Is The Brad Pitt Whispering In The Ear Of Lupita Nyong’o At The Oscars Meme Truly Racist?

Twitter is rife with people calling out those who are sharing the Brad Pitt whispering in the ear of Lupita Nyong’o at the Oscars meme racist. Or should that be #racist? Yes, with the hashtag is better.

Facebook pages who are sharing the meme are also coming under fire for doing so. Again the call of #racist is prevalent within the comments being made. Maybe though, without the hashtag (they haven’t really taken off on Facebook have they?)

For those who haven’t seen the meme, here it is;

Brad Pitt Whispering In The Ear Of Lupita Nyong'o At The Oscars Meme

So is it racist? I’m not totally convinced that it is. And before those cries of “but you’re a middle-class white male who wouldn’t understand what it’s like have racist taunts against you, so what would you know” are made, you’re right. That’s true. But as someone who aims to educate my children every single day about not being a racist, or being homophobic, or thinking that you are better than someone else, or oppressing people, I think I can have an opinion on this.

So for every argument there is (although I have only heard one) as to why it IS racist, here’s my reasons why it’s not…

It Opens The Door For Conversation About International Adoption Laws

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (who will collectively be known as this cute name I have made up for them, Brangelina just so I don’t have to type both their names) have adopted children from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam. All three countries are popular countries where Americans can adopt children from. Kenya on the other has more restrictions than other countries even though they have just as many children in orphanages as other less fortunate countries.

Take a look at these figures from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State on adoption rates from Kenya versus those from Ethiopia.

Year Kenya Ethiopia
2012 5 1567
2011 6 1732
2010 14 2511
2009 21 2275
2008 24 1723
2007 23 1254
2006 10 731
2005 36 442
2004 22 284
2003 33 165
2002 31 105

This meme was shared on a day where international adoption laws in Australia were in the news once again. Our own “Hollywood power couple” Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness (should I call them Hudeb or Jackfurn?) have been vocal about the adoption laws restricting Australians from being able to adopt children from various countries.

I see the sharing of this meme as a positive way of keeping the message out in the open. That’s a good thing, right?

It is being shared by many who are vocal in the anti-racist movement without malice or negative intents.

Can a black person tell a black joke? Stephen K. Amos thinks so. So does Dave Chappelle. And Eddie Murphy did it too. Can a Jewish person tell jokes about Jews? Jerry Seinfeld, Mel Brooks, Bette Midler, and Sarah Silverman would say yes to that.

So could Maddox Chivan, the eldest of Brangelina’s children, if he had his own late night television show show this and get away with it? I would think so. Why? Because 1) it would be a person adopted from overseas making a joke about overseas adoption, 2) it would be a family member making fun (and non-hurtful fun) of another family member (I believe that’s called “having a lend of them”), and 3) because often times comedians on those shows (whether they are the host or a guest) push the envelope so that they can give plight to a cause (as I mentioned above).

So if we step back from that hypothetical scenario (because I get panned for using them) and take a look at who is sharing it and for what cause. Is the person, company, or Facebook page that is sharing this meme a racist? A known racist? Are they vocal in their racism? Do they actually spew out racist content with the aim of being racist?

Are they active in promoting racist groups like the KKK or neo-Nazi groups? Are they more direct than the “supposed” racism shown in this meme? Are they promoting the “turn the boats around” message in Australia? Are they actively fighting against immigration laws and hoping we go back to the “White Australia Policy” in this country?

Or are they regularly doing the opposite?

You know who you should be spending your time and energy calling out on being racists? Those people who on Twitter tweeted “Lupita Nyong’o didn’t deserve that award,” because, even though they’d be some people who legitimately believe that Sally Hawkins, Julia Roberts, June Squibb, or Jennifer Lawrence deserved it more on acting ability, there would be plenty of actual racists who would be writing it because of their hatred of black people.

The Joke’s Subject Has Been Twisted.

You see, the joke here is NOT about the Oscar winning Lupita Nyong’o who is Mexican born to Kenyan parents and who now resides in America; the joke is about Brangelina adopting “so many” children from foreign countries.

At the age of 31 years old, Lupita Nyong’o is far from needing to be adopted. She is far from needing the support of the Jolie-Pitt Foundation, the charitable organisation created by Brangelina to aid humanitarian causes around the world.

She is a woman who has received 32 nominations for her stand-out role in 12 Years a Slave and has taken home those award 24 times, missing out only eight times. And if she wasn’t paid a million dollars for that break-out role, I expect that her next role will be bringing in the dollars for her.

Now my kids aren’t old enough to have Twitter and Facebook. They aren’t even old enough to want to read everything that gets shared around in the form of a meme. In fact, my eldest son saw the Frozen meme that I shared on my blog’s Facebook page yesterday and even though it was paying out on parents like me who only ever go to the movies to see kids’ movies, he was excited that Olaf was on the computer screen.

But when they get to the age where they are old enough and if they are sharing or liking memes like this one with Lupita and Brad at the Oscars, I will talk to them about it. I will ask them why they think it’s funny.

If they respond with “it’s funny because it’s true, Brangelina DO adopt a lot of African kids” then I will let it slide.

If their response is a derogatory and racist comment then I will be educating them further so they don’t spread racism and hatred against those who are different from them. And I will be ashamed that my role as a parent let them down allowing them to have racist thoughts.

I hope it never gets that far.

So what do you think, is this meme racist?

9 comments

  • I think it is. It doesn’t bring up or consider your points. Its intent is for you to see a white dude that has a history of adopting non-white kids talking to a non-white and slap the adoption punchline. There’s no intention for the reader to investigate adoption further – and no one will. And I don’t buy exemptions – a member of a group being “allowed” to make the joke. Sure, you can make it, and it might mean something mildly different from you, but the content of a joke is still the same, and as always, jokes are three-part: the sender, the receiver and the context. So, you certainly CAN make jokes within your group – and people often do. Seinfeld was a sitcom based on plenty of humor at the expense of Jews. But I don’t know – it’s got to be REALLLLLLY good humor. Is this a Seinfeld-level-clever meme or just a shock-jock meme?

    • Call me naive Zach, but I want to accept some jokes as nothing more than that. But you make a great point. And I’m not going to argue because I guess I already did.

      I hope though that I can promote the positive things I mentioned so this isn’t in vain.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • It’s a lame joke at the end of the day, but I think it’s a sign of racial progress that we have to dig this deep into a throwaway joke to find racism. A few decades ago, you didn’t have to exert much energy to find real racist activity. You just stepped outside your house, opened up a newspaper or went to the store.

    • As someone who was maybe, not a racist, but confused by those who were of a different skin colour or look to me when I was younger, I don’t get the whole “being racist lifestyle” so sometimes I don’t think that deep myself. But maybe I should. Maybe I need to consider things like this while standing in someone else’s shoes. I didn’t “share” this myself (although writing about it shared it, I know that) and generally don’t share memes unless I make them up myself. But even if I AM right and this is a joke about overseas adoption, the joke itself is not more than a 5 out of 10. Of course if it is a racist joke, it doesn’t even deserve a 0.01 out of 100.

  • Agreed with Zach. I’m all for funny wins over PC, but this joke is mild to dumb at best. It’s lazy, and because it’s not hilarious, it diminishes a woman who just won an Oscar.

    That you had to use over 1000 words to attempt to disqualify it as racist should let you know that it’s not funny enough to get a pass.

    • When you put it that way Drew, you are so right. Sometimes I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume people think like me (or us) but the truth is, most don’t so…. Yeah, for the masses it can ONLY be seen as racist.

  • Mate its funny and its racist. It wouldn’t be funny if she was white. That’s what racism is. If you change the colour of a person in the same situation and get a different result that is racism. But how would you ever know. You may as well try to describe childbirth

  • Because it is a known thing that Bradgelina adopts kids from other countries I think it would still be funny if it had been a white young person from another country. The point was that they have a collection of kids from other countries, not the specific skin color.

  • I would never come to the idea it is about racism. I thought more like come to (…) daddy cool especially as she is so attractive. I thought it is a little nasty joke. Still funny. I would also like to “adopt” Brad Pitt although I am younger than him and white. What does this statement make of me?????????????? Joking human being. Mems are for jokes too please do not forget.

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