All posts by Latoya Peterson

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 MediaBistro.com, 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.

*sigh*

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.

What?

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?”

Ew.

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.

Thoughts?

A Quick Reflection on Being “Black”

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

The Talented Ms. Muse asked “What is Blackness?” on Monday.

I still haven’t been able to think of an answer.

I have a black experience.

[Note: that is a black experience, not the black experience.]

I grew up educated in classic black literature. Most of my early books were from the Afrobets series. My mother was so adamant that I would escape the taint of ingrained white supremacy that lurks in the American social consciousness that she went to the opposite extreme. I learned to reject Aryan beauty ideals. I learned to hold a deep seated mistrust for white people, even growing up in the late 1980s in a predominantly white suburb. I became so accustomed to seeing everything reflected through an African American perspective. Most of my books were by black authors. If I watched television, it was normally something on Howard University television. I went to African-American expos and black family reunions. One Christmas, I remember my mother putting foundation on a Santa Claus ornament, literally painting his face black. I remember feeling a strong sense of pride at being born black.

Then, thirteen years into my black experience, I was called a racist by another black friend, and spent my teen years reevaluating how I viewed the world. I decided to try things that were outside of the generally accepted norms of black society, rebelling against my hip-hop household with rock and roll, adopting different styles, taking the time to learn about the struggles of other cultures, and a different set of friends.

At sixteen, I finally learned to ignore groupthink and just be myself. I came to the conclusion that blackness cannot be quantified in simple actions or the way words are spoken. As a result, over the last few years, I have learned to challenge and release some of the notions I held about interracial dating, about white people in general, and about the preconceived notions of what makes a person authentically black.

My friends also have their own stories of blackness. One is an African-American, in the process of converting to Judaism, who has found a synagogue that will embrace his sexual orientation, and spends his time traveling the globe.

I have another friend who has become accustomed to being the only black girl at the indie rock show, who finds as much style inspiration in Marilyn Manson as she does as Marilyn Monroe. Continue reading

Catcalling is a Cross Cultural Annoyance

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

[Note: Please read this post after reading Racism as a Lifestyle Choice. While the two posts are independent, it helps to understand how this post started, and why it is on a race blog and not a gender blog.]

Men, please grab your pencils and take a few notes.

I am about to outline the reasons why women hate being catcalled – What Women Are Thinking 101.

I know that for many of you, this lecture does not apply. More than a few of you are respectful and polite. You might think of one drunken episode where you behaved like an ass, but for the most part you approach women in bars, at speed dating, at work, on CL, at concerts, and other appropriate venues. You leave women in public in relative peace, and we thank you for that.

But we know you have one or two (or a few) ignorant friends.

Please pass this information along to them.

In a post titled On Thursdays We Grab Titties, TAN attempts to call Kim Klinger to task.

The source material comes from Kimberly Klinger, racist, who has been keeping some sort of cat-call spreadsheet in the interest of launching a two-part attack on the neighborhood heterosexual immigrants who harass her with come-ons once or twice a week. First Kimberly confesses she’s a racist (agh, aren’t we all sista-girl?), and explains why sexism trumps racism in her Court of Minority Offenses. Her dilemma: Kimberly went to college, so she knows she shouldn’t hate brown (excluding the hunky UPS guy of course), but what’s a pretty white girl to do in the face of such aggressive misogyny? Just lay out her vagine in a chalupa or bucket of fried chicken? In part two of Kimberly’s Mein Kampf she lays down the gauntlet and shares her Top 15 Hollas, so that we can get a little glimpse into her personal Holla-Hell (hella?).

[...]

These aren’t f’ing gorillas on the discovery channel sparring for a mate. More often than not, these are guys hanging out cause they got nothing better to do. This is a citified version of fishing. Just casting out the net and seeing what gets stuck. Maybe have some beers while you do it. You don’t need a sociology degree to know this (congrats on that, btw!). Just pop your head out of your ass for ten seconds. They’re just saying hello (and also letting you know that if you wanted to have sex or something they wouldn’t necessarily disapprove).

As TAN has pointed out, yes, most you are guys hanging out and trying to have a good time. Unfortunately, men’s ideas of what “saying hello” constitutes vary widely. For TAN and other guys, hollering at girls is just recreation, sport, a little fun. For the most part, the worst you’ll get is a girl who decides to catch an attitude and curse you out. No real problem there, especially when the payoff is a cute girl’s phone number.

What men fail to see is that women do not see a group of men as people who just want to say hello. A group of leering men is a potential threat. Rebuffing just one guy’s advances is difficult enough – rebuffing a man in front of a group of his friends is going to cause a situation – the guy feels like he has to save face in front of his friends, which means embarrassing you. Continue reading

Racism as a Lifestyle Choice

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Listening to people rationalize their racism is both hilarious and infuriating.

This week, Carmen posted a link to a RaceWire posting about an article that explored one white woman’s journey into racism.

Initially I viewed the post with skepticism. My neighbors made me racist? Are you kidding? I perused the article, made a comment, and thought that would be the end of that. However, the rationalization of racist behavior continued with TAN pointing me toward a Washington City Paper article I had skipped last week, once again featuring a white woman spinning the same “woe-is-me, I-turned-into-a-racist completely by accident” spiel.

Okay, so now there are two white women, taking their “Oops, I did it (racism) again” moments to the press. Is this indicative of a trend? I decided to re-examine the two pieces with a more objective eye. After all, life experiences do contribute to the development of character – the idea that adverse life experience could influence feelings of racism is not so far-fetched.

The article in the St. Petersburg Times introduces the article with Cathy Salustri typing out:

I’m a white woman living in a black neighborhood, and I’m turning into a racist because of it.

The article goes on to detail her transition into racism:

As she wrote, she realized that the journey from tolerance to prejudice began two years ago when she moved to St. Petersburg’s Bartlett Park. Her Realtor, her parents, even her black friends told her that moving there was a mistake.

She didn’t listen. One of her white friends lived nearby and had no problems. She figured her experience would be no different. She took all the precautions Realtors suggest. She researched the neighborhood. Most of the crimes there were minor. She drove through at night and never saw any strange activity.

It was affordable; she could pay the mortgage with her income as a freelance writer. After multiple visits to the 1925 bungalow, she paid $72, 500. She closed June 10, 2005.

The first six months, things were good. [...]

The thefts started in December 2005. First a ladder. Then, a folding chair, a weed whacker, a Volkswagen carburetor. This past April, a scooter. When a suspect – who is black – was found with the scooter, something in Salustri switched.

Stereotypes ricocheted through her head.

He’ll be dead before he’s 30.

The slur she won’t say out loud blared in her brain. [...]

Last month, she went to court, where the scooter suspect appeared on drug charges. She needed to see his face, she said. “If I saw him on the street, I wanted to know the guy who stole my scooter.” In court, he smiled and waved at the people sitting on the right side of the gallery. Most of them were black.

That’s when Salustri lost it.

It was bigger than the suspect. She was disgusted with every black person in the courtroom. She didn’t know their stories and didn’t care.

F- – - – - – lowlifes.

Okay, let’s recap.

This woman moved to a cheap, affordable neighborhood in a not-so-great area. She was aware of minor crime issues in the neighborhood. And yet, she is shocked when her personal items were stolen. Continue reading