By Arturo R. García
By Arturo R. García
Not long after the #BlackLivesMatter protest during Saturday’s town hall event at the Netroots Nation conference, I interviewed journalist and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas, who moderated the event, and talked about his experience being — literally — in the middle of the demonstration, as well as his views on how both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley handled their responses.
Were you prepared for [the protest]?
JAV: I was up all night trying to figure out a great mix of questions. For Senator Sanders, it was about immigration, because many people feel that’s something that he hasn’t talked about specifically. Gun control was a big one. Senator Sanders had talked about marching for civil rights in the March on Washington. That’s why I asked that question of, “Is there a specific bill you can point to” that had benefited the African-American community. So I’m just frustrated and disappointed that we weren’t able to ask this variety of questions.
But, having said that, the urgency that people of color — that Black people, that brown people in this country — feel about not only race but immigration, about policies that criminalize and dehumanize people in this country. It’s an emergency, somebody said, and it is. That’s what we saw. And I wasn’t about to stop that. As a person of color, as a gay man, as an undocumented person, I wasn’t about to stop that. You can’t silence people who have been silenced for far too long. I was just trying to figure out how I could keep the conversation going. I kept thinking to myself, “Man, handle this with as much grace as you can.”
I cannot overstate the importance of #BlackLivesMatter and the intersection of these issues. Remember, when [Phoenix activist Tia Oso] got up there, she talked about immigration, she talked about LGBT rights, she talked about civil rights. That’s the kind of conversation that we’re not seeing nationally. And that’s why it’s imperative that they get to hold that state. I just wish we could have known about it ahead of time, because I could have maybe found a better way to facilitate it, just so we could have had more questions and not just platitudes. So I was disappointed in myself for that.
By Arturo R. García
The Netroots Nation progressive conference in Phoenix was marked this past Saturday by a powerful show of solidarity from #BlackLivesMatter activists, who effectively forced both the attendees and Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to talk about police violence against communities of color.
I’ve included a Storify under the cut with notes and images from the demonstration, as well as a follow-up discussion hosted by This Week in Blackness featuring, among others, the movement’s co-founder Patrisse Cullors. You can also read a synopsis of some of the day’s events from me at The Raw Story.
(Editor’s note: In light of recent events we’ve opted to repost this article as a an unfortunate refresher re: domestic violence and the NFL.)
By Guest Contributor David J. Leonard, cross-posted from The Feminist Wire
In the aftermath of the tragic murder of Kasandra Michelle Perkins, and the subsequent suicide of Jovan Belcher, much of the media and social media chatter have focused on Belcher. Indeed, Kasandra Michelle Perkins has been an afterthought in public conversations focused on questions regarding the Chiefs’ ability to play, concussions, masculinity, guns, and the culture of football in the aftermath of this tragedy. Over at the always brilliant Crunk Feminist Collective website, one member described the situation in sobering terms:
Headlines and news stories have focused on the tragedy from the lens of the perpetrator (including speculation of potential brain trauma, his involvement, as an undergraduate, in a Male Athletes Against Violence initiative, and his standing as an allstar athlete), in some ways dismissing or overshadowing the lens of the victim, who in headlines is simply referred to as “(his) girlfriend.”
Mike Lupica, at the NY Daily News, offered a similar criticism about our focus and misplaced priorities:
That is why the real tragedy here — the real victim — is a young woman named Kasandra Michelle Perkins, whom Belcher shot and killed before he ever parked his car at the Chiefs’ practice facility and put that gun to his head.
She was 22 and the mother of Belcher’s child, a child who is 3 months old, a child who will grow up in a world without parents. At about 10 minutes to 8, according to Kansas City police, Jovan Belcher put a gun on the mother of his child in a house on the 5400 block of Chrysler Ave. in Kansas City and started shooting and kept shooting. You want to mourn somebody? Start with her.
But an unfortunate and perverse consequence of Donald Sterling’s massive profits from the sale of the L.A. Clippers is that admitting one’s racism is profitable. Thus white men profit from saying and doing racist things, while organizations like the NBA get to claim that they are taking strong stances against racism in the league. But ferreting out individual racists will never solve the problem of systemic racism. It simply makes everyone feel better.
Similarly problematic thinking is evident in the Baltimore Ravens’ decision to terminate Ray Rice’s contract and the NFL’s decision to suspend him indefinitely after TMZ leaked video of his vicious attack on now-wife Janay Rice Palmer yesterday. First, the NFL is no stranger to domestic violence disputes. A recent memorable incident was the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher against his partner Kasandra Perkins in late 2012. Second, the fact that Rice received only a two-game suspension until this video surfaced suggests that the league is more concerned with the optics of Ray Rice knocking Janay Palmer unconscious than addressing the ways that the hypermasculinity of sport perpetuates a culture of violence toward women. By taking such a hard-line, if belated, stand against Rice’s actions, the NFL now appears responsive to the problem of domestic violence, although it has made no promises to implement any kind of consistent anti-violence training for NFL players. It has simply ferreted out Ray Rice as an ultimate offender and benched him until further notice. This strategy won’t make Janay Palmer’s life safer and it won’t help the current partners of players who are being abused in secret.
We should be concerned about living in a culture where we routinely disbelieve victims of racism, sexism or domestic violence unless there is video or audio evidence. When we acknowledge the pervasiveness of violence, and of racism and sexism, we will be more responsive to victims and less committed to the kind of dishonesty that greets “isolated” incident after “isolated” incident with shock and surprise.
— Ray Rice’s Second Horror, by Brittney Cooper; Salon
With Kanye West in seemingly another controversy this week following a mid-concert rant, it’s a good time to revisit Latoya’s look at the furor surrounding his 2011 single, “Monster.”
By Latoya Peterson
Kanye has officially overdosed on artistic symbolism.
After his 35 minute debut of "Runaway" in back in October 2010, it difficult to figure out how Kanye would top a video that incorporated references to modern performance art, ballet, couture, mythology, and Fellini.
And yet, I don't think anyone counted on Kanye deciding to deck the halls with dead white women in "Monster".
By Arturo R. García
Considering that at least part of her success has been buoyed by Twitter, Scandal showrunner Shonda Rhimes’ apparent views on Twitter seem somewhat dismissive.
During her commencement address at Dartmouth University, Rhimes encouraged students to “pay it forward” with their education, including this bit of advice:
Find a cause you love. It’s OK to pick just one. You are going to need to spend a lot of time out in the real world trying to figure out how to stop feeling like a lost loser, so one cause is good. Devote some time every week to it.
Oh. And while we are discussing this, let me say a thing. A hashtag is not helping. #yesallwomen #takebackthenight #notallmen #bringbackourgirls #StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething
Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. I love them. I will hashtag myself into next week. But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag. It’s you, sitting on your butt, typing on your computer and then going back to binge-watching your favorite show. I do it all the time. For me, it’s Game of Thrones.
Volunteer some hours. Focus on something outside yourself. Devote a slice of your energies towards making the world suck less every week. Some people suggest doing this will increase your sense of well-being. Some say it’s good karma. I say that it will allow you to remember that, whether you are a legacy or the first in your family to go to college, the air you are breathing right now is rare air. Appreciate it. Don’t be an as*hole.
Rhimes is incorrect on at least one of these examples: Take Back The Night did not begin as a hashtag. That particular campaign against domestic violence can be traced back to the 1970s, and has always included in-person vigils and marches. So for her to say it is just a hashtag doesn’t square at all with reality.
But it’s also fair to point out that a href=”http://time.com/114043/yesallwomen-hashtag-santa-barbara-shooting/” target=”_blank”>#YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen emerged as vital conversation points in the wake of the shooting and stabbing attacks in Isla Vista, California. They also served as points of connection for people who might not be willing to open up in a “public” setting, allowing them to share their stories as they saw fit. That doesn’t make them “Dr. King,” but the idea of online safe spaces shouldn’t be treated as invalid, either.
Likewise, #BringBackOurGirls did the same for the mass kidnappings perpetrated by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the pressure upon the government to respond.
So in those instances, it can be argued that the tags did help, because they alerted people to the problems at hand in ways that larger media outlets were not able or willing to do. And in the case of #BringBackOurGirls in particular, the tag was a visible part of the first demonstrations associated with it in Nigeria, let alone the ones that followed around the world. In other words, seeing the tag led people to do just what Rhimes is calling for.
Moreover, what if a person has no outlets — or at least, no safe ones — within their communities? What if a person is not physically or emotionally able to put themselves in the middle of events that are typically crowded, loud and, in a worst-case scenario, potentially dangerous?
Lastly, it cannot be forgotten that Scandal, in particular, has not only survived, but thrived in part thanks to being able to generate such heated online conversation and live-tweeting. As Think Progress reported last year, data has emerged showing that people “sitting on their butt” can have quantifiable — and thus, money-making — influence on a show:
Specifically, the study found that for 18-34 year olds, an 8.5% increase in Twitter volume corresponds to a 1% increase in TV ratings for premiere episodes, and a 4.2% increase in Twitter volume corresponds with a 1% increase in ratings for midseason episodes. Additionally, a 14.0% increase in Twitter volume is associated with a 1% increase in TV program ratings for 35-49 year olds, reflecting a stronger relationship between Twitter and TV for younger audiences.
Further, the study found that the correlation between Tweets and TV ratings strengthens for midseason episodes for both age groups. An increase in Twitter volume of 4.2% and 8.4% is associated with a 1% increase in ratings for 18-34 year olds and 35-49 year olds, respectively. Moreover, by midseason Twitter was responsible for more of the variance in ratings for 18-34 year olds than advertising spend.
So what do you think, Racializens? Was Rhimes off-base?
How bad is street harassment in America? Pretty bad, according to a report published this week by Stop Street Harassment, a Virginia-based nonprofit.
SSH commissioned market research firm GfK to run a nationwide survey of 2,040 American adults — the largest such survey ever — to learn about their experiences with street harassment. The resulting report defines street harassment as “unwanted interactions in public spaces between strangers that are motivated by a person’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression.” The relative ubiquity of street harassment makes it difficult to quantify, author Holly Kearl explains in the report, because many people “may not even identify what happened as wrong.”
[Image by Carrie Sloan, via Flickr Creative Commons]