Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Saturday Snapshot #2

Bud Biliken Day dancers (photo by Vic Speedwell)


     When I asked readers to offer snapshots for this new Saturday feature, I had no idea the quality I would be getting. Beautiful nature shots, fun travel photos. I was gratified to receive hundreds of submissions.*
     But far-and-away the best, in my view, is this photo of dancers waiting for the Aug. 11 Bud Billikin parade, sent by Matt Grosspietsch, who writes:

     My wife Vic Speedwell took the attached photo at yesterday’s Bud Billiken parade. Vic is a Physician Assistant at Heartland Alliance and spent the morning doing back-to-school health screens for kids at the parade. She did not see much of the parade as she was busy with her colleagues screening over 80 kids, but she did find time to take this great photo.
     I like the matching uniforms, shoes, and hairdos. I especially like the variety of expressions on the kids’ faces as they await the start of the parade and it makes me regret not having been there to see them march.
I asked Vic if she had anything to add, and she elaborated:
     I was cycling to a meet-up location at the Bud Billiken parade and had to stop for this fabulous group. When I asked if I could take a picture of them, some said “sure” and some said “whatever.” They are the Empire dance team and earned huge cheers from the crowd. I love their Beetlejuice/Nightmare Before Xmas/Zombie costumes. 
     Which leads to a final point. As a white person contemplating this photograph, to me it seems to have an unintended racial subtext. When I first saw this photo, I thought, "If I ever had to illustrate an article on the challenge of being a black person navigating white society, I couldn't do better than this." Obviously not the message the dancers are trying to convey. So here's my question: is that an appropriate reaction and, if so, how much does that aspect make this an intriguing photograph? Discuss. 
    Oh, and please keep those pictures coming. I'll continue posting them on Saturdays as long as I have a snapshot worth sharing.


*Due to a production error, the number of photos submitted was grossly overstated in the opening of today's post. In reality, only about a dozen photographs were sent in by readers. Maybe fewer than that. Say 10. Or eight. Whatever the actual figure, everygoddamnday regrets the error, and regrets the common vanity and hunger to be more significant than one actually is that inspired it. 

8 comments:

  1. I looked at the picture last night when there was no explanation of it's content. I know nothing about zombie movies so I was puzzled by what I thought was a kind of reverse Al Jolson. I thought "It can't be that. That would be degrading. There has to be an explanation." And of course there was. So yes, that aspect of the photograph is intriguing. Was Neil's reaction appropriate? For a clear-headed, responsible newsman, yes.

    If you've never read Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye", put it on your list.

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  2. " As a white person contemplating this photograph, to me it seems to have an unintended racial subtext. When I first saw this photo, I thought, "If I ever had to illustrate an article on the challenge of being a black person navigating white society, I couldn't do better than this."

    Wow. I have to say this statement left me utterly confused. I don't been know what you mean. It's not that I don't think there are one million challenges being a black person navigating white society, it's just that I in no way can figure out how this picture illustrates it. Indeed when I saw the picture, my quick "read" it if anything as being a picture of a racially diverse group of kids probably because of the make up, hair coloring/ straightening etc....
    Maybe that's what you mean...that their racial identity was obscured somewhat by this look? Or that they could wear white face make up when some idiotic whits can't understand why it's not the same if they wear black face?

    Obviously I'm grasping at straws here. Can you explain a little wha you meant. Though I feel like it's my own privilege that's keeping me from understanding

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    1. Nobody is saying that a black person wearing whiteface is "the same" as a white person wearing blackface. But any mask raises issues of identity and concealment, the public and the private. A white person made up, say, as a mime, with that Marcel Marceau white face, would be a very different look on a black mime, or at least raise certain questions. I'm sorry to leave you utterly confused, but I'm not sure I can cast much illumination. Perhaps I'm speaking on a symbolic level and you are seeing it on a purely practical level.

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  3. I must have too much pop culture on my brain. When I first looked at the picture, my thoughts were oh cute, Beetlejuice, and then I noted the fantastic shoes. Totally superficial. After I read your take on the picture, looking back at it, now there's an other layer which makes it even better.

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  4. "Nobody is saying that a black person wearing whiteface is "the same" as a white person wearing blackface."

    My point was that some people (who as I said are kind of idiots) indeed do say that. They come up with "why can blacks wear white fact when whites can't do the same in reverse." They don't understand the history of black face or the place of privilege from which they come.

    Here's the thing though. I am familiar with Beetlejuice costumes which is what I figured this was which does involve white face as part of the specific character of Bettlejuice. Getting as close to the subject you are imitating just made sense to me, especially since there are not the fraught issues with a white person who is dressing up like a character whose skin is black, there to me.

    This seems pretty different to me than the issues with a black person wearing white face as a mime. Because the purpose of white face there is not the same as when you are dressing up to look like a specific character who has been portrayed in a movie. The purpose of white face with mimes is to be more "universal" a character (at least that is what I was taught) and there white face raises a myriad of issues about identity and being a minority which probably speak more to the issue you were trying to raise?

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  5. I'm not confused at all, and I don't see a racial context. I knew this was a Beetlejuice parody from square one. I believe that if the first thing a person sees is color, they need to step back and check themselves, natch.

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    1. I didn't say it was the first thing I saw. I said it was an interesting subtext. I believe that white folk who go around crowing about their colorblindness need to step back and check to make sure they aren't full of shit.

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  6. Sorry. Never considered subtext. Saw cute girls, waiting to perform. Saw Beetlejuice reference. Still only recognize a subtext if I force it. In the vein of, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

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