Today’s lesson in how not to invoke racist and sexist stereotypes that belittles the work of women of color involves the Seattle Times, who described longtime Macklemore collaborator (and one-time Jezebel contributor) Hollis Wong-Wear as his “sidekick” in the headline of a piece about her band, The Flavr Blue.
In case you are wondering why that is wrong: there is a very long and storied American history of Asians being depicted in film, television, and literature as “sidekicks” to more important characters who are usually white and male. The stereotype is so pervasive that in 2013 a Twitter hashtag went viral: #NotYourAsianSidekick.
The original headline on the piece was, "Warmth and intimacy from The Flavr Blue, with Macklemore sidekick Hollis Wong-Wear." This afternoon, they removed her name and the "sidekick" reference.
It's far from the first time the Times has gone the shallow clickbait route, before correcting course.
Wong-Wear says on Facebook that to be "labeled in boldface as a white guy's sidekick is fundamentally insulting"—go read her whole post. Jake Uitti, the writer of the piece, said on Twitter that he contacted his editor about the headline, and the editor apologized (to Uitti, not to Wong-Wear?).
Back in March, The Stranger described Wong-Wear as a "Macklemore collaborator" in a headline about her appointment to the Seattle Music Commission. But it's time to stop to defining musicians of color by the one white guy from the town who made it big, period.
"It is completely absurd," said local DJ and prodcuer Matt "Spekulation" Watson, "to demand that artists of color who helped build and define this scene, be publicly identified only by their proximity to Macklemore... an artist whose entire sound and aesthetic is owed to the scene here. If anything, it should be the other way around."
We've reached out to a Times spokesperson for comment and will update if we hear back.
UPDATE: The Times left this apology on Wong-Wear's Facebook page:
I want to apologize to you for the headline on today’s Seattle Times article. We used Macklemore in the headline as a way of drawing more readers into the story and did not intend in any way to minimize your standing as an artist. We weren’t aware of the issues around the term “sidekick.” As of today, we are, and it’s been a teachable moment. We’ve reached out privately to you and we have changed the headline, but we want to make sure we make our thoughts public as well.
-Melissa Davis, Seattle Times features editor