Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.” Image via Facebook.
By now you’ve no doubt heard that reality “star” Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty “fame” was suspended from the show — or, in snake-oil TV-speak, placed on “indefinite hiatus” — after glibly engaging in some concern-trolling homophobia in a GQ interview while painting his show and his family’s public embrace of its Christian faith as some sort of antidote for whatever it believes ails America.
But what hasn’t been reported nearly as widely is the amount of outright racially prejudiced statements Robertson also lets fly in the piece, which points to a bigger problem for A&E. The network has been all too happy to trade on Robertson and his family’s “good ol’ boy” brand. Now it has to deal with the consequences. Continue reading →
The fallout from Paula Deen’s deposition and the lawsuit itself is a reminder of the ways that race and gender operate within the restaurant industry. It’s bigger than Paula Deen. Yet, as you read media reports, as you listen to various commentaries, you would think this is a story about an older white woman wedded to America’s racist past. Yes, this is a story about Paula Deen, and her crumbing empire. But that is the beginning, not the end. This is bigger than one individual, her reported prejudices, or the lawsuit at hand. This is about a restaurant industry mired by discrimination and systemic inequalities.
Racism pervades the entire industry, as evident in the daily treatment faced by workers, the segregation within the industry, differential wage scale, and its hiring practices. According to Jennifer Lee, “Racial Bias Seen in Hiring of Waiters:”
Expensive restaurants in New York discriminate based on race when hiring waiters, a new study has concluded. The study was based on experiments in which pairs of applicants with similar résumés were sent to ask about jobs. The pairs were matched for gender and appearance, said Marc Bendick Jr., the economist who conducted the study. The only difference was race, he said.
White job applicants were more likely to receive followup interviews at the restaurants, be offered jobs, and given information about jobs, and their work histories were less likely to be investigated in detail, he said Tuesday. He spoke at a news conference releasing the report in a Manhattan restaurant.
There really should not be a lot of difference in how the two of them are treated,” Mr. Bendick said. He was hired by advocacy groups for restaurant workers as part of a larger report called “The Great Service Divide: Occupational Segregation and Equality in the New York City Restaurant Industry.” He has made a career of studying discrimination, ranging from racism in the advertising industry to sexism in firefighting.
Mr. Bendick said that in industries, such experiments typically found discrimination 20 to 25 percent of the time. In New York restaurants, it was found 31 percent of the time.
A recent report from the ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Center) found that Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille, among others) was responsible for creating a racially hostile environment.
In the midst of this exchange, John Heilemann, an author, journalist and political analyst who frequents Morning Joe (and who occasionally says things that make sense to me), said, “But who’s the SCALP?” John paraphrased this statement by saying, “who’s gonna pay the price for having voted the wrong way?” In other words, John was questioning whether any of the congressmen who voted against the recent legislation in question will be defeated next election specifically because they voted against gun control, i.e. who will be the “scalp” (defined in the dictionary as a “trophy of victory”) that gun control proponents win.
Mr. Heilemann made a perfectly rational argument. Unfortunately his archaic phraseology took me right out of the conversation. The moment he said, “Who’s the SCALP?” my mind immediately raced to the fact that my ancestors (the Dakota people) were hunted down and murdered in their Minnesota homelands in the late 1800s, when then-Governor Alexander Ramsey placed a $200 bounty on their scalps. Yes, you read that correctly. It was once government policy to encourage civilians to hunt down American Indian men, women and children (human beings), kill them, and rip the flesh from their skulls. Anyone who did so was rewarded handsomely for it. Continue reading →
Pete: “Wanna play ‘Father Abraham’?” Joan: *direct side-eye*
To paraphrase One Chele from Black ‘n Bougie, it’s Tapback Season…at least on Mad Men. Don, Roger, and Peggy try their luck to get back with former and sort-of current lovers with varied results. Tami, Renee Martin from Womanist Musings and Fangs for the Fantasy, and I chat about this bit of silliness, the joys of “Father Abraham,” and the joy of talking about how the show handles racism with like-minded folks. Tami kicks off the convo…and, yes, spoilers.
Tami: Can I say how glad I am that we have this space here? I have always found the poor racial analysis of Mad Men by viewers and recappers even more problematic than anything the show has done. And now, in this season, where Weiner and Co. have made some egregious racial missteps (cough…Mammy Thief…cough), I’m even more glad to have a group of intelligent and racially conscious people to discuss the show with.
It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to put on a shirt with a Confederate flag. It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to say he’s “got a lot to learn BUT.” It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to whine about “walkin’ on eggshells” and “fightin’ over yesterday,” as if racism is a thing of the past and not something active and present in the here and now. It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to say “we’re still paying for mistakes / that a bunch of folks made long before we came,” as if White Southerners’ lingering discomfort with slave history is the same fucking thing as the structural effects of slavery that inform the lives of Black USians’ to this very day. It isn’t a fucking accident to compare the Confederate flag to a do-rag or saggy drawers. All of this is thoughtfully conceived and deliberate bullshit.
Marginalized people don’t owe privileged people non-judgment and tolerance and indulgence of their gross redefinition of symbols of oppression in exchange for basic decency. The inherent power imbalance between privilege and marginalization makes the entire idea of an “equal exchange” of good will reprehensibly absurd.
If White people want Black people to trust us, then we should make ourselves fucking trustworthy. That means releasing our stranglehold on a lot of symbols and images and words and practices with racist origins, even if we like them a lot—boo fucking hoo!—instead of trying to argue selective context. Especially when there are always plenty of White folks who still value the embedded racism in those things. Brad Paisley, you are literally expecting Black people to be able to read White people’s minds and magically discern whether this one White guy is wearing a Confederate flag just because he has Southern Pride, ahem, or because he hates the fuck outta Black people.
That wildly unreasonable expectation is no accident, either.
Welcome to Retrolicious, a series of discussions and analyses about period dramas. First–get your pinkies up–editors Andrea Plaid and Tami Winfrey Harris explore the lives of English nobility, as presented on Downton Abbey, contrasted with 50s/60s cool of Mad Men. Oh…and spoilers are all over this post.
So, shall we?
Downton Abbey blew up Twitter timelines this year. We may never hear Laura Linney exclaim (per Scandal’s advertising) that it’s “the #1 show on Twitter” (!!!!), but it gets its fair share of love. Why?
Tami: “Why?” really is the question.
I love a good period drama. Mad Men and Downton Abbey stay on my must-watch list. (Though, after this last season, Downton’s days may be numbered.) But this idea of exploring period dramas came from the team at the R interrogating just that question.
Embedded in a lot of the love of Downton and shows like it, is a romanticizing of “good old days.” And though Downton can be frank about issues like gender inequity, it also (I think more so than, say, Mad Men) minimizes other oppressions, like that of gay people, in order to make characters appealing to modern sensibilities. The result is a lot of modern people sitting about yearning for what really were “bad old days” for all but a privileged few, because of the pretty dresses and dashing gents in white tie.
Andrea: But I think this “why” is more specific than just interrogating period dramas, though we’ll get to that question later on. This particular “why” is “why Downton Abbey over other Masterpiece Classic shows, or even other PBS shows?” I mean, are we going to tweet about the Jeremy Piven-led costume drama Mr. Selfridge? Maybe…and I’m sure PBS is hoping we will.
Tami: Jeremy Piven? Eeechh…no.
Andrea: I know, I know. He plays some pretty gross characters. See, I think Piven was a sexy MF circa Ellen…with his chest full of hair. I hold out hope against hope that he’ll grow it back. But I digress…
So, there’s something about Abbey specifically that gathers people around screens and carrying on on my timeline.
And after slogging through three seasons of this show, I’m still at a loss. I’m still suffering boredom from watching this show. Maybe I’ve lost my taste for period dramas?…No, because I’m totally down for The King’s Speech, Elizabeth, Mansfield Park, and old Masterpiece Theatre (before they re-branded themselves to Masterpiece Classic) joints like The Buccaneers. And, if they’re still on Netflix, I want to check out a couple more Masterpiece Theatre classics: Brideshead Revisited and Upstairs, Downstairs. But Downton Abbey gives me a case of the “mehs,” though it’s a beautifully shot show.
Emory University president James Wagner. Image via Emory University Facebook page.
When Emory University president, James Wagner, made a plea for restraint in contentious debates about the future of higher education he appealed to history. The history he chose to appeal to is shocking. Building on the U.S.’s “three-fifths” compromise, which famously enshrined blacks as 3/5 of a person into the legal and cultural coda of a nation built on an ideal of individual liberty, Wagner puts forth his vision for academic guidance during turbulent times for higher education. In it he says that the compromise between the North and South over the political value of a slave is an example of “pragmatic half-victories” that keeps in its sights a “higher aspiration”. It’s a tasteless allusion at an institution built with profits from slave labor at any time but particularly during black history month. Still, it is an allusion that reveals a lot about similar debates being had about the future of higher education. If we can, for a moment, suspend distaste to extend Wagner’s exemplar for compromise to its logical end we can ask: who, in the ideological debates over higher education, are the slaves?
That is to ask, what is this debate Wagner characterizes with such incendiary historical references a debate about really? There are the tried and true positions on who is being oppressed in academe. Education disruptors argue that recalcitrant, inefficient university models are holding hostage innovation, progress, and economic growth. Others would argue that low wage contingent labor – adjuncts and contract teaching labor – are fueling the lower classes in the academic prestige hierarchy. It’s been said more than once that adjuncts are often working for “slave wages.” Students are profit centers with their lucrative tuition payments and keep the university machine humming along.
Innovation, adjuncts, students: all possibilities but none feel quite right. The problem lies with Wagner’s construction of a contentious debate. For a debate to be had, there must exist two opposing ideologies. There was but one guiding ideological principle at work as the North and South battled over the measure of a black body. That ideology was a commitment to maintaining cultural, political and economic hegemony for whites at the expense of black humanity and lives. The regional elites of the North and South merely quibbled about their share of the hegemonic pie, not that the pie was rotten with strange fruit. That is not a debate. It is competition.
State-by-state breakdown of racist tweets surrounding President Barack Obama’s re-election. Courtesy floatingsheep.org
Sure enough, the re-election of President Barack Obama just got people mad enough to express themselves on Twitter in the vilest of ways. But a state-by-state analysis of the activity by Floating Sheep, a group of geo-coded data analysts, reaffirms just how sad some people in the South still are:
Given our interest in the geography of information we wanted to see how this type of hate speech overlaid on physical space. To do this we aggregated the 395 hate tweets to the state level and then normalized them by comparing them to the total number of geocoded tweets coming out of that state in the same time period . We used a location quotient inspired measure (LQ) that indicates each state’s share of election hate speech tweet relative to its total number of tweets. A score of 1.0 indicates that a state has relatively the same number of hate speech tweets as its total number of tweets. Scores above 1.0 indicate that hate speech is more prevalent than all tweets, suggesting that the state’s “twitterspace” contains more racists post-election tweets than the norm.
So, are these tweets relatively evenly distributed? Or do some states have higher specializations in racist tweets? The answer is shown in the map below (also available here in an interactive version) in which the location of individual tweets (indicated by red dots) are overlaid on color coded states. Yellow shading indicates states that have a relatively lower amount of post-election hate tweets (compared to their overall tweeting patterns) and all states shaded in green have a higher amount. The darker the green color the higher the location quotient measure for hate tweets.
The results? The three worst offenders–Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia–came from southern states. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World