Tag Archives: history


Why I am still on the fence about Suffragette

I love supporting women focused films.

I like historical dramas.

I like stories about women kicking ass.

So, by all rights, I should love (and want to see) Suffragette. But I didn’t go to the free screening at ONA and the more I see from the marketing of this film, the more I wince. It’s pretty clear from the trailer that the film is about white women. Since anyone who studies history for more than 15 minutes knows history never fits neatly into a little box, where are the suffragettes of color? If they weren’t in the movement, where were they? What were they doing?

A Women & Hollywood piece stumping for the film tries to answer these questions, but in the worst way possible (emphasis mine):

3. It’s got (almost) all the other feminist bona fides on its side. The film is led not only by a woman helmer and writer, but has been guided by two female producers (Alison Owen and Faye Ward). It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors and has at its emotional core a political speech by Emmeline Pankhurst. Yes, the “whitewashing” concerns are real and the film’s promotional t-shirt campaign was poorly conceived, but Gavron isn’t blind to intersectionality. In an upcoming podcast with Women and Hollywood, she’ll discuss how most of the suffragettes of color she found in her historical research were of noble birth, and they unfortunately had to be waylaid because her intent was to focus on the working-class women who were the unknown soldiers of the movement. (There are well-to-do but no aristocratic women in the film.) We hope another film in the future will give suffragettes of color their due. 

As usual, the inclusivity of the film lies in the hands of the storyteller – there are always hard cuts to be made in any creative work, but why do the stories of women of color always pull the short end of the stick? Here’s to hoping Amma Asante takes a look at this next – somehow, she always finds a way to look at history through an inclusive lens. That tiny disclosure prompts so many more questions: what was happening to working class WoC in that era? Which nobles were involved? Where white suffragettes racist and/or violent toward their WOC counterparts? It’s tough to want to be transported by a film to another era, knowing you’ll be left unsatisfied in the end.

I understand that for some people, erasing women of color from historical narratives is simply an unfortunate oversight. But for those of us who continually see our stories erased from historical record, whitewashed depictions of history aren’t so easy to swallow.




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Friday Hotness: The Hamilton Cypher

Words cannot express how hyped I am for Hamilton: An American Musical.

The sold out show (seriously y’all, all the tickets left are resales and they start around $350) is setting records on Broadway thanks to MacArthur winner Lin-Manuel Miranda’s defiant interpretation of Hamilton’s story.

Our own Kendra James reviews the play on the Toast:

This is part musical, part protest music; characters rap their way through songs with themes and lines that wouldn’t be entirely out of place at a Black Lives Matter protest (“and though I’ll never be truly free / until those in bondage got the same rights as you and me”) or a Bernie Sanders rally (“They tax us unrelentlessly / Then King George turns around and has a spending spree”). Both lyrics come from “My Shot,” a song that turns into a rallying cry for protest and revolution: “Rise up / when you’re living on your knees / you rise up / tell your brother that he’s gotta / rise up / tell you sister that she’s gotta / rise up.” In 2015, it was hard for me to watch so many brown bodies play this scene out onstage and not immediately think of the images that came out of Ferguson.

If Alexander Hamilton is the show’s protester/agitator, then Aaron Burr — with his advice of “talk less / smile more” — is the show’s Respectability Politic. Burr’s lines are quieter, more spoken word than the driving raps performed by Hamilton and the other revolutionaries like Lafayette, Hannibal, and Laurens. In “Farmer Refuted,” Hamilton shouts down the Tory representative Seabury rather like Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford with Bernie Sanders in Seattle, while Burr urges “let him be.” Burr’s philosophy is mapped out perfectly here: “Geniuses, lower your voices / You keep out of trouble and you double your choices / I’m with you but the situation is fraught / You’ve got to be carefully taught / If you talk you’re gonna get shot.” It’s a “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” strategy that mirrors accusations from GOP candidates like Ben Carson that the Black Lives Matter movement is too “divisive.”

And after the jump, more reading on Hamilton, including the inspiration behind the work and how the money flows. Continue reading


Unburied but Forgotten: Asian Bodies in Agent Carter

By Guest Contributor Anna Cabe

Like many feminist-cum-superhero fanatics, I eagerly awaited the Marvel Cinematic Universe mini-series, Agent Carter, the company’s first real attempt at a female hero-driven property. In many ways, it delivers. The show makes good use of its 1940’s setting with strong costume and set design and snappy period music. The cast are mostly wonderful and show great chemistry—with the standout, of course, being Hayley Atwell, the titular Strategic Scientific Reserve (S.S.R.) Agent Peggy Carter.

Agent Carter Premiere Poster

Agent Carter Premiere Poster, via Marvel Cinematic Universe Wikia.

As Agent Carter, Atwell kicks multiple men’s (and one equally badass woman’s) asses, wrings tears from viewers’ eyes, makes us laugh with an archly delivered quip, and looks smashing in an evening gown and red lipstick. She flips the script of the superhero’s girlfriend—She doesn’t die! She isn’t always being rescued!—and has her own adventures after her boyfriend, Captain America, “dies.” When I finally finished the season (I live overseas with sketchy Internet so I’m slow to catch up to broadcast shows), I sang its praises all over Twitter and Facebook.

That said, Agent Carter has not escaped criticism for limitations when it comes to both race and gender, namely a painfully white and very male cast. Defenders of the casting have deflected this criticism in the name of “historical accuracy,” as though American history is exclusively white unless the subject is slavery, immigration, and the Civil Rights Movement. And of course, this is a show set in an alternate timeline in which superhuman Captain America is the United States’ first line of defense against a Nazi supervillain named Red Skull. A few substantial brown characters hardly seems a stretch of credibility or a distortion of history by comparison. Continue reading

Jeff Chang/Who We Be. Image from

Who We Be Examines the War on Multiculuralism

“Color is not a human or a personal reality, it is a political reality.” – James Baldwin

This is not a book review, because Who We Be isn’t really a book. It’s more of a thoughtful examination of how the United States arrived at this point in racial history.

Long time friend of the blog Jeff Chang is the author of the American Book award winning Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation and editor of the anthology Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip Hop. To say we’ve been waiting for Who We Be is an understatement.

But in the introduction, Chang frames the core of the most recent case of racial backlash. Explaining the outsized reaction by some whites to President Obama, Chang notes:

In the 1830s white minstrels had put on blackface, creating space for the white working class to challenge the elite, while keeping Blacks locked into their racial place. Obama now appeared as a dual symbol of oppression. Because of his Blackness, he was even more of an outsider—and in that sense, even more American—than them. But he was also the president. His Blackness did not just confer moral and existential claims, it was backed by the power of the state.

And there went everything.

As much as we like to talk about the inevitability of America being majority-minority in 2042, the events playing out across the nation show that most places are outright hostile to the idea that people of color are equal Americans, with the same rights, privileges, representation, and agenda setting power bestowed to whites. Chang turns his critical eye to shifts in culture which becomes documentation of rise (and fall?) of multiculturalism. Continue reading

Idris Elba is Hollywood’s Troublemaker

by Guest Contributor Shane Thomas, originally published at Media Diversity UK

There are few names as globally recognisable as Nelson Mandela. And likely even fewer whose name generally invokes strong feelings of warmth and goodwill.

Mandela was recently in the news as a result of his ill health, with elements of the online world and news networks partaking in an emetic game of “Nelson Mandela death watch”. Mercifully, at the time of writing, Madiba is still with us, and he has become a talking point again by proxy, due to the release of the trailer for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

The aforementioned is a movie biopic, traversing Nelson Mandela’s life. Early indications suggest that it is being positioned as strong contender for the 2014 Academy Awards. If the release date of January 3rd next year isn’t a sign to this effect, then the fact that the film’s production company is The Weinstein Company certainly is.[1]

On face value, this would seem to be a positive sign for diversity in Hollywood. After all, it’s a film where black characters are front and centre, without – as Jamilah King succinctly put it – needing a “white co-pilot”. And if you don’t think that this is an issue, more often than not, when films are made about communities of colour, the proviso is that a white character is a key cast member.[2] Continue reading

Must Read: Race, History, Colonialism and Assassin’s Creed IV

Friend of the blog Evan Narcisse wrote an interesting take on playing through historical worlds while black:

The game begins in 1715, when European rule over the island was still firmly established. That means I might be traipsing around an island where some Frenchman with my last name owns someone who looks like my father. And that might make me wince a little. But Ismail also told me that Edward Kenway’s first mate Adewale starts the game as a slave and becomes a free man over the course of the single-player story. Adewale will also be the focus of some of Black Flag‘s DLC.

Slavery Gives Me a Weird Personal Connection to Assassin's Creed IV

Focusing on Adewale and touching on slavery as it might’ve been lived in the early 1700s moves the racial portrayal forward from last year’s Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. The heroine of that Vita game was the child of a slave and had missions where she freed others from servitude. And, with confirmation that Aveline will also be playable in PlayStation-exclusive add-ons for the game, ACIV will have two prominent black characters where so many titles struggle to have even one.

Narcisse also explores his own family history and what he hopes to see reflected in the game play.  Read the rest at Kotaku.

Huffington Post Live: Simplifying Emancipation

Hey All –

Racialicious is still on break, but I was on Huffington Post Live with Janell Ross (HuffPost Black Voices and Latino Voices Senior Reporter), Professor Jelani Cobb (Director of the Institute of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut) and William Ferris (Professor of History and Folklore at University of North Carolina).

We discussed Ross’s article “America’s Understanding of Emancipation Proclamation On Its 150th Anniversary Too Simple For Country’s Own Good.” Our friend Ahmed Shihab-Eldin moderated the discussion.

The Struggles of Discussing Race In The Asian American Evangelical Church [Racialigious]

by Guest Contributor Paul Matsushima, originally published at Eesahmu

Courtesy: Christianity Daily

Recently, while attending one of the most ethnically diverse evangelical seminaries in the nation, I found myself in an environment where I had to defend the argument that race still matters. Don’t get me wrong; students and faculty alike openly discussed ethnic and societal culture; and, although all were unanimous that racial prejudice is wrong and diversity is good, when it came to America’s original (and continuing) sin of racism, there were choirs of crickets.

I, in partial reaction, left. After stepping back from my enmeshment in the evangelical world, I gained some clarity for why I felt so isolated. Personal reasons aside, my qualm with the (white) evangelical community was its hesitancy to analyze–much less struggle against–the historical and continuing racial bias in America. This “don’t go there” mentality is further compounded within evangelical churches that are predominantly Asian American. Here are my speculations why.

1. Unity in Christ, aka Colorblindness

Firstly, we who seek to discuss race in the Asian American church go head-to-head against the banner of colorblindness. Colorblindness, while it may value ethnic diversity, seeks to ignore one’s race in order to avoid giving differential treatment on account of it. In other words, it attempts to treat all people equally regardless of race.

This thinking is interwoven into the Christian doctrine of the primacy of one’s Christian identity. Common phrases such as “unity in Christ” or “children of God” shape American evangelicals to value their Christian identity over any other. Tim Tseng, in his article “The Young Adult Black Hole,” explores how Asian American young adults leave their immigrant-ethnic churches for white or multiethnic ones because the influence of colorblind thinking. The message of one’s Christian identity as most important, combined with assimilation into American culture as good and being too ethnic (i.e., too Asian) as bad, is thoroughly ground into these young people’s minds. The result: many Asian American evangelicals believe “the goal [of Christian identity formation] is to shed, not affirm their [racial] identities.”

In 2009, the Urbana Missions Conference hosted around 16,000 attendees, 30% of which were Asian American. I was shocked and disturbed when I, along with three other conferees were the only ones who attended the Asian American prayer workshop, a session devoted to exploring how racial identity shapes the way one prays. Asian Americans flocked to workshops on international and missionary issues in Asia, but when it came to the single workshop focused entirely on Asian American issues, their attendance was extremely minimal. Continue reading