Tag Archives: slavery

Must Read: Race, History, Colonialism and Assassin’s Creed IV

Friend of the blog Evan Narcisse wrote an interesting take on playing through historical worlds while black:

The game begins in 1715, when European rule over the island was still firmly established. That means I might be traipsing around an island where some Frenchman with my last name owns someone who looks like my father. And that might make me wince a little. But Ismail also told me that Edward Kenway’s first mate Adewale starts the game as a slave and becomes a free man over the course of the single-player story. Adewale will also be the focus of some of Black Flag‘s DLC.

Slavery Gives Me a Weird Personal Connection to Assassin's Creed IV

Focusing on Adewale and touching on slavery as it might’ve been lived in the early 1700s moves the racial portrayal forward from last year’s Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. The heroine of that Vita game was the child of a slave and had missions where she freed others from servitude. And, with confirmation that Aveline will also be playable in PlayStation-exclusive add-ons for the game, ACIV will have two prominent black characters where so many titles struggle to have even one.

Narcisse also explores his own family history and what he hopes to see reflected in the game play.  Read the rest at Kotaku.

Quoted: Battameez on Interpreting the Kamasutra


Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai published Queering India: Same-sex love and eroticism in Indian society and culture wherein they read many “key ancient texts” against the grain to state that they’re texts that challenge the assumed heterosexism of our “ancient Indian society”; Kamasutra, they said, was one such text. Burton’s translations (along with a few other Orientalist scholars like Max Muller, Clarrise Bader, etc.) saw “Indian sexuality” as effeminate, and predictably justified its colonization, whereas Upadhayaya writing in the post-Independence era, washed away any queerness the text may possibly have suggested and re-framed it to fit the needs of the Hindu nationalist agenda. Vanita and Kidwai use all these texts to illustrate how pain and sexual pleasure can coincide and how there is plenty same-sex action going on, enough to say that Kamasutra is a queer and therefore, a liberatory text. On close inspection, the incidences where BDSM seems to be evoked, it is mostly practiced on bodies of Dasis—the slaves in the Vedic age—sometimes by the wives, usually by the husband/master. Again, most queer instances happen under the surveillance and force of the husband/master. The question here isn’t whether people then were “really” queer, nor am I concerned with the politics of BDSM and consent within this particular text (not sure if consent can even exist, if one cannot say “no”). This is where I want to inspect the politics of feminism itself, if slavery is seen as liberatory simply because there are events where the boundaries of “accepted sexuality” are pushed.

Studies like Queering India create a frame that suggests Indian culture is “inherently radical” because “see queerness has always existed here too!” frames that are produced and upheld within Subaltern historiography departments, the very academic disciplines that critique and challenge the colonialism within academia! They tend to equate queerness with progress, backed with Vedic texts like Kamasutra and Manusmriti—both of which mention queerness only within the contexts of slavery and caste/skin-color based sexual domination—and the conversation is limited to “We have always been queer, because our heritage (the texts) say so.” Don’t think I need to point out the dangers of such a limited conversation again.

However, I do want to ask why talking queerness is inherently political, revolutionary, and radical, given that many of these conversations happen at the cost of erasing slavery in ancient India (books like The Palace of Illusions, The Pregnant King come to mind here). Talking sex—especially about the Kamasutra—is progressive, but discussions of the political economy of the text don’t get the same pedestal. How can I claim and embrace queer liberation (as much as I may want to), when it silences someone else?

—Battameez in “Kamasutra and the Indian Feminists,” published at Bitch Media.

Adidas ‘Shackle Shoes’ Get The Boot

By Arturo R. García

Courtesy: CNN

Not even Run-DMC could’ve made these Adidas sound like a good idea.

Fortunately, the company reversed course Monday, opting not to release the shoes pictured above, the JS Roundhouse Mids, named after designer Jeremy Scott, who had said on Twitter that the shoes were inspired by My Pet Monster dolls. He did not, however, explain either how the image of somebody walking around with shoes couldn’t bring up images of imprisonment–let alone outright slavery–as Syracuse University’s Dr. Boyce Watkins described at Your Black World:

When I see the shoes, I also think about the ankle bracelets being worn by far too many men who are affected by the mass incarceration epidemic that the White House says nothing about. The black family has ripped itself apart because so many of our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons are locked away in prison, leading their children vulnerable to all the horrible things that happen when the man of the house is not away. I am offended by these shoes because there is nothing funny about the prison industrial complex, which is the most genocidal thing to happen to the black family since slavery itself.

Adidas wasn’t very talkative either, releasing a boilerplate statement citing Scott’s “quirky” and “lighthearted” style and apologizing “if people were offended by the design.” Meanwhile, according to Zap2it, he stuck to retweeting supporters dismissing such questions as the work of internet trolls. Because that’s a sensible response, right?

Ultimately, the JS Roundhouses will join Nike’s “Black and Tans” and “Air Allahs,” Umbro’s “Zyklons” and Converse’s “Loaded Weapons” on the pile of debacles that could’ve easily been avoided had a little common sense and empathy been allowed into the creative process.

Wait, The GOP is Seriously Considering Michele Bachmann?

Michele Bachmann

Last week, Michele Bachmann caused a ruckus in the black blogosphere after signing “The Marriage Vow” a uber-conservative manifesto to ensure candidates agree that they will oppose gay marriage measures once in office. The document is offensive enough on its own, but it got a little extra juice from this inclusion:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.

This makes me wonder have these people read anything at all about slavery. Did they know that slaves were considered chattel? Property, not people? And under such considerations, not allowed to legally wed? Do they even know what jumping the broom is? (Historically, black slaves jumped the broom into the land of matrimony, since many slaves were denied traditional weddings since they were considered property.) Did they miss the fact that children and families were routinely sold away from each other, breaking the bonds of family? What kind of revisionist bullshit were they reading? That whole “blacks were better off during slavery” lie has a ridiculous hold on the GOP. But I suppose this is what happens when we start re-writing history books and sanitizing what happened.

To add insult to injury, the Marriage Vow follows that steaming pile up with a glowing reference to the Moynihan report, and quickly points out the white community has exceeded those crisis levels (and the black community is doomed). Oh, the humanity!

But Bachmann signed this thing, and so far, it’s rolling off her like Teflon. Many Black conservatives, pleased with the message Bachmann endorsed with her signature, believe she’s speaking some kind of truth to power.

So, of course, the first thing I’m wondering is if there’s any policy behind all of Bachmann’s posturing, and surprisingly there is. And to my horror, it’s gonna be really appealing to social conservatives. Continue reading

Wild Seed [Octavia Butler Book Club]

Wild Seed cover

Doro discovered the woman by accident when he went to see what was left of one of his seed villages. The village was a comfortable mud-walled palace surrounded by grasslands and scattered trees. But Doro realized before he reached it that it’s people were gone. Slavers had been to it before him. With their guns and their greed, they had undone in a few hours the work of a thousand years. Those villagers they had not herded away, they had slaughtered. Doro found human bones, hair, bits of desiccated flesh missed by scavengers. He stood over a very small skeleton – the bones of a child – and wondered where the survivors had been taken. Which country or New World colony? How far would he have to travel to find the remnants of what had been a healthy, vigorous people?

Finally, he stumbled away from the ruins bitterly angry, not knowing or caring where he went. It was a matter of pride with him that he protected his own. Not the individuals, perhaps, but the groups. They gave him their loyalty, their obedience, and he protected them.

He had failed. Continue reading

America, the Scapegoat [Youth Correspondent Tryout]

by Guest Contributor Sonita Moss

I’m back, America.

I have been home, on U.S. soil, for the past 3 weeks, and it has given me some time to reflect on being a black woman in U.S. vs. being a black American woman in France. Living in France for the second time was rather colder than the first but a bit more illuminating in terms of race. That can be attributed to the fact that while Aix-en-Provence, the first city that introduced me to the entrancing world of French culture, is an international student-city in the sunny south, Vannes is situated in Bretagne, in the rainy north-west of the country. Aside from the nonstop rain, Vannes was whiter than white. Not to say I didn’t see black people – indeed, I noticed black women on my daily bus route to work, but many public spaces, like the port, the library, and the grocery store were lacking in color. Admittedly, there were actually two black hair stores and a café Afrique that shut down while I was there, but that was about it.

Binta, the young Senegalese woman who did my hair, broke it down for me one day, “There’s no black people here because it’s too small because there are no jobs. But a lot of them marry French.” By “French”, she meant white men, and her sister, the owner of Ebene Cosmetique, was one such example. I noticed, with a certain amount of chagrin, that many Europeans of color refer to their privileged compatriots as the standard of that country, while they are specifically marked by their race. “English” are white, but English blacks are, well, black. The same goes for conversations I have had with German blacks. I suppose we hold the same standard in America, but because of our sordid misdealings with the social construction, although blacks may not be considered true “Americans” we do not refer to our white counterparts as simply “Americans”. Indeed, we are obsessed with race but rarely given the proper tools to talk about, much less acknowledge, our race problems. And white Europeans know it, effectively allowing them to ignore their own issues, I discovered.

When I first arrived in Vannes, I befriended a couple of local boys, and we often went out to bars since there is little else to do in the city. Amazed at the utter whiteness of the venue, one night I asked my friend, “Do you ever notice that there are essentially no black people here – why is that?” and he said, “There are some, just not many. But it’s very different in France, we are much less conscience of race in France than Americans.” He smoothly side-stepped my question and turned the focus to America’s racism. Because America is a popular topic in the media, the nightly French news frequently reported breaking American news. Thus, the world beyond our borders is informed of how race issues are part and parcel to American culture. Continue reading

Dark Girls: A Review of a Preview [Culturelicious]

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

**TRIGGER WARNING**

I recognize the women in this preview: these women were me when I was growing up. The kids at my mostly black Catholic school called me just about every black-related perjorative ever since 3rd grade, letting me know and telling others within my earshot that I was physically inferior solely because I was dark-skinned. I even remember a boy in my 7th grade class drew a picture of me being nothing more than a solid black square. Even though the same kids voted me 8th grade class president…I was still considered in their estimation an ugly (vis-a-vis my skin tone) girl. Even had the only boy who was my boyfriend (we were in 8th grade) dump me for a lighter-skinned and younger girl, to the mocking laughter of the lighter-skinned students.

My mom—a dark-skinned African American herself—told me something that didn’t make any sense through my woundedness: “You know those light-skinned girls people think are pretty in school? Wait ‘til you’re grown and see where you’re at and where they’re at.” Added to this was my mom’s constant admonition to “get an education.” Well, sure enough, what my mom said came to pass. I’ve had photographers approach me and ask to photograph me. I had lovers of various hues—even had a husband. (He was white.) And women of various hues, races, and ethnicities have given me love on the streets, at the job, and at workshops.

I’m not sure how—or even if—some of the women in the clip worked through the pain some black people have inflicted on them. But, instead of the usual devolving, derailing, and erasing conversations of “that’s happened to me, too, though I’m a lighter-skinned black person!” (that’s a thread for another post) or “it wasn’t me! I’m a down black person!” (will be met with an exasperated eyeroll)…it would be a really good thing to simply listen to these women’s truths, as uncomfortable–sometimes, as implicating–as they may be.

Transcript after the jump.

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

Continue reading