NotSoMuch: The Truth About Black-On-White Crime

By Guest Contributor Daniel José Older, originally published on View from the Crossroads of Life and Death

Ripped gentrification signI took this white dude to the hospital seven years ago; he’d left his apartment door unlocked and then got pistol whipped when he came home to find someone going through his stuff.

Now why would I so clearly remember a minor injury from ages ago? Because in my eight years working EMS in Bed-Stuy, East New York, Harlem and the Bronx, that was the singular, solitary white patient I’ve had who was a victim of violence at the hands of a person of color.  I remember sitting in the Woodhull ER with him. He was holding an ice pack to his little forehead gash and going “God! I can’t believe I got pistol whipped! It’s like…it’s like a movie!” At that point I had already given up checking the newspapers in the morning to see if any of my crazy jobs from the night before would show up. They never do; the patients are all black and brown and their tragedies, no matter how gruesome, are automatically deemed run-of-the-mill and unworthy for news attention.

In general, the white patients we get are either little old ladies; drunks who tried to play frogger across McGuinness Boulevard; college kid anxiety attacks and overdoses. We also get the occasional “All these Black people are trying to rape and kill me so I can’t leave my apartment!!” and sometimes “I stopped taking my meds and I’m about to do something really really bad.”

All this is to say that the amount of time and energy that white culture puts into being afraid of the crimes that will be committed against them in the ghetto could be better spent thinking about something that actually happens.

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The Kids Are All Right, But Not the Queer Movement

By Guest Contributor Daisy Hernandez, cross-posted from Colorlines

Every once in awhile, a Hollywood movie hits such a perfect note of familiarity that you leave the theater feeling like you just watched a film about your white friends and it was funny, sweet–marvelous, even. And, as you’d expect, messed up on race. Not messed up in a Mel Gibson sort of way. It’s nothing outright hateful, but rather annoying and mundane, like when the white gay guy says his décor is, ya know, “Asiany,” and you debate whether to spill red wine on his new, white rug or give him an Edward Said book.

This is the charm of Lisa Cholodenko’s new summer hit, The Kids Are All Right. Her white characters are so familiar and even so likable that you want to believe all they need is a better reading list. If only race relations were so easy.

Ostensibly, The Kids Are All Right is about two lesbian moms and their teenage kids who want to meet their sperm donor dad. It’s an all-star cast with Julianne Moore playing Jules, the flaky, new age mom, opposite Annette Bening, who delightfully remade herself into the soft butch mom Nic. There’s Oscar buzz and critics are rightly praising Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) for the film’s solid script and the actors for stellar performances. Salon’s Andrew O’Hehire declared that the movie “ranks with the most compelling portraits of an American marriage, regardless of sexuality, in film history.”

It’s true. This is a film about two married people who are bored by their middle age sex lives, worried about their son’s choice of friends, and still recounting with giggles how they first met while arguing about how much one of them is drinking. They’re complicated, self-involved and, in their best moments, genuinely loving.

From another perspective though, The Kids Are All Right is also a revealing portrait of where the gay movement has been headed for some time now: white suburbia, Mexican gardener included.

The film is set in Southern California, where Nic and Jules have a comfortable, three-bedroom home, arguments about composting, a glass (or three) of red wine with dinner, a daughter (Alice in Wonderland‘s Mia Wasikowska) and son (Josh Hutcherson) testing the limits of parental authority. They’re the all-American, white family next door.

The political reference point for their home life is not a group of pissed-off drag queens circa 1969. It’s a Mad Men-style 1950s nostalgia. Jules is the stay-at-home mom trying her hand at a landscaping business and feeling that her doctor wife doesn’t appreciate her. Nic is the breadwinner who has to have a drink when she gets home from work. The scenario is inviting, familiar, a storyline about American family life that we want to believe, gay or het.

Like cinematic white heteros and gays in San Francisco’s Castro district, Nic and Jules’ contact with people of darker hues is limited. There’s a black restaurant hostess (Yaya DaCosta, a runner up from America’s Next Top Model), a Mexican gardener (Joaquín Garrido, Like Water for Chocolate), and an Indian teenage love interest (Kunal Sharma, The Cheetah Girls). By the end of the film, the three people of color have been dumped, fired or left behind in confusion.

To be fair to Cholodenko, she was probably just following Hollywood’s race rules. The moment a main character is darker than white bread, the movie becomes about race and doesn’t appeal to a wider (read: white) audience.

But it’s also a portrait of the white gay movement, which has struggled with its race issues for some time now, most publicly after Prop. 8 passed in California and hysterical white gay boys blamed black voters for keeping them from the joys of registering at Tiffany’s. If that happened though it was largely because the movement has failed to build institutions where people of color, like those in The Kids Are All Right, play more than minor roles.

A few months ago, a friend recounted walking into a meeting with the directors of statewide LGBT organizations. It was a majority white room. That the convening looked more like a Tea Party gathering than a 2008 Vote Obama youth rally should have been on the top of the agenda. It wasn’t.

Part of the success of Cholodenko’s movie rests in that, intentioned or not, she’s rendered on the big screen the racial realities of this new gay world order. When Jules is struggling with guilt about what she’s doing outside her matrimonial bed, she thinks Luis, the Mexican gardener she’s hired, is smirking at her, which he is. With comedic self-righteousness, Jules points out that he blows his nose too often. “I have allergies,” Luis explains. Fumbling through her words, Jules accuses of him having a drug problem and fires him.

The audience laughs. I laughed. At Jules, at her hysterical reaction, at how uncomfortably true it is that behind the white lesbian niceties can sit the old racist stereotypes of a Gov. Jan Brewer.

It’s a small moment in the film but a reminder of how the gay world mimics the straight one, where economic power goes hand in hand with a racial hierarchy. Were Luis, the Mexican gardener, to get home, take off his overalls and turn into a flaming queen, it would be hard to argue convincingly that he and Jules have a political struggle in common these days. Not impossible, but certainly a stretch.

links for 2010-07-29

  • "Aside from stopping the requirement that the police initiate immigration checks, the judge also blocked provisions that allowed the police to hold anyone arrested for any crime until his immigration status was determined.

    “'Requiring Arizona law enforcement officials and agencies to determine the immigration status of every person who is arrested burdens lawfully present aliens because their liberty will be restricted while their status is checked,' she wrote."

  • "Pop culture doesn't just reflect popular trends and ideas, it also helps create them. For example, the average person who grew up in the 80s with limited exposure to Asian-Americans might develop a stereotypical view of Asians being as meek and exotic — a view influenced by films like Karate Kid, in which Mr. Miyagi fuels the stereotype that paints Asians as exotic martial artists. Over time, not only do such pop culture phenomenons help create stereotypes, they're recycled and later reinforced in future pop incarnations."
  • "Benjamin Buford Blue, better known as "Bubba" is Forest Gump's dim witted best friend. If you thought Gump was a loveable idiot, just take a look at Bubba. Bubba's slow ways will charm you… or offend you with its blatant similarities to Stepin Fetchit.

    "Bubba loves Forrest and Forrest loved Bubba. The two join the army and their bond becomes rock solid. They do menial chores together, clean their rifles together, and fight in the Vietnamese jungle together. Always side by side like a delicious black and white cookie."

  • "Who's that guy suggesting a porno mag featuring natural breasts should be called Saggy? Why, it's Joel Stein, who recently regaled the nation with tales of all those weird Indian people in his hometown. At the tender age of 25, Stein was already hilarious!"

Call for Submissions: ‘Dear Sister’ and ‘Occupied Bodies’


Dear Sister: Call For Submission

Dear Sister is an anthology of letters and other works created for survivors of sexual violence from other survivors and allies.  It is a collection of hope and strength through words and art.

The pathway for a survivor of rape and sexual violence is an unlit road of pain, isolation, and doubt.  In the weeks, months, and oftentimes, years following, the healing process can be difficult to navigate without a community surrounding her. Imagine a compilation of literary arms bound together to offer words of understanding, solidarity, and love. Dear Sister is an accessible and inclusive offering of hope, voice, and courage; seeking writers and artists who wish to light a piece of that road and lift up other women in her healing.

It is an impossible task to write a letter to every survivor of rape, to every woman who lives with an invisible scar.  Instead of thinking of the face of the person you are writing to, reflect on the image of an unlit path, a road with no clear footing. Your offering will be one light, among many, to make visible what was previously unseen, to illuminate what was hidden.  You are providing a few more steps for someone to walk steadily toward their own recovery.  Your words can be an anchor, a meditation, a prayer, a strong embrace or a gentle touch. The purpose of this anthology is not to retell stories of assault, but to help others regain a sense of balance and wholeness. Continue reading

SDCC Notebook: The M. Night Aftermath

By Arturo R. García

One of the “highlights” I missed during San Diego Comic-Con last week was the reception M. Night Shyamalan got during a showing of the trailerfor his next film:

The trailer was playing, the audience was into it, until … the screen read “From M. Night Shyamalan.” A huge collective GROAN exhaled from the crowd. Even worse, when the trailer finished, “boos” were thrown at the screen.”

It turns out the mockery for Shyamalan and Devil, on which he served as a producer, wasn’t confined to the West Coast, according to The New York Post: Shyamalan was booed, and “everyone erupted in laughter,” according to someone in the audience.

Of course, M. Night got himself into this position thanks to his film adaptation of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, which we’ve covered, both with our own stories and by sharing stories from Racebending. I got the chance to talk to Racebending’s Michael Le about his group’s protest of the Airbender film, where the site goes from here, and whether the film’s epic critical flop has rendered the series unsalvageable.

Off with his head, hipster racism & scapegoating poor folks: True Blood S03E06

Hosted by Thea Lim, featuring Tami Winfrey Harris, Joseph Lamour, Latoya Peterson and Andrea Plaid

Tara’s Escape, Sookie’s Rescue

Thea: Was it just me, or were there like a bazillion storylines going on this episode? I don’t remember ever seeing so many concurrent plot lines on this show before. I am impressed that they can all keep in straight. (What?? Did Thea just say something nice about True Blood??) But to start with our girl, goooooo Tara! I was pretty thrilled not only to see Tara taking her power back, but to see a woman rescue Sookie for once. What did we think of the scenes where Tara attacks Franklin and where Sookie and Tara take out the werewolf?

Latoya: I’m not going to lie: my very first, immediate reaction when Tara was like “Sookie, I’m here and we are going to get out of here-” was to put up the black power fist. Go Tara! Then my immediate, second, sarcastic thought was “Okay, so wait, Tara, after all she’s been through, *still* has to save Sookie? She has to fuck her abuser to get away and pluck Sookie from the pedestal?” Then Tara grabbed the mace and silenced my internal squabbling.

Andrea: I was thrilled how Tara used Franklin’s weaknesses–his “freakiness” and his vampiric aversion to daylight–to get away from him. (Though I’m going to be honest: James Frain’s voice is pure aural sex; this scene sealed this for me. I just wish this scene–really, all the Tara/Franklin scenes since their night at the motel–was much more consensual so I could hear his voice being better utilized, like agreed-upon dirty talk while sexing it up.) But I just thought Tara using the mace was like Tara being tied up: all for the visual shock. I just think Franklin’s going to wake up with a bad headache and even more physically vicious.

Thea: My movie watching companion was yelling “use the ax! take off his head!!” while Tara was bashing in Franklin’s skull. Methinks Franklin might survive the bludgeoning. In any case this was the goriest episode I’ve seen in a while.

Latoya: Oh me too – I was yelling at the TV “take the mace! Stake him to make sure he’s dead!”

Joe: Finally, this is the kind of Tara I love! Cunning, quick on her feet and clever. One thing though- you can only kill a vampire in the Sookieverse by cutting off the head or staking. Frankly, if you lived in a world with vampires, wouldn’t you think to know that, just in case? I’m totally afraid that he’s going to wake up and become abusive like we never have seen from him before- and coming from Franklin, that must and will be something awful.

Thea: Were the scenes of female kickback gratifying, hyperviolent, or just gross? Or all three?

Andrea: I didn’t feel a swell of girl power watching Tara and Sookie whupping that were-guard’s ass and escaping. I know that some commenters think I’m being a bit harsh about Sookie (like I care), but I think that sequence underlines off-centeredness about Sookie and Tara’s friendship: Tara’s trying to rescue her friend and Sookie’s trying to rescue her betraying (and quite foolish) man.   Continue reading

links for 2010-07-28

  • "Interestingly, there appears to be a correlation between a region’s percentage of online females using social networks and its gender gap. The narrowest gender gap exists in Latin America, where the percentage of female social networkers is about 2.4% higher than the percentage of male social networkers. That gap rises to 3.8% in North America, 6.2% in Europe, and 8.3% in Asia Pacific."
  • "Worse is Hart's use of the 'perpetual victims' claim. This implies that Indians are pretending to be victims to get rich from casinos. That they have no real reason to complain.

    "In reality, Americans are still victimizing Indians in many ways: broken treaties, budget shortfalls, court decisions, environmental harm, racial discrimination, etc. It's not 'playing the victim card' if you're an actual victim. It's called demanding justice, something minorities have had to do for centuries."

  • "Rob Walker (author of the fascinating book Buying In: What We Buy and Who We Are) sent me a link to a post at Drinkin’ and Dronin’ of a 1954 Levi Strauss brochure about 'western Indian lore.' It’s a nice round-up of stereotypes and appropriations of Native Americans. We start off with an angry, bare-chested (and Levis-clad) man with a tomahawk, shield, moccasins, and headdress; I’d guess he’s supposed to be a warrior doing a war dance…"
  • "'Fashion media personality Najwa Moses has her own set of qualified Black women who should have received a call. “I can think of a few qualified Black women, and men too.'

    "Najwa says. 'My picks would be celebrity stylists Patti Wilson, June Ambrose, Kithe Brewster, Memsor Kamaraké, and Sydney Bolden.' Najwa also says that Michaela angela Davis herself would have been a good pick."

    "Najwa, a dominant force in the world of fashion media—particularly new media–also shared her immediate reaction: 'I was blown away—in shock really.' Najwa tells CLUTCH. 'I mean, how could such a prestigious title who is deeply rooted in its target audience let someone who is not even apart of the African Diaspora detonate our image?'”

Framing Children’s Deviance

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, Ph.D, originally posted at Sociological Images

Leontine G. sent in a troubling example of the framing of children’s deviance, and their own complicity in this framing. While we usually try to keep text down to a minimum on SocImages, this one needs to be handled with care. So please forgive the unusual length of this post.

Leontine included two links: one to a Today show story about a 7-year-old boy who took his family’s car on a joyride and got caught by police, and one to a CNN story about a 7-year-old boy who took his family’s car on a joyride and got caught by police. Different 7-year-olds. One white, one black.

The white boy, Preston, is interviewed with his family on the set of the Today show.  Knowing his kid is safe, his Dad describes the event as “funny” and tells the audience that if this could happen to a “cotton candy all-American kid like Preston,” then “it could happen to anybody.”

When the host, Meredith Vieira, asks Preston why hid from the police, he says, “cause I wanted to,” and she says, “I don’t blame you actually.”  With Preston not too forthcoming, his Mom steps in to say that he told her that “he just wanted to know what it felt like to drive a car.”  When Vieira asks him why he fled from the police, he replies with a shrug. Vieira fills in the answer, “You wanted to get home?”

Vieira then comments on how they all then went to church. The punishment?  Grounded for four days without TV or video games. Vieira asks the child, “Do you think that’s fair?” He says yes. And she continues, “Do you now understand what you did?” He nods and agrees. “And that maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing?” He nods and agrees. “You gonna get behind the wheel of a car again?” He says no. Then she teases him about trying out model toy cars.

They conclude that this incident just goes to show that “Any little kid, you never know what can happen …” and closes “I’ll be seeing you at church buddy boy!”

The video:

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