The Racialicious Links Roundup 10.10.13: Malala, Oneida Nation, Sleepy Hollow And Saudi Arabia

When Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen simply because she wanted to gain an education it sent shockwaves around the world.

The Western media took up the issue, Western politicians and the public spoke out and soon she found herself in the UK. The way in which the West reacted made me question the reasons and motives behind why Malala’s case was taken up and not so many others.

There is no justifying the brutal actions of the Taliban or the denial of the universal right to education, however there is a deeper more historic narrative that is taking place here.

This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her.

As league owners gathered Monday in the nation’s capital for their fall meetings, the Oneida Indian Nation held a symposium across town to promote their “Change the Mascot” campaign. Oneida representative Ray Halbritter said the NFL was invited to attend.

Instead, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, a meeting has been scheduled for next month — and could happen sooner.

“We respect that people have differing views,” McCarthy said. “It is important that we listen to all perspectives.”

He said the Redskins name is not on the agenda for the owners’ meetings. Redskins owner Dan Snyder has vowed to keep the name, and an AP-GfK poll conducted in April found that nearly 4 in 5 Americans don’t think the team should change its name.

It’s a topic generating discussion lately, though. President Barack Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that he would “think about changing” the team’s name if he were the owner.

Halbritter called that statement “nothing less than historic” and said the team’s nickname is “a divisive epithet … and an outdated sign of division and hate.”

But what’s exciting and fascinating to many of us is that the character of Abbie Mills, played by Nicole Beharie, is not just another African American actor in a supporting role. She is, in fact, at the lead. Aside from that, Beharie’s Mills, a lieutenant in the town of Sleepy Hollow, is destined for greatness. she has been chosen by the book of revelation – and the grace of God if you will – to join Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) in stopping the four horsemen of the apocalypse and battle numerous demonic and evil forces in the process. In other words, Lieutenant Mills is instrumental in saving the modern world, as we now know it.

Beharie, as usual, delivers a certain air of sophistication, grace and maturity to Abbie Mills. She’s also relatable and wholly convincing as a well-grounded deputy who is skeptic of the supernatural forces she’s fighting against. We know Abbie has a sister named Jenny, played by Lyndie Greenwood (CW’s Nikita), who’s in a psychiatric ward. They were both foster children growing up, and after Abbie denies having witnessing the demon in the woods while they were children, Abbie succumbs to a life of petty crimes and drugs before she’s given another chance by her late partner – who’s head was severed by the headless horseman – Sheriff Corbin.

She’s certainly a strong, resilient and courageous woman, but I wonder how much of those traits could possibly trap her character into the “strong black woman” stereotype as the season goes on. One could ponder upon the aforementioned archetype. We could also take into consideration Abbie’s sister Jenny, who is also another tough black woman. Are the black female characters too strong? Too independent? Not vulnerable enough? While certainly “strong minded” leads of color are appreciated, and, given the premise of the show – required – Abbie hasn’t quite cracked under the insurmountable pressure yet, at least to the extent that such a situation in real life would warrant.

Regardless of the contextual intricacies of the statement, I have to wonder how anyone could say anything so… absurd. If it were in any way accurate, one would surmise that Saudi Arabia must have one of the lowest rates of birth defects in the world. And, well,that’s not the case at all.

I’m an American woman who lives in Saudi Arabia. I got my driver’s license in Missouri on the day I turned 16. My dad started teaching me to drive when I was seven years old. Yes, seven—I still remember him turning down the gravel road to our house and stopping the car and saying, “Sis, you want to drive?” I was shocked, and I thought he was joking. He sat me in his lap, behind the wheel, and said, “Okay, sis. When you get older and you take driver’s ed, they’re going to tell you to put your hands on the wheel at ten and two—like this. But this is a better way. Just put your hand at the top of the wheel. When you move your hand to the right, the car moves to the right. When you move your hand to the left, the car moves to the left. And when your hand is pointing straight ahead, that’s where your car goes. Easy!” Although the appropriateness of this method may be arguable, to this day, that’s how I drive. I spent my childhood driving a farm truck on dirt roads, and doing so long before I had a license.

I’m also a mother. I gave birth to a baby girl about four months ago, and as far as we know, she’s healthy as a horse. And although I’ve been a driver for decades, my pelvis did just fine throughout the entire process of incubating and birthing her, thank you very much.

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  • PatrickInBeijing

    I thought the article was an excellent description of the “white savior” trobe. I watched the interview with John Stewart and he was really smarmy and liberal in a most patronizing way (and he wanted to adopt her?? WTF, WTF, WTF???). Of course, except for “buy the book”, he is offering nothing to help her or support her. He just offers his audience a chance to feel superior without any history of the region or any knowledge of its people. We have labelled the people of Swat as the “Ignoble Savages” and frankly it makes me feel a bit nauseous. And I was especially struck by the mention of her father. Why was he left sitting backstage as if he had to be hidden from the audience? Based on what I have read and what she said, he is a critical focus and force in everything she says. Why can’t we acknowledge him?

    @disqus_SrEoY41IKW:disqus I totally agree with your comments. She seems like an intelligent and willful young lady. Hopefully she can survive Western “attention”.

  • croquet

    I wondered why during the interview, John Stewart pointedly remarked that the U.S., “comes out good” as he patted the cover of Malala’s book. During Malala’s description of her home, Swat Valley, she did not mention how the beautiful mountains and streams are being destroyed by Drone strikes, which according to headlines are “radicalizing a new generation,” whom I suppose would join the Talaban to deny education to even more girls.

    Malala has to play the role of non-threatening native and the article provides insight as to why. John Stewart can criticize drone strikes to his last breath whereas Malal’s free speech is curtailed. But she’s an intelligent girl whom, I imagine with the love and advice of her father, understands that criticising the West would put a swift end to her education campaign. The latest Washington Post headline about Malala says it all: “Malala’s light counters the Talaban’s darkness.”

    After watching the interview I bought her book and now wait impatiently for its arrival. Thanks for linking to the article.