Black, white, red, and other color sensitivity
When I was a kid, a popular joke was asking an unsuspecting innocent, "What is black and white and red all over?" Hmm, I don't know. "A newspaper," the jokester triumphantly answered. Red/read – get it? Well, at ten, we thought it was funny! (Yeah, yeah, a newspaper. Obviously, I was a kid in the last century.)
The following year, the jokester would approach the same unsuspecting innocent and ask the same question. "I know, I know," unsuspecting innocent eagerly replied: "a newspaper!" Nope. "An embarrassed zebra!" the jokester triumphantly announced, proudly using 11-year-old new words. Once again, we all thought it was funny.
For some reason, I thought of these jokes when I read this in The Hollywood Reporter: "Forever 21 Apologizes for 'Black Panther' Sweater Model, Pulls Listing."
Wh-a-a-at? In case you forgot – or embarrassingly didn't even know:
Black Panther tells the story of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. Its slogan is "Wakanda Forever!"
The film was a critical and box office success. It was also celebrated as a cultural movement in African and African-American storytelling.
A sequel has already been announced.
Oh. I guess I missed this movie, but I probably missed seeing most of the movies that will win Oscars at the upcoming hostless Academy Awards presentation, which I will also miss seeing. The black comedian who was to host was forced to resign because of some years-old tweets deemed offensive to homosexuals.
Seeking to cash in on the movie's popularity, Forever 21, a clothing store that, as its name implies, caters to a certain age group – or those frozen in time – offered the following merchandise:
this sweater just called 311 because Shuri's making too much noise in her lab pic.twitter.com/Npd7nxwhJP— Desus Nice (@desusnice) December 18, 2018
What's wrong with this picture? Why did Forever 21 apologize for it and pull the listing? This is a typical soulful-looking model posed to dupe us into thinking an unattractive piece of clothing – my opinion, granted, but then again, I'm over 30, so what do I know? – will magically turn us into the model. As I asked, what do I know? Answer, the joke must be on me, because apparently not much. Not as much, certainly, as those ever so politically and color-aware P.C. types who exploded on Twitter explaining what is black and what is white.
Wow Forever 21 is tone deaf af. Colonizers aren't praised in Wakanda. Try again.— Iyesha Riley (@Iyeshalovette) December 18, 2018
They got a super pale, blond, blue-eyed model in a Wakanda Forever sweater... 🤣🤣🤣— Britain (@sanefacade) December 18, 2018
I wanna speak to your advertising department, @Forever21. Someone approved this and thought this was going to work. 😂 https://t.co/aWefYUeBfY
— Britain (@sanefacade) December 18, 2018
O-o-h! Now I get it! But...not really. Black and white – separate but equal or something – and red all over, the duly cowed Forever 21 marketing gurus (no offense to meant to the followers of various Indian philosophies, of course) immediately replied.
"Forever 21 takes feedback on our products and marketing extremely seriously. We celebrate all superheroes with many different models of various ethnicities and apologize if the photo in question was offensive in any way," the company said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
A tweet featuring the listing was also deleted after it was ridiculed.
The sweater has returned to Forever 21's site – interestingly, not on a black model. Instead, it is a lonely vision in all its color-clashing glory, with no hint of humanity to soften it.
This is fine, because there is hope. Some tweeters bravely mocked the color-aware mockers. For example:
If that’s the case then we better NOT EVER see a black person wearing anything that was ever worn by a white person as a model, in a movie as a character or any superhero that is white. Let’s see how that goes for you!— Doc Johnson (@DocJohnson02) December 19, 2018
Perhaps Black Panther will win an Oscar for best color editing at the upcoming aforementioned Academy Awards presentation. The proud recipients will surely be decked out in the Wakanda sweater.
Or will they trash that because the color of Oscar is gold?