Tag Archives: black

Black Booty Body Politics

by Latoya Peterson


Whose Pussy Is This?
Now I have to ask this question
Cuz you mothafuckas keep disrespectin’ my shit
In every line that your lame asses spit
I’m forced to hear about my pussy
That is always on sale
A hot retail item
wrapped in plastic
for $12.99
And this shit is drastic
Bcuz everyone thinks they too have ownership of something that belongs to me
And I do not agree with this [...]

—”Whose Pussy Is This?” by Chyann L. Oliver, published in Home Girls Make Some Noise

It all started with a note, surreptitiously passed to me in health class in 9th grade. My friend poked me across the aisle, and handed me a bit of notebook paper. In pencil, the note read, “Toya got a big ole butt, oh yeah!”

Sigh.

I first became aware of the male gaze when I was twelve years old. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I realized that a guy pulled up behind me on a busy highway, inquiring if I needed a ride somewhere and telling me how pretty I was. Until that point, I thought men only catcalled girls who wanted attention. I had friends who wore tight skirts and low cut tops and makeup, all things that were generally forbidden in my mother’s household. My outfit that day had passed muster with her – a blue baby tee, wide leg jeans (as went the suburban style in the 90s), white reebok classics. I looked my age. And yet, for some reason, men reacted to me differently.

The note slipped to me in 9th grade was the beginning of the realization that despite my best efforts, the most remarked upon part of my body would be my ass. More polite people would talk about my figure and point out all the benefits of being a classic hourglass. Less polite people would quote song lyrics at me (Whoop, whoop, pull over, that ass is too fat!) or make rude remarks about what they would like to do with my ass. It never seemed to matter if I was a size 10 or a size 18 – my body shape would not be denied, no matter how many pounds I packed on.

Over time, I learned different strategies to cope with the attention I received. A large part of coping was reclaiming my body and learning to embrace my curves as a part of my own sexuality. In order to do that, I had to learn to separate the ideas projected on to me by others and understand how I felt about my own body. I discovered the affirming power of hip-hop – as well as its destructive objectification of the black female form. Just as Mark Anthony Neal informs his feminism with the acknowledgment it can be difficult to reconcile feminist principles with heterosexual male desire, it can be difficult to fuse cultural beauty standards, popular perceptions of the female form, and still come out with something resembling a healthy sense of the sexual self. Continue reading

Interracial Dating: Black Women Aren’t the Only Foes of Interracial Romance

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Do black women regard interracial relationships as a personal affront?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this issue raised. On June 2, it surfaced once more when blogger the Black Snob posted a thought-provoking piece on those who oppose interracial relationships called “Sometimes the White Girl (Or Guy) Isn’t about You (Unconventional Wisdom).”

The post begins with the Snob recalling her days in school when two black girls unsuccessfully try to jump a white classmate who’s dating a black guy. Throughout the piece, the Snob not only questions the rationale the two girls used to justify beating up their white peer but the rationale that black women in general draw upon to oppose interracial relationships. Are black women being fair when they assume that a black guy dating a white chick is a sell-out? And how do the insecurities of black women in Western society factor into their objection of interracial relationships?

She writes, “Some black guys are going to date white girls. Attempting to beat up the white girls will not turn that tide. …You’d be better off learning to love yourself than becoming mired in bitterness and hate over that thing that’s not really about you.”

The Snob’s points are valid. However, after reading her piece and others like it, I find myself wondering why black women are constantly portrayed as if they are only ones who react negatively to interracial relationships. As a black woman who has been involved with a white guy for more than a year, I’ve faced my fair share of hostility from white women, and some Asian ones, who seem resentful of my partnership. None of these women have disapproved of my relationship aloud, but they don’t really have to. Their body language says enough.

Continue reading

Black man/White woman interracial relationships: Breaking down my judgment

By Guest Contributor Ryan, originally published at Cheap Thrills

heidisealOver the past couple months, I’ve been surrounding myself with people who all have something in common: they’re the least judgmental people I’ve ever known. They’re: 1) unconditionally understanding and compassionate of any given situation – no matter how crazy, weird, or counter-culture it may be, and 2) TOTALLY open about their own lives, in all their outrageous and extreme glory.

How refreshing. To escape the “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad”, “black” and “white”.

Which brings me to my point.

During a conversation with one such non-shockable friend, the topic of interracial relationships arose. As I began discussing my own perceptions and thoughts on the subject, something became appallingly clear:

I am judgmental.

Here’s the bare-bones, no-holds-barred confession: I am shamefully judgmental of Black man/White woman interracial relationships. When I see such a couple, I immediately jump to the conclusion that the Black man is trying to prove something and the White woman is trying to piss off her family. I lump the couple into a category, with no desire to dig deeper or even accept their union.

So during this conversation, my friend commented, simply: “Why do you care what choices these other people are making?”

The remark struck me. Yes, why DO I care? I’ve thought hard about this. I’m sure when my Black man/White woman aversion took shape, it sprung from jealousy. When I was a little girl, I never knew my true worth (what kid does?). I was so jealous all the time. Of White females, because, in my eyes, they’d always have something special in their pale skin that I could never have, no matter how straight I blow-dried my hair or how blond I dyed it. And of guys (all guys, but mostly Black guys), because they were always the most popular and the funniest… and most of them liked girls who weren’t boyish and gawky and frizzy-haired like me.

As time passed, I (seemingly) got over my childhood jealousies. But also, the “Black man/White woman relationship aversion” became almost second nature. An instinctual eye-roll. And coming from the Black girl who digs White guys… what a perfect storm of cutting irony.

So now I take a step back. I see many of my White girlfriends entering into wonderful, loving relationships with Black men. I see happiness and strength. And when I see a couple that I would generally stereotype cuddling on the subway or holding hands through Downtown Crossing, I really have to check myself. Why spend time passing judgment on things I don’t even try to understand? Why do I continuing to do this, with the roiling emotions of a 3rd-grader?

I’ve got it. The reality is that I’m NOT over my jealousies. And the problem exists in my own head, not the interracial union. Which is a tad upsetting, but also… again, refreshing.

Because I can’t understand all the complexities of others. But I can accept them. And, even better, I can bask in my God-given joy of delving deep and understanding my own complexities.

There’s no place for judgment in self-discovery. So I’m kicking all those judgmental thoughts to the curb.

Based on a True Story…Again?

By Guest Contributor slb, originally published at PostBourgie

mlkWe’ve made no secret of our belief that Hollywood is producing just a few too many paint-by-numbers Black biopics, and this week’s announcement of a whopping four black-themed biopics was just a case in point. According to Rotten Tomatoes’ Weekly Ketchup, all systems are go for an “official” biographical drama on Martin Luther King Jr., with Steven Spielberg at the helm; Will and Jada’s Overbrook Entertainment (in concert with Sony Pictures) has acquired the rights to John Keller’s life story (an ex-Marine who oversaw the rescue of 244 fellow Katrina victims); and Denzel is mulling his third directorial project, a little pet project called Brother in Arms, about “the only tank unit in the European theater of World War II that was manned by all African Americans”–based on a book co-authored by Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

We should note that the latter project has no shooting date–and the Weekly Ketchup writers slyly suggest that, perhaps, this is because there’s already a black WWII flick in the works—a Tuskegee Airmen project, currently filming in Europe.

Here’s the thing: we love heralding Black accomplishments as much as the next guy–and far be it from us to stand in the way of Our Own Stories Being Told. But aren’t most of these films rather indistinguishable from one another? If you’ve seen Remember the Titans, you’ve seen Glory Road. If you’ve seen Ray, you seen Cadillac Records (or parts of it, anyway). If you’ve seen The Rosa Parks story, you’ve seen Boycott. If you’ve seen Ali, you’ve seen… Will Smith in one too many of these vanity projects.***

It isn’t that we don’t endorse Black films being greenlighted; we do. It isn’t that we don’t love our history; we do. It’s that biopics, as a genre, are largely rote oversimplifications of incredibly complex lives. And no matter how nuanced an actor’s performance (or, as in the case of Denzel as Melvin Tolson, how phoned in), the formulaic storytelling impedes any real understanding of the person’s struggles and, more importantly, the accomplishment(s) that warranted a film in the first place. They all sort of bleed together untill you’re like, “You remember that flick where Cuba Gooding’s in the submarine and he’s a cook who manned a gatling gun?”

The best way to know your history is to research it for yourself. All the swelling music and single-teared male stars in the world aren’t going to provide you comprehensive—or even accurate—knowledge of actual events. So these “First Black ___ to Do _____” biopics work best when you go into them with your facts about the film’s subject straight. That way, you’re just watching for entertainment value and voluntary emotional manipulation.

All that said, we have to admit, we’re more than a little bit amped about Josh Brolin’s genius plan to both produce and star in a John Brown biopic. You can never have enough films about bloody, if ill-fated slave revolts.

Asher Roth and the Politics of Race in Hip Hop

by Latoya Peterson

I am officially a hip hop curmudgeon. After a weekend spent in Houston listening to “Da Stanky Leg” and “the Halle Berry” on local radio, I am officially declaring myself one of those annoying ass old heads who is always waxing about the good old days. Notice here, I’m not talking about the “back when hip-hop was political” nostalgia – oh, no no. Party-hop, politics, whatever – I miss lyrics and lyricism. When a song had multiple verses and a chorus for me to memorize, not just some hollerin’ and foolishness. After listening to my homegirl V-sheezy explain why Lil’ Wayne may very well be the best rapper currently in the game (and she made a compelling case after explaining the current crop of voices on the mainstream airwaves), I retired to the Verve Remixed 4 and decided that I needed to embrace the fact that while I love hip-hop culture, I’m over rap. Just give me the production and let people who can really sing do their thing.

So it kind of goes with out saying that I had negative interest in listening to the latest flash in the pan, Asher Roth. Someone young, white, and privileged, rapping about being young, white, and privileged? Man, I could go watch that Smirnoff Tea Partay ad for that. At least that was intended to be comedy.

But apparently, Asher Roth has been busy.

In addition to inadvertently exposing some of the more interesting racial dynamics in hip-hop, he’s also been running his mouth about a few other things – like what African rappers need to be doing while he’s talking about how much he loves college or how he’s hanging with “Nappy Headed Hoes”. Here are some of the best bits from the Asher-pocalypse:

M. Dot, Model Minority – Asher Roth x Don Imus x Nappy Headed Ho’s

Apparently, Asher Roth was recently on the Rutgers campus and tweeted that he was hanging out with some “Nappy Headed Hoe’s.” He then tried to clean it up and recant by saying that “he was trying to make fun of Don Imus.” He apologized as well.

Recently my post, “Michael Baisden is a Misogynist Pig“, ran on Racialicious. The post is about the fact that Michael Baisden stated on his radio show that a wife “should just lay there and take it”, if her husband want’s to have sex and she doesn’t. One of the commenters, “Nina” who was open, honest and thoughtful in several her comments, said that she felt that Baisden was being hyperbolic. She writes,

    Perhaps because I think of him as being like Chris Rock, someone who exaggerates but often has a bit of wisdom at the core of the shit talking, what I hear is the kind of thing many men say when alone. And there is the risk that he goes to far OR that listeners will take it as gospel and not hear it as hyperbole. I hear it as hyperbole, my brother and friends hear it as hyperbole but that doesnt mean everyone does.

I responded saying,

    Let me ask you this, do you think Don Imus was being Hyperbolic when he called the Rutgers women’s team Nappy Headed Ho’s?

    If he wasn’t being hyperbolic and was being racist, why should Imus not be tolerated but Baisdens comments are hyperbolic?
    Often times, I have found that people hide behind the defense of laughter when in reality it constitutes hate speech.

    Can’t sprinkle sugar on shit and call it ice cream.

Having just wrote these comments on Wednesday, you can imagine my surprise at seeing Asher Roth say the same thing,
on Twitter, on Thursday.

Why should Asher Roth be singled out when Black men call us hoes all the time?

I am not saying that Asher should not be criticized for what he has done but we need to keep it even and acknowledge that many Black rappers and Black men, and for that matter Black women, refer to Black women, reflexively, as “hoes.”

Harry Allen, Media Assassin – Fight the White Rap History Rewrite

[F]rom a certain angle, there’s just a shade of difference between white people rapping and white people telling nigger jokes. (I know that this framework, though immediately clear to a certain number of Black people, if only on a gut level, isn’t obvious to others, and is completely offensive to many white people. I elaborate on it, more, in two other works: (1) “White People and Hip-Hop,” which I recorded with both Racialicious‘ Carmen Van Kerckhove and writer Jason Tanz (Other People’s Property) for Van Kerckhove’s “Addicted to Race” podcast, and (2) “The Unbearable Whiteness of Emceeing: What The Eminence of Eminem Says About Race,” which I wrote for The Source. Continue reading

Menace II Society (Allen and Albert Hughes, 1993)

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown

Sixteen years after its release, its easy to look back and pick apart Menace II Society, even easier to accept it nostalgically as the dope film we all thought it was back then. But the feeling of being in your early teens watching this flick, surrounded by folks who bang (pause) or did knucklehead shit remains, and it’ll always be a classic to me. Moreso these days for being a historical document than a dope film.

There are plenty of memorable scenes in the film affectionately known as Menace. But today, on the 17th anniversary of the 1992 LA uprsising/Sa-I-Gu, I’ll dwell on one in particular: the opening scene. For those not familiar: two young Black men, Caine and O-Dog, stop for some 40s at the cornerstore run by a Korean couple in South Central L.A. The lady spies em and utters the first of the films countless immortal quotables, “Hurry up and buy.” After a tense exchange at the counter, the Korean dude makes a fatal mistake, uttering the second quotable under his breath, “I feel sorry for your mother.” O-Dog turns around and asks “what you say about my momma?” before murdering them and robbing the joint as Caine watches in exasperation. O-Dog grabs the surveillance tape as a souvenir he’d later show to the homies.

A powerful, graphic scene (except for the fact that you can see the filming crew in the mirrors: FAIL). But what did the Hughes brothers intend to say with this? That Koreans are racists who deserve this cinematic execution, perhaps a fantasy retribution for Latasha Harlins? Or to jar and shock the viewer into feeling sympathy for the Korean couple who are merely trying to get by in the same fucked up conditions that the Black community lives in? Does it advocate or justify violence, or does it condemn it? Whatever their intent, this is the effect on others I saw: no sympathy for the Koreans, fanning the flames of Black/Asian tension (to this day: look at the comments on the YouTube clip) and convincing everybody that Larenz Tate is actually a G.

This scene reminds speaks volumes about how much those tensions still remained after April 29, 1992. In retrospect, mainstream media did everything to fuel this tension, which was a very real thing. And still is, even though it’s no longer evening news material. Too much of it bought into that myth that Koreans (and all Asians) and Black folk are just natural enemies like that. I refuse to think so, and though I question the Hughes brothers’ intent with this scene, I still find it telling and deserving of revisiting, to ask ourselves: how far have we really come?

Coming out Black and Agnostic

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

The Devil is wearing mittens and I expect a ham to fly past my window any second now. Why? Salon has published a letter from an African American in its Cary Tennis advice column. To be fair, most writers to the column don’t mention their race, so I could be wrong in guessing that most queries come from white, urban, highly-educated, highly-privileged liberals. One thing is clear, rarely does Tennis tackle issues unique to people of color.

Today’s dilemma comes from a black man who is disaffected from the church. Unlike his conservative, Christian wife and family, he has come to know that he is agnostic–he believes that the truth about the afterlife, deities and ultimate reality is unknowable. While the writer wants to be true to himself, he is hesitant to come out to his family–afraid of the fractures his lack of faith might cause.

I feel that I am now at a point where I must make a declaration that will surely affect those who are close to me. My loved ones have long suspected that there was something “different” about my approach to spiritual subjects, but up until now I have successfully hidden my true thoughts, philosophical developments and feelings from them.

    * With every Sunday that I sit in a church that would likely condemn my kind, I feel like I am betraying my potential and misleading my spouse.
    * With every public prayer uttered “in Jesus’ name” I feel like I am living a lie.
    * With every in-depth discussion about religious and social topics, I use evasive humor and agile commentary to distract my conversation partners — fearing that a sustained encounter would lead to the exposure of my controversial religious and philosophical views.

But one can only do this for so long before wondering if such attempts to suppress one’s true self for fear of offending the sensibilities of others is really worth it. One can only maintain a facade so long before wondering if doing so also erodes one’s sense of integrity while also denying loved ones the opportunity to know, understand and accept the “true” you. Read more…

What to do?

Tennis gave one of his predictably lofty and meandering non-answers to “Churchgoing Agnostic”–advice that, I think, doesn’t take into account the unique relationship the black community has with Christianity. The Black Church, as an institution, is about more than worship. It is about community, history, activism and more. For many, Christianity and churchgoing are part of the very fabric of African Americanness. For a people whose African ancestors practiced indigenous religions far removed from the Western view of worship, we have embraced Christianity as ours. A recent survey revealed that blacks are more religious in key ways – including frequency of church attendance, daily prayer life and certainty of belief – than the U.S. population as a whole. Quiet as it’s kept, a whole lot of those presumably white, conservative, Evangelical Christians that get so much ink, look like me. Continue reading

Quoted: Andreana Clay on Queer Women of Color and Hip Hop Masculinity

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

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A variety of clubs cater to queer women of color in the San Francisco Bay area. Some are wall-to-wall women of color – Black, Latina, Asian and most play hip-hop music non-stop. In each club, there are all different kinds of women. For instance, there might be women over forty with long ‘locks, Hawaiian shirts, shorts, and Teva sandals in one corner of the room and younger, Butch, women wearing crisp, indigo-colored Levi’s with thick black belts, large belt buckles and perfectly gelled hair in another. There are also femme women in tight jeans or skirts, heels, and short T-shirts, some cut around the collar so that they slide down their shoulders. In every club I that I’ve been to, there is always a clearly designated dance floor, which is usually packed tight with sweaty bodies. Some clubs have elevated dance floors or stages with one or two go-go dancers dressed in hot pants and knee-high boots. Below them are women lined up with dollars. In the background, hip-hop music fills the room with beats and voices, sometimes the only male presence in the room. What type of male, and ultimately what type of masculinity depends on the club.

On Gay Pride weekend this year, I went out to several of these clubs. Two in particular stuck out in my mind because of their similarities and differences in relationship to queer sexuality and black masculinity. For instance, at one of the clubs I went to, the deejay played songs that characterize more of the nigga, or thug image in hip-hop- 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, the Game, and 50 Cent. At the second club, the music had much more of a playa or sexualized tone – the Ying Yang twins, David Banner, and Khia. While there are two different types of masculinity being played at each club, in a room full of women of color, the lyrics fall to the background as the performances take center stage. For instance, nigga masculinity in the first club is reflected in a particular style, stance, or code. It is more about an individual identity, one that each person can take on. Women throw up hand gestures as they dance, make eye contact with one another and mouth the words to the lyrics. Some women even had on T-shirts with the ultimate “nigga 4 life,” 2Pac. The tone set at this club is also about community. The mood isn’t so much about sex or domination sexually, but rather, a stance about who someone is or declares herself to be: being down, being able to take what comes in life, being loyal to this group, this identity, and this community.

In the second club, the playa image was much more prevalent. If you wanted someone to help you get your groove on, this was the place to be. Women would grind their bodies into one another, and move one another’s bodies around to the direction of the lyrics. Queer sexuality was much more on display, as a woman, you wanted to be looked at, have somebody notice you, and maybe take you home. For instance, at one point, I noticed two women on the stage, dancing with one another. One of the women, in baggy jeans and a baseball jersey picked up the wman she was dancing with who was wearing a short, silver skirt and tank top. She then lifted her up onto the bars surrounding the stage and then put her face into the woman’s skirt under the musical direction of “work that clit, cum girl.” I had to sit down. Continue reading