I normally wouldn’t do something like this, but given the dismissive and disrespectful response we’ve received from the people responsible for producing and proliferating this offensive image for daring to speak out, I’m coming to you all for help.
The offensive image above was plastered across the halls of my law school and put on the internet as the cover photo as a joke to advertise a party. Given this nation’s history of using black women as props, mascots, and metaphors, women of all colors and those standing in solidarity with us were offended by this. Reasoned replies on the Facebook event explaining that the photo was offensive were deleted. Some who had their comments deleted were ignored. Others were sent dismissive and disrespectful responses explaining that the photo is “camp,” a joke, and bemoaned the fact that “we lost Joan Rivers too soon” because perhaps then we’d understand why this is apparently funny.
Because it was clear that honest and open critique would be silenced and ignored, myself and three other black queer/female students wrote an open letter outlining why the above image is racist and sexist and asking for an apology. Since posting the open letter, the people responsible for the image have not apologized, but have put up one response essentially reprimanding all of us who have voiced our opinions for daring to speak out in a way, tone, and forum of which they do not approve. Their response mischaracterized our critiques, were indicative of entitled and privileged thought, and were emblematic of the very issue our letter was meant to highlight and explain.
It is clear that those responsible for this image and for making the halls of my law school a hostile and alienating space will not apologize for or acknowledge their behavior until they are made to see that what they have done is offensive and not okay.
Please help by reading the open letter, sharing it, and reblogging this post to help us make clear that this type of mascot-ing and mocking of women of color will not be tolerated.
I leave you with an excerpt from our letter:
…This is not just racist or sexist in a theoretical, these-kids-can’t-take-a-joke sense. These images, when controlled by the wrong people (here, racially unconscious white men) are harmful to those of us, particularly to black women, who enter the halls of Berkeley Law and other law schools fighting a nearly insurmountable presumption that we do not belong, lack merit, and are ignorant and incompetent. Now, images of bodies like ours and dance forms which first found life in the minds of our sisters, for which we have been defamed, ridiculed, called outside of our names, and punished for performing and merely being associated with, have been stolen, bastardized, and reduced to jokes and posted for the consumption of the privileged white heterosexual men walking the halls of an elite, top-ten law school. These are institutions which have been historically hostile to us, but which we (perhaps naively) hoped could be a site of our overcoming. It hurts. It is a slap in the face–a reminder that our presence is only desired in the symbolic form of props, mascots, and metaphors.