Mar 16, 201212:50 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

No Offense?

Every time I write about race, I swear I’m not ever going to do it again. But then something like this happens, and I suddenly find myself wanting to discuss it.

For those of you who don’t want to follow the link, here is the issue in a nutshell: Dig ‘n Dips (which is kind of a gross name in the first place) has chosen to use Disney princesses to promote its candy. Fine. Great. I can’t argue with that as a marketing decision because my 5-year-old goes absolutely apeshit for anything – anything – with a Disney princess on it. The issue is that they chose sweet blond Aurora to represent vanilla and Tiana, the first black Disney princess, to represent watermelon. Oof. I can’t muster up enough passion about this to actually be mad, but I am left shaking my head. As someone who A. used to work in marketing and B. has a modicum of cultural awareness, I cannot even fathom how this was allowed to happen.

Then again, up until I took a (required, and much-grumbled-about) cross-cultural journalism class during my junior year of college, I doubt that the juxtaposition of a black character with watermelon would have jumped out at me at all. I was amazed by all of the racial slurs and stereotypes I learned in that class, things I had previously been completely unaware of. We were given a book full of offensive things to watch out for; the entry for “watermelon” read only “See ‘fried chicken.’” Before paging through that book, watermelon, as far as I was concerned, was a delicious and refreshing snack for summer picnics; after reading it, it was suddenly a racially fraught symbol to be avoided. And I felt – and still feel – sort of torn. On the one hand, I am glad to be aware of this issue so that I won’t unwittingly offend anyone. But on the other, can’t a watermelon just be a watermelon sometimes?

In the case of the Dig ‘n Dips, I just can’t see how this could have been inadvertent. Then again, as I said above, Dig ‘n Dips is such a terrible name for a candy to begin with (“dig” makes me think of dirt and/or kids picking their noses, neither of which makes me want to chow down on candy) that I’m tempted to think that maybe the marketing “geniuses” behind the candy are just out to lunch entirely. Also, the if the flavors are meant to be eaten together, as it appears from the picture, why on earth would you pick vanilla and watermelon? That hardly seems like the most appealing combination (although making Aurora represent vanilla and Tiana represent chocolate would definitely be worse than what they have now).

I certainly have bigger concerns as a mother – both with the Disney princesses and with actual blatant displays of racism – but this just seems so poorly thought out. I’m more bewildered by who green-lighted this/disappointed that things like this are still happening in 2012 than I am actually offended. But still.

What do you think? Was this intentional? If so, does it offend you? If not, is it a good sign or a bad sign that people are unaware of this stereotype?

Reader Comments:
Mar 16, 2012 09:55 am
 Posted by  pmrichard

I'm sorry. But I find this ridiculous. I eat fried chicken (Popeye's thank you very much) and watermelon ALL DAY LONG!! And I am a pasty, white girl (of Irish descent). When WE stop dragging race into every single aspect of our lives...when WE stop reading something into every single statement/action/etc....THEN and only then will this racial madness stop!

I know racism still occurs (on both sides of the fence folks), I'm not naive. But maybe, just maybe the manufacturer of this product thought Tiana looked better in pink. That's what I'd like to think. And I will give them the benefit of the doubt until we hear otherwise. (You know that whole innocent until proven guilty/Judge not, lest thou be judged thing).

Honestly, until Eve mentioned it, I just saw two beautiful Disney princesses. NOT a white princess and a black princess. SAD!!

Mar 16, 2012 10:31 am
 Posted by  NolaCalgirl

Unfortunately I have to agree with you Eve. I'm not ready to call in Al Sharpton for a march or anything but I do think it was a poor choice.
As someone who grew up in La (& have a soft spot for my home NOLA) but has lived in the San Franciso area for the last 13 years, I do tend to give the offending party the benefit of the doubt most times. In this case there would have been so many better options for Tiana- I would imagine that strawberry would resonate better as a flavor than watermelon with kids!
I have to say that this was a poor choice for sure and has a tinge of blatant racisim and I do find it offensive and uncomfortable at least.

Mar 16, 2012 12:01 pm
 Posted by  Katrina3117

I have to agree that this whole thing is a poor choice especially for a large marketing firm or whoever made the choice.

Mar 16, 2012 12:20 pm
 Posted by  nolanative321

I've enjoyed your writings Eve, but I hope you're just having a bad day to write such...stuff. To find a racial message here one has to be a bit of a racist at heart, no matter the good intention.

PMRichard said it perfectly. Until we stop looking for racism we will find it everywhere, all the time, in all things. And that is truly sad for those of us who really want to move past the real institutionalized racism of our history. Perhaps certain individuals of all races and creeds will have their biases and prejudices until the end of time. But we don't have to play along.

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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