All posts by Latoya Peterson

Must Read: Race, History, Colonialism and Assassin’s Creed IV

Friend of the blog Evan Narcisse wrote an interesting take on playing through historical worlds while black:

The game begins in 1715, when European rule over the island was still firmly established. That means I might be traipsing around an island where some Frenchman with my last name owns someone who looks like my father. And that might make me wince a little. But Ismail also told me that Edward Kenway’s first mate Adewale starts the game as a slave and becomes a free man over the course of the single-player story. Adewale will also be the focus of some of Black Flag‘s DLC.

Slavery Gives Me a Weird Personal Connection to Assassin's Creed IV

Focusing on Adewale and touching on slavery as it might’ve been lived in the early 1700s moves the racial portrayal forward from last year’s Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. The heroine of that Vita game was the child of a slave and had missions where she freed others from servitude. And, with confirmation that Aveline will also be playable in PlayStation-exclusive add-ons for the game, ACIV will have two prominent black characters where so many titles struggle to have even one.

Narcisse also explores his own family history and what he hopes to see reflected in the game play.  Read the rest at Kotaku.

Open Thread: The Great Gatsby

By Latoya Peterson

Gasby Movie Poster

Gasby Movie Poster

So I haven’t done a movie review for this site in forever, and I probably will never again.  That’s because before I started this gig, I watched movies like this:

 

Because Michael Jackson picked good movies.

Because Michael Jackson picked good movies.

And now I watch movies like this:

 

No one is impressed with this film. McKayla and Barack agree.

No one is impressed with this film. McKayla and Barack agree.

But the other Knights wanted to go, it looked pretty, Hova did the soundtrack, and I was hoping it would be as much fun as Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. (Huh? Plot? We ain’t got time for alla that. That’s what the book is for.)

So, Gatsby was fun–as one of my friends noted, it’s “Art Deco Porn.”  But of course, there’s also race things.  Some quick observations after the jump. *SPOILERS TOO!*

Continue reading

On Lean-ing In

by Latoya Peterson

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Sheryl Sandberg currently owns the news cycle. All we’ve heard for weeks are critiques of her new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Any possible angle about the book has been covered (see here, here, here, here, here, and criticism of the criticism)–except the most obvious one. While many of Sandberg’s critics point to the failure to engage with class as a key failing of the book, most of the coverage focuses on Sandberg herself. And while much has been made about whether Sandberg is too privileged to accurately shed light on the lives of all kinds of women, the voices of women across race and class lines are once again erased from the conversation.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to explore the topics in the book. We will host perspectives on Lean In, but also why women of color leave corporate environments in favor of forging our own paths in entrepreneurship. And we’ll look at what happens when Leaning In just isn’t an option.

We’ve asked Farai Chideya, Tami Winfrey Harris, Christina Xu, Adria Richards, Carolyn Edgar, Kishwer Vikaas, Andreana Clay, Flavia Dzodan, and many others to weigh in with stories, essays, and interviews that will be published here over the next two weeks, so watch this space.

Related:

Is Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” The Next Great Feminist Manifesto? [Ms.]
The TechCrunch ‘Lean In’ Roundtable, Part 1: Controversy, Fear, And How To Fight It [TechCrunch]
‘Lean in’? For Millennials, the question is what are we leaning toward [MHP]

Earlier:

Women of Color and Wealth Part 1, The Scope of the Problem;
2, Looking at the Wealth Gap; 3, Starting Points and Class Jumping; 4, Measuring the Intangibles; 5, Looking at Outliers and Outsiders; 5.5, Consumption and the Pressure to Shop

From Star Trek To The Stars

The late astronaut Robert McNair. Via science.ksc.nasa.gov

The late astronaut Ronald McNair. Via science.ksc.nasa.gov

Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, was inspired by Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Lieutenant Uhura onStar Trek. But she wasn’t the only one boldly going to the final frontier. StoryCorps tells the story of Ronald McNair, the second African American in space and a casualty of the Challenger disaster in 1986. The short (captioned) video illuminates McNair’s inquisitive beginnings in the segregated American South, his teen years, and the realization of his dream.

 

Class Notes: The Black Feminist Politics Of Pleasure

Screen Shot 2013-01-23 at 3.03.42 PMHey Racializens!

I am still at Stanford (and will be until June.) But I am bringing back an old tradition of doing class notes on some of these ideas.

Background

Joan Morgan, hip-hop feminism pioneer, has been moving her work into conversations around pleasure and sexual politics. Jeff Chang, hip-hopper-about-town and the head of Stanford’s Institue for Diversity in the Arts, asked Joan if she’d like the be the artist in residence for WinterQuarter. Joan agreed and then developed a class called “The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Pleasure.”

The Course

“The Pleasure Principle: A Post-Hip Hop Search for a Black Feminist Politics of Power” (CSRE127B) will explore the various articulations of a politics of pleasure in black feminist thought. We will examine classic black feminist texts on respectability politics, the erotic, hip-hop feminism, and dancehall culture, geared toward helping students develop a critical lens for interrogating depictions of black female sexuality and articulations of pleasure in popular culture. Examples include “The Cosby Show,” “Sex in the City,” “Girlfriends,” “Basketball Wives,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Pariah,” as well as the works of Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Tanya Stephens, and Lady Saw. Continue reading

Huffington Post Live: Simplifying Emancipation

Hey All –

Racialicious is still on break, but I was on Huffington Post Live with Janell Ross (HuffPost Black Voices and Latino Voices Senior Reporter), Professor Jelani Cobb (Director of the Institute of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut) and William Ferris (Professor of History and Folklore at University of North Carolina).

We discussed Ross’s article “America’s Understanding of Emancipation Proclamation On Its 150th Anniversary Too Simple For Country’s Own Good.” Our friend Ahmed Shihab-Eldin moderated the discussion.

Grammar, Identity, And The Dark Side Of The Subjunctive: Phuc Tran At TEDxDirigo

Presented by Guest Contributor Phuc Tran

I am total a geek. Who’s a geek here? That’s probably a rhetorical question at a TED conference, right? I love Star Wars, I collect action figures, and my favorite biography is the biography of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style–for God’s sake, I read a book about the writing of another grammar book. How about those geek credentials?

I’m here today to talk about grammar, but not the “gotcha” grammar of split infinitives and the misuse of “whom” because frankly, I hate it when grammar is used to belittle others. I am here to talk to you how grammar is a tool, to be used like a pair of glasses. When employed at the right time, grammar can bring the world into sharp focus, and when used at the wrong time, it can make things incredibly blurry. And this all starts with the subjunctive. I remember talking to my dad about the subjunctive, and because he wasn’t a native English speaker, he didn’t understand all the nuances of the subjunctive. “Listen, Dad. You can say something like ‘If it hadn’t rained, we would have gone to the beach.’” And his response? “That’s a stupid thing to say. Why are you talking about something that didn’t happen?” (A staunch reader of non-fiction, my father has a similar opinion of fiction. “Why do you want to read books about people who never existed doing things that never happened?”)

Here’s a quick refresher of the subjunctive: in English, we have three moods: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. If we use the indicative mood in writing or speaking, we view the verb’s action as factual: “I am talking at a TED conference.” And the subjunctive mood is used when we view the action as nonfactual: “I might shit my pants.” The imperative mood is used when we view the action as a command: “Bring me a change of clothes.” The subjunctive comprises all the nuances of non-fact: potentiality, possibility, and contrafactuality.

The subjunctive mood allows us to look into the future and see multiple, highly nuanced possibilities with just a little sprinkling of could’s, would’s and might’s. Similarly, it also allows us to look into the past, to envision a world that didn’t happen but could have happened. The subjunctive is the most powerful mooda time-space dream machine that can create alternate realities with the idea of “would have been” or “should have been.”

And within this idea of “should have” is a Pandora’s box of regret and hope.

Growing up in Pennsylvania as a Vietnamese refugee, I would sometimes think about what would have happened if my family hadn’t escaped Saigon in 1975. Would we have been imprisoned like my father’s cousin, who spent years in re-education camp being tortured and sentenced to hard labor, or would we have been killed like countless other South Vietnamese unable to escape that April? The night we were fleeing Saigon, my entire family–grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles–were scheduled to board a bus. As the bus was loading passengers to go to the airport, I begin crying, shrieking uncontrollably–so much so that the entire family decided to wait for the next bus. And as that bus pulled away, it was struck by artillery fire, exploded, and killed everyone on board. As a young kid, I thought a lot about our good fortune and about what could have happened. I didn’t know it then, but I was pondering things that my parents couldn’t ponder–all because of the English subjunctive. Continue reading

Listening To Kanye [The Mental Health Files]

808′s and Heartbreak Album Cover.

 

Went through, deep depression when my momma passed/
Suicide, what kinda talk is that?/
But I been talking to God for so long/
And if you look at my life I guess he’s talking back- Kanye West, “Clique,” Cruel Summer

As often as Kanye West talks about the state of his mental health, one would think that we’d be having a national conversation on mental health–kind of like the way we had a wave of conversations about domestic violence in the wake of the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident. Yet, in the four years since Kanye began talking openly about the depression related to the death of his mother and the dissolution of his romantic relationship with longtime paramour Alexis Phifer, the conversations have continued to be one-sided.

A search for “Kanye West and Depression” brings up surprisingly few articles and discussions. There’s a sterile AP article describing his initial comments, Cord Jefferson advising Kanye to go to a therapist on The Root, an MTV news article on his path to recovery, and Tom Breihan in the Village Voice distilling 808′s and Heartbreak down to “emo bellyaching” and a “album-length tantrum at his ex.” While Bassey Ikpi later argued to have some compassion for Kanye, it was one small plea in a sea of indifference and condemnation.

After four years of being open about pain and vulnerability, I’m starting to wonder if society will ever really hear him. Continue reading