Category Archives: black

Black man/White woman interracial relationships: Breaking down my judgment

By Guest Contributor Ryan, originally published at Cheap Thrills

heidisealOver the past couple months, I’ve been surrounding myself with people who all have something in common: they’re the least judgmental people I’ve ever known. They’re: 1) unconditionally understanding and compassionate of any given situation – no matter how crazy, weird, or counter-culture it may be, and 2) TOTALLY open about their own lives, in all their outrageous and extreme glory.

How refreshing. To escape the “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad”, “black” and “white”.

Which brings me to my point.

During a conversation with one such non-shockable friend, the topic of interracial relationships arose. As I began discussing my own perceptions and thoughts on the subject, something became appallingly clear:

I am judgmental.

Here’s the bare-bones, no-holds-barred confession: I am shamefully judgmental of Black man/White woman interracial relationships. When I see such a couple, I immediately jump to the conclusion that the Black man is trying to prove something and the White woman is trying to piss off her family. I lump the couple into a category, with no desire to dig deeper or even accept their union.

So during this conversation, my friend commented, simply: “Why do you care what choices these other people are making?”

The remark struck me. Yes, why DO I care? I’ve thought hard about this. I’m sure when my Black man/White woman aversion took shape, it sprung from jealousy. When I was a little girl, I never knew my true worth (what kid does?). I was so jealous all the time. Of White females, because, in my eyes, they’d always have something special in their pale skin that I could never have, no matter how straight I blow-dried my hair or how blond I dyed it. And of guys (all guys, but mostly Black guys), because they were always the most popular and the funniest… and most of them liked girls who weren’t boyish and gawky and frizzy-haired like me.

As time passed, I (seemingly) got over my childhood jealousies. But also, the “Black man/White woman relationship aversion” became almost second nature. An instinctual eye-roll. And coming from the Black girl who digs White guys… what a perfect storm of cutting irony.

So now I take a step back. I see many of my White girlfriends entering into wonderful, loving relationships with Black men. I see happiness and strength. And when I see a couple that I would generally stereotype cuddling on the subway or holding hands through Downtown Crossing, I really have to check myself. Why spend time passing judgment on things I don’t even try to understand? Why do I continuing to do this, with the roiling emotions of a 3rd-grader?

I’ve got it. The reality is that I’m NOT over my jealousies. And the problem exists in my own head, not the interracial union. Which is a tad upsetting, but also… again, refreshing.

Because I can’t understand all the complexities of others. But I can accept them. And, even better, I can bask in my God-given joy of delving deep and understanding my own complexities.

There’s no place for judgment in self-discovery. So I’m kicking all those judgmental thoughts to the curb.

Based on a True Story…Again?

By Guest Contributor slb, originally published at PostBourgie

mlkWe’ve made no secret of our belief that Hollywood is producing just a few too many paint-by-numbers Black biopics, and this week’s announcement of a whopping four black-themed biopics was just a case in point. According to Rotten Tomatoes’ Weekly Ketchup, all systems are go for an “official” biographical drama on Martin Luther King Jr., with Steven Spielberg at the helm; Will and Jada’s Overbrook Entertainment (in concert with Sony Pictures) has acquired the rights to John Keller’s life story (an ex-Marine who oversaw the rescue of 244 fellow Katrina victims); and Denzel is mulling his third directorial project, a little pet project called Brother in Arms, about “the only tank unit in the European theater of World War II that was manned by all African Americans”–based on a book co-authored by Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

We should note that the latter project has no shooting date–and the Weekly Ketchup writers slyly suggest that, perhaps, this is because there’s already a black WWII flick in the works—a Tuskegee Airmen project, currently filming in Europe.

Here’s the thing: we love heralding Black accomplishments as much as the next guy–and far be it from us to stand in the way of Our Own Stories Being Told. But aren’t most of these films rather indistinguishable from one another? If you’ve seen Remember the Titans, you’ve seen Glory Road. If you’ve seen Ray, you seen Cadillac Records (or parts of it, anyway). If you’ve seen The Rosa Parks story, you’ve seen Boycott. If you’ve seen Ali, you’ve seen… Will Smith in one too many of these vanity projects.***

It isn’t that we don’t endorse Black films being greenlighted; we do. It isn’t that we don’t love our history; we do. It’s that biopics, as a genre, are largely rote oversimplifications of incredibly complex lives. And no matter how nuanced an actor’s performance (or, as in the case of Denzel as Melvin Tolson, how phoned in), the formulaic storytelling impedes any real understanding of the person’s struggles and, more importantly, the accomplishment(s) that warranted a film in the first place. They all sort of bleed together untill you’re like, “You remember that flick where Cuba Gooding’s in the submarine and he’s a cook who manned a gatling gun?”

The best way to know your history is to research it for yourself. All the swelling music and single-teared male stars in the world aren’t going to provide you comprehensive—or even accurate—knowledge of actual events. So these “First Black ___ to Do _____” biopics work best when you go into them with your facts about the film’s subject straight. That way, you’re just watching for entertainment value and voluntary emotional manipulation.

All that said, we have to admit, we’re more than a little bit amped about Josh Brolin’s genius plan to both produce and star in a John Brown biopic. You can never have enough films about bloody, if ill-fated slave revolts.

Drug Decriminalization and Racial Inequality in Pop Culture

by Guest Contributor Jeremy R. Levine, originally published at Social Science Lite

Mass incarceration, particularly of black and brown folks, is a hot topic in the social sciences. Hell, it’s a hot topic in nearly every poor, marginalized, urban community of color. Harvard sociologist Bruce Western offers some of the best academic analysis of the carceral state in Punishment and Inequality in America. Western brilliantly details the absurd cost of our contemporary prison system as well as the significant toll incarceration has had on poor communities of color. True unemployment rates are hidden in the “non-economic institution” of the prison, as labor statistics ignore the very existence of prisoners. So, while black male unemployment reached an astounding 17.2% in April of this year, the true percent of unemployed black males is much higher, thanks in part to racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. It’s common knowledge at this point that blacks are more likely to be charged, more likely to be convicted, and more likely to receive longer sentences than whites.

Leaving prison produces even more hardship. After incarceration, men become “permanent labor market outsiders,” as their job prospects are reduced to unstable (if any) employment. Not surprisingly, these outcomes are racialized. Princeton sociologist Devah Pager conducted a fascinating study (“The Mark of a Criminal Record”) in which she sent black and white job candidates with nearly identical resumes to apply for low-level jobs. The results illustrated profound racial discrimination, as black candidates with criminal records were far less likely to receive callbacks for jobs than whites with criminal records. But that wasn’t all; in fact, black candidates without a criminal record were still less likely to receive a callback than whites with a criminal record. Her results suggest that there may be some sort of racial stigma attached to criminal behavior—a racial stereotype that all blacks are perceived as potential criminal offenders.

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Trinity: The Black Reality

by Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn, originally published at Digital Femme

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

“Baby, you can fall down in the mud, but you don’t have to wallow in it.”

“I’m tellin’ you. It ain’t easy.”

Two sayings. Two grandmothers. Both mine. Both true.

One more saying. This one’s true too.

“This won’t kill me. I won’t die here.”

Martha Washington. The Black Reality.

Like my grandmothers, Martha Washington grew up in a hostile environment–America. More specifically for Martha, she was raised in an alternate version of the Cabrini Green Housing Development, which existed as a cordoned off area of Chicago intended to house those that the government deemed to be undesirable. The Green was relegated to those who were black and those who were poor. As a child, Martha received substandard housing and substandard healthcare. She attended school in a decrepit building outfitted with exposed pipes and outdated school supplies.

But what did Martha need with a decent education? To her country and to her government, she was simply fuel for a brick and mortar Ouroboros. Like her father before her, she was raised to live and die in the Green. Nothing more than a lump of coal to keep society’s dirty engine running.

Funny things happen to lumps of coal when you apply enough pressure. They get hard, durable and sharp enough to cut anything.

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Trinity: The Black Fantasy

by Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn, originally published at Digital Femme

A while back, David Brothers did a fantastic series of posts over at 4th Letter about the Black Trinity and how it relates to comics. He examined three concepts found not only in comics, but in other artistic forms as well–the Black Reality, the Black Fantasy and the Black Ideal.

If you’ve clicked the links I’ve provided for you, and you should, you’ll notice that David used only male characters as examples for these concepts.

David and I had “talked” for a bit off-blog about how some of the comic industry’s most popular black female characters could fit into his concept of the Black Trinity. He had even attempted to talk me into doing my own series of blog posts examining the Black Trinity from a female perspective, but at the time I was more than a bit weary of talking about comics at all.

Until today.

Until this image right here.

Today? Today we are going to talk about the Black Fantasy from the female perspective. And the Black Fantasy is Storm. Storm is what black women want, or are constantly informed by the media that they should want, but are also told that they never will achieve. To be loved and to be beautiful. To be free. To be special. Continue reading

Conditions: Five

by Guest Contributor Deesha Phillyaw, originally published at the Bitch Magazine Blog

A few years ago, I found a book-length literary magazine, Conditions:Five, amongst the discarded and donated books on the shelves in a local coffeehouse. I skimmed through it that day, just long enough to finish my cup of chai, before placing it back on the shelf. At the time, I had no idea that I’d held such a rich piece of history in my hands.

Conditions (its full title was Conditions: a feminist magazine of writing by women with a particular emphasis on writing by lesbians) was founded in 1976 in Brooklyn and published annually. The journal’s regular editors were Elly Bulkin, Jan Clausen, Irena Klepfisz and Rima Shore. According to Wikipedia, Conditions expressed a “long standing commitment to diversity; of writing style and content and of background of contributors, within the lesbian and feminist communities, [and] was especially dedicated to publishing the work of lesbians, in particular working class lesbians and lesbians of color.

Conditions: Five, the volume I found that day at the coffeehouse was published in November 1979. Billed as “The Black Women’s Issue”, it was guest-edited by Barbara Smith and Lorraine Bethel, and is considered “the first widely distributed collection of Black feminist writing in the U.S.” More from Wikipedia:


[Barbara] Smith’s article “Toward a Black Feminist Consciousness” (1982), first published in All the Women Are White, All the Blacks are Men, But some of Us Brave: Black Women’s Studies is frequently cited as the breakthrough article in opening the field of Black women’s literature and Black lesbian discussion. She has edited three major collections about Black women [including] All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies (with Gloria T. Hull and Patricia Bell Scott), 1982; and Home Girls[1]: A Black Feminist Anthology, (first edition, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983; second edition, Rutgers University Press, 2000).

Smith and the Combahee River Collective [a Boston-based black feminist lesbian organization, 1974-1980] have been credited with coining the term identity politics, which they defined as “a politics that grew out of our objective material experiences as Black women.”

Conditions 5: The Black Women’s Issue was hugely popular, and set a record in feminist publishing by selling 3000 copies in the first three weeks it was available.

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Asher Roth and the Politics of Race in Hip Hop

by Latoya Peterson

I am officially a hip hop curmudgeon. After a weekend spent in Houston listening to “Da Stanky Leg” and “the Halle Berry” on local radio, I am officially declaring myself one of those annoying ass old heads who is always waxing about the good old days. Notice here, I’m not talking about the “back when hip-hop was political” nostalgia – oh, no no. Party-hop, politics, whatever – I miss lyrics and lyricism. When a song had multiple verses and a chorus for me to memorize, not just some hollerin’ and foolishness. After listening to my homegirl V-sheezy explain why Lil’ Wayne may very well be the best rapper currently in the game (and she made a compelling case after explaining the current crop of voices on the mainstream airwaves), I retired to the Verve Remixed 4 and decided that I needed to embrace the fact that while I love hip-hop culture, I’m over rap. Just give me the production and let people who can really sing do their thing.

So it kind of goes with out saying that I had negative interest in listening to the latest flash in the pan, Asher Roth. Someone young, white, and privileged, rapping about being young, white, and privileged? Man, I could go watch that Smirnoff Tea Partay ad for that. At least that was intended to be comedy.

But apparently, Asher Roth has been busy.

In addition to inadvertently exposing some of the more interesting racial dynamics in hip-hop, he’s also been running his mouth about a few other things – like what African rappers need to be doing while he’s talking about how much he loves college or how he’s hanging with “Nappy Headed Hoes”. Here are some of the best bits from the Asher-pocalypse:

M. Dot, Model Minority – Asher Roth x Don Imus x Nappy Headed Ho’s

Apparently, Asher Roth was recently on the Rutgers campus and tweeted that he was hanging out with some “Nappy Headed Hoe’s.” He then tried to clean it up and recant by saying that “he was trying to make fun of Don Imus.” He apologized as well.

Recently my post, “Michael Baisden is a Misogynist Pig“, ran on Racialicious. The post is about the fact that Michael Baisden stated on his radio show that a wife “should just lay there and take it”, if her husband want’s to have sex and she doesn’t. One of the commenters, “Nina” who was open, honest and thoughtful in several her comments, said that she felt that Baisden was being hyperbolic. She writes,

    Perhaps because I think of him as being like Chris Rock, someone who exaggerates but often has a bit of wisdom at the core of the shit talking, what I hear is the kind of thing many men say when alone. And there is the risk that he goes to far OR that listeners will take it as gospel and not hear it as hyperbole. I hear it as hyperbole, my brother and friends hear it as hyperbole but that doesnt mean everyone does.

I responded saying,

    Let me ask you this, do you think Don Imus was being Hyperbolic when he called the Rutgers women’s team Nappy Headed Ho’s?

    If he wasn’t being hyperbolic and was being racist, why should Imus not be tolerated but Baisdens comments are hyperbolic?
    Often times, I have found that people hide behind the defense of laughter when in reality it constitutes hate speech.

    Can’t sprinkle sugar on shit and call it ice cream.

Having just wrote these comments on Wednesday, you can imagine my surprise at seeing Asher Roth say the same thing,
on Twitter, on Thursday.

Why should Asher Roth be singled out when Black men call us hoes all the time?

I am not saying that Asher should not be criticized for what he has done but we need to keep it even and acknowledge that many Black rappers and Black men, and for that matter Black women, refer to Black women, reflexively, as “hoes.”

Harry Allen, Media Assassin – Fight the White Rap History Rewrite

[F]rom a certain angle, there’s just a shade of difference between white people rapping and white people telling nigger jokes. (I know that this framework, though immediately clear to a certain number of Black people, if only on a gut level, isn’t obvious to others, and is completely offensive to many white people. I elaborate on it, more, in two other works: (1) “White People and Hip-Hop,” which I recorded with both Racialicious‘ Carmen Van Kerckhove and writer Jason Tanz (Other People’s Property) for Van Kerckhove’s “Addicted to Race” podcast, and (2) “The Unbearable Whiteness of Emceeing: What The Eminence of Eminem Says About Race,” which I wrote for The Source. Continue reading

Menace II Society (Allen and Albert Hughes, 1993)

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown

Sixteen years after its release, its easy to look back and pick apart Menace II Society, even easier to accept it nostalgically as the dope film we all thought it was back then. But the feeling of being in your early teens watching this flick, surrounded by folks who bang (pause) or did knucklehead shit remains, and it’ll always be a classic to me. Moreso these days for being a historical document than a dope film.

There are plenty of memorable scenes in the film affectionately known as Menace. But today, on the 17th anniversary of the 1992 LA uprsising/Sa-I-Gu, I’ll dwell on one in particular: the opening scene. For those not familiar: two young Black men, Caine and O-Dog, stop for some 40s at the cornerstore run by a Korean couple in South Central L.A. The lady spies em and utters the first of the films countless immortal quotables, “Hurry up and buy.” After a tense exchange at the counter, the Korean dude makes a fatal mistake, uttering the second quotable under his breath, “I feel sorry for your mother.” O-Dog turns around and asks “what you say about my momma?” before murdering them and robbing the joint as Caine watches in exasperation. O-Dog grabs the surveillance tape as a souvenir he’d later show to the homies.

A powerful, graphic scene (except for the fact that you can see the filming crew in the mirrors: FAIL). But what did the Hughes brothers intend to say with this? That Koreans are racists who deserve this cinematic execution, perhaps a fantasy retribution for Latasha Harlins? Or to jar and shock the viewer into feeling sympathy for the Korean couple who are merely trying to get by in the same fucked up conditions that the Black community lives in? Does it advocate or justify violence, or does it condemn it? Whatever their intent, this is the effect on others I saw: no sympathy for the Koreans, fanning the flames of Black/Asian tension (to this day: look at the comments on the YouTube clip) and convincing everybody that Larenz Tate is actually a G.

This scene reminds speaks volumes about how much those tensions still remained after April 29, 1992. In retrospect, mainstream media did everything to fuel this tension, which was a very real thing. And still is, even though it’s no longer evening news material. Too much of it bought into that myth that Koreans (and all Asians) and Black folk are just natural enemies like that. I refuse to think so, and though I question the Hughes brothers’ intent with this scene, I still find it telling and deserving of revisiting, to ask ourselves: how far have we really come?