All posts by Racialicious Team

White Feminists And Michelle Obama [The Throwback]

By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Editor’s Note: In this feature, we’re bringing back some of our favorite stories from Racialicious history. This week, in honor of the First Lady’s 50th Birthday, a 2008 piece defending her as she entered the national spotlight

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.

But here the authors make a number of assumptions. For one, not all black women supported Sen. Obama. High profile black women such as California Congresswoman Maxine Waters and author Maya Angelou supported Hillary Clinton. There were also black women, such as writer Rebecca Walker, who backed Sen. Obama while exposing the sexism targeted at Hillary Clinton. Walker, the goddaughter of feminist icon Gloria Steinem, even pointed out the ways in which Obama himself exhibited sexist behavior. Political commentator Donna Brazile is another example, as she was adamant about being a representative for both women and blacks during the primaries and did not publicly back either Clinton or Obama during that time. As for those black women who were not vocal about the sexism Sen. Clinton experienced, the assumption can’t be made that they did not speak out simply because she was Obama’s opponent.
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Quoted: Arturo & Kendra Talk Comics On NPR’s Code Switch

Kendra on the industry’s expectations of the audience: “What’s the nerd stereotype? The guy who looks like Kevin Smith, or the [brown] girl who’s been loyal to the same comic shop for years? There’s a worry, subconscious or not, that if white males have no one to identify with that the readership vanishes. No amount of trend-bucking — take Miles Morales, for example — is going to change that.”

Arturo on white fans’ reluctance to accept when POC are cast as characters who were originally white: “It’s the natural result when the industry spends decades prioritizing white male characters — you have white male fans getting twitchy over this sort of casting while accepting white-washing or all-white stories.”

- From “Who Gets To Be A Superhero? Race and Identity in Comics” by Gene Demby.

Recommended Reading: The full transcript of a panel interview including Kendra, Arturo, Kelly Kanayama and Alan Yu.

Dirt Road with Maple trees by sxc.hu user Krappweis

The Hack is Over!

Finally!

After weeks of trying to rid 8 years of archives of malicious, Ugg boot selling code, we are back to normal. Apologies for the long absence and delay. All should be well, but if you spot anything that looks strange, email team@racialicious.com.

Thanks to long time community members Porter and Lauren for spending late nights and long weekends combing through files and updating our security.

We begin anew tomorrow.

The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.19.13: Jim Brown vs. Kobe Bryant, Beyoncé, and more

Brown’s statements about Kobe earlier this week weren’t shocking for a man who has always taken athletes to task. On The Arsenio Hall Show, Brown made it clear that he doesn’t consider Kobe to be a socially conscious black man.

“He is somewhat confused about culture, because he was brought up in another country,” Brown said. (Bryant spent part of his childhood in Italy, where his father played professional basketball.) “[Bryant] doesn’t quite fit what’s happening in America.”

Back in the 1960s, Brown hosted a gathering for top black athletes interested in social activism. “If I had to call that summit all over,” he said, “there would be some athletes I wouldn’t call. Kobe would be one of them.”

Jim Brown is old school—from his walk to his unrelenting focus on youths in the community. He is what many black men aspired to be before heroin and prison and success came and ravaged their sense of accountability. He believes that to be a world-renowned athlete who doesn’t contribute to the community or the conversation about being a better black man is to waste one’s athletic gifts. Because for Brown it is bigger than sports, and always has been.

Beyoncé’s feminist credentials are always in question. Whether it’s her attire, her husband or her concert tour titles, you can always find pieces that declare she isn’t feminist enough on almost any pop culture site. Not all of the criticism is unwarranted, but the tone of the critiques often hinge on the idea that feminism is an either/or proposition. Admittedly, feminism has always struggled with representing all women. Whether the discussion is racism in feminist circles, or arguing that disability should be why abortion must remain legal (despite the protests of disabled feminists), feminist discourse has a problem with inclusion. As a result, women who are reaping the benefits of the work done by proclaimed feminists often shy away from the label. Even when they do claim the label, their individual interpretations may not be in line with existing academic theories. Yet, they are living many of the tenets of feminism—just on their own terms.

Pop culture feminism, albeit flawed in concept and execution, is nothing new. In fact, it is often much more accessible to young women who aren’t necessarily familiar with the history or academic theories of the movement. Beyoncé’s use of an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists has given Adichie an unprecedented platform. Libraries are reporting an uptick of interest in Adichie’s books, and while it is too soon to predict the long-term impact, it is safe to say that at least some eyes will be opened. Does that mean Beyoncé is the new ideal feminist? Of course not. Just look at Jay-Z’s verse on Drunk In Love, in which he references Ike Turner and that infamous line “Eat the cake, Anna Mae,” a reference that many will recognize from the abusive diner scene between Ike and Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” The song is clearly not intended to be a feminist anthem. If anything it is likely an exploration of sexual dynamics.

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The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.12.13: Nelson Mandela, New York’s Poor, Black Republicans and more

You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.

You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.

Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.

I’ll be 34 this year and we’re only beginning to see a change in the scenery when it comes to diversity and the fantastic. A recent UCLA study found that even though racial and gender diversity in television remains appallingly low, more diverse shows bring higher audiences while less diverse ones struggle. Meanwhile, some major networks may finally be getting the message. At this year’s annual Fox Broadcasting confab, titled “Seizing Opportunities,” the underlying theme was more diversity equals more money. Speaking to an invitation-only crowd of executives, producers, agents and media coalitions, Fox COO Joe Earley said this about welcoming more diverse shows: “Not only are you going to have more chances of a show being made here, more chances of a show being a success on TV, more chances of making it into syndication, more chances of a show selling globally and making you millions of dollars, but you are going to bring more viewers to our air and keep us in business.”

Cultural critics have rightly decried whitewashing in the name of social justice. Networks are now beginning to see dollar signs where they once imagined dearth. But beyond money and morality, diverse programming is also a question of quality. “Racist writing is a craft issue,” the poet Kwame Dawes said at this year’s AWP conference. “A racist stereotype is a cliché. It’s been done. Quite a bit. It’s a craft failure.”

Without an understanding of culture, power and history, diversity is useless; it’s blackface. And television has often given us nothing but that: cheap stand-ins and tokens to up their numbers and check off boxes.

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Video: President Obama’s Speech At Nelson Mandela Memorial

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well — (applause) — to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth. He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President.

We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took sacrifice — the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle. But in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done.

The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today.

And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

- Full transcript available here

The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.5.13: Black Twitter, Black Academics, Iran, Chicago and Elan Gale

“Sleepy Hollow” star Orlando Jones. Image via Crave Online.

Pop culture is a window into our lives and, while clumsy, USA Today did hit on something of a phenomenon. Representation of non-white people has increased, and it is noticeable because of how utterly abysmal it was before. “Scandal,” the show of the moment, earned its star the first Emmy nod for a black woman in 30 years. In the case of “Sleepy Hollow,” an interracial duo fights crime and monsters to win one of the hottest premieres of the season. Its producers credit the chemistry of its stars. But major press outlets forget to mention Nicole Beharie, the black female lead, at all. The omission is made more glaring by the fact that the overall diversity of the show has been one of its selling points. Orlando Jones, who plays Captain Irving, took to Twitter to note the gap.

Black Twitter, as both a player and a phenomenon, has been front and center of most of these discussions. As a member of “Black Twitter,” I’m conflicted about the moniker. My participation in feminist, geek or New York Twitter have yet to receive the same level of scrutiny as my membership in Black Twitter. At the same time, there’s joy in the name. Black. Twitter. Using the same social media everyone else is, this cultural movement has been a repeated source of insightful analysis, hilarity and virtual support that affirms the shared and diverse experiences of being black both online and off. One in four black people who are online at all is tweeting, using the platform to offer instant feedback on the news of the moment.

Shannon Gibney is a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). When that’s your job, there are a lot of opportunities to talk about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. There are also a lot of opportunities to anger students who would rather not learn about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. I presume MCTC knows that; they have an African diaspora studies program. Back in January 2009, white students made charges of discrimination after Gibney suggested to them that fashioning a noose in the newsroom of the campus newspaper—as an editor had done the previous fall—might alienate students of color. More recently, when Gibney led a discussion on structural racism in her mass communication class, three white students filed a discrimination complaint because it made them feel uncomfortable. This time, MCTC reprimanded Gibney under their anti-discrimination policy.

Elevating discomfort to discrimination mocks the intent of the policy, but that’s not the whole of it. By sanctioning Gibney for making students uncomfortable, MCTC is pushing a disturbing higher-education trend. When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it.

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Thanksgiving is Complicated

Every year, Thanksgiving rolls around, and every year, we wonder exactly what to say. Enjoy the holiday? Reflect on colonization? Boycott some kind of whitewashing? This year, we’re going to share one of our favorite mashups – Once Tongue Tied, which we shared in 2010 when we spotted it on the Sociological Images blog.

Once Tongue Tied was created by Samantha Figueroa who takes Adriel Luis’s amazing spoken word piece “Slip of the Tongue” and combines it with scenes from Pocahontas, transforming both works into new commentary.

Here’s the video.

If you are interested in the text of Luis’s poem, click here.

However, you choose to spend this holiday (with family, in reflection, or if it’s just another day) enjoy!