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A Thin Line Between Entertainment and Racism

I have been on two different cruise lines, only to see basically the same thing.  My concern is that it this must be a growing trend, and if so then it is one that I am not comfortable with.   I am talking about the “Washie Washie” Character.  This is the person at the door to greet you when you enter the buffet.  They usually have some type of hand sanitizer and squirt it on your hands as you enter the dining room.  I can’t help but ask is this racism?

On the surface this does not sound all that bad, however these characters seem to always be played by minorities.  They are Black, Brown or Yellow and the character is always singing, dancing, or in a costume that looks like something out of a 1950s Tarzan movie.  The “Washie Washie” characters I have seen have been over the top, extreme even outrageous!  They turn these minorities into bigger than life cartoon characters.

Washie Washie Women from RCCL

Entertainment or Racism?

Can’t we do Better?

In 2016, with the first Black President of the United States, I would think we would have come further.  I honestly thought we could do better.  I witnessed a Black Officer dancing and singing at breakfast time backed up by a Latino on guitar, and  Asian and Latino Females singing, dancing and playing arbitrary instruments such as maracas and wood blocks.  As a former United States Army Officer I was deeply offended that a Black Officer was cast in this role.  He danced and sang with a candle, then a stack of bananas on his head and crowed like a rooster.

Many cruise guests found this character to be entertaining.  Others, like me, were uncomfortable at best and offended at worst.  Like the kids say I felt some kind of way about it!

Black Officer from NCL dancing with Bananas on his head

Entertainment or Racism?

Is this Racism?

I am all for Black, Brown and Yellow People having jobs.  However, I am just disturbed by them playing what appears to be a “Step and Fetch” It character in 2016 on board major cruise lines. I understand the importance of the position and getting travelers to wash their hands before entering the dining room.  My objection is to the outlandish degrading behavior exhibited by characters.  They come across like the old Aunt Jemima or Rochester from the Jack Benny show.  Please Google the characters if you are unfamiliar with them or want to refresh your memory.  There is a thin line between Entertainment and Racism.  The Amos and Andy show went off the air in 1966.  Black actors and entertainers have slayed every role, award and honor known to man.

Black Officer from NCL dancing with a candle on his head

Entertainment or Racism?

I have been on (2) different cruise line only to see basically the same thing. The “Washie Washie” character seems to be a growing trend and if so then it is one that I am not comfortable with it.  The Amos and Andy show went off the air in 1953.  I am sad to see the Cruise line industry revise these roles for Black, Brown and Yellow People.  I am not sure if the Senior Management at the cruise lines are aware of this.  Sincerely, I hope that Senior Management reviews this topic and understands how it makes some people of Color feel!

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Bill Collins

Bill Collins is a former Army Officer turned veteran traveler. I have traveled to 34 different Countries mainly concentrated in Central & Latin America and have spent the last 16 years exploring the Caribbean Islands.

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