Quoted: Leaning in While Black

In a review, published in In These Times, about Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, Racialicious senior editor, Tamara Winfrey Harris, writes:

Whether Sandberg, from her perch at the pinnacle of a tech behemoth, is the right person to lead a revolution for less-privileged women has been the topic of much debate. But bits of the author’s wisdom may “click” for particular readers in unexpected ways. Sandberg’s message about choosing supportive partners made me blink, because it stands in stark contrast to advice directed toward a particular segment of professional women. Thanks to concerns about low marriage rates among African Americans, professional black women are bombarded with warnings about careerism and success. A burgeoning genre of advice books instructs straight black women to, in effect, “lean back” in order to attract men.

In Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, (the basis for the film Think Like a Man), author Steve Harvey admonishes: “If you’ve got your own money, your own car, your own house, a Brinks alarm system, a pistol and a guard dog, and you’re practically shouting from the rooftops that you don’t need a man to provide for you or protect you, then we will see no need to keep coming around.” Elsewhere, Harvey warns women that if they travel for business, their left-behind husbands might understandably stray.

Black women, especially highly successful ones, are expected to sacrifice achievement for the alleged greater good of traditional marriage. And they are encouraged to think more about being chosen than choosing—making themselves attractive to men by conforming to an outdated template of femininity rather than, as Sandberg suggests, selecting a supportive mate interested in a 50/50 partnership.

Sandberg counsels that choosing a mate is one of the most important decisions a working woman will make. If that is true, lack of support, in addition to systemic sexism and racism, may explain why black women fare worse than their white counterparts in the halls of power. All women of color make up just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats and 5 percent of congressional seats. Snagging unsupportive life partners isn’t likely to improve these statistics (or the personal lives of women).

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White and Yellow: Overcoming Racism

By Guest Contributor Grace Ji-Sun Kim; originally published at The Feminist Wire

“It’s so nice and warm on the inside that you forget that there’s an outside. The worst of it is, the crab that mostly keeps you down is you…The realization had her mind on fire.”
—Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals

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Image courtesy of Frapestaartjie on Flickr.

I was heading home from speaking at the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Synod of British Columbia meeting when a short incident on the plane ended a rather wonderful and fruitful trip on a sore note.  It was a long flight home from Vancouver to Philadelphia.  My eleven-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, and I had to get up at 5AM to catch the early morning flight back home.  We left Vancouver around 7PM, transferring in Dallas to get to Philadelphia around 9PM. It would be another hour’s drive before we got home.

On the flight from Dallas to Philadelphia, I was seated in the second to the last row with Elisabeth.  There was an elderly white couple seated behind us in the last row of the plane. I have traveled enough times by plane to know the etiquette of deplaning. The first rows begin to move down the aisle, and everyone else waits their turn to follow them. It is important that this is a unique situation. There are no choices. There is only one way out for everyone, unlike lines at a supermarket or doors in a sanctuary.

One person violated this rule when the plane opened its doors in Philadelphia due to more than thoughtlessness or rudeness. Thoughtlessness is based on oversight; rudeness is asserting oneself in a situation just to feel a momentary state of power over another. This case was more hurtful in that it invoked the notion that this person was fundamentally better than us.

As we got up from our seats and stood in place to enter the aisle, the white woman behind me stood next to me in the aisle and was determined to gain the place in the line ahead of me. Elisabeth was standing by her seat in the row beside me, and the woman’s husband was standing behind us in the aisle.

We stood a long time, as it seemed to take longer than usual for the passengers ahead of us to file out of the passengers’ cabin.  When it became closer for our row to exit, the elderly woman beside me started walking ahead and somehow got three rows in front of us.  I am not sure how she managed that, but she did, leaving her husband behind us. So far, we have simple rudeness.

As she left the plane, she was about eighteen passengers ahead of me on the ramp.  So, when it was my turn to walk out, I asked her husband if he wanted to go ahead of us, and he politely said, “Please, go ahead.” So, my daughter and I stepped from the passenger cabin.

As we passed the elderly woman on the terminal ramp, she had an angry look on her face as my daughter and I emerged from the door ahead of her husband.  She was waiting for her husband in disgust.  Her displeasure was written on her face, and as we walked past her, she said aloud to her husband, “I can’t believe you allowed the Chinese to get ahead of you!”

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A Brown-Skinned Lady and Her Sunblock

By Guest Contributor A. Sandosharaj; originally published in the April issue of River Teeth

In 1984, I–l ike every other girl in America–wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid. To impress everyone with my logic—I was one of those brats—I asked for the brown-skinned version, a request my Sri Lankan-born parents could only understand as preposterous: dark-skinned dolls were for black children. That this was pitiable for them—the dolls’
homeliness was a given—was no reason for me, however, to get a doll that matched my skin. At Zayre’s, my father held the boxed toy at arm’s length, wondering was I sure I didn’t want a regular doll?

A month later, I bored of her, but before abandoning her altogether, I made her over. Applying the ivory-shade foundation I (incompatibly, absurdly) wore when performing classical Indian dance, I deracinated my Cabbage Patch baby, covering her face in stage-strength makeup until she had a glistening beige face atop a cloth brown body.

Twenty-five years later, I noticed that my face was lighter than the rest of me—more “fair” in the lexicon of my mother—my hands and shoulders most conspicuously. This could potentially be explained as the ordinary outcome of idling on beaches while obsessively outfitted in hat and sunscreen, or the fact that I stroll, bike, and jog in the same
sort of protective accouterments. I am, after all, thirty-four and terror stricken by the inescapability of wrinkles.

Once, for example, I purchased a $125 vial of vitamin-C serum despite the fact that I was making nineteen grand as a grad student at the time, never mind that I was on the pill—the low-dose kind that eradicates blemishes—and that I ate compulsively well—grapes for their collagen, fish for their oils—and never mind that: I had no skin problems whatsoever.

Like many women, I feel a keen pressure to look as good as possible for as long as possible, “as possible” in this case meaning “as you can afford.” But as an American of South Asian descent, and thus a deeply-raced person, I have to question whether gender-based panic about aging is the sole reason I avoid the sun. With skin the color of a wet graham cracker (I would have failed the old paper-bag test), a graduate degree in critical race theory, and a lifetime preoccupied with color, I have to consider that for me, skin—youthful, poreless, undamaged skin—is never fully divorced from colorism.

A product of the ethnically mottled tenements of Langley Park, Maryland, I grew up drinking milk because I was told it would make me more fair and thus more appealing. When I wanted to punish my mother for some injustice, I would willfully play in the sun, then weep later over how dark I had become. How transformed.

Sucking her teeth, my mother would apply Fair & Lovely cream, purchased at what was only called the “Indian” store. On the pink tube of what was mostly sunscreen back then, silhouettes advanced in lightness and presumable attractiveness from left to right. I tried to pinpoint my location on the Fair & Lovely gradation.

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Open Thread: NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out

by Joseph Lamour

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Image via SportsIllustrated.com.

It’s Gay Sports Day here at the R, and really, shouldn’t every day be Gay Sports Day?

Jason Collins, currently with the Washington Wizards, reveals in the next issue of Sports Illustrated that he is a gay NBA player.

“I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.”

This is the first time a current athlete in any US major sport has come out of the closet. If you remember, former professional soccer player Robbie Rogers came out, but only after he retired abruptly earlier this year. And across the pond, a professional rugby player, Gareth Thomas, came out in 2009. It’s about time the States followed suit.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Race + Television–The Vampire Diaries 4.20: “The Originals”

Promo shot for The Originals. Via the CW.

Last week The Vampire Diaries (TVD) aired Episode 20, ”The Originals,” a “backdoor pilot“ for a spin-off series coming this Fall of the same name, which will (finally) remove the Original Family of Klaus, Rebekkah, and Elijah from Mystic Falls, VA, and send them even further south to New Orleans. I know, I know–at this point we need more Southern vampires on television like we need another summer superhero movie. But here’s the surprising thing: If TVD showrunner Julie Plec weren’t also in charge of this show? It could be very, very good.

There hasn’t been much to be excited about this season, so this was a game-changer and it was more than just a change of scenery (TVD has had a lot of that this year). Admittedly, you can’t go wrong in erasing the ridiculous part of the plot where the 1000+-year-old vampires have to pretend to be teenagers, fitting in with small-town Virginia life. The new chosen city for the show isn’t overly inspired; New Orleans is hardly original when it comes to vampire storytelling, but with it comes an instant change to the mood and tone of the show.

“The Originals” steps back from the teenage shenanigans of TVD, and thank goodness for that. This is show about family–the family you’re born into vs. the family you make for yourself. With that, plus the introduced cast members, there’s some serious potential here.

The problem is it is Plec’s show–and a lot of the potential it has won’t ever see the light of day.

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An Interview With The Creator Of Public Shaming

by Joseph Lamour

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I find it interesting what people think is completely normal to share publicly over the Internet.

I find it interesting what I think is completely normal to share publicly over the Internet. For some reason, in 2009, I thought it was completely fine to post several pictures of myself on Facebook rolling around a luxury hotel bed in a short, terry cloth robe.

The web is a hub for over-sharing nowadays, whether its racy pictures or racist statements. Lately, more and more people, famous or not, get called out for the things they say. This is where Public Shaming comes in.

Public shaming on the Internet is now more popular than ever. The boom in the usage of social media has heightened the way people express themselves, whether it’s asking their followers to help them choose a new pair of sunglasses, photographing what they ordered for dinner, or relating their thoughts on a current news story or hot-button issue. The unspoken etiquette of social media is loosening, and what results sometimes are some eye-opening statements; these statements  feed off of each other and have a tendency to escalate into unsavory situations. Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook have played a role in every big news story so far this year, but they also have aided in rampant misinformation.

In addition to the comments of the misinformed, the insensitive, rude, and racist things people say have been plucked from the Internet and spotlighted by sites like Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, and even Time. But, is pointing out the bigotry of others in this way helpful, or is it harmful, town crier-esque entertainment?

With all of this in mind, I sat down for a chat with the creator of the aptly named Public Shaming, a blog whose sole purpose is to find problematic tweets and post them publicly for Internet posterity.

Screenshots of offensive tweets are under the cut. They all come with a **TRIGGER WARNING.**

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Quoted: A Potential Pioneer, Just Looking for a Job

Alan Gendreau would seem an unlikely pioneer. He is a former kicker for Middle Tennessee State, the leading scorer in Sun Belt Conference history, a little-known 23-year-old who wants a shot at the N.F.L.

Alan Gendreau, a free-agent kicker from Middle Tennessee State, could become the N.F.L.’s first openly gay player.

Middle Tennessee State’s Alan Gendreau (38) after his kick beat Maryland in 2009. He is trying to land a tryout with an N.F.L. team.

And he is gay.

Recent attention on the sooner-or-later milestone of an openly gay male athlete in a major American team sport has been spurred by a presumption: that the first will be a current professional athlete.

But those who have long tracked the issue have thought the more likely situation would involve an already-out athlete climbing through the college ranks to reach the N.F.L., N.B.A., N.H.L. or Major League Baseball. They thought it would be someone like Gendreau. And it might be, if and when he can secure an invitation to try out for a team in the coming months. Gendreau’s motivation is not to become the first openly gay player in the N.F.L. It is simply to play in the N.F.L.

“I’m a kicker that happens to be gay,” Gendreau said Tuesday. “It’s a part of who I am, and not everything I am. I just want to be known as a normal kicker.”

Gendreau’s story was detailed in a substantial feature and video released Tuesday by Outsports, a Web site devoted to the intersection of gays and sports. Cyd Zeigler, a co-founder of Outsports who wrote the story, said Gendreau was not looking for a spot in history.

“His goal is not to be the first,” Zeigler said. “His goal is to be who he is.”

– “A Potential Pioneer, Just Looking For A Job,” The New York Times, April 23, 2013

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Maysles Documentary Center’s Teen Producers Academy And Triggering Wounds

By Andrea Plaid

Members of Maysles Documentary Center's Teen Producers Academy. Image via nydailynews.com

Members of Maysles Documentary Center’s Teen Producers Academy. Image via nydailynews.com

While I’ve been working here at the R–among other places–I’ve also been working as the Social Media Fellow at Maysles Documentary Center (MDC), home of Maysles Cinema in Harlem, NY. Started by legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) as a community-based movie house run by a mostly multiracial staff, MDC is also home to several educational programs to teach folks in the community to do the same thing he does–get the true-life stories that fascinate them on the screen. And not just adults: Maysles Documentary Center teaches them early, from the Film in Action film club for the 7-to-11 set to the Teen Producers Academy.

And the Academy has been producing some great short docs, ranging from the lessons of superheroes to racial identity to their take on “the Black Hair Wars.” Some of their flicks have been accepted at film festivals around the country this year and one–Triggering Wounds–just won (and what I mean by “just” is the director of the MDC’s educational programs, Christine Peng, sent me an email with the good news from her dying cell phone at 11PM last night) the Best Documentary Film Award from Tribeca Film Festival’s “Our City, My Story” program!

The film–a result of a collaboration with MDC, Harlem Hospital Center, the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Operation Harlem SNUG, and Harlem Mothers SAVE, called the Circle of Safety Initiative–main goal is to be shown to gun-shot victims before they leave the hospital.

I interviewed one of the film’s co-producers, the ever-thoughtful Alejandro Rosario, earlier this week about the film and the impact he hopes the film will have.

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Racialicious Interview with Co-Producer of Triggering Wounds Alejandro Rosario from Kim Parker on Vimeo.

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