links for 2010-09-10

  • "This is how it feels to be judged by the sins of others who destroy in the name of your faith. You're no more responsible for 30 Christian extremists in Florida than Muslims are for the 19 hijackers of 9/11. Yet most of us, when polled, say that no Muslim house of worship should be built near the site of the 9/11 attacks. In saying this, we implicitly hold all Muslims accountable for the crime of those 19 people.

    "Now you know how it feels to be judged that way. It's inaccurate, and it's wrong."

  • "In identity politics, visibility is a pretty big deal, and it still means something to be black (and/or gay) in America; this is by no means a colorblind society. But I'm 'unseen' in a different way than Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, enjoying white privilege, and heterosexual privilege, at every turn — without my consent. It may seem a ludicrous complaint, especially since I'm not hiding my 'identities' on purpose, but what can I do — wear a sign around my neck? Emblazon a T-shirt with the phrase, 'I'm a biracial lesbian, just so you know and can respond accordingly'?"
  • "Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D), who 'is neutral in the race between King and Ali,' is not buying King’s explanation. Ervin left a comment on Maryland Politics Watch’s post, stating 'this is the second piece of mail that has left me wondering if Senator King has any idea how many people of color that she represents in her district.' Ali was equally bewildered by King’s denial, 'because clearly, to the plain eye, it’s obvious the photo has been altered. Without a doubt. So it’s one of those cases when someone says the sky is purple.'"
  • "What makes it all truly disagreeable is where they’ve gone with the concept 'what do the Kings of Leon look like when surrounded by black people?' The answer – horrifyingly – is that they are made to look positively messianic. In one hideous shot, one of the Kings, Bubba or whatever he’s called (ho, ho, they all look the same to me, ho ho) actually throws out his arms in a crucifix pose to welcome two ecstatically approaching black children. This comes fast on the heels of a shot of Bucky or Jeb or whatever striding purposefully in the beating sun leading a throng of other black children, like a pot-bellied charity shop Moses."
  • "Beyond their settings, what these future-war games have in common with the Modern Warfare series is a refusal to forthrightly acknowledge the inspiration for their subject matter. Video-game designers and players like to brag about how 'realistic' the games are, but when gamers talk about verisimilitude, they’re usually talking about graphical fidelity, about how lifelike the characters and environments are in an otherwise fantastical world — and not about how the medium reflects anything else about the actual world in which we live."
  • "The second part of this contradiction I’m pondering is that the culture of the Internet is all about what’s funny.  Lisa Nakamura made the excellent point in her talk about the 'racist griefing' that goes on in online games which often makes explicit use of racist epithets, which she explains this way: 'The n-word is funny because it is so extreme that no one could really mean it. And humor is all about ‘not meaning it.’ If you take humor and the n-word, you get enlightened racism online and attention.' She calls this 'enlightened racism.'  Nakamura goes on to argue that paradoxically, 'the worse the racism and sexism are, the more extreme and cartoonish it is, the harder it is to take seriously, and the harder it is to call it out'.”
  • "Manie Groenewald, the head of the African language studies department at the University of Johannesburg, said his students are now using a dictionary published in 1969 and another from the 1930s. Although they have been republished, they have not been updated, he said.That has left users with a dictionary whose vocabulary predates the dramatic political and social transformation in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994."

My Mic Sounds Nice, Check One, Think Two

by Latoya Peterson

“Male rappers have such an amazing amount of power and influence. If they spend their time dissing African American women, then what’s expected of the people that are buying their records; its not much to be said for them to want to spend money to hear an African American woman speak her mind.”  — MC Lyte

Reader Tatisha sent in a request for us to cover BET’s My Mic Sounds Nice, saying “If that network could revamp it’s current negative image with one show, that was it.”

And was she ever correct. Over the long weekend, I caught up with my backlogged programming and found that in just one hour, the documentary managed to outshine all of the panels and conversations on hip hop and present a truly engaging conversation about the role of women and the evolution of hip-hop culture.

Ava DuVernay’s amazingly smart documentary relies on first hand testimony from those in the industry to provide the narrative, cutting between interviews with people like Eve, Trina, Joan Morgan, Chuck D, Roxane Shante, MC Lyte, Missy Elliot, Salt N Pepa, Rah Digga, Jermaine Dupri, Swizz Beatz, and Smokey Fontaine.

“Females don’t get as much exposure as men in hip-hop.” Eve provides a strong start, as the documentary begins to frame some of the challenges for women in the hip hop space. Continue reading

“Colorblindness,” “Illuminated Individualism,” Poor Whites, and Mad Men: The Tim Wise Interview, Part 2

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Of course, I could talk to author/activist Tim Wise about 5,000 things all day long; he’s a fascinating conversationalist.  I even asked him a question on my mom’s behalf about the Tea Party.  (I relayed his response to her.)  We flowed from the problems of  “colorblind” rhetoric as social/political policy to what we do at the R, pop culture…including the politics of porn.

Cosby Show castAndrea Plaid: Let’s talk about addressing race and racism on TV, with the discussion about Mad Men and how it does or doesn’t do that.  What do you notice about how race and racism is addressed on TV, especially on shows that take place in contemporary times, like The Cosby Show, Friends, and Grey’s Anatomy?

Tim Wise: Mad Men, from what I understand, is a fairly realistic portrayal of that time. The question is, Why do people love [the show] so much, why do they so enjoy a period piece like this one, which portrays a slice of life, and a period where people of color aren’t present? That’s interesting to me sociologically.  But my question is not about Mad Men so much, as it is about other shows like Friends, which is in the contemporary period in New York, and yet there are no people of color around, or Grey’s Anatomy or the Cosby Show, where we can have representations of folks of color, and “race,” but rarely if ever deal with racism per se. So, they can have the occasional, or even central characters of color in the case of Grey’s or Cosby, but it’s as if these people never deal with racism in their lives. It’s not that every episode needs to be about race, but when virtually NO episodes are, that’s unrealistic. I mean, even a show my kids watch, in re-runs, That’s So Raven (with former Cosby star Raven Symone) had an episode about racism: a really good one in fact. If they could do it, why can’t these shows for adults do it?

AP: The flip of that is how working-class and poor whites are portrayed as a group of people others can feel free to turn their noses at due to their outspoken bigotry and/or their impoverished lives.  Latest case in point: Arlene and Sam Merlotte’s family, the Mickens, on True Blood.  Your thoughts?

TW: Well, there’s a long history of portraying bigots as backwoods “trash” or whatever, because it allows the hip, urbane TV viewer to assume an outsider stance, where we can say “oh, thank God I don’t know people like that!” Or, “I’m not like that.” It’s why whenever one of the talk shows, like Jerry Springer or whatever would have on a racist family, it would always be some family from rural Georgia or whatever, missing teeth, mispronouncing words, or whatever. But of course, people can be elites and incredibly racist, without slurs, without bad dentition, without any overt signs of bigotry, because they have the power to do their stuff in private: old boy’s networks for hiring and contracts, zoning laws that restrict where people can live and where they can’t, etc.

Continue reading

Table For Two: The Racialicious Review of Machete

By Arturo R. García and Thea Lim

Arturo: I’ll be the first to admit it: it’s easier to talk about Machete than it is to review it. On one level, this is a “critic-proof” movie, because it was ostensibly made by Robert Rodríguez as a no-brainer successor to Planet Terror, with Danny Trejo taking his archetypal (and stereotypical?) Tough Guy character into leading-man status. And, as a guy who whooped it up along with everybody else when the original faux trailer screened after Planet Terror in theatres, I really wanted to like this flick.

But I didn’t, and was having a hard time talking about it. Enter my illustrious colleague Thea.

Thea: I was all ready to waltz around the digital Racialicious office singing the praises of Machete, when it was brought to my attention that Arturo gave the film two really big thumbs down. So I suggested we have a pop culture critics’ FACEOFF!!! Or rather, ahem, a friendly chat.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Thea: So, I thought Machete was a lot of fun.

Arturo: I thought it was a dull rehash of Planet Terror and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

Thea: I have seen a bunch of Robert Rodriguez’s movies, but I don’t think I’m as learned in his oeuvre as you.

Arturo: R. Rodriguez seemingly couldn’t decide whether he wanted to go full-on over-the-top or craft an “epic.”

Thea: How do you think that your disappointment with the overall quality of the film connects to the race/gender stuff in the film? I was interested in the question that you posed — let me just directly quote you: “If you put a progressive message in an “intentionally bad” film, do you reduce it to a punchline?” Continue reading