I try to stay away from political or racial debate here on the blog. I honestly don’t think I’d like to waste our time with things we hear ‘round the clock from pundits and analysts. And if you follow any of the major news networks or newspapers, you’re sure to get all the rhetoric there.
But, there is one topic that has me and my two friends Chrystal and Courtney, a bit taken aback: the allegedly racially inspired commercial by Duncan Hines wherein Blackface is implied by beatbox singing cupcakes.
“Amazing Glaze” (perhaps a word play on the old negro hymn “Amazing Grace?”) is a chocolate icing that brings to life a group of vanilla cupcakes when poured all over them. The animated cupcakes start a song/dance routine in attempt to be cool.
The Blackface implication is not solely because the cupcakes are covered in dark brown goo and have the stereotypical big lips and thwarting snow white pupils, rather because in addition to those poorly drawn “cartoons,” a white woman seems to be entertained by their lackluster midi tune performance while she’s dressing them.
For anyone, regardless of race, color or ethnic background not to consider the ad as overtly racist and at minimum highly insensitive, is to completely dismiss the salty history of Black face and the negatively connotated Minstrel shows that are a less glamorized version of the Japanese Geisha.
(Sarah Silverman as Blackface in 2007)
The commercial, created by Josh Binder incited emotion not easily aroused in national headlines last week. To very little reaction on websites and more surprisingly in social media realms, the commercial was mentioned in the Huffington Post, mildly criticized on other websites and subsequently removed from Youtube, where it originally aired. This website makes an argument for the other side.
While the cupcakes themselves are harmless as most of middle America thrives in the glory of boxed baking mixes and ultimately enjoys a piece of sweet goodness, the suggestion that chocolate glazed cupcakes mimicking and resurfacing a painful and resentful time of American history, is hardly amusing, comical or delicious. In my best assessment (without speaking with or talking to anyone involved in the campaign so as to get their side of the story), it’s racially charged, insensitive to those that were employed as Blackface, those that fought for racial equality and those seeking justice in all forms.
That the commercial has pretty much gone unnoticed and unaddressed in mainstream media is a blatant reminder of how far we’ve yet to go in understanding race, culture and even history. My political foe, Bill O’Reilly poignantly underscores my feeling and disagrees with my friend’s and my opinions. During his incendiary program last week, he and his contributors spent what I counted to be less than 90 seconds discussing the commercial. He posed this question to his guests: Do you find this to be racist?” He showed 15 or so seconds of the clip to which all 3 sarcastically smirked and came to the consensus there was nothing wrong with the commercial and certainly nothing racial about it. None of them made an argument for their point. They simply conferred and moved on. My interpretation was that he wanted to give us concerned consumers (Black) a quick moment of attention as a way to save face and later say he was conscious about the issue (should it come up again).
But, I won’t bore you with my decision to continue watching his show despite my feelings toward him.
As a black woman, having been raised and educated in a middle-class home and environment, I don’t expect to see a modern America mock families that have sacrificed their lives in desperate search of freedom by jumping into treacherous seas and paddling their way to U.S. shorelines by way of nationally advertised cakes decorated with rafts, homemade floating devices and ropes—real imagery that would depict a painful time for many Hispanic groups–including close family friends. The Duncan Hines cupcakes pick at a similar story.
Yes, there are bigger and important issues to talk about and spend time debating, however and unfortunately, insensitivity to race continues to be a core problem in our society. Just ask all the Obama haters.
[Update at 6:25 PM] If interested, please read additional thoughts I’ve shared in the comment area below. They are a result of the debate and comments which have ensued!
[Update at 11:20 PM] As a result of great debate today initiated by our posts, a few other women (and bloggers) have taken a position and shared it on their blogs.