I thought I would be a poet and playwright. Those were the two forms I really enjoyed. I made my living as a journalist, of course, but I thought that I would just stick with those and I would become better and better and better. But in ’68 … I was at a dinner — now this is name-dropping, but these were the people — James Baldwin had taken me over to see Jules Feiffer and Jules’ then-wife, Judy Feiffer, and we talked all night, and I really had to work very hard to get a word in because they’re all great raconteurs.
The next day, Judy Feiffer called a man who is still my editor at Random House and said, “If you can get her to write an autobiography, I think you’d have something.” He phoned me a number of times, Robert Loomis, and I said, “No, I’m not interested,” until he said to me, “Well, Ms. Angelou, I guess it’s just as well that you don’t attempt this book because to write autobiography as literature is almost impossible.” So I thought, “Oh, well, in that case, I better try.” Well, I found that’s the form I love. I love autobiography. … It challenges me to try and speak through the first-person singular and mean the third-person plural.
– NPR, 1986
By Guest Contributor refresh_daemon, cross-posted from Init_Scenes
There Is a Problem
Every year, without fail, a report will show that the American entertainment industry has consistently underrepresented people of color on screen, both in character and by actor. Even when studies show that it is actually in the best interest of Hollywood to have more equitable representation, we do not see equitable representation on screen. This is true for film, network television, and cable television and not only in front of the camera at all levels, from leading roles to background actors, but also behind the camera, from the writers, to the directors, the producers, and all over the corporate structures that run the studios and networks to even the big money interests that fund them.
And it is not only a product of racism, but the inequitable representation of people of color, women, and other marginalized groups, actually contributes to and reinforces deep underlying systemic racism and other injustices not only in the United States, but also to any place where our entertainment products have reach.
And this is a problem.
By Arturo R. García
Seemingly not content to argue against new gun safety standards on their own merits, advocates for the firearms industry have taken to likening their beliefs to both the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King himself.
In a passionate, sermon-like speech about building unity, King said she didn’t care if people were Hindu, Buddhist, Islamist, were from the North side or the South side, were black or white, were “heterosexual or homosexual, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender” — that all people were needed to create unity.
LGBT people who attended the rally said they were shocked that King – who has a long anti-gay past — actually acknowledged the community in a public speech, but said they were also glad because it shows people can evolve.
There was nothing voluntary about the punishment Chen and Lew experienced, and it was designed to alienate them from their peers, not create a path to solidarity. In Chen’s case at least, the program of isolation included being repeated called racial slurs like “gook,” “chink” and “dragon lady” by his tormentors (all of whom were white).
The more appropriate term for what Chen and Lew faced is targeted bullying — and it’s something that’s hardly limited to the military.
In fact, recent research suggests that young Asian Americans are facing a bullying epidemic. Last year, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a joint study showing that over half of Asian American teens said they’d been the subject of targeted abuse at school, versus around a third of blacks, Hispanics and whites.
The picture gets even fuzzier when you consider race and class. Most viewers understand that the housewives in Orange County and New York City are not the “real upper class,” because we know there’s a different kind of white upper class that we see represented elsewhere. The black upper class, though, is harder to find. Even the fictional representations of black affluence that were on air in the 1980s and ’90s have become less visible. Some of the most widely known and longest-running television shows featuring mostly black casts have told stories of affluence: the upwardly mobile entrepreneur on “The Jeffersons,” the doctor and lawyer parents on “The Cosby Show,” the mostly privileged college students on “A Different World,” the street-smart kid transplanted to a wealthy neighborhood on “Fresh Price of Bel Air.” These shows didn’t ignore broader discussions of race and racism: The Jeffersons addressed the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow that had profound implications for the characters’ poor beginnings; A Different World dealt with race, class, and gender relations head on, discussing fraught subjects like date rape, the ERA, HIV/AIDS, and the Clarence Thomas hearings. These shows set the bar high, not just in terms of diversity, but in regards to social commentary and humor generally. Still, by virtue of their affluence, most of the characters represented a narrow facet of the black American experience.
Today’s “Real Housewives,” by virtue of their excessive wealth rather than mere upper-middle class stability, represent an even narrower demographic. When one of the few shows that overtly portrays black wealth (“Basketball Wives” is another) is mostly a montage of “catfights” and shopping sprees, it is problematic. Without counterpoints, misrepresentations like these feed the narrative that black people “don’t deserve” or “can’t handle” money.
- TV’s eerie new race-less world (Salon)
The complexity of race in America can even be addressed in two lines from the second season of “Treme.” Harley, a white street musician in a post-Katrina New Orleans, is robbed at gunpoint by a black teenager. As the teen flees, Harley says, “You’re making a bad choice, son.” The boy stops, turns around, replies, “I ain’t your … son” — and shoots Harley in the face. In under a minute we’re confronted with the history of white American paternalism and its many consequences.
“Parenthood’s” silence about its black characters’ blackness reflects our genuine desire for things to be different, but also our willingness to ignore the reality of the experiences of people of color in an eagerness to move ahead to post-racialism. This underlines two things: Things have changed, in that there’s a collective desire for equality. But the main problem remains: It is still a white playing field, with white main characters who want to enjoy a world without racism. They’re the ones who have decided to move on.
The beginning of the story is Arpaio’s anti-immigrant policies, according to Rubén Gallego, Arizona State Rep. District 16. He told NewsTaco that organization began around the sheriff’s bad policies, and galvanized with SB 1070, spurring widespread grassroots organization that culminated in not only protests, but political and voter registration campaigns. In the face of inactive Latino politicians, Gallego and others like him “cut their teeth” in elections, Democratic ones, since he noted that SB 1070 was the breaking point where Latinos realize that Republicans were not squarely on their side.
“That law is what people will remember for years. For the first time in a long time within a have our voting numbers to be able to match our ability to fund raises the community, as well as to be able to run campaigns, in order to win coalitions to win races,” Gallego told NewsTaco. “The genie is out of the bottle now, the question is how is everyone else going to react to the new reality of the Latino community that wants to be politically involved?”
Originally delivered Aug. 16, 1967, at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. Transcript courtesy of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute
Dr. Abernathy, our distinguished vice president, fellow delegates to this, the tenth annual session of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, my brothers and sisters from not only all over the South, but from all over the United States of America: ten years ago during the piercing chill of a January day and on the heels of the year-long Montgomery bus boycott, a group of approximately one hundred Negro leaders from across the South assembled in this church and agreed on the need for an organization to be formed that could serve as a channel through which local protest organizations in the South could coordinate their protest activities. It was this meeting that gave birth to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
And when our organization was formed ten years ago, racial segregation was still a structured part of the architecture of southern society. Negroes with the pangs of hunger and the anguish of thirst were denied access to the average lunch counter. The downtown restaurants were still off-limits for the black man. Negroes, burdened with the fatigue of travel, were still barred from the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. Negro boys and girls in dire need of recreational activities were not allowed to inhale the fresh air of the big city parks. Negroes in desperate need of allowing their mental buckets to sink deep into the wells of knowledge were confronted with a firm “no” when they sought to use the city libraries. Ten years ago, legislative halls of the South were still ringing loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.” All types of conniving methods were still being used to keep the Negro from becoming a registered voter. A decade ago, not a single Negro entered the legislative chambers of the South except as a porter or a chauffeur. Ten years ago, all too many Negroes were still harried by day and haunted by night by a corroding sense of fear and a nagging sense of nobody-ness.
But things are different now. In assault after assault, we caused the sagging walls of segregation to come tumbling down. During this era the entire edifice of segregation was profoundly shaken. This is an accomplishment whose consequences are deeply felt by every southern Negro in his daily life. It is no longer possible to count the number of public establishments that are open to Negroes. Ten years ago, Negroes seemed almost invisible to the larger society, and the facts of their harsh lives were unknown to the majority of the nation. But today, civil rights is a dominating issue in every state, crowding the pages of the press and the daily conversation of white Americans. In this decade of change, the Negro stood up and confronted his oppressor. He faced the bullies and the guns, and the dogs and the tear gas. He put himself squarely before the vicious mobs and moved with strength and dignity toward them and decisively defeated them. And the courage with which he confronted enraged mobs dissolved the stereotype of the grinning, submissive Uncle Tom. He came out of his struggle integrated only slightly in the external society, but powerfully integrated within. This was a victory that had to precede all other gains.
In short, over the last ten years the Negro decided to straighten his back up, realizing that a man cannot ride your back unless it is bent. We made our government write new laws to alter some of the cruelest injustices that affected us. We made an indifferent and unconcerned nation rise from lethargy and subpoenaed its conscience to appear before the judgment seat of morality on the whole question of civil rights. We gained manhood in the nation that had always called us “boy.” It would be hypocritical indeed if I allowed modesty to forbid my saying that SCLC stood at the forefront of all of the watershed movements that brought these monumental changes in the South. For this, we can feel a legitimate pride. But in spite of a decade of significant progress, the problem is far from solved. The deep rumbling of discontent in our cities is indicative of the fact that the plant of freedom has grown only a bud and not yet a flower.