By Arturo R. García
After getting its Homeland on last week, Scandal took a dip in the Law & Order case pool, in a story about connections that also pushed the season’s big story further along much quicker than expected.
By Arturo R. García
Last week, Shonda Rhimes and company demonstrated the outlines of the box Olivia Pope is living in. This time around, we got to see how far that box extends, and who’s stuck in there with her.
To do that, writer Matt Byrne used another woman boxing herself in, only to sweep Olivia up alongside her.
By Arturo R. García
Upon second viewing, the thing that stands out about “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” is how it emphasizes the loneliness that seems to be at the core of Olivia Pope’s life.
Not to say she’s alone — far from it. But after the events of this week’s episode, it’s hard to think of any relationship in her life one could call good. And wonder where Shonda Rhimes will take that theme.
by Kendra James
“You seem to do a lot for a show you say you don’t even like,” one of my friends observed as I explained how I’d bought an Olivia Pope sized wineglass and an all white lounge ensemble (which I can’t wear yet because it’s October 4th and 80 degrees in New York City) to prepare myself for Thursday’s Scandal premiere.
No lies detected there. I’ve never hidden the fact that I’m not quite sure how good Scandal is. Entertaining? Certainly. Good? Questionable in my mind.
What makes the whole sordid affair (literally, as the saga of Olitz treks on) worth a new wine glass and pajamas then? Twitter. Unlike other ABC shows that I assumed would improve with good livetweet –Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD comes to mind– my enjoyment of Scandal really does hinge on my being able to sit down with a glass of wine and the whole of Black Twitter at my fingertips. If nothing else, Scandal provides a unique sense of community that shows with even the largest fandoms could only hope to achieve.
All of that said, the online reactions to last night’s season 3 premiere did not disappoint. And, you know, the show itself wasn’t bad either.
We’ll have our Round Table up sometime next week, but until then feel free to discuss last night down below and have a few stray observations for the road:
Some prisoners are placed in solitary confinement because they have assaulted or killed another inmate or a guard. Others are held there because they are gang members – and are considered dangerous.
Prisoners in solitary confinement are held in their cells on “average 23 hours a day”, according to Craig Haney, a University of California professor who testified at the June 2012 hearing.
“Prisoners go for years – in some cases for decades – never touching another human being with affection,” he said. “The emptiness and idleness that pervade most solitary confinement units are profound and enveloping.”
Some prisoners in solitary confinement commit suicide. Others hurt themselves. One man in New Mexico, said Haney, “used a makeshift needle and thread from his pillowcase to sew his mouth completely shut”.
Last summer 30,000 California prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest against solitary confinement. State lawmakers said they would examine the issue – and the strike was cancelled. Years ago, inmates at the Angola prison were disturbed at the way that Wallace and others were treated in their isolated cells.
The 30 essays in “Presumed Incompetent” expose a nasty truth about Academia: it is not above the realities of everyday American life. It, in fact, reproduces and reinforces society’s inequalities, stereotypes, and hierarchies within its own walls.
That academic women, especially academic women of color, are often presumed incompetent, is probably not surprising to most. The virtue of this book is that it enables the reader to see that these experiences are not individual experiences nor are they the result of individual flaws. Keeping this insight in mind, these essays become more than just “stories” or anecdotes. They point to the larger structural and cultural forces within Academia that make the experience of being presumed incompetent for women of color far too common.
The book is a collection of various types of essays: scholarly literature reviews of the experiences of women of color, personal narratives, and interviews. The content is divided into five parts: “General Campus Climate”, “Faculty/Student Relationships”, “Networks of Allies”, “Social Class in Academia” and “Tenure and Promotion”. As one can tell readily from the themes, the book isn’t directed at students, nor is it meant primarily for use in a classroom (although there are several chapters that would be a good fit in courses that cover race, class, gender and sexuality issues). The book’s primary audience is faculty and administrators. It not only highlights the cultural and structural obstacles facing women of color in Academia, but proposes strategies and recommendations aimed at faculty and administrators. Several essays do this effectively, but Niemann’s concluding essay provides a particularly valuable summary of strategies and advice.
Thursday night is date night at my apartment.
Nothing special, just drinks — a glass of water for me, red wine for her. We have not seen each other in months, and I’m excited to be reunited.
Her name is Olivia Pope.
We will meet in my living room, where she has shown up promptly at 10 p.m. on and off for the last 18 months. I will be on my couch. She will be in my television set.
She is not real, but my love for her, as she is played by Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington on the hit political drama “Scandal,” is very real.
Olivia and I will pick up where we last left off tonight with the season 3 premiere, and I will remain devoted to her week in and week out. I will tweet about Scandal incessantly while it airs. I will cut off any real dates with real women on Thursday nights by 9, and I will start every conversation on Friday with, “Did you watch ‘Scandal’ last night?”
I’ve been trying to write about Chicago violence for a good two months now. The facts are easy to obtain from any major news source, though the way in which those facts are presented leaves a lot to be desired. Context matters, though, and it appears to be completely missing from most discussions concerning my city. If you were to take a map of Chicago marked with the neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence, and overlay it with a map of school closures, you might begin to see a pattern. Add in yet another map of cuts to public transit–including the decisions to shut down train lines for repairs for months or years at a time–and a picture emerges of neighborhoods that have been systematically isolated.
Experts on Chicago (who often are neither from Chicago or remotely educated about Chicago politics or Chicago history), often disparage the people in the community. And no, I’m not making excuses for gang violence. But when we talk about violence in the communities where gangs are most common, we have to talk about the economics of crime. We have to talk about the impact of poverty, of police brutality, of school closures, of services being cut over and over again to these neighborhoods. We have to talk about the impact of racism on wealth building in communities of color. We have to talk about politicians who think the solution to crime is to throw civil liberties out the window. We have to talk about why the institutional reaction to white-on-white violence was settlement houses, while the institutional reaction to violence in predominantly Black and Latino communities is to bring in the National Guard.
It’s easy to forget that the people living in those neighborhoods are more complex than a sound bite, when those sound bites are often all that make it into the mainstream media. There’s this idea that the community is responsible for fixing itself, as though these things are happening because the people living there have dozens of choices and they choose the ones that leads to violence.
The basic model of a racially monochrome neighborhood does not come from anything good. It is not a legacy of pride. It is a legacy of racial segregation. And segregation is always bad in the long run.
Here’s what I found from my years of taking part in talk-about-race deals. They don’t do any good. Something about race simply eludes verbal exposition. Race isn’t a philosophy. It’s mental astigmatism, a distortion of the glorious reality that is our sameness, our absolute and fundamental equality as human beings.
I don’t know why, but you just can’t talk your way out of racism. You have to live your way out of it by working together, refereeing your kids’ fights and sleep-overs, hugging through your shared heartaches and victories, touching, seeing, feeling each other’s shared humanity. You have to live next door to each other, not across the river.
That’s not the story of “Raisin in the Sun.” If there is a white person alive who still goes to see “Raisin” in order to get black people, he needs to give up, go home and, every little chance he gets, stay quiet.
By Arturo R. García
Maybe Damon Wayans said it best about Sunday night:
Surprising? No. But still disconcerting to see play out, both on TV and online, perhaps most vividly after Scandal‘s Kerry Washington lost the award for Best Actress in a Dramatic Series to Homeland star Claire Danes. Not only were regular viewers ticked off, but as Trudy at Gradient Lair pointed out, even Washington’s castmates called the voters out:
Hopefully nobody holds Columbus Short’s remarks against the show when nomination season rolls around again.
Above, actors Kerry Washington (Scandal) and Don Cheadle (House of Lies) speak with Variety magazine. The conversation includes the following exchange:
When people reference your race when describing your career, is that a point of pride, or is it something that you think is overplayed in the media as part of your story?
DC: I think I’m somewhat defined by my race for sure, and I’m good with that and I actually want that to be a part. … I think that should be fodder for our work — we should use all aspects of ourselves. I’m always trying to find a place where that’s actually an impact on what I’m doing as opposed to going, “Well, we’re all just people and we’re the same.”
KW: I agree. I think it’s relevant. I think gender is relevant. I bring something to the table as a woman; I bring something to the table as a woman of color. So I feel like, if it’s the only thing you focus on, then it’s a danger, and if you never talk about it then it’s a danger.
Make no mistake: This donation is historic. It appears to be the largest gift by a black man to any college or university, comparable to the gift Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, gave to Spelman College in 1988. Some 25 years later, their $20-million gift (about $39 million in inflation-adjusted dollars) is still the largest-ever private gift to a historically black college. Dre gave USC almost triple the amount Oprah Winfrey has given Morehouse College over the years. Sean “Diddy” Combs gave $500,000 to Howard University in 1999, which he attended before launching a successful career.
A hip-hop icon is now the new black higher-ed philanthropy king. We’ve never seen a donation to rival this from any black celebrity — musician, athlete or actor — and that fact must be celebrated.
But as the president of a black college, it pains me as well. I can’t help but wish that Dre’s wealth, generated as it was by his largely black hip-hop fans, was coming back to support that community.
USC is a great institution, no question. But it has a $3.5-billion endowment, the 21st largest in the nation and much more than every black college — combined. Less than 20% of USC’s student body qualifies for federal Pell Grants, given to students from low-income families, compared with two-thirds of those enrolled at black colleges. USC has also seen a steady decrease in black student enrollment, which is now below 5%.
A new report on black male athletes and racial inequities shows that only 2.2% of USC undergrads are black men, compared with 56% of its football and basketball teams, one of the largest disparities in the nation. And given USC’s $45,602 tuition next year, I’m confident Dre could have sponsored multiple full-ride scholarships to private black colleges for the cost of one at USC.
The comparison has been made before between Lena Dunham and Beyoncé as feminist icons. Mainstream white feminist organizations don’t question whether Lena Dunham, a self-professed feminist, is feminist enough. Though her show Girls has come under fire in more progressive wings of feminism, mainstream feminist organizations embrace her, happily framing her as a new face of feminism. Dunham openly swears, walks around naked, and simulates sex onscreen, but there is no larger mainstream questioning of her feminist credentials. But when Beyoncé, a fierce, independent woman of color flirts with the feminist moniker, the backlash begins. How interesting.
Dunham has appeared fully naked on her show. She has both appeared in and written some highly provocative and often controversial sex scenes. Her character has been shown snorting cocaine and having one-night stands, yet no one questions Dunham’s feminist credentials. And they shouldn’t — her choice to appear naked and in simulated sex scenes is not anti-feminist. It’s a choice that she made, an artistic choice meant to explore sexuality, sexual expression, and the limits of her character.
And yet, Beyoncé is often roundly criticized in feminist spaces because of her “slutty” outfits, herovertly-sexual dance moves, for her lyric choices, for using the moniker Mrs. Carter, and her occasional use of the word bitch. Who are we, feminists? Is this who we want to be? You sound like Phyllis Schlafly. She wears a unitard — she can’t be a feminist! She is gyrating and shaking her butt — how inappropriate! She said the word “bitch” — that’s a feminist no-no! Do you hear yourselves, white liberal feminists? Do you hear what you are doing to this strong, independent black woman?
That Olivia Pope is the new darling of network television is less surprising than you might think, if you really take the time to think about it and to consider it within the context of America’s strange relationship with its dark racial past. After 40 years without a leading black female in a network drama – 40 years which has seen the likes of cornrows at Wimbledon and the White House – it’s more than about time, it’s way overdue (interestingly, if you Google “black female accomplishments of the past 40 years,” Kerry Washington’s Wikipedia page is the sixth entry). But the hype aroundScandal feels different than the catharsis traditionally felt when glass ceilings are nudged by nappy or nappy-in-spirit heads of hair. This is at least in part due to the show’s success lying in not only one fictional black woman’s double-duty reign on the mountaintop and roll in the hay; Scandal’s real shocker is that it represents a trifecta of black female power, visibility, and influence in the entertainment industry. The show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, who, according to Willa Paskin of The New York Times, is “one of the most powerful show runners in the business,” the real-life inspiration for its protagonist, crisis manager Judy Smith, and its leading lady, the hybrid star and character, brown bombshell Kerry Washington/Olivia Pope, who is brilliant, cunning, and stunningly beautiful.
Rhimes is a crafty one, to say the least. She learned the hard way “how to be a boss and a leader at the same time,” forced to transition from a self-sequestered screenwriter into the powerhouse Midas she is now, as her first network effort, Grey’s Anatomy, turned directly into prime-time gold. Paskin’s NYT piece paints a picture of a woman who earned and owns the right to write the counter-culture D.C. of Scandal,where “America is run by an African-American spin expert, a scheming first lady and a mercenary gay guy.” Furthermore, Shonda Rhimes’ facility with social networking has made her show the industry’s darling test-tube baby of multi-media engagement and viewership, prompting the Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara to crown Scandal“the show that Twitter built.” Rhimes regularly sends Tweets of gratitude to 350,000 followers and fans, who include among their number former-D.C. mayor Marion Barry; while cast members Tweet from the set, and fans respond in kind. All of this has made the show a social media phenomenon, and the first to achieve the multi-screen orgy network execs have been trying to pull off since prime-time ratings started falling.
While I was a teenager during the grunge and Riot Grrrl era, for some reason I was (at the time) more drawn to hyper-masculine, testosterone-saturated grunge and metal bands and was not that interested in what was happening on the other side of the scene. As Hanna’s talk was intriguing, I took the opportunity to check out The Punk Singer, part of the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.
About 10 minutes into the documentary, I knew that I had made a colossal mistake.
Well, actually, as soon as I saw a snippet of 17 year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson waxing poetic about an era she was not even alive to witness, I knew that I would not be able to put my personal biases in regards to my age—and more importantly, my ethnicity as a black woman—aside when watching this documentary.
From watching The Punk Singer, I realized why I had never been that psyched on the Riot Grrrl scene. It wasn’t for me. It was for white women.
At the most basic level, there’s nothing any more wrong with aspiring to be a rapper than there is with aspiring to be a painter, or an actor, or a sculptor. Hip-hop has produced some of the most penetrating art of our time, and inspired much more. My path to this space began with me aspiring to be rapper. Hip-hop taught me to love literature. I am not alone. Perhaps you should not aspire to be a rapper because it generally does not provide a stable income. By that standard you should not aspire to be a writer, either.
At a higher level, there is the time-honored pattern of looking at the rather normal behaviors of black children and pathologizing them. My son wants to play for Bayern Munich. Failing that, he has assured me he will be Kendrick Lamar. When I was kid I wanted to be Tony Dorsett — or Rakim, whichever came first. Perhaps there is some corner of the world where white kids desire to be Timothy Geithner instead of Tom Brady. But I doubt it. What is specific to black kids is that their dreams often don’t extend past entertainment and athletics That is a direct result of the kind of limited cultural exposure you find in impoverished, segregated neighborhoods. Those neighborhoods are the direst result of American policy.
Enacting and enforcing policy is the job of the Obama White House. When asked about policy for African Americans, the president has said, “I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of all America.” An examination of the Obama administration’s policy record toward black people clearly bears this out. An examination of the Obama administration’s rhetoric, as directed at black people, tells us something different.