Black Face and the Commodification of Race in Japan and America

So, this morning, my friend sends me this link from over at Japan Sociology.

It’s worth a read. It supposes a connection of contemporary use of black face in japan to imported western sentiments on black people and so forth…slavery yadda yadda.

I agree it gets part of the answer right but is missing a large and more sinister portion of the answer, the commodification of any and all people and their culture. It’s easy to get angry at a sambo cartoon and miss the point. The most sinister form of black face is the type without makeup. And black people wear it too.

Another thing is, people are happy to be commodified if it suits their ego but when Sambo pops up they throw a fit. The use of “Sambo” imagery and the word “Nigger”, as in “Nigger King” in taiwan, is far less offensive to me than the the most common self imposed forms of black face I see day to day.

This self imposed branding is so that people can identify with their own culture as a consumable, as a product; so that corporations can sell you your own cultural identity. And pardon my french, but that shit is offensive to me globally; It’s so offensive to me and so prevalent in the world that I won’t even flinch at a golliwog, sambo or nigger king. Golliwogs, Sambos and Nigger Kings are examples of the commodification of a people to be sold to people who have little or no contact with the actual culture being commodified. It’s wack, but if the actual people from the very cultures being commodified weren’t buying into subtler forms of that same branding it wouldn’t be as effective as branding. There have been attempts to commodify japanese and east asian culture here in the states, but ironically/comically, often when I meet the east asian brand representatives here in the US they are representing the brand most associated with my own culture! 

Imagine if every asian person you met practiced martial arts just to keep it real.

If one walks through Shibuya at night, past Club Harlem, you’re bound to see people in metaphoric black face. Some Japanese, some african, maybe even a couple American expatriates (white and black). The difference is they are comfortable with the commodification. They have bought their identity; they wear corporate logos that guarantee that others won’t question their place in the culture. Occasionally another will align themselves with living representatives of the brand, walking fetishes with the power to grant cultural “realness” simply by being their friend or lover. These fetishes, people turned product, are willing to be a cartoon because of the immediate benefits, because they are willing to ignore that on the other side of the characterizations of virility and rhythm are characterizations of subnormal intelligence and poor character. How is this any different than a Sambo? If the cartoon linked above were live action with black characters, would it still be offensive? If so why? Is there anything inherently offensive about the characteristics of Sambo that would be offensive if it were a live action film? 

Or is it the implication of branding of people and their cultural identity that is truly the ugly part of it? If this is the case, then what else is offensive and why?

Does the disdain for certain aspects of the Sambo character reveal hidden racism in those who protest the sambo’s image?

What about the commodification of female sexuality? Punk? The branding of counter cultures? nerd culture? How someone can claim cultural alignment and identity simply by what they’ve purchased?…Glasses and a star wars t-shirt?

…Just some stuff I thought about when this popped into my mailbox this morning. Back to drawing comics.


#Race#Illustration#Commercialism#Art#Cartooning#Ronald Wimberly#D_pi
  1. nigelsir reblogged this from d-pi
  2. mcgheeeee reblogged this from d-pi
  3. bohemianartlabs reblogged this from d-pi
  4. etheria said: Thanks for post this.
  5. spiral-shark reblogged this from d-pi and added:
    This hits all the right notes
  6. hibiscustension reblogged this from mercurialblonde and added:
    Main take away in this article for me that is simply this - It does not matter whether or not the black face in Japan is...
  7. mercurialblonde reblogged this from d-pi
  8. swrd-play reblogged this from d-pi
  9. agentizzy353 reblogged this from rachelvice and added:
    Very much worth the read
  10. rachelvice reblogged this from d-pi and added:
    Things I have been thinking about recently, perfectly verbalized by Ronald Wimberly, the smartest guy on the internet....
  11. d-pi posted this