Sex, Race and the Same Ol’ Sh*t

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There is a picture of a black man holding a white woman, well, he’s also bouncing a basketball — a ball, a blond, what’s the difference — it’s that angry snarl that’s causing a controversy. I’m talking about the cover of this month’s Vogue, shot by Annie Leibovitz, in which basketball superstar LeBron James and supermodel Gisele Bündchen appear.

Since the issue hit the newsstands last week, commentators, pundits and bloggers have been trying to get to the bottom of one of America’s many fearsome racial stereotypes: big black man takes frail blond white woman. Is LeBron being portrayed as King Kong? Is Anna “the devil” Wintour really a racist? Has Leibovitz gone mad?

Here’s a little background on the story: In Vogue's 100-year history, they’ve only had four black people on their cover and this is the first black man. The “Dream Team” story, which Leibovitz was hired to shoot, was a series of images accompanied by profiles on superstar athletes paired with supermodels. Below are more images from that story.

Caroline Trentini with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps

Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno with Doutzen Kroes

Raquel Zimmermann with discus thrower Jared Rome

Daria Werbowy with Olympic snowboarder Shaun White

Honestly, what I’m more horrified by is the portrayal of empty-headed models next to accomplished male athletes. These ladies stand in as Olympic medals and championship rings… Oh wait, I get it, they are all supposed to be trophy wives! Oh wait, sexism is a not the topic today? Okay, lets get back to racism then.

What if this photo was shot by a black man? What if this photo was shot by a woman? Oh wait, it was shot by a woman, and a dyke at that. Well, what if it wasn’t Jewish Annie Leibovitz shooting for the cover of a waspy magazine run by a waspy Anna Wintour? What if this blog wasn’t written by a yellow-ish (Chinese, Korean, Irish), homo- and female-agenda champion Grace Moon? Oh, and by the way, it was indeterminate-colored (German, Irish, Mexican, Native American, Slavic and other unknowns) Diana Cage who clued me in on this story. What if we all pretend that we are indeed colorblind, culture-blind, class-blind and sex-blind? Wouldn’t life be so much easier?

Well, we aren’t and it isn’t. I’m too tired today to deconstruct the aesthetics of identity and the creative process and analyze the editorial philosophy of Conde Naste. I think since we’ve re-launched this site, we have bloggers who are doing a pretty damn good job of leading us into the depths of the issues, carefully, honestly and deftly. I believe their writings and their art provides us access to understanding. And that is really what is lacking in all of this isn’t it? Understanding.