Ashton Kutcher’s ad for Popchips has been pulled. Kutcher plays several characters in the commercial, one of whom is a character called Raj - Ashton in “brown face” with a thick accent. I’m surprised they didn’t go balls out and put him in a turban.

Obviously he’s a moron. But what’s more alarming is how this was approved. You have a team of marketing executives overseeing the brand message and THIS passed through the vetting process? Did anyone step in during the proposal stage, during shooting, during editing, at any point (!) and think this through? It’s bad enough that the idea was conceived in the first place. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that no one stepped up to say “um, this is really gross and we should kill it”. And if they did they were clearly shut down.

There are many people out there who think this is an overreaction, that people are “too sensitive”, and that this is a big ass drama over something totally innocuous. Well...sure. I suppose you could argue that it relates to perception. Fran Lebowitz was profiled several years ago in Vanity Fair on Race, in my opinion one of the most insightful articles that has ever appeared in the magazine. On the subject of perception, her take on it is not the conventional experiential argument that posits that one can’t appreciate the race question without profound understanding and examination of those who have been victims of racism. Rather Lebowitz asserts that a more effective way to explore the race issue would be to break it down from the other side:

“The customary way for white people to think about the topic of race -- and it is only a topic to white people -- is to ask, How would it be if I were black? But you can't separate the "I" from being white. The "I" is so informed by the experience of being white that it is its very creation -- it is this "I" in this context that is, in fact, the white man's burden. People who think of themselves as well intentioned -- which is, let's face it, how people think of themselves -- believe that the best, most compassionate, most American way to understand another person is to walk a mile in their shoes. And I think that's conventionally the way this thing is approached. And that's why the conversation never gets anywhere and that's why the answers always come back wrong and the situation stays static -- and worse than static.

The way to approach it, I think, is not to ask, "What would it I be like to be black?" but to seriously consider what it is like to be white. That's something white people almost never think about. And what it is like to be white is not to say, "We have to level the playing field," but to acknowledge that not only do white people own the playing field but they have so designated this plot of land as a playing field to begin with. White people are the playing field. The advantage of being white is so extreme, so overwhelming, so immense, that to use the word "advantage" at all is misleading since it implies a kind of parity that simply does not exist.”

This notion that we live in a post-racial society, that goddamn phrase they keep throwing around these days, is a f-cking joke. You can’t correct an imbalance by wiping out the score sheet and starting over again like it never happened. There was certainly nothing post-racial in that Popchips boardroom when they decided that Ashton “Raj” would be a great way to sell a snack. There was definitely nothing post-racial on Twitter after the Boston Bruins lost to the Washington Capitals last week when Joel Ward, a black player, scored the winning goal in overtime prompting tweets from disappointing fans blaming the “n----r” for ruining their season. And there was totally nothing post-racial happening when Lauren Socha, the star of Misfits, was sentenced yesterday in England for assaulting an Asian taxi driver last October, calling him a “Paki”, and threatening to have him deported. Socha has been sentenced to 4 months in jail and community service. Click here for more details on her case.

You get drunk, you get angry, you say horrible things. But when those horrible things are racist things, it comes from somewhere other than alcohol. Or despondency over a hockey game. Those Boston Bruins fans, Lauren Socha, the marketing fools from Popchips, they are part of a community, they have friends, they are not isolated and they are not irrelevant. They cannot be dismissed as such as though they were a fringe group that cannot impact us socially. They have influence within their own spheres and those spheres do overlap and bump into other spheres - your spheres, my spheres. So it’s not enough to wave our hands like it doesn’t apply to us. That’s how we keep failing each other.

As for Lauren Socha, who pled guilty, she wept when she was reprimanded by the judge:

“It appears to me that you just lost it. You began to use foul and blatant racism. Your conduct on that night was despicable.”

Here’s what her lawyer had to say in her defence:  

“(Lauren) sincerely apologises to Mr Iqbal. She has done extremely well for herself, to say the least, and her own behaviour will undoubtedly affect that. She hopes her remorse and explanation will allow her to move on.”

HER remorse? HER explanation? So that SHE can move on?

Well that’s the whole problem right there, isn’t it?

Socha will NOT be returning to Misfits. Producers announced this just today, even though series 4 has been in production for a few weeks. They insist it has nothing to do with her conviction. But that’s interesting timing, isn’t it? That hurts, creatively, I’m sure, and still, if that’s what the consequence is, that there is even a consequence at all, I will take it.

If you’ve not done so already and you can put aside 15 minutes, I highly recommend Lebowitz’s comments on race in Vanity Fair. She’s hilarious, as usual, but God she is smart as f-ck. Click here to read. 

Attached - Ashton Kutcher at the Lakers game the other night.