All posts by Latoya Peterson

Jeff Chang/Who We Be. Image from

Who We Be Examines the War on Multiculuralism

“Color is not a human or a personal reality, it is a political reality.” – James Baldwin

This is not a book review, because Who We Be isn’t really a book. It’s more of a thoughtful examination of how the United States arrived at this point in racial history.

Long time friend of the blog Jeff Chang is the author of the American Book award winning Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation and editor of the anthology Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop. To say we’ve been waiting for Who We Be is an understatement.

But in the introduction, Chang frames the core of the most recent case of racial backlash. Explaining the outsized reaction by some whites to President Obama, Chang notes:

In the 1830s white minstrels had put on blackface, creating space for the white working class to challenge the elite, while keeping Blacks locked into their racial place. Obama now appeared as a dual symbol of oppression. Because of his Blackness, he was even more of an outsider—and in that sense, even more American—than them. But he was also the president. His Blackness did not just confer moral and existential claims, it was backed by the power of the state.

And there went everything.

As much as we like to talk about the inevitability of America being majority-minority in 2042, the events playing out across the nation show that most places are outright hostile to the idea that people of color are equal Americans, with the same rights, privileges, representation, and agenda setting power bestowed to whites. Chang turns his critical eye to shifts in culture which becomes documentation of rise (and fall?) of multiculturalism. Continue reading

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#GIA14: Racial Conversation as Performance Art

Originally published at Grantmakers in the Arts

The rules of the Long Table.

The rules of the Long Table.

Can a conversation about race be a performance? What does that simple framework shift do to the conversation? The answer: everything.

The long table conversation is a fascinating thing to watch unfold. Participants come in and out as they please. There is snacking and scribbling, mostly on topic. Some people were determined watchers, setting up camp on the chairs on the far edge of the perimeter. And others eagerly queued up in the seats closest to the table, waiting for the moment they could tap someone on the shoulder, sending that performer out and putting themselves into the conversation. Continue reading

Gotham Show Files

Blackface by Another Name? “Painting Down” on Gotham

The issues for people of color in Hollywood run deep – so much so that we occasionally forget how invested the industry can be in denying opportunities to enter this business.

Jada Pinkett Smith landed a coveted role on the show as Fish Mooney, a female mob leader:

GOTHAM: Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney in the "Selina Kyle" episode of GOTHAM airing Monday, Sept. 29 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jessica Miglio/FOX

So we have a black woman on screen in a major role. But what is happening behind the scenes? Are people of color being represented in other parts of the industry, like doing stunt work? Not so, according to Deadline Hollywood:

After receiving inquiries from Deadline, Warner Bros. has canceled plans to “paint down” a white stunt woman to double for a black actress on its hit Fox show Gotham. On Monday, dark makeup was applied to the face of a white stunt woman in a hair and makeup test in advance of two days of filming next week in New York. After receiving calls from Deadline, WB initially downplayed the significance of the story, but after looking into it said that it had made a “mistake” and would hire a black stunt woman instead.

Really? Continue reading

My slides.

#GIA14: Journalism as Public + Art

I’m on the road still – currently in Houston at the Grantmakers in the Arts 2014 Conference in Houston, Texas. This year’s conference will focus on grantmaking, race, and social justice, so I will be blogging from the conference for the next few days about issues pertinent to artists of color.

I’m speaking at the Monday morning plenary, on how the future of journalism is looking more and more like public art. Here’s a cleaned up version of my talk. – LDP

What is the future of journalism? The increasingly terrifying answer is that no one truly knows – in a time of budget cuts and a shifting media environment, it would be all too simple to despair. But in times of great turmoil we see some of the greatest forms of inspiration. In the media world, we are beginning to redefine what journalism is and what journalism can be. What is journalism, but a way of informing the public? What is art, but the expression of ideas made public? And what happens when the walls between the two start to fall?

Early experiments show a need for journalism to leap off the page, phone, and tablet and into other types of spaces. The “Reveal” project from the New York Times R & D lab, placed news, weather, and biometric data like a users weight and heart rate into a tricked out mirror.

The team started this project to “to explore how the relationship between information and the self is evolving.” So information moved from pages to personalized surfaces. But where else? Continue reading

Must Read: Guernica’s take on Class

From Guernica

From Guernica

Guernica, the magazine of arts and culture, dedicated their latest special issue to the class divide. But, as most of us reading this blog know, race and class are not so easily separated. And in spite people online and in activist circles arguing that the social issue of our time is no longer race, only looking at one issue in a vacuum means that our proposed solutions to societal ills will always feel incomplete.

Two essays in the issue beautifully and painfully explain the paradigm Patricia Hill Collins outlined in Black Feminist Thought. Race, class, and gender are interlocking systems of oppression:

Viewing relations of domination for Black women for any given sociohistorical context as being structured via a system of interlocking race, class, and gender oppression expands the focus of analysis from merely describing the similarities and differences distinguishing these systems of oppression and focuses greater attention on how they interconnect. Assuming that each system needs the others in order to function creates a distinct theoretical stance that stimulates the rethinking of basic social science concepts.

The first piece is Margo Jefferson’s “Scenes from a Life in Negroland.” A sample:

We thought of ourselves as the Third Race, poised between the masses of Negroes and all classes of Caucasians. Like the Third Eye, the Third Race possessed a wisdom, intuition, and enlightened knowledge the other two races lacked. Its members had education, ambition, sophistication, and standardized verbal dexterity.

—If, as was said, too many of us ached, longed, strove to be be be be White White White White WHITE;

—If (as was said) many us boasted overmuch of the blood des blancs which for centuries had found blatant or surreptitious ways to flow, course, and trickle tepidly through our veins;

—If we placed too high a value on the looks, manners, and morals of the Anglo-Saxon…

…White people did too. They wanted to believe they were the best any civilization could produce. They wanted to be white just as much as we did. They worked just as hard at it. They failed just as often. But they could pass so no one objected.

Continue reading

From Elle Magazine.

Who is Lucy Flores?

Midterms are coming.

Also known as the election years that most people don’t pay attention to, the midterm elections have an enormous impact on the lives of day to day people. Voter turnout tends to drop, but major political machinations happen while the sitting President is still in office.

This month, long time friend of the blog Rebecca Traister wrote a stunning profile of candidate Lucy Flores for Elle Magazine. Flores, the Democratic hopeful for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada decimates other political origin stories – she’s Mexican-American, one of 13 siblings, the child of immigrants, and former gang member. She turned her life around, started at community college, became a lawyer, and decided to run for office. She’s unapologetically pro-choice (and one of the rare candidates that will share her own story.) Domestic violence shaped her world – and her life experiences lead to a very pro-populist platform.

But what really gives Flores’ story bite is her unique position in politics – not only who she is, but what she represents for the Democratic party:

When a governor steps down in the state [of Nevada], the lieutenant governor, who’s not necessarily of the same party, assumes the post. Nevada’s current governor is the immensely popular Republican Brian Sandoval, whom Politico Magazine dubbed “The Man Who Keeps Harry Reid Up at Night.” That’s because many believe he’ll challenge the majority leader for his Senate seat in 2016, if, that is, the person who’d take his place is a fellow Republican: Flores’ opponent Mark Hutchison. Which makes Flores, to use Politico-speak, “The Woman Who Could Save Harry Reid’s Hide—and Keep the Senate in Democratic Hands.”

Go read it. Read it all.

A Quick Reminder About the Racialicious Project [Editor's Note]

Flower Stand

Just a little housekeeping.

Racialicious has been in effect for more than eight years. As a result a lot of people (writers, readers, editors) have come and gone.

It is easy to forget in the current environment that Racialicious is still a labor of love. It is an all-volunteer project. In response to an epic media season and some questions on Twitter and Tumblr, here are five quick questions and answers.

What is happening with Racialicious?

We are thinking about who we are in an when blogging is professionalized and most outlets find a way to discuss race in their pop culture projects. We’ve talked about retiring the blog and leaving it as an archive, but none of us really felt like the work was finished. We are in the process of looking at format and purpose. There probably won’t be any huge changes until 2015.

Why did you go on break?

Essentially, everyone was feeling worn out. Tami, Joe and Andrea departed the project late 2013 to pursue other things, which left Arturo and Kendra holding down the day to day posting. (I deal with the administrative parts, but between the day job and the now 10 month old baby, I’ve been on extended sabbatical.)

We took August off to regroup and figure things out. As a result, Arturo is stepping back to become more of an editor at large. Kendra is becoming managing editor. And I’m a little more in the day to day mix.

Why didn’t Racialicious say anything on xxxx issue?

Occasionally, people ask us why we didn’t post on a certain issue. There are various reasons for why this happens. Sometimes, we’ve covered an issue multiple times and there is nothing new to report. Other times, an issue is in direct conflict with one of our day jobs. You cannot make the news and comment upon it at the same time – that’s generally frowned upon. And sometimes, the ability of the editors to post is low. Silence shouldn’t be read as not caring about an issue – it just means that there are more factors behind the scenes. And we have always been an open admissions kind of place, so if you notice a gap in coverage feel free to submit a piece.

Does Racialicious make money?

Two years ago we put ads on the site, but that was mainly to offset the cost of hosting the blog independently. After we were hacked at the beginning of the year, our analytics and ads stopped working. So we are back to paying out of pocket to host this space until it is fixed.

We are not funded by any other means. While it seems like money grows on trees these days, Racialicious is still a racial justice project which makes revenue channels complicated. (Just putting Google ads on the site to offset costs became an existential conversation.) We are putting intense focus on what would allow the project to be sustainable over the long term, but that is always a work in progress.

I want to help with the project!

Awesome. We need a new contributing editor in the mix, as well as roundtable contributors for the upcoming season. A formal call will go out next week. If you are interesting in helping, and can commit to about five hours per week of work, email team AT racialicious DOT com.