Tag Archives: Treme

Watch: The Final Two Plenaries From Facing Race 2012

To close out our coverage of Facing Race 2012, here’s the two plenarie sessions from the second day, Nov. 17. (Note: Slightly NSFW – occasional curse words)

First up is “”Race and Gender in the 21st Century,” moderated by the founder and president of the Center for Social Inclusion, Maya Wiley, a discussion that starts with the question, “How is race constructed, and why do we construct it?”

On the panel are:

The plenary closes with a performance of “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic,” by Amirah Sackett and Khadijah and Iman Sifterllah-Griffin. Via the great Avory Faucette, here’s an excerpt:

The final plenary, “Culture Trumps Politics: Or Does It?,” is moderated by Applied Research Center’s Rinku Sen, and features:

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As Chang asserts in a video clip early on, cultural change is often a harbinger of political shifts, but even as he agrees, Varga says the current cultural landscape has led to a redefinition of what constitutes a “minority.”

1-20-12 Links Roundup

In a passionate, sermon-like speech about building unity, King said she didn’t care if people were Hindu, Buddhist, Islamist, were from the North side or the South side, were black or white, were “heterosexual or homosexual, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender” — that all people were needed to create unity.

LGBT people who attended the rally said they were shocked that King – who has a long anti-gay past — actually acknowledged the community in a public speech, but said they were also glad because it shows people can evolve.

There was nothing voluntary about the punishment Chen and Lew experienced, and it was designed to alienate them from their peers, not create a path to solidarity. In Chen’s case at least, the program of isolation included being repeated called racial slurs like “gook,” “chink” and “dragon lady” by his tormentors (all of whom were white).

The more appropriate term for what Chen and Lew faced is targeted bullying — and it’s something that’s hardly limited to the military.

In fact, recent research suggests that young Asian Americans are facing a bullying epidemic. Last year, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released a joint study showing that over half of Asian American teens said they’d been the subject of targeted abuse at school, versus around a third of blacks, Hispanics and whites.

The picture gets even fuzzier when you consider race and class. Most viewers understand that the housewives in Orange County and New York City are not the “real upper class,” because we know there’s a different kind of white upper class that we see represented elsewhere. The black upper class, though, is harder to find. Even the fictional representations of black affluence that were on air in the 1980s and ’90s have become less visible. Some of the most widely known and longest-running television shows featuring mostly black casts have told stories of affluence: the upwardly mobile entrepreneur on “The Jeffersons,” the doctor and lawyer parents on “The Cosby Show,” the mostly privileged college students on “A Different World,” the street-smart kid transplanted to a wealthy neighborhood on “Fresh Price of Bel Air.” These shows didn’t ignore broader discussions of race and racism: The Jeffersons addressed the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow that had profound implications for the characters’ poor beginnings; A Different World dealt with race, class, and gender relations head on, discussing fraught subjects like date rape, the ERA, HIV/AIDS, and the Clarence Thomas hearings. These shows set the bar high, not just in terms of diversity, but in regards to social commentary and humor generally. Still, by virtue of their affluence, most of the characters represented a narrow facet of the black American experience.

Today’s “Real Housewives,” by virtue of their excessive wealth rather than mere upper-middle class stability, represent an even narrower demographic. When one of the few shows that overtly portrays black wealth (“Basketball Wives” is another) is mostly a montage of “catfights” and shopping sprees, it is problematic. Without counterpoints, misrepresentations like these feed the narrative that black people “don’t deserve” or “can’t handle” money.

The complexity of race in America can even be addressed in two lines from the second season of “Treme.” Harley, a white street musician in a post-Katrina New Orleans, is robbed at gunpoint by a black teenager. As the teen flees, Harley says, “You’re making a bad choice, son.” The boy stops, turns around, replies, “I ain’t your … son” — and shoots Harley in the face. In under a minute we’re confronted with the history of white American paternalism and its many consequences.

“Parenthood’s” silence about its black characters’ blackness reflects our genuine desire for things to be different, but also our willingness to ignore the reality of the experiences of people of color in an eagerness to move ahead to post-racialism. This underlines two things: Things have changed, in that there’s a collective desire for equality. But the main problem remains: It is still a white playing field, with white main characters who want to enjoy a world without racism. They’re the ones who have decided to move on.

The beginning of the story is Arpaio’s anti-immigrant policies, according to Rubén Gallego, Arizona State Rep. District 16. He told NewsTaco that organization began around the sheriff’s bad policies, and galvanized with SB 1070, spurring widespread grassroots organization that culminated in not only protests, but political and voter registration campaigns. In the face of inactive Latino politicians, Gallego and others like him “cut their teeth” in elections, Democratic ones, since he noted that SB 1070 was the breaking point where Latinos realize that Republicans were not squarely on their side.

“That law is what people will remember for years. For the first time in a long time within a have our voting numbers to be able to match our ability to fund raises the community, as well as to be able to run campaigns, in order to win coalitions to win races,” Gallego told NewsTaco. “The genie is out of the bottle now, the question is how is everyone else going to react to the new reality of the Latino community that wants to be politically involved?”

TV Open Thread: The Boondocks and Treme

by Latoya Peterson

I’ve been traveling, so I missed the latest episode of Treme and the series premiere of the Boondocks.

I caught the second episode of the Boondocks, and while I snicked at a few parts, it’s reminding me a lot of the end of the strip. This is not a good thing.

Feel free to use this thread to discuss Treme, the Boondocks, or anything else you’re watching.

Why Do I Hate Steve Zahn’s Davis in ‘Treme’?

by Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, originally published at Televisual


HBO’s Treme is growing into an intricate and well-written show! While it lacks the political pizazz of The Wire, it makes up for it by giving us characters we instantly care about — or at least I care about. I think it might yet be a great drama, despite my reservations!

But I have one problem: Davis McAlary (played by Steve Zahn). I hate this guy. I realized why this week.

GET THOSE GENTRIFYING GAYS!

First, let me recount a situation from the last episode, which made me realize my feelings.

Davis has been blasting music from his apartment window into his neighbors’ house, mostly jazz and hip hop. This week, the gay yuppie neighbors confront him about it. “Why are you being so nasty about this? You have a problem with gay people?” Davis says no, he loves gays (see, we’re supposed to like Davis). Why does Davis hate the guppies? It’s a really original argument**: “You moved into the Treme. You tear the place up. You put in your birdcage, your flower gardens and you don’ t have a fucking clue as to where the fuck you are living.”

See, the gays are sill gentrifiers who want to “historically preserve” homes but don’t know anything about the neighborhood whose property rates their raising! “It’s called gentrification. This is the Treme dude! The most musically important black neighborhood in America,” says Davis, as he starts listing artists that lived in the block. He asks the gays: “did you know that?”

“I know all about the Treme,” older gay insists. Wait, is this a different breed of gentrifying gay?

But Davis keeps on listing artists. Finally the gay person rattles off the name of a jazz great too. See, the guppies grew up in New Orleans. “We’re as much New Orleans as you are.” Nuance?

Caught off guard, Davis goes on to accuse the gays of complaining to the cops about his stereo and other music in the ‘hood being too loud.

The gays says they’re innocent: “We have never once called the cops,” the older gay says, believably — and inexplicably — I think.

Davis goes on, he doesn’t believe them. “You live in the Treme. Gotta deal with that shit.” Continue reading

“We Get Shit Done to Us:” Economic and State Sponsored Violence in Treme

by Latoya Peterson

*Spoilers Ahead*

Stiffer stipulations attached to each sentence
Budget cutbacks but increased police presence
And even if you get out of prison still livin
join the other five million under state supervision
This is business, no faces just lines and statistics
from your phone, your zip code, to S-S-I digits
The system break man child and women into figures
Two columns for who is, and who ain’t niggaz
Numbers is hardly real and they never have feelings
but you push too hard, even numbers got limits
Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret:
the million other straws underneath it – it’s all mathematics

—”Mathematics,” Mos Def, Black on Both Sides

STATE VIOLENCE

Near the beginning of the episode, Davis is in lock up after being harassed by the National Guard. Still, he yelled “Go the fuck back to Fallujah!” and got put in lock up as Toni tries to calm him down. Her grim reminder that the police and the guard are on edge serves as foreshadowing for later events – it is worthwhile to note that Davis is still more or less in one piece after the altercation.

Later on, Antoine is not so fortunate. After singing on the street with Annie and Sonny after his gig at the strip club, he drunkenly stumbles into a police car. The police react swiftly and brutally, kicking Antoine’s horn and punching him in the face. Horrified, Annie and Sonny look on, but cannot protest much for fear of retribution. The SMO squad is especially effective in this portrayal: at this point in the series, a police car in the background of a shot provides a sense of fear and foreboding. None of the characters as of yet have had a positive interaction with the police, which mimics the dynamics in a lot of communities of color – instead of a welcome sight, police presence means something horrible is about to happen -not crime prevention.

The concept of state violence extends further throughout the episode – Ladonna’s struggle to locate her brother within the criminal justice system, and being stymied at every turn also demonstrates the pernicious nature of state control over incarcerated citizens. Law enforcement appears to be unconcerned with who they have in custody and why – only that a prisoner is accounted for.

It’s understood that the police are under pressure – but what about the other citizens? Continue reading

Treme Observations: “Meet The Boys On The Battlefront”

by Latoya Peterson

*Spoilers*

The second episode of Treme was full of political references and began building the tension that will push the plot forward.

(Before I get into the analysis, The Times-Picayune has published a second weekly guide to the references in Treme, which is well worth a read.)

The episode opens with local musician Coco Robicheaux reminiscing about the good old days, then pledging his loyalty to Marie Laveau at the radio studio where Davis is broadcasting. After breaking out a live chicken from his bag, Davis nervously gulps “Are we entering some sacrificial realm here?”

Robicheaux replies,  “You just play the next cut on the CD.”

Despite the colorful opening, this episode of Treme is fraught with political tension. Toni, the investigator, sits down with other members of law enforcement trying to locate Ladonna’s missing brother, David. The scene is used to explore the issues of prisoner rights post-Katrina. The story explains that many prisoner’s went missing, and their records were destroyed in the storm, meaning they could be free or in lock-up. While one of the law enforcement officers floats the idea that Ladonna’s brother could be “doing Katrina time in East Jesus,” Toni is still hopeful he will be found. The episode also references the fact that poorer parishes in Louisiana may not be so enthusiastic about returning prisoners to NOLA – it would symbolize a loss of FEMA funds, which most cash strapped states desperately need. Toni traces David to another parish, only to disappoint Ladonna and her mother by finding a different David Brooks. Continue reading

Mardi Gras Indians: Can Cultural Appropriation Occur on the Margins?

by Guest Contributor Adrienne K., originally published at Native Appropriations

Mardi Gras Indian

Last week, the New York Times published a really interesting article concerning Mardi Gras Indians, specifically looking at the possibility of  the “Indians” copyrighting their costumes so their images can’t be used in things like calendars, promotional materials, etc, without their consent. I’ll get to that issue in a second post, but I think the entire concept of Mardi Gras Indians deserves a deeper look.
Let’s look at the ‘culture’ of the Mardi Gras Indians, independent of history and context (something the anthropologist in me cringes at, but work with me), then we’ll backtrack a bit.

These men and women call themselves “Indians.” They are members of “tribes,” with names like “Yellow Pocahontas,” “Geronimo Hunters,” and “Flaming Arrows” (a complete list of the tribes is here). They wear over-the-top, elaborate costumes based (very) loosely on American Indian powwow regalia–with headdresses, feathers, and beading (there is a slideshow on nytimes.com that can be found here):


They have an anthem called “Indian Red” whose lyrics include:

I’ve got a Big Chief, Big Chief, Big Chief of the Nation
Wild, wild creation
He won’t bow down, down on the ground
Oh how I love to hear him call Indian Red
When I throw my net in the river
I will take only what I need
Just enough for me and my lover

Objectively, out of context, this is by-definition cultural appropriation. Imagine if these were white men and women. I should be offended…right? Continue reading

Going Down to Treme

by Latoya Peterson

Last night, the first episode of Treme premiered on HBO.

I’ve already weighed in over at the Atlantic with my thoughts. Here’s a quick excerpt:

Watching the first two episodes of Treme, the meandering focus of the pilot quietly overshadows the revolutionary nature of the show. David Simon, David Mills, and Eric Overmeyer created a television drama showing working class and racial narratives that dare to reveal the perspectives of those involved. Known for breaking racial casting norms on television, The Wire introduced a cast of color to the overwhlemingly white ranks of a mainstream cable. The SMO squad recreated this dynamic again within Treme, placing the lives of affluent professors and investigators alongside musicians and bartenders, all making their way through the post-storm landscape.

As a viewer, Treme has the same feel as the critically acclaimed 90s comedy Roc, or August Wilson’s stage play Jitney–these works reveal the reality of African American lives, but are conducted with a measure of dignity, something that is hard to come by. One of Treme’s lead characters is named Ladonna, a Pam Grier type who is allowed to be both hard and vulnerable, shown as neighborhood enforcer, devoted daughter and sister, and loving mother, all during the same episode. These types of shows are about affirmation in a vacuum of constructed portrayals, of individually truthful narratives where people only expect to see pathology.

However, as a side bar to Racialicious readers, I watched the show with a group of other culture writers and bloggers – and their reactions were interesting to me in many ways. I’m still developing my thoughts on this, but I am wondering why there is an assumed cultural reference point for critique (most folks based theirs around the Wire, while I reached back to Roc and Jitney). I’m also suppressing the urge to randomly accost white people I see consuming media created by POC and ask them what they are getting out of it and why…not in a confrontational way, but wondering what conclusions they are drawing from the material.

But I digress.

Readers, did you tune into Treme? What were your thoughts?