Category: black

September 15, 2009 / / african-american

by Latoya Peterson

Bringing up Tyler Perry tends to complicate conversations.  He is a polarizing figure, represented by his work, an entrepreneur who provides work for black actors often passed over by the Hollywood machine, yet who trades in what some would call limiting representations of blackness and/or stereotypes.  He is often touted as proof that blacks can achieve success outside of the mainstream, and yet speaking with those who have worked for him in below the line positions casts doubt that Perry is dedicated to anything outside of making (and keeping) money.

Still, as Tyler Perry keeps making headlines, we continue to wade through these conversations, which involve his work but are really conversations about race, class, and gender.

A couple of weeks ago, while guesting over at Jezebel, I was asked to write a piece on Tyler Perry being tapped to write, direct, and produce a film based on Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf.”

I was immediately skeptical.

Read the Post Scattered Thoughts on Tyler Perry

July 14, 2009 / / african-american

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid and Guest Contributor Fiqah

Fiqah:All right, full disclosure. I loathe Birth of a Nation. L-O-A-T-H-E, my friends. In my short time on this planet, I have been forced to endure two (!) viewings of the flick–twice the Recommended Lifetime Limit for Black people. The last time I watched this film in its entirety was in college for a film class. Attending the screening was mandatory: you could not pass this class unless you watched it. Please believe me when I tell you that if my professor had not essentially dangled that tasty degree carrot in front of me, I would never have watched this movie again. I got through it by taking extremely-detailed notes: not my usual style (I am a scrawly doodler) but I wanted to make sure that I would never, ever have to refer back to anything in that movie that would require me to watch it again for as long as I lived. After it was done, I wrote a paper contrasting the placement of female archetypes in the film, collected my “A”, and put all the unpleasantness behind me.

So when Latoya posted about Rebirth of a Nation, I was quite intrigued and more than a little excited. “A remix of that piece of racist cinematic self-flagellation?” thought I. “What a concept! I am SO down! Put me in the game, coach!“ I skipped my happy ass on down to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), where I met up with the always fabulous Mizz AJ Plaid. As the theater filled (Fridays at MoMA are free, so it was packed), AJ and I chatted about what we hoped the film would showcase. What was a remix in relation to a film, anyway? How would DJ Spooky’s take be viewed in a post-Obama context? Why the hell don’t the people behind us just sit closer together instead of carrying on a fifteen-minute shouting conversation across a row of empty seats? Answers to all these questions were delivered swiftly.

Andrea:  DJ Spooky’s conceit: a director is a type of DJ, remixing reality. In D.W. Griffiths’ case, he remixed the ugly, lethal reality of the Ku Klux Klan into a hero’s narrative, that of the white-supremacist group saving The White Race from the emancipated Blacks and biracial folks. Furthermore, we’re still seeing the rippling damage from that piece of work to this day, not only in film but in various interactions between Blacks and Whites.

The master mixer does damage to his project by overstating the obvious. And what I mean by overstate is: moving geometric shapes framing certain characters and gestures; red-tinting war and rioting scenes; the trip-hop soundtrack. That ^%&%$ trip-hop soundtrack.

Spooky should have lost the trip-hop and the triangles and remixed Birth… with current examples of the images it spawned, e.g. the scene in which a white woman leaps off a cliff to avoid the sexual advances of a Black(faced) man and its direct descendent in 1992’s Last of the Mohicans. And splice that with news footage of how the Black rapist still plays in the popular imagination (most famously Bush the Elder’s use of Willie Horton). After all, the original was a 3-hour epic…mess.

Such length offers such a perfect opportunity.

Fiqah:  From my notes–“About 15 minutes in, I realize with mounting horror that this supposed remix is actually a play-by-play retelling of the original with little innovation. This is Birth of a Nation.” Read the Post “I Shut Off My Pen Light For This?!?”: Afterbirth of a Nation

June 19, 2009 / / african-american

By Sexual Correspondent AJ Plaid and Guest Contibutor (and regular commenter) Fiqah
robin and rihanna

After re-reading some of the responses to the Ciara/Justin Timberlake post and extensively confabbing over brunches about it, we finally figured out that the greatest transgression Ciara committed wasn’t the BDSM imagery (though some wanted to switch the argument from that to “this is just racist!” or otherwise dodge-the-discomfort comments and conversations) or that she and her gurls were doing their private dance for a white guy.  It was the white guy himself.

Then we did a bit of snooping. Thanks to our gal-pal in the sex & relationship scene, Twanna Hines of Funky Brown Chick, we found an Essence listing of white guys who have paired with Black women.  We looked at the posts—and at each other—and decided that they didn’t go far enough.

Therefore, in an effort to make sure such a pop-culture faux-pas don’t happen again, we’ve composed a list of white guys who are deemed The Race™-sanctioned—any Black female performer can be seen with these white performers and know she’s doing right by Us™. Our criteria:

  1. We know they’ve dated, are dating, are married to, have and/or have babies by Black women. (Having Black or Black biracial daughters, adopted or biological, is an added bonus. ‘Cause, as some of us wanna believe, if the white guy can touch/sex up/adopt/father a sistah, they can not possibly be…well, you know the rhetoric.)
  2. They can actually have performing-arts skills. (This leaves out Kevin “K-Fed” Federline.)
  3. They’re famous in their own right. (This kinda sorta leaves out Gabriel Aubry. Some early men-watchers know him as a model. But many more know him for siring Halle Berry’s baby. If you don’t believe us, say Aubry’s name and “model.” Then say Aubry’s name and “Halle Berry’s baby’s daddy.” Record the results.)
  4. We get the 6th Sense* that they’ve been with sistahs but aren’t talking about it.
  5. We sistahs have sensed the sexual tension between these dudes and the sistahs on-screen.
  6. They’re not Justin Timberlake.

So, in some sort of brunch drink-induced order, and with some of the sexiest snaps we can find on Google (oh yeah, the numbers correspond to the criterion/a we believe these guys fit. We assumed points 2, 3, and 6 for all of them):

Read the Post The Race™-Approved White Guys [Humor]

June 19, 2009 / / On Beauty

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

models Joseph Ackon, Samira Carvalho and Ronaldo Martins for Osklen

Yesterday afternoon, I was talking to one of my colleagues when I noticed one of the most beautiful black women I had ever seen in my life walk through the door. Despite the young students running around at her feet, she remained calm. She stood out among all the other parents awaiting their children as she was the youngest, the one with the most poise, and the darkest. Amid all the other white parents, this young woman, despite the simplicity of her white canvas jacket and jeans, called for the most attention. She was simply arresting. My first thought was, “wow, she could be a model.”

Yet this moment of wandering imagination was quickly squelched by the loud voices of two young and rambunctious pupils approaching from behind. I continued to watch as the two pale, fair-haired children ran to join hands with the woman who could give Iman and Naomi Campbell a serious run for their money, the contrast of their skin colors and body language putting everything in perspective. She was the children’s caretaker, their nanny, possibly the family maid. And that is exactly the social order in which she would most likely remain, for no matter the intensity of her beauty, in Brazil, her color would be a disadvantage –  the mark of Cain, if you will. She was the color that I had heard some pray their children would not be. She was the color that stood as shorthand for crime and poverty. But in my eyes, she possessed a color that I quite frankly missed. Read the Post The Brazil Files: Race & the Runway – São Paulo Fashion Week Dabbles in Color

June 12, 2009 / / black

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.

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

June 10, 2009 / / black
June 3, 2009 / / black

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.

Read the Post Drug Decriminalization and Racial Inequality in Pop Culture