Soulbounce Asks “How Can Justin Timberlake Still Objectify Black Women And Get Away With It?”

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Crash Happy tipped me to this provocative article published on SoulBounce, asking “How Can Justin Timberlake Still Objectify Black Women and Get Away with It?

Contributing editor Ro writes:

Someone please explain why Justin Timberlake continually gets a pass to fetishize and exploit the image of Black women. Right now. Because after watching him aggressively pulling on a chain wrapped around Ciara’s neck only to later use her bending body as a leaning post in her new video for “Love Sex Magic,” it’s getting ludicrously difficult to understand.

It been years since “Nipplegate” after which he distanced himself from Janet Jackson, cowardly allowing her to endure the overly harsh criticism alone. The outcry against his actions from those of us in the indignant minority was quickly overshadowed by an increase in album sales, multiple music awards and an increase in his Pop stardom miming Black music and culture. Instead of subjecting his next project with trepidation–let alone dismissal–nearly every “urban” club, radio station and music channel on the planet had the masses bumping to a song with a hook that’s about shackles, whipping and slavery.

From behind a wry smile and with his hair faded he actually tarnished a reigning, Black Pop star’s image arguably beyond repair by exposing her breast on national television and then built his street cred further by bringing sexy back, Middle Passage style. He’s transitioned from the post-racialist’s pop culture dream of somewhat harmlessly lusting after beautiful Black love interest in the video for “Like I Love You” into something more sinister. He uses the scapegoat of S&M edginess in which he is the aggressor, the dominant force, to subordinate his object of desire when she is Black.

Ro goes on to argue that while both Ciara and Janet Jackson chose to collaborate with Timberlake, “that just makes his ability to exploit their collaborations to the point that they are subjugated to his dominance, wittingly or not, more protestable.”

The comments over at SoulBounce were as provocative and engaging as the post. Here are a few of the choice ones:

You talk about JT “miming Black music and culture,” but until we get away from this insular view of racial ownership of culture (and a type of music) we will never be an integrated society. By making him out to be an imposter because he borrows from hip-hop and collaborates with black women (although his last popular single was with Madonna), aren’t you singling him out soley for the color of his skin and not the content of his musical product? That seems like precisely the kind of thing we are trying to get away from as a country.
Luce | March 25, 2009 5:02 PM | Permalink

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Defiance: How Jews Depict Jews Within a Larger Context

by Guest Contributor Matt Egan

Starring Liev Schrieber and Daniel Craig, directed by Edward Zwick, Defiance tells the story of the Bielskis, Jews who fought the Nazis in the woods of what is now Belarus. Zwick is Jewish. Schreiber is Jewish and has done a number of Jewish-themed projects lately, including the relatively unsuccessful adaptation of the novel Everything is Illuminated and starring on Broadway as Alan Berg in a revival of Talk Radio. I found Defiance moving, but also entertaining. It swells with action in the best tradition of Hollywood. For some people, this is a problem. The most commonly expressed fear of directors making films about the Holocaust is that they will trivialize and exploit the tragedy. Ralph Seliger complains about historical inaccuracies and that the Bielskis are cheapened as “the image of Hollywood heroes.” My concern is different. There were six Holocaust films out at one time, but given the history of how Hollywood has depicted Jews and the Holocaust – and the way in which I understand antisemitism as shaping that depiction – Defiance was the only one I had any interest in seeing.

Perhaps embarrassed by the number of Holocaust movies out at once, Humorist Joel Stein wrote a satirical column in December for the LA Times a short while back that parodies the common myth that The Jews run Hollywood:

As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment. Yes, we control Hollywood. Without us, you’d be flipping between “The 700 Club” and “Davey and Goliath” on TV all day.

So I’ve taken it upon myself to re-convince America that Jews run Hollywood by launching a public relations campaign, because that’s what we do best. I’m weighing several slogans, including: “Hollywood: More Jewish than ever!”; “Hollywood: From the people who brought you the Bible”; and “Hollywood: If you enjoy TV and movies, then you probably like Jews after all.”

I thought that the piece was funny and subversively camp. However, I’m also concerned he’s playing with fire. It was no surprise to me when the top Google hit for Stein’s piece was a white supremacist website. Continue reading

Arr the Singre Ragies

by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

When I was at Yale, Mixed Company had the reputation of being the “funny singing group.” You know, as opposed to the “hot singing group” (that would have been the Baker’s Dozen, or the “BD’s” for men, and Something Extra, aka “Sextra,” for women) or the “serious singing group” (Red Hot + Blue) or the “angry feminist group” (The New Blue, to which I belonged).

But that was a long-ass time ago, kiddies. And my-oh-my how things have changed, as evidenced by Mixed Company’s current YouTube parody
of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”:

Does the world really need another “Single Ladies” spoof? Or, for that matter, more pedestrian rice jokes? Don’t get me wrong, we rove a good lice joke. And of coulse we rove it rong time. We just don’t rove these ones.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta go make the rice and make it nice, and then shoot myself in the face for actually having to sit through that.

Postmaster Refuses to Serve Non-English Speaking Patrons

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

The Daily Mail has published an article about a British postmaster’s controversial move: He’s refusing to serve customers who don’t speak English. Complicating matters is that the postmaster, who works in a culturally diverse section of Nottingham, is of Sri Lankan decent. He became a naturalized British citizen 17 years ago.

“I tell them if they don’t speak the language and they can’t be bothered to learn, then don’t bother coming here,” the Daily Mail quoted Deva Kumarasiri as saying.

In making this statement, Kumarasiri ignores his background of privilege. For instance, later in the article, we discover that he learned English in school in his native Sri Lanka. This is an opportunity that scores of immigrants never receive.

The author of the article doesn’t say what age Kumarasiri was when he began to learn English, but studies have shown that the younger a person is when introduced to a language, the better chance the person has of mastering it. So, if Kumarasiri was a minor when he learned English, he has an additional edge over the immigrants he accuses of not “bothering to learn” the language. And is it fair to say that the immigrants in his area haven’t bothered to learn? I could argue that Kumarasiri didn’t bother to learn English either. He had to speak English by virtue of being a student in a school that instructed him in the language.

Throughout the article, Kumarasiri continues to make arguments that are downright shoddy. He resorts to using offensive clichés when he says, “If you don’t want to be British, go home.” Even when he puts more thought into his explanations for banning non-English speakers from his shop, his points are flawed. For example, Kumarasiri argues, “The fabric of the nation begins to unravel if we don’t all speak the same language.” Continue reading

Return Of The Racialicious Roundtable For Heroes 4.7

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

team1

We’re back!

After our brief hiatus, your Friendly Neighborhood Snark Merchants are back, with two new additions: everybody, please, welcome Diana and Andrea to the team, as they join Erica and Mahsino in going over “Cold Snap,” a surprisingly eventful (not to mention decent) episode. So let’s get to it!

Going by the recap thread, everybody’s happy to see Micah again. Your take on his return, and what do you think the future holds for him?

Micah 2Diana: I was really glad to see him and, like most folks, was not surprised he was Rebel. It kind of pulled at my heart strings to see Micah had “growed” up some, including his voice change. His character brings a much needed vitality to the show. The adult Heroes are so wrapped up in their angsty grown up B.S. (and Claire with her teeny bopper melodrama) that the idealism of being a superhero is lost (except for Hiro, of course). As the story progresses, I’d like to see Micah and Baby Touch and Go paired together. Imagine the leverage they would have with their two super powers coupled with the idealism of youth. It would be the perfect counterpoint to the eeeeeevil of Danko and the madness of Sylar.

Mahsino:
Upside 1: His voice changed off camera, which is good, because I totally would have been the one to make fun of his voice cracking.

Upside 2: It was nice to have someone who not only sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but seemed to have a plan that didn’t seem like it was freshly pulled out their ass.

Downside: I can’t overlook the fact that he claimed the empty void of person of color who sacrifices themselves for a blond that nobody really cares that much about. If Micah can stand as the voice of reason for the rest of the rebellion, cool- but I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s going to make an ultimate sacrifice at the end of the season.

Erica: One thing that I have consistently liked about Micah was his clarity of ethics. He’s hardly pure good — one of our first glimpses of “what Micah can do” was him convincing an ATM to spit out a few hundred bucks. Then he stole pay-per-view for his cousin. And in this episode he stages a gas leak in Union Station, a false alarm which is doubtless a huge inconvenience and expense for bus companies, law enforcement, and the fire department. But he’s just so UNSELFISH about it, you can’t help but be on his side. He cares about helping other people, and has always been convinced that special powers meant you should help people; his shock at a “hero” turning out to be a double-crossing bitch was really genuine.

Andrea: Micah…meh. Perhaps because a) the Racialicious folks called it (Spoilers, all of you!:D), b) as other watchers pointed out, Heroes’ new pattern is to offer one semi-precious stone episode in a pile of crappy ones to keep fans halfway excited, and c) the show has so deeply gone downhill as far as characters of color are concerned that I have no expectations as far as his getting major play on the show. So yeah, I can see Micah being Rebel and then getting offed…and not reincarnated like his momma/aunt/protector Nikki/Barbara/Tracy. I’m not going to get hepped up yet.

Any episode now, I’m waiting for the reveal–complete with muddled exposition– of Micah actually being the unknown child of Nikki/Barbara/Tracy and President Worf … er, Dorn … uh–what the hell is his name? Continue reading

Should black folks save Ebony and Jet magazine?

By Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

This weekend, I received the following breathless entreaty through a listserv that I subscribe to:

Ebony/Jet Magazine on The Verge of Financial Collaspse (J P)
Date: Thu, 12 Mar 2009 07:45:31 -0400

One of the most notable permanent fixtures in every black household (back in the days), was the Ebony and Jet magazine. If you wanted to learn about your history, the plight of Black America, current issues facing Black Americans, how the political process of America affects you, how politics works, who the hottest actors were, what time a particular black television show aired, who got married recently, who were the most eligible bachelors and bachelorettes in your town, what cities had black mayors, police chiefs, school superintendents, how to register to Vote, what cars offer the best value for the buck, who employed black Americans, how to apply for college scholarships, etc., more than likely, Ebony or Jet magazine could help you find answers to those questions.

We have recently been informed that the Johnson Publishing Company is currently going through a financial crisis. The company is attempting a reorganization in order to survive. Many people have already lost their jobs with a company that has employed thousands of black Americans during the course of its existence.

In order to support this effort to save our magazine, my friends and myself have pledged to get a subscription to both Ebony and Jet magazine, starting with one year. We are urging every other club member who comes across this plea to do the same. Please post, repost, and post again, to any blog that you may own or support.

Please email this to every person that you know, regardless of their background. Let them know that Ebony and Jet magazines have been part of the black American culture for three quarters of a century, and that there is a lot that they can learn about black American culture from reading them.

We are currently discussing the idea of throwing an Ebony/Jet Party, where people can eat, drink, and sign up for their subscription on the spot. Please spread this idea around to all that you know. Your Sororities, Fraternities, Lodges, VFW Posts, Churches, Civic Groups, Block Clubs, Caps Meetings, Book Clubs, etc.

It would be a crying shame, to lose our historic magazine, during the same year of such an historic event as the election of our first black President of the United States.

Now, like a lot of other black people, I grew up with Ebony and Jet magazines on the family coffee table. I remember fondly sitting in the brown recliner in my grandparents’ back room reading a then-oversized Ebony with Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones and Richard Pryor on it. (Don’t know why I specifically recall that issue of the magazine, but for some reason it is one that remains etched in my mind.) I say this to illustrate that these magazines are part of my cultural history. Nevertheless, when I read the missive above, my first thought (after wondering if the message-writer understands that subscriptions generally account for far less of a publication’s revenue than advertising does) was…”Meh.” I’m not so sure that Ebony and Jet, as they stand today, are institutions worth going to the mat for. Continue reading

You’re sabotaging yourself and don’t even know it

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

“Why? Because… because… it’s just the right thing to do!”

Is that what you blurt out every time you try and convince your colleagues about the importance of diversity?

No wonder you’re not getting anywhere!

I wish it weren’t true, but the reality is this: Proclaiming that your organization has a moral responsibility to work on diversity is simply not an effective strategy.

If you really want your organization to take diversity seriously, you must learn how to think like a CEO.

(Yes, even if your organization is a non-profit, school, or government agency.)

Good news: I’m ready to share with you exactly what you need to know on this FREE, ONE-TIME-ONLY CALL happening on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 at 5:00 pm Eastern time…

“The 5 Secrets You Must Know
to Implement a Successful Diversity Strategy
and Win the Respect of Your Organization”

On this lively, information-packed 60-minute call, you’ll learn:

  • The 3 worst self-sabotaging behaviors that get in the way of your own success (and how to avoid them)
  • 5 key strategies you can use to implement real, lasting changes when it comes to diversity at your organization
  • 3 quick and easy methods to start positioning yourself as your organization’s in-house diversity expert

Whether you’re the Chief Diversity Officer or simply a volunteer in your organization’s diversity employee networking group, you won’t want to miss this teleseminar.

The call is chock-full of specific information that will show you exactly why you’re not getting the results you want. Then, I’ll give you the resources to change that around so that you can win your colleagues’ respect and trust, and gain the influence you need to implement real, lasting change.

You know by now that I’m not going to waste your time by giving you fluff information.

So, won’t you join me?

Reserve your line for this FREE teleseminar now!

Limited lines are available for this call, so you’ll want to make sure you reserve your spot right away.

Just click the link above, enter your information in the boxes on the page, and you’ll receive the complete call details via email.

Understanding the Backlash to the Dialogue Around Lovelle Mixon

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

On Tuesday Samhita Mukhopadhyay posted the article Understanding the Dialogue Around Lovelle Mixon on Feministing, discussing the case and response to Lovelle Mixon. A 26 year-old black man and parolee in Oakland, last weekend Mixon died after shooting and killing four Oakland police officers.

Some excerpts from Mukhopadhyay’s article:

I do not deny that Mixon was armed, dangerous, a career criminal and potentially linked to the rape of a young woman. Lovelle Mixon’s actions are deplorable. But if we look at them within the context of police brutality, they sadly start make sense.

The power that resides in the laps of armed police officers is terrifying. Imagine living in these conditions, in the kind of world where you can be gunned down just for being young, black, male and walking down the street. This story is almost impossible to understand given dominant narratives around race, class, gender and black masculinity. It is considered OK to kill young black men, often violently. We may be outraged, but not nearly as outraged as when cops are killed.

Mukhopadhyay also drew from David Muhammad’s article at New American Media, which starts by saying (and I share this sentiment):

Four Oakland Police Department (OPD) officers killed, another shot, and a young assailant dead. This is tragic and unfortunate. Period.

While Mukhodpadhyay was as clear as Muhammad that Mixon’s actions are inexcusable and should not be seen as justice for Oscar Grant, within half an hour of her article going up, some Feministing commenters flipped. Choice reactions:

Turning a multiple cop killer and rapist into the poster child for a conversation about police brutality is apologism at its worst…If you were saying the same basic things to explain awat why he might have been led to rape the woman he’s excused of raping than no one on these boards would accept it. But I feel that since this happened in Oakland, after Oscar Grant, and since he’s black and these were white cops and because of the racial history it’s somewhat okay for you to seemingly excuse his actions.

This next very short comment misses the panoply of stats that Mukhopadhyay provided to illustrate that ex-convicts and poor folks in general sometimes cannot secure their basic needs by following the law:

Actually, that’s not true. Not committing further crimes is the surest way not to end up back in jail.

And this:

His actions were never fueled by police brutality, they appear to be fueled by possibility that he did not want to pay for additional crimes he knew he committed.

You’re conflating the brutal murder of Oscar Grant with a career criminal who knew he was caught and reacted like a wild animal cornered, doing anything and everything to escape being brought to justice.

I also take issue with the point that you make about cops killing young black men, statistically a much larger percentage of young black men are killed by other young black men.

And of course a few commenters who called Mukhopadhyay an apologist for Mixon were also quick to say “But you can’t say I’m racist! I was incensed by what happened to Rodney King!”

Listen: the difference between Rodney King (and Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and Jeffrey Reodica and so many other young men of colour slain by the police) and Mixon is that the others were unarmed and innocent. The similarity is that they all lived under a policing system that devalued their lives and assumed them guilty solely because they were darker-skinned.

Now, Mixon actually was guilty. But Mixon’s guilt doesn’t neutralise the rottenness of the system. In other words, just because Mixon was actually a dangerous felon doesn’t mean that we are absolved from the duty to question how justice and innocence is defined and meted out in our culture. Continue reading