Category Archives: Let Me Break It Down For You

Thursday Throwback: Going Back Like Babies and Pacifiers; Why I Love Mariah

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim (originally published 6-1-09)

I said it once and I’ll say it again, I love Mariah Carey.

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I rarely try to justify this rabid adoration when I’m talking politics. Sometimes radical folks think that just because they like something, it must be radical. I’ve seen many bloggers look foolish this way. So I try to sidestep any probing questions as to why an incredibly serious and intellectual person like me (ahem) owns a Mariah wall calendar and tends to squeal deliriously when “Heartbreaker” plays over the supermarket PA system.

Usually when people ask why I so celebrate Mariah, I say “We’re both mixed race, and we’ve both experienced heartbreak. Obviiiiiously.”

But about a week ago, while discussing Nick Cannon’s accusations that the Mariah-inspired Eminem song “Bagpipes from Baghdad” was racist and sexist, the discussion that fell out of the post made me wonder if, after all, there was some need to untangle my Mariah love and its distant political underpinnings.

A little recap of the post and discussion: in trying to defend his wife against Eminem, Cannon proclaimed that Carey was a BLACK woman (the caps are his) and that it was time enough that white men like Eminem disrespected women of colour like Carey. He went on to compare Carey to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as examples of black queens that the black community should not allow to be disrespected. A lot of commenters said, “Right on, Nick!”

But a bunch said “Mariah Carey is black?” There were attempts to prove that she was not that black, by probing her bio and discussing her ethnic heritage in sixths and eights. Some suggested that she played both sides, emphasising her whiteness or her blackness according to which could sell more records, and that she was only black when it benefitted her. Some took offense at Cannon comparing Carey (who if half-white) to Obama and Winfrey (who are not half-white), frustrated by the fact that there was no recognition that Carey being light-skinned meant all sorts of light-skinned privilege, including more mainstream success than if she was darker-skinned.

I was taken aback. Truth be told I was unsure how Mariah herself identified. So I went back through the dusty internet archives, back to when Racialicious was Mixed Media Watch, to the first post I ever read on this site: Essence on Mariah Carey’s struggles with mixed race identity.

The post was interesting, but the comments were shocking. Commenters were incensed that Essence had identified Carey as a black woman. They were dismissive about Carey’s struggles with biraciality. Mostly the consensus was that Carey was a stupid rich poptart and that Essence was full of self-loathing idiots. Then again, I only read about the first 20 comments; it started to get too upsetting.  Continue reading

[Thursday Throwback] Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse (originally posted 5-17-07)

I’ve always liked reading personal ads. Even when I was a little girl, I would check out the back of the paper in hopes of finding a boyfriend for my widowed mom, and in the meantime, made an attempt to figure out what was going on in the minds of grown-ups as they searched for someone with whom to live “happily ever after.” There were certain acronyms and terms used in the ads that I didn’t quite understand at a young age (i.e. NSA: no strings attached or BBW: big beautiful woman), but for the most part, I thought I had a handle on what I was taking in at my elementary school reading level. It wasn’t until I became a bit older that I began to notice an interesting trend: personal ads are riddled with messages, some more subtle than others, on how people feel about race, ethnicity, and nationality.

With the emergence of the internet, I abandoned the paper and began perusing online ads, some of which read more like military code than personal descriptions: “SWF BBW in NYC seeks 30 – 35 y.o. D&D free S or D H/W/B/A/M for NSA BSDM ASAP in area codes 10003, 100019, and 10011. You must host. Pics? STR.” While these types of ads make virtual bulletin boards appear cluttered, others are well-written, funny, romantic, and/or so outlandish that they are hard to ignore. Sites like Craigslist became popular resources for finding any and every thing, from apartments and pets to jobs and vacation rentals. The personal ads were no different. Considering the privacy feature of anonymous posting in order to protect one’s identity, the personal ads serve as e-snapshots of candid thought—inside peaks into what the people I encounter on a daily basis may think of themselves, but, more importantly, how they view the world around them.

I checked the CL personals about as often as I checked for apartments, or, in other words, every five seconds, even though I wasn’t really looking for anything heavy duty in the love department and happened to be quite satisfied with my Brooklyn 2-bedroom and its 14 month lease. Reading the personals was a perfect way to find a little piece of reality TV-esque drama without all the heavy editing, good lighting, and stage makeup. The ads were frank, the boards were frequently updated, and the content never failed to amuse me, but behind all the fun, there was an underbelly of racism. This came as a bit of a surprise considering that so many of the CL posters were young, educated, and lived in diverse and densely populated urban environments—all oft-cited demographic factors in the commonly held belief that racism is on its way out. Though politicians, institutions of higher learning, and Ward Connerly would like for us to believe that the United States is on its way to becoming a colorblind utopia, a simple examination of Craigslist personal ads proves quite the opposite.

In the world of online dating, where a user name, masked email address, and optional photo sharing means freedom to speak ones mind in complete anonymity, users frequently abandon political correctness and resort to exotification, stereotypes, and blatant racism when referring to racial/ethnic “others” in their attempts to choose a mate. While some ads include the user’s thoughts on race in more subtle ways, for example, simply stating a racial “preference” (still, arguably, a sign of prejudice), others are more obvious in their descriptions—ranging from the utilization of explicitly racist phrases or terms to describe his/her own background and/or the background of the person being sought to downright exclusion a la Jim Crow style (“No -insert race here- need apply”).

I examined New York Craigslist personals for a week straight, mainly focusing on the basic m4m, f4m, m4m, and f4f ads as the prevalence of racist epithets/hate speech was so common in the “casual encounters” and “rants and raves” sections that I’d have to write an entirely separate article to cover them. In order to find data, I simply typed in a group (i.e. “Asian,” “white,” “black”) in the search box and let the magic happen. Here were some of my favorites (organized by search term) from my early set of results (please ignore the typos…I have left them in their original form):

  • WHITE: “I’m looking for a nice all American woman…Tell me about yourself and what you do, etc. I’m not picky about age, older is fine with me. White Irish or Italian is my preference, not into Latin women. . .”

Hmmm . . . an “All-American” woman who is of Irish or Italian background. . . Can anyone say “contradiction”? Is he not just saying that “All-American” equates to white, and that “Latin women” are nowhere close? Continue reading

Quoted: On Leslie Jones and SNL

But while Zamata’s presence has failed to revolutionize the show (duh), it was nice to see that Black female characters could be played by an actual woman. Alas, we got something far more offensive to Black women than Keenan Thompson in a dress when Jones made her on-camera debut on the long-running “Weekend Update” sketch, reporting on Lupita Nyong’o’s “Most Beautiful” honor.

I missed the sketch, but was urged by writer/comedian Mary Pryor to check it out early Sunday morning. I was, of course, horrified. My anger changed shape over the course of the day. At first, I was disgusted that Jones dared make light of slave rape AND dismiss the significance of The Lupita Moment all in one fell swoop—and that she jumped and hollered like some sort of banshee while doing it.  While I am typically disinterested by the concept of putting on a “good” face for White folks, it was appalling to see this sister gleefully acting like she was auditioning for Birth of a Nation 2: We’s Really Like Dis!

Leslie Jones is not a slave. She chose to both develop and perform this skit and for that reason, she should be ashamed of herself, but put her to the side for a moment. What about the producers, directors, cast members who watched this play out? No one said, “You know this is going to upset a lot of people, right?” SNL now has at least five Black actors and writers…one would hope that that would have been enough to stop this train. That is why we wanted Black women in the writers’ room in the first place, to prevent exactly this.  Because I am willing to bet that had a Jewish writer conceived an ‘Anne Frank meets Justin Bieber’ skit after the singer made his regrettable comments about the young Holocaust victim, someone would have had the good sense to shut it DOWN.

Once Again, No One Is Laughing At SNL, by Jamilah Lemieux via Ebony.com,  May 5, 2014

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Breaking Down That New Annie Trailer — And The Worst Reactions To It

By Arturo R. García

So after watching the trailer a couple of times Wednesday night, I came away feeling not totally worried about the forthcoming Annie remake. Quvenzhané Wallis looks like she’ll inhabit the title role more than capably — showing her ask “What’s the hustle?” was a nice touch to include this early — and Jamie Foxx (as Michael Bloomberg stand-in Benjamin Stacks) and Rose Byrne (as his girl Friday, uh, Grace) came off well in this trailer.

Cameron Diaz’s take on Miss Hannigan, here reimagined as a foster mother for Annie and her friends, looks less steady, shading further toward Carrie Bradshaw than Carol Burnett. The film’s IMDB page also reveals another potential setback for the character: there’s no listing for Daniel “Rooster” Hannigan, depriving Diaz’s Hannigan — at least thus far — of someone with whom to banter beyond Annie and Stacks. The music and choreography, from the brief glimpses we get in this trailer, don’t look bad.

The story also looks like a simplified version of the original, which you can either take or leave, considering that the 1982 vehicle featured “Bolsheviks,” assassination attempts, bodyguards named “Punjab” and “The Asp,” and Daddy Warbucks hanging around with Franklin D. Roosevelt. And while sites like ScreenRant and Jezebel also liked the trailer, it’s a long jump from a good two-minute clipshow to a coherent final product. (Remember, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen had a pretty well-liked trailer, and … well.)

In other words, there’s plenty of good discussion to be had about this movie; for starters, you might be surprised to see Emma Thompson — yes, that Emma Thompson — is one of the three writers. (In truth, it’s her 13th writing effort.)

But as you might imagine, some Internet Racists just couldn’t stop themselves from catching feelings. So, for anybody wondering why our comments policy is tight, we picked some real “winners” to show you under the cut.
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Quoted: Eat the cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé)

“If that name is a Miley Cyrus pseudonym I’m going to bed. Dang, it’s getting feminist up in this track.”
Naturally, “that name” refers to Chimimanda, whose contribution you later dismissed as an annoying “soundbite.” Okay.
Teachable Moment Two: Learn about a culture other than your own.
Look, White Writerperson, I imagine your cozy Cave of White Clulessness is comfy and fantastic. I’m sure it has central air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter and a friendly, well-dressed Negro gentleman at the door to help you with with a smile when your non-burdens get too heavy to bear on your own. And all the coleslaw and unseasoned chicken one could ever want, I’m sure. Color me relieved envious, really.
But here’s where you get to be a good Privileged Person and learn about a culture other than your own. I know Chimamanda, a Regular Black Person Who Isn’t Doing Anything Worth “Borrowing,” isn’t a pop culture icon. But do yourself a favor and look her up. She wrote Half of a Yellow Sun, for fuck’s sake.

To suggest that Miley would dig deep enough into the barrel of Blackness, doing overtime at the Appropriation Station to adopt a Nigerian pseudonym is telling: You, too, know how serious your skinfolk take their culture vulturing. It’s a full time job. So vast, our Sea of Awesomeness, right?

Teachable Moment Three: Learn how influence works.

French fries do not influence potatoes. Britney does not influence Janet. Justin does not influence Michael Jackson. Lessors do not influence The Great Ones. Similarly, Miley Cyrus does not influence Beyoncé. Now bite your motherfucking tongue.

To say such a thing is akin to saying that the car influences the paved road on which it travels. The Great Ones Blacked Excellently so that the latecomers could siphon that Black Excellence for profit and Blackpoints. Not vice versa.

–  “Eat the cake, Anime: On White Cluelessness (and Beyoncé),” by Alexander Hardy originally posted at Thecoloredboy.com

 

Let Me Break It Down for You: Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist”

by Joseph Lamour

I, like the rest of the internet and world (outside of the Arista Nashville offices, apparently), think “Accidental Racist” is an absolutely awful song. With a title that sounds more like a play by Neil Simon than a country-rap crossover, this misguided attempt at finding racial common ground is so terrible because it’s just so ill-considered from both sides of the duet. Being like I am, though, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when things like this happen. I try to figure out why that actor called that other actor that homophobic slur. I hold on hope for fallen starlets for about a year longer than everyone else. But, because I  also Like being appalled (it gives me an excuse to make this face), I often break it down the whole process when something like this happens.

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