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Denying Racism in Cape Town Is About Lack of Empathy

by Guest Contributor Luso Mnthali, originally published at AfriPop

I was on radio the other day, trying to explain to Shado Twala, well-known radio and television personality here in South Africa, how racism personally affects me. I had this great chance to finally tell a wider audience what it feels like to live in a city that denies you so much because you’re black. But I focused too much on how I’d been getting hostile looks from strangers, and being shoved and bumped into a couple of times while walking in my predominantly white neighbourhood.

I felt like I blew it.

Gone was the experience I had on my first date with the man who would later become my boyfriend. It was here in Cape Town, years ago, when another white man lunged at me and spat out some ugly racist words at me. I won’t say publicly what they are, not now anyway. Because he wasn’t aware of it at the time, I only told my man this had happened years later. It’s not something I want to remember, or talk about, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Possibly because there have been so many incidents of racism in the Cape in recent months. And it’s happened not only when the tourists flood in during the month we all lovingly call Dezemba. Even though, during my conversation with uMam’Shado, we were slightly glib about how the tourists from other provinces annually bring with them a spate of complaints about the ‘Mother City’ as it is known to some. My black South African friends have asked: “Mother to whom, this city? Who does it mother and who is the mother?”

So I felt that, during that conversation, gone were the experiences of friends trying to rent apartments, but being disappointed because of race-based selection or denial. Of friends leaving their jobs and packing up to go back to Joburg after a year or two. Gone were the stories of how even academia works to keep black people out. Gone were the myriad instances of microagression and hostility in a place that renders you both visible and invisible. You’re visible when you’ve clearly transgressed – how dare you walk around with a white man who clearly adores you? What are you doing with him? Or, as some women from a white-owned mainly white-staffed media house asked my friend about me – “How did she get a white guy?” Continue reading

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Reddit AMA: James Mickens on Being Black and STEM

Enjoying MLK Day? Please join us over at Reddit at 2 PM ET where we will talk to James Mickens:

On MLK Day (1/19) at 2 p.m. computer scientist James Mickens will be doing a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” (AMA), where he’ll field questions about his work, how he got into STEMs, and what it’s like to be a person of color in computer science.

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Are You Ready for #TheTalk?

MTV’s Look Different campaign is doing a full multiscreen take over for Martin Luther King Jr. Day,

According to a 2014 MTV study*, 73% of Millennials believe having more open constructive conversations about bias would help people become less prejudiced.

“Millennials believe strongly in fairness, but they can also find it difficult to talk openly about race – to be not simply ‘color blind’ but ‘color brave,’ said Stephen Friedman, President of MTV. “Our audience is looking for a way to bring the national conversation on race into their homes and this campaign will give them a forum to express true color bravery.”

#TheTalk will begin at 9:00 a.m. ET/PT on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day when MTV will kick off a 12-hour period in which all programming will air in black and white for the first time in the network’s history. Every commercial block will begin with personal reflections on race from luminaries including Kendrick Lamar, Common, Big Sean, Ava DuVernay, David Oyelowo, Penn Badgley, Jordin Sparks, Pete Wentz, Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. John Lewis, Sen. Cory Booker and more.

One of the ideas they referenced, “color brave,” is from Melody Hobson’s TED Talk:

Read MTV’s study on Millennials and Bias here.

Share your experiences with #TheTalk here.

(Easter Egg: I’m in the “activist” video on the site.)

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Dr. King on Optimism, Pessimism, and Race Relations

“There are three basic attitudes that one can take toward the question of progress in the area of race relations. And the first attitude that can be taken is that of extreme optimism. Now the extreme optimist would argue that we have come a long, long way in the area of race relations. He would point proudly to the marvelous strides that have been made in the area of civil rights over the last few decades. From this he would conclude that the problem is just about solved, and that we can sit comfortably by the wayside and wait on the coming of the inevitable.

The second attitude that one can take toward the question of progress in the area of race relations is that of extreme pessimism. The extreme pessimist would argue that we have made only minor strides in the area of race relations. He would argue that the rhythmic beat of the deep rumblings of discontent that we hear from the Southland today is indicative of the fact that we have created more problems than we have solved. He would say that we are retrogressing instead of progressing. He might even turn to the realms of an orthodox theology and argue that hovering over every man is the tragic taint of original sin and that at bottom human nature cannot be changed. He might even turn to the realms of modern psychology and seek to show the determinative effects of habit structures and the inflexibility of certain attitudes that once become molded in one’s being.

From all of this he would conclude that there can be no progress in the area of race relations.

Now you will notice that the extreme optimist and the extreme pessimist have at least one thing in common: they both agree that we must sit down and do nothing in the area of race relations. The extreme optimist says do nothing because integration is inevitable. The extreme pessimist says do nothing because integration is impossible. But there is a third position, there is another attitude that can be taken, and it is what I would like to call the realistic position. The realist in the area of race relations seeks to reconcile the truths of two opposites while avoiding the extremes of both.

So the realist would agree with the optimist that we have come a long, long way. But, he would go on to balance that by agreeing with the pessimist that we have a long, long way to go. And it is this basic theme that I would like to set forth this evening. We have come a long, long way but we have a long, long way to go.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations,” delivered April 10, 1957 in St. Louis, MO

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Did Paramount Cost Selma The Golden Globes?

By Arturo R. García

How to describe the reaction to Boyhood winning the Best Picture (Drama) award over Selma at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards? Let Lance Reddick sum it up:

And it’s hard to argue. At a time when Ava DuVernay’s look at the Civil Rights Movement is resonating almost eerily with the atmosphere surrounding social justice fights today, it lost out to a Coming-Of-Age Story. David Oyelowo, who led the film’s ensemble cast as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., lost the Best Actor (Drama) award to Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything.

So in the aftermath of the show, when people were wondering how Selma could have been shut out of the major awards, it was interesting to get this nugget from Vox culture editor Todd VanDerWerff:

VanDerWerff followed it up by saying this was a rumor. But just the thought is mind-boggling: If the theory holds up, Paramount Pictures basically punted on its own potential Golden Globes contender for the sake of taking a shot at the Oscars.

So now, when the movie is getting raked over the coals for being “historically inaccurate” — because James Cameron’s Titanic and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator were documentaries, don’t you know — it’s already losing ground in the Academy Awards horse race to Boyhood.

The lone bright spot for the film on Sunday was Common and John Legend’s win in the Best Original Song category for their collaboration on “Glory.” The victory was capped off by one of the best acceptance speeches of the evening.

“As I got to know the people of the Civil Rights Movement, I realized I am the hopeful black woman who was denied her right to vote,” Common said. “I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed black kid who maybe needed a hand, but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty. Selma has awakened my humanity.”

The speech, as posted online, can be seen below.

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Cultural Petiton: Help Save The Renny

Gentrification continues to seem inevitable in city like New York were real estate . At only four years of residency, I’m still a recent transplant to Harlem and, with the numerous Oberlin grads I’ve talked into following me to the area, technically part of the gentrification problem.  I struggle with what that means, knowing that change can be good, but that in Harlem it’s often coming at a cost.

This time change wants to destroy one of my favourite buildings. The dilapidated Harlem Renaissance Ballroom, also known as ‘The Renny’, should have been preserved years ago. Completed in 1922, the building hosted everyone from Duke Ellington to Zora Neal Hurston to Cab Calloway. The Times gives further details:

Owned by William H. Roach, the Renaissance was a leading hot spot in Harlem and the city. Known as the Renny, it hosted Joe Louis fights. Big bands led by Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Duke Ellington performed on its stage. The Renaissance was also the home court, at a time when blacks were barred from the National Basketball Association, for the Black Fivesbasketball team known as the Harlem Rens, regarded as one of the best of its time. The adjacent 900-seat theater featured movies by Oscar Micheaux, the first African-American to produce a feature-length film. The casino was used for a 1923 anti-lynching meeting held by the N.A.A.C.P.  In 1953, David N. Dinkins, who went on to become the city’s first black mayor, and his bride held their wedding reception there. 

A rendering of the replacement complex via Curbed

Like the former Savoy Ballroom (just over and up a few blocks),  the ballroom is scheduled to be razed and replaced by an apartment complex that, as far as the renderings show, retain nothing of the original structure, historical or cultural value.

A campaign to save the ballroom has been started with a petition here that I’m encouraging anyone who gives a damn about cultural preservation to go ahead and sign. Pictures below will show that the building needs a lot of work, but it’s also so easy to imagine what it once was and what it could be again with even half the care I’m sure they’d put into the apartment complex that’s currently meant to replace it. Such an important building should never have been allowed to get to this condition in the first place.

The ballroom from behind, where it’s often used as a parking lot for church on Sundays

What’s left of one of two chandeliers hanging on the second floor

The full ballroom

The main stage with a scale comparison for size.

The Renny needs a lot of work put into preservation, but you can definitely see what it once was.

 

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Video: Jay Smooth On The Importance Of Protesting Against Police Violence

The holiday season began on a distressing note late Tuesday night, when a police officer in Berkeley, Missouri — two miles from Ferguson — shot and killed 18-year-old Antonio Martin at a local gas station.

Authorities have released security camera footage they say justifies the shooting. They say the footage shows Martin pointing a gun at the officer. But the footage is grainy and only barely shows Martin, and was immediately questioned by residents and critics. Not only was there a demonstration within hours of Martin’s death, but protesters took to the city’s streets and a nearby interstate the following evening.

Martin’s death came not long after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged demonstrators in his city to postpone further actions in the wake of the fatal shootings of two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liu, Rafael Ramos. Their attacker, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, ambushed the two officers in their patrol car after coming to the city from Baltimore, where he shot his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson.

As Jay Smooth explains in this episode of The Illipsis for Fusion, while there are police doing good work in their communities, the choice by people representing them to adopt “wartime” rhetoric has only exacerbated tensions between them and the people they are supposed to protect and serve.

“People are not angry at police because of these protests,” he says. “People have been angry at the police for decades because the system is broken, and these protests represent people trying, once and for all, to change that system so they don’t have to be so angry all the time.”

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Assimilation Aesthetic

By Guest Contributor Ruth Hopkins, cross-posted from Last Real Indians

… And Native appropriation continues to evolve in ever more bizarre ‘fashion.’

Apparently putting scantily clad white women in warbonnets is losing its shock value, because designers are moving into a new phase of cultural assassination, in hopes of making genocide doubly lucrative.

Imagine my horror this morning, upon discovering Ralph Lauren’s latest venture. Let’s call it Assimiliation Era Chic.
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Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World