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The Racialicious Links Roundup 7.11.13: Fruitvale, Target, Rachel Jeantel & More

  • ‘Fruitvale Station’ Is More Than a Movie, It’s a Landmark” (Colorlines)

    In the days following Grant’s death Davey D, host of Hard Knock Radio on KPFA in the Bay Area says he remembered seeing people in Oakland crying openly. “People were so angry and so frustrated and so in disbelief that this was happening,” says Davey D. “You could see the look of pain in people’s faces.” Grant was killed three weeks before President Obama was first inaugurated, and the nation’s glee over electing its first black president was still palpable. There was a sense that justice would be swift, the radio journalist recalls. So after the shooting happened and Obama never addressed it, and the Department of Justice’s inquiry ultimately went nowhere, the letdown was especially bitter.

  • Attack of the Angry Black Woman” (Huffington Post Black Voices)
  • Within minutes after [Rachel Jeantel took] the stand, the Internet was abuzz with jokes and memes criticizing and disparaging this young woman who had the courage to be a witness in the trial of a murdered friend. Testifying is not an easy thing to do, not for a 49-year-old, a 29-year-old and certainly not for a 19-year-old, reliving what has to have been one of the most traumatic events of her life. Few of her critics know that English is Jeantel’s third language: she speaks Haitian Creole and Spanish as well. She is introverted and was clearly uncomfortable facing an aggressive attorney charged with defending a man who murdered her friend. So what made thousands of people think it was ok to beat up on a teenager taking the stand to bear witness in a trial?

  • Target Admits Reminding Managers That Not All Hispanics ‘Wear Sombreros’” (Huffington Post Latino Voices)

    Target used a training document at one of its warehouses reminding managers that not all Hispanic employees eat tacos and burritos, dance to salsa or wear sombreros, the company said Tuesday.

  • The Decades-Long Affirmative Action Debate is Incomplete” (Huffington Post Black Voices)

    The Court ruled that before relying on affirmative action, colleges and universities now have to prove that “no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.” In effect, college admissions are now asked to be race unconscious, though the pipelines and the quality thereof, feeding into their applicant pools are stratified largely by race. Which then begs the question, how exactly does a race-neutral policy increase racial diversity? Moreover, is it even possible to have a neutral alternative absent of race consciousness? Regardless, I maintain that the key to increasing college access for minority students is not to change the way colleges select from an already distorted applicant pool, but to reform our failing schools.

Dark Girls: A Personal Story

By Guest Contributor Kiana Fleming

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The OWN channel aired the world premiere of the 2011 documentary Dark Girls by D. Channsin Berry and Bill Duke that explores the prejudice and often-internalized feelings of self-hatred experienced by darker-skinned black women in the United States. As a fellow Dark Girl, the documentary shed light on a subject that is all too familiar.

I distinctly remember my first high school dance. It was held at a Catholic high school for their African-American students. I was a freshman at an all-white secondary school in the Midwest, and needless to say, I was excited. St. Louis still gives off the chills of a racially polarized and sometimes overly conservative city. I stuck out at my school not simply because I was black but because I was a tad bit too ‘radical’ to conform. That year, my history teacher informed me that my assigned paper on my family’s “immigration” to the United States was too harsh and had to be altered. It was about slavery. Later in college, I was given the nickname Malcolmina X by my friends. But I digress.

For the party, I decided on black capris and a black crop top with silver glitter. I looked cute and the outfit showed off my athletic build. The party was full of hormone raged teenagers who dipped off into dark corners or huddled in packs with their friends. I was able to dance with a guy, who was known to be attractive and popular around the Catholic school black scene. He was tall, light-skinned and at the time I thought he was cute. A few days later, my girlfriend, who I attended the party with, and I chatted late into the night as most teenage girls do. She had gotten the 411 on the boy I danced with among other juicy gossip. I can’t remember much about the conversation but one thing: “he said you were too dark to wear all black.”

What? I was confused, hurt and embarrassed. What did that even mean? How was I too dark to wear all black? That quote sticks out to me to this day as the moment I knew my dark skin was perceived to be an issue. I struggled with self-esteem throughout high school and to make matters worse, my closest friends were both very light-skinned with long thick hair, the epitome of attractiveness in the black community. It seemed when we were out together, no one saw me. I didn’t exist. It became clear that my skin color put me in a box of unattractiveness by default, as many would prefer their coffee with cream rather than jet black. Compliments of “you’re pretty, for a dark-skinned girl,” “I don’t usually date dark girls,” “pretty black” and “pretty chocolate” never felt the same as simply being called pretty or someone being genuinely attracted to me rather than fetishizing my dark skin or being an exception to the rule. Once at Burger King, a man walked up to me and said: “I like my women like my meat, well done.” I was disgusted. And even more disgusted, when in college, a suitor thought calling me tar baby was a cute and playful nickname. It seemed also with my dark skin, I was sexualized and not worthy enough to date seriously. As my lighter-skinned friends went on extravagant dates, I was only asked to “kick it” at the guy’s house and it seemed they only wanted to experience what was between my legs rather than what was between my ears. While in college, I had a boyfriend from high school shamefully confess that his friends pressured him to break up with me because I was dark-skinned. He obliged. These differences in dating and mate selection followed me through college. The only time I felt beautiful, and I mean really beautiful – that it radiated in my smile and in my step – was when I lived in Europe for grad school. There, it seemed men of all walks of life, nationalities and colors were attracted to me, just me. My skin color made no difference at all.

After the eye opening experience at the dance, I wrote a research paper exploring the origins of the word black, its negative connotation, the development of its use to describe a group of darker-skinned people and colorism in the black community. I coupled that with a visual, thematic analysis of rap music videos to show the prominence and preference for light-skinned women in our society and often the media. Senior year, I wrote my college essay about this same experience for Spelman College, an all-women’s HBCU in Atlanta, Georgia, I later attended.

At 26, I still see how my skin color affects my dating experience and my overall perception of the world and my place in it. Skin color and hair texture are still as important as ever in the black community and people act accordingly and treat you as such, if just subtly. But with all that, I have learned to love my skin. I love the smoothness of it. The richness of its tone. I love the dark, reddish tint my skin gets in the summer, when I used to cringe at the possibility of tanning. I now sit with my fellow dark-skinned warrior sisters and discuss our pains, our triumphs and our still deep rooted insecurities that pop up from time to time that only we understand. No one but a dark skin girl knows how to feels to be the dark skin girl in the room.

The black community has a long way to go to remove the shackles of slavery’s ghost, of the undisputed effects of European colonization and Eurocentric beauty idolization. We, dark girls, must work to empower those following in our footsteps and let them know that it will be okay, it gets better. As a people, we must learn and teach others to appreciate one another and to respect differences locally, nationally and globally. If not for us personally, but to work collectively to change ideologies and encourage tolerance among all people. I wear my dark skin as a badge of honor and when asked how I would identity myself, I respond: I am black, I am a woman and I am dark. I have learned to embrace my beauty, to bask in all its glory, to appreciate its lessons on self-worth and acceptance. It has shaped me into who I am and I am forever grateful for all it has taught me.

305b689Kiana Fleming is a St. Louis native and received her BA in Sociology from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She holds a dual MSc and MA in Global Media and Global Communications from the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Southern California where her research explored the role of First Lady Michelle Obama’s media persona, First Lady political rhetoric and gender formation.  Her personal, research and academic interests include the media’s effect on contemporary social roles and identity, race & gender relations and social advocacy and engagement through media.

 

 

Race and Gender in Doctor Who: Beyond Who Plays The Doctor

By Guest Contributor Joy Ellison

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Current executive producer Stephen Moffatt on the Doctor Who set. Image via WhatCulture!

Over the last few weeks, fans have called for a person of color and/or a woman to star in Doctor Who.  If you care about race and gender presentation in Doctor Who, then pay attention to who serves as the show’s next executive producer.

When it comes to who should replace Matt Smith as the next star of the TV show Doctor Who, many fans are hoping for one thing: anyone but another white guy.  

For nearly 50 years, the Doctor, the time-traveling main character of Doctor Who, has been portrayed by white men.  Fans concerned with social justice are right to clamor for a different sort of Doctor.  While the Doctor may be an alien, over the course of the show the character has come to represent the best of humanity.  That’s why it is especially important that the Doctor be portrayed by a person of color or a woman – or, dare we dream, a woman of color, a person with a disability, a queer person, or transgender person, or a combination of all the above.

But while we wait to meet the new incarnation of this beloved sci-fi character, fans should turn their attention to racial and gender representation in an area of Doctor Who that isn’t immediately visible on screen: the executive producer.

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The Racialicious Links Roundup 6.26.13: DOMA, Voting Rights, Paula Deen & Signing Wu-Tang

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Photo by Thomas Hawk.

  • DOMA Ruling Clears Path for Binational Couples (Colorlines)

    The rights of gay and lesbian couples to sponsor non-citizen partners for immigration visas became a central area of debate in the ongoing immigration reform deliberations. For several years, Democrats in Congress have introduced stand-alone legislation that would allow U.S. citizens to petition for a green card for their same-sex partners, married or not. That legislation, which gained small Republican support, never made it far, but many hoped that immigration reform would include LGBT rights provisions.

  • How Do You Say Shaolin in Sign Language? (Slate)

    To prepare for the show, Maniatty says she logged more than 100 hours of research on the Beastie Boys, memorizing their lyrics and watching past shows. Her prep work also includes researching dialectal signs to ensure accuracy and authenticity. An Atlanta rapper will use different slang than a Queens one, and ASL speakers from different regions also use different signs, so knowing how a word like guns and brother are signed in a given region is crucial for authenticity.

    Signing a rap show requires more than just literal translation. Maniatty has to describe events, interpret context, and tell a story. Often, she is speaking two languages simultaneously, one with her hands and one with her mouth, as she’ll sometimes rap along with the artists as well. When a rapper recently described a run-in with Tupac, Maniatty rapped along while making the sign for hologram, so deaf fans would know the reference was to Tupac’s holographic cameo at Coachella, not some figment of the rapper’s imagination.

  • So the Voting Rights Act Is Gutted—What Can Protect Minority Voters Now? (The Atlantic)

    So the question is what the heck do those who care about equality and democracy do now? Waiting to fill an appointment until certain justices kick the bucket or decide to retire doesn’t seem like a good strategy. And it’s hard to imagine the current Congress leaping to fix Section 4 of the law, as Chief Justice John Roberts suggested. Fortunately, there are quicker and more promising remedial paths to follow.

  • The Guileless ‘Accidental Racism’ of Paula Deen (The Atlantic)

    Here is everything from Civil War hokum to black friend apologia to blatant racism. And people at a New York Times event are laughing along with it.

    This morning, I showed this video to my wife. My wife is dark-skinned. My wife is from Chicago by way of Covington, Tennessee. The remark sent her right back to childhood. I suspect that the laughter in the crowd was a mix of discomfort, shock and ignorance. The ignorance is willful. We know what we want to know, and forget what discomfits us.

Quoted: On Being A ‘Real Black Writer’

Image from Flickr via Aftab Uzzaman

You got your first edit letter from Brandon Farley in July of 2012. In addition to telling you that the tone of the piece was far too dark and that you needed an obvious redemptive ending, Brandon wrote, “There’s way too much racial politics in this piece, bro. You’re writing to a multicultural society, but you’re not writing multiculturally.”

You wondered out loud what writing “multiculturally” actually meant and what kind of black man would write the word “bro” in an email.

“Bro, we need this book to come down from 284 pages to 150,” he said. “We’re going to have to push the pub date back again, too. I’m thinking June 2012. Remember,” he wrote, “It’s business. I think you should start from scratch but keep the spirit. Does the narrator really need to be a black boy? Does the story really need to take place in Mississippi? The Percy Jackson demographic,” he wrote. “That’s a big part of the audience for your novel. Read it over the weekend. Real black writers adjust to the market, bro, at least for their first novels.”

By the time you found out Percy Jackson wasn’t the name of a conflicted black boy from Birmingham, but a fake-ass Harry Potter who saved the gods of Mount Olympus, you were already broken. Someone you claimed to love told you that you were letting your publishing failure turn you into a monster. She said that you were becoming the kind of human being you always despised. You defended yourself against the truth and really against responsibility, as American monsters and American murderers tend to do, and you tried to make this person feel as absolutely worthless, confused, and malignant as you were. Later that night, you couldn’t sleep, and instead of diving back into the fiction, for the first time in my life, you wrote the sentence, “I’ve been slowly killing myself and others close to me just like my uncle.”

—Kiese Laymon, “You Are The Second Person”

Originally Published in Guernica Magazine, whose current issue is “Race in America”.