Category Archives: representations

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Flapping In The Breeze: The New Captain America Faces Challenges From Within

By Arturo R. García

The Falcon is going to be the new Captain America! Great! But then what?

Oh, you expected this to stick? History says otherwise. But there’s a potential problem ahead.

SPOILERS under the cut

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Racialicious Is Looking For POC Creators At San Diego Comic-Con

We’re just over a week away from the pop-culture experience that is San Diego Comic-Con, and while Arturo and Kendra pore over the event schedule to prepare their preview, we’d like to ask your help in finding some people who might be flying under the radar.

If you or somebody you know is a POC creator at the show, drop us a line at team@racialicious.com — use the subject line Racialicious SDCC — or in the comment thread here and let people know about your project. We’ll give you a signal boost in not only our two-part SDCC preview next week, but on social media, as well.

Just like last year, both Kendra and Arturo will be live-tweeting panels and posting during the event, on their respective Twitter accounts and the official Racialicious feed. Do let us know, Racializens, if you’ll be around as well. We’d love to see you there!

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A Call For An Annual #PrezRezVisit

By Guest Contributor Megan Red-Shirt Shaw

Only four United States presidents have ever visited an Indian reservation during their terms: Calvin Coolidge in 1927, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, Bill Clinton in 1999 and now, Barack Obama, here in the year 2014. Last week ended a 15-year-long gap between visits by our country’s leader to Indian Country. As I watched footage of President Obama and First Lady Michelle sitting at a powwow hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, the thought shocked me: over the past 80 years, the president of our country has only come knocking on our doors four times.

Four.

Clinton’s visit ended a 63-year gap between presidential Rez visits. During that time, the Indian Reorganization Act was created; roughly 25,000 American Indians served in World War II; the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Youth Council came into existence; the American Indian Movement seized Alcatraz Island; Wounded Knee was reoccupied; the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs was reestablished; and the United States v. Sioux Indian case was decided by the Supreme Court. Yet, in sixty-three years, within Indian Country – none of these happenings warranted a visit from the President of the United States.
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Jenny Yang’s ‘If Asians Said The Stuff White People Say’ A Fast Online Hit

By Arturo R. García

In just four days, comedian Jenny Yang’s “If Asians Said The Stuff White People Say” has amassed more than two million views on YouTube. It helps, of course, that it’s been buoyed by being on Buzzfeed. But the video is strong on its own merits, as well; it’s a sharp successor to the “Sh*t [x] Say” realm of clips because it turns up the awkwardness.

The preview image, with Yang making her eyes “rounder” as a visibly uncomfortable white guy looks on, sets the stage for her and co-star Eugene Yang’s antics, set to “Home On The Range,” inflicting a barrage of microaggressions at their companions. (“Do you have a normal name, too? Or just your white name?”)

“I just love dating white guys,” she tells one guy. “Because they’re so large and overbearing.” In another “romantic” scene, Eugene smoothly tells a white woman, “You know, I’m really into white girls. Just white girls,” only to protest, “Where you going?” as she runs.

Yang is also co-host of the Angry Asian America webseries on ISA with Phil Yu (aka AngryAsianMan) and co-produces the Asian-American comedy showcase Dis/orient/ed project, which is playing Los Angeles on July 12. Yang shared the origin of the group with Bitch Magazine last fall:

Well, when you first start out as a standup, at least for me, it feels very solitary. And so what I realized is that if I didn’t organize something with like-minded people, I wouldn’t find those people, because we’re just grinding it out on our own.

And so after I had been doing it for about a year, I had noticed the different Asian-American female comics as well as female comics and comics of color who were out doing things. So actually I had a lot of camaraderie with white female comics, but I definitely made note of when there were Asian-American female comics. So much so that I found an article about a woman named Yola Lu. Yola had just graduated from the University of Washington and was just starting out doing standup comedy, and there was this coverage of her. I was like, “Oh, this sounds like someone I want to meet.” And I literally just Google stalked her, and found her, and she was super cool, and I was like, “Hey, I just want to know what you’re doing, because I’m doing it.” And we actually ended up doing a little Skype date just to get to know one another. And we hit it off! And just half-joking at the end of that Skype chat, we were like, “Oh, wouldn’t it be great if we had enough critical mass of Asian-American female comics that we could do a whole tour of just us?” Like, someday, someday.

A few months later, she emailed me and she was like, “Jenny, remember how you were saying about that tour? I kept on thinking about it and I feel like we should just do it.” She instigated it, and we sat down and really thought about what it would look like. Then we recuited a good buddy of mine in LA, Atsuko Okatsuka. That created the initial trio of us who founded the tour.

Yang also shared more of her story in this clip from The Always Summer Project:

“I got to a point where I realized, in my professional career, in politics, which is my main career, it wasn’t really fulfilling me as much,” she said. “I kind of had this moment of like, ‘I’m a writer. I’m a performer. I need to take myself seriously, rather than dismiss it.’”

Check it out: United Colors of Amani

Amani Starnes’ new web series centers on what it’s like to be an “ethnically ambiguous” actress in Hollywood and the recipient of a host of stereotypes and biases. Starnes writes that she has “dealt with the ‘What are you?’ question her whole life. But what does it mean to be black, white, and everything in between as she navigates the entertainment industry and life in LA? The United Colors of Amani, a comedy with sociological undertones, sheds light on the uncomfortable, awkward, and outrageous constructions of race permeating showbiz.”

Episode 1: The Tryout

Quoted: The Atlantic on Hollywood’s “Sassy Black Lady” Problem

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Writer Akash Nikolas on the buzz surrounding Oprah Winfrey’s role in The Butler:

A win for her would be deserved—she’s wonderful in the film. But it’d also be the latest example of what seems to be a Hollywood maxim: Black women only get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress when they play characters who confirm the stereotype of the Sassy Black Lady—bold, sharp-tongued, impertinent.

Hattie McDaniel was the first black actress to win an Oscar for Gone With the Wind, playing house-slave Mammy who was warm and witty with her slave-owners. Half a century later, Whoopi Goldberg won for Ghost by playing Oda Mae Brown, a psychic with no back-story of her own and whose entire purpose was to support a white couple and entertain the audience with sass talk. In recent years, black actresses started winning Best Supporting Actress more frequently. Jennifer Hudson won forDreamgirls by playing Effie White, a diva with too much attitude to remain in a successful pop group and just enough attitude to cover “And I Am Telling You.” Mo’nique won for Precious by playing Mary Lee Johnston, an abusive mother whose sassiness was taken to a monstrous extreme as she terrorized her daughter out of her own fear of being alone and unloved. And Octavia Spencer won for playing The Help’s Minny Jackson, a back-talking maid who fried chicken, cracked jokes, and literally made a racist employer eat shit while her husband beat her.

If Oprah nabs the Oscar, she will have also won by playing sassy, but look closer and you’ll see her role rises above and complicates the stereotype. In her introductory scenes, Gloria is sweet and maternal, and it’s only as the movie progresses that we see her sassiness growing out of resentment—over her husband’s career, over the discord between her son and his father, and over her station in life. In this way, the film actually provides historical context for the sassy black woman, suggesting that she became that way because of decades of inequality. At the same time, the film also offers a modern revision of that role. Gloria feels fleshed-out; she’s not over-the-top, her story is fully explored (and fully her own) and, with the film covering several decades, we get the scope of a complete life lived well into old age.

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The Rape of Harriet Tubman

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By Guest Contributor Janell Hobson; originally published at Ms. Magazine blog

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the passing of Harriet Tubman. I had the opportunity to celebrate that fact when organizing a special symposium back in March, resulting in some thought-provoking critical papers on her legacy of resistance, which I’m currently guest-editing for Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism.

One of the more interesting conversations that came out of this event questioned why, on the anniversary of her death, we have yet to experience an epic cinematic treatment of her life.  She certainly qualified for that great Hollywood biopic. Against all odds, as a disabled enslaved woman, she escaped to freedom–having learned of the Underground Railroad network that included support from black and white allies–and once she made it to the other side returned to slavery 17 more times to free countless other slaves.

Tubman used all sorts of wit and trickery to enable her dangerous journey in this secretive network, and even believed in her divine right and power to engage in liberation. She collaborated with John Brown on the raid at Harper’s Ferry, recruiting slaves for the project, but her illness at the time prevented her from taking part in the uprising. During the Civil War, she served as a Union army spy, nurse and soldier, and in 1863, she led a successful military campaign on Combahee River in South Carolina, resulting in the liberation of 750 slaves.

In short, she’s the stuff of legend–for black history, women’s history, American history. The fictional Django from Django Unchained ain’t got nothing on her!

But on the year of her centennial anniversary, what does Tubman get instead of the great Hollywood biopic? She gets a “sex tape.”

You read that correctly. Recently, in an internet launch of his new YouTube channel, All Def Digital, rap media mogul Russell Simmons featured a failed comedic video titled Harriet Tubman Sex Tape–the first in the line-up of this new series. It didn’t take long for black audiences on social media to utterly denounce this video and petition against it. Within 24 hours, Simmons removed the video from his channel and issued this apology:

My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of the actors said in the video, that 162 years later there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset.

It is amazing that Simmons could not have predicted the outrage upon seeing such a video–which infers that, in order to build an Underground Railroad network to free the slaves, Tubman basically used blackmail against her white slaveowner by conniving with a fellow male slave to create a “sex tape” of their sexual encounter that she could later use as “leverage.” Then again, this is what porn culture will do to one’s perspective–something Simmons has perpetuated in his decades-long involvement with sexist rap music and culture.

Just reading the video’s premise was enough to make my blood boil, but sometimes, especially when you do media analysis as part of your scholarship, you just have to be a witness. So I viewed the video, and I don’t believe I am exaggerating when I say that, on this centennial anniversary, Harriet Tubman got raped.

Most of Tubman’s biographers have argued that there is no documentation that Tubman experienced sexual abuse while enslaved.  She was definitely physically abused–routinely beaten, and at one point as an adolescent suffered a head injury caused by an overseer who threw a two-pound weight against her head, breaking her skull and nearly killing her. The injury impacted her throughout her 91 years of life, as she was often given to sleeping spells (which Tubman claimed brought on various dreams and prophetic visions).

Slavery was “hell,” Tubman described in her narrative, dictated to Sarah Bradford since she could neither read nor write. She experienced a great deal of trauma while enslaved, but if there were any experiences with rape–which marked the experiences of far too many enslaved women–Tubman remained silent on the issue. It’s still also possible that, as hellish as her experience might have been, she was spared from a deeper hell that sexual violence brings to the picture. Which is why Simmons’ “sex tape” adds insult to injury.

It’s a hell of a sobering reality to realize that, 100 years after Tubman’s passing, our porn culture–intertwined inextricably with rape culture–would produce such a demeaning narrative about one of our great American heroes. It happened not because there is any basis in history for such an imagined scenario (Tubman simply would not engage in sexual leverage–it’s not part of the essence of who she was) but because our culture continues to trivialize rape (which is what we must categorize any unequal encounter between a slaveowner and slave, regardless of “consent”) and debase women’s experiences.  Ironically, the horrendous truth about sex tapes is that they tend to be used as leverage not against men but against women! It is women who are often blackmailed or demeaned when sex tapes are made available on the Internet. Women are the ones who have everything to lose, considering the slut-shaming that still clings to female sexuality. Sure, some celebrities might parlay such “porn” videos into a career, but the intention of sex tapes is public humiliation.

The Harriet Tubman Sex Tape publicly humiliates one of our great icons, and if she–whom many believe is inviolable, sacred, untouchable–can be debased, then not one of us is safe.

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