All posts by Latoya Peterson

Anti-Feminists on Par with Racists?

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson


“To say you’re not a feminist is virtually the same thing as saying you’re a racist.”

I read that and almost choked on my strawberry penny candy.

The fabulous bloggers over at Shameless picked up on this quote in Good Magazine’s interview with Christie Hefner. Hefner is chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises – daughter of Hugh – and oversees Playboy’s business ventures as well as supporting activism on various issues.

Shameless explains why they found the article interesting:

The “can porn be feminist?” question is not a new one, but the reason I bring up this article and Christie Hefner (who adamantly refers to herself as both a feminist and an activist) is because of a single (very controversial) quote in the article that rattled me more than a little bit, and that is relevant considering our recent discussion on what it means to call yourself a feminist:

“To say you’re not a feminist is virtually the same thing as saying you’re a racist.”

Woah. Really? Thoughts?

Provocative quote.

Can those similarities be drawn? Should those similarities be drawn?

Ballad for All the Pobrecitas

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

i am the girl who you think does not have feelings, because my face has learned not to show you.*

While working at the library last summer, scanning and stamping books, a peculiar sight caught my eye.

A beautiful young woman approached the check out counter. She was petite and delicate, clad in an orange wrap dress and lace up espadrilles. She carried a small child with the same warm brown skin tone as her own. She reached for an adult book, and a voice chastised her in Spanish. A small, squat man stood close to her. She immediately relinquished the book and walked toward the front counters.

She handed me two children’s books. As I took the books from her hands, I saw her face up close.

The brown skin of her cheeks was covered in a powder made for a much fairer woman, giving her face an ashen pallor. Her hair, which appeared to be naturally black at the roots, was a pumpkin shade, harshly colored in hopes of achieving a blond color. She looked at me through blue color contacts.

I involuntarily took in a breath, but managed to recover. I welcomed her to the library, and asked if she found everything alright.

She looked deep into my eyes, giving me a radiant 500-megawatt smile.

My heart twisted.

I wanted to ask her so many questions, starting with the obvious – why did a gorgeous woman want to hide so much of herself? I hesitated, hearing myself automatically discuss the library policies.

The man next to her let lose another harsh string of Spanish. The smile died on her face, and she quickly gathered the child and the books, following him out the door.

I turned my eyes away from her retreating back to assist the next patron.

A few hours later, after my shift, I was still troubled by the scene I witnessed. I called my friend Jefe and described what I had seen, and the heaviness that seemed to take up permanent residence in my chest.

“Pobrecita…” he murmured half to himself.

Remembering that my Sesame Street level Spanish skills obviously did not extend to whatever he was about to express, he switched to English. After explaining to me that pobrecita meant “poor girl,” he collected his thoughts before continuing with his next statement.

“It’s sad to hear about that girl. I mean, how can you hate yourself so much that you hide who you really are?”

i’m the girl who has been shut out because of my weight or my race or the style of my hair, because I say weird things, because of the look on my face, because my timing is always off, because the shapes of my body parts are too big, long, flat, wide, or different.

While Jefe’s assessment may be harsh, I found myself agreeing. It was not the issue of the color contacts or the orangish hair – I don’t believe changing the color or your eyes indicates anything other than you wanted to try a different eye color. People are entitled to change their hair color as often as they like.

The face powder is what catches me every time I think of the girl. A white chalky mask, which did not come close to camouflaging the brown skin underneath. It was the type of color mis-match that could not have been a mistake. She saw her brown skin in the mirror, but instead chose the powder intended for a white woman. And that one, small act changed the significance of her color contacts and her aspiring-to-be-blond hair, taking it from innocent self-expression to something a bit more sinister.

i’m the girl who does nothing with her face. (because make-up makes me feel like a clown.)

Still, I can’t quite blame her. In our current social culture, young women (and young men to a lesser extent) are subjected to thousands of subliminal messages that erode away at self-esteem. You aren’t cute enough. You aren’t sexy enough. You aren’t thin enough. You are nothing without a toned six-pack. All of your features are weird. You don’t make enough money. You can’t afford what we are selling. Your life would be better if you bought our product. Continue reading

Something New is Getting Old

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I wouldn’t have wanted to date white guys before, but they’re killin’ it right now – Justin Timberlake, Orlando Bloom, Paul Walker. Every hot guy I see is white.”

—Rihanna, Vibe Vixen August/September issue

According to CNN, black women are warming up to the idea of “dating out:”

For years, Toinetta Jones played the dating game by her mom’s strict rule.

“Mom always told me, ‘Don’t you ever bring a white man home,”‘ recalled Jones, echoing an edict issued by many Southern, black mothers.

But at 37, the Alexandria divorcee has shifted to dating “anyone who asks me out,” regardless of race.

“I don’t sit around dreaming about the perfect black man I’m going to marry,” Jones said.

Black women around the country also are reconsidering deep-seated reservations toward interracial relationships, reservations rooted in America’s history of slavery and segregation.

They’re taking cues from their favorite stars — from actress Shar Jackson to tennis pro Venus Williams — as well as support blogs, how-to books and interracially themed novels telling them it’s OK to “date out.”

[Is it just me, or does anyone else think that “date out” sounds suspiciously like take out? Like black women are walking up to White-Guy-2-Go, like “I’d like a tall blond please, with a side of surfer – easy on the emo.”]

The CNN article continues:

It comes as statistics suggest American black women are among the least likely to marry.

[Yeah, yeah, trust me, we know. Is there a dating statistic quoted more often than black women are least likely to marry? If someone knows of another one, please let me know!]

“I’m not saying that white men are the answer to all our problems,” Jones said. “I’m just saying that they offer a different solution.”

She reflects many black women frustrated as the field of marriageable black men narrows: They’re nearly seven times more likely to be incarcerated than white men and more than twice as likely to be unemployed

[Looks like the Black-Men-2-Go Franchise is falling on hard times…]

While CNN (and the other outlets I saw this in before seeing the CNN link) are doing their best to promote discussion about this “trend,” they are conveniently forgetting that “dating out” isn’t exactly new.

Check out this statistic from the article:

Census data showed 117,000 black wife-white husband couples in 2006, up from 95,000 in 2000.

There were just 26,000 such couples in 1960, before a Supreme Court ruling banished laws against mixed marriages.

So…before it was legal, 26,000 black women still found a way to marry Mr. White? So, we have a solid 40 years of black women dating – and marrying – white men of their own free will. Interesting.

Personally, I have four main issues with this article:

1. It reinforces the “black men are underachieving” stereotype.

Black women are refusing to comply with that message about just find yourself a good blue-collar man with a job, or just find a black man,” Moore said. Continue reading

Lament for Vibe Vixen

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I grabbed the final issue of Vibe Vixen off the newsstand today.

Ever since I read about the magazine’s demise on, I’ve been on a hunt to make sure I got my last copy. I search the shelves of my local Borders until I spot it, wedged between DC Style and Bethesda Magazine. Rihanna graces the cover, body bent like a bow, clad in a metallic silver dress.

I scan the coverlines. August/September issue is the celeb glam issue. Rihanna speaks out about Jay-Z. Fall’s best boots, lipstick, wine, books, and purses. Two articles on hip-hop.

After doing a quick flip through to make sure I was paying for articles and not just ads, I took it to the register.

Cracking open the magazine, I find that the highlighted articles on the cover do not begin to do this issue justice. The models, as always, are multicultural. The Vixen Verified feature focuses on a new powder by M.A.C. – the three tones shown in the picture would work on Asian, African-American, or Latina complexions with relative ease. Beauty 411, a monthly page dedicated to beauty dilemmas, tackles the issue of going natural for the scissor shy – something I’ve been wrestling with for some time.

Vibe Vixen is one of the only mags where I see young African-American women discussed – but also young Asian American women and young Latinas. The models reflect this diversity, and while the articles can be skewed toward black women there is the occasional feature about Asian American make-up trends or popular Latinas beyond Jennifer Lopez.

In this issue, there is even a health warning, discussing the issues faced with the feeling that young women have to overachieve. The quote that represents the article is telling:

Latinas suffer from depression more than any other group in the U.S. Asian-American women have the highest rates of suicide in the nation.

Chilling facts are presented, but with another message as the undertone – we need to care about each other. Issues that Latinas face are important. Issues that Asian women face are important. Issues relating to other women of color are our issues.

Vibe Vixen was refreshing that way. Moving in small strides, it began to rectify one of the most egregious flaws in the magazine industry – the continued segregation in demographics in the magazine industry.

The same industry that will relentlessly serve up ten different variations on a magazine aimed at young white women from ages 25-40 seems to feel as though African-American women can be served with one main magazine (Essence), that all that is Latin-American can be encapsulated within the covers of Latina, and that Asian American women largely do not exist.

[Note: I am aware of the existence of two magazines – East/West & Hyphen that may cater to Asian-American women…but I have yet to see either of those on a newsstand in my area. As my local newsstands continue to bulge to overflowing with the latest UK imports, artsy mags from New York and the Bay Area in California, and hobby magazines, I wonder how Asian-American women are consistently passed over. The only place I consistently see Asian-American faces is Lucky – and I think that is the influence of one of the editors.]

The mag industry also underestimates the number of cross-cultural friendships. How many times have I bonded with my friends over how much advertisers do not appreciate our money? Sitting with my friend Hae, we both marveled at a hair care feature which painstakingly detailed options for brunettes, blonds, and redheads with thick hair, thin hair, wavy hair, curly hair…and then saved a small column for “ethnic” hair.

Hae and I were mystified. I can no longer remember the name of the magazine that ran the article, but apparently, all types of ethnic hair can be fixed with a defrizzer. Since there was an Asian girl in the accompanying photo, we decided to believe that advice might have been for Asian hair. Or maybe not. The next beauty feature we read also labeled out options for pale skins and self-tanners, giving another column to what was deemed “dark/African-American skin.”

Not too long after that, Hae gave up American magazines all together, preferring Korean mags like Ceci and Korean blogs.

I still had the occassional magazine to fall back on. There was Honey, there was Suede, and finally Vixen.

Vixen excited me the most. Essence is the reigning magazine for African-American women, but it leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of Essence’s articles are tailored toward older, more family oriented women, and about their truths and achievements. What I looked for in a magazine was something that spoke to me, a neo-bohemian from the new school, raised on hip-hop and the internet with a healthy mix of rock, jazz and culture thrown in to keep things interesting.

Vibe Vixen was the magazine that spoke directly to me, my own affirmation that there are more of the young, rebellious, and fabulous. Finally, someone heard my silent pleas and created a magazine that was reflective of me.

And now, that voice is no more. The bi-monthly mag has folded, to be reassigned as a cultural quarterly.

For the third time, the small voice that represented my interests has been silenced.

In the article, “A Hip-Hop State of Mind,” Vibe Vixen introduces the piece by summarizing their magazine:

“As the only magazine that fully represents the voice of a generation of women raised in and on hip-hop…”

Vibe Vixen was on its way to achieving that goal of being the voice of this particular segment of young women. I would have hoped it would pave the way for other voices – alternative Latinas, black women who are not defined by hip-hop, a ‘zine that respectfully explores differences between men and women without pitting one side against the other.


But silenced voices can no longer speak.

So, Vibe Vixen ends.

And young black women are once again waiting for a magazine that will speak to them, instead of the current cacophony of voices that try to speak for us without knowing who we are at all.

Dancing like a “white boy”: Diddy on Making the Band 4

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse, originally published at Does Race Matter?

If only I had a dollar for every time Diddy said something totally racist against white people, I’d be a millionaire. I was (regrettably) watching the new season of his Making the Band reality show last night and noticed that the entire time, he focused on belittling the white performers that had been picked to compete for band membership. It was a little weird as he constantly commented on how they were “dancing like white boys” and had to stop doing that, equating not dancing well to whiteness. I noticed that he also held the white men to different standards, expecting them to fail in a way, or, at least meaning that via most of his words. Imagine if someone on a show said, “stop failing out of school like a black guy. Get an A this time. Come on, look at all these white boys around you doing well in school. Black guys are stupid!” as motivation for one to do better. I mean, hey, it may work, but by asserting a stereotype about one group, one inadvertently makes a statement about another group, again relying on a stereotype. Ugh.

It also seems to give the white contestants an inferiority complex not because of their talent, but because of their race. They both frequently said things that reiterated Diddy’s statement, “I can’t dance like a white boy. I need to do better,” or by discussing the immense pressure they feel as the only white men in the band. They were clearly good enough to get there, but it’s possible that their minority status coupled with the negative reinforcement from Diddy was bad for their confidence…Sounds awfully close to something that happens to racial minorities on a regular basis, and seeing it so blatantly displayed on tv, despite the role reversal, made me very uncomfortable…

Race Preference or Race Fetish?

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

[Warning: Post contains links to pictures of hot male entertainers in various stages of undress. Click at your own risk.]

Back in April, I read this Kimchi Mamas post and was reminded of an ongoing debate I have with a few friends: is exclusively dating members of your own race being racist or having a preference? Is dating outside of your race exercising a fetish?

I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the debate, of equal merit. (Check the Kimchi Mamas post for some other ideas on race and dating).

When my friends and I discuss the idea of race and dating (or interracial sex, depending on the day) we tend to take the debate a step or two further and pose the following question: is it a preference or fetish? At what point does admiration of certain characteristics (mocha skin, jet-black hair, a petite stature, a porcelain complexion) become a full-blown fetish?

And further, can you fetishize your own race?

Tackling the first idea, I believe it is difficult to differentiate between a fetish and characteristic. The only rule that sticks seems to be making blanket statements about an entire race of people (i.e. all white women are wild in bed) as an indicator of a fetish. So when I hear a comment like “Asian girls are hot,” it does give me some pause. Hearing a statement like that kind of makes me think that the speaker already has a preconceived notion of what “Asian” is – and it probably excludes women from Malaysia, the Philippines, India, or Sri Lanka.

On the other hand, sometimes certain characteristics (which may or may not be common to a certain race or ethnicity) can be highly coveted by individuals. Darker skin is not common to all races. Neither is long, straight, jet black hair or blue eyes. So, it would stand to reason that people who find certain characteristics attractive would start seeking out individuals with those characteristics – which may lead to dating along racial lines.

Hmmm…preference or fetish?

One of my close friends tends to date white women, though he maintains he dates the rainbow. When I ask him about the reasons for his attraction, he goes into different factors of why he is attracted to the women he dates. He lists things like body type, hair, and complexion. I prodded him playfully about one of his recently revealed fetishes – the fact that he, a black male, wants to have a white woman tie him up and treat him like a slave.

He asked one of his former sex partners to do it, and she didn’t speak to him for a week.

He acted puzzled.

“I just asked her to beat me a few times and call me Toby.”

I asked him if his desire for that particular sex act has caused him in recent years to narrow his focus in dating, pointing out that he has not dated anyone of color since freshman year of college.

He contemplates that for a moment.

“Maybe,” he finally answers.

Still, I’m not really one to talk. I’ve been accused of harboring a fetish myself. Continue reading

WANTED: A Black Actress to Play a Black Character

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

While flying through the blogosphere, I happened upon a quick newsbyte from Willow_Dot_Com:

Angelina Jolie has been tapped to play The Fox in a movie version of Mark Millar’s WANTED. Fox in the comics is a brown female play off of DC’s Catwoman. She’s sleek, she’s smooth, she’s a jewel thief and her ex-boyfriend is ‘The Detective’. But with Angelina Jolie playing her, she’ll no longer be a sistah.


I went to research this (since I am way more familar with manga than American comics), but the AfroGeeks blog had me covered.

In this post Afrogeek offers up their own theory of how casting went down:

Step 1, Mark Millar, bad ass comic book man puts out a bad ass super villain comic called Wanted, a few years ago. It was super dope. Main female villain is a Catwoman knock off dyed bronze named The Fox. Hot like fire and black, or at least Puerto Rican, right? Like a young Eartha Kitt. So how come Angelina Jolie has the part in the movie? What the hell is going on Hollywood? She is not black! And I know its some pasty faced producer in some high class Hollywood hotel suite snorting enough blow to kill an elephant that lifts his head up right before he has a heart attack and says “Hey guys, Fuck a black chick, they have too much attitude anyway. How about we get Angelina Jolie? She was like Tomb Raider.” That shit for brains passes out but his coca induced fantasy lives on. Can you leave the good black parts for the good black actors. Or at least stop making bad black actors play good white roles (See the Kingpin in the Daredevil movie to know what I’m talking about.)

When I read the inital posting from Willow_Dot_Com, my mouth fell open – because didn’t a commenter (thanks nsekuye!) tip us off to a quote from a MSNBC Interview that says:

“I know that people are frustrated at the lack of great roles [for people of color], but I think they’ve picked the wrong example here,” Jolie says.

Okay, so if a Mighty Heart was the wrong example, what is the deal with this role?

Government Money, Gangbangers, and Gold Diggers

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

The name Matthew Lesko is somewhat unknown in DC.

However, if you say “the guy in the question mark suits with the free money commerical” most people will remember the crazy informercials.

A staple of late night and daytime TV, Lesko’s commericals feature him clad head to toe in an eye-popping suit covered in question marks, screaming about free money and being chased around the capitol by government agents.

However, it looks like Matthew Lesko is looking for a different feel to his new commericals.

According to this article in Sunday’s Washington Post, Lesko seems to have found the answer:

Lesko’s here in the coffeehouse to meet with his director, Mike Fleg, who has an idea for a new ad. No geriatric muggers this time. This ad will feature Lesko rapping.

Rapping? Is the world really ready for Matthew Lesko rapping about how to get free money from the government?

Fleg thinks so. He’s 23 and he just graduated from the University of Maryland. He’s here with Elijah Harvey, another new grad, who raps under the name “XL.” Together, they explain their idea for the ad: Lesko’s walking through a funky neighborhood in his nerdy question-mark suit. A gaggle of gangbangers spot him, and one of them — to be played by XL — starts rapping about how lame Lesko looks. Then Lesko starts rapping back, talking about how he knows how to get free money from the government: “I got billions in free money and it’s waitin’ for you / So come get your money and your life will be new.” And pretty soon, the gangbanger’s girlfriends desert him and flock to Lesko because he’s got free money. Then the music swells :”Getcha money! Getcha money!”

Lesko smiles and sings along: “Getcha money! Getcha money!” Then he says, “I like that. But the beginning is too long. How do we get to the ‘getcha money’ faster?”


On so many levels.

One – why do people still think the tired “nerd goes to hood, meets gangbangers, has rap showdown, wins and gets the girl” is funny or innovative? I can see why Lesko might think it is a new, refreshing take on things – the concept probably would never have crossed his mind. (Lesko’s last informerical featured himself as an old woman, mugging a doctor.) But a 23 year old? A 23 year old rapper? Please…

I would file the new Lesko commerical with the Casa Furniture Commericals or the Eastern Motors Radio spots – but there is one key difference.

The Casa & Eastern Motors commericals use stereotypes to pander to specific communities. Lesko’s commerical plays on black racial stereotypes – namely gangbangers and gold-diggers – to attract mainstream attention.