Saturday, May 20, 2017

'O' my, gosh! Photos flip the script on stereotypes

O / Chris Buck
Notice anything unusual about this picture?

Oprah, oh, Oprah. You did it again. You're making us uncomfortable. You're making us think.

The picture is one of three controversial photos from an article in  O, the Oprah Magazine's issue on race. It is supposed to spark conversation about America's "elephant in the room." (The "O" is for Oprah Winfrey, the former talk show host and current cultural icon.)

Lucy Kaylin, O's editor-in-chiefsaid that the concept for the feature came from Oprah herself during a meeting.
"It was a topic on all of our minds and [Winfrey] was eager for us to tackle it," Kaylin said in an email. "The main thing we wanted to do was deal with the elephant in the room—that race is a thorny issue in our culture, and tensions are on the rise. So let's do our part to get an honest, compassionate conversation going, in which people feel heard and we all learn something—especially how we can all do better and move forward."As you can see, one of the pictures shows Asian women chatting and laughing while white women give them pedicures. 

Other photos show a little white girl standing in a toy store aisle looking at rows and rows of only black dolls. The third photo shows a Latina woman holding a little dog while on the phone as she doesn’t acknowledge the presence of a white maid pouring her a cup of tea.

Race representation matters, from movies, television, magazines to just everyday depictions of life. It’s the very topic behind the three photographs by Chris Buck which presented people of color in place of roles usually reserved for white people. 

Filipina/Chinese Judy Geralde promptly tweeted them out, showing how the photos were impactful for people in the minority. Naturally, it went viral.


Mic.com reached out to Judy and asked her opinions about her tweet. Her answer reflected how “….these photos reflect the internal struggles she endured due to the lack of representation of Asian women, as well, as the ‘overbearing whiteness’ in her own childhood.” 

Judy then went on to describe how growing up she only had one Asian doll, a Mulan one, in fact and how it felt like most of the images she would see growing up already placed people of color in a certain class. Her tweet was greeted with similar reactions, proving that the problem is deeply rooted even in the most mundane things: the dolls we see at the store, the jobs available only to people of a particular status, etc.

Chris Buck thought of that when he presented the concept to the editors of O Magazine and to the publication’s founder Oprah Winfrey, “When you see an image from someone [of a different race], what is your expectation of them and are we challenging it? Why do we expect a certain thing from someone of a [certain race] and expect them to be serving another [race]?”

Not surprisingly, the photos also got blowback from people who felt uncomfortable about the images and the flipping of cultural expectations. 

The pictures, apparently, did what they were supposed to do, stir a conversation on race. Hopefully, good people will have pause and think about how they see the world, how minorities see the world. For those trolls who reacted negatively, well, there is really nothing to fear. 


We go to school, attend houses of faith, cheer the same home teams, struggle to make ends meet, love, laugh, cry and all those things that make us human -- just like you. All we are asking is to be treated like human beings.


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