Tag Archives: privilege

Idris Elba is Hollywood’s Troublemaker

by Guest Contributor Shane Thomas, originally published at Media Diversity UK

There are few names as globally recognisable as Nelson Mandela. And likely even fewer whose name generally invokes strong feelings of warmth and goodwill.

Mandela was recently in the news as a result of his ill health, with elements of the online world and news networks partaking in an emetic game of “Nelson Mandela death watch”. Mercifully, at the time of writing, Madiba is still with us, and he has become a talking point again by proxy, due to the release of the trailer for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

The aforementioned is a movie biopic, traversing Nelson Mandela’s life. Early indications suggest that it is being positioned as strong contender for the 2014 Academy Awards. If the release date of January 3rd next year isn’t a sign to this effect, then the fact that the film’s production company is The Weinstein Company certainly is.[1]

On face value, this would seem to be a positive sign for diversity in Hollywood. After all, it’s a film where black characters are front and centre, without – as Jamilah King succinctly put it – needing a “white co-pilot”. And if you don’t think that this is an issue, more often than not, when films are made about communities of colour, the proviso is that a white character is a key cast member.[2] Continue reading

The Racialicious Links Roundup 6.6.13

Advocates for the legalization of marijuana have criticized the Obama administration for having vocally opposed state legalization efforts and for taking a more aggressive approach than the Bush administration in closing medical marijuana dispensaries and prosecuting their owners in some states, especially Montana and California.

The new data, however, offers a more nuanced picture of marijuana enforcement on the state level. Drawn from police records from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the report is the most comprehensive review of marijuana arrests by race and by county and is part of areport being released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union. Much of the data was also independently reviewed for The New York Times by researchers at Stanford University.

“We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner,” said Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the A.C.L.U.’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the lead author of the report.

While “colorblindness” in adoption has been widely challenged, however, not everyone is convinced – like the adoptive mother who recently told me, “I don’t see my son’s color. Race is just not an issue for us.”

Some people maintain that any cultural loss is unimportant compared to what children gain through adoption. But in both mainstream media and personal conversations about adoption, cultural and racial identity need not be pitted against a child’s right to love, safety, and security.

This unfortunate “either-or” framing of the issue finds frequent expression in discussions of transracial adoption. Michael Gerson—whose wife is a Korean adoptee—wrote in the Washington Post: “Ethnicity is an abstraction…. Every culture or race is outweighed when the life of a child is placed on the other side of the balance.” In a National Review article criticizing Kathryn Joyce’s book The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption, adoptive father David French dismissed “the ‘culture’” (note the mocking quotation marks) of internationally adopted children as “the culture of starvation, of rags, of disease, and of abandonment.”

In his veto message, Scott noted that Congress never approved the policy enacted by President Obama last year to allow children brought to this country illegally to seek reprieves from deportation. “Although the Legislature may have been well-intentioned in seeking to expedite the process to obtain a temporary driver’s license, it should not have been done by relying on a federal government policy adopted without legal basis,” the governor said.

The last-minute block and tackle suggests Scott’s sensitivity toward conservative activists, who were aghast when the onetime crusader against Obama’s health care law embraced in February the administration’s proposed expansion of Medicaid. The proposal to accept millions in federal dollars to insure poor people was beaten back by state lawmakers but not without leaving a mark on Scott, who is expected to face a tough reelection campaign in 2014 against former governor and newly minted Democrat Charlie Crist.

Scott’s veto also highlights the Republican Party’s struggle to boost its appeal within the fast-growing Hispanic community. The bill’s sponsors said the governor’s veto flies in the face of the millions of dollars the Republican Party is allocating to minority outreach and candidate recruitment.

“Make no mistake about it: This will be an anti-Hispanic bomb if he vetoes this bill,’’ said Democratic state Sen. Darren Soto, one of the legislation’s sponsors. “The vast majority of my peers understand we need to encourage immigrants to become working members of our society. It makes no sense that the Scott administration would veto something it’s already doing.”

Cantankerous oldsters are, of course, a staple of comedy. But the trick is to evoke the anger, prejudice, exasperation, fear or simple confusion with which one generation often regards the next without losing the character’s essential humanity.

Although she has a Madea-like quality in that she is played by a much younger woman, there is virtually no humanity in Hattie. As we watch her berate and deride daughter Linda (Kendra C. Johnson) — whom we learn Hattie first threw out of the house when Linda was but 17 (hahaha)— and grandson Danny (Andre Hall), a college graduate having difficulty finding a job in a tough market (hahaha), one is left to wonder how much Perry hates his own grandmother.

Only her brother-in-law and business partner Floyd (played with admirable comedic grace by Palmer Williams Jr.) seems immune to Hattie’s hatefulness. Linda certainly is not; at the end of episode one, she discovers that her husband is cheating on her. Again.

Hattie predictably explodes with a chattering rage when Linda asks to move back home. By episode two, she is considering a reconciliation because she feels she is unfit for anything other than an unhappy marriage.

Wow, wonder why? Surely, there was an episode of Oprah based on just this sort of unhealthy relationship.

Boiling down zoot culture to one set of beliefs, variables, or ethnicity and race, rather than looking at its pluralistic totality, has been at issue when discussing it. Participants did not move in lock-step and carried differing, if often overlapping, views of the zoot suit’s meaning. While most zoots would agree that their fashion operated as a claim of public dignity denied them by white society, how each zoot defined such “dignity” varied: “dignity for a black male zoot suiter in New York … was often not the same as dignity for a Mexican American female zoot suiter in Los Angeles,” Alvarez points out. Moreover, some zoots, as previously noted, opposed the war and others actually joined the military to fight.

The focus on male zoots often obscures the numerous women active in the scene. For all its poignancy in capturing the fate of Montoya Santana, as noted by Carmen Huaco-Nuzum, in “American Me,” its female characters operated as foil for the movie’s larger discourse on Chicano masculinity. Though the film attempts to break free from gendered assumptions regarding Chicanas, with the exception of one female character, the movie remains bound to an image of Mexican American women as “subservient” and passive, dutifully enduring their oppressed fate. Borrowing from intellectual Octavio Paz, the film, Huaco-Nuzum argues, perpetuates the “legacy of being ‘la chingada,’ or the violated woman — the passive, long suffering female in servitude to the macho.”

Earlier popular productions broadcast similar themes. Luis Valdez penned “Zoot Suit” in the late 1970s, originally as a play focusing on the injustice of the Sleepy Lagoon Trial. In 1981, it became a movie starring Edward James Olmos. Utilizing court records and reports from the Los Angeles Times, Valdez constructed a narrative sympathetic to the defendants but one that virtually ignored the trial’s female participants. According to Catherine Ramirez, Valdez flattened subtleties present in news accounts and court records, depicting female zoots within a Madonna/whore binary of Mexican American women, thereby consolidating the domestic concepts his sources encouraged and constructing a popular model that others would draw from perpetuating the errors of his initial sourcing decisions.

Privilege And Low Expectations

By Guest Contributor Sparky, cross-posted from Womanist Musings

One of the many many many not-very-coded speeches privileged people like to give is the one on “low expectations.” You know the one: the one that says that welfare, affirmative action, any kind of accommodation, anti-discrimination rules, or anything else to try and help marginalised people is somehow patronising and demeaning because it “expects too little” of marginalised people. Because, you know, it expects marginalised people to need help (completely missing the many ways marginalised people are hindered and the fact that society is already geared to help the privileged).

Like many of the arguments of the oppressor, I’ve been dismissing it.

But I think I was wrong. I think that, yes, there are people out there who are labouring under the soft tyranny of low expectations. There are people who achieve so little because so little is expected for them.

I’m talking, of course, about people who are clinging to their comfortable blanket of privilege: those folks who have taught us time and again to expect the least from them. And the least is what we get. Continue reading

Call Out to People of Color [#OccupyWallStreet]

by Guest Contributors the #OccupyWallStreet People of Color Working Group

Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St.) from Alex Mallis on Vimeo.

To those who want to support the Occupation of Wall Street, who want to struggle for a more just and equitable society, but who feel excluded from the campaign, this is a message for you.

To those who do not feel as though their voices are being heard, who have felt unable or uncomfortable participating in the campaign, or who feel as though they have been silenced, this is a message for you.

To those who haven’t thought about #OccupyWallStreet but know that radical social change is needed, and to those who have thought about joining the protest but do not know where or how to begin, this is a message for you.

You are not alone. The individuals who make up the People of Color Working Group have come together because we share precisely these feelings and believe that the opportunity for consciousness-raising presented by #OccupyWallStreet is one that cannot be missed. It is time to push for the expansion and diversification of #OccupyWallStreet. If this is truly to be a movement of the 99%, it will need the rest of the city and the rest of the country.

Let’s be real. The economic crisis did not begin with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008. Indeed, people of color and poor people have been in a state of crisis since the founding of this country, and for indigenous communities, since before the founding of the nation. We have long known that capitalism serves only the interests of a tiny, mostly white, minority.

Black and brown folks have long known that whenever economic troubles ‘necessitate’ austerity measures and the people are asked to tighten their belts, we are the first to lose our jobs, our children’s schools are the first to lose funding, and our bodies are the first to be brutalized and caged. Only we can speak this truth to power. We must not miss the chance to put the needs of people of color—upon whose backs this country was built—at the forefront of this struggle.

The People of Color Working Group was formed to build a racially conscious and inclusive movement. We are reaching out to communities of color, including immigrant, undocumented, and low-wage workers, prisoners, LGTBQ people of color, marginalized religious communities such as Muslims, and indigenous peoples, for whom this occupation ironically comes on top of another one and therefore must be decolonized. We know that many individuals have responsibilities that do not allow them to participate in the occupation and that the heavy police presence at Liberty Park undoubtedly deters many. We know because we are some of these individuals. But this movement is not confined to Liberty Park: with your help, the movement will be made accessible to all.

If it is not made so, it will not succeed. By ignoring the dynamics of power and privilege, this monumental social movement risks replicating the very structures of injustice it seeks to eliminate. And so we are actively working to unite the diverse voices of all communities, in order to understand exactly what is at stake, and to demand that a movement to end economic injustice must have at its core an honest struggle to end racism.

The People of Color working group is not meant to divide, but to unite, all peoples. Our hope is that we, the 99%, can move forward together, with a critical understanding of how the greed, corruption, and inequality inherent to capitalism threatens the lives of all peoples and the Earth.

The People of Color working group was launched on October 1, 2011. Join us at http://groups.google.com/group/POC-working-group?hl=en. For inquiries, we can be reached by email at unified.ows@gmail.com. We can also be found online at http://pococcupywallstreet.tumblr.com. We meet Sundays @ 3 PM and Wednesdays @ 6:30 PM under the large red structure in Liberty Square.

Among the 99%

by Guest Contributor Esther Choi, originally published at Squirrels for Justice

Occupy Wall Street

(Note: These are my undeveloped thoughts about Occupy Wall Street, which may be unfair to many people. I would love to have my views checked and challenged by anyone who might see things differently. Thanks.)

For the past few months, the vague idea of a revolution had been constantly on my mind, and though I didn’t know how exactly it would be carried out or what specific changes it could achieve, it seemed like the only way out of the ridiculous state of our country. So it should have seemed like a serendipitous turn of events event for Occupy Wall Street, the vague idea of a revolution incarnate, to pop up in New York and very rapidly gain widespread support. Yet for some reason, I felt very hesitant to sign onto the movement in any way. I would never want to discourage or discount the efforts of people who recognize the need for change in our country and actually take a stand for it. But try as I might, I couldn’t seem to connect to the whole thing. It wasn’t a matter of being jaded or cynical – my ideals easily and constantly compel me into action, but nothing about Occupy Wall Street seemed to compel me. In fact, what I was seeing and hearing about it made me feel even more disempowered. I didn’t know how to explain it exactly, but thought it might have something to do with:

    · the fact that it was popularized by admittedly privileged organizations and individuals
    · the empty and misleading symbolism of “Wall Street”
    · the demographics drawn to it and the exclusive methods of communication used to reach out to them
    · and the disconnect I observed between this movement and the historic work of marginalized communities throughout the country, especially in this city, which continues to be carried out day by day with very little attention.

Continue reading

Sustainable Food and Privilege: Why is Green Always White (and Male and Upper-Class)

by Guest Contributor Janani Balasubramanian

When asked to name the heroes of food reform and sustainable agriculture, who comes to mind? Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, Eric Schlosser, Peter Singer, Alice Waters maybe? Notice any patterns? The food reform movement is predicated on rather shaky foundations with regards to how it deals with race and other issues of identity, with its focus on a largely white and privileged American dream.

Still, what could be better than a return to family farms and home-cooking, which many of these gurus champion? The images are powerfully nostalgic and idyllic: cows grazing on sweet alfalfa, kids’ mouths stained red with fresh heirloom tomato juice, and mom in the kitchen rolling out dough for homegrown-apple pie. But this is not an equal-access trip down memory lane. While we would like to think the American dream of social communion around food is a universal one, this assumption glosses over the very real differentials in gender, class, race, ethnicity, and nationality that were enabled and exacerbated by specific communities (white plantation owners, for example) through the use of food. Continue reading

Racism Fatigue

by Guest Contributor Kate Harding, originally published at Shakesville

Latoya’s Note: This is a long post, but well worth the read. Please read the whole thing before launching into the comments.

So, everybody’s talking about the Vogue cover featuring LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen in a pretty blatant, uh, homage (*cough*) to King Kong, which many are–zanily enough!–calling racist.

Young’uns out there who haven’t taken film courses might not be familiar with the actual plot of King Kong, released in 1933 (not beyond “big gorilla climbs Empire State Building with woman in hand,” anyway) let alone with any analysis of its racist imagery. For a primer on both, let me point you to David N. Rosen’s article “King Kong: Race, sex, and rebellion.”

It doesn’t require too great an exercise of the imagination to perceive the element of race in KING KONG. Racist conceptions of blacks often depict them as subhuman, ape or monkey-like. And consider the plot of the film: Kong is forcibly taken from his jungle home, brought in chains to the United States, where he is put on stage as a freak entertainment attraction. He breaks his chains and goes on a rampage in the metropolis, until finally he is felled by the forces of law and order.

The causative factor in his capture and his demise is his fatal attraction to blonde Ann Darrow (Fay Wray). As Denham says in the last words of the film, “Oh, no, it wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.” If we look at KING KONG in terms of a racial metaphor, “Beauty” turns out to be “the white woman.” …

Aside from the sexual aspect implicit in the question of race, there’s the more direct, and somewhat delirious, sexual imagery in the film. The ape often functions as a most appropriate anthropoid symbol of “lower,” “animal” instincts. In this case we have a giant ape (literally a huge, hairy monster) and his unrestrained, headlong pursuit of a “blonde,” that archetypical Hollywood sex-object, ending on top of the world’s foremost phallic symbol.(1) The sexual theme touches on the standard racist myth of the black male’s exaggerated sexual potency, and the complementary notion of his insatiable desire for white women.

Emphasis mine. Any questions? Good.

Now, let’s have a look at that cover.

And at Kong:

And for good measure, check out this old U.S. Army recruitment poster (H/T Jill at Feministe):

Any questions? GOOD.

I first became aware of the Vogue cover the first time Jill blogged about it, two weeks ago, and like her, I probably wouldn’t have noticed anything without having it pointed out to me. But as soon as it was pointed out to me, I saw the screamingly clear Kong echo–and since I did study King Kong in a film class many years ago, I was well aware of the racist underpinnings of that story and its imagery. So it didn’t take long for the penny to drop.

Some people, though, are still not only not getting it, but insisting that those of us who do get it are hypersensitive, overreacting, “looking for racism everywhere,” etc.–the usual, in other words. For the most part, I can just roll my eyes at that, because it’s all so familiar. Anything short of someone saying on national TV, “If you see a black man, you should shoot him in the face, and let me be perfectly clear that I mean you should shoot him in the face because he is black,” might not be racism after all, because some white people can’t see it. And if not all white people can see it, then the benefit of the doubt should automatically go to whomever made the racist statement/took the racist action/produced the racist image, not to the people identifying it as racist–because there is NOTHING WORSE IN THE WORLD than being a white person unfairly accused of racism! You lucky people of color have NO IDEA how horrible that is!

Like I said, the usual. But Wesley Morris at Slate has thrown a new twist into that argument. He (sort of) lays out the argument in favor of the Vogue cover being part of a long tradition of racist imagery depicting black men as primal brutes coming after white women, so he obviously gets it, but then follows that up with, “But even typing that just gave me a headache.”

The problem, you see, is not that it isn’t racist–it’s that all these discussions of racism are boring him. Continue reading

Dear America: A Few Things This Black Woman Would Like You to Know About Race

bu Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said


It is normal to be prejudiced.

…and in a country like America that was born and raised on the notion of white supremacy (See manifest destiny, slavery, Jim Crow, internment of Japanese citizens…), it is normal to be prejudiced against black people. So ingrained is the idea that white culture is right, or at least the benchmark for all other cultures, that even most black Americans devalue blackness (See “the doll test” as one example. See black hack comedians and their “black people are always late, broke, triflin’…” schtick as another.) So white America, modern prejudice is not all your fault.

Now that I have said that, now that I have absolved you of personal guilt, can we have the conversation about race that everyone keeps referring to? I mean a REAL conversation, not the one that has played out over the last month on talk radio and cable news and political blogs and Web sites, where black people attempt to shed some light on the ways race affects our daily lives and white people get defensive and angry and insist that race is no longer an issue. Continue reading