Last week it was Ben & Jerry’s using anti-Chinese stereotypes to advertise its Lin-sanity ice cream topped with fortune cookies. This week it’s Disney using Princess Tiana’s image to sell watermelon Valentine’s Day candy. Princess Tiana is an African descendant character in The Princess and The Frog film.
The association of watermelons with African Americans is a stereotype that has a long and inglorious history in anti-black racism in the U.S. In racist folklore, slaves in the antebellum South were well treated and sat around most of the time eating watermelon.
And not only was Princess Tiana used to sell the Valentine treat. Alongside her a white Sleeping Beauty is used to sell vanilla candy.
The story was reported by Sociological Images who says, “a Valentine’s Day candy that pairs two Disney princesses – is rather, let’s say, insensitive.”
The Root.com writes “Did no one at Disney stop to think that this might be a bad idea? It’s hard to imagine that a multimillion-dollar empire and an American cultural institution could so foolishly play right into one of the most pervasive black stereotypes. It’s also hard to imagine what Disney will say in its defense, but “it wasn’t intentional” probably won’t cut it.”
The Disney corporation, however, has a history steeped in racism, including the views of its founder Walt himself. Walt Disney was associated with the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a racist, anti-Semetic and anti-communist group.
The Business Insider says, “Disney has an unfortunate history with racial stereotypes, from the “Red Man” Indian chief in Peter Pan, to the Siamese cats in The Aristocats, to Disney’s evolving portrayal of black characters as crows (Dumbo) to a monkey (The Jungle Book). The company has all but disowned 1946’s The Song of the South due to its racist content.
Not surprisingly President Obama himself has been the subject of racist ridicule using watermelon imagery.
Hopefully public outrage at the combination of racist and sexist images and languages in the last two weeks will force big business to stop profiting off of racism.
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