Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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One thing that’s been driving me nuts since Obama was elected was the big hubub they made about his skin colour. Sure, it’s a bit of a surprise that people in the U.S. elected a non WASP person as their president, but why they hell do all the media insist on calling him  - and all other people of a similar skin colour - ’African American’?

The essence there seems to be that people still want to point out that a person is dark-skinned, non-white, black. But they seem to think that using a colour word is ‘bad’ while using a different word that’s not colour related on the surface but has exactly the same meaning is supposedly better. That - as most other ways of ‘politically correct’ speaking - just seems phony to me. Which in a way is worse than the original situation as once you’re saying ‘African American’ it’ll be clear that you think ‘black’ and also think ‘uh these poor black people, we can’t call them this way’ which seems somewhat condescending to me. If you consider thinking about people in terms of their skin colour a bad thing, don’t do it.

A little irony in the case of Obama of course is that if the term ‘African-American’ is suitable for anybody, it’s probably suitable for him who actually knows where both continents are, has been there and has pretty direct contacts to both…


And ugh, how the hell do you take a photo of a really dark skinned friend indoors? I’ve heard that film is ‘racist’ in that way - although physics may play a little role there as well - but my results are particularly bad. Light wallpaper, black blob with teeth and eyes kind-of bad. Meh! NEED MORE ISO. And cleverer metering. Which of course is exactly what I didn’t have around in the Yashica.

December 18, 2008, 9:51

Tagged as photography, political correctness, racism.


Comment by G: User icon

re:Obama and being Black or African-American, have a listen to this show taken from here (fast forward to time index 4 hrs 3 minutes onwards).

Photographing dark skinned people, I’ve found some reasonable flash use helps, especially with lighter tones around.

December 18, 2008, 16:05

Comment by Carl: User icon

I think that Obama isn’t “really” an African-American, since he is not the descendent of slaves. It makes more sense to call him a (half) American African, since his dad was African, not African-American. The model here is that Indian American means person from the country India, but American Indian means Native American—switching around the words changes the meaning. On the other hand, he’s definitely “Black,” since if he weren’t famous, he would be discriminated against the same as anyone else who looks like him. I dunno the whole thing is kind of silly though. He’s also a Hawaiian, a Columbia grad, a Harvard lawyer, a Chicago South Sider, and a (half) White American. We all have multiple identities. He’s just more obvious about it.

December 21, 2008, 7:39

Comment by ssp: User icon

Oh my, while I am tempted to agree that Obama is a republocrat (or whatever), I find those audio snippets to be dangerously close to nutcase territory.

I agree with the flash helping, (accidentally) giving very good results on dark skin in the past. But getting good results with a flash remains very difficult, particularly when using my very old analogue cameras. [And, more to the point, I didn’t have a flash on me when taking the photos in question.]

December 21, 2008, 15:09

Comment by d.w.: User icon

One thing I noted while younger (probably not as big a deal anymore as almost everyone shoots digital) was that so much of the commercial film-processing establishments (I’m thinking of drugstore 1-hour processing and the like) were streamlined/optimized for Caucasian skin tones that getting prints made was a wildly random affair. You just never knew when you’d get a completely ridiculous looking set of prints back.

Back in the early 1990’s, there was a brief kerfluffle on editorial pages in U.S. newspapers. As I recall it, the argument was that when newspapers had cause to refer to ethnicities, they would generally use forms like Italian-American, Irish-American, German-American, etc, but would refer to Black people as, well, Black. You’ve already hit upon some of the problems with African-American, though; e.g. a not inconsiderable number of Black people in the U.S. are descended from Caribbean ancestry, and the like. I find the whole thing silly, and will personally respond to anything outside of outright racial slurs.

As far as Obama is concerned, applying the “would have trouble catching a taxi in some places” standard, he’s surely Black. :)

December 22, 2008, 19:54

Comment by ssp: User icon

That taxi criterion sounds like a very down to earth and reasonable one.

And I must say that I find the term Caucasian quite silly as well. Presumably I am Caucasian but I wouldn’t know people could be referring to me when they’re using the word. And if we didn’t have a war (plus back-history) there currently, who’d even know where the word comes from?

December 24, 2008, 3:08

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