3-15-12 Links Roundup

See: it is all part of the Natalie Holloway/Kaylee Anthony/Chandra Levy/Yeardley Love –esque way that Americans select, with prejudice, whose crosses and battles to bear. Indeed, we have a penchant for getting engrossed and engaged over ills, death and wrongs when done to certain victims … yet we tacitly and practically ignore others.

For example, the mainstream press didn’t really cover much the condescending remarks Rush had about First Lady Michelle Obama even though no other president’s wife had been on the receiving end of such verbal assaults. Black radio and press was all over it though.

But, let it be a Black woman and you hear only crickets chirping at the mainstream press studios.

Witnesses told ABC News they heard Zimmerman pronounce aloud to the breathless residents watching the violence unfold “it was self-defense,” and place the gun on the ground.

But after the shooting, a source inside the police department told ABC News that a narcotics detective and not a homicide detective first approached Zimmerman. The detective pepppered Zimmerman with questions, the source said, rather than allow Zimmerman to tell his story. Questions can lead a witness, the source said.

Another officer corrected a witness after she told him that she heard the teen cry for help.

The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.

The Sanford Police Department refused to release 911 calls by witnesses and neighbors.

The 19 prisons in this country were built to hold 8,000 people. These days, 24,000 are stuffed into them, leaving inmates to string hammocks from the ceiling or bed down on the floor of a library that is now too full of prisoners to hold any books.

Such overcrowding is not uncommon in Latin America. But after a grisly prison fire killed 360 inmates in Honduras last month and a massacre killed 44 in Mexico less than a week later, prison administrators and investigators are warning that the problem has sunk to new depths, spurred by the growing power of criminal groups and the mounting demand to stop them.

Public frustration with murders, robberies, rapes and assaults has led to law enforcement crackdowns that emphasize arrests over prosecution, swelling prisons and jails sometimes two, three or four times beyond capacity with inmates who have typically never gone on trial, much less been convicted.

That view, widely shared, highlights part of the reason that race still matters. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion. But, as the billboard campaign reminds us, the conservative effort now underway to overturn the court’s decision is not just being waged on women’s reproductive rights, but on the black woman as a person.

Do white women recognize the difference?

“When you add racism to sexism, oppression manifests itself differently,” said Paris Hatcher, executive director of an Atlanta-based women’s advocacy group called SPARK Reproductive Justice Now. “In this country, it’s okay to shame and blame the black woman, to pathologize and criminalize her behavior. Black women become the nannies, the mammies, the Jezebels.”

There are an estimated 123 million white women in the United States, and roughly 16.4 million of them live in poverty, according to the census. Of 20.7 million black women, almost 6.6 million live in poverty. The poverty numbers for both groups are awful, although the consequences of poverty and sexism increase exponentially when racism also is a factor.

As the saying goes, you can’t be what you can’t see. But this year at South by Southwest, when it came to the usually invisible, there was more to see than ever — and in prominent, big-ballroom setups. “How to Be Black” author Baratunde Thurston keynoted, as did cyborg anthropologist Amber Case and Code for America’s Jennifer Pahlka (oh, and two white dudes).

Some of that prominence was a reflection of objective achievements out in the world and the expansion of the conference’s oeuvre: Thurston was a social media superstar before he published his book; Jill Abramson is the first female executive editor of the New York Times; Lena Dunham has a hot new HBO show; Mona Eltahawy has been central to discussions of recent upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa. But some of it was just a concerted effort by some cheerful agitators who have juggled calling out problems and proposing solutions.

Why should anyone care about the demographic breakdown of a bunch of semi-professional badge-wearers? South by Southwest isn’t just an excuse to Instagram breakfast tacos or jockey for party spots on the corporate dime; it’s also one of the few places for technology, film, music and activism to converge in one place. “This is where people come to see the emerging talents. The A-listers at SouthBy will be the real A-Listers in a couple of years,” said festival regular Rachel Sklar. And though there’s always going to be some sorting, it’s still a place where it’s slightly more possible to break in and access those resources.

The way we see race handled in the offices of Sterling Cooper is an accurate depiction of the perverse relationship that existed between blacks and Madison Avenue at the time, and indeed since the beginning of the modern advertising age. As the industry began to mature in the 1920s and 1930s, manufacturers of brand-name goods mostly ignored black consumers; the pages of black newspapers were dominated by advertisements for beauty care products specific to the black market, cigarettes, and liquor. This was in part because nobody thought black consumers had much money, but mostly because nobody thought much about them at all. Even those companies that did recognize the considerable purchasing power that blacks had didn’t advertise to them for one simple reason: They were scared for their brands to be associated with blacks. An industry handbook published in 1932 tried to encourage companies to market to blacks by reassuring them that black America was so invisible to white people that it was possible to reach those shoppers in relative anonymity.

This thesis would prove to be false. After World War II, seeking a competitive advantage over market leader Coca-Cola, Pepsi’s staunchly liberal CEO Walter Mack decided to radically expand his company’s marketing efforts in the underserved black community. He hired a team of black sales reps and marketers to blanket the rural Black Belt of the South and the urban enclaves of the North. This team was responsible for hiring some of the first black fashion models used by a major brand. They created the first in-store, point-of-purchase displays targeting black shoppers and hired Duke Ellington to endorse Pepsi from the stage during his shows. Some even went so far as to marry their brand with the moral uprightness of the emerging civil-rights movement, disseminating information about Coca-Cola CEO Robert W. Woodruff’s outspoken support for segregationist policies and politicians.

Black consumers, intensely loyal to institutions that showed them respect, turned out in droves. The campaign was a great success. It was so successful that it had to be killed, and quick. While Coca-Cola remained wholesome and All-American, Pepsi was becoming known as “nigger Coke.” Fearing a total collapse among white soda drinkers, at a conference for regional Pepsi bottling executives in 1949, the otherwise progressive Walter Mack took to the podium and said he would not let Pepsi become, in so many words, “a nigger drink.” His top black sales rep, who was in attendance, got up and walked out. Shortly thereafter, the company’s black marketing efforts were quietly scuttled. In 1953, singer/actress Polly Bergen was rolled out as “the Pepsi-Cola Girl,” a fresh-faced, lily-white makeover for the brand.

  • Anonymous

    The murder of Trayvon Martin deserves more coverage!  Thanks for including it in your links (the kid who was killed in Orlando).  The near silence around this outrage is chilling.  The failure of the police to be held accountable or to even respond to his death should send shivers of fear down the spines of all Americans. 

    The police have perfected the “we are investigating and don’t know what happened as of this time” trope for the murder of POC.  They never seem to have any problem rushing to judgement when a white person is killed.  And of course, with the right wing Republicans firmly in control of Florida, there is no one who will actually investigate this child’s death.  I want to scream and throw things.

    • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

       I found out about it through Gawker. I cannot believe that the media is silent about it.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com AngryBroomstick

    Racialicious, this link is old (I wrote this a few months ago), however, I would like to share it with fellow Desi and Native (Indigenous) peeps. I wrote a play about two Indians – Asian Indian and American Indian, meeting each other in the woods. I hope y’all like this.

    http://deadamericandream.blogspot.com/2011/12/118-indian-americanamerican-indian.html

    peace!

    DMP (Deaf Muslim Punk)