ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ achieves immortality with a transient and relatable message regardless of the era. A song which decades on can stir emotions and render the coldest of hearts worthy of feeling, more than deserves the status of icon. Its theme of hope should be utilised in every nation, it does not reside in the pessimistic or oblivious but inhabits societal realities and is willing to act.

Shanice Atkins (QUB)

Read Full Post »


The song America is probably the most iconic song out of the many performed in its also iconic American musical West Side Story. The drama takes place in a mid 1950s America, in a blue collar neighborhood of the Upper West Side. It addresses issues of race during this period through two opposed ruling gangs, the Jets (American born but from Polish, Irish and Italian origins), and the Sharks (Immigrants from Porto Rico).

In the original stage version of the musical first interpreted in 1957, the song praises America while depicting Porto Rico as a backward country. Nevertheless, in the 1961 film the lyrics were changed so that in this version, Porto Rican immigrant men deny the positive arguments of the girls in favor of America. The song then symbolizes the way this country was viewed by immigrants as a land of opportunity and the sad realization they underwent after having settled and experienced everyday-life there.

The girls depict the United States with iconic images of big skyscrapers representing corporations, expensive Cadillacs or the boom of the industry (which creates many jobs). They sing about other features of America such as the possibility of credit, which enable them to buy things they could not have afforded before (“I have my own washing machine”), or freedom which was promoted in America at the time.

But when the females present the United States as a country where the American dream is accessible to everyone, the men answer saying that this is not a reality for them. They emphasize on the racism they suffer from in this supposed free and just country because of their accent and skin color which instantly show they are immigrants. The examples they provide allude to their difficulty to get credits at the bank, to find housing at a reasonable price (as they can’t, they have to share rooms) or to go and eat in restaurants because priority always go to white people.

All in all, this song is iconic of America as it really gives an accurate picture of the American society during the 1950s. It is now known all around the world and can unfortunately still be sang in this country for its meaning.


Read Full Post »