As some of you may have read on our Twitter timeline, we at the R and National Black Programming Consortium had a great time with Dr. Benjamin Talton, who teaches Ghanaian history and politics at Temple University. He took time between classes to give a quick lesson on the politics captured in Jarreth Merz’s An African Election.
by Guest Contributor Annita Lucchesi, originally published on Tumblr
**Video Slightly NSFW***
While Nicki Minaj is obviously exceptionally beautiful, these reviews are as vapid as they are repetitive. Minaj is routinely overlooked as a ‘conscious artist,’ despite the fact that many of her songs, as well as her carefully curated appearance, are politically charged. The vast majority of the narrative on her fame is centered on her body and relationships with male rappers, as if she isn’t an intelligent artist who is very intentional about her image and her work (much less one who attended performing arts school!). Anyone who has heard her more directly “conscious” tracks like “Autobiography” or her remix of “Sweetest Girl” knows that she can be a passionate performer and talented poet. Despite this, Minaj constantly gets criticized and dismissed as lacking substance, which I believe has more to do with the combined forces of racism and sexism in popular media and consumer consciousness than anything else. No matter how gorgeous you are, it can’t be easy to be a young Black West Indian woman in the US media, much less one who is so confident in her ownership of her body and sexuality as Nicki Minaj.
There is also a not-so-subtle unwillingness on behalf of many of her critics to dialogue with Minaj’s work on her own terms, which the “Pound the Alarm” reviews each fall prey to. Though most of them acknowledge that Minaj was born in Trinidad, the video’s location, none of them attempt to place the video within its context—Trinidadian party culture and national politics.
Trinidad & Tobago was in a state of emergency for a sizeable portion of 2011, and nightlife was forced underground after a curfew was imposed. Continue reading
By Andrea Plaid
If Arundhati Roy was a rock star and I was at her concert, I’d be that fool who’d shout, “I LOVE YOOOUUU!” from the cheap seats while she was doing her between-song banter.
Well, Roy is a literary rock star. I fell for her writerly riffs when I caught up with her 1997 semi-autobiographical debut novel, The God Of Small Things, a couple of years ago:
May in Ayemenen is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The rivers shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.
The nights are clear , but suffused with sloth and sullen expectations.
But by early June the southwest monsoon breaks and there are three months of wind and water with short spells of sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with. The countryside turns an immodest green. Boundaries blur as tapioca fences take root and bloom. Brick walls turn mossgreen. Pepper vines snake up electric poles. Wild creepers burst through laterite banks and spill across the flooded roads. Boats ply in the baazars. And small fish appear in the puddles that fill PWD potholes on the highways.
The God Of Small Things brought Roy, who previously worked on screenplays and movie criticism and trained as an architect, incredible acclaim in the US. She also won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 for the book, though some folks threw serious shade about it. However–perhaps presciently–she had to answer for obscenity charges back in Kerala, where she grew up, for the book’s descriptions of sexuality.
I caught anti-racism activist Scot Nakagawa’s online action at Tumblr when an excerpt of his post, “Why I, An Asian Man, Fight Anti-black Racism,” cross-posted at Dominion of New York from his own blog, Racefiles, was getting reblogged and liked all throughout that scene. (N.B. The title also changed. Same essay, though.)
I’m often asked why I’ve focused so much more on anti-black racism than on Asians over the years. Some suggest I suffer from internalized racism.
That might well be true since who doesn’t suffer from internalized racism? I mean, even white people internalize racism. The difference is that white people’s internalized racism is against people of color, and it’s backed up by those who control societal institutions and capital.
But some folk have more on their minds. They say that focusing on black and white reinforces a false racial binary that marginalizes the experiences of non-black people of color. No argument here. But I also think that trying to mix things up by putting non-black people of color in the middle is a problem because there’s no “middle.”
So there’s most of my answer. I’m sure I do suffer from internalized racism, but I don’t think that racism is defined only in terms of black and white. I also don’t think white supremacy is a simple vertical hierarchy with whites on top, black people on the bottom, and the rest of us in the middle.
So why do I expend so much effort on lifting up the oppression of black people? Because anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.
With thoughts like that–and, let me be real, a face and headgear like that–I had to know who this man is. So, being me, I interviewed him. In it, he talks about the reaction to his essay, along with other ideas and things that make him totally crushable in my estimation.
Scot, let me be real with you: I think you’re totally hot. Now that I’ve gotten that out the way, tell me…how did you become involved with anti-racism?
I love the compliment. At 50, “totally hot” is not something I hear often, if ever.
I’ve been involved in some sort of anti-racism work since my late teens. Starting around 18 I tutored people in literacy classes and managed youth and family programs and an emergency shelter in my community in Hawaii. My education was gained in the field, working with low-income people of color. I saw the way racism served to exclude us from economic opportunities and political power. The solutions to our problems as a community seemed obvious to me, but winning support for those solutions from the political system was a lot tougher. That got me involved in community organizing.
The first time my work addressed racism specifically and not as part of delivering services to people of color was in the 80s. I worked with a group in Portland, Oregon called the Coalition for Human Dignity. That group formed in response to the murder of an Ethiopian student named Mulugeta Seraw who was beaten to death by neo-Nazi skinheads. The Coalition monitored vigilante white supremacist groups and organized the community to respond to violent bigotry at a time when violence and membership in white supremacist groups was on the rise. The Coalition eventually become a regional organization. Ever since then, keeping an eye on the racist right has been an obsession of mine.
By Andrea Plaid
I need to admit something about the Crush posts about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Oppressed Brown Girls Doing Things I did in April: I partly did it because I wanted to give myself a birthday present that week, and what’s better than a sharing some love on one’s birthday, right?
Well, this week’s Crush just celebrated a birthday this week–like two days ago–and I try not to be selfish about sharing birthday love. So…the Racialicious Crush Of The Week is Grace Lee Boggs, who just celebrated her 97th year on this earth–and she’s still rocking the activism.
staring at the computer in anger sucks. what are we going to do about this?
- Joel Reinstein, from Wednesday night’s open thread
By Arturo R. García
If there was one positive to come out of Wednesday night, it was the sight of all the people rallying on behalf of Troy Davis – not just in Georgia, but at the White House and the Supreme Court; in Europe; and online, where it became just a bit suspicious to some that Twitter seemingly did not recognize the #TroyDavis and #occupywallstreet hashtags. (One explanation I read Wednesday evening was, because there actually is a Troy Davis username on the service, it could not be a trending topic. No word yet on #occupywallstreet.)
But, as Joel mentioned above, the question for many going forward is, what now?
by Guest Contributor Sonita Moss
I’m back, America.
I have been home, on U.S. soil, for the past 3 weeks, and it has given me some time to reflect on being a black woman in U.S. vs. being a black American woman in France. Living in France for the second time was rather colder than the first but a bit more illuminating in terms of race. That can be attributed to the fact that while Aix-en-Provence, the first city that introduced me to the entrancing world of French culture, is an international student-city in the sunny south, Vannes is situated in Bretagne, in the rainy north-west of the country. Aside from the nonstop rain, Vannes was whiter than white. Not to say I didn’t see black people – indeed, I noticed black women on my daily bus route to work, but many public spaces, like the port, the library, and the grocery store were lacking in color. Admittedly, there were actually two black hair stores and a café Afrique that shut down while I was there, but that was about it.
Binta, the young Senegalese woman who did my hair, broke it down for me one day, “There’s no black people here because it’s too small because there are no jobs. But a lot of them marry French.” By “French”, she meant white men, and her sister, the owner of Ebene Cosmetique, was one such example. I noticed, with a certain amount of chagrin, that many Europeans of color refer to their privileged compatriots as the standard of that country, while they are specifically marked by their race. “English” are white, but English blacks are, well, black. The same goes for conversations I have had with German blacks. I suppose we hold the same standard in America, but because of our sordid misdealings with the social construction, although blacks may not be considered true “Americans” we do not refer to our white counterparts as simply “Americans”. Indeed, we are obsessed with race but rarely given the proper tools to talk about, much less acknowledge, our race problems. And white Europeans know it, effectively allowing them to ignore their own issues, I discovered.
When I first arrived in Vannes, I befriended a couple of local boys, and we often went out to bars since there is little else to do in the city. Amazed at the utter whiteness of the venue, one night I asked my friend, “Do you ever notice that there are essentially no black people here – why is that?” and he said, “There are some, just not many. But it’s very different in France, we are much less conscience of race in France than Americans.” He smoothly side-stepped my question and turned the focus to America’s racism. Because America is a popular topic in the media, the nightly French news frequently reported breaking American news. Thus, the world beyond our borders is informed of how race issues are part and parcel to American culture. Continue reading
By Guest Contributor Mimi Thi Nguyen, cross-posted from Threadbared
Last Thursday, Reuters released photographs from the United States’ extra-territorial raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan, which show “three dead men lying in pools of blood, but no weapons.” (Reuters purchased these photographs from a Pakistani security official, who entered the compound about an hour after the US assault.) Reuters described the three deceased men as “dressed in traditional Pakistani garb and one in a t-shirt, with blood streaming from their ears, noses and mouths.”
On Twitter, Pakistan-based journalist Shaheryar Mirza (@mirza9) pointedly asks, “Why are Muslims always in ‘garb’ and never in ‘clothes’?” In a related inquiry, South/South (@southsouth) has been critical of The Daily Show’s graphics following Osama bin Laden’s extra-judicial killing, featuring photographs of bin Laden’s head imposed upon a mosque, and another of bin Laden caption, “Bye Bye Beardie.”
Our theoretical and historical provocation (for this blog, at least) is thus to engage the question of clothing the “terrifying Muslim.” For example, we could easily observe that terms such as “garb” emphasize a civilizational distancing or confusion (one involving both temporal and spatial dimensions). Where naming these clothes as “garb” seems to act as “merely” an empirical description, the assessment of subjects and their clothing practices may coincide with, or become complicit with, colonial schema. (Shaheryar Mirza (@mirza9) and South/South (@southsouth) had an amazing, satirical exchange about putting on their “garb” that underlined so well the usage of the term as loaded with civilizational thinking. Highlights include Mirza’s “American business-casual garb for me today!” and South/South’s “Clothes might make the man, but garb makes the Muslim man.”) Related to this set of concerns, I’ve written here about the epidermalization of clothing and sartorial classification as a weapon of war.
This time, I thought I would turn to my brilliant colleague Junaid Rana. Rana is an associate professor in Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, whose scholarship addresses the confluence of racism with concepts of “illegality,” especially through transnational movements of labor and war. He is also the author of the new (and sure to be important) book Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora, out on Duke University Press in the next few weeks. You can find out more about the book (and become a fan) here!