Rodney King never set out to be a James Meredith or Rosa Parks.
He was a drunk, unemployed construction worker on parole when he careened into the city’s consciousness in a white Hyundai early one Sunday morning in 1991.
While he was enduring the videotaped blows that would reverberate around the world, he wanted to escape to a nearby park where his father used to take him. He simply wanted to survive.
He did survive, but the brutal beating transformed the troubled man into an icon of the civil rights movement. His very name became a symbol of police abuse and racial tensions, of one of the worst urban riots in American history.
- Joe Mozingo and Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times
By Guest Contributor Danielle Fuentes Morgan
It’s a question President Obama has undoubtedly been asked before. It’s almost a universal African American experience, except this time it was asked under different circumstances and for a different reason.
“Can I touch your hair?”
The photo of this moment, three-years-old at this point, is making the rounds again. You’ve seen it in your inbox and on social networking sites—President Obama, bent at his waist while a five-year-old African American boy wearing a tie and dress pants touches his hair. It seems innocuous enough—meriting a few awwws certainly—but leaving some to wonder what all the fuss is about. Cute, sure. But is this news? Absolutely.
Meena lives in Gereshk, a town of 50,000 people in Helmand, the largest of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Helmand has struggled with the double burden of being one of the world’s largest opium producers and an insurgent stronghold. Meena’s father pulled her out of school four years ago after gunmen kidnapped one of her classmates. Now she stays home, cooks, cleans and teaches herself to write poetry in secret. Poems are the only form of education to which she has access. She doesn’t meet outsiders face to face.
“I can’t say any poems in front of my brothers,” she said. Love poems would be seen by them as proof of an illicit relationship, for which Meena could be beaten or even killed. “I wish I had the opportunities that girls do in Kabul,” she went on. “I want to write about what’s wrong in my country.” Meena gulped. She was trying not to cry. On the other end of the line, Amail, who is prone to both compassion and drama, began to weep with her. Tears mixed with kohl dripped onto the page of the spiral notebook in which Amail was writing down Meena’s verses. Meena recited a Pashtun folk poem called a landai:
“My pains grow as my life dwindles,
I will die with a heart full of hope.”
“I am the new Rahila,” she said. “Record my voice, so that when I get killed at least you’ll have something of me.”
Amail grimaced, uncertain how to respond. “Don’t call yourself that,” she snapped. “Do you want to die, too?”
- From “Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry,” by Eliza Griswold
By Guest Contributor Erika Nicole Kendall, cross-posted from A Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss
… for crying out loud … good grief.
I had lots of thoughts about this op-ed, simply because I struggle with the reality that so much of women’s body issues are tied up in dating and mating, not their own health. I’m not downing those who have made that decision–that’s not my place–I just wonder if those women truly wind up getting what they originally wanted in the end.
I’ll explain that later. For now, on to the article.
I had to chop this up into bits and pieces. It’s so hard to read, that every time I go to paste a new paragraph, I feel like sticking my virtual finger out and saying “B-b-but …” because it misses so much of the point.
Maybe I’ve been writing about this stuff for too long.
At any rate…the article starts out with a photo of Josephine Baker, with the caption “Josephine Baker embodied a curvier form of the ideal Black woman.” This highlights a huge problem with a lot of Black women as it is today: we don’t understand sizes, our bodies or “curvy” because “curvy,” like “thick,” has been misappropriated so many times that it no longer has any meaningful definition.
“Curvy” simply means that you have curves. Josephine Baker–and, by correlation, Marilyn Monroe–does not have the same kind of curves that many Black women (hell, women period) refer to when the say “curves” today. Josephine’s waist isn’t any larger than a 28; her hips, no larger than 40 inches. Not by a long shot. She might be curvy, but she was small. Petite women and smaller women are also afforded the ability to be curvy. Maybe if we embraced and accepted that idea, we’d stop clinging to the notion that “curves” can only accompany a larger frame. It simply isn’t true, and I’m annoyed by the author’s attempt to use Baker’s photo to imply such.
By Arturo R. García
And now, the waiting begins. Again.
Once again, a young person of color is dead, and hundreds of thousands of people are hoping for justice to be served. Less than a year ago, it was Troy Davis. This week, it’s Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida boy shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who remains free after authorities were criticized for allegedly protecting Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch aptain.
Tuesday night, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would investigate the slaying of Martin. And, especially in light of what we’ve learned about not only Zimmerman, but the social climate around him that enabled him to not only feel justified in an abhorrent sense of paranoia toward young black men, but to continue walking the streets after bringing about the worst possible outcome of that entitlement, the question comes to mind again: Will they get it right this time?
By Guest Contributor Kendra James
Another Monday, another post-awards show morning, another day of waking up and asking myself if I really just saw what I thought I saw. Because there’s absolutely no way that I really saw Billy Crystal in blackface on national television the night before.
And for all I know, maybe I didn’t. No one’s talking about it. It didn’t seem to have made any morning news show headlines. I didn’t hear Kelly Ripa and Neil Patrick Harris mention it and I missed seeing what the women of The View had to say, but given Whoopi’s track record with the hot topics of the day I’m guessing I wouldn’t have been impressed.
Oh, but wait, a quick dive into the comments section at Jezebel (why do I do this to myself?) confirms that I did not, in fact, dream up what I saw last night. Not only did it happen, but it seems to have already been rationalised by the general public. You see, blackface is apparently no longer offensive, especially if it’s not being done to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. We’re in post-racial America! These things no longer carry the weight they once did. There’s no need to analyse it to death. It was just a sketch!
Foolishness like this is making it really hard for me to get my fill of pretty red-carpet dresses.
by Latoya Peterson
There comes a time, in every fan’s life, when you know you’re going to just shut up and take the blue pill.
For me, this normally comes up with new fantasy series. I am well aware of the dynamics of the fantasy world, and that most of the best authors generally create worlds in a certain mold: vaguely Middle Ages, super segregated European society archetypes and norms in play. The good are generally white and fair haired, the bad are at least dark haired, if not dark skinned. This is the major basis for most mainstream fantasy series (and even newer genres like urban fantasy follow this mold.) This is due to the sci-fi and fantasy world’s twist on Andrea Rubenstein’s video game based concept of the the usual amount of racism:
It starts with a primarily white universe*. If you really look at the worlds that the majority of games, even today, are set in, you’ll most likely notice a pattern: protagonists, antagonists, and random NPCs will tend to be white more often than not. You can read more about this trend, which is not confined to video games, in the post Why is the Universe full of White people? over at Angry Black Woman Blog.
The usual amount of racism doesn’t stop with the relative invisiblity of non-white characters, though. It extends to the concept that every non-white character that exists does so in a marked (versus the unmarked white) state. The marking of a character can be through comments drawing attention to the character’s race and/or through the use of clear racial stereotypes.
And, we fen of color know that generally, if we want to dip a toe in new worlds, they are going to be filled to bursting with white folks. As Angry Black Woman wrote a few years back:
12 colonies or planets filled with humans. So far I have seen exactly 2 black people (one was killed 42 minutes after he showed up on the screen), one Asian person (who isn’t even human, she’s a Cylon in disguise), one Latino person (whose son, for some crazy reason, is played by a white dude), and that’s it. The rest of the people are all white. White people everywhere. This is stupid. If you have billions of humans on 12 planets I refuse to believe that only the white people would survive. Statistics say so. Unless there weren’t many black people on the colonies to begin with. [...]
White, heterosexual men have the luxury of being able to turn to 99% of the channels beamed into their TVs and see themselves portrayed in a manner that makes them comfortable and happy. Most white women, do, too. Minorities of most any stripe do not have that luxury. This is especially true of ethnic minorities. Why do we ‘bean count’? Because we can. That’s not flippancy, that’s a fact. I can look at my TV and count the number of black people I see because there are so few of them and they tend to stand out in the sea of whiteness.
When we bring up this line of reasoning, rabid fans trot out foolish justifications. My personal favorite: “Black people weren’t everywhere.”
Shakespeare wrote Othello, The Moor of Venice in the fucking 1600s. Why the hell are people still using that tired ass excuse for writers who were around for the end of segregation? Octavia Butler once said in an interview that you can confront supposedly progressive science fiction writers with their all white worlds, and many of them will be forced to admit something is wrong, just by simple logic and common sense. Yet, this madness keeps happening, even once the issue is pointed out.
Anyway, Game of Thrones is on HBO. I’ve been a fan of the series ever since a friend of mine and I swapped fantasy novels one afternoon at my apartment – he gave me A Game of Thrones, the first in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and I gave him Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. I devoured the series, even though it isn’t my normal cup of tea, and ran straight into Martin’s bout of writer’s block. A Feast for Crows dropped in November of 2005, a few weeks after I had caught up with the other three. And after that was over, it’s been half a decade since I’ve immersed myself in that world. (How long has it been? We stopped doing the book exchange before my friend even thought about having a baby – the kid is now three. I hadn’t even heard of Mixed Media Watch then, I think it was still on Xenga. I stopped checking Martin’s blog for updates back in 2008. And Jacqueline Carey has concluded three story arcs across three generations across Terre D’Ange, Ch’in, and all points in between.)
Still, I was excited enough for the series. I had already resigned myself to whatever background noise style racism was going to be in the series, having read all the books. Swallowed my bluepill, prepared to head happily into Westero with a minimum of drama. Was it too much to ask that I would be able to enjoy the show in peace? Could I just keep my bottle of Jameson at the ready for the inevitable “Winter is Coming” reference, make my little rules for the drinking game (imps, nipples, incest are already marked), and figure out if the adaptation measures up to the books?
Nope. Instead, I got racism in my fandom (thanks to Drago and the Dothraki), and sexism from the mainstream media.
*Sigh.* Where do we even begin? Continue reading