Tag: privilege

August 1, 2013 / / Africa

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] Read the Post Idris Elba is Hollywood’s Troublemaker

June 6, 2013 / / links
December 10, 2012 / / Uncategorized

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. Read the Post Privilege And Low Expectations

October 6, 2011 / / activism
October 4, 2011 / / activism

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.

Read the Post Among the 99%

May 20, 2010 / / feminism

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

April 16, 2008 / / Uncategorized

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. Read the Post Racism Fatigue

April 9, 2008 / / Uncategorized

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