The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.5.13: Black Twitter, Black Academics, Iran, Chicago and Elan Gale

“Sleepy Hollow” star Orlando Jones. Image via Crave Online.

Pop culture is a window into our lives and, while clumsy, USA Today did hit on something of a phenomenon. Representation of non-white people has increased, and it is noticeable because of how utterly abysmal it was before. “Scandal,” the show of the moment, earned its star the first Emmy nod for a black woman in 30 years. In the case of “Sleepy Hollow,” an interracial duo fights crime and monsters to win one of the hottest premieres of the season. Its producers credit the chemistry of its stars. But major press outlets forget to mention Nicole Beharie, the black female lead, at all. The omission is made more glaring by the fact that the overall diversity of the show has been one of its selling points. Orlando Jones, who plays Captain Irving, took to Twitter to note the gap.

Black Twitter, as both a player and a phenomenon, has been front and center of most of these discussions. As a member of “Black Twitter,” I’m conflicted about the moniker. My participation in feminist, geek or New York Twitter have yet to receive the same level of scrutiny as my membership in Black Twitter. At the same time, there’s joy in the name. Black. Twitter. Using the same social media everyone else is, this cultural movement has been a repeated source of insightful analysis, hilarity and virtual support that affirms the shared and diverse experiences of being black both online and off. One in four black people who are online at all is tweeting, using the platform to offer instant feedback on the news of the moment.

Shannon Gibney is a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). When that’s your job, there are a lot of opportunities to talk about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. There are also a lot of opportunities to anger students who would rather not learn about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. I presume MCTC knows that; they have an African diaspora studies program. Back in January 2009, white students made charges of discrimination after Gibney suggested to them that fashioning a noose in the newsroom of the campus newspaper—as an editor had done the previous fall—might alienate students of color. More recently, when Gibney led a discussion on structural racism in her mass communication class, three white students filed a discrimination complaint because it made them feel uncomfortable. This time, MCTC reprimanded Gibney under their anti-discrimination policy.

Elevating discomfort to discrimination mocks the intent of the policy, but that’s not the whole of it. By sanctioning Gibney for making students uncomfortable, MCTC is pushing a disturbing higher-education trend. When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are blocked within Iran, underscoring a fundamental tension that has only recently begun to crystallize: as Iranian officials continue to spread their messages across social platforms, the country’s citizens remain quarantined behind web filters and firewalls, unable to legally access the services that have suddenly become an important part of their political landscape.

“Certainly there is a glaring hypocrisy in how openly and frequently Iran’s officials engage in social media,” Afshon Ostovar, a Middle East analyst at CNA Strategic Studies, wrote in an email to The Verge. This hypocrisy likely isn’t lost on everyday Iranian internet users, Ostovar adds, though hard-line conservatives and government officials have begun speaking out against it, as well.

On Monday, Iran’s police chief publicly criticized the country’s leaders for using social media,  telling Iran’s Mehr news agency that their actions could encourage others to break the law.

“The fact that some officials have started to cross red lines gradually and enter spaces prohibited for citizens is not a good thing, and everyone should observe the rules,” said Ahmadi Moghaddam, the police chief. “By violating the law [themselves], the officials should bear in mind that their actions should not pave the way for others to violate the law.”

Yeah, I really wish a black man—or how about an Arab man wearing a turban—would pass a note to a white woman on an airplane saying that “eat my d-ck” mess. I doubt the flight attendants would’ve been giving a wink and nod, as they appear to have done to Gale. Security would most definitely have been waiting when they deplaned.

The whole thing has me reflecting on how white men are pretty much raised to believe they can say and do whatever they want. Antagonize a woman, tell her to eat your dick, and you’ll be lauded as a hero. As the brilliant Rebecca Carroll said of Gale, “He is the utterly ultimate uber quintessential I-can-say-what-I-want-delusional-white-intellectually-free-hipster-man.”

I also don’t know if all this dick eating that Gale encouraged really makes a difference for service workers. Maybe he could stand up and support the service workers who spent Black Friday protesting outside of Walmarts about their low wages and abysmal working conditions instead.

School closures are not evenly distributed across the city. A map of Chicago’s recent school closures is a rough proxy for marking the city’s poor black and Latino neighborhoods. “What we have seen is the closures overwhelmingly take place in communities that are black communities and Latino communities, and we feel the school closings represent a disinvestment in the community that just accelerates problems,” CTU’s Gutekanst says. “We know they would not do this in more middle class communities and communities that are majority white.”

When the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 53 schools this spring, it was the largest round of school closings at one time, according to WBEZ. Black students were, by far, most likely to go to schools marked for closure. They make up 43 percent of the city’s school district enrollment, but were 88 percent of the students affected by school closings. Latino students are 44 percent of the district and were 10 percent of those affected by the latest round. Meanwhile white students, who make up 7 percent of Chicago Public Schools, were 0.7 percent of those whose schools were closed, according to the Opportunity to Learn Campaign.

Coalition member Brown says the closures are unfair. “People that pay taxes don’t have a public school in their immediate area,” he says, citing the shuttered Price Elementary in the North Kenwood neighborhood in Chicago’s South Side. Since the school closed in 2012, “You have neighborhoods now that for more than a square mile there is not a school to serve the needs of the children.”

  • Shazza

    Yeah, Rolling Stone managed to write a whole page on ‘Sleepy Hollow’ WITHOUT mentioning Nicole Beharie. Talked about Ichabod and his wife and that was it. TV Guide just did a pictorial by Orlando Jones but managed to just refer to her a ‘sidekick’. It’s really annoying. And let’s remember white people have just discovered Scandal in its THIRD season.

  • Juan Miller

    Didn’t the airplane note-passing story turn out to be a hoax? It’s still fine to analyze the white male privilege that I agree is central to it and people’s responses to it, but seems relevant to note that it didn’t actually happen.

    • literatebrit

      I think at the time the author wrote the piece she didn’t know it was a hoax.