Category Archives: race & representations

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Dropping Anchor: The Racialicious Review of The Fresh off the Boat Pilot

By Guest Contributor Kevin Wong

Hudson Yang (center) and the cast of ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat.”

The plot for Fresh off the Boat is a classic “fish out of water” scenario. Eddie (Hudson Yang) is a 12-year-old Taiwanese-American, who moves from a diverse, city neighborhood in Washington, D.C. to a mostly white, suburban neighborhood in Orlando, Florida. His family consists of two younger brothers, a grandmother, stressed out mother Jessica (Constance Wu), and flustered father Louis (Randall Park), who wants to open a successful, Western-themed barbecue restaurant. Primarily, everyone’s just trying to fit in.

Jessica, for instance, takes up rollerblading with the neighborhood Stepford wives. This has great comedic potential- how does an Asian American woman clash with the expectations of privileged, suburban society? The Stepfords, to their credit, do not view Jessica as an intruder or an undesirable in their neighborhood – more so, they view her as a curiosity to be poked and prodded. It’s a nod to a more subtle type of racism that exists in the modern world. The term “racist” does not only encompass name calling and hate crimes — it encompasses passive discrimination, positive stereotypes, and microaggressions that, accumulated over time, can be comparably damaging.

The most interesting aspect of Fresh off the Boat is how it deals with Asian American masculinity. Each Asian male character has his own way of exploring it, and they each tend to do so through the lens of another ethnic identity, rather than their own. Louis, pursues the “cowboy” archetype, in an effort to bring more white folks into his restaurant. Eddie co-opts hip hop, black culture — he’s listening to Dre’s beats, quoting Biggie’s rhymes, and repping Nas’ Illmatic on his clothes. It’s illuminating.
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Black Glamour Power: The Stars Who Blazed a Trail for Beyoncé and Lupita Nyong’o

A 1960s promo shot of The Supremes, featuring Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson.

By Guest Contributor Lisa Hix, adapted from Collectors Weekly

Nichelle Gainer knows a thing or two about glamour: She spent most of her career working for magazines like Woman’s Day, GQ, Us Weekly, and InStyle, with a focus on celebrity, fashion, and grooming. But her true passion is fiction, so she decided to write a novel about black beauty pageants in the 1950s, partially inspired by one of her two glamorous aunts, who was a model in the 1950s—the other was an opera singer who rubbed shoulders with the biggest celebrities of her day.

Looking for newspaper articles on her aunt, she discovered a whole world of history that hardly ever bubbles to the surface: stunning, well-dressed African American stars celebrated in the black community, and sometimes even in the mainstream. Gainer put her fiction work aside to focus on these real-life stories.

Eventually, Gainer started a Tumblr and Facebook fan page, both called Vintage Black Glamour, full of gorgeous images that rarely make it into the public consciousness. While her novel went onto the back burner, her web sites drew the attention of a London publisher, Rocket 88. Gainer’s first book, a nonfiction coffee-table tome about women celebrities, Vintage Black Glamour, which will come out this September, can be preordered now.

We spoke with Gainer over the phone, and she explained to us the stories behind the photos she’s found, why glamour is important, and why Vintage Black Glamour will be more than just a collection of pretty pictures.

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Watch: A Father’s Day Tribute To Muslim Dads

By Arturo R. García

Even though Father’s Day was yesterday, this video passed along by Love, InshAllah is worth checking out if you want to watch something positive this morning.

Set to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the clip is simply photos of Muslim fathers and their families sharing joy. The photos were curated by Love, InshAllah and the Rad Brown Dads tumblr, which shares these kinds of images — and often the stories behind them — more regularly. Here’s an excerpt from one posted last week:

This is Hafeez Bajwa; seafarer, head chef, father of 2, brother to 10, uncle of 46. My dad fills his pockets with golden chunks of wonder, remains inside the house he built and never phrases what he desires. For his children, he provides everything, trains us to be moral crusaders and illustrates thrilling travelogues from his years on sea. He finds every garage sale, reads the terms of agreement, and wears his apron with pride.

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Exploring the Problematic and Subversive ‘Sh*t People Say’ [The Throwback]

Since we took a look at Jenny Yang’s “If Asians Said The Stuff White People Say” yesterday, let’s revisit January 2012, when Latoya examined a similar vein of internet-based comedy that took on stereotypes from various communities.

By Latoya Peterson

So all this started with “Shit Girls Say,” which now has over 11 million views:

Created by Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey (and boosted by the star power of Juliette Lewis), “Shit Girls Say” went viral by taking a male perspective on common things “women” do and presenting it as humor. Internet forums filled with comments like “Omigod, all my friends do that” or “that is so me.” The sketch proved to be so popular, there are now three episodes, probably with more in the pipeline.

However, everyone wasn’t laughing at “Shit Girls Say.” Quite a few people noticed that the “girls” referred to in the top video were a certain type of woman, an experience that was not shared by all. Others noted that the humor that made the video funny was actually rooted in sexist stereotypes. Over at Feministing, Samhita explains:

While, I usually applaud men in drag, I can’t help but be critical of these characterizations of women. Are some of these stereotypes uncannily true? I’m sure they can be. But that’s the problem with stereotypes, it’s not about whether they are true or not, it’s that they are used to disempower people or deny them certain privileges. And I get that it is comedy, but it’s like the most boring and lazy comedy possible. You know, let’s make fun of girls cuz we already know everyone thinks they are dumb and annoying tee hee. These videos might as well be beer ads.

And Lynn Crosbie, writing for the Globe and Mail, notes:

Girls, or young women, who already speak largely in the interrogative and treat the world of men as another, completely inscrutable species, have enough on their minds already. They are already sexualized to the maximum. Must their every word be a potential joke?

Girls speak casually about inane things. Girls speak, too, about sexual violence and quantum physics. They talk about fear and art, children, murder and opera; philosophy, blood, sex and mathematics.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing is also some stuff a girl said.

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Lifting the Barbie Ban: The Weird Ways We Help Our Kids Navigate Race

By Guest Contributor Theresa Celebran Jones, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

A few weeks ago, as I was putting my kids to bed, my older one, in an effort to avoid sleep, said to me, “Mommy, blonde is my favorite color of hair. I wish my hair was blonde.”

Before freaking out, I asked her why, and her reply was simple. “Blonde is the prettiest.”

I took a moment to gather myself. This was not a discussion I could have with her right before bedtime. I said to her, “I don’t really agree with that, but we can talk about it in the morning.”
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Courageous Liaisons: The Racialicious Review of Belle

By Arturo R. García

Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) begins to question her place, to the chagrin of Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson).

It’s only fitting that director Amma Assante’s Belle, a movie that culminates in a court, makes its own case crisply, and clearly. There’s a sense of some romanticizing, mind, but even that is based on hard evidence: the real Dido Elizabeth Belle did have a happy life.

So, admirably, Assante and writer Misan Sagay don’t try to inject pathos where it’s not necessary. Nor do they overplay their somewhat stacked cast, instead keeping Gugu Mbatha-Raw at the center, which she ably holds up. Because her story — at least, this story — positions her at the intersection of her own nascent questioning of her place in the world and her mentor’s role in shaping its future.
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Walk Like Some Egyptians: Breaking down Fox’s Hieroglyph

By Guest Contributor Monique Jones

The cast of Fox’s “Hieroglyph.” All images courtesy of Fox.

Fox’s latest high-concept sci-fi drama, Hieroglyph, is as fascinating as it is potentially problematic.

The show begins airing early 2015 with a doozy of a storyline: Master thief Ambrose is taken from prison by Pharaoh Shai Kanakht to find the dangerous and magical Book of Thresholds. The story also incorporates sexual and political scandals thanks to the machinations of Pharaoh Shai’s half-sister Nefertari Kanakht; his advisor, Magister Bek; Ambrose’s lost love and second-rate priestess, Peshet; Vocifer, a peddler and old friend of Ambrose’s; the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, Rawser and Lotus Tenry, a palace concubine and spy for the enemy kingdom.

Oh, and there are also vampires, for some reason.

Everything (except for the vampires) sounds great, but there are some pros and cons with this show. Let’s go down the list.
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Our Canada. Our Women.

By Guest Contributor Bailey Reid, cross-posted from Medium

Trigger Warning: This piece discusses rape

Last week, we saw incredible mobilization worldwide for the #BringBackOurGirls movement. We had Michelle, Malala, and just about every other person on my Facebook feed sharing the information, demanding action, and questioning the lack of media coverage about this tragedy.

In the midst of this, the RCMP quietly released a second number about missing girls. But rather than the generally accepted 600 Aboriginal missing women, they casually mentioned Canada actually has closer to 1200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. This is not to say at all that Aboriginal women are more important than Nigerian women, or that missing girls in any scenario is acceptable. It isn’t. It is never acceptable to have anyone hurt or missing, simply because of their gender. But Canadians were indignant, horrified, and saddened by the missing Nigerian girls — while our own First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women continue to suffer in silence and isolation.

There was an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Monday to discuss the Nigerian girls. We have yet to see an inquiry about our Stolen Sisters. Why aren’t Canadians demanding action on our own soil about our missing girls? They are being sold into sex slavery too, and the numbers are four times that of the missing Nigerian girls. Why don’t our Indigenous women have their own viral hashtag? Where is the outrage? Where are their memes?
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