Quoted: Priyamvada Gopal on Vogue Italia’s Black Issue

The real problem is less the absence of non-white faces from the media than the repeated underlining of “whiteness” as universally relevant even within the already “special” domain of women’s interests. A quick survey of columnists writing on “women’s issues” in the British media underscores this. Hardly any are non-white, while those that are will be invariably positioned as specialists on “multicultural”, “Muslim” or “black” issues. Put simply, white people have ordinary lives and concerns while non-white people have “issues”. “White” is content-free; everybody else is marked by their ethnicity. [...]

Fashion, of course, has long relied on non-white women – the multitudes of farm and factory workers who pluck the cotton, tend the silkworms, weave the fabrics and sew the garments. Their invisibility and ongoing exploitation by the industry is not going to be addressed by a proliferation of Tyras and Naomis. Nor are difficult issues of ethnic divisions and social marginalisation about to be sorted by special issues which only render whiteness further invisible and, hence, unquestionably normative. Maybe it is time now for a “white issue” with a focus, for once, on “whiteness”, what underlies its privileges and internal divisions, and how it perpetuates itself as a norm, one so entrenched that it has the power to render everything else a separate issue.

— Priyamvada Gopal, the Guardian’s Comment is Free, “Vogue: all white now?”

Longform Links – The Audacity of Taupe, Paradigm Shifting, Hip-Hop Political Action

The Root – The Audacity of Taupe

I’m not talking about “multiracial,” “miscegenation,” “mongrel,” “mutt,” “mestizo,” “masala” or even “Mariah.” I’m talking about a word imbued with a legacy of racial strife in America that goes all the way back to the summer day in 1789 that Sally Hemings forgot to lock her bedroom door and runs all the way up to Wentworth Miller getting blacklisted by the NAACP Image Awards (Prison Break, indeed…). It’s that word you hear the kids freestyling on the street—M to the izzo, L to the atto… Yeah, that word. The M-word. Mulatto.

As a biracial American, for the first time in my adult life I’m really proud of my country. Even though the “national conversation on race” is turning out to be like trying to use an iPhone to call someone on a CB radio, my people are coming to light in the public consciousness in a way that we never have before. This is our moment. I hear that CNN’s next big series will be called “Beige in America.” Now that Obama is the H.M.I.C., it’s our chance to make it clear once and for all that the M-word is “Strictly 4 My M W.O.R.D.Z.”

It’s a word that makes a lot of people cringe—particularly those new-age parents that you see around town with light-brown children sporting fluffy, misshapen halfros. But it’s also a lot catchier than the very clinical sounding “biracial,” and a lot shorter than “blessed with a dual heritage,” as my mother used to say. Don’t blame us for turning a one-time insult into a three-syllable declaration of interdependence. After all, Spanish words frequently sound better than English words: “Señorita” is sexier than “Miss” and “huevos rancheros” flows easier than “Grand Slam Breakfast,” so it stands to reason that “Mulatto” rolls off the tongue a lot smoother than “half breed” or “Strom Thurmond, Jr.” If the lovely Rihanna and her island nation hadn’t already laid claim to “Bajan,” we might have gone with “Beige-an.”

This is all about empowerment. My people have taken a word that originally marginalized us as plantation butlers and Huxtable daughters and turned it into a term of endearment. Sometimes, in passing, I query one of my brethren with, “What’s up, M-word?” Or occasionally I chastise my sistren by saying, “M-word, please.” They understand. They feel me. In a certain patois that some have called “Mubonics,” they know that all I’m really saying is something like “Guten morgen, meine freunde!” or “Bitte, baby.” And when people ask me why it’s OK for us to use the M-word when they can’t, I have to tell them that it’s a biracial thing…they wouldn’t understand.

[Ed Note – This piece was obviously meant to be humorous, but sparked an interesting discussing in the comments section about creating divisions within the black community, as well as some targeted comments toward the author. I recommend checking it out. – LDP] Continue reading

Expectations: Sheva Alomar

by Guest Contributor Bomber Girl, originally published at Girl in the Machine

There’s been a veritable dry spell in survival horror games as of late, and I’ve definitely been suffering. Dementium: The Ward for the Nintendo DS was a huge disappointment, and Silent Hill: Origins left me with only a cynical apprehension for September’s Homecoming. This year’s E3 provided a smattering of goodies for gamers to ooh and aah over, and we were fortunate enough to get a preview of some sorely-needed survival horror titles. Probably the most notorious is Capcom’s Resident Evil 5.

I enjoyed RE4, although I’m more of a Creep Around And Get Scared Oh Shit What Was That? kind of gal, as opposed to Mow Down Hundreds Of Zombies And Jump Through Windows action-star wannabe, so it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. It was a wonderful game regardless of my personal preferences, so Capcom is clearly sticking close to that formula for its sequel. Also part of the formula is the good old survival horror hallmark, the secondary character, this time in the form of a woman named Sheva Alomar.

I’m as shocked as anybody that not only is one of the main characters a person of color, but a woman of color, to boot. Sheva comes to protagonist Chris Redfield’s aid as a member of the West African BSAA, or Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance. In another shocking twist, she’s not a squealing, floundering idiot a la RE4′s Ashley, but a competent, well-trained agent who does her share of the combat. Be still, my heart! Continue reading

Revise Your Styleguide: On Usage of ‘La Raza’

by Guest Contributor Daniel Hernandez, originally published at Intersections

A little Mexico detour, because I’m wondering: Do news media outlets refer to the NAACP as “The Colored People” or the AJC as “The Jewish Committee”? No, they don’t. Yet while covering this month’s NCLR conference in San Diego many outlets including the L.A. Times, Washington Post, and other generally reputable sources like RealClearPolitics felt it okay to refer to NCLR as “La Raza.” This means that the mainstream press has adopted the semantics tricks of the right-wing propaganda machine to conflate together two very different things: NCLR — the largest and most middle-of-the-road, big-money-backed, non-partisan Hispanic (their word) advocacy organization in the United States, and the codeword for reconquista hallucinations advocated only by an extremely small, extremely fringe, and extremely irrelevant batch of Chicano nationalists.

Doing this plays directly into the ignorant fears of paranoid immigrant-bashers. The double-standard is unacceptable. Because there are real dangers of coding and bigotry at play here: look at what just happened in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Another hate-fueled illegal immigrant lynching. Listen to the story at Free Speech Radio News. A week later, still no arrests.

We have opportunists like Lou Dobbs and the soft racism of politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger to thank for laying the rhetorical groundwork for such a climate. It needs to stop. “La Raza,” once for all, is an historical term. Its use in the NCLR name merely reflects the period of the organization’s founding: the 1960s. (Does anyone in the NAACP even utter the words “colored people” anymore?) It’s a question ultimately of accuracy, as Carla Marrinuci blogs at SFGate.

On its end, NCLR generously takes the pains to answer its uninformed critics, but one needs only to look at the Mexican American Princes to understand just how “dangerous” are the ambitions of modern Latinos like the kind who gathered in San Diego last week to hear speeches by Barack Obama and John McCain.

* Above, Obama at the 2007 NCLR conference in Miami Beach.

Edited to Add:

Dear Racialicious,

I appreciate the posting and the discussion of my Intersections post on the media usage of “La Raza.” I think a couple things need to be clarified, though. I meant to point out that to the careless (or prejudicial) reader the words “La Raza” connote Chicano nationalism, not the group, National Council of La Raza. I know and understand that La Raza is a term to be proud of, a term that NCLR members and associates themselves use, a term that Mexican Americans of all backgrounds often use to mean “community,” “family,” “friends,” etc. What I am merely pointing out is that as the media uses it to refer to NCLR it conflates in the public eye a mainstream lobbying entity with an amorphous concept that causes all kinds of drama in the public landscape: see the raids, confrontations, demonstrations, killings of immigrants. I don’t have a solution, but I think we should all be thinking of one. Language is lived, after all.

Sincerely,
Daniel H.

When is Black “Black?”

by Guest Contributor Danielle Belton, originally published at The Black Snob

“She needs to quit.”

That’s how the discussion got kicked off on One Drop Rule’s message board July 2nd. The person accused of needing to cease and desist was CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien who spent the past year working on a documentary for the cable news network entitled “Black In America” which airs this week. And the quitting in question was in regards to her black status.

“I have watched her with (African Americans) before and never once did she refer to (African Americans) in the first person, as in ‘I’ or ‘We’, or ‘we as a people’, etc. Maybe that’s just a journalism thing. But Tim Russert did identify as a Catholic when the Pope died, so?” wrote one commenter.

“Also, I have read at least one article … that says, rather Soledad says, that while her mother raised her/siblings to be just (African Americans), she sees herself as being bi-racial or mixed race. Now, she could just be saying that because she’s doing this show. Maybe on St. Paddy’s day, she said she was Irish.”

This attitude was sprinkled throughout many of the comments. At one point a few seemed to get an interview O’Brien gave to MyUrbanReport confused where she talked about her own upbringing as “black” and the story of a mixed couple she interviewed for the documentary who differed on whether to raise the children as biracial or black.

    “Here you have a kid to me who is completely biracial,” O’Brien said in the interview. “They’re little children, but their dad doesn’t necessarily see that (they’re black.) … My mom and dad were like you’re black. That was just the way it was. The way they were very clear about it made me clear about it in my head.”

O’Brien has repeatedly in the past given accounts of her life as a black Latina. In a profile with the Irish Echo Online, she talks about her identity (her mother is Afro-Cuban and her father is Australian-Irish) and the struggles her parents went through as a mixed race couple back when it was still illegal in some places and some restaurants wouldn’t serve them.

    O’Brien tends to treat her own ethnic mix with a light touch. She said that people laugh when they see her without makeup “because I have so many freckles that I look very Irish.” She also gently mocked the notion that her mixed-race background exposed her to unimaginable horrors.

    “I have had people say, like, ‘Oh, so you were a tragic mulatto?’ Well, um, not exactly. I was just a middle-class girl growing up on Long Island.”

    It isn’t possible, she contended, “to over-dramatize” what (her parents) went through … “They were doing stuff that for the time was very risky – socially risky and risky to their own physical safety. And they decided they were going to go ahead and get married and have six kids,” their daughter recalled.

While the board eventually clears up the confusion over what O’Brien said versus what the couple she interviewed said, there seemed to be a prevailing hostility towards the reporter for her alleged flip-flopping on her “black status.”

I’ve heard this on more than one occasion, but haven’t seen much from O’Brien to back this belief up considering she routinely plays up her black heritage over her Irish roots. After awhile I started to wonder if this hostility was over the fact that she was white enough to pass, but still ensconced herself in black issues and news stories (she’s a member of the National Association of Black Journalists). Were their “lying eyes” keeping them from recognizing her as a woman of color? Especially with her straight hair and nondescript accent, standard for any TV journalist? Continue reading

Thoughts on CNN’s Black in America Series

by Latoya Peterson

I have been interested to watch how the Black in America project has been received around the blogosphere. It was an eighteen-month project that many think should have been thought about a bit more. A summary of the series is here.

Tariq Nelson provides an interesting perspective on why he isn’t annoyed:

Last night I watched the first part of the much anticipated ‘Black in America’ program on CNN.

The first thing that I really appreciated about this show is that it showed that in spite of the many problems in our community, there are black Americans that are hard working, have strong families, businesses and that there are black men that are working extremely hard to make sure that there children have a better life, even if they are struggling themselves.

I would have probably thought that this program was just a retread of what has been done so many times before, but I have been really irked lately by some “religious” people (black ones at that) that have been writing me, putting down blacks and demanding that I distance myself from my own background based on some misguided “religious principle”. Some of these self-righteous individuals have been trashing me in other places on the internet for my refusal to abide to their demands. In any case, from this, I know now more than ever that there is a strong need to tell the story of hard working black people that value their families because too many have bought into this myth that none of us care for our families.

Continue reading

links for 2008-07-30

Perez Hilton Hates Yellow People

by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

Ever wonder how an internet meme gets started? Or, for that matter, how it then spreads and metastasizes until it becomes accepted fact?

Over the last week, we’ve seen one particular meme develop about China: “China Hates Black People” (courtesy of Perez Hilton).

This idea didn’t, however, originate with Perez Hilton. It started last Friday with a story in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, “Authorities order bars not to serve black people,” which alleged that Chinese government authorities were secretly planning to ban blacks from bars during the Olympic games. Reporter Tom Miller based the story on the claim of one anonymous source:


    “Uniformed Public Security Bureau officers came into the bar recently and told me not to serve black people or Mongolians,” said the co-owner of a western-style bar, who asked not to be named.

Then Miller quoted another unnamed source, a “black British national who lives in Beijing,” to further shore up the story:

    “Chinese people are prejudiced, but I would have hoped that the government would set a better example as it debuts on the world stage.”

Continue reading