All posts by Kendra James

The Racialicious New York Comic Con 2014 Preview

It’s NYCC weekend, and as in past years I’ll be attending on behalf of Racialicious. It’s been a long week leading up to the con, and it still feels like I’m recovering from SDCC, but we still need to highlight some Friends of the Blog doing great stuff at this year’s con. Below you’ll find a quick and dirty of the diverse panel offerings Friday through Sunday. There’s not much more offered this year than in the past, but Diana Pho is participating in two great discussions this year!

Tonight (Thursday) Diana moderates Geeks of Colour Go Pro where she and other professionals in the comics, gaming, and publishing industries will offer advice and tips for POCs who want to become successful in their desired fields. On Saturday at 3pm in room 1A21 she’ll moderate #YesAllGeeks: Let’s Talk About Harassment in Fandom. This massively important panel comes on the heels of several instances of harassment at conventions and very public attacks against women via social media outlets like Twitter. Joining Pho on the panel to discuss how we can make fandom and online spaces safer are Mikki Kendal (@Karnythia), Marlene Bonnelly (@ilikecomicstoo), Kaye M (Writer & Founder of #YesAllWomen), Emily Asher-Perrin, and Robert Anders. 

Diana also hosted last year’s wildly successful Geeks of Colour panel (which we covered here). I’ll be at her Friday panel and will otherwise be wandering around the Javits Center for the next 72 hours, so please don’t hesitate to say hello!

The rest of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are under the cut.

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Debut: The How To Get Away With Murder Roundtable; Pilot

how-to-get-away-with-murder-cast-ABC.jpg

Sometimes Art, Latoya, and I have to admit defeat when it comes to singlehandedly watching every show on network television and basic cable. When that happens and some shows fall through the cracks we’re extremely thankful to be able to depend on a wide pool of fabulous readers to jump in and take the bullet for us. That said, we’re pleased to welcome Diana, Jacqueline, Lizzy, Nassim, and Corrine and the debut of the Racialicious How To Get Away With Murder roundtable.

The three of us might jump in from time to time, but for now, take it away ladies!

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#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Historical Fiction and Making Reading Fun

Gotta catch ‘em all– the history nerd’s pokemon

By Kendra James

Like most of my friends in elementary school, I was obsessed with The American Girl dolls and books The dolls lacked comprehensive diversity back then, in that they had one single doll of colour until 1997. I owned Felicity Merriman, a white girl who lived in colonial Williamsburg, but received Addy Walker, a former slave who escapes from the South into Philadelphia, soon after she debuted in 1993. As per my mother’s rule, I read all six of Addy’s books before being gifted the doll. But unlike Felicity’s, I didn’t often revisit them for pleasure. In my constant search for American historical fiction with protagonists of colour written for young readers, I often come across the same problem I did when I was younger: it’s all really depressing.

Addy Walker’s story begins in Meet Addy while she’s still enslaved, and I have vivid memories of one paragraph where her overseer forces her to eat tobacco leaf worms. If you had asked me, when I was younger, to state a fact about Harriet Tubman I would have told you about the time her mistress threw a porcelain sugar bowl at her head. Meanwhile, Felicity’s biggest worry in life in Meet Felicity was saving a horse. My favourite young adult historical fiction author, Ann Rinaldi, wrote stories that spanned across races, but her romantic stories about southern belles and women of the revolutionary war were always more fun to read than her sanitised retellings of the Jeffersons and the Hemmings or Sioux boarding schools.

In pre-Mattel age when the American Girl Doll franchise was still owned and partially run by Pleasant Rowland and her Pleasant Company, I devoured their 90 page novels about young girls scattered throughout various points of American history. Back then they were a genuinely decent source of early education and introduction into various facets of American history for an 8 year old girl. I credit the dolls and their books for the love of middle and young adult historical-fiction I took into my adult life, but that doesn’t mean they were all fun.

Maybe I fixated on strange things when I was younger, but it was always the worst elements of these books, American Girls and others, that stuck with me, and I get the feeling that’s not the experience for the little girls with a wider variety of characters who look like them to choose from.

White characters not only get a wider variety of books to choose from, but books in a wider variety of settings. Characters of colour in American hist-fic tend to exist strictly within certain boundaries of time or not at all. African-Americans exist within the boundaries of slavery, the Jim Crow South, or the Civil Rights movement. Native Americans exist in the mythical west until about 1870 or so, Asian-Americans exist during World War 2, only in the west (and only from Eastern countries), and I had to reach out to our followers to fill in the gaps my childhood reading material left when it came to Latin@s.

These stories need to be told, of course. Diverse literature for young readers is extremely important. The world needs YA literature about Japanese Internment during the Second World War, but they shouldn’t be the only books Japanese-American children get to see themselves reflected in. This isn’t to encourage the erasure or minimalisation of the realities that people of colour have historically faced, but rather a desire for authors and publishers to realise that all of us existed in America outside the times of our most publicised oppressions. And that, even during the most difficult times, we still had lives that didn’t necessarily completely revolve around the overhead political themes of the day.

With that in mind, and because I’m 26 year old woman who still reads almost exclusively YA and middle grade fiction, I’ve compiled a list (that is by no means complete) of historical fiction with POC characters that might allow young and middle adult readers to have a little more fun with their reading escapism.

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Recap: We’re Gonna Have to Live Through At Least Two Seasons of This; Gotham, Pilot

An entirely accurate summation.

An entirely accurate summation.

By Kendra James

Gotham 1×01 was not a good hour of television.

I am 99.9% sure that, looking through completely objective and non-nostalgia tinted lenses (she says, unconvincingly), that the Birds of Prey pilot from 2002 was better than the pilot FOX served up last night. Unlike my beloved BoP, the Jim-Gordon-cum-Gotham-City origin story is about two white men and thus Gotham will most likely get more than 13 episodes to try and be great.

“Try” being the key word.

Normally I would attempt to find some beacon of hope mired deep in the muck of a pilot, but Gotham is a show that sounds like its using a comic book script for its dialogue –and no, it’s not a Greg Rucka script– and looks like at least 30 minutes of it was shot through a sepia tinted instagram filter. While envisioning characters’ dialogue appearing in speech bubbles above their heads, trying to be obligatorily impressed when familiar face appeared every ten minutes(“Hey, look, Poison Ivy! ”/ “Cool, it’s the Riddler!” / “Oh boy, Penguin!”), and watching the woman playing Jim Gordon’s fiancee ‘act’, I realised I’m not convinced that this show is ever going to be good.

Instead of grasping at straws to call this a win, lets just quickly list the great things Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) did last night:

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Elmo and Lupita Nyong’o Talk Beautiful Skin

Elmo has skin! A relatively obvious fact that still manages to blow my mind. But even more revolutionary is the rest of Elmo and Lupita Nyong’o’s conversation where she educate the eternal two year old monster on skin, what it does, and how it comes in many “beautiful shades and colours.”

The repetition of the world “beautiful” as Elmo describes both Lupita’s brown skin and his own red skin (under the red fur, of course) is a wonderful and simple way to introduce Sesame’s young audience to the idea that every ticklish skin tone they might possess is gorgeous no matter what.

Kasandra Michelle Perkins: We Must Say Her Name

 

(Editor’s note: In light of recent events we’ve opted to repost this article as a an unfortunate refresher re: domestic violence and the NFL.)

By Guest Contributor David J. Leonard, cross-posted from The Feminist Wire

In the aftermath of the tragic murder of Kasandra Michelle Perkins, and the subsequent suicide of Jovan Belcher, much of the media and social media chatter have focused on Belcher.  Indeed, Kasandra Michelle Perkins has been an afterthought in public conversations focused on questions regarding the Chiefs’ ability to play, concussions, masculinity, guns, and the culture of football in the aftermath of this tragedy. Over at the always brilliant Crunk Feminist Collective website, one member described the situation in sobering terms:

Headlines and news stories have focused on the tragedy from the lens of the perpetrator (including speculation of potential brain trauma, his involvement, as an undergraduate, in a Male Athletes Against Violence initiative, and his standing as an allstar athlete), in some ways dismissing or overshadowing the lens of the victim, who in headlines is simply referred to as “(his) girlfriend.”

Mike Lupica, at the NY Daily News, offered a similar criticism about our focus and misplaced priorities:

That is why the real tragedy here — the real victim — is a young woman named Kasandra Michelle Perkins, whom Belcher shot and killed before he ever parked his car at the Chiefs’ practice facility and put that gun to his head.

She was 22 and the mother of Belcher’s child, a child who is 3 months old, a child who will grow up in a world without parents. At about 10 minutes to 8, according to Kansas City police, Jovan Belcher put a gun on the mother of his child in a house on the 5400 block of Chrysler Ave. in Kansas City and started shooting and kept shooting. You want to mourn somebody? Start with her.

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Voices: Janay and Ray Rice, Domestic Violence, and the NFL

Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

But an unfortunate and perverse consequence of Donald Sterling’s massive profits from the sale of the L.A. Clippers is that admitting one’s racism is profitable. Thus white men profit from saying and doing racist things, while organizations like the NBA get to claim that they are taking strong stances against racism in the league. But ferreting out individual racists will never solve the problem of systemic racism. It simply makes everyone feel better.

Similarly problematic thinking is evident in the Baltimore Ravens’ decision to terminate Ray Rice’s contract and the NFL’s decision to suspend him indefinitely after TMZ leaked video of his vicious attack on now-wife Janay Rice Palmer yesterday. First, the NFL is no stranger to domestic violence disputes. A recent memorable incident was the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher against his partner Kasandra Perkins in late 2012. Second, the fact that Rice received only a two-game suspension until this video surfaced suggests that the league is more concerned with the optics of Ray Rice knocking Janay Palmer unconscious than addressing the ways that the hypermasculinity of sport perpetuates a culture of violence toward women. By taking such a hard-line, if belated, stand against Rice’s actions, the NFL now appears responsive to the problem of domestic violence, although it has made no promises to implement any kind of consistent anti-violence training for NFL players. It has simply ferreted out Ray Rice as an ultimate offender and benched him until further notice. This strategy won’t make Janay Palmer’s life safer and it won’t help the current partners of players who are being abused in secret.

We should be concerned about living in a culture where we routinely disbelieve victims of racism, sexism or domestic violence unless there is video or audio evidence. When we acknowledge the pervasiveness of violence, and of racism and sexism, we will be more responsive to victims and less committed to the kind of dishonesty that greets “isolated” incident after “isolated” incident with shock and surprise.

Ray Rice’s Second Horror, by Brittney Cooper; Salon

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What Bill O’Reilly gets wrong about Asian Americans

What Bill O'Reilly gets wrong about Asian Americans

Credit: Frank Micelotta/invision/AP

By guest contributor Kevin Wong (originally posted at Salon.com)

Bill O’Reilly went to Harvard and grew up in Levittown, a Long Island town that is 94 percent white. He attended a private boy’s school on Long Island that is 90 percent white and currently costs more than $8,000 a year to attend. And yet he recently remarked that white privilege is a lie — that being white gives a person no inherent advantages in America. Irony is dead.

It is obvious, to anyone paying the slightest attention, that white privilege does exist, that legal equality is different from equality in practice. But then, O’Reilly has a long history of making ill-advised statements about race. What really stood out to me, though, on a personal level, is how O’Reilly used Asian-Americans to support his argument against white privilege. Just to recap:

Here are the facts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for black Americans is 11.4 percent.  It is just over 5 percent for whites; 4.5 percent for Asians. So do we have Asian privilege in America? Because the truth is that Asian-American households make far more money than anyone else… Also, just 13 percent of Asian children live in single parent homes compared to a whopping 55 percent for blacks and 21 percent for whites. There you go.  That’s why Asian-Americans, who often have to overcome a language barrier, are succeeding more than African-Americans and more than white Americans. Their families are intact and education is paramount.

From what experiences, exactly, does O’Reilly draw these conclusions? Allegedly, his own encounters with Asians are less than enlightened. In her sexual harassment suit against the pundit, Andrea Mackris made the following allegations: that O’Reilly recounted his foreign sexual experiences to her; that a “little brown woman” masseuse in Bali, Indonesia, had asked to see his penis, to which O’Reilly obliged; that a “girl” at a Thailand sex show took O’Reilly to a back room and “blew [his] mind.” When a man pursues colonialist fantasies and exploits women in Asian countries for his own pleasures, he loses the moral high ground to lecture anyone on race privilege.

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