Tag Archives: black

Reveling in Bleakness

by Guest Contributor SLB, originally published at PostBourgie

In grad school, I took an elective called Autobiografiction in Black, a course in first-person narratives illustrating a broad pastiche of Black life. The first novel we were asked to read was Sapphire’s Push. I read it in three days, growing more and more uncomfortable by the page. I had to take long, cleansing breaks after certain passages. Other times, I sat covering my mouth in disbelief at the central character’s myriad disfortunes. When the book finally ended, I wanted to hurl it across my apartment. My skin crawled for days and I felt betrayed by my professor. What possible reason could she have had for choosing this novel as the initial reading for her course?

Push is the story of Precious Jones, an obese and illiterate teen whose mother and father are sexually, physically, and emotionally abusing her. As a result of routine father-daughter incest, she is the mother of one child with Down’s Syndrome and is pregnant with a second. These horrifying occurrences are just the beginning of Precious’s troubles, but it’d behoove you to read the book to find out what else is going on.

Suffice it to say: Sapphire is relentless in her portrayal of this girl, who joins a literacy class and begins to slowly peek out from the cracks of her dark, shattered life and find a few rays of light.

People who love this book will tell you that it’s a triumphal story of hope in the face of brutality and despair. And it is. But for me, hope appeared too late in the work and retreated without a satisfying enough redemption for our heroine. I couldn’t stop mourning her abundance of tragedies, no matter what brief victories she won.

So when I found out Push was being adapted for the silver screen, I cringed at the prospect of revisiting Precious’s bleakly rendered world. I dreaded watching in technicolor all the awful things I’d imagined while reading. And I reeeally didn’t want to return to the hollowness that haunted the ending. What possible reason would Hollywood have for further dramatizing an existence as heinous as Precious’s? Continue reading

What Does Tyler Perry Really Want From His Audience?

by Guest Contributor Nichole, originally published at PostBourgie

Tyler Perry is set to release a film version of his play, Madea Goes to Jail, which I happened to watch with my family back home in Nashville over the Christmas holiday. TP flicks are best enjoyed as a community, because as you’re responding to your mother’s giggles about Madea’s swinging bosom, you can forget about what appears to be his real message, lurking beneath all that homespun wisdom.

Almost.

(Spoilers ahead.)

In Madea Goes to Jail, Sonny, Madea’s nephew, his wife Vanessa, and their infant son, live with the outspoken matriarch. Vanessa is in graduate school, and Sonny works hard at the local jail, pulling extra hours to finance her education. The two have a deal that once she earns her degree, it will be his turn to go back to school. But it soon becomes clear that Vanessa is an ill-mannered, disrespectful, spoiled, ungrateful bitch who doesn’t want to do the right thing by catering to her husband out of gratitude for his hard work and support. She loudly complains about taking care of the baby or performing any other domestic chore, stressing the need to complete her graduate study so she can make something out of herself. She’s so out of pocket that the busybody next door neighbor, Ella, admittedly manless, irons Sonny’s work shirt for Vanessa, as she sings about how to take care of a man and keep him happy. Continue reading

WWD Documents the Funeral for Dr. King

by Latoya Peterson

Women’s Wear Daily published a “From the archives” feature on the funeral of Dr. King.

While about half of the piece documents the atmosphere and who was there, it also allows a glimpse into the bewilderment and confusion that happened after Dr. King’s assassination.

Amidst the shallow attempts to get a glimpse of the headliners was a very deep sadness and anger. King, a decided pacifist, was often criticized by others in the civil rights movement for being too soft. “They killed the wrong man,” one man said. “Love didn’t work. It’s gonna take some violence now to make these people understand.” So, the opening to Abernathy’s eulogy, broadcast over a loudspeaker perched atop the church, was apropos: “Where do we go from here, chaos or community?”

After his speech and several songs, a procession began from Ebenezer Baptist, passed the Georgia state capitol and ended at Morehouse College. There, Abernathy was joined at the podium by then-Presidential nominee Robert Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney and John Lindsay to speak about Dr. King. By the time King’s casket actually arrived at the cemetery, his funeral had been going for nearly seven hours. He had famously said in February of that year, “I don’t want a long funeral….I want you to say I tried to love and serve humanity.”

According to WWD’s reporter, it took a lot of time to say that.

(Photo Credit: Women’s Wear Daily)

BART Police Kill an Unarmed Man, Oscar Grant, on New Year’s Day

by Guest Contributor M. Dot, originally published at Model Minority

Oakland haunts me.

Last week, I started trying to convert my essays on the crack epidemic into a memoir and the above sentence came to mind.

As many of you know, on early New Year’s day , the BART police killed an unarmed man, Oscar Grant.

I felt my heart flip in my throat when I heard the woman say they just shot him.

Oakland haunts me.

I hate that moment. The moment in the hood where the violence sparks and we have no fucking idea of what is going happen next.

Richard at Fem-men-ist captures it when he writes about being at the riots,

    I head down 14th street towards Webster… and that’s as far as i get. A couple blocks further down, the crowd looms, and its a riot crowd. i can smell something burning, and Broadway is obscured with smoke that could be the source of the smell, or tear gas. A metal hulk slowly rolls out of a backlit cloud of smoke. it is a paramilitary tank with a mounted water cannon. Is this my neighborhood?

It is really easy to think of Oakland as the home of side shows, The Black Panthers, the spiritual seat of pimp mythology. It is easy to think of Oakland as San Francisco’s pathologized other. However, there is a very strong thread of Wild Wild West street justice that permeates the culture of Oakland. A shoot first and maybe ask questions later steelo that is both reflected in how the police and how the hood resorts to violence to deal with rage and retribution. Furthermore, there is a shoot first and ask questions later attitude associated with American foreign policy. Operation Iraqi Freedom anyone? Continue reading

Classic Film Review: Imitation of Life

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

*Warning: Spoiler Alert*

If there’s a classic film on race that gives “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” a run for its money, it’s 1959’s “Imitation of Life.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the film, which stars Lana Turner and Juanita Moore. There’s no denying that this film is chock full of stereotypes and relegates its black characters to the sidelines—even on the DVD cover. So, why today is this Douglas Sirk film still regarded as ab fab? A few reasons come to mind—both shallow and serious.

For starters, Lana Turner’s wardrobe is to die for. Mahalia Jackson sings her ass off, and the acting in this melodrama reaped Academy Award nominations. To boot, the movie’s emphasis on mother-daughter relationships gives it mass appeal. Mix in a couple of failed romances and an untimely death, and you have all the ingredients needed for a tearjerker.

“Imitation of Life” inspired a 2001 R.E.M. song of the same name and the 2002 film “Far from Heaven.” Also, in ’02, a scene from the film was featured in Eminem’s star-making vehicle, “8 Mile.” Its enduring popularity made it no surprise when the film debuted on DVD in 2003.

The Lana Turner version of “Imitation of Life” is a remake of the 1934 film of the same name starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers, based on the book Imitation of Life by Fannie Hurst. (Both films were released together in a DVD set in 2008.) In the first film, white actress Colbert and black actress Beavers hawk a pancake recipe together. In the 1959 version, the focus here, Lana Turner (Lora Meredith) runs into Juanita Moore (Annie Johnson) on Coney Island after their daughters become playmates.

At first, Lora has no idea that Annie is the mother of little Sarah Jane. “How long have you taken care of her?” she asks Annie. Annie is brown-skinned, and Sarah Jane is “light, bright, damn near white,” as the saying goes.

Lora looks like she’s going to crap her pants when she learns that Annie isn’t SJ’s mammy, prompting Annie to tell her that Sarah Jane’s dad is “practically white.” This explanation is good enough for Lora, who likely would’ve needed smelling salts had SJ’s dad been actually white instead of practically so. Still, there’s no way for us to know his race for sure because he took off before Sarah Jane was born, leaving Annie to fend for herself and young daughter alone. Continue reading

More musings on interracial relationships

by Guest Contributor Ryan Barrett, originally published at Cheap Thrills

I noticed a funny thing while visiting my family in D.C. for Christmas. Simply put: every female in the house (my mom and aunt, who are African-American, and me and my cousin, who are interracial) was either involved with or married to a White man.

Hmm…

That’s curious.

The truth is, the topic of interracial dating is always bubbling in the back of my mind. I went out on a limb and wrote a post about it some time ago on this blog, which got me into some deep water with a few of my readers (a disagreement that I haven’t fully resolved in my mind).

But just recently, the issue resurfaced during a conversation I had with a fellow blogger (a White male) about how personal Obama’s candidacy was to many Americans. I know, I know… interracial relationships? Obama? The two are linked, sure, but they don’t really go together. Which is what made the conversation so poignant.

My friend asked me whether or not Obama was well liked among the African-American side of my family.

“Of course!” I exclaimed. “My family has always held a fondness for Obama. But what truly won our hearts – well, mostly for my mother and aunt – was his marriage to a dark-skinned African-American woman.”

“Wow, really? Even though they’re both married to White men?” My friend was baffled. “That’s… strange.”

Before that point, I had never thought of it as strange at all. But maybe it is. And after that, a troubling question began creeping into my mind: do some Black women hold an interracial relationship double standard? Continue reading

Black Conservatism Revisited

by Guest Contributor David Schraub, originally published at The Debate Link

First of all, I want to thank all of the folks who have helped touch off this conversation and have given me so many kind words, particularly Andrew Sullivan for the original link, Rod Dreher at Crunchy Con and the Dallas Morning News, Jim Buie, Robert George, Rafique Tucker (who gets special shout-out as a fellow Marylander), and all the other folks who have left comments or emailed me. I really think this is an important conversation to be had, and I’m particularly gratified that so many people have been so willing to accept with an open mind the existence of parallel Black political orientations which don’t perfectly map on to what we normally think of as “liberal” and “conservative”.

I wanted to take this opportunity to tie up a couple loose threads in my brief exposition of Black Conservative ideology, the most glaring of which was relying a bit too heavily on separatism as a unifying factor of Black Conservatism. To be sure, I think that it is a very important strand in Black Conservative thought, and one that exists left and right. But someone inquired how Clarence Thomas (who is quite tied in with an important “White” institution, after all) fits into this metric. And he doesn’t — at least, not quite. Justice Thomas is clearly not a separatist. But he does, I believe, subscribe to the more critical aspect of Black Conservatism — a deep skepticism that Whites will abandon racism, particularly due to high-minded moral appeals. But unlike the separatists, Thomas’ Black Conservatism simply urges Black people to accept that racism will be there and will always be there — and win anyway. Elsewhere I called it the “hit me with your best shot” strain of Black Conservatism — that which does not kill Black people makes them stronger, so rather than complain or fruitlessly war against the existence of racist people and racist institutions in American life, just grit your teeth, lower your shoulder, and win the game. Continue reading

Black Conservatives in Large and Small Caps

by Guest Contributor David Schraub, originally published at The Debate Link

About a year ago, I penned a post entitled “Taking Thomas Seriously“, about the particularly political ideology held by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In it, I noted that both liberals and conservatives misunderstood Thomas’ orientation because they tried to map him onto “standard” (White) political categories. Thomas is a conservative, yes, but specifically he is a Black Conservative, which is a very particular philosophical tradition that does not perfectly align with plain old vanilla White conservatives.

Not all Black conservatives are Black Conservatives (that is, there are conservative Black people, such as Ward Connerly, who I would not identify as part of the Black Conservative tradition), and, more importantly, not all Black Conservatives are conservative (in that, on our “traditional” left/right axis, some would be placed on the left). However, because most people, particularly most Whites, aren’t familiar with Black Conservative ideology, it leads to significant misunderstanding about where its adherents are coming from when they do show up on the national stage. All this is preface to point out that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, he who has nearly derailed Obama’s campaign, is a Black Conservative. To be sure, he’s not a conservative (needless to say, capitalization matters in this post). But he’s not a “liberal” either — his political alignment doesn’t comfortably fit onto models premised on White ideological positioning. Black Conservatism, like Black Liberalism, is not wholly divorced from “standard” Conservatism and Liberalism — but at best they intersect at odd angles.

Black Conservatism essentially operates off the premise that racism is an ingrained and potentially permanent part of White-dominated institutions. As a result, Black Conservatives essentially tell Blacks they can only rely on themselves to get ahead in America — counting on White people to be moral or “do the right thing” is a waste of time. Continue reading