5-10-12 Links Roundup

On the surface, these shows couldn’t be more different. VH1’s “Basketball Wives” is a reality show centered on working and lower middle class black and brown women who have been in relationships with NBA players. “Girls,” as many critics have noted, is a dazzling display of millennial white privilege.Still, I see parallels in the way these programs use racism and sexism. And I’m chagrinned to report how numb I’ve become to these hijinks. In the interest of detoxing, I’m going to point out what is likely obvious to professional observers of race and pop culture and vaguely nauseating to others. Here, three ways “Basketball Wives” and “Girls” are disturbingly similar:

1. “Basketball Wives” and “Girls” deploy casual racism:

On “Fantasy Island,” last night’s episode of “Basketball Wives,” resident party girl Suzie Ketchum repeatedly asks if the indigenous people of Tahiti are “still cannibals.” While her cast-mates dismiss her question, the producers are sure to reinforce her racist air-headedness by showing a group of Tahitian dancers and singers trailing “the girls” all the way to their suites.

Asian Americans are often thought of as the “model minority”—smart, hardworking, obedient and humble. Lin is only the fourth American-born basketball player of Asian descent to make it to the NBA, and all of these “positive” stereotypes have been invoked to explain his success on the court. His intelligence is frequently noted (e.g., ESPN’s Hubie Brown referencing Lin’s “high basketball IQ”), as is his diligence and proclivity for hard work. Lin’s successes have also been framed in terms of his obedience, citing his ability to follow orders and execute former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni pick ’n’ roll system, and his interest in interpersonal harmony with his teammates.

Although these may seem like compliments, both to Lin and to Asian Americans more generally, positive stereotypes are not as positive as the name implies. Psychological research shows that positive stereotypes, just like their negative counterparts, have a host of harmful effects. According to our recent research, many people (including Asian Americans) dislike positive stereotypes because these stereotypes make them feel like they are only being seen for their race and not for the unique characteristics that they may possess. Lin’s success, instead of being attributed to his natural talent, fearlessness and athleticism, is attributed instead to traits seen as inherent in his race. Positive stereotypes can also perpetuate discrimination against other groups who are blamed for not achieving the same standards (“If they made it, why can’t you?”).

The as-yet unnamed television network is expected to launch in 2013, covering issues of relevance to the audience, the companies said in a joint statement. A website, along with mobile and social media content, is scheduled to debut this summer _ in time for the upcoming presidential elections.

“This exciting joint venture represents the latest example of our long-term strategy to broaden the reach of ABC,” Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks, said in a statement.

Latinos represent 16 percent of the total population in the United States, a number that is projected to increase to 30 percent by 2050. The demographic group wields considerable spending power, over $1 trillion.

These suspensions have made clear that “bounties” have no place within football. But as the NFL’s crackdown on paid smackdowns takes hold, what about the bounty system that exists throughout our culture? If encouraging violence with financial incentives, if promises of cash and fame are unacceptable within football, can we say the same about the criminal justice system? If risking people’s lives and potentially destroying their careers violates the values of sport, can we not agree that it is also antithetical to justice and democracy?

What is bad for football is surely bad for a system committed to justice and equal protection under the law. And yet ours is a criminal justice system that rewards officers for arrests and tickets, that provides financial incentives for the “war on drugs”, that encourages racial profiling and “stop and frisk” programs.

Our government’s efforts to fight drug sales and distribution is also a bounty system of sorts. In cities throughout the United States, police forces have relied on drug tasks forces to generate budgetary support from the federal government.  Federal grants and other financial rewards come with successful arrests and prosecutions.  “Federal funding flows to those agencies that increase dramatically the volume of drug arrests, not the agencies most successful in bringing down the bosses.  What gets rewarded in this war is sheer numbers of drug arrests,” writes Michelle Alexander.  “To make matters worse, federal drug forfeiture laws allow state and local law enforcement agencies to keep for their own use 80% of the cash, cars, and homes seized from drug suspects, thus granting law enforcement a direct monetary interest in the profitability of the drug market.”

When Bettina Inclan, the RNC Hispanic Outreach director, recently made a splash in the news over GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney’s position on immigration, the press bubble went apoplectic.  ”As a candidate, to my understanding, he’s still deciding what his position on immigration is,” said Inclan.

The day proceeded to get worse for Inclan.

The RNC then attempted to take back the remarks, and Inclan sent out a tweet saying that she “misspoke” on the issue and then linked to Governor Romney’s campaign page on immigration.

But, given that Romney has been compared by his own campaign to an Etch A Sketch toy, should we be surprised that Inclan wasn’t completely clear on his immigration position?

What we do know about Romney’s immigration position is what he has stated in debates and on the campaign trail. Back in January, he told us that he would advocate for “self deportation.” And back in December in Iowa, he said that he would veto the DREAM Act if it passed in Congress. Romney also has said that Arizona is a “model” for immigration policy and that he would drop lawsuits against the state for its controversial SB 1070 law.

Even though it’s a primary, the public record won’t go away.

Actually, Sesame Street was originally created with a focus on educating inner city and low-income families. The creators wanted a show that children could relate to, but also expose them to images they may not experience in the city. Since its creation, “Sesame Street” has won awards for its conscientious treatment of sensitive subject matter and been lauded for handling topics such as poverty, HIV-AIDS, divorce, etc. in a thoughtful, inclusive and age appropriate way.

After the enormous success of “Sesame Street,” most pre-school children’s TV shows follow this same model. These shows tend to have truly “neutral” characters (such as animals or fantasy creatures) and often feature diverse casts. There are also more shows with minorities in major roles, or from cultures other than white, upper middle class suburban America. The PBS and Nick Jr. shows demonstrate this point well.

Contrast this with the lineup on network television. Currently, there are zero shows with a cast of all minorities on the major television networks, and a few shows with POCs at all. The few that do, are relegated to minor and/or stereotypical roles.