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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Racist Bubble Tea?

Posted by on March 29 at 11:09 AM

A few days ago, I purchased some bubble tea at the Gossip Espresso & Tea outpost in the U District (the store sign still says Gingko’s). While the tea was delicious, the picture which met my eye every time I bent down to my straw was a bit dismaying:


Here it is up close:


Yes, indeed, those are LITTLE RACIST BABIES! (Those white lines around their eyes and mouth are classic methods of representing blackface in drawings.) They bear an uncanny resemblance, in fact, to the popular Gold Dust Twins, another set of little racist caricatures in tutus used to sell soap powder in another era. For example:


Now, I love bubble tea, and I understand that this lid was likely manufactured on a continent in which these images would not be quite so racially sensitive. But for gosh sakes! I address myself to the great continent of Asia: Give me your milky beverages, your tapioca pearls, your coconut jelly. But please, leave your Gold Dust Triplets at home.

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If that caught your eye you might like "Confederate States of America" at the Guild 45th.

In fact, I reviewed it for this paper. I did not like it.

I'm PC/left/liberal/recognize my racist tendencies and try to work with myself to understand and change how that affects my actions etc. But I'm also young and naive. I have seen these types of illustrations called "racist" all my life but other than being loud exaggerations of physical characteristics I do not understand how they are racist. Can someone enlighten me? I'll start by googling "gold dust".

Hey PC--

The short answer is that these images are remnants of the blackface minstrelsy tradition in the U.S. Wikipedia has a pretty good introduction to the subject here. These specific pictures also reference that Gold Dust campaign, which played on nostalgia for slavery and often made hay out of the fact that the twins were basically very cute idiots (there's a picture you can find with a quick Google search that implies that they can't recognize their own images in the mirror--like dogs at the barbecue).

Hey Annie, thanks a bunch! Actually the topic fascinates me so I'll definitely check it out now.

BTW: that link you provided goes to some of your film reviews, but not a review for "Confederate States of America"

I think they're cute.

And bubble tea is disgusting.

What the hell is bubble tea? It sounds like something you would put in your bath.

They are cute, Paulus. Totally cute, and utterly racist. Bubble tea, which is sweetened milky tea with big tapioca balls in it, is delicious. You just have to get "regular" or "green" or "oolong" so it's not so sweet it makes your teeth hurt.

The short answer is that these images are remnants of the blackface minstrelsy tradition in the U.S.


Pickaninnies, as they are usually called, are also a fairly common thing to find in Latin America media, including Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina.

People sometimes forget that while America has a sordid history of slavery and racism, it also has a tradition of ANTI-racism which makes these images unacceptable: a tradition which has never caught on in large parts of the world.

i was actually in a supermarket about 3 years ago when i ran into "aisha watermelons." the sticker featured a young black girl with kinky hair and a bright red smile, eating a huge slice of watermelon. this was 2003. granted, it was in south carolina, but still! naturally, i took the sticker and proudly display it in my home.

Fnarf's last comment is actually on the money. The US is an actively toleratant and acceptive culture for all races, whereas other nations dominated by one race tend to depict other races with much more racist, condescending overtones, which are considered perfectly acceptable. Our open minded perspective makes this jump out at us as blatantly racist, whereas many other nations' residents wouldn't see the big deal.

Even the Japanese are like this. One need only dig up the infamous Tokyo Breakfast video for an example.

i do wonder is the maker of the packaging understands the context of the pickininnies. in japan, they often use lots of images with no concern about what it means. it's possible that they just thought that the pictures were cute, and slapped them on the package (or is that a teabag?).

Believe it or not, I'm sitting in an internet cafe in Lijiang, China, reading this slog about racist bubble tea. Actually, images like this are not uncommon in Asia (though not all of over the place either). The most egregious example of racist images of this sort come from the readily available "Darlie" toothpaste.,GGLD:2005-10,GGLD:en&q=darlie%20toothpaste&sa=N&tab=wi

Why "Darlie"? Well, the original name was "Darkie," but the company changed its name after outcry from appalled foreigners. Score one for "progress"!

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