Thursday Throwback: Going Back Like Babies and Pacifiers; Why I Love Mariah

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim (originally published 6-1-09)

I said it once and I’ll say it again, I love Mariah Carey.

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I rarely try to justify this rabid adoration when I’m talking politics. Sometimes radical folks think that just because they like something, it must be radical. I’ve seen many bloggers look foolish this way. So I try to sidestep any probing questions as to why an incredibly serious and intellectual person like me (ahem) owns a Mariah wall calendar and tends to squeal deliriously when “Heartbreaker” plays over the supermarket PA system.

Usually when people ask why I so celebrate Mariah, I say “We’re both mixed race, and we’ve both experienced heartbreak. Obviiiiiously.”

But about a week ago, while discussing Nick Cannon’s accusations that the Mariah-inspired Eminem song “Bagpipes from Baghdad” was racist and sexist, the discussion that fell out of the post made me wonder if, after all, there was some need to untangle my Mariah love and its distant political underpinnings.

A little recap of the post and discussion: in trying to defend his wife against Eminem, Cannon proclaimed that Carey was a BLACK woman (the caps are his) and that it was time enough that white men like Eminem disrespected women of colour like Carey. He went on to compare Carey to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as examples of black queens that the black community should not allow to be disrespected. A lot of commenters said, “Right on, Nick!”

But a bunch said “Mariah Carey is black?” There were attempts to prove that she was not that black, by probing her bio and discussing her ethnic heritage in sixths and eights. Some suggested that she played both sides, emphasising her whiteness or her blackness according to which could sell more records, and that she was only black when it benefitted her. Some took offense at Cannon comparing Carey (who if half-white) to Obama and Winfrey (who are not half-white), frustrated by the fact that there was no recognition that Carey being light-skinned meant all sorts of light-skinned privilege, including more mainstream success than if she was darker-skinned.

I was taken aback. Truth be told I was unsure how Mariah herself identified. So I went back through the dusty internet archives, back to when Racialicious was Mixed Media Watch, to the first post I ever read on this site: Essence on Mariah Carey’s struggles with mixed race identity.

The post was interesting, but the comments were shocking. Commenters were incensed that Essence had identified Carey as a black woman. They were dismissive about Carey’s struggles with biraciality. Mostly the consensus was that Carey was a stupid rich poptart and that Essence was full of self-loathing idiots. Then again, I only read about the first 20 comments; it started to get too upsetting.  Continue reading

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As An Asian-American, Here’s Why Bruce Lee Still Matters

By Guest Contributor Kevin Wong, cross-posted from Complex

This week Bruce Lee made his HD debut on EA Sports UFC as a pre-order bonus — or, if you beat the game on Professional Difficulty, as an unlockable. The results, thankfully, are impressive. The developers have Bruce’s face and body structure down, but more importantly, they’ve captured his little mannerisms—the nervous tic where he rubs his nose, the stance when he lets loose with a signature punch or kick, and the scowl on his face when he approaches the Octagon.

UFC fighters, in their promotions of the game, have fallen over themselves to praise Bruce Lee. They speak reverently of him—he’s a childhood hero, an inspiration for how to lead one’s life, a warrior that all other fighters should aspire to. Dana White refers to him as the founder of mixed martial arts, and although this claim smacks of hyperbole, it has some merit. Bruce was someone who valued practicality over form—he disliked the traditional arts’ reliance on stances, believing that these things were too stiff, and thus, predictable. Instead, Bruce believed in Jeet Kune Do — the “Way of the Intercepting Fist.” It was a philosophy that encouraged formlessness — what was flexible and applicable in a “real life’”situation.
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Black Glamour Power: The Stars Who Blazed a Trail for Beyoncé and Lupita Nyong’o

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

By Guest Contributor Lisa Hix, adapted from Collectors Weekly

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

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

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

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

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Quoted: White Teenagers Offended, World Stops

Lawrenceville School Student Body President Maya Peterson’s “Lawrenceville boi” picture. Image via Buzzfeed.

One of Peterson’s first acts as president was to institute a “diversity representative” on the student council board to eliminate tension on campus when talking about race and gender issues. But her diversity initiatives were not widely welcomed; a push for gender neutral bathrooms was particularly controversial. And Peterson herself was viewed with suspicion by a significant number of students, mostly white and male, who opposed her candidacy from the start.

Some even thought the school had rigged the election so that a woman would win; only two women served as student body president before Peterson. “There was outcry for Lawrenceville to release the voting data for her presidency, because popular opinion was that she was not actually elected,” said David, a 2014 graduate. “I’d still like to see those numbers, is all I’m saying.” (The numbers were, in fact, released.)

The backlash to her election led to personal attacks. Shortly after Peterson was elected, an anonymous student sent the dean of students photos of Peterson using marijuana. Soon after, the school received more anonymous information that alleged Peterson had posted racist tweets about a Sikh student. In a school-wide meeting, Peterson apologized for the photos and the dean of students clarified that the racist tweets were fabricated. Still, many students believed she wasn’t right for the position.

“There was too much controversy around Maya,” said Rob, a rising senior. “We didn’t really want a president who breaks school rules. It isn’t a representation of who we are.”
– “What Happens When A Prep School’s Black Student President Mocks Her White Male Classmates” by Katie JM Baker, 6-30-14

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San Francisco Giants ‘Honor’ Native Americans By Having Cops Bully Them

By Arturo R. García

The advocacy group Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry (EONM), which has been involved in the ongoing campaign against the Washington, D.C. football team’s name, posted some disturbing footage last week of two Native Americans being accosted and forcibly restrained by members of the San Francisco Police Department?

Their apparent crime? Asking a baseball fan to show some sensitivity.
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My Sister’s Keeper: The Racialicious Review Of Half of A Yellow Sun

By Arturo R. García

Originally released last year, the adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Half Of A Yellow Sun boasts a loaded cast, but unfortunately, it doesn’t maximize its potential. What results is a historical romance that can’t get a grasp on its own history.

SPOILERS under the cut.
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Quoted: Payday Nation

Lone Hill said she had no problem with the loans because they were not made on the reservation.

Besides, she added, the Oglala Sioux have suffered long enough. “We’re getting hurt here too by our own people and our government and our country, who are not treating us fairly,” she said.

“When you deal with people who are impoverished, they will go for any idea that promises cash,” said David Mills, the director of the tribe’s economic development office and Catches the Enemy’s boss.

Catches the Enemy said her opposition to payday lending didn’t make her “a popular person” on the reservation. But she knew she was right to oppose the project: Her daughter, Yolanda, had lost the title to her truck several years earlier after taking out a car title loan, which like a payday loan comes at a high interest rate.

Elizabeth Rowland, who serves as treasurer of the Wakpamni district, agreed with Catches the Enemy. Her son, she said, had almost lost his van after taking out a similar loan.

After that experience, Rowland said she gave him some simple advice: “Don’t ever get involved with one of those loans again.”

– The Tribe That Said No (via Al Jazeera’s Pay Day Nation series), by Nicholas Nehamas; published 6-17-14

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How the “Whoop Whoop” Can Come Back: Why Arsenio Hall Should Go to the Internet

By Guest Contributor Monique Jones

Late night’s only black guy is gone once again. The Arsenio Hall Show, the recent iteration of the groundbreaking late night talk show hosted by Arsenio Hall between 1989 through 1994, has been cancelled. The cancellation of the show is bad enough, but even worse was the underhanded way in which Arsenio was let go.

CBS initially renewed the show for a second season. But then CBS decided to reverse their decision, cancelling it quite out of the blue. It’s undoubtedly a sad day for late night television, a virtual landscape which has not been kind to hosts of color.

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Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World