Mailbag – 2009-08-04

Compiled by Latoya Peterson and Thea Lim


Seeking: Submissions of artwork by youth reflecting: resistance to oppression, violence and all kinds of discrimination; the process of healing, and the building of hope…

What do I have to do? Submit your artwork for the exhibit. Then, on September 21st, participating artists will have an opportunity to talk about their work at the launching of this art exhibit in Toronto. The exhibit will be followed by a screening of the documentary “Highway of Hope,” a documentary filmed and directed by Indigenous feminist activist (and Racialicious Special Correspondent) Jessica Yee about the numerous disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women along Highway 16 in British Columbia.


Reader Shawna sends in a link to the Racebending LJ which shows some new cast shots from the Avatar movie. Gen describes the costumes as going for “the white native look.” I’m inclined to agree:


Digital_Femme points us toward this disturbing ad campaign from Diesel:

I’m with Brigitte, from Make Fetch Happen, when she says:

I honestly don’t know what to think of these. The phrase that keeps coming to my mind is “Girl, you need to call your people to come and get you!”

Don’t get me wrong, [model Ariel Meredith] is beautiful and has a great figure for lingerie but personally speaking, I’ve never fantasized about at clothing optional party where I’m the only chick present in the shot and a white guy who looks like European Jesus rubs lotion on my belly. Call me old-fashioned. There are more photos at the Diesel site featuring two white female models in their skivvies but their booties are unmolested.

The Pop Culture Jump-Off: Notes from the 2009 Comic-Con

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García, originally published at Arturo vs. The World


You can trace the story of this year’s Comic-Con with a line. Not a straight line, necessarily, but one that wound all over the building at various points all day all four days. If you were at Con, it’s almost a given you were in the line, or a line, maybe for hours, maybe even overnight. The phenomenon of the Line marked 2009 as a turning point in the Con’s 40-year history, for a variety of reasons.

1.The New Demographic
Besides the Twi-hards, who spawned their own controversy – more on that in a bit – this year was a coming-out party for the latest anime/manga generation. A/M cosplayers seemed to outnumber their “traditional” superhero/villain counterparts around the floor; you couldn’t walk more than a few feet without seeing another pair of furry ears, or a group of young people offering free hugs, or busting out some moves to entertain themselves and the crowd:

In fact, from the floor this year’s Con looked like it featured the most diverse group of attendees in years. POC creators like Gene Yang, Dwayne McDuffie and Leinil Francis Yu were among those showcased in spotlight panels. And two pro-diversity panels received a strong attendance, from both POC and white fans, despite some at-times questionable panel placement: as we noted before the con, they were booked to start at 6:30 p.m., nowhere near “prime time” hours. There were also more POC-related properties and creators on the floor, a few of which we’ll be spotlighting later. The question going forward is, how much attention will this market get from the comics/pop-culture profiteers?

2.The Uninvited Guests

… The 10,000 Twilight fans at the con really were a problem for the show, but a lot of the reasons that got floated came from a sexist, xenophobic, bullsh-t fanboy place. I actually feel bad even writing this, but truly, legitimately, 6,000 people at the show just for Twilight means 6,000 people that weren’t spending money at the show means 6,000 people that might’ve wanted to go that had an interest in dropping a few bucks at the various vendors? Shut out.
– Christopher Bucher, co-founder, Toronto Comic Arts Festival

Love ’em or otherwise, the Twilight fans were the topic of discussion throughout the convention, even moreso than the film series they’re so devoted to. Some blamed them for the fact that tickets to the event sold out two months ahead of time. The line for Thursday’s New Moon panel reportedly started Wednesday, before the convention even opened, and grew to Star Wars-like proportions. Tents even popped up in lines for showing of the series’ eponymous opening film at a nearby theatre. Twi-hards, though, encountered a rarity at a geek gathering: a backlash.

Smart-asses bearing TWILIGHT RUINED COMIC-CON signs, while not abundant, were definitely on the premises, even after Thursday. The negative response was, no doubt, at least partially based in gender; here you had a flock of young women not just stepping into a traditionally male-based arena, but stepping into it without the “proper” fandom. Female fans of Joss Whedon and his BBD collection (Buffy/Browncoats/Dollhouse), for instance, tend to get a free pass. And it should be noted that people of both genders also reportedly camped out overnight for Saturday’s Lost panel, without catching much flack. But on another level, the complaining about the Twi-hards wasn’t so much about the nature of their devotion as it was about what it represented.

3.(Lost In) The Hollywood Shuffle


Most of the biggest panels – and by that I mean the ones that were booked in the SD Convention Center’s biggest rooms and drew the biggest lines – shared one disconcerting characteristic: none of them was related to comic books. Iron Man 2, remember, is an ongoing comic adaptation, not an original comic work. The same can be said for the much-applauded panel for Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass. But, even if Twilight is being adapted in a manga format, its’ panel was part of the ongoing encroachment of Hollywood into what used to be a comic-book convention. There were panels for, among other things, Lost, District 9, True Blood, James Cameron’s Avatar, Burn Notice, Chuck, 9, the instantly odious Glee, Stargate Universe, and even web series The Guild – and none of these is based off of a comic book. And these are only a few examples on the tv/movie side. Even Kevin Smith showed up for his own panel, for no other reason than he’s Kevin Smith and people will still line up to hear him ramble about nothing in particular.

That crowding for attention has spread from the ballrooms to the showroom. At least one end of the floor was dominated by video-game displays, and there were also booths dedicated to shilling material for films like The Collector and Sorority Row. The allure of the Hollywood dollar could also have bad implications for the Con’s core constituency.

4.The Shifting Tide

With a reported waiting list of 300 media/consumer products companies lined up for booth space here at San Diego Comic-Con International, the convention feels absolutely no restraint as regards raising booth rent. What does exist is a totally uneven playing field, where mom-n-pop comics retailers, publishers, and creators are now being asked to pay the same cost per square-foot as the international corporate giants. That being the case, it should come as no surprise that we comics exhibitors are rapidly being priced out of our own house. I heard from several comics retailers who have been here at the convention for decades that they are either cutting back for 2010, or completely pulling out of the show.
– Chuck Rozanski, Mile High Comics

More and more each year, Comic-Con has billed itself as a “pop culture” extravaganza. It’s not implausible to suggest this year marked the point of no return in that evolution. With Hollywood continuing to not only pay to play on geeky turf but re-sell geeky ideas and content to the multiplex masses, I heard more than a few local fans complain, privately, that the heart of the city’s biggest non-athletic attraction was being torn out.

That loss might also become physical soon. It was reported during the Con that organizers are already threatening to move the event unless additions are built to the Convention Center, which is hemmed in on all sides by hotels, downtown San Diego, and the San Diego Bay. It’s also no secret that officials from Los Angeles and Las Vegas have pitched their respective cities as preferable alternatives once SDCC’s contract ends three years from now.

But what convention will we – and by “we” I mean comic-book fans – even be going to by then? If the Con continues to march toward becoming a mass-media trade show, will we even have a reason to go? If a more diverse demographic continues to attend, will the exhibitors pay notice? Will sitting in the Line for hours for the chance watching maybe two or three minutes of clips – the Avatar panel, featuring 25 minutes of footage, has to be considered an exception to the rule – be worth it in three years’ time? Will camping out in the Line overnight, or holding your spot with the help of friends and family, now become an accepted practice? And if the Con does end up moving, who would go with it?

Commenting on the News

By Guest Contributor shani-o, originally posted at PostBourgie


Have you seen this story? It’s an lengthy piece by Gloria Campisi for the Philadelphia Daily News about a group of black workers at a city trash facility who are suing over racially segregated bathroom and water facilities. And apparently, these workers have been filing complaints about racism since 1999, with no investigations or follow-ups from the city.

Lawrence “Lonnie” Powell, 58, a semiskilled laborer at the city’s Northwest Transfer Station, in Roxborough, said that since he began working at the trash-handling plant in 2003 he has had to seek the superintendent’s permission to go to the bathroom — then descend five flights of stairs to use it.

Powell, who is black, said that white employees have been permitted to use a bathroom just 25 feet from his work station.

“On several occasions I’ve actually defecated on myself, trying to get down to the bathroom,” said Powell, who operates a machine that packs trash into tractor-trailers to be taken to landfills.

Among those allegations is that for several years Gill has kept a “supervisor’s bathroom,” one flight up from Gill’s office, that “only the white employees were allowed to use…whether or not they were supervisors,” Powell wrote in an affidavit last month.

“Quite often, while I’m up there, I could be sitting in my booth, and I see white guys going into the bathroom,” Powell said in an interview. “They walk right by the door and go right in the bathroom there. That’s maybe 25 feet away from where I’m at.”

But when he has to go to the bathroom, he said, he has to go down to Gill’s office to get permission, then descend five more flights.

Two other black workers, Gibson Trowery, 55, and Leslie Young Jr., 51, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in October 2007 and a lawsuit in January alleging discrimination by the city and infliction of extreme emotional distress by Gill.

Howard K. Trubman, a Center City attorney representing the black workers at the station, said that the law permits Trowery and Young to take their case to court because the PHRC did not rule within a year.

But black workers had complained in writing about what they considered racism at the station as far back as 1999, Young and Trubman said.

In August 2007, Powell aired the black employees’ grievances in a meeting with Gill and Streets Department Deputy Commissioner Carlton Williams, who then ordered Gill to open the supervisor’s bathroom to everyone, court documents show.

That meeting came three days after a job action on Aug. 17, 2007, in which no African-American employees at the station reported for work. The workers still refer to the protest as “Black Friday.”

Powell said that he later saw a black employee, who had been promoted to a supervisory position, using the “supervisor’s bathroom” several times.

But that didn’t last, and that employee went back to driving a truck, Trubman said.

Reading the comments on stories like this is often an exercise in patience. News stories about race, women’s rights, homosexuality, and Obama seem to attract bigots like flies.

Continue reading

A Vegan’s Perspective on Dogfighting and Michael Vick

by Guest Contributor Dany Sigwalt

Rumors are flying about Michael Vick’s future in the NFL. He has been conditionally reinstated to the NFL, and is now looking for a new home team.

Michael Vick, of course, was the NFL superstar quarterback who was charged as a “key figure” in April of 2007 of an extensive illegal interstate dog fighting ring. He was released from federal prison after serving 23 months. Although the Atlanta Falcons, the team he was with when he was lifted to celebrity ,dropped his contract after multiple attempts to trade him to another team in the NFL, many are still encouraging teams to “forgive him” for his actions. The NFL is now considering reinstating Vick into the NFL, with a possible four game suspension at the beginning of the 2009 season.

Last night, I got into my first conversation about Vick and really even dog fighting since this fiasco broke into the media two years ago. Up until a few weeks ago, I was convinced that single issue animal rights activism (like anti-fur or boycotting KFC until they improve their treatment of animals they eventually kill) was ineffective and merely helping people feel comfortable about choices that don’t address my core concerns regarding animal rights. We live in a world where 10 billion land animals are reared and murdered for consumption in the US alone to support an unsustainable lifestyle that harms everyone involved. I have a hard time believing that throwing red paint on a person wearing fur would create the shift in our collective consciousness to end human exploitation of nonhuman animals. Vegans often locate the root of our projection of power and violence onto animals in speciesm. Speciesm, like racism, sexism and other “-isms” involve an analysis of privilege and oppression, wherein humans project unwarranted power over nonhuman animals, simply because of the availability of exploitable bodies.

Holding both anti-racist and anti-speciest ideologies, I frequently find myself disagreeing with the majority of what I have heard and read regarding the Michael Vick Case. As much as I hate single issue campaigns, I do think that if people are unable to acknowledge the person-ness and worthiness of a good life of animals we have accepted as a species to be members of our families, there is little hope of breaking down the cognitive processes that allow us to forget that the cow on our plate was a sister and a daughter, who I think are as deserving of life as you or me. My intersectional anti-oppression ideologies force me to realize that dog fighting circles are frequently located in low income communities and communities of color where the practice has provided a resource for financial survival. Taking this into consideration, I think that the real question is how those of us who are invested in ending dog fighting rings can create a campaign, or a movement, that takes these issues into consideration, a long with the larger issues of the policing of of black bodies, economic alienation, and the powerlessness that living in an oppressive world that leads violence against human and nonhuman animals alike.

First, we must understand that the legal system is still extraordinarily racist and classist. Vick was raised in an environment where he was not taught that it is a moral “wrong” to breed and train dogs to exist for the sole purpose of fighting them. Not only that, but as mentioned above, dog fighting frequently offers an alternate source of income. The whole issue of dog fighting, to my mind, presently speaks to the overt ways in which the law exists to serve particular groups of peoples’ moral compasses. Just as the war on drugs largely exists to strengthen the prison industrial complex, and serves the unique few who are privileged enough to own stock in the corporations that are making a profit off of the incarceration of bodies of color.

Both of these laws, and their sensationalist media coverage, maintain a culture of fear of the “other,” for harming their own bodies and those of the dogs they are fighting. Vick did not hurt another human, and yet, the media swarm around him, fueled by his celebrity as well as his wealth, and yet, is vilified and presented as a monster to be feared and punished — not at all dissimilar from the ways in which black men at large are regarded in our society. Continue reading

“Jackie Chan” Gets Picked Up by Cops

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

No, not the real Jackie Chan. This is a ridiculous, infuriating story out of Indiana, about an immigrant refugee with mental and medical disabilities who went missing for thirty-five hours, much to the concern of his loved ones.

Meanwhile, while they frantically searched for him, he ended up getting picked up by the cops, arrested for public intoxication… and ridiculed by police: Police knowingly misidentify man in custody.

Authorities apparently booked the man into the lockup as “Jackie Chan.” Very funny, officer. You’ve got a mentally unstable Asian man, so you decide to have a little fun and name him after the only other Asian name you can think of. That’s racist!

Okay, it’s not the same thing as a straight-up racial slur, but they sure as hell aren’t helping a guy needs help. It looks like the Lawrence Police Department is in need of some serious sensitivity training — at the very least.

There’s a Deputy Chief interviewed for this news report who says he doesn’t find the made-up name (or the term “Oriental”) offensive or discriminatory at all. Yes, these are the people who supposed to protect and serve you, good citizens. You’ve got to be kidding me.

Addicted to Race 113: Whitewashed book covers, street lit, race and family

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Addicted to Race is New Demographic’s podcast about America’s obsession with race. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find in this episode:

The protagonist of Justine Larbalestier’s novel Liar is a young black woman with short, natural hair. So why is there a white girl with long, straight hair on the cover? Why does the publishing industry assume that blacks don’t like reading, or only read street lit? What does the story of the reconciliation of one family tell us about how to make progress when it comes to race in America? Carmen Van Kerckhove, Tami Winfrey Harris, Latoya Peterson, and Liz Dwyer discuss.

Addicted to Race is broadcast live every Sunday afternoon at 12 pm Eastern. You can listen live on our BlogTalkRadio page and call in by dialing 347-996-3958.

Right-click here to download an MP3 of Addicted to Race Episode 113
Click here to never miss an episode by subscribing to us in iTunes

click the button below to play it immediately