Tag Archives: african

Barack Obama is AWB: articulate while black

by guest contributor Philip Arthur Moore, originally published at TheThink

Why do I keep finding news articles about Barack Obama that conspicuously mention how “articulate” he is?

Reality check: ‘Barry’ Obama attended Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and was the first ever black American to be elected president of the Harvard Law Review. His educational biography is impressive, to say the least, and when he stormed into the national spotlight at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (part 1, part 2), we should have taken note of how “articulate” Obama was with the English language (his native language, by the way) and moved on. Instead, writers, taking adjectives from the same play book and arranging them just slightly differently, are harping on how well Barack Obama can speak about as much as they harp on how well George W. Bush mangles the English language (which, incidentally, is also his native tongue).

Take, for example, the following news snippets that have come out in the past several days alone:

“Barack Obama and the Pertinent Precedents” (Townhall.com, January 18, 2007):

The way in which he resembles George W. Bush — his thin resume — is not one that will help him. It may be cancelled out, though, by the ways in which he conspicuously contrasts with the outgoing president — notably, being thoughtful, articulate and seemingly open to opposing views. Bush is the commander in chief. But it’s Obama who gives the effortless impression of command.

“Much buzz, many questions over Barack Obama’s bid” (Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 2007):

But his biggest advantage could be his persona – young, attractive, articulate, a fresh face.

“Iowa Blogger Thrilled At Obama’s ‘08 Ambitions” (KCCI 8, January 17, 2007):

“We have someone in Obama who is a wonderfully articulate speaker, and we should never underestimate the importance of public officials being able to move people,” Goldford said. “The danger for somebody like Obama is: he rouses such high hopes. I mean, it’s the puppy love. The crush phase.

“Obama may find his newness both help and hindrance in campaign” (The Financial Express, January 18, 2007):

Obama’s appeal as an articulate, intellectual, multi-racial candidate prompted supporters such as fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to urge him to run in 2008. So far, Obama’s easy-going charm is the only thing most voters know about him.

Continue reading

Has Russell Simmons become a paid mouthpiece for the diamond industry?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

The movie Blood Diamond has the diamond industry so freaked out that they’ve been waging a massive PR campaign to refute the movie’s revelations about conflict diamonds. From LA Weekly:

The timing of the film’s release, moved up from December 15 to December 8, is a nightmare for the diamond industry since the Christmas season accounts for up to 50 percent of a fine jeweler’s sales and 75 percent of the profit. And then Valentine’s Day will coincide with Blood Diamond’s Oscar campaign. I’ve heard estimates that the World Diamond Council has earmarked a $15-plus-million spin campaign to deep-six Blood Diamond’s impact…

Apparently, part of this spin campaign has been to recruit Russell Simmons, of all people, to send out the message that the diamond industry isn’t really that exploitative. The Diamond Information Center, which is basically De Beers’ marketing and PR arm, sent Simmons and his entourage on an all-expenses paid trip to Africa. From The New York Times:

Representatives from the Diamond Information Center declined to say how much the trip cost, although Mr. Chavis said about 14 people were in the group each day, including local security and support staff as well as the 9 people who had traveled from the United States.

Davey D wrote an excellent piece about Simmons’ new role as the diamond industry puppet and pointed out the fact that countries selected for this “fact-finding mission” were very specific:

Please note that the horrific bloodshed and genocide of the early 1990s that the movie focuses on took place in countries like Sierra Leone and Angola. In my opinion those conflict zones should’ve been included in any sort of fact-finding mission. By only going to Botswana and South Africa, and by defending the diamond trade in those countries, Simmons by default wound up defending the De Beers Company, which held a worldwide monopoly for decades and brutally ruled the diamond business in those two countries for more than a century.

I first heard about Simmons’ new gig as diamond champion from this post from Bol at XXL. He does a great job of breaking down the hypocrisy behind Simmons’ so-called “Diamond Empowerment Fund,” which is supposed to educate Africans on how to better benefit from the diamond trade:

In the New York Times the other day, it was revealed that Africans are getting raped big time on the sale of these diamonds. They only get paid $15 for a diamond that would cost us (you) $5,000.

Will the Africans in Rush’s Diamond Empowerment Fund make any more money from diamonds than they would otherwise? Pshaw! Rush’s response to a reporter who put forth this question:

“No, I’ll answer him because I’m a business man and this gentleman obviously is not.” Simmons then countered that it takes about 25 cents to make a t-shirt you can sell for a $100. “Kimora can sell it for $500 or $600,” he added.

Wow. So in other words, the people in Africa don’t deserve to benefit from their own natural resources on the same level as Rush because they aren’t as good business people.

I swear, I’ve seen some sad shit in my life, but this about trumps everything.

I think Dumi at BlackatMichigan.com pretty much sums it up:

For years, I saw Russell Simmons as I saw Bob Johnson, a damn good Black capitalist (not endorsing this just calling em like I see em). Now with his explicit support and retort to Blood Diamond, I see he’s graduated to a damn good (Black) capitalist pawn… I wonder is there a difference between the two?

Time machine: November 2005

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Here’s another installment of our Time Machine series… when we take a look back at what we were blogging about a year ago this month.

Why we need to drop the word “exotic”

padma don't call yourself easy!In this classic post, Jen comes across an article that applies the dreaded E-word to Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, who is of Hawaiian, Russian and Filipino descent. It leads her to discuss why the word “exotic” is so problematic.

What’s wrong with “exotic” you ask? Well…the definition is literally:

1 : introduced from another country : not native to the place where found
2 archaic : FOREIGN, ALIEN
3 : strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual

Mixed people being labeled “exotic” is simply one way that we continue to be othered. We are not all as alien as one would like to believe, though. When people say that I am “exotic,” I usually check them and explain that there are actually many out there that are just like me, ethnically — that I am not as unusual as the term “exotic” would infer. The reality is that we are not yet on everyone’s radars. When people call upon their notions of race, we don’t fit neatly into the existing/accepted categories…this is why so many continue to think of mixed individuals as “exotic” beings.

Dispelling misinformation about the Paris riots

paris burningThis time last year, the world was watching as civil unrest broke out in France. It started in late October in Clichy-sous-Bois, a working-class commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris after two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, were accidentally killed. For the first time, we heard about the deep-rooted racial and economic inequities and tensions in France.

Ireland details the 30 years of government neglect, segregation, racism, and discrimination and argues that nobody should be surprised that it has come to this…

It seems to me that the larger issue here is that European countries are trying to hold onto the notion that they are essentially white countries, and that all non-white people are minorities or temporary residents. The French simply don’t recognize non-white people as French, and that’s clear from the terminology being used in the media coverage of the rioting.

New study: interracial relationships less likely to end in marriage

If you read between the lines, articles about interracial relationships often seem to have subtle cautionary messages. In this case, the message seemed to be, “It’s okay to fool around with a [fill in race] man/woman but don’t expect him/her to marry you!”

Newsday reports on a new study by researchers at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania that says that while interracial relationships are on the rise, they are significantly less likely than same-race relationships to lead to marriage…

Hmmm… I don’t know if I necessarily agree with their interpretation of the findings. Isn’t is possible that people who date interracially may also have less traditional views on relationships and therefore don’t necessarily feel the need to get married? I think this emphasis on marriage as the ideal end-state is a bit archaic. To assume that interracial relationships are somehow “bad” because they don’t result in marriage – that sounds to me like a thinly veiled cautionary message against entering those relationships.

Anti-Racist of the Week: Mutombo!

by guest contributor Philip Arthur Moore, originally published at TheThink

basketball mutombo racist fanThe start of the NBA season is just around the corner, which means more opportunities for me to find news that’s either related to (1) black people, (2) black people and their white friends, or (3) racist fans.

On Thursday night Houston Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo got into an altercation with a fan who allegedly yelled racist slurs at him, including the word “monkey”, during a preseason game against the Orlando Magic.

A video of the actual exchange wasn’t available on ESPN but we were able to see the actual fan who got kicked out of the building due to the slurs he yelled at Mutombo, who was born in the Congo.

On whether he would be fined for nearly going into the stands after the fan, Mutombo had these words:

I am not going to take that. He was insulting my race, my family, my integrity. For him to call me a monkey … that should not happen today.”

[…]

“If I get fined, I will go straight into the stands the next time.”

The saddest part about this entire thing is that the fan looked like a person of color. I could be wrong, but check the video out yourself.

My best friend, being the near perfect woman that she is, convinced me to join her in a salary cap fantasy basketball league this year. I’ve never done fantasy basketball (I’ve been too busy Crushing Ass in football), but it should give me good reason to watch NBA news more closely this year. I’m glad Mutombo stood up for himself. You’ve got to respect the man for that.

8 Words: Go Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacques Wamutombo!!!

Madonna, Africa, adoption, and the white man’s burden

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Before I get started with this post, a few clarifications. First, I don’t think that Madonna is the evil, attention-hungry, Angelina-copycat that others are making her out to be. I’m sure she was guided by the best of intentions when it came to this adoption. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t buy into essentialist notions about blacks, whether she realizes it or not.

Second, we have no way of knowing exactly what transpired during this process. Was she really led to believe that David’s father’s whereabouts were unknown? Is it true that his father never visited David at the orphanage? Was David’s father misled into believing this was not a permanent adoption? We’ll just never know, and it’s best not to make assumptions about any of the facts.

Third, I do not oppose international adoption and no, I wouldn’t prefer to leave the orphans to die. But are those ever really the only two options?

Okay, with that out of the way…

I was struck by how many times Madonna used the phrases “I will give him a life” or “he didn’t have a life” when referring to her adopted Malawian child, David, during her interview with Oprah on Wednesday.

And I think this gets at one of the main problems I have with the way international adoption is discussed in this country. There’s always this unspoken, underlying assumption that:

  • keeping the child in the home country = no life or a bad life
  • bringing the child to “the West” = a good life

The situation in Malawi is dire, yes. But discussions about international adoption always make it seem as if every single child who doesn’t get adopted by an American family — no matter what country the child is in — is going to die. Like, right now. But that’s just not always the case.

Also, we really need to question the assumption that the benefits of international adoption will always outweigh the negative repercussions. I encourage you to read this post of Ji In’s at Twice the Rice, in which she writes that “there is irreparable pain and there are primal wounds inherent in adoption that no privileged upbringing can erase.”

Can a better standard of living, healthcare, education and loving adoptive parents ever make up for what is lost when a child is removed from his or her country and culture? Shouldn’t every effort be made to try and keep families together? Shouldn’t adoption be a final resort? I don’t pretend to have the answers to those questions, but I’m disappointed that the questions are rarely, if ever, even asked.

If a country is experiencing such extreme poverty that it cannot adequately care for its children or orphans, is international adoption the best solution? Or the only solution? If, like Madonna was, you are so moved by a country’s troubles that you feel compelled to do something to help, are there other things you can do? Things that could actually help solve some of the underlying, fundamental problems that have led to this dire situation in the first place? Those questions are never asked either.

I was surprised that Madonna so willingly and unquestioningly accepted the orphanage’s claim that no family member — not even the father — had ever visited David since his arrival at 2 weeks old. Not only did she fully believe it, but she immediately assumed that it meant that “no one was looking after David’s welfare.”And during the entire interview, she didn’t once acknowledge the fact that David’s father might have kept custody of his son, had he had the resources. Her focus was on his apparent gratitude to her: “Thank you for giving my son a life.”

This lack of acknowledgement of a father’s loss reminded me of the old slavery-era essentialist notions about blacks that were created to justify oppression. Black people were characterized as subhuman and bestial. That meant that the notions of democracy and freedom this country was founded on didn’t really apply to them. Black men were said to not love their wives and children the way white men did, therefore it was perfectly okay to split up families and sell them off to different plantations.

Could a similar essentialist/white supremacist notion be at play here? Does Madonna believe that David’s father couldn’t possibly love David the way she can? That the affection and parental relationship she can offer is inherently superior to his? Continue reading

Singer Akon practices polygamy?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

russian nesting dollsI’m not sure if this is for real, but according to Vibe Confidential:

Today my homegirl and co-worker, Hot 97 host Angie Martinez spoke to Akon about relationships. Akon, who recently released a single with Eminem, explained that as an African (Ak’ is from a very prominent music family in Senegal) he believes in polygamy. His father had four wives, all of whom he considers “Mom”.

It also turns out that Akon has taken up a Senegalese lifestyle here, because after a little hesitation, the singer-producer admitted that he has his own multi-monogamous household going down in the ATL!

Cause you know, all Africans believe in polygamy. Anyway, supposedly Miss Info has the scoop over at her Celebrity Drama Podcast on the Hot97 web site. But with no show descriptions, I have no idea which episode is the relevant one.