ATR 19 – Mar 20, 2006 – Voicemail 206-203-3983 –

We break from our usual format and spend the entire episode discussing the new reality show “Black.White.,” which premiered March 8th on FX. This is a show where a white family and a black family put on make-up to disguise themselves and try to live as the other race. Carmen and Jen share their thoughts on episodes 1 and 2 of the show.

UPDATE: Here’s the Los Angeles Times article Carmen mentions during the show, which discusses the “mix of creative manipulations and reality show tactics” that “undermine the frank discussions about race relations its producers said they wanted to inspire.”

There’s a long tradition of blackface in the United States, and it doesn’t really make sense to talk about the use of blackface in “Black.White.” without taking a look at the historical significance of this phenomenon. Carmen interviews Eric Lott, author of Love and Theft : Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (Race and American Culture). He’ll outline the history and evolution of blackface, what it says about the fantasies whites have about blacks, and he’ll also explain why you can’t draw a direct parallel between whiteface and blackface.

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Duration – 1:12:18
File Size – 33.2 MB
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21 thoughts on “ATR 19 – Mar 20, 2006 – Voicemail 206-203-3983 –”

  1. I was watching the Black White show with my husband and we had a very interesting conversation that came about from the scene where the both mothers go shopping for the white woman to have a “black” outfit for church.
    First, they go to a store where I presume the black woman would shop herself, and the white woman finds basically everything in the store not to be her style.
    The next scene, we see both woman walking by an African clothing shop, which sells booboos from West Africa. The white woman is extra enthousiastic about the cloth in this shop, and the black woman rolls her eyes at this.
    I believe that either consciously or subconsciously, the white woman was showing the black woman as well as the audience that if she were to take on the roll of a “black” woman, she could only think highly of traditional African clothing. She had no interest or enthusiasm about the clothing in the “black” American shop because she sees that style of clothing and the people who wear those clothes as inferior to her own.
    This is not an ultimate statement because I really have no idea what she was thinking, but I just wanted to give one interpretation.
    I do believe that soon enough, the black woman found it amusing that the white woman would go to church in this totally unamerican outfit, and she starts to want the white woman to buy the outfit.
    We could also see another perspective which is that the clothing in the “black” American shop was not “other” enough or “exotic” enough for the white woman, and if she was really going to go for it, she would need to wear a multicolored african booboo to really grasp what the exotic is all about.

  2. Thanks for another episode of “Addicted to Racism”. You two really don’t listen to yourselves, do you?

    First, my church has a LOT of black members, and since this is a University town, a lot of them are from Africa. Therefore, I see a LOT of African traditonal wear on Sunday. Maybe American blacks turn their noses up at native Africans, who are not usually caught up in the same identity politics you two are fond of. But it doesn’t seem to happen here.

    I have no intention of wasting my time on this nutty “reality” show. You are both all the “reality” I need from time to time. I heard how you found the white couple so distasteful and dusturbing for getting turned on about being black. But you were not at all annoyed with the obvious hatred of whites the black couple showed when they repelled each other. Ya just don’t see it, do you?

    I just love it when you tell me how I think becuase of the color of my skin. Nope. No racism here…

  3. Don–it seems like your using the “some of my best friends (or in this case church members) are black defense to prove your point.
    Believe it or not, there are great cultural differences between black Americans and recent and not so recent African immigrants–not to mention the differences between africans from different countries on that continent. Of course its not odd to see Africans wearing traditional African dress to church–that’s likely a part of their culture. But that is not a part of most black americans’ church experience. The wearing of hats or “crowns” by women (which they showed the black mother shopping for) and suits by men is much more a part of the black american church culture and experience. I agree with the first poster that suits and hats were probably not “exotic” or “black” enough for the white mother.
    The purpose of the show is not for the white family to have the African immigrant experience–its to trade places with a black family that is equally “American” for lack of a better term (by American I mean both families have presumably been here for generations and have no cultural ties to another country).
    As far as the different reactions the families had when they saw their partner in black/white face–lets be real, the black family looked odd–the make up wasn’t good. I think anyone would find them less attractive–not necessarily because their skin was white–but because they looked weird. Also, I think Jen and Carmen were piqued by the fact white family’s first reaction and first acts as “black folks” were related to sex. You cannot deny that the U.S. is and has always been fascinated/fearful of black sexuality. The white mother’s comments about feeling so free right before she tongued down her husband was basically a declaration that now that I’m black I have license to do all the freaky ish I want to do, because black = freaky, kinky, lustful, carnal vodoo sex and white = staid, proper, restrained sex.

  4. I thought the comments related to “Black and White” in ADTR 19 were right on target. I found the first episode of B&W to reek of phoniness, hyperbole and questionable motives. The producers of the show, however, should definitely be providing you (Jen and Carmen) with whatever interviews you want. After your podcast, I actually wanted to watch the show again even though I hated it the first time. I think you idea for the Yellow and Brown show would be a lot better than B&W! Very interesting interview about the history of Blackface as well.

  5. That must be it. If I actually can cite examples of black people from real life, I am using one of the “white lines”. If I can’t cite examples, it’s because I don’t associate with them. I can’t win for losing.

    If all you can do is reframe the questions to fit your own prejudices, you should at least admit to yourself that you believe the race discussion should only be a one-way street: you telling whites what the rules are because you are now making them.

  6. Ice Cube has made his whole career exploiting violent-Black-hustla-gangsta-outlaw-thug stereotypes…and now all of a sudden is preaching that we shouldn’t see Blacks as “doing wrong?”

    Gee, why would anyone think that?

    Well, with such a moronic hypocrite fronting this farce – what more can we expect? Hmm, secret set-ups to ensure certain outcomes? Wow, I am neither surprised nor disappointed. Hollywood TV simply does it again…true to form.

    That’s why I simply don’t watch that lowbrow shyt no more. It’s like expecting different outcomes from the same old thing. The boob tube is basically a voluntary lobotomy. All it does is insult my humanity, intelligence and raise my blood pressure.

    Fortunately, TV is a one-way fixed propaganda outlet that is becoming obsolete anyways. People prefer interactive multimedia from an infinite number of sources – like on the internet. So, if you are watching 10 hrs of TV/week – you are WASTING 10 hrs/week of your life!

  7. Don–I wasn’t aware that you posed a question for me to reframe. It appeared to me that you took exception to Jen, Carmen, Renee (the black mom), and the original poster’s take on why Carmen (the white mom) wanted traditional African dress to go to church and you cited examples of African immigrants wearing traditional dress at your church to prove your point. I merely pointed out that there are significant cultural differences between black americans and africans (even if we’re all lumped together as black people)–the most relevant difference to this discussion is that most black americans do not wear traditional african dress to predominantly black churches (or anywhere else for that matter.) Now can I unequivocably state that no black american has ever worn african dress to church? No I can’t–but I can state confidently that that it is not the norm–as the black family stated on the show. And since the white mom wanted to “fit in” (i.e. conform to the norm and appear to be a typical black american churchgoer) the wearing of african dress would defeat the purpose. I don’t believe the race discussion should be a one way street–but facts used to support our points in the discussion should be relevant, and in this case, what african immigrants wear to church just wasn’t relevant.

  8. Frankly the pretense of the show is stupid, Now Don and the other conservative ranting against the behavior of the blacks the are bigots YES I SAID IT!!!! you WHITEBOYS are bigots plain and simple. At least I admit I have problems with…

    1. White people (esp conservative ones)
    2. Black Women ( esp hypocritcal ones)
    3. Asian -Americans (latent racism)
    4. Hispanics ( total racism)
    5. Biracial ( arrogance)

    I am the only honest bigot in america trying to work out my problems or is it everybody else is lying to themselves about how they interact with other human beings. Don you are only friends with the Africans to prove your “tolerance” and justify your racism against native born Black Americans. If you want comfirmation that after 388 years that the many Native Born Black Americans..

    1. Mistrust
    2. Hate
    3. Want white people to die
    4. Utter contempt for them

    Then you win first prize in the Harry Elder “find the black bigot” sweepstakes and you win… The knowledge that some black americans hate you to guts of their soul.

    HAPPY !!!!!

  9. I get lumped together with other white people all the time. All I have to do is listen to ADR to find out what I think. And I can read the crap on this board to learn all my motivations; how I have black friends ONLY to validate my tolerance. Man, it is so-o-o enlightening to learn these things about myself from people who have never even met me! They just know my skin color, and SHAZZAM! they have me all figured out! I’ve been wasting my time going to palm readers…

    When my daughter started school in this town, she went to a school that was 80% black. We did nothing to prepare her for this. We didn’t tell her that some kids might not like her just because she was white. We didn’t warn her tthat the boys might make nice with her and that the girls would hate her for it. We wanted her to make her way without our inner suspicions having any undue influence. At the end of her first week (she was in the 6th grade there) I asked her how she liked it. Her first words were: “They hate us!” You know, I had really had some hope that I would not hear this.

    By the time she had left that school to go to highschool, she had a few good friends, black and white. She didn’t have the black ones because she was trying to prove something. They were just THERE. So are all the other black people in my life: they are just THERE. I like a lot of them because of who they are, just like I don’t like some of them because of who they are. Color is not a factor. But there are people who don’t like me because of MY color. And they didn’t learn to hate me because of me. It was what they were TAUGHT.

    Maybe some of them had teachers like my daughter’s. She had one “science” teacher who told the kids that the US government spreads diseases among minorities to keep their population down. When she told me this, I just asked, “Do you think it’s working?” I’m not afraid of letting my kids come to their own conclusions.

  10. Don,
    I think the point for all of us here is to open ourselves and share our perspectives without using anger or resentment. Of course everyone has experienced moments of their life where they were judged before anyone even knew anything about them beyond their skin color/ethnicity. But that’s why we’re here to investigate. If you disagree with anyone or agree with anyone, shout it out. But the point is not to say “I am 100% right, and everyone else is wrong” or to bring a guilt trip into it. If you want to bring the opposite viewpoint, just use your facts, and make a fair analysis. I will tell you that I am a white Jewish woman married to a black man who is from W. Africa. I experience racism from all people any time I step out in public with my husband. Now, am I going to be bitter and angry against the whole world. No… I want to be part of the discussion. I want to dissect all the different stereotypes so that I may educate a few people in my life. Anger is not the way. I wish you well on your journey.

  11. Adina,

    I’m not trying to be a wiseguy, but have you noticed that you are only telling the white guy to chill out? The guy before me calls me a whiteboy and a bigot, but you put words in my mouth (the quote about being 100% right…) and tell me not to send people on a guilt trip. I am sick of the guilt trip, which is what “Addicted to Racism” is selling.

    I think my journey is going to take me on a break from this place.

  12. Don,
    I am replying to you alone because I appreciated your honesty about your community situation. I really could understand your experience with your children and how you tried not to put any of your ideas into their heads while they were going to school. I read your story on a personal level. I guess I didn’t read the other self-proclaimed bigot on a personal level because that’s not what interests me.

    The reason why I am interested in communicating with you is because I have a lot of family members who try to simplify racial matters in a few words, or state that they feel they are offending everyone every time they open their mouths about race, so they’d rather state that they don’t want to deal with it. And I just want you to know that this is definitely a good path. Dialogue is the key to communication. But as I said before, and I say this to all readers, if you feel that you disagree with this radio show or someone’s post, please reply back with a clear point as to your disapproval. Give as many examples as you can, and maybe you will add a new dimension to others’ perspectives. Don, you are always welcome to this discussion.

  13. You make a lot of good points here on this podcast, especially what you pointed out about subtle racism that cannot be captured on video.

    I have a comment about your question on blackface. An excellent way of understanding blackface is by looking at how homosexuals are depicted in the media now. “Will & Grace” is an excellent example of entertainment predicated on the fictionalized life of gay men and women. Very similar to blackface, they are viewed by heterosexuals as entertaining, but in reality, many Americans would not DARE threaten their “heterosexual privileges”
    to fight for gay civil rights.

    Blackface is a way for white America to legitimize oppression through entertainment while simultaneously pride themselves that their racism is really not as bad as people think it is.

    I think it would be interesting for you all to do a podcast about white people who do fight for minority rights and know where people of color come from. I think this would show people of color that there are white people who care enough to lose their white privileges, and give other whites the courage to stand up against racism when they see it among their fellow white friends and colleagues.

  14. Fascinating discussion

    I think this would show people of color that there are white people who care enough to lose their white privileges, and give other whites the courage to stand up against racism when they see it among their fellow white friends and colleagues.

    ‘Scuse me? I don’t think you can give up your White privilege. Don’t let B/W fool you — skin colour doesn’t wash off.

    White allies are part of any large civil rights movement about oppressed minorities, but the jury’s still out on how effective that can be. It certainly isn’t necessary to validate my activism, and simultaneously, it doesn’t warm my heart to induct a White ally into my cause. White people should be down with a movement because they agree with it, and part of being an ally is to have your authenticity questioned — it sounds more like you’re shopping for a cookie to reward your “downness”.

  15. The only way for BLACK, WHITE to benefit America is to keep the show one two or three times a week with many cultures and colors of families depicted. KEEP it in the public’s face!
    Get the conversations going…..I have tried, but no one in my workplace has ever watched it!

  16. Don Marsh, you seemed to be a bit on the defensive side from the begining.Take it easy.I know you don’t like people assuming things about you, so trying giving everyone else the same benifit.So far besides one or two people here, no one has gone out of their way to tell you what to think as a white man OR lump every single white person in america.You bring a different perspective and view as does everyone else.

  17. I think it would be interesting for you all to do a podcast about white people who do fight for minority rights and know where people of color come from. I think this would show people of color that there are white people who care enough to lose their white privileges, and give other whites the courage to stand up against racism when they see it among their fellow white friends and colleagues.

    I’d love to hear Tim Wise, Robert Jensen, James W. Loewen, George Lipsitz, on ATR! Jen and Carmen, are you listening? *smile*

    They’re antiracist who will always be aware of their privileged status in this society because the ideology of white supremacy never fails to enforce it.

    Anyway, re: “Black. White” I guess the ladies of ATRs critique of the minstrel show was perhaps too good! I will be tuning that balderdash OUT!

  18. deb, check out the interview of robert jensen, who wrote the heart of whiteness in episode 11. yeah, exposure of white anti-racist activists is good.

  19. Thanks, Anonymous. I’ve listened to ATR since the beginning, including ATR 11. I forgot about the Jensen interview! (I need to check it out again.) However, I’m certain it’s where I first learned of him.

    btw, I enjoyed “Heart of Whiteness.” The others I mentioned in my previous post have written very insightful books, as well.

  20. Have you seen this?

    “A company that provides translation services and cultural sensitivity training to other organizations is being accused of sex discrimination and racial insensitivity in its own ranks.”

    “To bolster her discrimination complaint with the state, Kelly included photos allegedly showing the company’s top two human resources executives dressed up for the 2005 corporate Halloween party as a black pimp and a white prostitute. The “pimp,” a white woman wearing blackface and sporting a fake gold tooth, won the prize for best costume, the complaint said.”

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