Category Archives: links

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Weekend Reads

Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat? [Slate]

Where Robb went to Detroit to bridge the gap in food access between rich and poor, Detroit’s city planners saw Whole Foods as a way to not only serve its longstanding middle class, but to expand it. In short, they wanted the store to serve as a catalyst for gentrification. Whole Foods was more than a potential employer for the 15 percent of Detroiters who were unemployed (and the 46 percent who’d stopped looking for work entirely);⁠ and it was more than a new option for the Detroiters spending $200 million a year on groceries outside the city. It was, in the words of the city’s economic development head, a potential “game-changer” for the city.

“Gentrification brings in revenue. That’s the tax base that we need to pay for city services,” George Jackson, the president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, told me in the summer of 2013. (After a new mayor assumed office in January 2014, Jackson resigned.) For DEGC, a quasi-public agency in charge of overseeing economic strategy for the city, Whole Foods’ allure was less about groceries and more about development. A successful premium grocer would make Detroit more appealing to middle-class and upper-class professionals—and to executives looking for a viable place to do business—helping the city as a whole.

Telling My Son About Ferguson by Michelle Alexander [New York Times]

My son wants an answer. He is 10 years old, and he wants me to tell him that he doesn’t need to worry. He is a black boy, rather sheltered, and knows little of the world beyond our safe, quiet neighborhood. His eyes are wide and holding my gaze, silently begging me to say: No, sweetheart, you have no need to worry. Most officers are nothing like Officer Wilson. They would not shoot you — or anyone — while you’re unarmed, running away or even toward them.

I am stammering.

Teaching our sons to be afraid is not the answer to cops who shoot children by Latoya Peterson [Guardian]

But the amount of love we feel right now is tempered by fear that I might lose Gavin too soon – and not to an accident, or even to local violence, but rather to the bullets of law enforcement. Continue reading

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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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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The Racialicious Links Roundup 11.21.13: The Best Man Holiday, Orange Is The New Black, Nelly, ENDA and more

Cast of “The Best Man Holiday.”

The Best Man Holiday is a success. That is not particularly a “surprise.” It did not “over-perform,” nor did it soar for a “race-themed film,” as USA Today originally wrote. To speak of it in these terms reduces The Best Man Holiday to thousands of frames of low expectations. It existed and won. As a film, it was 50% an above-average comedy and 50% an abysmal drama. But financially—the only metric that matters to studios—it was a knockout. Set in the present. Not filmed by Tyler Perry. Of which you can expect to see more.

Malcolm D. Lee’s movies, in fact, have nearly all been significant earners, from Undercover Brother toScary Movie 5. Only one—Soul Men, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac—did not perform well. It was also Lee’s most expensive movie, and was released three months after Bernie Mac died.

The Best Man Holiday, the director’s seventh film, cost $17 million and has already earned just north of $30 million on its first weekend. It premiered to an audience that was 87% African American and 75% female.

Again I think it’s very truthful to the world we live in. There are Latino people in our world who believe strongly that if you are Latino you should speak the language, you should eat the food, you should listen to the music, you should be proud. And when you don’t do those things, some people will look at it as if you’re neglecting who you are. But in the case of Daya, which is a wonderful character, look at the background that she has. Her mother isn’t exactly the mother of the year but she has heart. She hasn’t been the best mom so of course her kids aren’t going to speak the language, she wasn’t at home teaching them like my parents did. My parents made it a point that although I was born and raised in New York City I needed to speak Spanish because they wanted me to be able to communicate with my elders when I went to Santo Domingo [or] when my family came to visit from Cuba. So we have some people who place a lot of importance on that and a lot who don’t.

But you know I’m not one to criticize someone for speaking it or not. I, for one, do believe that we should speak the language of our ancestors and that’s why my daughter speaks fluent Spanish.

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The Racialicious Links Roundup 11.14.13: Sleepy Hollow, Renisha McBride, Luke Cage, Rememberance Day, YA Lit

Years ago, an actor/writer working on a pilot episode for Fox told me she suspected a 2010 session just led producers to transform tertiary white characters into ethnic minorities, with no change in the scripts to acknowledge the shift in race or culture.

But then came this fall’s sleeper hit, “Sleepy Hollow,” Fox’s tale about the modern-day adventures of Ichabod Crane. Ichabod somehow awakens in modern times after a 250-year sleep. The story unfolds like “The X-Files” meets “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (except the Yankee moves forward in time rather than back). Crane teams with a young cop to tackle supernatural weirdness related to the return of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

And the young cop, Abbie Mills, is played by Nicole Beharie, an up-and-coming African-American actor who made a splash as Jackie Robinson’s wife this spring in the film “42.” Suddenly, the show was anchored by a strong black woman who gets to kick down doors, tote a trusty sidearm and play skeptical Dana Scully to Ichabod Crane’s witchcraft-wise Fox Mulder (for the uninitiated, that’s an X-Files shout-out).

When the show featured a storyline centered on Mills’ sister, we got to see two black women in an action/adventure setting, fighting the bad guys instead of waiting to be rescued or seduced. It was exactly the kind of diverse casting I had been waiting for since 1999, when the issue hit a crisis point as the broadcast networks offered a fall slate of new TV shows without a single character of color.

We have been here before. Our history becomes our present so often it becomes difficult to distinguish the two. Politicians and cable news hosts and the naïvely colorblind ask us to forget, most of the country obliges, and black people, again, are left to piece together the fragments of history, suffering, rage, and pain so that we may have hope for something better.

Again we advocate for justice. Again we question what justice would even look like. Again we demand that black life be valued. Again we wonder why it never was in the first place. Again we weep, we pray, we march, we raise our voices. Again we prepare ourselves to be let down. And again we ask when will the moment come where we won’t have to go through this again.

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The Racialicious Links Roundup 11.7.13: Renisha McBride, Richie Incognito, Kanye West, Crest, SNL & More

Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

f you thought what happened to Jonathan Ferrell last month was horrific, wait until you hear about the slaying of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.

At around 2:30am on Saturday morning, McBride got into a car accident near Dearborn Heights, a suburb around Detroit. Her cell phone battery was dead so she went to a nearby home to seek help. But after knocking on the door, McBride was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. (Update: McBride’s family told Detroit Free Press that she was shot in the back of the head as she was turning to leave.)

Dearborn Heights police initially told McBride’s family that her body was found dumped near Warren Avenue and Outer Drive, but that story quickly changed. Not only are police refusing to release the identity of the man who shot McBride, they’re now saying she was mistaken for an intruder and shot in self-defense on the homeowner’s front porch. Even if that’s the case, and there’s reason to believe it’s not, the shooter still failed to call 911 after shooting an unarmed woman in the head, instead leaving her there to die. Does that sound like the behavior of a law-abiding gunowner who made a tragic mistake?

Well, I’ve spoken to multiple people today about this and the explanation from all of them is that in the Dolphins locker room, Richie Incognito was considered a black guy. He was accepted by the black players. He was an honorary black man.

And Jonathan Martin, who is bi-racial, was not. Indeed, Martin was considered less black than Incognito.

“Richie is honarary,” one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”

Another former Dolphins employee told me Martin is considered “soft” by his teammates and that’s a reason he’s not readily accepted by some of the players, particularly the black players. His background — Stanford educated and the son of highly educated people — was not necessarily seen as a strength or a positive by some players and it perpetuated in the way Martin carried himself.

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The Racialicious Links Roundup 10.31.13: The Debate Around Malala Continues, Zwarte Piet, A Scam Targeting Native Americans and more

Young activist Malala Yousafzai. Image via ABC News.

Does Baig realize he is identifying every brown man with the Taliban? At the UN, Malala demanded the strongest leaders in the world “…to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity,” as she averred the urgency to protect the rights of women and children. Since being attacked, she has not hesitated a single day in speaking out against the Taliban. In her meeting with President Obama, Malala reiterated the concerns back home about drone attacks. One wonders, if a Muslim man had made such a fearless litany of demands to both world leaders and terrorists alike would Baig have referred to him as a “tool for the West”? or celebrated him as a hero?

Remnants of Baig’s distrust eerily reminded me the rambling letter Taliban Commander Adnan Rashid wrote to Malala explaining that every perceived Western good must have within it a sinister plot, a suspicion so deep and twisted that he justifies the killing of polio workers and education activists. He offered Malala a safe return to Pakistan only if she agreed to study the Quran at a Madrassa and reject a western education. He too, accused Malala of being easily swayed and “using her tongue at the behest of others” depriving her of her own agency and ideas.

Similarly, Baig’s argument seeks to confine Malala and place restrictions lest she become tainted with Western exposure, sympathy, or indoctrination. Though it was the Pakistani military who cleared Swat from the hands of the Taliban and the Pakistani military doctors who removed the bullet from Malala’s head, Baig continues in making even her medical treatment in England a means of shame for the native brown man. Such divisive attitudes will only succeed to perpetuate a cycle of hate, cynicism, and distrust. There seems to be no room in such a world-view for reconciliation, redemption, or working together with “the white man” for common goals.

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