Let’s Play Role Reversal! /// Now You’re the One in Need /// Also, Some Countries Make Ads That Talk About Real Stuff

"Trading Places." I should probably rewatch this.

“Trading Places.” I should probably rewatch this.

Racism. Privilege. Teaching yoga in Africa because you’re afraid of your black neighbors. All pretty “safe” talking points, right? Good lord! Sometimes the week just has a mind of its own.

Anyway, sticking with our unofficial theme for this week, here are two videos that demonstrate a little race role reversal.

The first one is titled “Africa for Norway,” and was passed along in the comments on Monday by “Anna.” It more or less speaks for itself:

The second video is from South Africa and was, I believe, banned for being too offensive (there is scant info on this). I’m not sure if that’s true, or which community was actually offended, but it was a semi-big deal when it came out. For those who are not familiar with the SA cultural signifiers in this commercial, I’ll explain: The white people are playing the role of the black people. Pretty straight forward.

On the whole I find role reversal videos to be great places for people in the privileged classes to start looking at racial issues they may be unaware of. Sometimes this approach backfires, however, like when a rich white kid does a school project on the homeless and lives on “the streets” for a night, and then writes a paper about how they “were homeless for a night.” Again, a great place to start, but spending twenty-four hours wandering the blocks does not a homeless person make. Might make a pretty effing frightened rich white kid with a new appreciation for having a lawn to cut, but that whole you-can-go-back-home bit sorta gets in the way.

On a kinda unrelated, but still cool, note: I started looking around the internet and found two more banned South African commercials. All very intense stuff.

This one is about immigration and a kind of Applebee’s-style restaurant called Nando’s:

And, this one is about education:

Now what was that yoga rave supposed to accomplish again?


  1. Our latest export: first world problems …

    Thank you for those videos.

  2. cynthia kling

    If we’re doing banned political videos, then where is the SNL Would You Fellate A Donkey for Israel Congressional Hearing? xc

  3. Wonderful week of posts so far– keep it coming. Any day that starts off with an image from Trading Places (which I happen to have JUST re-watched and it majorly stands the test of time) is a good day. xox

  4. Brava Babs! Role reversal is actually and exercise we often use in diversity training.
    Did anyone here every see the Travolta film “White Man’s Burden”? A whole flick about role reversal in an alternate world.

  5. cynthia kling

    Thanks Dyspeptic. Nice that someone was in the audience with a camera before network execs pulled.

  6. Yoga Whelp

    On the subject of South Africa…..it’s worth viewing “A Dry White Season” with Donald Sutherland one of the few films I know of that starts with the “white man’s burden” premise and turns it upside down. A wealthy Afrikaaner landowner learns that his gardener’s son was killed by South African police and naively starts asking questions. He’s rebuffed, then shunned by his family, then by all of polite society, and eventually he gets so drawn in, he “goes native.: The film explores the deeper emotional terrain of racial “solidarity” in an unusually compelling way.

    He doesn’t go looking to “help.” He’s impelled to act by his gardener’s grief by the affront to his “property.”. It turns the NIMBY premise on its head. And the Black South African activists who never really trust him are so moved by his doggedness and courage that in the end they feel impelled to risk their own lives to avenge him – by finding and murdering his killer. He becomes a Brother – posthumously.

    Imagine if an American yogi were actually “killed in the line of duty”? (whatever that means!). First of all, the press release would make it sound like the Second Coming of the Holocaust. But let’s be real: the chances of this happening in a setting of humble “service” are rather slim. It’s far more likely that a drunken Hindu mob will string Shiva Rea up for “blasphemy,” and little Indian schoolchildren will fight over who gets to wear her sandals.

  7. Be Scofield

    Just wanted to pass along this great article written by an activist living on the streets for a week during a “Street Retreat” in San Francisco.

    “As you can see, the retreat is not a study or experiment, nor is it a gimmick for “playing homeless.” The spirit is one of renunciation. We wouldn’t fast in order to “understand what it’s like to be a starving person,” but in order to push and expand our own views of the world we inhabit right now, as we are. It’s not about appropriating or trying on someone else’s experience (the simplistic idea of “standing in someone else’s shoes”), but about peeling off the layers of ourselves, the skins thickened by routine and dualism, that pervert our own views of reality — including our views of ourselves.”


    • Remembering that the prototype experimenter (though not using the scientific method)–from MY world, rather than the “yoga” world–for experiencing your “neighbor”‘s problems is Barbara Ehrenreich …

  8. Yoga Whelp

    The giant belching, farting soul-devouring Moloch that is Yoga rages on, Babs or no Babs. Who ya gonna call?


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