I find myself increasingly defending someone whom I otherwise wouldn’t look around at or wouldn’t listen to: Beyoncé.
I haven’t converted to listening to her discography: To me, she sounds like every other Black female soloist in a Black church choir, so her voice–her timbre and melisma–isn’t unicorn-unique to my ears. In fact, I find it gratingly common because I heard so many women with her voice every Sunday from the age of five to my late twenties; Beyoncé just has a better production team.
[S]ome of folks who see Bey as “girl power” may have never heard of Valenti or may even want to be bothered with her writings or what they perceive to be “white feminism” that she embodies. Bey is their feminist text and their idea–and ideal. And whatnot…On the real though, Bey is not my sort of feminism–and that’s not blasphemous to say. Then again, neither were the Spice Girls…or the Riot Grrls, for that matter. And I remember folks tripped on each of those pop-cultural “generations” of feminist representations, too, trying to figure out their effects on younger people.
Feminism is rather malleable as each generation figures out what it means to them, even when we’re fighting the same old battles. Or because of them.
The predictable conservative hand-wringing about Beyoncé’s Super Bowl show is exactly whythe recent “feminist” slut-shaming of Beyoncé bothered me so very much. In general, if you find yourself agreeing with the right-wing modesty police concerned about “the children” (and, weirdly, also “old people”?), it’s usually a red flag.
It’s interesting–and telling–that every conservative critic I’ve seen who took Beyoncé to task for “gyrating in a black teddy” acknowledged that, aside from all that awful sexiness, she’s a great performer. Kathryn Jean Lopez says that she “is talented, has a beautiful voice, and could be a role model” if only she wore “another outfit, perhaps without the crotch grabbing.” S.E. Cupp–who is no stranger to slut-shaming herself–notes that some performers need to rely on their sex appeal, but Beyoncé is “immensely talented” so it’s odd that she “would choose to make her sex appeal the main attraction.” Though “Single Ladies” is an “ode to female empowerment and self-worth,” Cupp writes, “humping the stage and flashing her lady bits to the camera” is “sad.” Rich Lowry says her performance “was stunning and athletic,” before going on to add, “as well as tasteless and unedifying.”
But flaunting her sex appeal automatically undermines Beyoncé’s talent and credibility as “role model” for these conservatives. (Just as it did for Freeman, too.) Since there seems to be some sort of superficial agreement between feminists and conservatives that “sexual objectification” is bad, let’s pause for a second to talk about exactly what it is and why it’s bad. For conservatives, it’s generally because of the sex. For feminists, it’s generally because of the objectification. And, importantly, objectification is not about presenting yourself as as sexual being–or even as an object of sexual desire. After all, that is a normal and fairly universal human urge–who doesn’t like to feel attractive sometimes? Objectification is about being dehumanized by being reduced solely to a sex object.
In recent years, the Obama administration has detained and deported immigrants at a record-setting pace. Though the administration purports to target serious criminal offenders, critics say immigration laws paint “serious” in exceptionally broad strokes. The bulk of the 1.5 million people deported in the last four years were charged with minor violations, and many of these people would still find themselves subject to deportation even if they’re on track to legal status or have a green card.
And for immigrants pegged with a long list of convictions, detention before deportation is mandatory. Laws passed in the 1990’s took the power away from ICE agents and immigration judges to review the particulars of cases, release detainees or stop their deportation. Approximately two-thirds of the 400,000 detainees last year were held on a mandatory basis in one of the more than 300 facilities that dot the American landscape, without the possibility of release, according to the advocacy group Detention Watch Network.
Advocates hope that an immigration reform bill will begin to replace punitive lock up with alternative, community-based measures to keep track of non-citizens in deportation proceedings. Last week, President Obama nodded in that direction. The White House’s guiding principles for immigration reform note that the president’s proposal “allows DHS to better focus its detention resources on public safety and national security threats by expanding alternatives to detention and reducing overall detention costs.”
In 2012, the federal government spent over $2 billion on detention operations, a nearly 150 percent increase from just seven years ago. And the two leading private detention companies, Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group, together netted about $425 million in revenues from their ICE contracts. The industry spends millions lobbying Congress.
Eventually, Calacanis took it to his blog, in a post entitled “Doing the Right Things.” It’s a shockingly un-self-aware document, even by the low standards of tech writing; it opens with the lines “I’m a white guy so I’m not allowed to talk about race. At least that’s what they tell me,” and goes downhill from there.
He drops the factoid “Ninety percent of the people in Silicon Valley were not born there” as a rebuttal to the straw-man charge “Silicon Valley is in some way a closed, secret society.” (Very few Bonesmen were born inside the Skull and Bones clubhouse at Yale, either.)
He jokingly apologizes to his father for the attenuation of identifiable white-ethnic identity in his mixed-race kids.
He posits that maybe those of us in the “1st world” shouldn’t be allowed to talk about “inequality,” because he “can’t talk about race because I’m white”—to show how illogical and unfair this prohibition against white people discussing race is. (He never names or identifies the “they” who have told him that as a white person he is not allowed to discuss race.)
He describes his former employee Rafat Ali: “much darker skin than mine (brown, but not black for those obsessed with the exact tone — really?)” It is unclear whether or not this is a joke, or if he actually thinks that Bouie or his other critics are “obsessed with the exact tone” of anyone’s skin.
Every job candidate lives in fear that a Google search could reveal incriminating indiscretions from a distant past. But a new study examining racial bias in the wording of online ads suggests that Google’s advertising algorithms may be unfairly associating some individuals with wrongdoing they didn’t commit.
After learning that a Google search for her own name surfaced an ad for a background check service hinting that she’d been arrested, Harvard University professor Latanya Sweeney set out to investigate whether race shaped online ad results. She searched over 2,000 “racially associated names” to determine if names “previously identified by others as being assigned at birth to more black or white babies” turned up ad results that indicated a criminal record. Specifically, she focused on ads purchased by companies that provide background checks used by employers.
Sweeney concluded that so-called black-identifying names were significantly more likely to be accompanied by text suggesting that person had an arrest record, regardless of whether a criminal record existed or not.
Rush Limbaugh thinks John Lewis should have been armed.
“If a lot of African-Americans back in the ’60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma?” he said recently on his radio show, referencing the 1965 voting rights campaign in which Lewis, now a congressman from Georgia, had his skull fractured by Alabama state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. “If John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?”
Right. Because a shootout between protesters and state troopers would have done so much more to secure the right to vote.
Incredibly, that’s not the stupidest thing anyone has said recently about the Civil Rights Movement.
No, that distinction goes to one Larry Ward, who claimed in an appearance on CNN that Martin Luther King would have supported Ward’s call for a Gun Appreciation Day “if he were alive today.” In other words, the premiere American pacifist of the 20th century would be singing the praises of guns, except that he was shot in the face with one 45 years ago.
Thus do social conservatives continue to rewrite the inconvenient truths of African-American history, repurposing that tale of incandescent triumph and inconsolable woe to make it useful within the crabbed corners of their failed and discredited dogma.
This seems an especially appropriate moment to call them on it. Not simply because Friday was the first day of Black History Month, but because Monday is the centenary of a signal event within that history.
Long story short, Lewis did not commit murder. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and then “did his best to help the prosecutors’ case” by testifying against the murder suspects. Ultimately, no one was ever convicted of murder in the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar–this was more about the strength of the case than Lewis’ crime.
Lewis was sentenced to 12 months’ probation, the maximum for a first-time offender, and later reached civil settlements with the families of both victims. He was also fined $250,000 by the NFL.
If he’s had a legal run-in since then, I’m unaware of it.
In part because of his run of on-field dominance, Lewis had managed to successfully rehabilitate his image. He starred in national advertising campaigns for the NFL Network, Under Armour, EA Sports and Old Spice, among others.
Lewis also has been involved in a number of charities in Baltimore, including his Ray Lewis 52 foundation which offers “personal and economic assistance to disadvantaged youth.” The foundation adopts 10 families in the city for the holidays, hosts food drives and raises money through a number of other endeavors. A portion of Baltimore’s North Avenue was renamed “Ray Lewis Way” in honor of his work in the community.
Until Lewis announced last month that he planned to retire, little had been said or written about that awful night in Atlanta 13 years ago.
Then all of a sudden, we were inundated with reminders.
“Basically, what happened is they were looking for one of my brother’s girlfriend’s friends,” says his brother David E. Diaz-Valencia, 23. “The guy came outside and my brother’s girlfriend said he was screaming, ‘Get off my property!’ and he shot into the air. My brother was backing out fast because he was scared and he rolled down the window to say he was sorry and he was not doing anything wrong. Then the guy shot him in his head.”
When officers arrived, Angie Rebolledo, Diaz’s girlfriend, had blood on her jeans, both arms and both hands as she was attempting to get a response from him and screamed frantically that her boyfriend had been shot, according to police. Police arrested Sailors, of Lilburn, Georgia, who was booked into the Gwinnett County jail Sunday afternoon and charged with murder, according to the police report.
“At this point we have established probable cause to charge Mr. Sailors and when the investigation is complete, we will turn over the case file to the Gwinnett County District Attorneys Officer for processing,” Lilburn police Chief Bruce Hedley told NBC Latino. “To preserve the integrity of the case, I will not be releasing further information concerning this incident.”
The Acting White Theory is difficult to assess through research. Many scholars who claim to find evidence of this theory loosely interpret their data and exploit the “expert gap” to sell their findings. One of the best examples of this is Roland G. Fryer’s research paper (pdf) “Acting White: The Social Price Paid by the Best and Brightest Minority Students.”
Here Fryer uses the Add Health data to demonstrate, in a nutshell, that the highest-achieving black students had fewer friends than high-achieving black students. In his study, black students with a 3.5 GPA had the most friends of all academic levels, those with a 4.0 had about as many friends as those with about a 3.0 and those with less than a 2.5 had the fewest friends of all.
Overall, contrary to the study title, Fryer’s research clearly demonstrates that the “social price” paid by the lowest-achieving black students is far greater than the so-called price paid by the highest-achieving black students. Moreover, methodologically, the study has to make the ostensible leap that the number of friends a black student has is a direct measure and a consequence of acting white. Interestingly, Fryer used the same mammoth dataset that Satoshi Kanazawa used to pseudoscientifically “prove” that black women (actually teenage girls) are less attractive (actually rated less attractive by adult raters of an unknown racial background) — but I digress.
Beyond the confirmation bias and social anecdotes, many studies, including a recent study by Tina Wildhagen in the Journal of Negro Education, disprove the Acting White Theory. In my own research (pdf), I have noticed a “nerd bend” among all races, whereby high — but not the highest — achievers receive the most social rewards. For instance, the lowest achievers get bullied the most, and bullying continues to decrease as grades increase; however, when grades go from good to great, bullying starts to increase again slightly. Thus, the highest achievers get bullied more than high achievers, but significantly less than the lowest achievers.
In the end, AZ won the game 5-0, but not before Wiedemeijer did suspend the match briefly as Den Bosch fans threw bottles and snowballs at the officials. (Den Bosch club administrators apologized to Altidore on Wednesday and pledged to identify and punish the participating fans.) Altidore would go on to convert a penalty for his 20th goal in all competitions this season, a career high, and while he didn’t mock the abusive fans afterward he did feel like it was one of the best responses he could have given to them.
“Of course, of course,” Altidore says. “They weren’t happy to see us win by that margin. I don’t think anybody expected that.”
Yet Altidore earned even more global respect for the way he responded after the game, striking a stance well beyond his 23 years and saying he’d be praying for the offending fans.
“That’s the first thing I was thinking about,” says Altidore, who grew up in Boca Raton, Fla., as the son of parents, Gisele and Joseph, who were born in Haiti. “The way I was raised, we never looked at black and white. My family has always stressed to me, yes, you will come against things that are different for a young black kid growing up. Let’s be honest about that, we’re still not over that. But at the same time, they always told me you can’t judge anybody by their color. You have to respect everybody for who they are and what they stand for.”
Everything is moving in the right direction, and in record speed, giving a case of whiplash to even the most veteran and cynical of immigration advocates. It seems that congressional leaders are holding on to what was once a third rail in American politics. In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, John McCain, a crucial and, at times, unreliable ally, said he now backs not only the DREAM Act, but also a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. (As early as three years ago, the Arizona senator called such a pathway “amnesty.”) The following day, a group of senators (the “Gang of Eight,” as they have been coined) offered an imperfect and enforcement-heavy but (here’s the key word)bipartisan blueprint, laying out its principles for a workable immigration bill. Not to be left out, a group of House Republicans said on the same day that they too have a bill in the works.
If there were any doubts that the president viewed immigration as the top legislative priority of his second term, those were laid to rest when he said yesterday: “And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.”
Obama, as only a lame-duck president can, is staking his claim and going for the history books. And just as important as putting pressure on a bitterly polarized and often paralyzed Congress, Obama is framing the issue economically and culturally. He reminded us that, in recent years, one in four technology startups in America were created by immigrants, as were one in four new small businesses. He implored Americans to honor our country’s rich history of immigration and to remember that our country is in constant evolution, from the Pilgrims, the Irish, and Eastern Europeans, to the Asians and Latinos.
In the speech’s single most memorable line, this president who is still considered by some as “the other,” viewed as a foreigner in a country that twice elected him to the White House, eloquently said: “Before they were ‘us,’ they were ‘them.’”
At Comer this evening, a group of young people sat and stood inside the entrance to the hospital’s emergency room, along with the principal of King high school.
Many hugged as they brushed tears from their eyes and consoled each other and Pendleton’s parents.
“She was awesome,” one girl said of Pendleton outside the hospital’s ER.
Friends of the slain girl said King was dismissed early today because of exams, and students went to the park on Oakenwald–something they don’t usually do.
Friends said the girl was a majorette and a volleyball player, a friendly and sweet presence at King, one of the top 10 CPS selective enrollment schools. Pendleton performed with other King College students at President Barack Obama’s inaugural events.
Neighbors said students from King do hang out at Harsh Park, 4458-70 S. Oakenwald Ave., and that students were there this afternoon before the shooting took place. A group of 10 to 12 teens at the park had taken shelter under a canopy there during a rainstorm when a boy or man jumped a fence in the park, ran toward the group and opened fire, police said in a statement this evening.
When Michelle Obama revealed the “secret” to her workout for perfectly toned arms, it became national news. This revelation, however, did not quell the debate and fascination over the gender politics surrounding this particular body part, as CNN and Fitness magazine are two of the many outlets that use Michelle’s arms as the ideal goal of suggested workout plans. Michelle has gracefully weathered the storm of public attention about her workout regimen by turning health and fitness into one of her defining public issues, with the “Let’s Move!” campaign. But the story about Michelle’s arms is not an innocent case of celebrity flattery or fitness gossip; it is part and parcel of the American public’s obsessive concern with the public presentation of Ms. Obama’s body.
President Barack Obama gives his second inaugural address. Via ABC News.
Inside the bowels of the Washington Convention Center, where President Obama and his wife would soon dance in front of a well-heeled crowd of supporters, Rosemary Weaver was holding court over a boxed sandwich-and-cookie lunch.
Forget the pundits and the critics who say the magic is missing from Obama’s second inaugural after a tough four-year slog. Don’t try telling that to this exuberant volunteer with an infectious laugh.
“Girl, it ain’t no less exciting,” Weaver tells me as table mates egg her on. “It was important enough for me to come out of my house when it’s cold.”
Suddenly the Maryland publicist stopped joking and collected her thoughts. “You want me to go deep?” she asked. “Our forefathers died for us to be here.”
Just a quick note (“quick” is a bold faced lie and I know it) to show you that we Racialicious denizens leave the roost sometimes and branch out!
Yesterday, we celebrated the swearing in of our first African American president, for the second time (woo!) We also celebrated the confirmation of four more years of Michelle Obama looking ferosh all the time in the public eye, so I was asked to participate in a Huffington Post Live hangout where a few people would talk about the highlights of the inauguration ceremony from various angles. The guests were:
Reverend Deborah L. Johnson, Founder of Inner Light Ministries, Santa Cruz, CA
Molly Darden, Managing Editor of Azizah Magazine, Atlanta, GA
Dr. Christopher House, Dir., African American Worship Service at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Tim Byrnes, Professor of Political Science at Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
J.J. Colagrande, Professor at Miami-Dade Wolfson and HuffPost Blogger, Miami, FL
Joseph Lamour, Fashion & Entertainment Editor at Racialicious.com, Washington, DC
C’est moi! The drawing behind me is by yours truly as well. Cross promotion!
Let me just tell you: I did not expect to be seated amongst tenured professors and ministers. I was taken aback (and feel honored to be even thought of for the same discussion as the above people). I was so taken aback that I forgot my opening line! I had dubbed yesterday African American Awesomeness Day, and it really was. I promise I’m not talking about myself, either. I’m being humble (for once). To have Martin Luther King’s birthday fall on the same day as the re-inauguration of an African American President with his African American First Lady at his side was truly, truly, awesome. Continue reading →
Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests–Scripture tells us, “’Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”
We gather here in memory of 20 beautiful children and six remarkable adults. They lost their lives in a school that could have been any school in a quiet town, full of good and decent people, that could be any town in America.
Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts.
I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief–that our world, too, has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We’ve pulled our children tight.
And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide. Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone.
As these difficult days have unfolded, you’ve also inspired us with stories of strength and resolve and sacrifice. We know that when danger arrived in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary, the school’s staff did not flinch. They did not hesitate.
Dawn Hocksprung and Mary Sherlach, Vicki Soto, Lauren Russeau, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy–they responded as we all hope we might respond in such terrifying circumstances: with courage and with love, giving their lives to protect the children in their care.
We know that there were other teachers who barricaded themselves inside classrooms and kept steady through it all and reassured their students by saying, “Wait for the good guys, they are coming. Show me your smile.”
And we know that good guys came, the first responders who raced to the scene helping to guide those in harm’s way to safety and comfort those in need, holding at bay their own shock and their own trauma because they had a job to do and others needed them more.
And then there were the scenes of the schoolchildren helping one another, holding each other, dutifully following instructions in the way that young children sometimes do. One child even trying to encourage a grownup by saying, “I know karate, so it’s OK. I’ll lead the way out.”
As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered and, with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.
But we as a nation, we are left with some hard questions. You know, someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.
With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves, our child, is suddenly exposed to the world–to possible mishap or malice–and every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet we also know that with that child’s very first step and each step after that, they are separating from us, that we won’t–that we can’t always be there for them.
They will suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments, and we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear. And we know we can’t do this by ourselves.
It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself–that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community, and the help of a nation.
And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours–that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.
This is our first task: caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?
Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children–all of them–safe from harm?
Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?
Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days and, if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change. Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings, fourth time we’ve hugged survivors, the fourth time we’ve consoled the families of victims.
And in between, there have been an endless series of deadly shootings across the country, almost daily reports of victims–many of them children–in small towns and in big cities all across America, victims whose…much of the time their only fault was being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.
We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law–no set of laws–can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.
If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.
In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens–from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators–in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.
Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?
Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children, year after year after year, is somehow the price of our freedom?
You know, all the world’s religions, so many of them represented here today, start with a simple question: why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?
We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal–whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort–we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.
We’ll make mistakes; we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing; we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.
By Guest Contributor Gene Demby, cross-posted from PostBourgie
After President Obama was re-elected last Tuesday, there was the predictable racist apoplexy from the knuckle-draggers on Twitter who wanted to voice their disgust. It was vile and stupid, but it’s hard to argue that spitting “nigger!” into Twitter’s river of digitized id has any real-world consequence. All you could really do is laugh at the horrible spelling and twisted logic and K.I.M.
But the day after the election, Jezebel’s Tracie Egan Morrissey decided to put some of those offenders on blast in a slideshow, in what was presumably an attempt to shame the tweeters. (Morrisey left their names and Twitter handles unobscured.) There was something about both the execution and tone of that post and the comments section that felt both cynical and self-congratulatory–look at how not-racist we all are, guys!1 And perhaps not coincidentally, this kind of stuff clicks really well. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World