All posts by Kendra James

Quoted: On Femininity and Race in Figure Skating

Figure skater Surya Bonaly

By Kendra James

Nancy had gradually come to embody all the qualities that Tonya, it seemed, would never quite be able to grasp. Nancy’s presence was elegant and patrician despite her working-class background; her skating was as graceful and dancerly as Tonya’s was explosive and athletic. Audiences and commentators wanted elegance and grace; they wanted Nancy, and as good as Tonya was—as great as Tonya was—it had become painfully clear, over the last few years, that she would never quite be right.

There seemed to be a greasy, eventually shameful pleasure that came with both writing and reading about not just Tonya’s gaffes or problems but the basic facts of her existence. Her mother had been married six times to six different men, or maybe seven, depending on the journalist’s sources. Tonya owned her first rifle, a .22, when she was still in kindergarten, and had moved thirteen times by fifth grade. She dropped out of high school at fifteen…She skated to songs like Tone Lōc’s “Wild Thing” and LaTour’s “People Are Still Having Sex.” She was ordered to change her free-skate costume at the 1994 Nationals because the judges deemed it too risqué. Her sister was a prostitute. Her father was largely unemployed, as was her mother, as was her ex-husband.

Believermag’s article, “Remote Control: Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan and the Spectacles of Female Power and Pain” provides insight into the role media played in shaping the assault on Kerrigan’s landing leg prior to the 1994 US Figure Skating Championships and how important perceived femininity can be in figure skating and women’s sports.

I wasn’t a serious skater yet in ‘94, but I remember being 6 and absolutely scandalised at Harding’s alleged actions. I believed the media hype and declared Nancy Kerrigan a personal hero. But after reading this piece Tonya Harding is feeling surprisingly, well, relateable. My background is nothing like Harding’s detailed above, but as a Black figure skater achieving the appropriate levels of perceived femininity, grace, and poise wasn’t easy.

Whether it was my my height, my different hair (no neat skating bun for me), the fact that I couldn’t buy skating stockings that matched the color of my skin, the fact that I couldn’t order and wear the same shades of makeup as the other (white) girls on my synchonised skating team, there was always something that kept me from feeling like I was adored the same way the other skaters were.

By the time I left high school I had all my double jumps down, passed all my moves tests, and was helping to coach a local synchronised skating team, so it wasn’t for lack of talent that the familiar accolades of “you’re so graceful” or “you have such artistry” seemed to always turn to variations of “you’re so athletic/aggressive!” or “you have such a unique style”. Someone at my club in Connecticut commented that I’d probably be amazing at track and field because my skating was so fast and powerful, and had I thought about that instead? New York City tourists have politely and very complimentary (in their eyes) told me that I’m “the best Black skater they’ve ever seen, and so powerful!” Strong, powerful, aggressive, athletic; not the words you want to hear in the delicate, feminine world of figure skating.

Harding’s desire to skate programs to untraditional music choices mirror my own. The year Will Smith’s Big Willie Style came out I desperately wanted to do a competition program to Men in Black or Miami. My coach looked horrified when I played her the tape, and I ended up with a program from the musical Camelot instead that satisfied the requirements of soft, graceful, feminine skating.

That was 17 years ago, but you’re still not going to see many programs like Starr Andrews’ (to Willow Smith’s Whip My Hair) in national and international competition. Music that derives from the standard Euro-classical and instrumental should be avoided, but if it is to be presented it should be done only by an All American white girl in a bindi so as not to threaten the sport’s reputation or the judges’ sensibilities.

I don’t compete any more. I haven’t put on a pair of skating tights in years because Capezio’s“tan” is still about 5 shades lighter than I am, and Surya Bonaly was a childhood hero. I put on headphones and skate to whatever I want— almost always starting a workout with Beyonce and DMX. I have half a program to “Partition” choreographed already, not that it would ever be acceptable in competition. We can’t excuse whatever part Tonya Harding may or may not have played in the assault on Nancy Kerrigan in 1994, but I get what it’s like to not be seen as the“‘lovely,’ ‘ladylike,’ ‘elegant,’ and ‘sophisticated,’ one,” and spending the energy trying to conform to a sport standard that’s not necessarily made to fit how the world’s been trained to see you. I suspect that several other Black athletes do as well; along with Bonaly, Serena Williams comes quickly to mind.

Just something to keep in mind as we approach the Sochi Winter Games, or as we work through our Ashley Wagner vs. Mirai Nagasu feelings. Sometimes it’s more than expensive costs that keeps girls off the ice.

Reposted from our Tumblr Hack Refuge

Who Didn’t See This Coming?: Cracker Barrel Doubles Down on Duck Dynasty

A Cracker Barrel restaurant via NY Daily News

Last week Arturo reminded Duck Dynasty fans of what hadn’t gotten newly revealed (“newly” for those of us who still have no idea what a Duck Dynasty is, at least) homophobe and racist Phill Robertson suspended from the hit A&E show. Since the decision A&E has remained strangely mum on the topic, while others like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Bobby Jindal have chimed in attempting to make the tenuous state of the show and Robertson’s future an issue of 1st amendment rights.

In a slightly tangential turn of events Cracker Barrel took a stand against Roberstson’s comments, pledging to pull all Duck Dynasty merchandise from their shelves. (Yes, you too can buy a Duck Dynasty Talking Keychain while eating away your Saturday night kegger hangover in AnyTown, Ohio!) It was a decent gesture, especially given that the merchandise practically flew off the shelves at Walmart after the GQ controversy broke in a sad show of support for the brand . However two days after making the promise –and still, with no word from A&E– this message was found on Cracker Barrel’s official Facebook page:

Dear Cracker Barrel Customer:

When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we’ve done.

You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong.

We listened.

Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores.

And, we apologize for offending you.

We respect all individuals right to express their beliefs. We certainly did not mean to have anyone think different.

We sincerely hope you will continue to be part of our Cracker Barrel family.

The post gained over 1000 likes in the time it took to copy and paste the statement from there to here and currently stands upwards of 68,000.

This is probably a great time to remind anyone who’s surprised by this 180 turn of events that in 2004 Cracker Barrel was sued by 21 people in a $100 million federal lawsuit alleging a nationwide trend of discriminatory service that ranged from segregating Black families from other customers to outright refusing to serve them at all. It was the largest lawsuit of its kind since Denny’s in 1994; it settled for $8.7 million. In 2008 they received a 15 out of 100 from the Human Rights Watch on their LGBTQ Corporate Equality Index and had only managed to raise it to a 50 in 2011.

In the case of Cracker Barrel and Duck Dynasty, birds of a feather really do flock together.

Quoted: Eat the cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé)

“If that name is a Miley Cyrus pseudonym I’m going to bed. Dang, it’s getting feminist up in this track.”
Naturally, “that name” refers to Chimimanda, whose contribution you later dismissed as an annoying “soundbite.” Okay.
Teachable Moment Two: Learn about a culture other than your own.
Look, White Writerperson, I imagine your cozy Cave of White Clulessness is comfy and fantastic. I’m sure it has central air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter and a friendly, well-dressed Negro gentleman at the door to help you with with a smile when your non-burdens get too heavy to bear on your own. And all the coleslaw and unseasoned chicken one could ever want, I’m sure. Color me relieved envious, really.
But here’s where you get to be a good Privileged Person and learn about a culture other than your own. I know Chimamanda, a Regular Black Person Who Isn’t Doing Anything Worth “Borrowing,” isn’t a pop culture icon. But do yourself a favor and look her up. She wrote Half of a Yellow Sun, for fuck’s sake.

To suggest that Miley would dig deep enough into the barrel of Blackness, doing overtime at the Appropriation Station to adopt a Nigerian pseudonym is telling: You, too, know how serious your skinfolk take their culture vulturing. It’s a full time job. So vast, our Sea of Awesomeness, right?

Teachable Moment Three: Learn how influence works.

French fries do not influence potatoes. Britney does not influence Janet. Justin does not influence Michael Jackson. Lessors do not influence The Great Ones. Similarly, Miley Cyrus does not influence Beyoncé. Now bite your motherfucking tongue.

To say such a thing is akin to saying that the car influences the paved road on which it travels. The Great Ones Blacked Excellently so that the latecomers could siphon that Black Excellence for profit and Blackpoints. Not vice versa.

–  ”Eat the cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé),” by Alexander Hardy originally posted at Thecoloredboy.com

 

Rumour Mill: Casting for the Man of Steel sequel and CW’s The Flash pilot

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Gal Gadot cast as Wonder Woman via. IGN.com

By Kendra James and Arturo Garcia

The ups and downs of being a DC Comics fan have never been more apparent than this past week. The WB cast a big screen Wonder Woman (Israeli actress, Fast and the Furious alum Gal Gadot)… but not for her own movie. She’ll be sharing the stage with Henry Cavil’s Superman, Ben Affleck’s supposedly older and wizened Batman, and a potential mutual adversary in Lex Luthor. Luthor who will, according to casting rumours, most likely be African-American, echoing the WB’s already demonstrated willingness to race-bend with Perry White in Man of Steel. Personally, I don’t think this should be much of a stretch of the imagination for anyone who grew up on the Superman cartoon of the 90s. 

I didn’t think this man was white when I was 7 and I still don’t.

On the heels of a fantastic Arrow mid-season finale, the CW revealed a casting call for their Flash pilot showing their intentions to making Iris West Allen (The Flash’s –Barry Allen– main love interest and Wally West’s –another Flash– aunt) and her extended family African-American woman rather than white, as she’s been traditionally portrayed in the comics. If the pilot and ensuing show is anywhere near as good as Arrow, a diverse cast of main characters won’t be an issue (even if I am still annoyed about Sin.)

With DC’s television and cinematic universes both expanding quickly, we thought it was time for another quick chromatic casting.

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The Walking Dead Roundtable: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”

Hosted by Jeannie Chan

I stumbled across this graphic once that described the typical progression of an episode of The Walking Dead:

 

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And we’ve probably used this at various times during our stint of reviewing TWD for Racialicious but it warrants recycling! I was quasi-live recapping the mid-season finale for the recap and next to no action happened in the first 27 minutes and then all of a sudden, bodies drop and everything falls apart. Rob Errera, and Nicole Norkin join me for the mid-season finale. Continue reading below for our reactions.

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The Walking Dead Recap: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”

 

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By Jeannie Chan

Previously on TWD, we’re reminded of why the Governor hates Michonne with such a fiery passion. We begin the mid-season finale with the Governor holding court in his new camp. He’s giving his new family his Braveheart speech and tells them that he has leverage and will use them to get access to the prison. No one will have to die if his plan goes well. Yeah, right.

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Open Thread: The Walking Dead 4.7 “Dead Weight”

 

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By Jeannie Chan

Last week, we were (at least, I was) manipulated into thinking that the Governor had become a new man. The RT’ers spent all of the last episode nervously waiting for the Governor to crack and go off on another murderous rampage. But it didn’t happen. This week, we pick up right where we left off with Martinez staring at him down the barrel of a gun. By the end of the episode, we catch up to Team Prison’s timeline with the Governor standing outside. But first, let’s talk about all the crazy things that happened in between. Let’s get the ball rolling on this open thread!

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