By Sarah Kwak
Check out this photo of Kelci Bryant, American diver. This photo had been on the USA Diving website as her profile headshot before the Games began. Clearly, it has since been changed, but God bless the internet and Google image search for keeping stuff alive.
I don't know what offends me more: the hat or the spray-on tan. Thoughts?
Well, let me clarify here where I get off calling the picture just a little bit racist. First of all, the conical straw hat, also known as a "coolie" hat (the term "coolie" should really explain it all), has long been a symbol of anti-Asian racism, especially in the U.S. They were featured in political cartoons from the 19th century and then during World War II, and recently, in those controversial Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirts that were ultimately pulled from shelves. The hat carries with it a history that includes the transcontinental railroad, Japanese American internment camps, and a long history of forbidding Asians from immigrating to the United States.
This is also why comparing it to the French and a beret or the British and a cup of tea are not fair comparisons. Think of other parallel examples that don't involve historically strong European states (Remember, Europe had been the axis of world power for many centuries before World War II). Now, would it fly if she wore a traditional bindi on her forehead because the Games were in New Delhi? Was it OK when Floyd Mayweather walked into the ring in a sombrero and Mexican themed outfit for his fight against Oscar de la Hoya on Cinco de Mayo last year? If it's not just a little bit racist (or would "tasteless" suit you better?), why would USA Diving replace that headshot with a different one? And why didn't they change the headshot of Troy Dumais, who clearly has that same theme going on in his?