In having to come up with something to write about on this blog every day of Lent, I’ve found other people’s blog posts to be a great source of inspiration. Today, I came across the below post on MistressoftheInk’s blog. It’s about the recently published prenup photos of Phillipine couple Coleen Garcia and Billy Crawford and whether the photos are racist. You can see two of the photos in the post. I suggest looking at the photos before you read my comment on the post, as I don’t want to influence your opinion.
Here’s my comment:
When it comes to determining if something is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., the determining factor is impact, NOT intent. The impact of these photos is the Ethiopians look like props used to show the contrast between them and the glamour and beauty of the engaged couple. So yes, these photos are racist.
Even if this wasn’t the couple’s intent, once the photos were taken, and before they were published, no one noticed this was the effect given how the couple and the Ethiopians are posed? Furthermore, if the couple wanted to display the beauty of Ethiopia, they could have taken photos featuring only the country’s beautiful landscape, not local citizens. The point of engagement photos is to highlight the couple, these are actually the first engagement photos I’ve ever seen that feature other people besides the couple. I’m not sure if that’s common in other countries (I’m American).
At the end of the day, it’s important to call things what they are. That’s the only way things are going to get better.
I did a little research on the public’s response to this and the photos are consistently referred to as “prenup photos,” which seems to be a different thing than engagement photos, so that’s the phrasing I should have used in my comment. In my research, I also found Crawford’s response to people’s negative reaction to the photos. He said the couple was invited by Nigerian Airlines to do a shoot in Nigeria as part of a tourism campaign. He said their tour guide invited them to include Ethiopians in their shots.
Crawford apologized for the negative reaction caused by the photos: “We do apologize for how it might have translated, and we’re sorry again to those who we have offended. I grew up in a diverse city (Roosevelt Island), and had experienced bullying and racism in my youth because of my “being Asian.” Trust me, we mean no harm.”
I have several issues with this apology. First of all, how it “might” have translated? You know very well how it translated, that’s why you’re apologizing.
Secondly, you having experienced racism is irrelevant. That doesn’t mean you can’t do or say something racist. Scratch that, Crawford’s experiencing racism is relevant. I expect someone who knows the sting of racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. to do better and be more cautious about what he says and does.
Finally, he ends the apology by mentioning the couple’s intent, which I’ve already established doesn’t matter.
The problem with celebrity “apologies” is they’re often somewhat disingenuous and try to shirk responsibility for the celebrity’s actions. Hopefully, Billy and Coleen will be more careful next time.