Confessions Of A Black Morrissey Fan

By Guest Contributor Joshua Alston; originally published at Feminist Wire

smiths

This week, Morrissey announced that he is canceling the remainder of his North American tour, due to an ongoing battle with a bleeding ulcer, Barrett’s esophagus, and a case of pneumonia in both of his lungs. I was disappointed to hear about the illnesses plaguing the singer who, since fronting the seminal rock band The Smiths in the 80s, has built a particularly cultish fan base of which I more or less consider myself a part. But there was also a rush of relief when I heard about the tour cancellation because it relieved me of a quandary that presents itself every few years: whether or not to see Morrissey in concert.

A friend of mine texted me a few weeks back to tell me when Morrissey was scheduled to play Philadelphia and to ask if I planned on going. The question startled me. It shouldn’t have. Like most Morrissey fans, I’ll find a way to mention his work if you talk to me long enough, and I often find myself pleading with Morrissey agnostics to listen to his work, particularly those who know nothing except for the penchant for whiny navel-gazing that has earned him the pejorative honorific “The Pope of Mope.” It only makes sense that anyone who’s gotten close enough to see how important Morrissey’s work is to me would ask if I wanted to see him in concert. But it’s a far more complex decision than it seems on its face.

Morrissey doesn’t make himself easy to like and has proved to be as deft at writing catchy, literate indie-pop songs as he is at erecting barriers that prevent the unqualified enjoyment of those songs. He’s egregiously precious and oversensitive and has a tendency to come off in interviews as self-important, vain, and smug. He’s a vocal advocate for animal rights–but perhaps too vocal. His passion for protecting all God’s creatures is an admirable one, but the rigid, bratty way he tends to express that passion represents the type of myopic zealotry that stunts movements more often than it fortifies them.

I could accept all of this, though, if it weren’t for the fact that Morrissey is also probably racist. I say “probably” for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Morrissey is not at all shy about litigation where such accusations are concerned. Added to this, as with any damaging rumor that shadows a celebrity, Morrissey’s alleged racism is a conjecture built of equal parts fact, perception, and apocrypha. But in spite of his insistence that he isn’t racist–an assertion he’s repeated over the years–no one has done more to make the case that Morrissey is deeply racist and xenophobic than the man himself.

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Let’s Talk About Names: Ali, hooks, Lee Boggs

By Guest Contributor Sarah J. Jackson; originally published at Are Women Human?

Naming and Politics

Prof. Sarah J. Jackson

In February 1964, Cassius Clay became the heavyweight champion of the world. A month later, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali. For months–in some cases years–journalists, members of the boxing establishment, and occasionally his competitors refused to call Ali by his new name. Grant Farred (2003) contends that Ali’s name change was “simultaneously an act of negation (denial of his slave name) and self-construction (adoption of his Islamic name), both…the acquisition of an unprecedented ideological agency.” (28)

The controversy that erupted over Ali’s name then hinged largely on the perceived ideological danger of a black man in America refusing “safe” narratives of black masculinity and politics. Ali’s choice to rename himself, alongside his conversion to Islam, and later refusal to serve in Vietnam were treated as anti-American, threatening, and unstable. The social and economic consequences were years of denigration in the press, alongside a formal ban from boxing in the United States.

In what can only be described as a combination of social and political progress and severe historical amnesia, Ali is now commonly lauded as an American hero with little acknowledgement from the media of the ways he was socially disciplined for his decisions. Contemporary constructions of Ali rarely discuss in any detail the anti-colonial politics that lead to his dissent around Vietnam or the domestic racial politics that lead to his identification with the Nation of Islam and name change. Ali’s identity then continues to be shaped by forces outside of himself, but the necessary negotiations around it have left a lasting mark on the way our country understands sports, politics, and race.

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Quoted: Native American Lawmaker Schools Congressman

Kansas state Rep. Ponka-We Victors (D). Image via Kansas state legislature.

The hearing concerned the legality of offering children of illegal immigrants to pay the in-state tuition rate to attend universities and community colleges in Kansas. The Legislature was seeking to overturn a statute that has been on the books for nearly a decade –a Topeka Capital-Journal story described the effort as an “annual attempt.”Ponka-We Victors (D-Wichita), a member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and the Tohono O’odham Nation, and the only American Indian in the Kansas State Legislature, offered her reading of the situation to Kris Kobach, Kansas’ Secretary of State.

“I think it’s funny Mr. Kobach, because when you mention illegal immigrant, I think of all of you,” Victors said, prompting cheers from the gallery, described by the Capital-Journal as “heavily pro-immigrant.” Rep. Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe) the chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, felt moved to tell the room, “Please don’t do that.”

- From Indian Country Today Media Network

Open Thread: Scandal 2.16, “Top Of The Hour”

By Arturo R. García

Olivia (Kerry Washington) makes the call on ABC’s Scandal.

Even though both of our roving recappers were sidelined last night, they wanted to at least get the discussion going on schedule. So we’re opening this up for everyone to share their thoughts on the return of Olivia and company, and Kendra and Joseph will join in over the course of the week to come.

Spoilers in the comments and under the cut.
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The Racialicious Links Roundup 3.21.13

The daughter of suburban Sugar Land, Texas, played the cello. Since the second grade, she said, she dreamed of carrying on the family tradition by joining her sister and father among the ranks of University of Texas at Austin alumni.

And the moment for her to lend her name to the lawsuit might never be riper: The Supreme Court has seated its most conservative bench since the 1930s. The Court is expected to issue a decision any week now in what is considered one of the most important civil rights cases in years.

On a YouTube video posted by Edward Blum, a 1973 University of Texas graduate whose nonprofit organization is bankrolling the lawsuit, she is soft-spoken, her strawberry blond hair tucked behind one ear. Not even a swipe of lip gloss adorns her girlish face.

“There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin,” she says. “I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me. What kind of example does it set for others?”

It’s a deeply emotional argument delivered by an earnest young woman, one that’s been quoted over and over again.

Except there’s a problem. The claim that race cost Fisher her spot at the University of Texas isn’t really true.

“Many officers feel pressure to meet their numbers to get the rewards that their commanding officer is giving out,” says John Eterno, a former police captain and co-author of The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation. But if an officer’s union delegate is also pushing the numbers, “this puts inordinate pressure on officers, getting it from the top down and getting it from the union.”

The plaintiffs in the Floyd case allege that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy results in unconstitutional stops based on racial-profiling. The department’s emphasis on bringing in arrest and summons numbers has caused officers to carry out suspicion-less stops in communities of color.

As Polanco explained in court today, his superiors would often push him to carry out this specific number of summons and arrest stops per month:  “20-and-1, they were very clear, it’s non-negotiable, you’re gonna do it, or you’re gonna become a Pizza Hut delivery man.”

“There’s always been some pressure to get arrests and summonses,” says Eterno. “But now it’s become the overwhelming management style of the department. It has become a numbers game. They have lost the ability to see that communities are dissatisfied with this type of policing, especially minority communities. They are the ones being overly burdened for doing the same sorts of things that kids in middle-class neighborhoods are doing—only they’re getting records because officers have to make these arrests.”

When asked for comment, Al O’Leary, a spokesperson for the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, said: “The PBA has been consistently and firmly opposed to quotas for police activities including arrests, summonses and stop-and-frisks. These are all effective tools for maintaining order when they are left to the discretion of individual police officers but become problematic when officers are forced to meet quotas. This union has sought and obtained changes to state law making quotas for all police activities illegal. We have sued and forced an individual commanding officer to stop the use of illegal quotas and will continue to be vigilant and vocal in our opposition to police activity quotas.”

Schools on Minnesota’s American Indian reservations are already suffering from the across-the-board budget cuts of the federal sequester, taking a hit months before the rest of the country’s classrooms will feel the effects of reduced funding.

The White Earth Reservation could cut the school year short at its federally funded tribal school.

The Red Lake School District, where the high school was the site of a shooting that left seven people dead in 2005, has scaled back its security staff.

And school officials on reservations across the state have already slashed this year’s budgets in antici­pation of sequester cuts, packing more students in classrooms, trimming class offerings and letting vacant jobs go unfilled.

“There’s a real sense of frustration for everybody,” Red Lake Superintendent Steve Wymore said.

The cuts come as tribal schools have begun making strides against their historically low graduation rates. For the class of 2012, graduate rates for American Indians rose 3 points — the first sizable increase in years. Typically in Minnesota, 45 percent of American Indian students earn a high school diploma in four years. The statewide graduation rate for all students is 87 percent.

For instance, in She’s Gotta Have It, which tells the story of Nola Darling, a young, free, non-monogamous serial dater, the lesbian character, Opal, is portrayed as aggressive, predatory, thirsty, persuasive and dismissive. When I initially watched the film, I was just excited to see a black lesbian character in a film that was released in 1986. After giving it more thought, though, I couldn’t help but think about how stereotypical and problematic her portrayal is. A lot of people tend to believe that lesbians are just man-hating, girlfriend-stealing, desperate women who can’t wait to perform cunnilingus on every woman walking by them. Opal seems to fit that bill.

Eighteen years later Lee released She Hate Me, starring Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington and Dania Ramirez. The film features Washington’s and Ramirez’s characters in a very complex lesbian relationship that ends up including Mackie’s character. I don’t even want to touch on the farfetched storyline of Mackie’s character becoming a lesbian-pumping, baby-making machine (the entire film is nothing short of bizarre); what kills me the most is that Lee couldn’t depict a healthy and happy lesbian relationship without a man’s penis in the picture.

As a queer woman of color, I have had to put up with a lot of disappointing and lackluster representations of women who love women. I understand that within the community there are lots of different kinds of lesbians, but I believe it’s important to call out problems when we see them, even if we’re calling out our heroes or those who have done well in offering other kinds of authentic representations. That’s how we learn from each other and hopefully grow as a society. The more we educate one another about what it means to live our specific and complex lives, the more we begin to break down barriers and understand one another. I believe that it is important for us to tell our own stories. It’s wonderful to have allies and people who support our community and causes, but if they’re only walking beside us and not with us, they can never accurately tell our stories.

A recent telephone survey sponsored by the CRRF, a federal agency, found that just 59 percent of English Canadians have a positive perception of aboriginals, down from 68 percent last year.

Although immigrants tend to have more positive attitudes than the general population, 25 percent of both the immigrant and non-immigrant respondents reported having low trust of aboriginals.

“The survey results tell us we all need to make greater efforts to identify how negative perceptions develop and what can be done to address them,” says Rubin Friedman, the CRRF’s principal operating officer.

“Over the years, we have had anecdotal reports of how quickly some immigrants picked up negative stereotypes of Aboriginal Peoples in cities where they live in close proximity to each other,” he says.

In Brittney Griner, Basketball Star, Helps Redefine Beauty, Guy Trebay highlights the ways in which the dominant narrative of Griner imagine her as not baller, as not student-athlete, but as signifier of gender and sexuality.

Feminine beauty ideals have shifted with amazing velocity over the last several decades, in no realm more starkly than sports. Muscular athleticism of a sort that once raised eyebrows is now commonplace. Partly this can be credited to the presence on the sports scene of Amazonian wonders like the Williams sisters, statuesque goddesses like Maria Sharapova, Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, sinewy running machines like Paula Radcliffe or thick-thighed soccer dynamos like Mia Hamm.

While celebrating her for offering an alternative feminine and aesthetic, the media narrative of course represented her in ways limited to female athletes—she was confined by the stereotype of women athletes. Focusing on her body, and how she meshes with today’s beauty stands, all while defining her “as a tomeboy” the public inscription of Grinner did little to challenge the image of female athletes. In purportedly breaking down the feminine box that female athletes are confined to within sports cultures, Griner provided an opportunity, yet as we see the opportunity is still defined through feminine ideals and sexual appeal to men.

The limited national attention afforded to Griner irrespective of her dominance and her team’s success reflects the profound ways that her emergence has not ushered in a new moment for women’s sports. Unable to appeal to male viewers, to fulfill the expectations of femininity and sexuality, Griner has remained on outside the already infrequent media narrative of women’s sports. Even though there are multiple networks dedicated to sport, even though there are magazines, countless websites, and a host of other forms of social networking dedicated to sports, there are few places for female athletes, much less black female athletes. Studies have demonstrated that less than 10 percent (3-8 percent) of all sports coverage within national and local highlight packages focuses on women’s sports.