Scroll To Top

Was Ellen's Post Innocent or Casually Racist? 

Was Ellen's Post Innocent or Casually Racist? 

ellen degeneres

A social media post from Ellen DeGeneres of her riding Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt has some finding humor and others crying racism. 

It's not all gold for Ellen DeGeneres, as a social media post about Usain Bolt's speed in the 2016 Rio Olympics has her in the hot seat.

Usain Bolt is literally the fastest dude alive. And, reportedly as an homage to his super speed, the most famous lesbian in the world, Ellen DeGeneres (or probably an art person) Photoshopped herself into his iconic run-by-grinning photo, showing her riding on his back, with the caption "This is how I'm running errands from now on," then shared it on social media Monday.

Some say the connotation of the photo is offensive, but others don't see the problem. It's a classic case of "beauty [or offense] is in the eye of the beholder," but it's still a very real controversy. And it's not the first time DeGeneres has been accused of casual racism.

The reason that some people are upset about this latest Olympic-related social gaffe is found in how lived experiences and cultural history shape perception. And how intersectional experiences shape the way that oppression -- or the microaggressions that perpetuate it -- affects us.

In this case, to some, the optics of a white woman on the back of a black man talking about "running errands" is insensitive and messy, taking into context (very important here) the history of slavery in this country and the continued placement of black and brown people in places of subjugation. Many people, especially people of color, tweeted to call out the image and its connotations.

Not everyone sees it through that lens -- but does it make that perception any less valid? Different perceptions are why some might consider Seth Rogen's humor homophobic while others actually thought Pineapple Express was funny.

Ellen responded via Twitter to say she didn't mean the tweet to be racist:

But her critics weren't buying it. Does an apology after an insensitive tweet excuse the image to those who consider it casual racism? No. Because the onus was on Ellen's team to convey a message that didn't send up red flags.

But that still leaves the question of whether the post was racist, discriminatory, or prejudiced. Not by definition, but that doesn't really matter.

If there was a spectrum of race microaggression, with the people who yell racist slurs at Trump rallies on the right side and your problematic BFF on the left, Ellen's picture would pop up somewhere between J.T.'s silly Twitter bandwagon antics and J. Lo's "All Lives Matter." Tone-deaf, tacky, and insensitive.

Let's hope that Ellen's people think twice about what they Photoshop next time and understand that cultural context is important when measuring how an audience might react. As funny as the image was to some, the controversy was probably avoidable.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Channel Promotion

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories