Tag Archives: racial stereotypes

Corcoran Goes Multicultural

by Guest Contributor Wendi Muse, originally published at The Coup Magazine (blog)

Take a moment to survey the photo above. This is an advertisement for Corcoran Group Real Estate found in the March 31, 2008 issue of New York Magazine. The text in the caption reads as follows:

At Corcoran, we understand that your home is the site of your family’s future history. So we go beyond what matters now. We listen to what will matter tomorrow – the hopes, the dreams, the visions, the goals, and the thousand wished-for moments that define you and those you love. Then we help you find a home that’s perfect for the family you are today, and for the family you hope to be in the future.

Live who you are.

corcoran.com

built to last


When I first saw this ad, I thought to myself, “Wow, they have a biracial couple in a real estate ad!” Next I thought, “Wow, the couple happens to involve a black woman and a white male as the couple. I rarely see that!” To go further, my final thought was “…and she has dark skin, too! Amazing!!!” Continue reading

A Must See Film: Banished

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

(In the video above, “Banished” filmmaker Marco Williams talks about the documentary.)

A hundred years ago, in communities across the U.S., white residents forced thousands of black families to flee their homes. Even a century later, these towns remain almost entirely white. BANISHED tells the story of three of these communities and their black descendants, who return to learn their shocking histories.

In Forsyth County, Georgia, where a thousand black residents were expelled, the film explores the question of land fraudulently taken, and follows some descendants in their quest to uncover the real story of their family’s land. In Pierce City, Missouri, a man has designed his own creative form of reparation—he wishes to disinter the remains of his great-grandfather, who was buried there before the banishment. And in Harrison, Arkansas, home to the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan, a white community struggles with their town’s legacy of hate.

By investigating this little-known chapter in American history, BANISHED also takes a contemporary look at the legacy of racial cleansing. Through conversations with current residents and the descendants of those who were driven out, the film contemplates questions of privilege, responsibility, denial, healing, reparations and identity.

What can be done to redress past injustices? What is the ongoing impact of the expulsions on families and communities today? In the stories of black families whose land and livelihood were stolen, the film illustrates the limits of the American legal system and the need for creative forms of repair. By introducing these families and the white communities who forced them out, BANISHED raises the question of responsibility for past wrongs and what is involved in righting them. (SOURCE: PBS Independent Lens Web Site)

Thank God for DVR. I missed “Banished” when it ran on PBS’ Independent Lens during Black History Month this year, but I recorded it and finally watched this weekend.

EVERYONE should see this documentary that investigates a little-known period of ethnic cleansing in the United States: Roughly 1860 to 1920, when several counties and cities across the United States, including Forsyth County, Georgia, Pierce City, Missouri, and Washington County, Indiana, purged their black residents through violence and intimidation (See a “banishment” map here.).

This is not just a film about racism. Continue reading

A Choice of Fabric or a Choice of Words?

by Guest Contributor Wendi Muse, originally published at the Coup Magazine Blog

I woke up a bit late on Friday morning, yet despite my tardiness, I decided to humor myself with the usual banter of morning television. While simultaneously slipping on shoes and attempting to do something with my hair without the help of a mirror, I used my free hand to change the channel to NBC for the Today Show with Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira.

On the studio stage stood about five women, all glowing, smiley, and decked out in lingerie. The catch? They were mommies-to-be. That’s right. Bedroom chic for expectant mothers was the topic of discussion. Considering my complete lack of maternal instinct, I was tempted to turn the tv off when something uttered by the special guest stylist/fashion critic made me pause. While I don’t recall the exact quote, I remember the camera zooming in on a black mommy lingerie model as the critic noted the joy and pain of an increased bustline and a larger bottom, respectively, with the onslaught of pregnancy.

Hmmm…

I don’t know about you, but I wish my butt were bigger. Though it may seem trivial, the critic’s assessment of preferable body type could be easily considered the norm for only a few groups, of which black and Caribbean Latina women would customarily not be a part. As a large backside is generally more accepted, if not a expected aspect of the black and/or Latina beauty ideal, I find it humorous, though predictable, that the white female commentator would disregard this, making her comment as if ALL women want smaller bottoms and bigger boobs. But things went beyond petty and got a little worse (aka I kept the television on for a few more seconds in order to watch the ridiculousness unfold) when the critic turned to the next model: a pregnant blond in leopard print.

The critic guided us, as she noted that the next model was wearing “ETHNIC” print, which is really hot in this season’s lingerie lines. Last time I checked, leopard print wasn’t an ethnicity, nor were the people where, say, leopards live, covered in spots themselves. Continue reading

Another Quick Reflection on Being “Black” – Not Black Enough

by Guest Contributor Juliana, originally published at Juliana Goes International

Latoya’s Note: Juliana and I have been friends since freshman year of high school, so we’ve been kicking it for about a decade now. A few years ago, she decided to decamp from the United States and spent a lot of time abroad, including a year and a half in France. When she graduated from college, she decided to enlist in the Peace Corps and was stationed in Mali. As her term with the Peace Corps is almost over, I noticed a reluctance to return to the US. I had my ideas why, but I never thought it was something like this.

It took me a while to get my thoughts together on this one. This idea has been going through my head for a while but it’s hard to get it out.

Sometimes I think to myself, would you come back to Africa to live? Would you try to find a job here? Have a family here? Settle here? Not necessarily in Mali but in West Africa, in general.

Growing up with a Jamaican family in America was tough because my parents didn’t have the mentality of other African Americans that I knew. My parents weren’t a part of the American civil rights movement, as a lot of other older black Americans, so they’re way of raising me and my sisters was different.

Most of the other black kids in my school where “ghetto.” Baggy clothes and listening to rap and hip hop. They had they’re specific way of acting that was completely forbidden for me to emulate at home.

I remember riding with my father in the car and passing groups of black kids on the street, and him saying “Look at those bums, they’re never going to get anywhere. They’ll probably end up in jail.” I would try desperately to explain that they’re way of acting or dressing says nothing about who they were. I knew many kids in my school who dressed that way and were good students. He could never believe it; always thinking that the more black you acted the less successful you’d be.

This is how I grew up. I had these thoughts drilled into my head from day one. In order to be successful, I had to act as white as possible. Continue reading

Of Race and Resident Evil 5

by Latoya Peterson

Resident Evil 5 is set in Africa. This was done intentionally, according to producer Jun Takeuchi, as Africa is considered the birthplace of civilization.* Since that is where humanity began, the development team thought it would be interesting to explore the origins of the T-Virus basing the plot in Africa.

And just like that, another twist is added to the increasingly infuriating puzzle that is Resident Evil 5.

The game is not even scheduled to be released until 2009 and already the controversy has raged on for close to a year.

In a fifteen minute video,
(h/t Ikue) the Capcom blog features game producer Jun Takeuchi explaining some of the ideas surrounding the plot and updates to the gameplay. (Note: Resident Evil is the US title; the game is called Biohazard in Japan.) Unfortunately, there still is not much insight to be had. Chris Redfield is still the main character and this is definitely his story playing out against an exotic backdrop.

Nothing close to the kind of insight I was looking for from Capcom. As such, I am still withholding a judgment call on the game until I actually play. (Which, dear readers, will actually be a huge struggle for me – I am not great at first person shooters and I have never been a fan of survival horror. While I enjoyed watching the past few games, playing them will be an exercise in frustration.)

However, I was directed to a wonderful article on the MTV Multiplayer blog, in which N’Gai Croal of Newsweek’s Level Up blog spoke very frankly on images, racial history, and gaming.

Here’s an excerpt:

There was stuff like even before the point in the trailer where the crowd turned into zombies. There sort of being, in sort of post-modern parlance, they’re sort of “othered.” They’re hidden in shadows, you can barely see their eyes, and the perspective of the trailer is not even someone who’s coming to help the people. It’s like they’re all dangerous; they all need to be killed. It’s not even like one cute African — or Haitian or Caribbean — child could be saved. They’re all dangerous men, women and children. They all have to be killed. And given the history, given the not so distant post-colonial history, you would say to yourself, why would you uncritically put up those images? It’s not as simple as saying, “Oh, they shot Spanish zombies in ‘Resident Evil 4,’ and now ‘black zombies and that’s why people are getting upset.” The imagery is not the same. It doesn’t carry the same history, it doesn’t carry the same weight. I don’t know how to explain it more clearly than that. Continue reading

Damned If You Do: Jews in the Spotlight, Stereotypes, and Identity (Full Piece)

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

*Author’s note: I began working on this piece around Easter, last month in March, hence the quasi-anachronistic opening. Also, to read the comments on the introduction of this piece, please go here. Lastly, please note that the thoughts and opinions expressed in the interviews completed for this piece reflect the sentiments of the interviewees and not necessarily the views or opinions of the author and/or Racialicious as a whole. OK, let’s begin!

Despite all the Easter hype, I found myself thinking a lot about Judaism in America this past week. Eliot Spitzer, New York’s Jewish political golden boy and possible presidential hopeful, had been outed for a prostitution scandal, New York Magazine had run an extensive article on actress, singer, performer extraordinaire Bette Midler, Dick Cheney had traveled to the Middle East, one of his topics of discussion being the state of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the New York City version of Bravo’s reality show Real Housewives featured a Jewish-American family. It seemed as if everywhere I turned, I noticed some element of Judaism, be it people, politics, or general culture.

In the meantime, I also began to contemplate the state of Jews in the media, their portrayals therein, and how Jewish-American identity was being shaped as a result. Despite the frequent, conspiracy theory-steeped accusations of Jews having a media takeover, it’s quite a wonder that the portrayals of Jews, including Jewish-Americans, are not exactly the most flattering.

Take a moment to think to yourself of the Jewish stereotypes to which you have been exposed, or to go further, try to count the positive portrayals of Jews (Right off the top of my head, I can only think of Anne Frank and the cast of Fiddler on the Roof) in comparison to the negative ones. What do you come up with?

For the most part, the stereotypes people come up with are, for lack of a better phrase, “positive stereotypes” they see on television or through other forms of media, and those are the ones they internalize. The financially successful Jew. The hard-working, scholarly Jew. The Jew with entrepreneurial prowess. The Jew who is a survivor. The Jew who is politically active. Of course, turn those on their heads, and they easily become “negative stereotypes.” The Jewish American Princess. The nerdy, socially awkward, neurotic Jew. The money-grubbing, “crafty” Jew. The Jew who plays the Oppression Olympics with the Holocaust as the ultimate social injustice. The Jew who is a Zionist fanatic. Hence the reminder that even so-called “positive stereotypes” can be one’s worst enemy. In fact, they are central to understanding the media-based stereotyping that occurs in relation to Jews.

For one thing, according to the media at least, all Jews are white. They all blindly support the continued recognition of Israeli statehood, despite the limited connection they may have with the Middle East geographically or culturally. Also, all Jews, using media representations alone, are well off. If the caricature-like images of Jews were to fall from our television sets, they’d find themselves out of their element as there would be no dollar bills and diamonds to roll around in to pass the day. Just like any other racial, ethnic, or religious group, Jews are subject to intense criticism at the hands of the media, and in ways many of us lack awareness to notice, mainly because we have so deeply accepted the “positive stereotypes” that we fail to realize the power they have in bolstering “negative” ones.

A “model minority” of sorts, many American Jews, no matter the sect to which they belong, or whether they consider their link to Judaism as one of religion, one of ethnicity, or both, are lauded for their achievements while simultaneously being pressured to perform a stereotype to keep them up. For this piece, I spoke with several Jewish friends, two of whom took the time to respond to a set of questions on Jewish identity. In their responses, which read like a race and culture bildungsroman of sorts, Yael, a former college classmate and up-and-coming actress, and Alex, a co-worker, discussed what it was like to “come of age” as a person of Jewish heritage in America. I have included the full-text interviews at the end of this piece, as I feel their words most poignantly capture their experiences in ways that I would be hard-pressed to replicate in my journalism-meets-prose-meets-term paper blogging style. It simply wouldn’t do their words justice.

Nevertheless, there are several unifying themes that appeared among the interviewees, as well as conclusions that could be drawn from personal observations and prior academic readings (including the highly recommended short essay “‘J.A.P.’-slapping: The Politics of Scapegoating” by Ruth Atkin and Adrienne Rich) that deserve special attention: Continue reading

Deconstructing Coonskin

by Latoya Peterson

Coonskin is a 1975 film written and directed by Ralph Bakshi, about an African American rabbit, fox, and bear who rise to the top of the organized crime racket in Harlem, encountering corrupt law enforcement, con artists and the Mafia. The film, which combines live-action with animation, stars Philip Michael Thomas, Charles Gordone, Barry White and Scatman Crothers, all of whom appear in both live-action and animated sequences. Coonskin utilizes a number of references to various elements from African American culture, ranging from African folk tales to the work of cartoonist George Herriman,[2][3] and satirizes racist and other stereotypes,[3] as well as the blaxploitation genre,[3] Song of the South,[1] and The Godfather.[2]

Originally produced under the titles Harlem Nights[1][4] and Coonskin No More…,[5] Coonskin encountered extreme controversy before its original theatrical release when the Congress of Racial Equality strongly criticized the content as being racist, although none of the group’s members had seen the film.[1][2] When the film was finally released, Bryanston gave it limited distribution and initially received negative reviews. Later re-released under the titles Bustin’ Out[1] and Street Fight,[1][3] Coonskin has since been reappraised, with many considering it to be one of Bakshi’s finest works.[1][3]

—From the Coonskin Wikipedia entry

I rewatched Coonskin over the weekend, and like I said in the original post, I still don’t know how to feel. I think Winn has the best summary of Coonskin:

I too am a fan of Bakshi’s overall body of work, but he is really clueless when it comes to Coonskin, and it’s pretty much indefensible, despite the participation of Barry White, Philip Michael Thomas, and the original Magical Negro himself, Scatman Crothers. Bakshi is intending to satirize not only racism, but also homophobia, the Mafia, and antiSemitism, and uses African folklore and darky iconography transposed to an urban setting to do so. However, he falls prey to the mistakes many with good intentions make when they attempt to tell stories that are not their own. Bakshi ends up reinforcing many of the stereotypes he sought to dismantle, and there are many more layers to the imagery and tropes he presents than even he realizes. Interestingly, Bakshi once described Coonskin as “about blacks and for whites”, and unfortunately, I think that sums it up in ways Bakshi never intended.

Over the past few weeks I have read a lot of the interviews that feature Bakshi, trying to understand his mindset in creating the film. While I encourage everyone to watch the film, I have done a short analysis of some of key components of the film below. Continue reading

Grand Theft Racial Identity: Who Gets to Define You?

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

So, I’ve been watching the flow of this conversation with great interest.

Racial identity is a tricky thing. For some of us, it’s something we were born into, with relatives coaching us into an understanding of our race and how it may work against us in society. Others have to find their own way, as their relatives either can’t or won’t be able to equip them with this knowledge. Coming to an understanding with your racial identity is a difficult process.

And I say this as someone who was indoctrinated into blackness from day one. My mother provided me with piles and piles of books and information to demonstrate how wonderful it was to be black, how big of a burden we carry, and how to recognize your blessings. I was often taken to cultural events based around my blackness, and my mother attacked ideas, historical “fact,” and white beauty standards so that I did not feel inadequate. As a result, I never really felt any problems with identifying as black.

The only friction I felt was when I decided to do something that wasn’t “traditionally black.” But to me, it was a simple matter of having a very narrow definition of blackness that some people choose to adhere to, like they were be paid to police the actions of others. I never had a problem with my blackness – I just decided that I would need to expand the parameters a bit.

For other people, this decision is not quite so simple. I remember a girl who I was in school with from middle school to high school. She was a very nice person, funny and kind. But she acted like being Asian was a curse. She made sure that outside of her name, everything else about her was normal (read: white) and would not talk about anything that had to do with her culture or her parents. I am sure that was a kind of survival tactic. A few months back, I looked her up online and saw that her page was covered in Korean pop stars, she had Korean hip-hop booming, and her tagline was “100% Korean!”

I had mentioned this to Hae and she confirmed this was a common experience.

“In high school, you just want to fit in,” she said. “A lot of people embrace their identity after it is over.” Continue reading