Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture http://www.racialicious.com Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:00:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Janet Mock and Maria Teresa Kumar Launch MSNBC Shows http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/19/janet-mock-and-maria-teresa-kumar-launch-msnbc-shows/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/19/janet-mock-and-maria-teresa-kumar-launch-msnbc-shows/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:00:25 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33623 Following in the footsteps of trailblazer Melissa Harris Perry, two more braincrushes just launched shows on MSNBC’s Shift streaming media brand. Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino with Rosario Dawson, is now anchoring “Changing America.” And Janet Mock, the queen of Redefining Realness, is set to launch her progressive pop culture show this week. […]

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Following in the footsteps of trailblazer Melissa Harris Perry, two more braincrushes just launched shows on MSNBC’s Shift streaming media brand.

Maria Teresa Kumar, co-founder of Voto Latino with Rosario Dawson, is now anchoring “Changing America.

And Janet Mock, the queen of Redefining Realness, is set to launch her progressive pop culture show this week. We will update here when the clip is available.

Congratulations!

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What’s the Verdict? Racism and the Case Against Serial http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/18/whats-the-verdict-racism-and-the-case-against-serial/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/18/whats-the-verdict-racism-and-the-case-against-serial/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:30:04 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33629 By Guest Contributor Priya R. Chandrasekaran, special to Racialicious A month or so ago, I got into a debate with a friend at work about racism in the podcast Serial. Serial, a widely popular production of WBEZ Chicago, follows journalist Sarah Koenig week to week as she investigates a fifteen-year old case in which an […]

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By Guest Contributor Priya R. Chandrasekaran, special to Racialicious

A month or so ago, I got into a debate with a friend at work about racism in the podcast Serial.

Serial, a widely popular production of WBEZ Chicago, follows journalist Sarah Koenig week to week as she investigates a fifteen-year old case in which an eighteen year-old Korean American girl was found strangled after she went missing. Her then eighteen year-old Pakistani American ex-boyfriend was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping. He has been in prison since 2000, all the while maintaining his innocence.

Specifically, my friend and I had different responses to an article by Jay Caspain Kang accusing Koenig of “white reporter privilege.” She felt that Kang was too quick to read an exoticizing impulse into Koenig’s reactions when, for example, Koenig was probably startled by how “normal” a young woman’s diary seemed on the eve of its author meeting a violent death. Also, she said, Koenig the storyteller has to make her characters relatable to her listeners. But “relatability” is precisely what Kang problematizes, I replied, it assumes an underlying “colorblind ideal” that “reads ‘white.’” I brought up Julia Carrie Wong’s charge that Koenig “fail[s] to draw an distinctions between…. a first-generation Korean immigrant [experience] and [a] second-generation life in a Pakistani-American family,” and that she gives her subjects “model minority treatment.” But then… the descriptions Koenig uses were offered by the people she interviewed, not ones she coined.

So is she accountable for them?

A colleague joined in: Koenig probably assumes her audience has racial sensitivity.

I disagreed: Kang is right that the journalist comes “from the same demographic as her ‘intended audience’” in a context where “staffs of radio stations, newspapers, and magazines tend to be overwhelmingly white.”

But if being white is the fact of her experience, this colleague said, do we hold it against her?

As I walked home in the Brooklyn cold, I was thinking about this, and thinking hard. I thought about it when I passed a block away from the hospital where I was born. It was where my parents first worked when they immigrated to this country in the early 1970s, and it played an important role in the once poor neighborhood that was mostly African American, Dominican, and Puerto Rican until it was shut down because of urban disinvestment; now it’s an apartment building housing mostly white tenants on a block with skyrocketing rents. And I kept thinking about it throughout that week.

Then at a conference on the Black Radical Tradition and Cultures of Liberation, Cedric Robinson, historian and author of Black Marxism, said he believed that just because playwright Eugene O’Neill was white didn’t mean he couldn’t write about African Americans because “race is a fiction [though racism is not], while humans are incredibly complex.” In other words, questions of ethics or solidarity might have less to do with categories of identity than with what activist-scholars Gina Dent and Angela Davis suggested the next day – how you go about your work, the “questions you ask,” and your positional “reflexivity.”

The conversation with my friend made me consider Koenig as a person with a daunting project and good intentions. But I also remembered how, years ago, this same friend sent me a speech called “To Hell with Good Intentions.” It was almost fifty years ago when Ivan Illich had stood before an audience of US Peace Corps volunteers and students in Mexico and basically said, come to learn or to face yourselves, but don’t come to help. Remembering Illich made me realize that what is troubling about Serial is only partially encompassed by Kang’s and Wong’s critiques. Illich was disrupting a narrative that appeared innocuous and good even as it perpetuated social and economic hierarchies. On a far smaller scale, Serial is such a narrative.

It’s not the details in Serial per se, but how these details function in combination with what is left unsaid that unsettles. Koenig and her team do not play a thoughtful role in mediating the effects of their production on their audience and their subjects. Koenig seems largely unaware that people’s observations aren’t just objective or subjective, but shaped by ways they have internalized circulating stereotypes.

This brings me back to a few years before the tragic events of this podcast, to a suburban high school in Long Island, New York, and to a sociology teacher calling a brown girl – me — to the front of the room. He then asked the mostly white class, “Who’s her closest friend?” With hardly any debate the class came to consensus that it was another South Asian girl. Someone I couldn’t stand.

My teacher’s using me to illustrate his point made a bigger impression than his subsequent lecture about stereotypes. Or rather: together these two elements comprised a masterful lesson on how to use someone’s “difference” while simultaneously speaking about equality and “sameness.” I don’t think my teacher meant to humiliate me. He was trying to create a narrative and, in his mind I guess, needed to insert me into it to move along the plot. But that he chose me out of everyone in the class and didn’t ask me beforehand is no coincidence. And his having chose me had consequences.

In Serial, even initial observations of friends, acquaintances, and teachers were likely shaped by model minority tropes; but Koenig doesn’t acknowledge that. If my teacher used me as a kind of teaching tool, it feels like Koenig uses a teenage girl who died as the necessary victim in her mystery plot. The problem isn’t that Koenig doesn’t tell the audience more about her (she does try to pepper in a few details), but that she doesn’t lead the audience to imagine that there is. As countless writers, musicians, artists, directors, journalists, etc. have shown: rendering someone human isn’t about making them “relatable” through sameness; it’s about tapping into the complex, contradictory, fullness of someone’s being.

The “model minority” myth to which Wong alludes didn’t appear out of thin air, and it was a sharp turn from how, for example, Chinese factory and railroad laborers of earlier eras were racialized.

The term itself began to circulate in media and political discourse just around the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which wedged open a door to immigrants from the “darker nations.” That this legislation even came into being had to do with the tremendous effect of the Civil Rights Movement on challenging and broadening who could be deemed “American” and what it meant to claim that identity.

However, it wasn’t just motivated by progressive thought, but also by “professional” labor shortages (particularly in urban areas in part due to white flight into suburbs after desegregation) and efforts to forge geopolitical alliances with countries like Pakistan during the Cold War years. In the initial waves, many new immigrants had class or social privilege in their home countries and institutional connections here. My parents, for example, were given labor contracts to be medical residents and their flights were paid for as a salary advance; if they started on the ground and without money in their pockets, they were also given a ladder and the security of a paycheck. Like my parents, many post-1965 immigrants initially lived in close proximity to minorities who came from lineages of slavery, segregation, lynchings, exploitation, subjugation, and/or exclusion within the US only to find that hard-won battles like school desegregation wouldn’t initiate change without more struggle ( the Baltimore Superintendent maintained de facto segregation after the mid-1950s through districting). If democratic antiracist and antiwar upsurges within the US connected with anticolonial struggles in some of the very countries from which new immigrants came, racial divisions could also be exploited by harnessing the various prejudices and insecurities new immigrants brought with them (in part an effect of colonialism) and the way in which the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Japanese internment, and decades of excluding Asians from entering the US imprinted the psyche of differently positioned Americans just as national, state, and municipal governments were setting on devastating course of disinvestment from public infrastructures and launching a highly racialized “War on Drugs” (consider here, the main witness’s fear about being arrested).

In this churning cauldron, “model minorities” became a foil for “bad minorities.” Media promulgated “success stories” insinuated that class mobility was the product of hard work and the right attitude – not made in the trenches of history.

I don’t expect Serial to take all this on. But – dates, names, and a few exceptions aside – it’s like the podcast could have happened almost anywhere. Been about almost anyone. Taken place at almost any time. It portrays a world of relationships that don’t have social and historical density, a world in which these aforementioned events never happened – but for the way the consequences of their having happened surface unreflexively.

Moreover, in Serial, “model minority” descriptions are also “good girl” images, with unexamined misogynistic undertones. What does it mean that our shock about a murder of a teenage girl depends upon her seeming “normal” (to an imagined white middle/upper middle class audience)? Women and girls, as well as people who contest boundaries of gender and sexual “norms” in this country and beyond are habitually persecuted for acts of violence perpetrated on them. This is why it’s dangerous to hitch your audience’s sense of injustice to tropes of “relative innocence” – to borrow a term from Geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore. At one point, Koenig uses a clip to illustrate a potential juror’s prejudicial beliefs about how Muslim men treat women. But she never touches the fact that violence against women and intimate murders such as this happen all the time in the United States across every kind of demographic; it is as “American” as pie.

What Kang calls “white reporter privilege” I call weak storytelling. This weakness is accompanied by ethical oversights. I have wondered many times what it’s like for this girl’s loved ones to be subjected to widespread serial speculation about her death by people who don’t really care about her. Or what it would be like for them to walk by someone wearing a tee shirt from the subreddit Serial “community?” No doubt, addressing miscarriages of justice can hurt victims’ families, and this is not a reason to turn the other way. But it can and should frame how we take on such projects – both content and form. I stopped listening to Serial a while ago, in part because of my discomfort with how my sense of suspense and entertainment was predicated on (and simultaneously dissassociated from) people’s real pain. (I recently listened to the last few episodes in one stretch in order to update this commentary).

In our conversation, my friend had reminded me that the UVA Innocence Project is now investigating the case (friends and family of the accused attempted to solicit them earlier and failed) and that there are literally thousands of people who have signed an online petition to “free” the convicted ex-boyfriend. Now there is also a crowd source webpage to solve the crime. And listeners on reddit are raising funds for a scholarship in the victim’s name (without asking her family about using her name). I will be heartened if good comes out of these campaigns, but I am not heartened by what compels them.

Obsessive scrutiny of whether or not this young man is “guilty” of this crime circumscribes a paper thin vision of justice. It hinges on how Koenig, her team, and their listeners should stand in judgment of a Muslim American man in a post-September 11, 2001 era of rampant surveillance of Muslim Americans. It articulates with representations of dark people as strangers who white people (or “good Americans” of all fabricated “races”) must recognize, fear, or save. It depoliticizes and individualizes major social problems, and suggests the relationship between truth and justice is simply subjective at a time when private prisons are expanding exponentially and more people are caged in the United States than anywhere else on earth.

And they are predominantly people of color.

An article in Bloomberg Business Week estimates that Koenig probably paid about $2500 in phone bills to Global Tel-Link, a company which preys on incarcerated people and their families to make a profit. She doesn’t once contexualize her calls in this reality, and yet every episode opens with a recording that states the company’s name, in essence giving it free advertising. The problem isn’t that Serial centers on an individual case but the myopic manner in which it does so. When Koenig, to her credit, finally gives examples of how racism, Islamaphobia, and problems with the defense might have led to a false conviction, she brackets these details with a statement (at the beginning) that she doesn’t “buy” that racism was a determining issue even if it “crept in” and the comment (at the end) that “maybe he’s a sociopath.” In this episode, she chooses interview clips that reinforce Islamaphobic stereotypes without doing the work necessary to destabilize them.

Moreover, an episode that “deals with race” in a series whose metanarrative relies on using, scrutinizing, individualizing, and judging people who aren’t white is kind of like the difference between my teacher’s words and his real lesson.

The limitations of Serial’s narrative-ethical scope has led listeners to dig intrusively into other people’s Facebook accounts and posit speculations. The impulse to free someone might seem like an uncomplicatedly good thing.

But, many of recipients of humanitarian “aid” have spoken about the negative consequences of “good intentions” when givers don’t understand the social situation into which they are intervening. Furthermore, Michael Brown’s parents in Ferguson, Missouri or the parents of a fourteen-year old child killed in by US drones in Zowi Sidgi, Pakistan might remind us that just knowing who did it – who killed the child you raised — does not mean you get justice.

It might mean you get more injustice.

What can we make of Serial’s incredible fanfare at this particular moment in the history of race in the US? On the one hand, the non-indictment charges for policemen Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri and Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island, New York have sparked protests throughout the country about state violence on black and brown bodies, as well as a wider public conversation about the need for systematic change. On the other hand, “Band Aid 30” has just put out a new version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” that presents an image of black people and “Africans” as frightening, contagious, and deathly in order to raise funds to stop the spread of ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia (thirty years ago it was about famine and “poverty” in Ethiopia): “There’s a world outside your window – and it’s a world of dread and fear/Where a kiss of love can kill you – and there’s death in every tear.”

In the midst of this – as a subsequent conversation with my friend helped me to see – Serial has seized upon a general disillusionment in this country with the (political, economic, justice) system and the desire of people with privilege to keep that world “of dread and fear” outside their windows. After all, change is hard.

So I guess it’s not a surprise that Serial has been hailed as innovative. Most truly innovative things today are labeled crazy, impractical, or too…something. That is, if they rise above the economic impediments to see the light of day. “Innovative” has somehow come to mean a new way of packaging what writer Amiri Baraka called the “changing same.”

Serial is innovative in how it invites listeners to feel sympathy, antipathy, and the desire to prove what they have figured out.

But innovations in ethical thought and action reside elsewhere – as theorist Judith Butler reminds us in the movie Imagined Life – in sites of discomfort, uncertainty, and internal struggle.

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Quoted: Carvell Wallace on Run-D.M.C. and Personal Revolution http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/17/quoted-carvell-wallace-on-run-d-m-c-and-personal-revolution/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/17/quoted-carvell-wallace-on-run-d-m-c-and-personal-revolution/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:27:23 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33610 Something else happened that day. I realized that I really liked being an anonymous kid on a street corner in L.A. I realized that I really liked not giving a solitary fuck about what anyone was doing, not even myself. I realized that in some way it was my natural state. Two days later, I […]

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Something else happened that day. I realized that I really liked being an anonymous kid on a street corner in L.A. I realized that I really liked not giving a solitary fuck about what anyone was doing, not even myself. I realized that in some way it was my natural state.

Two days later, I started dressing differently.

I cut my own hair into a weird nappy mushroom top. I took this goofy trench coat I had and sliced it at the waist with a pair of scissors. On the chest I sewed the patch that I earned in a middle school spelling bee. I wrote graffiti on the sleeve in Sharpie. I took to wearing pajama bottoms and black chucks.

In short, the combination of Parliament and Hollywood had instantly funked me out.

And it worked, because the first time I left the house in this new uniform, I experienced something that I never had before. You might call it freedom. Abandon. Cultural immunity. I had a self. It was adolescent and awkward and trying too hard. But it was my very own self. It was a me that was all mine. It didn’t matter what anyone thought about it. For a brief moment in time, I simply didn’t give a fuck.

And that’s an important thing. When you have come to regard your very skin color as an insufferable disease, when you have to punch other people in the mouth just so you can be ok with who you are, not giving a fuck is the single most divine experience you can ever have.

- Carvell Wallace, “How to Raise Hell in Three Steps: on RUN-D.M.C, Parliament, Blackness and Revolution,” Pitchfork

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On Not Breathing Due to Failures of Democracy http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/10/on-not-breathing-due-to-failures-of-democracy/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/10/on-not-breathing-due-to-failures-of-democracy/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 10:38:30 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33605 Media is a grind. I’ve been out of the game for a little while, working mostly, so it’s been 18 months of learning how to make the news and how to make TV, and less of actually being on air, on camera, providing commentary. While in New York, on unrelated business, I get a call […]

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Media is a grind.

I’ve been out of the game for a little while, working mostly, so it’s been 18 months of learning how to make the news and how to make TV, and less of actually being on air, on camera, providing commentary.

While in New York, on unrelated business, I get a call from a producer friend – can I provide a voice on a Google Hangout with Katie Couric about the ongoing violence against black men? Later that day, the request changes. The Eric Garner decision rolls in, protestors are rolling out, New Yorkers are in the streets asking why. The segment has been upgraded to an actual panel – would I mind coming to the studio?

I prep, like usual. I look at outfits to see what I have that might translate well on television. I slide on BB cream in case there’s no makeup artist available. I rehearse talking points in my head, major points I want to make in the conversation. I ask my breakfast companion if she wants a ride into the city since they are sending a car.

The producer pushes back – I can’t share the car. Why not? I’m not asking for another stop, I’m still having a conversation.

The terse answer comes back: No one is supposed to know, and it just got confirmed, but my driver needs to pick up Eric Garner’s daughter as well. All the carefully crafted sound bytes exited my mind – what was I supposed to say to her?

Erica Garner is 24. She is in the middle of a national conversation, an amazingly normal person who lost her father in a horrific incident, an incident that was recorded, televised and played in a loop over and over. “I can’t breathe” has become a rallying cry for activists, a hashtag, cultural shorthand.

Her father died for this conversation, these actions taking place now, all our loving commentary and sharing and social media tributes.

All the words I had felt inadequate.

“I’m sorry for your loss” didn’t begin to cut it.

There is something very, very humbling about riding with someone who is at the center of a media storm. There’s a communication snafu – the driver doesn’t know who he’s picking up. I don’t know that part of NYC. We arrive out front of a normal looking complex in a normal looking day, the shiny ass black car standing out against the background.

Erica enters. She’s wearing red. She tells me she was laying down when they call and her hair isn’t done. This isn’t her first media rodeo – she was used to the constant blitz when the incident first happened, and then four months of silence ensued before producers picked up the phone again after the decision.

She seemed shell-shocked. She’s talking. We’re both nervous. I want her to talk. She seems like she wants a cigarette. She talks to me about all the protests since her father died that the media didn’t cover, her weekly pilgrimage with her family and the community to keep her father’s story at the forefront of people’s minds.

She tells me love stories. About how there was only her mother for her father. How she had no half siblings or step siblings, how everyone was together in the house. In love. Later, on the broadcast, her brother says he misses fighting with their father, and she will clarify petty day to day nitpicks that are also love. Fighting over the TV channel with two dueling remote controls

Inside (and on twitter) I’m starting to freak out. Because it is easy to prepare for anger, rage, hostility. It is much harder to deal with loss. Humanity. The strange, sick kinship of a shared tragedy, my grief about the implications writ large and her grief because her life was made smaller.

Intimacy will break you down far worse than anger ever will.

She shows me a video on her cell phone. It’s a birthday celebration for her father, a celebration of life. Dozens of people cram into the frame to sing happy birthday and release balloons. She tells me that her grandfather just wanted to feed people all day, feed the community. He fried fish from morning till night. She remembers this, a little ray of light in six months of darkness.

We’re still in the car. Traffic is at a standstill in Manhattan. The producers are freaking out, wondering where we are. Erica isn’t on Twitter, so she didn’t understand what I was saying when I told her #ICan’tBreathe was trending nation wide. We looked through the hashtag. She talks about how much the support means to her. We get the link to our segment. I pull it up and see that Ray Kelly is going to be there.

The live stream points us to his press conference about the grand jury decision. I click on it and watch in silence. Next to me, I feel Erica go cold. “If I knew he would be there,” she says to me, “I wouldn’t have come.” Later, W. Kamau Bell will say the same thing to Kelly’s face on the panel.

We talk, a little more animated now. She tells me that the numbers they are reporting are bullshit. “Arrested 31 times? I always remember my father home with us, how could he be arrested that much?” We discuss semantics and word choice – how someone could be arrested but not booked or charged. You could be arrested in the morning and back out in the world in the afternoon, I say. We talk about word choices and framing. She talks about details of the case. I remind her to say these things on air. She says she tries to but it’s too much to remember in the moment.

We arrive at 1pm, the time the livestream is supposed to start. The driver can’t find the building entrance. They hustle us through security, up to hair and makeup, micing and sound check and all the usual chaos that accompanies a broadcast. I feel drained. Erica reunites with her brother so they peel off to talk to Katie Couric before air time. I see Franchesca Ramsey, give her a hug, stand up under the lights, wait for our turn to talk.

I don’t need to talk about Ray Keller. Arturo posted the video while I was still processing what had happened. If I was in a better mood, I’d make a denialist drinking game. But it’s been a week and I still feel like a media nihilist. What the fuck are we doing?

The protests will remain news for a while though it may fade from headline news to tiny stings. Today, the torture report is the lead story. Tomorrow it will be something else. Where will Erica Garner be? Still picking up the pieces, I suppose.

Today, The Guardian published an opinion on what the CIA’s torture report means for the U.S., saying (emphasis mine):

The Senate intelligence committee’s report is a landmark in accountability. Yet it also shows how much remains to be done to tighten the rule of law over the necessary secret agencies of the state, and not only in America. The report provides devastating evidence of the CIA’s consistent and deliberate recourse to torture, with the blessing of the Bush administration, following the 9/11 attack, and in pursuit of the so-called war on terror. It pulls few punches as it details the conscious and repeated subversion of law and justice by a state that is justly proud to be rooted in those very ideals. It is one of the most shocking documents ever produced by any modern democracy about its own abuses of its own highest principles.

Apparently, there was some scattered chatter about the redacted report. There were reported (but unconfirmed) fears that officials believed the full report may lead to global protests toward the United States and it’s practices.

But at this point, isn’t the cat out of the bag?

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Up To Speed: Why We Hope The Flash Hands The Wests A ‘Zeppo’ Episode http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/09/up-to-speed-why-we-hope-the-flash-hands-the-wests-a-zeppo-episode/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/09/up-to-speed-why-we-hope-the-flash-hands-the-wests-a-zeppo-episode/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:00:12 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33597 By Arturo R. García Just eight episodes into its debut season, The Flash has established itself as a viable long-term investment for Warner Brothers and the CW Network — we just hope that the show does some investing of its own not just in Team Flash, but in Iris and Joe West.* Coming off a […]

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By Arturo R. García

Just eight episodes into its debut season, The Flash has established itself as a viable long-term investment for Warner Brothers and the CW Network — we just hope that the show does some investing of its own not just in Team Flash, but in Iris and Joe West.*

Coming off a satisfying crossover with its sister show, Arrow, there’s signs that Flash is ready to start tweaking its superhero-procedural formula. And one thing we’d love to see would be a “Zeppo” episode giving the Wests a bigger share of the spotlight as the show wraps up the first half of the season.

* Unless one of them gets killed off first.

SPOILERS under the cut

Fans of the Whedonverse will recognize the term Zeppo, of course, from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This episode, which put perennial sidekick Xander at the forefront and relegated the Apocalypse of the Week to fleeting glimpses and side chatter, earned critical acclaim and fandom love.

Think of this, first of all, as a much-needed step in building an Irisverse. As the series’ female lead, Iris is, in theory, the show’s second-most important character. But thus far we’ve only seen her in connection with male characters: She’s Joe’s daughter, she’s Detective Eddie Thawne’s girlfriend, and she’s the object of Barry’s unrequited crush. But she’s still closer to an ideal than a fully-developed person at this point, and there’s every indication thus far to suspect that Candice Patton can rise to the occasion if she’s given a heartier story to develop.

This week’s episode of Flash, which saw her crush on Barry’s secret identity finally begin to falter after her encounter with a rage-induced Flash, opens the door for more moments of independence. Barry already has Joe as his own father figure, and his own support team in the STAR Labs gang; it would be nice to see Iris, even for a little while, with her own friends and interests other than her job and her Flash blog.

Barry (Grant Gustin) only has eyes for Iris (Candice Patton) — but the feeling isn’t quite mutual. Images via Flash Wikia.

It was even more promising to see Oliver Queen advise Barry to move on from his infatuation with Iris this week, even if such a move can only last for so long in canon. Because, while it is a “classic” superhero trope that his love interest be attracted more to the mask than the man, it’s also painfully reactionary heading into 2015. Considering that Iris fell for blond-haired, blue-eyed stubbly Eddie and is attracted to blond-haired, blue-eyed and stubbly Oliver, a forensic scientist like Barry should be able to recognize the pattern here.

The show’s suggestion that Iris is only going out with Eddie because Barry never asked her out is also problematic, and not just because Joe has acted as Barry’s surrogate father in raising the two of them together. Forget Barry’s super-speed; the idea that Iris either never noticed his feelings or never discussed them with him over the course of two-plus decades is more sci-fi. This illustrates another benefit to giving Iris her own friends: you don’t think somebody would have tipped her off to this by now?

Meanwhile, Joe (the ever-reliable Jesse L. Martin) is in a slightly better position; his vow to find the man who really killed Barry’s mother gives him more of his own subplot, as we saw in his early attempt to wrest information from Barry’s other mentor, Harrison Wells (Joe Cavanaugh).

The Flash (Grant Gustin) coming to Joe’s (Jesse L. Martin) rescue? Must be Tuesday.

But, as is often the case in superhero stories, the arrival of not only The Flash, but superhuman criminals lands the man we presume is Central City’s top cop out of his depth more often than not. So the upside of a “Zeppo” here is that Joe can actually make his own collar without relying on his speedy friend to bail him out. A Joe/Iris team-up also has potential, since Iris has already done well enough for herself against not only Girder but the Clock King.

That Flash is apparently willing to both shed more light on the mysterious Man in Yellow who killed Barry’s mother and bring Mark Hamill in to play a new incarnation of the Trickster this soon is good. But fans should also encouraging the showrunners to step outside supertropes more often, not to mention making greater use of its rather diverse ensemble. Having a Black father and daughter tandem, a Latino character, and a gay South Asian-American captain is a heck of an asset for any TV show these days, let alone one aimed this directly at the fandomsphere. Since the show clearly isn’t in danger of going anywhere for a while, there’s plenty of opportunity for them all to be developed to the fullest, starting with the Wests.

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Quoted: Brentin Mock on Racism and Why We Can’t Breathe http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/09/quoted-brentin-mock-on-racism-and-why-we-cant-breathe/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/09/quoted-brentin-mock-on-racism-and-why-we-cant-breathe/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33593 Eddie Bautista, the longtime environmental justice advocate and director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, was quoted in the article saying about Garner’s death, “There are [a] number of ways that racism plays out … The asthma is just one more example.” I thought the article used a poor occasion to illuminate racial […]

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Eddie Bautista, the longtime environmental justice advocate and director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, was quoted in the article saying about Garner’s death, “There are [a] number of ways that racism plays out … The asthma is just one more example.”

I thought the article used a poor occasion to illuminate racial asthma disparities. Bautista explained the larger context to me, though, saying, “The [article] doesn’t take the cops off the hook; on the contrary, it further indicts institutionalized racism in the U.S. for permeating the very air we breathe.”

I initially resisted this notion, refusing to see the connection. In my mind, there was the cop killing Garner in one hand, and Garner’s asthma in another — unrelated. And despite the millions of words I’ve spent over the years showing natural linkage between environmental problems, health problems, and racial justice, my anger with the Garner tragedy only allowed me to realize the police racism and violence. Just because I couldn’t see, or refused to see, the asthma link, though, did not mean it didn’t matter.

“Limiting the conversation about racism to just about how we’re policed is a lost opportunity,” Bautista wrote to me. “Folks should care not only about how racism kills quickly (via the police), but how racism also kills slowly and insidiously. ”

- Brentin Mock, “Why environmentalists should support the Black Lives Matter protests

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WATCH: Melissa Harris-Perry And Guests On Public Perceptions Of Michael Brown and Eric garner http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/08/watch-melissa-harris-perry-and-guests-on-public-perceptions-of-michael-brown-and-eric-garner/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/08/watch-melissa-harris-perry-and-guests-on-public-perceptions-of-michael-brown-and-eric-garner/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33588 Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: [Black pathology] has two causes: one is institutionalized racism, and we just have to admit that America was built on a fault line called race, and that thing is cracking wide open. So, all of these are symptoms of that. Some of them are that we internalize the narrative. And I […]

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Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis: [Black pathology] has two causes: one is institutionalized racism, and we just have to admit that America was built on a fault line called race, and that thing is cracking wide open. So, all of these are symptoms of that. Some of them are that we internalize the narrative. And I think the other thing, you were pointing to a little while ago, is that somehow it makes us feel like we have more power, if it’s ‘our stuff’ — we’ve got more power to examine it, to fix it. But I think the bottom line is, this isn’t at all about Black pathology; it is about racism in America, which is in fact, pathological.

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Watch: Race + Police Discussion Featuring Eric Garner’s children, Latoya Peterson, and Franchesca Ramsey http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/05/watch-race-police-discussion-featuring-eric-garners-children-latoya-peterson-and-franchesca-ramsey/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/05/watch-race-police-discussion-featuring-eric-garners-children-latoya-peterson-and-franchesca-ramsey/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 13:00:33 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33580 By Arturo R. García Racialicious owner Latoya Peterson took part in a panel discussion moderated by Yahoo News host Katie Couric on Thursday regarding not only the death of Eric Garner, but the distrust characterizing the relationship between the New York Police Department and residents. The discussion began with Couric interviewing Erica Garner and Eric […]

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By Arturo R. García

Racialicious owner Latoya Peterson took part in a panel discussion moderated by Yahoo News host Katie Couric on Thursday regarding not only the death of Eric Garner, but the distrust characterizing the relationship between the New York Police Department and residents.

The discussion began with Couric interviewing Erica Garner and Eric Garner Jr., Garner’s children.

“Why didn’t the EMS help him if their job is to help people?” Erica Garner asked at one point. “I feel they treated him like an animal.”

Peterson and blogger Franchesca Ramsey then joined Couric to discuss how the case has stimulated conversation online.

“It’s just raw emotion, what’s happening,” Peterson said. “It’s not just unfortunately Eric Garner’s situation. It’s also in the aggregate, looking at everything that’s happened, with the summer, every 28 hours and all these campaigns, it’s really leading people to organize on social media and to be able to rise up and say, ‘We do not want to accept this any longer. This isn’t gonna be our world, and it shouldn’t be our world.’”

The discussion continued with a panel featuring comedian W. Kamau Bell, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and journalist Dion Rabouin, a talk that featured several clashes between Kelly and Bell, who admitted he did not feel safe with Kelly in the room.

“I’ve been taught to treat cops like pitbulls,” Bell says at one point.

“Who taught you that?” Kelly responds.

“The Black community,” Bell shoots back. “Would you like their names and numbers?”

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I Die a Little Bit Each Day http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/04/i-die-a-little-bit-each-day/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/04/i-die-a-little-bit-each-day/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 17:44:37 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33578 by Guest Contributor Aaron Goggans, originally published at The Well Examined Life I can barely express the depth of the pain and the anger I feel right now. I feel so helpless and powerless and hated. I feel so constantly plagued by doubt. I am constantly being messaged that I am a problem that society […]

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by Guest Contributor Aaron Goggans, originally published at The Well Examined Life

I can barely express the depth of the pain and the anger I feel right now. I feel so helpless and powerless and hated. I feel so constantly plagued by doubt. I am constantly being messaged that I am a problem that society has yet to find a solution for. This world seems so afraid of me and what I will do next…so why am I the one paralyzed by fear? Why I am I the one afraid to walk down the street at night? Why am I the one that nearly has a panic attack every time I see the police? How it is it possible that I am this powerful, haunting menace that America fears so deeply yet am so…powerless.

They tell me that I’m different. That my family made it. That my parents got out of the hood and moved to a white town and sent me to a good school. They are constantly messaging to me that I’m the epitome of the Black middle class success story. Young, no kids, no record, employed with benefits and a future. The cops have never thrown me up against the wall. I’ve never been stopped or frisked. I’ve never been shot at. I’ve never been seriously questioned by the police. It is supposed to make me feel safe. I’m supposed to understand the plight of the ghetto is not my plight. I’m supposed to feel pride that I’m not one of them. Yet I feel that all this messaging of success is a lie.

I remember the cops following me through campus at the University of Chicago. I remember them eying me as a group of white students walked towards me. They drove off when it was clear that I was not going to rob anybody. I get the sense, its imaginary I know, but I get this sense that the Black cop in the police car were surprised or disappointed or even anxious that I didn’t hurt anyone. As they drove off, I wondered if that cop wanted to prove he wasn’t one of them too?

Its moments like that one that won’t let this feeling dissipate. I always have this feeling hanging over me; this sense that the bubble could burst any moment. This eery, pregnant pause, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

When I would walk through Back of the Yards on the South Side of Chicago I would get this sense, as I heard guns shots and sirens, that one stray bullet and I’d be another statistic. Another dead nigger outlined on the side walk. Another memorial with candles and pictures and tears. Another prophesy fulfilled.

When I tell my story in social justice job interviews or organizing spaces, I always make sure to leave that part out. I make sure to talk about my class privilege. Talk about my parents making good money. Talk about my college degree.

As I regurgitate these half-truths I forget about my students loans, I forget about the overdraft fees, I forget about the times I’ve wondered if I can pay the rent. I wonder, after I tell my story, if I leave out the economic insecurity to fit in and get ahead: to say “hey I’m just like you.” I know that white people get angry if you fit in too well. You have to walk a balance between what they expect of you and what they would expect of you if you were white. You can’t be either one. You can’t be one of them, neither their equal nor the nigger they expect. You have to surprise them.

Honestly though, I fear I leave it all out because I want to believe it. I want to believe that my Khaki pants and dress shoes will protect me. I want to believe that my family could take me in if I lost my job. I want to believe my articulation of my innocence, in my practiced “professional” voice, would keep me out of hand cuffs.

I want to believe that there is more than just random chance standing between me and pine box…

A maldistribution of life chances. Oppression. Marginalization. Subjected vs Subject. There are a lot of words to describe it but, at the end of the day, it’s a roll of the dice to see which one of us dies today. Dying in an instant with a gun shot. Die in 4 minutes with a rope around your neck. Die after months battling diabetes. Die slowly doing 20 to life. Die a little bit every time your daughter draws herself with blonde hair and blue eyes. Die a little bit every time you get an award for showing up. Die a little bit each day. What kills you is just a roll of the dice.

I wrote that in a hour. I’ll feel better sharing it. I’ll process my emotion by rewriting and editing this. By the time I post it I’ll be okay. I’ll go back to work tomorrow like everything is okay. I’ll forget that my city’s police department is preparing for violence instead proactively suing for peace. I will work with White co-workers and forgive them for not being paralyzed by my fear. I’ll remember how privilege works and be thankful that I’m not living in fear of being deported. I’ll be grateful that I’m not afraid of being raped when I walk home at night. I’ll be grateful that I won’t be punched in the face for loving who I love. I’ll be grateful that I have a job in the first place. I’ll forget that the world is so afraid of me. I’ll pretend, for a time, that I’m not so afraid of it.

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#ThisStopsToday: Eric Garner Grand Jury Decision Adds More Fuel To Protests Nationwide http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/04/thisstopstoday-eric-garner-grand-jury-decision-adds-more-fuel-to-protests-nationwide/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/04/thisstopstoday-eric-garner-grand-jury-decision-adds-more-fuel-to-protests-nationwide/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33571 A day after a grand jury decided not to indict a New York City police officer in connection with the death of Eric Garner, protests calling for justice in his name — alongside that of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Tanisha Anderson and others — have been scheduled in cities around this country beginning […]

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A day after a grand jury decided not to indict a New York City police officer in connection with the death of Eric Garner, protests calling for justice in his name — alongside that of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Tanisha Anderson and others — have been scheduled in cities around this country beginning on Thursday.

We’ve listed some of them below, per information from the Ferguson National Response Network. While the #ICantBreathe tag was used extensively for Wednesday night’s protests in New York City, organizers are using the tags #ThisStopsToday and #JusticeForEricGarner for this weekend’s actions. If you know of any in your area, you are encouraged to list it in the comments.

All Times Local

  • Detroit: Campus Maritius Park, 800 Woodward Ave., 12:03 p.m.
  • Durham: Duke University Chapel Lawn, 401 Chapel Dr., 1:45 p.m.
  • Washington, D.C.: Justice Department building, 950 Pennsylvania, Ave. NW, 4 p.m.
  • Houston: Houston Police Department, 1200 Travis St., 4:30 p.m.
  • Note: A separate action in Houston is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Sarah D. Roosevelt Park, on Houston between Forsyth and Christie.
  • Baltimore: McKeldin Square, intersection of Light St. and Pratt, 5 p.m.
  • Atlanta: Downtown Underground, 50 Upper Alabama St., 5:30 p.m.
  • Indianapolis: 1 Monument Circle, 5:30 p.m.
  • New York City: Foley Square, 111 Worth St., 5:30 p.m.
  • Boston: Boston Common, Park St. entrance, across from the Lowes movie theatre, 7 p.m.
  • Dallas: Dallas Police Department, 1400 S. Lamar St., 7:30 p.m.

The full listing can be found at the Ferguson National Response Network website.

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White Privilege in Spanish http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/03/white-privilege-in-spanish/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/03/white-privilege-in-spanish/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33568 By Guest Contributor Ray Heath After hearing that a grand jury decided not to indict Mike Brown’s killer, I took some time to meditate, cry, be angry, and shake my fist at the sky. I thought I was okay. But this morning when I got up and did my morning meditation, the tears came back […]

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By Guest Contributor Ray Heath

After hearing that a grand jury decided not to indict Mike Brown’s killer, I took some time to meditate, cry, be angry, and shake my fist at the sky. I thought I was okay. But this morning when I got up and did my morning meditation, the tears came back again. They wouldn’t stop. On my way to work, my steps felt heavy, weary. I kept seeing my grandmother’s face, my father’s face, my brothers… I kept thinking about all the Black lives that have been stolen over the years. By the time I got to work, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay. Which brought on the next challenge of the day: how to explain to my white boss that I was going to need to take a personal day.

Let me explain. I live in Mexico. And while I read the news every morning to keep abreast of what is happening in my country, most people here are not so diligent. Many keep up on their local news and the national headlines, and occasionally the U.S. will make a decision that appears on that little ticker tape that runs at the bottom of the nightly news, but otherwise there’s not much talk of foreign affairs.

Add to that the fact that very few people have a context for the institutionalized racism that still perpetuates itself in the U.S. today, and you can begin to see the trouble a very emotional me faced in trying to explain why I was not going to be able to stay at work. You see this is the perfect environment to shed obligation. When in Mexico, be in Mexico. And I suppose some people will wonder why I even bother keeping up on the news, but my family still lives stateside. What happens in the news affects them, which means it affects me.

But my boss, who has lived in Mexico for about nine years, isn’t affected by this. Essentially, as a white man who speaks Spanish and has a Mexican wife and Mexican property, he probably thinks he might as well be Mexican.

But he’s not Mexican.

And when I went into his office with tears in my eyes for all those dead sons, he had no sympathy.

He was cold.

He was mean.

He was unaffected.

I won’t go into the details of our conversation, but when I, as politely as possible, told him that I would be leaving work early, his response to me was, “Well you just made my day worse.”

I want you to take a moment to receive the weight of those words within the context that I received them.

“Well you just made my day worse.”

I wish that I could explain to him the privilege behind that statement. I wish I could explain to him that no matter how long he lives in Mexico or how well he speaks Spanish or how much he loves his wife and children, he is still a white man.

A white man that throughout his life, including the one he has made in Mexico, walks with a certain privilege that is not afforded others. And just because he may or may not be aware of his privilege, doesn’t mean he doesn’t benefit from it. Doesn’t mean he isn’t accountable for it.

I wish I that I could explain to him that I wish only my day was ruined by his insensitivity. But my life, our lives have been diminished/devalued/mocked/and stolen by his insensitivity and the insensitivity of others like him. Who see us as the problem. Something to be exterminated, something to be eliminated, something to be gotten rid of. Or worse, they don’t see us at all.

When I left that office today, I remembered my grandmother. I remembered that she worked every day of her life that she could so that my father could have a better life. And how my father worked day and night and raised us up in a stable home with rules and values so that we could go out in the world and be good people. A Black man did that for me and my brothers. A Black man that Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin and countless others never had the chance to become.

But I still have my voice. And after I reported my boss’ behavior to his boss, I sat down to write this. To say that we don’t have to go quietly. To say that we don’t have to accept being dehumanized. To say that our lives, our voices, our pain matter. And that white privilege doesn’t get to hide itself behind a passport stamp or cultural awareness. Own your privilege, whatever it is. And try to own it with some sensitivity, because, despite what is happening in the streets, we are not going anywhere.

I wish that I could say that my boss has since come to me and apologized for his words. And more than that I wish that I could say that he came to me and said something to the effect of, “I read about Ferguson, and I understand a little better now, and I’m sorry for not being sensitive to what was happening with you that day we spoke.”

But, I can’t say that. And that is part of privilege, as well. The privilege to remain blissfully ignorant of what is happening because it is not happening to you. But it is that very ignorance that allows this problem to perpetuate itself, and so I have made a point not to remain quiet. I have used my social media feeds to share information. I have talked to my students about racism—its causes and effects.

But more than anything, I did not try to disappear, like my boss has. I, also, am not Mexican. And while many around me have assumed because I speak Spanish and look a certain way that I am Cuban, Dominican, or Haitian, I don’t think nor do I pretend to be anything other than a black American woman. I’m not looking for the privilege to shed my skin, but the ability to live in it and to do so with the same rights and respect as everyone else around me.

About the author: Ray Heath is a writer and English teacher who splits her time between the US and Mexico. She has an MFA in Poetry from the University of South Carolina. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga, paints, and makes jewelry.

Top image by Joshua Sinn, via Flickr Creative Commons

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Quoted: Chris Rock on Race and “Progress” http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/02/quoted-chris-rock-on-race-and-progress/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/02/quoted-chris-rock-on-race-and-progress/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33564 What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t? I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people. Well, that would be much more revealing. Yes, that would be an event. Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are […]

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What would you do in Ferguson that a standard reporter wouldn’t?

I’d do a special on race, but I’d have no black people.

Well, that would be much more revealing.

Yes, that would be an event. Here’s the thing. When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it’s all nonsense. There are no race relations. White people were crazy. Now they’re not as crazy. To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserve what happened to them before.

Right. It’s ridiculous.

So, to say Obama is progress is saying that he’s the first black person that is qualified to be president. That’s not black progress. That’s white progress. There’s been black people qualified to be president for hundreds of years. If you saw Tina Turner and Ike having a lovely breakfast over there, would you say their relationship’s improved? Some people would. But a smart person would go, “Oh, he stopped punching her in the face.” It’s not up to her. Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship has nothing to do with Tina Turner. Nothing. It just doesn’t. The question is, you know, my kids are smart, educated, beautiful, polite children. There have been smart, educated, beautiful, polite black children for hundreds of years. The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people.

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The worst reactions to John Boyega’s appearance in the Star Wars Teaser http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/01/the-worst-reactions-to-john-boyegas-appearance-in-the-star-wars-teaser/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/12/01/the-worst-reactions-to-john-boyegas-appearance-in-the-star-wars-teaser/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33552 This story is best read with the appropriate musical accompanyment: ONE YEAR BEFORE EPISODE SEVEN It was a momentous occasion. The sight of John Boyega in the first moments of the teaser for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was a victory — a much-needed statement after the parade of racist caricatures that haunted […]

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This story is best read with the appropriate musical accompanyment:

ONE YEAR BEFORE EPISODE SEVEN

It was a momentous occasion. The sight of John Boyega in the first moments of the teaser for “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” was a victory — a much-needed statement after the parade of racist caricatures that haunted the series’ three prequels, and a sign that director J.J. Abrams could really be on the right track toward blunting the memory of Jar-Jar Binks from fans’ minds.

But Boyega’s appearance also caused an ugliness to stir from within the Internet’s own hives of scum and villainy — comments sections and the most basic of Twitter accounts — from people who are apparently ready to believe in 7-foot wooly smugglers, diminutive green mystics and swords made of light that are drawn from a person’s connection to an all-encompassing universal essence, while being aghast at the thought that a member of a galactic military brigade can be Black.

As The Mary Sue reported, just seeing Boyega was enough to scare people. Consider these no-doubt well-adjusted individuals:

These bros are apparently freaking out because Boyega appears wearing Stormtrooper armor. This ignores the fact that Jango Fett, the bounty hunter who provided the blueprint for the original troopers, was played by Temuera Morrison, who is of Maori, Irish and Scottish descent. These “fans” also forgot that the actor who played the young Boba Fett, Daniel Logan, is also Maori.

As The Atlantic points out, there’s also an in-canon reason for Boyega to play a Stormtrooper (that is, unless his character is just posing as one):

Even if Morrison and Fett (and all of his clones) choose to pass as white, by the time of the events of “Episode IV: A New Hope,” the Empire has been recruiting from general populations for years. That’s why it makes sense that a young Luke Skywalker, lured by a galaxy larger than the humble moisture farm he calls home on Tatooine, dreams of enlisting in the Imperial Navy.

Luckily, Boyega himself is handling things just fine, going by this Instagram post over the weekend:

On the plus side, we now have an idea of how comments section racists are going to react whenever Lupita Nyong’o appears in any of the Episode VII trailers:

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Weekend Reads http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/28/weekend-reads/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/28/weekend-reads/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 12:12:48 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33547 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 […]

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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.

I want my son to be brave, to have the heart to stand up to injustice. But I cannot teach him to be brave if I have to teach him to be fearful and meek in his interactions with authority. I cannot teach my son justice if I have to instruct him to always cower before the power of the state for the sake of his life.

Is Harvard Unfair to Asian-Americans? [New York Times]

The most common defense of the status quo is that many Asian-American applicants do well on tests but lack intangible qualities like originality or leadership. As early as 1988, William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, said that they were “slightly less strong on extracurricular criteria.”

Even leaving aside the disturbing parallel with how Jews were characterized, there is little evidence that this is true. A new study of over 100,000 applicants to the University of California, Los Angeles, found no significant correlation between race and extracurricular achievements.

The truth is not that Asians have fewer distinguishing qualities than whites; it’s that — because of a longstanding depiction of Asians as featureless or even interchangeable — they are more likely to be perceived as lacking in individuality. (As one Harvard admissions officer noted on the file of an Asian-American applicant, “He’s quiet and, of course, wants to be a doctor.”)

Communal Living & Class Antagonism in a Poor City [The Billfold]

[T]his August, a group of eight adults and three children – two married couples, their kids, an unmarried couple, and two other friends – pooled their resources and bought a nine-room house on Scarborough Street. Before they bought it, the manse at 68 Scarborough had sat empty for several years. Thieves had stripped it of its copper piping, and the 3.6 acres of surrounding land were ill-tended and overgrown. The group set about putting the house to rights: replacing the plumbing, bringing the wiring up to code, clearing brush and manicuring the landscape. They made a legal contract among them to share household expenses — everything from the mortgage to the groceries — opened a common bank account, and set up housekeeping. They cook and eat together most nights, planning group activities and sharing childcare responsibilities.

And then Hartford’s dwindling upper class sprung into action, filing a complaint with the city about a violation of a fifty-year-old ordinance that forbids cohabitation in that neighborhood by more than two people not related by blood, marriage, or an employer-employee relationship. A cease-and-desist order soon followed. What is unfolding as a result is a fascinating glimpse at a kind of unapologetic classism that small American cities don’t see much anymore.

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#WeAreAllNatives Parody Ad Skewers Cultural Appropriation http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/26/weareallnatives-parody-ad-skewers-cultural-appropriation/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/26/weareallnatives-parody-ad-skewers-cultural-appropriation/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:07:12 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33543 Comedy troupe Stupid Time Machine just released a great parody ad in time for Thanksgiving. In their words: A Thanksgiving ad for Urban Outfiter’s new We Are All Natives collection – “Indian wear for the rest of us.” Filmed on spec by sketch comedy group Stupid Time Machine, the parody urges Urban – already famous […]

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Comedy troupe Stupid Time Machine just released a great parody ad in time for Thanksgiving. In their words:

A Thanksgiving ad for Urban Outfiter’s new We Are All Natives collection – “Indian wear for the rest of us.” Filmed on spec by sketch comedy group Stupid Time Machine, the parody urges Urban – already famous for their controversial Kent State Massacre and The Holocaust Themed Apparel – to tap into something hipsters can’t get enough of: white people in headdresses.

(Thanks to CJ for the tip!)

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The Producer and the Anarchist: Dear White People’s Critique and Vision of Film http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/26/the-producer-and-the-anarchist-dear-white-peoples-critique-and-vision-of-film/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/26/the-producer-and-the-anarchist-dear-white-peoples-critique-and-vision-of-film/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 16:30:44 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33448 by Guest Contributor Mario Fitzgerald In one of the many footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Yunior opines: “Rushdie claims that tyrants and scribblers are natural antagonists, but I think that’s too simple; it lets writers off pretty easy. Dictators, in my opinion, just know competition when they see it. Same with […]

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by Guest Contributor Mario Fitzgerald

In one of the many footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Yunior opines:

“Rushdie claims that tyrants and scribblers are natural antagonists, but I think that’s too simple; it lets writers off pretty easy. Dictators, in my opinion, just know competition when they see it. Same with writers. Like, after all, recognizes like.”

Through the mind of Yunior, Junot Diaz expresses a core truth about writing: Despite being a tool of dissent for justice and equality, writing is also a powerful and thoroughly successful method of erasure, revision, and domination.

Through his first feature film, Dear White People, director Justin Simien has demonstrated how film can similarly be a tool for either justice or domination. Through the characters of Helmut West, a reality television show producer and Sam White, an independent documentary filmmaker, Justin Simien dramatizes the different ways in which the film industry has responded to racism and white supremacy.

Helmut West drifts in and out of the film searching for “conflicts” on the campus of Winchester University from which he can create a reality television show. Despite the title of the film directing viewers’ attention towards the many documented micro-aggressions of White characters towards the film’s Black characters, West is a Black man.

His presence raises a critique against the constant search for anti-Black racist acts committed by White people rather than manifestations of White supremacist thinking which, as bell hooks has so eloquently written, operates within us all.

In acknowledging the manifestations of White supremacist thinking, the actions of characters such as Coco become more understandable as she pursues possible areas in which she, as a black woman, may actually benefit from White supremacy and its valuations of physical beauty. A focus on White supremacist thinking can also reveal the problematic nature of actions from characters such as Reggie. As White supremacist thinking is connected to patriarchal thinking, Reggie’s manipulation of the Armstrong Parker House’s voting system in order to thrust Sam into a position of power that she never wished to attain is more easily recognized as patriarchal and subsequently challenged and resisted by an anti-racist, black feminist lens. One would still be able to acknowledge that the most powerful characters, such as President Fletcher, are indeed white.

However, a focus on White supremacist thinking will reveal how individuals of all identities stand to benefit from various aspects of the status quo and, thus, may actually have a vested interest in upholding certain oppressive systems while struggling against others.

West is also possibly the most perceptive character in the film, perhaps even more so than Sam, as he quickly identifies which people around him will easily fit into a consumable racial stereotype, be it the “angry black activist,” the “ghetto black woman,” or the overtly bigoted white person. However, he uses his perceptive abilities to further a part of the film industry that profits off of racism, and so West seeks to exploit racial confrontations he finds on campus rather than to challenge them.

Juxtaposed against West is Sam White, a young, passionate filmmaker and campus activist intent on exposing the contradictions of society, starting with her college campus.

Through her campus radio program, “Dear White People” and her first short film of white faced white people losing their collective minds over the election of Barack Obama as president, Sam attempts to expose the racist contradictions of the world through direct and didactic methods. Such methods draw both ire and adoration from Sam’s peers as well as the attention of the Winchester’s President and Dean of Students.

After facing the pressures to conform to the demands of her peers as well as the university administrators, Sam eventually falls back on her identity as a filmmaker, and with the help of her boyfriend, Justin, Sam embraces the role of an “anarchist filmmaker.” As such she presents the contradictions of society as problematic while simultaneously avoiding offering any solutions leaving that task for her viewers, as displayed in the final moments of her second short film documenting the fall out from a campus “black face” party in which she ceases to complete her last “Dear White People” edict. In this way, Sam, as an “anarchist filmmaker” challenges rather than exploits the racism displayed on Winchester’s campus.

It seems safe to say that Justin Simien, himself, has set the task for himself of following the “anarchist” tradition of filmmaking, a tradition marked by the questioning of society’s manners, formalities, and figures of authority in order to unveil the truths hidden by such facades.

DWP exposes the contradictions of the United States – especially its founding freedoms ingrained with racism and white supremacy – while also exposing our own personal and all too human contradictions.

However, Simien does not provide an easy ending glorifying the possibilities of the film industry to confront and challenge racism. Rather at the end of the film, it is Helmut West – not Sam – who sits in front of President Fletcher pitching his idea of using the conflicts of the university’s “race riot” to create a reality television show which will ultimately provide profits to both the university and television studio for which West works.

Therefore, though Justin Simien’s own first effort has opened to quite
some success as has the works of filmmakers such as Ava DuVernay, Dee Rees, and Ryan Coogler, Dear White People still acknowledges that the works of Hollywood studios and reality television shows capitalizing off of and profiting from stereotypes of black Americans still mainly control and define the narratives of black Americans.

The struggle continues, even in film, for in the words of Toni Morrison:

“Racism will disappear when it’s, A, no longer profitable, and no longer psychologically useful. And when that happens, it’ll be gone. But at the moment, people make a lot of money off of it, pro and con.”

Mario Fitzgerald is currently a Pre – K Assistant, Library Aide, and aspiring writer hoping to follow the paths set forth by James Baldwin and Toni Morrison living in Charlotte, NC.

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Voices: The Michael Brown Protests You Didn’t See http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/25/voices-the-michael-brown-protests-you-didnt-see/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/25/voices-the-michael-brown-protests-you-didnt-see/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:00:45 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33532 There will be those who will reduce Monday night to the sights of burning buildings and tear gas around Ferguson, Missouri, and use that to excuse and explain the police violence that both incited and accompanied them. But the reality is, demonstrators marched — peacefully — both in Ferguson and around the country not long […]

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There will be those who will reduce Monday night to the sights of burning buildings and tear gas around Ferguson, Missouri, and use that to excuse and explain the police violence that both incited and accompanied them.

But the reality is, demonstrators marched — peacefully — both in Ferguson and around the country not long after a local grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9. These activists were not alone, and they will not be the last. This space is to recognize their presence, despite the insistence of certain narratives that they were not.

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New Fundraising Campaign Seeks To Preserve Sacred Land Of Pe’ Sla http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/24/new-fundraising-campaign-seeks-to-preserve-sacred-land-of-pe-sla/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/24/new-fundraising-campaign-seeks-to-preserve-sacred-land-of-pe-sla/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33528 Just over two years after the first fight to save sacred Native land in South Dakota, a new fundraising drive seeks to complete the drive to keep Pe’Sla — “the Heart of everything” — in indigenous hands. The campaign, organized by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, seeks to raise $500,000 by Nov. 30 for the […]

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Just over two years after the first fight to save sacred Native land in South Dakota, a new fundraising drive seeks to complete the drive to keep Pe’Sla — “the Heart of everything” — in indigenous hands.

The campaign, organized by the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, seeks to raise $500,000 by Nov. 30 for the purposes of buying the last 438 acres of Pe’Sla land under outside ownership. The foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is working with the Oceti Sakowin Nations for the fundraiser, and this video is a quick introduction to its mission:

In 2012, the Oceti Sakowin Nations, working together with the foundation and Last Real Indians, successfully raised enough money to purchase more than 1,900 acres of Pe’Sla land after they were put up for auction.

From the current fundraiser’s Indiegogo page:

If this purchase falls through, the opportunity to save these sacred lands could be lost forever.

The Black Hills, including the sacred site of Pe’ Sla, were reserved for the exclusive use and occupation by the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with the U.S. government. But once gold was found in the Black Hills (by an illegal expedition into these sacred Native American lands) the U.S. illegally seized the lands despite the treaty agreement.

The U.S. government has yet to give these lands back to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations. Even though the gold is gone, they still hold great natural, cultural and spiritual value to us. Now, we have no choice, but to buy our sacred lands at Pe’ Sla back from the current occupants. There’s no time for further contesting the illegal taking of these lands. We need to raise the money by November 30, 2014 or Pe’ Sla may be lost forever to Indian people.

Donations can be made at the link above, or the embed below.

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The Facing Race Files: Racial (In)Justice in the Post 9/11 Era http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/18/the-facing-race-files-racial-injustice-in-the-post-911-era/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/18/the-facing-race-files-racial-injustice-in-the-post-911-era/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:00:18 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33521 [View the story “Racial (In)Justice in the Post 9/11 Era” on Storify]

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The Facing Race Files: Lifting Up Queer and Trans Youth Resiliency http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/18/the-facing-race-files-lifting-up-queer-and-trans-youth-resiliency/ http://www.racialicious.com/2014/11/18/the-facing-race-files-lifting-up-queer-and-trans-youth-resiliency/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.racialicious.com/?p=33517 [View the story “Facing Race 14: Rainbow Warriors – Lifting Up Queer and Trans Youth Resiliency” on Storify] As promised, here are some of the images posted by the presenters:

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As promised, here are some of the images posted by the presenters:

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