A couple years ago, Samuel L. Jackson chewed out a reporter who seemingly confused him with Laurence Fishburne. The reporter interviewing Jackson congratulated him on his then recent (Super Bowl XLVIII) commercial, apparently confusing Jackson with actor Laurence Fishburne, who appeared in a car commercial as his “Matrix” character. “We don’t all look alike,” Jackson not so gently explained to the squirming reporter over his apologies. “We may all be black and famous, but we don’t all look alike.”
And of course that phrase evokes a very well-known dismissive racist trope: that (minority racial group) are in appearance interchangeable, that “they all look alike.”
Today, Variety reports that “Total Beauty,” a magazine dedicated to grooming and beauty, tweeted effusive praise for Oprah’ red carpet appearance wearing a dress that exposed her tattoos. “We had no idea Oprah was tatted, and we love it!” gushed Total Beauty via Twitter.
The picture that accompanied the tweet, however, showed Whoopi Goldberg.
After an hour and a half – an eternity in social media time which allowed the hashtag #NotOprah to trend across the planet – the magazine posted an apology and deleted their original tweet, once again having fed into “they all look alike.”
In my opinion, this is not the result of racism at Total Beauty, or at KTLA TV. This is the result of incompetence, an attribute much more common and much more socially acceptable.