5-31-12 Links Roundup

For black women, particularly those in the public eye, the answer to this question is often a resounding “Yes.” They are required to be noble examples of black excellence. To be better. To be respectable. And the bounds of respectability are narrowly defined by professional and personal choices reflecting the social mores of the majority culture—patriarchal, Judeo-Christian, heteronormative, and middle class.

Spencer ended up taking home an Oscar later that month for Best Supporting Actress (Davis lost to Meryl Streep for Best Actress), but Smiley had articulated a discomfort many in the black community felt about their big-screen roles. For all its popularity and acclaim, The Help illustrates that Hollywood still filters (and distorts) the lives and histories of minorities through the eyes of the majority; celebrates white saviors; and, 72 years post-Mammy, is still more comfortable casting black women as maids than as prime ministers, action heroes, or romantic leads.

Where Smiley trod lightly, some people have been more explicit in their criticism of Davis and Spencer. In an open letter to Davis on the film-industry site Indiewire, black filmmaker Tanya Steele wrote, “Currently, the vanguard of black culture is still healing wounds from their past. Wounds that racism has created, wounds that drive you to gain acceptance in the larger culture. The acknowledgment comes in the form of a paycheck, exposure, star status, acceptance. An acceptance that is more important than our legacy. Isn’t it that simple? How else could a black woman…take the role?”

In particular, students have expressed frustration with the “monopolization” of Mexican politics and media. The example New America Media provides is a company named Televisa, which along with TV Azteca, controls 95 percent of Mexico’s TV market.

Similarly, students believe PRI has a monopoly of sorts on Mexican politics. The party has ruled Mexico unchallenged for seven decades, and has a very good shot of winning the July 1 elections.

Furthermore, students see these two monopolistic forces as being in cahoots with one another. Documents obtained by Proceso magazine suggest Peña Nieto paid Televisa for favorable media coverage while he was governor of Mexico State.

The Gates Foundation and its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa are working to build up a network of private seed companies and private agro-dealers across Africa. The goal is to increase average fertilizer use in Africa by more than a factor of six and to decrease the distance each African farmer must travel to reach a shop selling seeds and inputs. Those who support this vision have heaped praise on Obama and the G8′s New Alliance. In fact, with both Republican and Democratic support, this is one of the only things both parties agree on.

But what do actual Africans think? Not just the elite, but the peasant farmers? Charity, for her part, is frustrated. Most of Kenya’s land is arid or semi-arid, making agriculture difficult if not impossible. But Ngong Hills receive adequate rainfall – or they did anyway. The climate crisis has changed the previously reliable rainfall patterns within Kenya and even a wet area like Ngong Hills is suffering. The stunted, diseased corn one sees there was planted from the “best” store-bought seed and ample chemical fertilizer was applied. The crop failure was not due to lack of inputs.

In another part of the country, about an hour from Nairobi, Samuel Nderitu points out more failed corn crops. Corn – or maize as Kenyans call it – has been the main staple since Kenya was colonized by the British. But the corn growing on the demonstration farm of Nderitu’s NGO, Grow Biointensive Agricultural Center of Kenya (G-BIACK) is healthy and thriving. So are G-BIACK’s other vegetable crops and fruit trees. Why will he harvest a successful crop when his next-door neighbor will not?

Over the past month, a “scandal” has erupted over the exposure of Secret Service agents who have used the services of sex workers. It is important to remember that scandals are created from popular imagination. So why has this news in particular captured people’s imagination? The story is often referred to as an “embarrassment” and a “public relations” problem for the Obama administration. Missing from these descriptions are the voices of the women who were victimized by agents of the United States. Let’s be very clear: sex work iswork. And refusing to pay a sex worker for his/her services is a form of violence and slavery, in the same way that refusing to pay any worker for his/her labor is violence and slavery. An even more appalling incident in Brazil came to light recently, where three U.S. Marines ran over a female sex worker with a car after she tried to open the car door to demand payment for her work. Although the Brazilian police wanted to press charges, the Marines were immediately deported (or smuggled out, let’s be real) back to the United States where they were supposedly “punished,” far out of the reach of the Brazilian justice system to which they should have been held accountable.

So where does this leave the women who were victimized by these agents of the United States? Calling these acts of violence, deception and manipulation a “sex scandal” diminishes the horrific nature of these acts, perpetrated by those who have immense power over the vulnerable woman-bodied people who survived these interactions. Similarly, as the media loves to use the phrase “sex scandal” for instances of rape and other types of sexual violence, the portrayals have again devolved into exotifying brown-skinned women, particularly sex workers, as simultaneously sexually deviant and unrapeable.

The Evolution of Snow White

By Guest Contributors Paul and Renee, cross-posted from Fangs For The Fantasy

One of the newest trends we’re seeing in speculative fiction is the revisiting of fairy tales, especially in a modern setting–they’re almost a unique sub-genre of the Urban Fantasy and Fantasy genres.

And, in many ways, this is very important to do as fairy tales are some of the very first stories many of us are exposed to as children. Unfortunately, they’re also very old stories–and contain a lot of very old and sadly prevalent tropes that have stayed with us over the years. Generations of children have grown up with stories of helpless princesses, passively waiting for a handsome (and anonymous–after all, any man will do if he’s in the right place at the right time) prince to save them from abject peril. There is no question that this iconic image–repeated over and over in fairy tales, has had a profound effect on our culture, our society, and our view of gender roles, and there have been numerous excellent posts deconstructing the damaging messages of fairy tales.

There is no fairy tale that can be considered more centre stage than Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. An ancient tale, it rose to prominence when it became Disney’s first full-length animated movie and was forever cemented front and centre as not just a fairy tale–but the fairy tale. The ultimate tale of the protagonist–poor, helpless, sweet and oh-so-fair Snow White is attacked by her evil stepmother, while she helplessly sings to wildlife and eventually resides in a glass coffin to be rescued.

This is clearly an image that needs challenging–and, appropriately, Snow White is front and centre of the fairy tales that are being revised for the modern world. Between Once Upon A Time, Mirror Mirror, and Snow White and the Huntsman, we see a very different princess. The modern Snow White does not lay in glass coffins awaiting rescue. Her reaction is to attack, not to run away in fright, or maybe sing a little ditty to bluebirds. The modern Snow White kicks arse, she wields a sword, actively hunts down the Evil Queen, and she stands shoulder-to-shoulder with her Prince Charming.

One of the things that we love most about Once Upon a Time is that, while Mary Margaret may be the soggiest lettuce in town, Snow White is a highwaywoman, a fighter, and a swashbuckler–every bit Prince James’s equal. Snow White is no longer a prize to be claimed, no longer an object to be won, and no longer a passive element in what is supposed to be her own story. And if she needs rescuing, she is quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much.

This is both so very needed and very empowering. It’s powerful to not only create new stories that empower marginalised bodies, but re-examine these old tropes and challenge them in a way that not only sets a new paradigm but highlights how wrong the old paradigm was.

Continue reading

Study Confirms White Privilege Will Be Televised–And Kids Are Still Watching

By Arturo R. García

Courtesy: Harry Cutting Photography

You know how it goes: It’s just a television show, we’re told. Why can’t you just enjoy it?

Now a new study in Communication Research is giving more weight to critical analysis of the medium. In surveying a group of 400 black and white pre-teens in Midwestern communities, two researchers say black children end up feeling worse about themselves after prolonged exposure to electronic media, as did white girls.
Continue reading

Race + Politics: Florida’s Invisible Latino Voters

By Arturo R. García

Courtesy ThinkProgress.org

While the national media’s been hovering over Mitt Romney’s awkward bromance with Donald Trump and his campaign’s inability to spell, it’s been neglecting something legitimately dangerous going on in Florida.

According to Think Progress, Governor Rick Scott has ordered his office to purge thousands of eligible voters from the rolls under suspicion of being “non-citizens.” The most likely to be targeted? Democrats, independent voters, and Latin@s. Isn’t that a shock?

Florida joins South Carolina, Michigan, and several other states moving to suppress voters–states with Republican leadership, it should be noted.

But what makes the Florida story even more disconcerting is the lack of response from Big Journalism. As TP’s Adam Peck writes:

The story of a sitting governor of a state with a history of presidential election shenanigans knowingly purging his own, eligible constituents from the voter rolls is the definition of major news, and yet remarkably, in the first five months of the year, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today have published a total of zero articles about Scott’s actions. The New York Times did slightly better, printing one story on page 16 of the Friday, May 18th edition. The article ran under the credulous headline: “Florida Steps Up Effort Against Illegal Voters.”

Peck also notes that Scott’s campaign resembles the infamous purge by then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris just months before the Bush/Gore election in 2000.

Call For Applications: AAPI Youth Summit At The White House

The White House Office of Public Engagement (WH OPE) and the East Coast Asian American Student Union (ECAASU) cordially invites you to a Youth Summit on Friday, July 6, 2012, from 9:00AM–4:00PM at The White House, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C.

The aim for this Youth Summit is to:

  • Engage today’s youth to have a more active voice in civic and political engagement
  • Educate today’s youth about important issues facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community
  • Empower the youth to take action in their respective communities/campuses.

In order to ensure participation from all regions of the country, please submit an application by June 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm. Limited number of seats are available, so please fill out your application as soon as possible.

Please complete the application at http://www.ecaasu.org/site/youth-summit/.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact ECAASU at nicole.fink@ecaasu.org.

Feeling Is Believing: Why Obama’s Hair Matters

By Guest Contributor Danielle Fuentes Morgan

Courtesy: Politico.com

It’s a question President Obama has undoubtedly been asked before. It’s almost a universal African American experience, except this time it was asked under different circumstances and for a different reason.

“Can I touch your hair?”

The photo of this moment, three-years-old at this point, is making the rounds again. You’ve seen it in your inbox and on social networking sites—President Obama, bent at his waist while a five-year-old African American boy wearing a tie and dress pants touches his hair. It seems innocuous enough—meriting a few awwws certainly—but leaving some to wonder what all the fuss is about. Cute, sure. But is this news? Absolutely.
Continue reading

Interview: Fabio Fernandes on We See A Different Frontier Project [Culturelicious]

By Guest Contributor Jaymee Goh, cross-posted from Silver Goggles

Courtesy The Future Fire

Earlier this month, I posted about The Future Fire’s PeerBackers project, We See A Different Frontier, an anthology that seeks to address a large hole in SFF: the voices of people from formerly colonized regions. So I caught up with Fabio Fernandes to talk about this project.

Fernandes, as you may or may not know, is a Brazilian SFF writer who makes a living as a professor of Creative Writing and translator at a university in São Paulo. I follow him on Twitter, and he blogs at The Cogsmith.

JG: How did the anthology idea come about?

FF: I had been thinking of editing an anthology of Latin American stories for a while now. By the end of 2009, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer invited me to be assistant editor for Latin America in their awesome Best American Fantasy collection. Unfortunately, the BAF ended in 2010, just before the volume four, which would have been my debut. In 2011, however, I started thinking that I could at the very least try to edit an anthology of Brazilian science fiction in English to make it available to the English-speaking public. I managed to get a few stories, but most of the authors couldn’t translate them neither rewriter them in English, and I was too busy to do it all by myself. Then I saw an ad in the Outer Alliance list published by Djibril al-Ayad, creator and editor of The Future Fire, asking for guest editors for two special issues. I saw that as an opportunity–but this time not only for Brazil or Latin America. I thought I could shout out louder. So I drafted a project about colonialism and sent it his way. He liked it and here we are now.

JG: What is your vision for it?

FF: I thought of the particular place humanity is in right now. We are still at war in many places around the world, but something is a-changing: the socialist Second World has pretty much ended almost 25 years ago, and the First World and the Third World are, if not changing places, are definitely suffering major alterations in their structure. I think it’s past time we discuss that in our fiction, and what fiction suits best the discussion of the zeitgeist–the spirit of times, our times and the times to come–than science fiction? A few authors are doing it now (Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Neal Stephenson, Alastair Reynolds, and Ian McDonald come to mind–but guess what? All male Anglos. I want to make clear I have absolutely nothing against them or their works–I love them all, and I find them true trailblazers. I just wanted to see more people from different countries, speaking different languages, from different ethnicities, genders, writing about the same issues. Or similar issues from their own POVs.

Continue reading

Quoted: Author Kate Hart’s Findings On Diversity On Young Adult Lit Covers

I had hoped that without “gatekeepers,” self-publishing and indie presses would make up some of the ground in minority representation. Instead, out of the 200+ non-PW titles I surveyed, not a single one appears to portray a person of color.

Now, I realize this chart is not representative of all self-published and indie titles. A real assessment of self-published titles should start with Amazon (if anyone cares to take that on, I’m glad to spread the word of your results!). It’s likely the chart says more about Goodreads voters*** than it does about representation– but that possibility doesn’t cheer me up much either.

So how are the gatekeepers doing?

Courtesy Kate Hart

- From “Uncovering YA Covers: 2011″