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This week saw a controversial Mexican barbie, white privilege in the courtroom and SNL hiring a racist

16 Sep 2019

Photography via Mattel / BEEM

Caribbean, Native American, Mexican, and Indian cultures were all cheaply appropriated for capitalist gain this week. Businesses feigning care for the cultures they irresponsibly borrow from is a transparent trope.

But, what else is new? Here’s what else went down this week.

Cultural appropriation dramas of the week

Mattel rolled out a Day of the Dead Barbie doll, complete with a Mexican headdress and skull face paint, for £60. Some criticised the brand for using their sacred celebration to sell toys, while others were appreciative of the representation. Meanwhile, Ikea quickly retracted their version of jerk chicken with rice and peas (they had the audacity to use white rice and garden peas). Johnny Depp defended his Dior advert that features a Native American dancer. came particularly close to home with their “vintage boho” dresses that were actually kameezes. Most South Asians will recall a time where they were shamed or judged for wearing a saree or kameez, so seeing those same clothes presented as “boho” on a white body is a tough pill to swallow. Last but not least, a twerking workshop from hell went viral for its arrhythmic chaotic energy.

White privilege in the courtroom is pervasive

Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman broke the law by paying someone $15,000 to inflate her daughter’s exam results. As punishment for her perversion of the educational system, the rich, white actress was given a two-week jail sentence in a cushy minimum-security prison, a fine, and some community service.

In 2011, Kelley Williams-Bolar, a black mother from Ohio, was convicted of a felony and handed a five-year sentence for using her father’s address in order to get her daughters into a better school. The sentence was later suspended to 10 days, but the parallels between the two are being widely drawn. Also in 2011, Tanya McDowell, a homeless black mother, was sentenced to five years behind bars for enrolling her five-year-old son in a school outside of her district.

The public education system in the US means low income, often black and brown families, are left with no choice but to use other people’s addresses in order to get their kids the best education. Felicity and the other rich parents embroiled in the scandal have plenty of resources but they still chose to cheat the system. What’s worse, they get away with it with nothing more than a graze on their criminal record.

SNL keeps on comedian Shane Gillis after racist remarks surface

Saturday Night Live (SNL) hired its first Asian cast member, Bowen Yang, but they couldn’t be too progressive, so they hired an anti-Asian cast member too.

The US comedy show, known for its lack of diversity, has failed to fire “comedian” (and I use that term loosely) Shane Gillis despite racist videos surfacing from last year where he mocked Chinese people and sexualises Asian women. “An Asian trying to learn English bothers me more than someone listening to, like, Lil Uzi Vert while I’m trying to eat my fucking dinner,” Shane guffawed in one of his podcast videos.

He also took aim at popular Democrat presidential candidate Andrew Yang calling him a “Jew chink” and purposely confusing his surname for “Chang”. Andrew Yang said he is happy to sit down with Shane and that he should not lose his job for the remarks.

Shane responded by showing far too much arrogance for someone without a blue tick, barely apologising and saying his style of comedy is him taking “risks”. If mocking the way someone speaks and calling Chinese people “chinks” is pushing the envelope of comedy, please return to sender.


• Bee Love Slater became the 18th transgender person of colour to be killed in America this year. The 23-year-old woman was found torched in a car in South Florida. 

• A London school reversed its decision to ban cornrows and knotted braids after huge backlash at the discriminatory rules targeting black girls.

• Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah will come to life in a 10-episode series starring Lupita Nyong’o.

• More Lupita news! The official Hulu trailer has been released for her new zombie-horror rom-com Little Monsters.

• Zendaya will star in the film adaptation of the book Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom – based on the story of William and Ellen Crafts daring escape from slavery.

• Donald Trump can’t even say “I have a black friend” anymore after the black man who he called “my African American”, Gregory Cheadle, quit the Republican Party. He confessed the president believes white people are superior.

• Everyone’s fave computer game, The Sims, have introduced characters in religiously inclusive clothes like hijabs and kufis to celebrate 19 years since the series first began.

• A coffee shop in America sacked transgender employee Natalie Weiss after she reportedly shouted at a right-wing customer who works for an anti-LGBTQI+ lobbying group.

• Love Island queen Yewande Biala wore her natural afro hair, explaining the pride she feels over it after receiving criticism for wearing wigs.

• One-third of the PoC staff who prop up the NHS at one of Derbyshire’s main health trusts have recently suffered bullying, harassment, and abuse from patients, according to a new report.

Moment of the week

Lilly Singh, aka the YouTuber who helped 14-year-old me find the funny side of my strict Indian mum, is all set for A Little Late With Lilly Singh. It is the second nightly show on a major network to be hosted by a woman of colour and it debuts on NBC on September 16.