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Race relations

Photos featuring racial role-reversals of American women spark strong reactions online

May 18, 2017

Pictures featured by O, the Oprah Magazine have gone viral on social media after the images — which depict role-reversals of stereotypical race relations in America — sparked a conversation about race, class and power among women.

In a feature called “Let’s Talk About Race,” a series of photos from photographer Chris Buck showed laughing Asian women having their pedicures done by stone-faced white women, a young white girl staring up at shelves filled exclusively with black dolls, and a stylishly-clad Latina woman on her cellphone in a lavish house, holding a small Yorkshire Terrier, and studiously ignoring the white maid pouring her tea.

“When you see an image of someone from a different background, what is your expectation of them?” Buck asked during a phone interview with Mic. “When you see an image from someone [of a different race], what is your expectation of them and are we challenging it? Why do we expect a certain thing from someone of a [certain race] and expect them to be serving another [race]?”

The concept for the piece, Buck added, was not his own. The curator of the feature, Lucy Kaylin, editor-in-chief of O said that the idea first came up during an editorial meeting with Oprah Winfrey herself.

“It was a topic on all of our minds and [Winfrey] was eager for us to tackle it,” Kaylin told Mic via email. “The main thing we wanted to do was deal with the elephant in the room — that race is a thorny issue in our culture, and tensions are on the rise. So let’s do our part to get an honest, compassionate conversation going, in which people feel heard and we all learn something — especially how we can all do better and move forward.”

On Sunday, images from the feature tweeted out by Judy Gerlade, 21, swiftly went viral. Many users commiserated with Gerlade over the impact of race in their lives — others attacked her, some even going so far as to accuse of her reverse-racism.

According to Buck, some pushback was to be expected.

“If someone’s feelings are hurt, and this is like pointing a finger at them, then great, let’s talk about it,” Buck said. “If this begins a conversation, then that’s great — that’s my take on it.”

Read the full story at Mic.


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