All posts by Nadra

Interracial Dating: Black Women Aren’t the Only Foes of Interracial Romance

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Do black women regard interracial relationships as a personal affront?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this issue raised. On June 2, it surfaced once more when blogger the Black Snob posted a thought-provoking piece on those who oppose interracial relationships called “Sometimes the White Girl (Or Guy) Isn’t about You (Unconventional Wisdom).”

The post begins with the Snob recalling her days in school when two black girls unsuccessfully try to jump a white classmate who’s dating a black guy. Throughout the piece, the Snob not only questions the rationale the two girls used to justify beating up their white peer but the rationale that black women in general draw upon to oppose interracial relationships. Are black women being fair when they assume that a black guy dating a white chick is a sell-out? And how do the insecurities of black women in Western society factor into their objection of interracial relationships?

She writes, “Some black guys are going to date white girls. Attempting to beat up the white girls will not turn that tide. …You’d be better off learning to love yourself than becoming mired in bitterness and hate over that thing that’s not really about you.”

The Snob’s points are valid. However, after reading her piece and others like it, I find myself wondering why black women are constantly portrayed as if they are only ones who react negatively to interracial relationships. As a black woman who has been involved with a white guy for more than a year, I’ve faced my fair share of hostility from white women, and some Asian ones, who seem resentful of my partnership. None of these women have disapproved of my relationship aloud, but they don’t really have to. Their body language says enough.

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Black Latinos, Stand Up

By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Ever have a conversation that seems normal enough and then takes a weird turn? This happened to me not long ago during a discussion about when L.A. Dodger Manny Ramirez would return to baseball.

All of a sudden the person I was speaking to asked, “What is he—black or Latino?”

To me, the answer was obvious. I mean, Manny Ramirez is caramel colored with coarse dreadlocks. He’s clearly black but his Spanish surname made the person I was talking to question this.

In fact, Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic, the nation where the largest number of black Hispanics in America originate. Cuba, Puerto Rico and Panama round out the top places from where Afro-Latinos in the U.S. hail, according to Census data.

Although there are an estimated 1.7 million black Hispanics in this country, some people seem to have a hard time recognizing the existence of such individuals. Within days of being asked about Manny Ramirez’s ethnicity, I encountered people questioning actress Zoe Saldana’s. Like Ramirez, Saldana is also a black Dominican. Continue reading

Postmaster Refuses to Serve Non-English Speaking Patrons

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

The Daily Mail has published an article about a British postmaster’s controversial move: He’s refusing to serve customers who don’t speak English. Complicating matters is that the postmaster, who works in a culturally diverse section of Nottingham, is of Sri Lankan decent. He became a naturalized British citizen 17 years ago.

“I tell them if they don’t speak the language and they can’t be bothered to learn, then don’t bother coming here,” the Daily Mail quoted Deva Kumarasiri as saying.

In making this statement, Kumarasiri ignores his background of privilege. For instance, later in the article, we discover that he learned English in school in his native Sri Lanka. This is an opportunity that scores of immigrants never receive.

The author of the article doesn’t say what age Kumarasiri was when he began to learn English, but studies have shown that the younger a person is when introduced to a language, the better chance the person has of mastering it. So, if Kumarasiri was a minor when he learned English, he has an additional edge over the immigrants he accuses of not “bothering to learn” the language. And is it fair to say that the immigrants in his area haven’t bothered to learn? I could argue that Kumarasiri didn’t bother to learn English either. He had to speak English by virtue of being a student in a school that instructed him in the language.

Throughout the article, Kumarasiri continues to make arguments that are downright shoddy. He resorts to using offensive clichés when he says, “If you don’t want to be British, go home.” Even when he puts more thought into his explanations for banning non-English speakers from his shop, his points are flawed. For example, Kumarasiri argues, “The fabric of the nation begins to unravel if we don’t all speak the same language.” Continue reading

Classic Film Review: Imitation of Life

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

*Warning: Spoiler Alert*

If there’s a classic film on race that gives “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” a run for its money, it’s 1959’s “Imitation of Life.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the film, which stars Lana Turner and Juanita Moore. There’s no denying that this film is chock full of stereotypes and relegates its black characters to the sidelines—even on the DVD cover. So, why today is this Douglas Sirk film still regarded as ab fab? A few reasons come to mind—both shallow and serious.

For starters, Lana Turner’s wardrobe is to die for. Mahalia Jackson sings her ass off, and the acting in this melodrama reaped Academy Award nominations. To boot, the movie’s emphasis on mother-daughter relationships gives it mass appeal. Mix in a couple of failed romances and an untimely death, and you have all the ingredients needed for a tearjerker.

“Imitation of Life” inspired a 2001 R.E.M. song of the same name and the 2002 film “Far from Heaven.” Also, in ’02, a scene from the film was featured in Eminem’s star-making vehicle, “8 Mile.” Its enduring popularity made it no surprise when the film debuted on DVD in 2003.

The Lana Turner version of “Imitation of Life” is a remake of the 1934 film of the same name starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers, based on the book Imitation of Life by Fannie Hurst. (Both films were released together in a DVD set in 2008.) In the first film, white actress Colbert and black actress Beavers hawk a pancake recipe together. In the 1959 version, the focus here, Lana Turner (Lora Meredith) runs into Juanita Moore (Annie Johnson) on Coney Island after their daughters become playmates.

At first, Lora has no idea that Annie is the mother of little Sarah Jane. “How long have you taken care of her?” she asks Annie. Annie is brown-skinned, and Sarah Jane is “light, bright, damn near white,” as the saying goes.

Lora looks like she’s going to crap her pants when she learns that Annie isn’t SJ’s mammy, prompting Annie to tell her that Sarah Jane’s dad is “practically white.” This explanation is good enough for Lora, who likely would’ve needed smelling salts had SJ’s dad been actually white instead of practically so. Still, there’s no way for us to know his race for sure because he took off before Sarah Jane was born, leaving Annie to fend for herself and young daughter alone. Continue reading

Was There a Race War after Hurricane Katrina?

By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Herrington, Alexander and Collins. 

It’s unlikely that these names ring a bell, that upon hearing them a knot will form in your stomach as often happens to those who hear the names of another trio—Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney. The latter threesome received worldwide recognition after a lynch mob executed them in 1964 for trying to register black Mississippians to vote. On the other hand, the former threesome was shot during Hurricane Katrina by a group of men described as “white vigilantes.” Unlike Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney, however, Herrington (pictured above), Alexander and Collins survived to tell their tale.

Now, A.C. Thompson, a writer for The Nation, has launched an investigation into the shootings of Herrington, Alexander and Collins. In an article called “Katrina’s Hidden Race War,” which was published online Dec. 17, Thompson asserts that at least 11 blacks were shot as the hurricane unfolded—all by white men.

“So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting Herrington, Alexander and Collins—in fact, there was never an investigation,” Thompson writes. “As a reporter who has spent more than a decade covering crime, I was startled to meet so many people with so much detailed information about potentially serious offenses, none of whom had ever been interviewed by police detectives.” Continue reading

On Being American and African Black

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

The first time I saw “Roots” I was in puberty, but since my birth the groundbreaking miniseries has been a running joke among my maternal relatives.

My mother is a black American, raised Baptist in Tennessee. My father is a Muslim from Nigeria. More specifically, for those in the know, he’s Yoruba.

When I was a baby my American relatives, all natives of small-town Tennessee and wholly unfamiliar with Africans, took to holding me up in the air and anointing me Kunta Kinte, like the character in “Roots.” Although the gesture annoyed my mother to no end, her family members found it hilarious.

Africans, you see, are hilarious. If there is one stereotype about Africans that has lingered throughout my life it is this. Perhaps because of this stereotype, before my birth my maternal grandmother envisioned that I would look less like a baby and more like an offensive cartoon character. She warned my mother to expect me to have coal black skin and bright red lips like Little Sambo. In expressing her fears, my grandmother ignored the reality of my father, who is dark-skinned but not especially so. In fact, he is a shade or two lighter than my mother is. Because Africans are an “exotic other,” however, my grandmother adopted a white supremacist gaze in connection to my father.

She’s far from the only black American to adopt that stance in relation to Africans. In Chicago, where my parents met and lived, my mother recalled being approached by a black woman curious to know if I cried in “African.” Now, I was born in the late1970s, before Akon dominated music charts or Hakeem Olajuwon (a fellow Yoruba) dominated basketball courts. Still, it’s somewhat shocking to note that some of the African Americans in my midst then viewed me as an entirely different entity from themselves. Continue reading

White Feminists and Michelle Obama

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Should white feminists be taken to task if they don’t defend Michelle Obama from the misogynistic attacks sure to continue coming her way as the presidential campaign unfolds? Not necessarily, say Corinne Douglas and Jacquelyn Gray, who wrote an editorial called the “Cost of Silence” at the Root.com.

In the article, Douglas and Gray argue that black women remained silent when Hillary Clinton suffered a litany of misogynistic attacks. Therefore, white women can’t be held accountable if they refuse to defend Michelle Obama from the evils of sexism. Douglas and Gray write:

“The misogynistic savaging of Hillary Clinton was one of the most inexcusable elements of the primary campaign, and the silence from black women in the face of those attacks, because they supported Obama, was, at least, a tactical mistake. It is entirely unacceptable to go along with unfair attacks against women simply because you disagree with the particular woman under attack.”

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White Men Can’t Jump, or Run, Some Say

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Dancing. Singing. Running.

These are just a few of the areas in which blacks are supposed to excel. With the Olympics in session, interest in blacks’ so-called prowess in the last of the trio above has been renewed.

Slate.com is a case in point. In the site’s “Explainer” section, the following question was posed: Why are Jamaicans So Good at Sprinting?

Slate answered the question by citing studies that found that West Africans tend to have higher numbers of muscle fibers responsible for “short, explosive bursts of action” than whites do—an advantage in running competitions. It also included this nugget of information:

“So far, there is no evidence that even extensive training can turn slow-twitch muscles into fast-twitch ones, though moving in the other direction is possible.”

In short, white folks don’t stand a chance against those of West African descent in track and field events. Even if they work hard, they can’t develop the innate skills that blacks have in the sport. Continue reading