Tag Archives: media

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.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, Regarding Hate Crimes Against Latinos: “Oops. My Bad.”

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published at Guanabee

You might recall our recent look at the murder of Long Island resident Marcelo Lucero and his community’s reaction to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation. Levy said the murder of Lucero was a “one-day story” that was receiving “undue” media coverage. Well, Levy has since apologized for those remarks:

“It was absolutely the wrong time for me to suggest that coverage of events in Suffolk is treated differently by the media,” Levy said in a letter to Newsday. “The horrible incident is indeed more than a one-day story. It was a reminder of how far we as a society still have to go.”

We understand that murderers commit murder, and that the seven teen boys charged with carrying out the actual beating and slaying of Lucero are the ones who most need to pay for their crime. But, while they are the ones who need to carry the bulk of the burden of culpability in this case, their guilt is shared by people like Steve Levy. Some people commit murder with bullets and blades, some do it with their words and examples. Steve Levy is not a murderer, but he worked to perpetuate a culture of murder, an allegation echoed by activist Tony Asion and Dean Kevin Johnson in their recent interview with NPR concerning hate crimes against Latinos.

The “one-day story” made its way into the New York Times. The NYT article quoted Levy as calling the seven murders “white supremacists.” Which, we think, is a step back. Continue reading

Diversity and the “Cultural Elite” of New York

by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng

The September 25 issue of Time Out New York (TONY) featured a list of their favorite 40 New Yorkers who have made an impact on the city in the past 13 years. I was appalled to see that out of the 40 cultural leaders that they highlighted, only three were people of color (Jay-Z, Derek Jeter, and Junot Diaz), two weren’t even human (Spider-Man and the MetroCard), and the other 35 were white.

Right after reading the issue, I and probably hundreds of other readers wrote letters to TONY to call them out on their list’s glaring lack of diversity as it tried to represent one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. In my letter I said, “Rather than reminding us that white people are still in power, you could have been a little more creative with this list.” And I proceeded to list several people I would have liked to see on the list: Rosario Dawson, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Jean Grae, David Paterson, Chang-Rae Lee, Rosie Perez, Majora Carter, Rosie Mendez, etc.

They must have gotten quite a number of these letters, because a week later they had posted a piece online called “Where are all the people of color?” In the article, a TONY editor basically continued to defend and justify the lack of diversity in the list, and sparked even more angry comments from readers. The response piece, in some ways, was even more appalling than the original list because it showed no sign of regret and stated even more clearly (in case we didn’t get the point the first time) that they believed that New York’s “cultural elite” was made up of mostly white people.

Continue reading

D.L. Hughley Headlines a New Political Comedy Show on CNN

by Latoya Peterson

Please Note: This is NOT a D.L. Hughley fansite. You cannot contact him directly through this site, or leave feedback about his show.

Before I sat down to watch D. L. Hughley Breaks the News, I was skeptical of the whole project. D.L. Hughley doesn’t immediately come to mind when I think of a comedian that is well versed in politics and current events. The author of the NY Times article seems to concur, noting:

For the last week Mr. Hughley, 45, has had to arrive every morning at his office at CNN in Manhattan at the ungodly (for a comedian) hour of 11 a.m. to digest reams of information from newspapers, Web sites, television and talk radio. He has no time to goof off during the 8-to-12-hour days; only the occasional moment to glance at his new profile in the CNN company directory that lists him as an anchor.

“I’m like, ‘Come on, man,’ ” an incredulous Mr. Hughley said in a recent interview. “I barely even know how to read. I’ve got a G.E.D.”

Just 10 days ago CNN announced that Mr. Hughley would be the host of a new comedy-news show, “D. L. Hughley Breaks the News,” which has its premiere Saturday at 10 p.m. Eastern time.

AverageBro already laid down his thoughts on the show, writing:

I’m not saying Hughley isn’t funny. His early days of Comic View were classic. And for the record, his standup career is far more successful than anything Stewart did pre-Daily Show.

But DL just doesn’t seem to have the gravitas to pull this off. His shortlived Comedy Central talk show, Weekends At The DL, was atrocious. His appearances on shows like Real Time With Bill Maher and The Glenn Beck Show don’t give me the impression that this cat is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to politricks.

He also brings up another large elephant in the room when it comes to D.L. Hughley’s idea of comedy:

Is it wrong for me to still be upset about that “nappy headed hoes” comment more than a year after the fact? Prolly not, but I’m sorry, I just cannot get over that. That sh*t was a straight up James T. Harris b*tch move in my book.

I wonder how dude could go home and look his wife and daughter in the eyes after that bullsh*t.

I prolly won’t watch this show, so I guess I shouldn’t bash it. Could it possibly be any worse than Chocolate News or The Tony Rock Project? Even though I wished CNN’s affirmative action hire had been Roland Martin instead, I guess I should just be happy to see black men working, no matter how mediocre the product.

Nah. Bump that.

If you wanna support a black man on TeeVee, peep BET’s slept on Somebodies. Now that’s comedy.

Screw DL Hughley. A true Nappy Headed Hoe!

Continue reading

Race in the Election…in Canada!

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

SURPRISE! Canada is having an election this year too!

However, wily characters that we are, our election was called as recently as September 7, and we’re still going to beat our American neighbours to the polls when we vote next week. However, that’s basically it for pluses when it comes to Canadian politics: advance polls are saying that we will most likely end up with a Conservative majority. *

On Tuesday my friend Leslie sent me this Globe and Mail article on “sophisticated new methods” that parties are turning to in order to figure out how to lure in those mysterious “ethnic” voters.

For the first time in a federal election, three of Canada’s five main political parties are using a sophisticated new micro-targeting voter-profile tool, which outlines people’s ethnicity, social values and income level, cross-referenced with their political support.

The tool, developed by Environics, allows political strategists to fine-tune their message for voters at the neighbourhood level, helping candidates win key battleground ridings in Ontario and British Columbia, many of which have large ethnic communities.

“This tool not only gives you the big picture, but goes to a riding level and tells you which percentage of voter groups live in the riding and whether ethnicity is an issue,” said Jan Kestle, president of Environics Analytics.

There is a sudden demand for multicultural research tools such as this one, as Canada’s ethnic communities grow in size and political importance. Now that immigrants no longer vote exclusively for the Liberals, all parties are reaching out to them.

Please note the equation of “ethnic communities” with “immigrants.” In case you are foggy on the Canadian history: similarly to the US, people of colour have been living in Canada for almost as long as white folks have. Sure many people of colour in Canada are recent immigrants, but many (especially in Western Canada) have been here for generations.

“It’s a numbers game. The election can turn on a dime. Ethnics play a key role in this and happen to be living in the ridings that are close,” said David Crapper, president of Genesis Public Opinion Research Inc., the Conservatives’ official pollster in the 2006 election.

Goodness, “Ethnics” playing a key role in an election? What is the world coming to??

Continue reading

Kristof’s Comment Section on “Race Without Racists”

by Latoya Peterson

New York Times op-ed columnist and blogger Nicholas D. Kristof has been paying a lot of attention to how race has played out in the 2008 Presidential Election, often expanding his thoughts to what this means about race relations in the United States.

On Sunday, in a column called “Racism without Racists,” he wrote about how “our unconscious minds engage in racial or sexual bias.” Now, this is nothing new to most of our readers, but I’ve been following these conversations in the mainstream media with some interest.

Has the national conversation really changed since Obama’s speech on race?

On his blog, Kristof elaborated more on his thoughts and opened the floor to comments. Interestingly, the comments were mixed in terms of reactions with many people acknowledging their prejudice, engaging with the data, and challenging each other’s ideas in a mostly civil manner. Now of course, there were those who claimed that “blacks are the real racists because they are all voting for Obama!*” or who claimed they were tired of reading about race, but I was heartened by the introspective nature of most of the comments.

Some of what caught my attention (of the first 300 – there are now 598) below. Continue reading

Harnessing the Power of Pop Culture

by Latoya Peterson, originally published at Feministe

In the first 45 seconds of the trailer for Clueless, Cher Horowitz (played by Alicia Silverstone) gives one of the best rebuttals I have ever heard to opponents of providing asylum on our shores for oppressed people.

Yes, I’m serious.

Let’s reexamine the language (excerpted from Paul’s Ultimate Clueless Script):

SCENE IV – CLASSROOM DEBATE

MR HALL

Should all oppressed people be allowed refuge in America? Amber will take the con position. Cher will be pro. Cher, two minutes.

CHER

So, OK, like right now, for example, the Haitians need to come to America. But some people are all “What about the strain on our resources?” But it’s like, when I had this garden party for my father’s birthday right? I said R.S.V.P. because it was a sit-down dinner. But people came that like, did not R.S.V.P. so I was like, totally buggin’. I had to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, squish in extra place settings, but by the end of the day it was like, the more the merrier! And so, if the government could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians. And in conclusion, may I please remind you that it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty?

(Class breaks into applause)

This segment was designed for us to laugh at the ridiculousness of Cher’s logic and her mispronunciation of Haitians (Haiti-ins!). But there is some truth in what she says.

Haitians need to come to America = Amnesty.

But some people are all “What about the strain on our resources?” = Opposition Arguments

And so, if the government could just get to the kitchen = Survey the situation

Rearrange some things = Reprioritize and reexamine how we use resources and we admit new entrants

We could certainly party with the Haitians = Grant amnesty, fix our selective and fractured policy.

And this line is classic: may I please remind you that it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty?

It totally does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. It actually says:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name,
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And yet, for the last few years, we’ve been having a debate around immigration which boils down to “everyone has to RSVP, we’ve got a velvet rope, and most of you aren’t invited to the party.” The tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free? Fuck ‘em!

Where are all the other voices in this debate? We’re left out. So many conversations around public policy and theory are couched in a language that makes them inaccessible to the average person with a limited understanding of the issues. And if the language that we as progressives and feminists use is inaccessible to the average reader/listener/viewer, we lose out. This is the void that has been filled by regressive interest groups – they dominate the dialogue by using very simplistic messages to summarize their position. Messages like “they are evil” or “they hate our freedom.” These messages may not even be true – but they are easy to remember. And that’s the problem. A complex, nuanced message is harder to grasp than a simple catchy statement, and thus, less likely to stick.

So, in order to reach more people, progressives need to critically examine the messages we send, what we say, and how we present them.

To this end, we need to learn to harness the power of pop culture – taking a message, shortening it, adding some spin, and preparing it for mass consumption.

Back in May, the New York Times published an article describing the efforts of U.S. Campaign for Burma to sell their cause using celebrities like Ellen Page, Jennifer Aniston, and Will Ferrell. And yet, somehow, they are still having problems getting their message to catch on. Continue reading

White People Like taking credit from Asians: Who is Myles Valentin?

by Guest Contributor Restructure!, originally published at Restructure

#11 Asian girls” is the all-time most popular post of web-phenomenon Stuff White People Like, but it was written by Filipino-Canadian Myles Valentin, not White-Canadian Christian Lander. While Christian Lander received a $350,000 advance and receives royalties for his book, Stuff White People Like: the Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions, Myles Valentin is living paycheck to paycheck in East Vancouver.

Myles Valentin has written #11 Asian girls, #15 Yoga, #30 Wrigley Field, #31 Snowboarding, #44 Public Radio, #45 Asian Fusion Food, #56 Lawyers, #57 Juno, #66 Divorce, and #74 Oscar Parties. However, Valentin is rarely mentioned in articles about the blog Stuff White People Like, except being credited as Christian Lander’s Filipino friend. Even Racialicious, an anti-racist blog about race written from the perspectives of people of colour, credits Christian Lander as the “The Man behind Stuff White People Like” and makes no mention of Myles Valentin.

While it is true that Lander wrote 90.7% of the full list and Valentin wrote only 9.3% (89.1% and 10.9% respectively before the official book deal announcement), it nevertheless seems unfair that Valentin received no book deal, is rarely mentioned, has never been interviewed, and is not the co-author of the book that spawned from the blog. A white man receives 100% credit for roughly 90% of a blog, and his friend, an Asian man, receives 0% credit for roughly 10% of the blog.

This may appear only slightly unfair to some, but what if it was a white man that received 100% credit for roughly 90% of a blog, and his friend, another white man, that received 0% credit for roughly 10% of the blog? Ceteris paribus, we expect that everyone should get their fair share, even if the inequality is not tremendous. If Valentin was a white man, we would expect him to sue for his share of the profit, and we would not disagree with the lawsuit as a means to uphold “meritocracy” and protect white man’s intellectual property.

Asians are stereotyped as uncreative, lacking a sense of humour, and as people who are unable to criticize social conventions. When an Asian writes successful satire of white culture, why is his contribution forgotten?

Christian Lander’s name may go down in Web 2.0 history, but will anyone remember the name Myles Valentin? Will white people still ask, “Where are all the bloggers of color?

Edited to Add:

CORRECTION: Valentin’s monetary gain from the Stuff White People Like brand is greater than 0%. According to the LA Times’ interview with Lander, Valentin receives all the ad revenue from blog. According to Valentin, he uses this money for horse-racing. Lander gives Valentin credit as the co-blogger of Stuff White People Like, but the mainstream media portrays Valentin as (just) Christian Lander’s Filipino friend and inspiration.
– Restructure