TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- In response to a video posted by a Taiwanese YouTuber of himself in blackface and a Nazi uniform, an African American living in Taiwan created his own video with his take on the controversial content.
On Jan. 5, a British vlogger based in Taiwan, who goes by the handle Dr34mlucid, posted still images on his Facebook page of Taiwanese Youtuber Louis Li (李育群), 19, who goes by the handle 放火 (set fire) Louis, in blackface and wearing a Nazi uniform at a YouTube-sponsored event. After an online backlash ensued, Li issued a formal apology on Jan. 8, but it was a few more days before YouTube took the video down.
Still of YouTube video of Li with Nutella smeared on his face and mimicking an African American.
In response to Li's blackface video, Gabriel Carranza, 40, an African American vlogger who goes by the handle Blaxican, created his own response video which he posted on YouTube and Facebook with both English and Chinese subtitles. In the video, Carranza points out that blackface has been use to dehumanize, suppress and stigmatize African Americans and says that "it's impossible to separate blackface from my people and its history."
In response to netizens who have commented that the video was not that offensive, Carranza says:
"If I punched you in the face. And I didn't mean to offend you. Does it still hurt? Do you still feel pain? YES! that's the answer... Of course..."
"Black people are not costumes"
Stating twice in English and posting text in English and Chinese in all caps, Carranza says emphatically "BLACK PEOPLE ARE NOT COSTUMES!" Carranza then admonishes anyone considering to dress as a racial stereotype, including of black people, for Halloween or for fun, not to do so.
Carranza then explained that in the past, African Americans in Hollywood films were were highly limited to only play roles of servitude such as maids, butlers, or slaves. He compared Li's blackface appearance on YouTube to the Hollywood use of blackface, in which white actors played African Americans in highly stereotyped, exaggerated roles, such as a "rapist, a bugler or a thief. An overall buffoon, just a stupid ignorant person."
Carranza then pointed out how American media and movies are rife with such depictions from Disney and Bugs Bunny cartoons to present-day films such as "Tropic Thunder," in which actor Robert Downey Jr. gave a controversial blackface performance. In Li's apology, he mentioned "Tropic Thunder" as one of his inspirations for his Nutella blackface gag.
Carranza then gives examples of how blackface has spread to throughout the globe in countries such as Japan. He was disturbed that out of Li's millions of followers,"No one has really said anything about it except laugh," since the video came out in July of 2017, so he felt he had to say something about it, "because I have children, Taiwanese children."
Screen capture of a person wearing blackface on a Japanese TV show this year.
In response to the argument some have made that recent racially insensitive actions by Taiwanese youth caught on camera can be attributed to a lack of education, Carranza says, "That may be true but we are living in the Information Age now. Google it!"
In an interview with Taiwan News, Carranza said that he made the video to "show perspective." He said he was disappointed that YouTuber Dr34mlucid's video condemning Li's blackface portrayal and Nazi uniform was received with comments downplaying the level of offensiveness because no black person had spoken up about the issue.
He also found it unacceptable that some justified the behavior by saying that Taiwanese had nothing to do with the holocaust or black slavery. Carranza likened such behavior to the major faux pas of placing chopsticks vertically in rice in Asia:
"The equivalent of me sticking my chopsticks straight up in the middle of my bowl of rice at a family dinner, which seems to be not acceptable to most of the Asians I've met. the first time it happens I could possibly get a pass, because I had no idea it's considered offensive to do something like that. I could just be written off as the ignorant foreigner. However, if I still continue to do it repeatedly over and over again....then that is just being plain ignorant."
Still of YouTube video of Li dressed as a Nazi with a swastika.
As for the public response to his video, Carranza said that he's gotten his share of negative and defensive comments, but he also received a lot of positive comments. He said many Taiwanese thanked him for shedding light on the subject.
He said that it also generated dialogue about how Taiwanese treat the native aboriginals as well. "Starting dialogues is what I do for a living," said Carranza.
Carranza criticized YouTube for not taking down Li's blackface video for months (it was apparently taken down today), but his because his video had "blackface" in the title, it was flagged for being inappropriate content and he had to file an appeal to have his video restored.
He still believes making the video was worth it to help affect change in the long run saying, "We all know change takes time. but if my message reaches people and causes them to question certain things, then i believe it was worth it."
Carranza, who is currently teaching English but plans to start a business soon, was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and has lived in Taiwan for nearly two years. He said that he moved to Taiwan with his Taiwanese wife because she wanted to be closer to her mother who is in poor health, and in the process has gotten to know her extended family here.