Tag Archives: media

Perception Through the Lens of Slumdog Millionaire

by Guest Contibutor Sulagna

First, I have to say that this isn’t a critique.

It’s a serious of observations, an analysis of my viewing, and a reflection on one of the warmest and most electrifying movies I’ve seen in a while. Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t perfect, but I know that after I saw it, I felt incredible. I had already known I would like it before I had gone in, because it fit the type I liked—the interesting premise, the quirky storytelling device, and, of course, the overall familiarity of the subject matter, but it defied my expectations. The hopeful, love-themed story was at Bollywood levels of intensity (though better made), and I easily identified with the setting and characters.

Here is where I realized that I saw this movie differently than how perhaps my non-Indian college friends at college did. I saw layers underneath certain scenes in the movie that I doubt they would’ve.

When Jamal answered the question about the Hindu god Rama, I predicted the clash of religion. As the pulsing beat of the music and the main character’s mother’s anxious face forecasted the riots, frustrated emotions burst in my chest, the fatigue of the age-long conflict between Muslims and Hindus in India and Pakistan pressing me with its weight.

Wasn’t it just a little more than a month ago that my family and I had watched the news about Mumbai on fire during our Thanksgiving holiday? I had felt uncomfortably separated from it—India felt so far away, but I still felt a scrambling anxiety at the events, nervous about what this changed. Continue reading

I Didn’t Know My–Or Michelle’s–Ass Was That Interesting

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid

Did United Statesians electing its first president of color become an implicit invitation for liberal/progressive media outlets to talk about Black and brown behinds?

According to two of them, yep.

Salon started off the conversation with Erin Aubry Kaplan’s essay, “First Lady Got Back,” where she waxes ecstatic about First Lady Michelle Obama’s behind:

“…while it isn’t humongous, per se, it is a solid, round, black, class-A boo-tay. Try as Michelle might to cover it with those Mamie Eisenhower skirts and sheath dresses meant to reassure mainstream voters, the butt would not be denied.

As America fretted about Obama’s exoticism and he sought to calm the waters with speeches about unity and common experience, Michelle’s body was sending a different message: To hell with biracialism! Compromise, bipartisanship? Don’t think so. Here was one clear signifier of blackness that couldn’t be tamed, muted or otherwise made invisible. It emerged right before our eyes, in the midst of our growing uncertainty about everything, and we were too bogged down in the daily campaign madness to notice. The one clear predictor of success that the pundits, despite all their fancy maps, charts and holograms, missed completely? Michelle’s butt.”

As my friend Tom would say, “Stop, Miss Gurl.”

There’s more–infinitely more–to what makes our new First Lady beautiful and a challenge to the white-beauty standard than her boo-tay. If Aubry Kaplan would have delved into the beauty-brains combo she started to discuss (“She has coruscating intelligence, beauty, style…”), the piece would have been sort of all right. Nope, just Michelle’s ass.

Then here comes Alternet with Myra Mendible’s “Big Booty Beauty and the New Sexual Aesthetic. Her take on the ass thang:

“We should not underestimate the symbolic value of buttocks. Butt metaphors helped European cultures categorize and describe their others, ascribing bodily differences certain moral and intellectual attributes. Gilman argues that, “Beginning with the expansion of European colonial exploration, describing the forms and size of the buttocks became a means of describing and classifying the races. The more prominent the more primitive…” (Making the Body Beautiful). British culture, in particular, identified the buttocks with primitive or debased sexuality (Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex). Non-Western women were associated with the “lower regions” of the body and characterized in terms of their abundant backside. Similarly, in American culture, the U.S.-Mexico border marked a figurative divide between Northern mind and Southern body, rationality and sensuality, domestic and foreign. This bodily trope culled associations between the lower body and the inferior, more primitive “under” developed “torrid zones” south of the border; it often served to rationalize U.S. military interventions or corporate exploitation of Latin American labor and resources.”

Analytically speaking, what Mendible wrote is what Aubry Kaplan should have written: a more nuanced reflection on the history and meaning of the colored butt in the erotic imaginations and racial and gender definitions of white people and Black men and Latinos and how that loaded image became a policy of exploitation for both groups. In other words, a little intersectionality would have helped Aubry Kaplan’s essay. Continue reading

The IFC Media Project: Digging for the Truth About Israel/Palestine

by Latoya Peterson

So, I’ve noticed that a few readers have asked why Racialicious has been so quiet on the situation in Gaza. As the violence continues to escalate, it is hard to not post about what is happening.

However, as much as it troubles me to remain silent, it troubles me more to see the responses that the posts on Israel and Palestine receive. Generally, they are met with silence from normally chatty and informed commenters while the same six people rehash their opinions on thread after thread.

I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why this occurs. Why are so many people reluctant to discuss what is happening in Israel and Palestine?

Perhaps, they are too intimidated.

After all, this conflict is rich and multilayered, and most people new to the discussion exhaust their knowledge base within the first few minutes, lapsing into silence while those with the longest memories tend to dominate the conversation. However, I do not believe this is a worthwhile tactic – while those in the know debate strategies and bring up failed resolutions and broken promises, the majority of the people blink and begin to disengage. There is too much information. The opposing sides are ruthless in their arguments. And most tend to watch the conversation dispassionately, or click away.

On this blog, we try to break down social issues using a more human aspect to explain points of global policy or racial theory. But that has not been working. So it occurs to me that there may be a fundamental lack of information about the origins of the conflict and what is at stake. So, the question becomes how do we get more people this information in a way that they will find it accessible?

When I tuned in to the first episode of the IFC Media project, I didn’t know what to expect. I know I didn’t expect Gideon Yago to go off on a tangent about “missing white girls” dominating the news, or to see IFC clearly tackle race-based reporting bias.

And I didn’t expect the program to send someone to track down the issues involved in talking about Israel. Continue reading

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

Race & Video Games Update – Animal Crossing and Black College Football

by Latoya Peterson

As I have mentioned before, I am behind on my game related reading. So luckily, reader Tony sent in this item from Game Politics, as it would have slipped under my radar:

Louisiana game publisher Nerjyzed Game Studios is readying the launch of an Xbox 360 version of its Black College Football Experience game, reports The Advocate. The release of BCFx will mark the first-ever publication of a console game by an African-American owned studio.

A national ad campaign for Black College Football Experience will kick off today during the Bayou Classic as Southern University and Grambling square off in their 35th gridiron tilt.

I had read about Nerjyzed a while back in Black Enterprise so I was pleased to see that their game has finally made it out of development and into rotation.

However, I should have known that racism patrol was going to come out in full force. Continue reading

Icing on the cake: The Truth about Marriage

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Professor Tracey has me thinking…as usual. Over on Aunt Jemima’s Revenge, she has launched a spirited discussion about black women and marriage. Rather than go the usual “why can’t black women get married” route, hand-wringing over dire statistics like these:

The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Read more

…Tracey asked something different–something no one else seems to be asking, since it is easier to cast black women as powerless victims or simply undesirable (too educated, too aggressive, too black, too too). She wants to know, “Do black women really want to get married?”
Continue reading

How Should We Handle Deaths When Reporting Current Events?

by Latoya Peterson

So, this morning, I was co-hosting Crappy Hour on Jezebel with Megan. (I’ll be there the rest of the week.) We actually happened to get into a bit of a debate over the way that the terrorist attacks in Mumbai were covered.

Over the weekend, reader Frida alerted me to some oversights in the coverage:

I’ve been keeping a close eye on news reports coming out of Mumbai regarding the horrific terrorist attacks of the past three days. One thing that I was sure of was that among the foreign casaulties, at least one Asian, a Japanese businessman named Hisashi Tsuda, had been killed.

However this article on CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/11/28/india.attacks/index.html at 11:14 AM EST, lists “one Chinese” among the dead, with no mention of a Japanese casualty. This is the sentence, “including three Germans, two Americans, an Italian, a Briton, an Australian and one Chinese were among the at least 15 foreigners killed –”

Now if there are fifteen foreigners, and the nationalities of nine are listed, that means the nationalities of six of the victims were not disclosed. I guess that COULD mean that one Chinese person did die, and a Japanese was among the nationalities not mentioned in the CNN article.

But, alas, there is the possibility that some CNN Online staffer/writer got a bit confused by the whole theory that “Chinese” and “Japanese” are not the same and are not interchangeable, and put down “Chinese” casaulty when he or she really meant “Japanese” casualty. Because I have not seen any other news outlets at this time mention anything about a Chinese casualty.

If this is the case, that’s sort of disrespectful, no? In case they edit before you see it, here is a screencap I took some minutes ago: http://i34.tinypic.com/e98ajc.jpg with “Chinese” underlined.

I started watching the coverage, to look for more information for Frida, but quickly became horrified at the way the same few shots were shown over and over – blood on the floor of the hotel, wounded and bleeding people being carried to safety. It was a bit jarring to me, as it just felt like the images were placed for maximum shock and horror. It was also odd, as I remember watching coverage of the terrorist attacks in London back in 2005, and not seeing much besides external shots of buildings, tunnel data, and surveillance cams before and after the event. Why the difference in this situation? Continue reading

Salon: “First lady got back”

by Latoya Peterson


As America fretted about Obama’s exoticism and he sought to calm the waters with speeches about unity and common experience, Michelle’s body was sending a different message: To hell with biracialism! Compromise, bipartisanship? Don’t think so. Here was one clear signifier of blackness that couldn’t be tamed, muted or otherwise made invisible. It emerged right before our eyes, in the midst of our growing uncertainty about everything, and we were too bogged down in the daily campaign madness to notice. The one clear predictor of success that the pundits, despite all their fancy maps, charts and holograms, missed completely? Michelle’s butt. [...]

I can’t talk about Michelle’s butt without acknowledging her hair, another physical feature that stirs anxiety about black female difference. Let me just say that I hope that gets unleashed, too. How sad that, in order for a black family to prevail — because Michelle and the girls were all running for office, not just Barack — they had to sublimate their blackness like crazy, starting with the visuals. Michelle’s ethnic butt might have snuck under the radar, but an ethnic do wouldn’t have stood a chance.

So writes Erin Aubry Kaplan, in her piece “First lady got back” which was recently published on Salon.

Reader Virigina sent in the tip, writing:

Although Erin Kaplan does make a few decent points about how black women are viewed in this culture, most of the article just reinforces stereotypes. She is defining Michelle Obama and black women in general by their butts and hair. There are so many other traits that she could have discussed.

After reading the full piece, I’m inclined to agree. I get the semi-tongue in cheek tone of the piece, but this article just feels a bit wrong for the audience. Perhaps if it was written for a magazine like Essence or Clutch, which routinely explore the issues of black women and how a lot of our politics are wrapped up in our appearance, I would feel differently about the end result.

But it’s at Salon.

And while the commenters debate back and forth about whether or not the article is “joyful” or “disrespectful,” a large part of me wonders when Salon will publish an article on what faces Michelle Obama in the White House, or an article about racial trends in America penned by a woman of color, or a review of a book like Naked which lays all these issues bare. My problem with the article isn’t that it’s a lighthearted musing on Michelle’s attributes, as seen through the eyes of another black woman (who – according to Kaplan’s website – has also whipped out personal essays on her own butt, as well as musing on J.Lo’s.)

My problem is that articles about Michelle Obama’s wardrobe, booty, and mom duties are what is fit to publish, what is seen as relevant to a mass audience.

And everything else – like a reflection on how Michelle’s “makeover” was to make her more palatable to a certain set of Americans and what that says about race and gender in this country – seems to fall by the wayside, stuck in the niche analysis category.

Funny how that works.