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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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ABC’s “Fresh off the Boat” could be a disaster for Asian Americans

By Kevin Wong, cross-posted from Salon

I can’t speak for all Asian Americans, but personally, whenever I see a new Asian face on television, I panic. My blood pressure goes through the roof. There’s a vague unease and anxiety, even before the character opens his or her mouth. Because I’m ready to see yet another shticky Asian stereotype.

Some of the questions running through my mind: Is this Asian a main character? Does this Asian character have an arc? If the Asian character is a woman, does she have an Asian significant other? If the Asian character is a man, does he even have a significant other? Does this Asian man have sex, in a non-comedic fashion?

Or I worry that the Asian character is “too good” – an overcorrection for political correctness. There’s an ironic flaw to perfection – it doesn’t allow for the quirks that make a character compelling. Every American minority group has this stock, “perfect” caricature: for Asian Americans, it’s the Model Minority – the hardworking, emasculated genius. He’s the support for the protagonist, but never the protagonist himself.
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[Thursday Throwback] Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse (originally posted 5-17-07)

I’ve always liked reading personal ads. Even when I was a little girl, I would check out the back of the paper in hopes of finding a boyfriend for my widowed mom, and in the meantime, made an attempt to figure out what was going on in the minds of grown-ups as they searched for someone with whom to live “happily ever after.” There were certain acronyms and terms used in the ads that I didn’t quite understand at a young age (i.e. NSA: no strings attached or BBW: big beautiful woman), but for the most part, I thought I had a handle on what I was taking in at my elementary school reading level. It wasn’t until I became a bit older that I began to notice an interesting trend: personal ads are riddled with messages, some more subtle than others, on how people feel about race, ethnicity, and nationality.

With the emergence of the internet, I abandoned the paper and began perusing online ads, some of which read more like military code than personal descriptions: “SWF BBW in NYC seeks 30 – 35 y.o. D&D free S or D H/W/B/A/M for NSA BSDM ASAP in area codes 10003, 100019, and 10011. You must host. Pics? STR.” While these types of ads make virtual bulletin boards appear cluttered, others are well-written, funny, romantic, and/or so outlandish that they are hard to ignore. Sites like Craigslist became popular resources for finding any and every thing, from apartments and pets to jobs and vacation rentals. The personal ads were no different. Considering the privacy feature of anonymous posting in order to protect one’s identity, the personal ads serve as e-snapshots of candid thought—inside peaks into what the people I encounter on a daily basis may think of themselves, but, more importantly, how they view the world around them.

I checked the CL personals about as often as I checked for apartments, or, in other words, every five seconds, even though I wasn’t really looking for anything heavy duty in the love department and happened to be quite satisfied with my Brooklyn 2-bedroom and its 14 month lease. Reading the personals was a perfect way to find a little piece of reality TV-esque drama without all the heavy editing, good lighting, and stage makeup. The ads were frank, the boards were frequently updated, and the content never failed to amuse me, but behind all the fun, there was an underbelly of racism. This came as a bit of a surprise considering that so many of the CL posters were young, educated, and lived in diverse and densely populated urban environments—all oft-cited demographic factors in the commonly held belief that racism is on its way out. Though politicians, institutions of higher learning, and Ward Connerly would like for us to believe that the United States is on its way to becoming a colorblind utopia, a simple examination of Craigslist personal ads proves quite the opposite.

In the world of online dating, where a user name, masked email address, and optional photo sharing means freedom to speak ones mind in complete anonymity, users frequently abandon political correctness and resort to exotification, stereotypes, and blatant racism when referring to racial/ethnic “others” in their attempts to choose a mate. While some ads include the user’s thoughts on race in more subtle ways, for example, simply stating a racial “preference” (still, arguably, a sign of prejudice), others are more obvious in their descriptions—ranging from the utilization of explicitly racist phrases or terms to describe his/her own background and/or the background of the person being sought to downright exclusion a la Jim Crow style (“No -insert race here- need apply”).

I examined New York Craigslist personals for a week straight, mainly focusing on the basic m4m, f4m, m4m, and f4f ads as the prevalence of racist epithets/hate speech was so common in the “casual encounters” and “rants and raves” sections that I’d have to write an entirely separate article to cover them. In order to find data, I simply typed in a group (i.e. “Asian,” “white,” “black”) in the search box and let the magic happen. Here were some of my favorites (organized by search term) from my early set of results (please ignore the typos…I have left them in their original form):

  • WHITE: “I’m looking for a nice all American woman…Tell me about yourself and what you do, etc. I’m not picky about age, older is fine with me. White Irish or Italian is my preference, not into Latin women. . .”

Hmmm . . . an “All-American” woman who is of Irish or Italian background. . . Can anyone say “contradiction”? Is he not just saying that “All-American” equates to white, and that “Latin women” are nowhere close? Continue reading

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World