Tag Archives: Iran

The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.5.13: Black Twitter, Black Academics, Iran, Chicago and Elan Gale

“Sleepy Hollow” star Orlando Jones. Image via Crave Online.

Pop culture is a window into our lives and, while clumsy, USA Today did hit on something of a phenomenon. Representation of non-white people has increased, and it is noticeable because of how utterly abysmal it was before. “Scandal,” the show of the moment, earned its star the first Emmy nod for a black woman in 30 years. In the case of “Sleepy Hollow,” an interracial duo fights crime and monsters to win one of the hottest premieres of the season. Its producers credit the chemistry of its stars. But major press outlets forget to mention Nicole Beharie, the black female lead, at all. The omission is made more glaring by the fact that the overall diversity of the show has been one of its selling points. Orlando Jones, who plays Captain Irving, took to Twitter to note the gap.

Black Twitter, as both a player and a phenomenon, has been front and center of most of these discussions. As a member of “Black Twitter,” I’m conflicted about the moniker. My participation in feminist, geek or New York Twitter have yet to receive the same level of scrutiny as my membership in Black Twitter. At the same time, there’s joy in the name. Black. Twitter. Using the same social media everyone else is, this cultural movement has been a repeated source of insightful analysis, hilarity and virtual support that affirms the shared and diverse experiences of being black both online and off. One in four black people who are online at all is tweeting, using the platform to offer instant feedback on the news of the moment.

Shannon Gibney is a professor of English and African diaspora studies at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC). When that’s your job, there are a lot of opportunities to talk about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. There are also a lot of opportunities to anger students who would rather not learn about racism, imperialism, capitalism, and history. I presume MCTC knows that; they have an African diaspora studies program. Back in January 2009, white students made charges of discrimination after Gibney suggested to them that fashioning a noose in the newsroom of the campus newspaper—as an editor had done the previous fall—might alienate students of color. More recently, when Gibney led a discussion on structural racism in her mass communication class, three white students filed a discrimination complaint because it made them feel uncomfortable. This time, MCTC reprimanded Gibney under their anti-discrimination policy.

Elevating discomfort to discrimination mocks the intent of the policy, but that’s not the whole of it. By sanctioning Gibney for making students uncomfortable, MCTC is pushing a disturbing higher-education trend. When colleges and universities become a market, there is no incentive to teach what customers would rather not know. When colleges are in the business of making customers comfortable, we are all poorer for it.

Continue reading

11.15.12 Links Roundup

As I have watched “The Walking Dead,” however, I have been disappointed to discover that, while the writers occasionally take a moment to comment on the state of gender — and of race — in this new world, in the end they leave these issues to die and reconstitute a world in which white men rule. Men of color are reduced to occupying a nebulous space, and women (with rare exception) are to be protected. Even more pernicious, any power that women have usually comes to them in the old-fashioned, stereotypical way of manipulating the men in their lives into doing what they want them to do.

I’m not sure if it is a failure of the writers of the TV show (and yes, I know, the show is based upon previously written graphic novels), but surely, if the writers could take time out for the characters to constantly question and talk incessantly about how they are supposed to live a civilized life in a world that has risen from the ashes, couldn’t the characters have spent more time trying to figure out how to behave, now that gender and race should no longer be factors? Why has the world of “The Walking Dead” turned into a white patriarchy?

After Rick is rescued by Morgan and Duane, it’s as if racial reality disappears. Rick leaves to search for his wife, Lori, and son, Carl. Despite the fact that Atlanta is 54 percent African-American, when Rick arrives in a deserted Atlanta, he is swarmed by an all-white mob of walkers — in downtown Atlanta. That was my first moment of cognitive dissonance — in Atlanta, where were the black walkers? — but I let it go as I let myself get more into the story.

To be honest, the locations are not too bad. Buildings are similar to those in Iran, the houses are not that different, the bazaar is quite like the actual shopping centre in south Tehran. Banners, placards and signs are in Persian and many characters actually speak the language, although some with accents.

There are silly mistakes, however. In one scene, for example, the protagonist Tony Mendez (Affleck) says “salam” at the end of his conversation with an Iranian official. Salam means hello in Persian, not goodbye.

Minor mistakes aside, the film takes a black and white view towards Iranians, like many other western films about Iran. It portrays them as ugly, poor, strictly religious, fanatical and ignorant – almost in line with the young revolutionaries behind the hostage-taking at the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic revolution, which the film is about. The only nice Iranian in the film is the Canadian ambassador’s maid.

The whole experience is like asking an Iranian who has never been to the US to make a film (let’s say in Cuba) about the Columbine high school massacre. You’ll probably end up watching a film in which all Americans are crazy, have a gun at home and are ready to shoot their classmates.

During an interview on “Democracy Now” West criticized Al Sharpton, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, and frequent guest host Michael Eric Dyson for “selling their souls” in exchange for insider access to Obama.

“They want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way, given the kind of critical background that all of them have had at some point.”

The activist also made a shot at the MSNBC personalities lack of dedication to black interests by inviting “them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves.”

West didn’t hold back when it came to Obama either. During the interview he called President Obama a “Rockefeller republican in blackface.”

If the move out of New York has softened the glow on Lin’s celebrity, it hasn’t softened the ferocity with which the sport comes for him. From the playground to the Ivy League to the NBA, the eyes on America’s breakout Asian-American basketball player felt the same.

“I’ve always been a target,” Lin says. “Everyone looks me and says, ‘I’m not going to let that Asian kid embarrass me. I’m going to go at him.’ That’s how it’s been my whole life. This has been different, though. Now, I was on the scouting report. People started to pay attention to what I could and couldn’t do.

“But a target? I was used to that. I’m not saying I get everyone’s best shot, but I would say people don’t want to be embarrassed by me because of my skin color.”

Women’s Voices in the Revolutions Sweeping the Middle East

By Guest Contributor Tasnim, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

Google executive Wael Ghonim became one of the faces of the Egyptian revolution through the Facebook page “We are all Khalid Said,” which was a vital spark to the revolution. But another important spark was a video posted by 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz from the April 6 Youth Movement, where she declared that she was going out to Tahrir Square and urged people to join her in saving Egypt.

The spirit of freedom Mahfouz spoke about was symbolized in Tahrir Square, where Egyptian women found an equality and camaraderie that they are hoping will be carried forward in shaping a new Egypt—a hope Mona Seif, Gigi Ibrahim, and Salma El Tarzi express in this article.

In the revolutions currently sweeping the region, women’s voices have been loud and clear, from Amal Mathluthi singing for the Tunisian revolution, to the “bravest girl in Egypt” leading chants against Mubarak, to the journalist and activist Tawakul Karaman’s heading protests in Yemen. Outside the region, R&B artist Ayah added her voice to the single “#Jan25″ in solidarity with the Egyptian people, and journalist Mona El Tahawy appeared on countless media outlets, bringing the world’s attention to the events unfolding in her country, and the ongoing events in Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and Iran.

Continue reading

Women in Tunisia’s Revolution

By Guest Contributor Tasnim, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

On Friday, the President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia fled his homeland as it was engulfed by an uprising, sparked by the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed university graduate who had taken to selling fruit in Sidi Bouzid.  When authorities confiscated his wares for not having a license, Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of a government building. Protests followed, as thousands took to the street in a movement fueled by rage over corruption among the elite.

Anger in Tunisia has been building up for years, with Laila Al Trabelsi, former first Lady of Tunisia and infamous as “The Queen of Carthage,” becoming a lighting rod for much of the dissent.  As Larbi Sadiki puts it “The First Lady is almost the Philippines’ Imelda Marcos incarnate. But instead of shoes, Madame Leila collects villas, real estate and bank accounts.” Laila and the Trabelsi extended family are often referred to as “The Family” or “The Mafia” in Tunisia, and  “No to the Trabelsis who looted the budget,” has been a popular slogan in the protests.  The irony is that the references to Laila al Trabelsi have been the only mention of Tunisian women in the events leading up to the ousting of the regime. Unlike in Lebanon or in Iran, where Neda Agha-Soltan became a symbolic figure of resistance, there was little mention of the women who took part in the protests in Tunisia, or of the victims of the security forces response, such as the woman who was shot and killed in Nabeul.

Continue reading

Within a Dream World: A Look at Women Without Men

By Guest Contributor Azra, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

Women Without Men, directed by Shirin Neshat, looks at the visually evocative and at times interspersing lives of four women in Iran in the early 1950s.  It is a time of political unrest, as Prime Minister Mossadegh faced increasing opposition from US and British-backed movements.  The film explores the women’s relationships with men and their understanding of sexuality, friendship, faith, and political involvement.  It is based on Shahrnush Parsipur’s Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran, first published in 1989.

The film is beautifully shot.  Neshat’s background in photography is clearly apparent, as each scene could easily exist as a series of photographs.  The colors of the film are rich.  At times I was reminded of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, not only for the beautiful cinematography, but also for its similar (albeit far more understated) use of magical realism during a time of stark political change.  I found myself wondering about how both films use female protagonists and the setting of a natural space to drive their narrative, leaving male characters in the background of their experience.

Continue reading

American “Activism”: On the Neda Video, and Other Images of the Brutal Third World

by Guest Contributor Catherine A. Traywick, originally published at Femmalia

Two weeks after the much-publicized death of Iranian protester, Neda — whose final moments were famously captured by a cell phone camera and distributed the world over — a couple dozen performers put together a music video tribute slash “non-violent resistance” anthem filmed (appropriately?) with nothing but a cell phone camera. Described by CNN as “a call to action against human rights violations by the Iranian government against Iranians,” the video’s creators/stars rap and harmonize about non-violence, their fuzzy, pixelated faces crooning between clips of the now historic footage of Neda’s death.

The graphic clips excerpted by the creators of the video for the the purpose of spreading their message of solidarity and pacifism have generated a cacophony of international outrage, sympathy, outright disbelief, and controversy since their initial circulation a few weeks ago. While the footage has galvanized protesters in Iran, creating for them a martyr to rally around as they strive for real, lasting change, it has also prompted enthusiastic Americans to wear green and tweet about revolution in what has already been described by numerous commentators as a superficial and ineffectual display of “solidarity.” The “United for Neda” video, as well-intentioned and misguided as any green-clad American, seems to fall into the latter category. Like Americans who continually replay the Neda footage in order to sustain a dimming sense of shock, outrage, and civic duty while imagining a connection to a less complacent world, the music video appropriates the controversial images of Neda with the aim of fostering activism through the propagation of sensational violence. Continue reading

When Stereotypes Collide: the Persian Jews of Beverly Hills

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

At the airport bookstore, I immediately overlooked Bruce Willis’ and Emma Hemings’ smoldering stares on the cover of this month’s W. My attention went directly to the top left: “Meet the Neighbors: the Persian Conquest of Beverly Hills.”

Knowing the history of glossies and their historic portrayal of racial ethnicities more as props than as cover stories, I was simultaneously worried and intrigued—how would W fare as documenters rather than voyeurs?

A patio party introduces us to the Persians of Beverly Hills: with lounging guests, designer duds in the pool, and lavish tents, the spread is vaguely reminiscent of a harem bath scene combined with a Sultan’s caravan theme. The font for “The Persian Conquest” is done in an Arabesque font, with sinewy flourishes and random dots evocative of the Aladdin soundtrack. “Here we go,” I say to myself.

But reading the introduction, I learn that these aren’t just any Persians W is profiling—they’re Persian Jews, who are a large part of Los Angeles’ huge Iranian diaspora.

Continue reading

Must brown people be martyred for Americans to be motivated?

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

On May 13, 2008, I wrote:

Saturday night I was watching as CNN covered the tragedy in Myanmar (Burma). I was well aware of the devastation caused by Nagris, the cyclone that ripped the country apart. What shocked me was the graphic nature of CNN’s report. There were bodies and bodies and more bodies–Burmese men, women, even children, dead, bloated, discolored and rotting in the Southeast Asian sun; arms and legs akimbo as if their owners had been tossed like rag dolls. I know this is what death looks like, especially when it takes place in a poor country where the people have been colonized, militarized and rocked by ethnic strife and drug trafficking. But I watched the television and couldn’t help thinking that this video desecration of the already desecrated was another example of how American culture sees brown people as somehow less human. Read more

I am thinking about this again because of Neda Agha Soltani, the young Iranian woman who was gunned down during political protests in Tehran. According to CNN, the martyred woman’s name, which reportedly means “voice” or “calling” in Persian, has become a rallying cry for those protesting fraudulent elections in Iran. This post isn’t about how Neda’s life and death have affected her people, though. It is how her death is being used in this country that is making me uncomfortable.

Neda’s horrific death was captured on video and is all over the Web, including several high-profile blogs and You Tube. Even CNN.com has linked to the unedited video, though the news outlet ran a pixilated version on air. The video shows the young woman, clad in jeans and bright, white tennis shoes, collapsing to the ground, seconds after being shot in the heart. As her father and others attend to her, Neda’s brown eyes seem to focus momentarily on the camera before shifting, glazing. Blood begins to pour from her mouth and nose, covering her face. Her life is gone. You can see it when it goes. It is shocking. If you do not care about what is going on now in Iran, you will after seeing Neda die in the street with her father’s screams growing louder and louder.

But why does the Western world (and here I refer mostly to the dominant culture, not marginalized groups) have to see these things to be shaken from its complacency? Continue reading