The Racialicious Links Roundup 5.2.13

Jim Crow — Northern or Southern — is usually rendered to us as an archaic system in which people irrationally decide to separate from each other just based on skin color. There’s a reason that so many of us remember Martin Luther King’s line about little white boys and little black boys holding hands. It’s comforting to us. Less comforting is that fact that Jim Crow amounted to the legal pilfering of resources from the black communities to advantage white people across generations. In Mississippi, it meant the right to reduce someone to sharecropping, or to benefit politically from their census numbers while not giving them any representation, or to tax them for services they did not enjoy equal access to. In Chicago, it meant the legalized theft of black wealth by white agents.

It is very hard to accept this — the wealth gap is not a mistake. It is the logical outcome of policy and democratic will. From the streets of Cicero on up, the point was to imprison black people in the black belt and then exploit them. The goal was pursued through public policy, private action, and open terrorism. The goal was accomplished.

The system provides just-in-time labor at the lowest possible cost to large companies — but also effectively pushes workers’ pay far below the minimum wage.

Temp agencies use similar van networks in other labor markets. But in Chicago’s Little Village, the largest Mexican community in the Midwest, the raiteros have melded with temp agencies and their corporate clients in a way that might be unparalleled anywhere in America — and could violate Illinois’ wage laws.

The raiteros don’t just transport workers. They also recruit them, decide who works and who doesn’t, and distribute paychecks.

And it’s the low-wage workers — not the temp agencies or their clients, corporate giants like Ty — who bear the cost. Officially, the raiteros’ fee, usually $8 a day, is for transportation. But, workers say, anyone who doesn’t pay doesn’t get work.

From this crowded barrio, raiteros ferry as many as 1,000 workers a day to warehouses and factories in Chicago and its suburbs. Many of these workers end up making about $6 an hour, well below Illinois’ minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, because of the fees and unpaid waiting time.

As Collins wrote, “No one wants to live in fear. I’ve always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don’t sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I’ve endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time.”

The significance of this moment cannot be overstated. Homophobia becomes eroded when straight people actually have a family member or friend come out of the closet and then have to confront their own prejudice. Now in the NBA we have Jason Collins saying, “Pro basketball is a family. And pretty much every family I know has a brother, sister or cousin who’s gay. In the brotherhood of the NBA, I just happen to be the one who’s out.”

The piece also demonstrates that Jason Collins gets the impact he could have on the way sports both defines and polices our conceptions of masculinity. The 7-foot, 255-pound bruiser writes wryly, “I go against the gay stereotype, which is why I think a lot of players will be shocked: That guy is gay? But I’ve always been an aggressive player, even in high school. Am I so physical to prove that being gay doesn’t make you soft? Who knows? That’s something for a psychologist to unravel.”

What writer in his right mind would publicly demand credit for Tyler Perry’s critically pannedTemptation? That’s exactly what William James did by alleging in a lawsuit filed this week in Indiana U.S. District Court that Perry stole the premise for Temptation from a novel by James titled Lovers Kill.

He claims in the lawsuit that he passed a copy of Lovers Kill to “an associate” of Perry’s BFF Oprah Winfrey in the hopes that it might find its way to the film mogul’s reading room. Satisfied that it did, now that Temptation has reaped a cool $49 million, James is asking for monetary damages and achange to the beginning and ending credits to read: “Based on the novel ‘Lovers Kill’ by William James.”

Few industries are as disconnected from their customers as the video game industry. Gamers are disproportionately African-American or Hispanic, according to a survey by the Kaiser Foundation. Yet these are precisely the demographics that are underrepresented within the industry itself: both among the developers of games, only 2% of whom are black, and among the characters presented in the games they make. Most game protagonists are white males, and a USC survey revealed that a measly tenth of characters were black, and most of these were either athletes or gangsters.

Joseph Saulter wants to change all this. The entrepreneur behind Entertainment Arts Research, Inc., which Ebony Magazine recently singled out as one of the first black-owned publicly traded gaming companies, has made it his quest to make the gaming industry more reflective of its audience.

Now is a big moment for Saulter, whose company is set to release a major game in July (a parkour game for iOS, discussed below). Several other ambitious projects are in the works, including a game that takes place in Chicago’s South Side in the mid-20th century. “It’s a history of the black community, it’s a history of jazz, it’s a history of the arts and of the revolutions that went on in that period of time,” Saulter says of the game, Bronzeville Etudes & Riffs, a project of artist Philip Mallory Jones, who based much of the material off of oral histories with his mother.