The late astronaut Ronald McNair. Via science.ksc.nasa.gov
Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, was inspired by Nichelle Nichols’ portrayal of Lieutenant Uhura onStar Trek. But she wasn’t the only one boldly going to the final frontier. StoryCorps tells the story of Ronald McNair, the second African American in space and a casualty of the Challenger disaster in 1986. The short (captioned) video illuminates McNair’s inquisitive beginnings in the segregated American South, his teen years, and the realization of his dream.
So, this morning I woke up to two emails about the exact same thing: Some nonsense-filled thread talking about “how to not offend people” when it comes to multicultural steampunk. And a cursory glance through the emails proved to me once more how impossible it is to talk to white people who don’t want to change their minds about what offensiveness is and what not to do.
While I am certainly pleased that there are people who are aware of the racial implications of what they do–even in some fuzzy way that they can’t articulate–I am also aware that there are a ton of people, shall I say, “looking for offense,” or rather, the chance to be aghast by some perceived limitation of their actions and options. There are white fans of steampunk who will set up strawman arguments about how fans of color actively look for offense (e.g. racism and appropriation), so much so that other poor folks are walking on eggshells every time they move.
“I can’t wear a pith helmet,” they will whine, “because then it would be colonialist and thus offensive!”
“I can’t wear a kimono,” another set will whine, “because then it would offend Asian people!”
“I can’t incorporate gypsy styles,” some more will whine, “because then I’d be accused of appropriation!”
Can we even consider the absurdity of these statements?
By Guest Contributor Sikivu Hutchinson; originally published at Feminist Wire
(Excerpt from the forthcoming book Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels)
For the past several months, Crenshaw Boulevard, in predominantly black South Los Angeles, has featured a series of striking billboards condemning homophobia and its role in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The billboards are the work of the black gay activist group In the Meantime Men, headed by Jeffrey King. Sounding a “code red alarm” on the raging HIV/AIDS epidemic among African Americans, King said, “The staggering rates of increased teen suicides in the last five years, and the uncontrollable increase of teen homelessness in America have awakened our senses to the damaging effects of homophobia in the Black community. Every year, thousands of Black LGBT people are displaced from their homes, families, churches, and communities due to their sexuality, gender, gender identity, and gender expression. This has resulted in a mass influx of homeless youth on the streets of Los Angeles and other cities throughout the nation.” [King will be a panelist at the upcoming “Confronting Homophobia in the Black Church” roundtable hosted by Black Skeptics Los Angeles at Zion Hill Baptist Church on February 27th] With African Americans comprising the majority of new HIV cases in the U.S., the epidemic has devastated black communities nationwide. Yet the refusal of mainstream black America to seriously confront how homophobia and black religiosity drive homelessness and HIV only deepens the killing fields.
By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images
Sociologist Jooyoung Lee is writing what sounds like a truly fascinating book. Titled Blowing Up: Rap Dreams in LA, it follows a series of young Black men who are trying to make it as rappers. ”Together,” Lee writes, “their stories show how rapping–and hip-hop culture more generally–transform the social worlds of urban poor black youths.”
The video below gives us a taste of his findings. In it, he’s asked why he thinks rappers are “so maligned in our culture.” He explains that it’s because people often “take violent and misogynistic lyrics” literally. Doing so, however, is to misunderstand “how the creative process works.” He goes on to explain how one of the men he studied was pressured by a music label to cultivate an image that conformed to stereotypes of young, urban Black men.
I’m a sucker for a good mystery. It doesn’t matter whether the detective sports a deer stalker cap, a rumpled raincoat, a string of tasteful pearls, or my name (sistah detective Tamara Hayle. Check her out!); whether the action takes place in London, L.A., the English countryside, Maine, or Newark—give me a suspicious death, a handful of clues and red herrings, and an intrepid sleuth, and I’m in.
My long love affair with the mystery genre (love you, Quinn Martin!) has taught me many life lessons: for instance, no one—no matter how benign the questions—wants to give up information to the po-po; professors, waitresses, street toughs—all resolutely anti-snitching. I have learned to avoid both the University of Oxford (Inspector Lewis) and fictional Hudson University (Law & Order), as they are hot beds of murder and mayhem. I have also learned that my invisibility as an aging woman will make detective work a perfect career in my dotage. (Can’t wait for the little old lady detective parties, where Jessica Fletcher and Miss Marple explain how being unassuming lets one uncover all the dirt.) And I have learned that race and gender matter, even in the fictional detective world, thanks to a currently quite popular mystery genre type: The White Dude Super-Detective.
Society allows white guys to utilize this music to get their aggressions out, act like He-Man and go crazy. The same benefits they get out of the music, black women not only get, but need even more. Black women need spaces in society where we can be free and express our individuality and be who we want to be.
Stop owning the idea of black dysfunction. Stop repeating that “we” act this or that way. Stop believing that every ill-advised or socially unacceptable act of an individual black person (or 20 black people or 1,000) is a blight on the whole of the black community or YOU personally. Stop pretending that all black behavior is endorsed by the black collective. That racist America thinks this way is no endorsement. But taking to comments sections to proclaim loudly your disgrace at how other black people are living is an endorsement of credit-to-your-race type thinking as well as the idea that the caricatures the media treat us to really are representative of our race.
Stop it with the black shame. Shawty Lo is not the black community. If the white guys over on Gawker aren’t hanging their heads over Mick Jagger, his many children, and their mothers, then you can still hold your head high in a world where Shawty Lo and “Fighter Baby Mama” exist.
I know what you’re about to say: “But…but…but…72 percent of black children born out of wedlock!” Right. The face of family is evolving all over the world–not just in America and not just among black people. Marriage rates are at an all-time low in the United States and across Europe. Rates of cohabitation and children born to unmarried parents are up. And these combined statistics don’t always add up to economic and social decay. (Hello, Sweden!) We need to begin figuring out how to adapt to these changes. And if you want to, you can lament that the changes are occurring. But here’s what you can’t do: pretend that Shawty Lo and his family are representative of single-parent or nontraditional black families. Because you know damn well they are not.
There are brilliant scholars who historicize and build upon black feminist participation in conversations about pornography. And there are others who simplify the argument into a false then vs. now paradigm that presents our foremothers as prudes, not as the women who made it possible for us to talk about sexuality in the ways that we do today. I believe these others wish for the day when black women can talk about sex as if they were white men, with no cloud of controlling images over their heads. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World