Coffee Rhetoric: Race
Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts

February 26, 2012

Coffee Rhetoric Redux-- If You're Black, Get Back!



In the wake of the latest foolery courtesy of a St. Louis-based promotional company, involving an ill-conceived marketing idea, themed: "Battle of the Complexions" pitting dark, brown, and lighter complected Black women against one another, I'm re-posting an essay I did in August, 2011 about Shadeism or what's also known as Colorism; which is still very much an issue in the Black-- (and other minority)-- communities, despite denials to the contrary. 
In perhaps, an equally as foolish attempt at insulting the collective public's intelligence, the promotional company responsible for the event released a convoluted apology (below), chalking up the idea as a tribute to Black History Month... 
MACK TV WOULD LIKE TO CLEAR UP THE MISUNDERSTANDING OF OUR CONCEPT FOR THIS PARTY...ITS NOT TO DEGRADE WOMEN OR DIVIDE SKIN COLORS. ITS SIMPLY TO SEE WHICH COMPLEXION OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN RACE REPRESENTS THE MOST (lightskinned, caramel-brown, or darkskinned) AS A WHOLE , MALE & FEMALE! I CAN SEE THE MISUNDERSTANDING WITH OUR PROMO.....WE COULD HAVE USED A BETTER CHOICE OF WORDS....WE DID NOT MEAN TO OFFEND THE OFFENDED
ITS BLACK HISTORY MONTH , SO WE MADE A PARTY THEME DEDICATED TO OUR AFRICAN AMERICAN CROWD. THE YOUNGER GENERATION IS LOVING THIS PARTY BECAUSE HERE'S THE FIRST TIME EVER YOU CAN COME OUT & BE PROUD THAT YOU ARE BLACK!! REGARDLESS OF YOUR SKIN TONE SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION & MISLEADING INFO.
ITS BLACK HISTORY MONTH , SO LETS BE PROUD OF THE SKIN WE'RE IN!! REPRESENT YOUR COMPLEXION! ...



If You're Black, Get Back!  
Originally posted August 8th, 2011

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne’s verse in Every Girl in the World, in which he expresses his desire for “a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon” has.

Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos.
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women… that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: “Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching … making them feel BLACK is ugly…”

Additionally, Actor/Singer Tyrese also felt the backlash of frustrated darker-skinned women, confused as to why his video was seemingly devoid of obviously Black women. “So I’m getting tweets … why aren’t any “Black Women” in your video.  I had a 2 days audition.[Sic]  I welcomed ALL women and went with the BEST.” he tweeted exasperatedly.

When framed within the context of entertainers and their sex lives, Colorism is undeniable. I acknowledge that it thrives within this realm and influences the aesthetic of many Black men, however, I’m a bit flummoxed as to why Black women continue to look to entertainers and athletes to validate their worth and personal brand of beauty. I understand wanting to see more honest and diverse examples of Black beauty in music videos; But when do we stop holding rappers responsible for how we essentially should view ourselves? When do we stop allowing Lil Wayne’s preference for a “long-haired, thick Redbone” to bother us and realize that when Black men (many of whom are also darker-complexioned) punctuate their preferences with disdain for dark women, it’s their deep-seated issues… and has nothing to do with us? When some Black men reach the pinnacle of financial success, they get to dictate who keeps their mattress warm and comfy… and for some, darker skin just doesn’t suffice.  As frustrating as their self-loathing is, that’s just the way it is. Quite frankly, when I look in the mirror, I’m not wondering whether heavily tattooed rappers with platinum dental work and several children by several different women, think I’m too dark to be considered attractive. Black men who look down on women for having darker complexions… have soul searching to do. Black women who agonize over and doubt themselves on account of a troubled individual’s superficiality… have soul searching to do.

This is definitely not an attempt to trivialize the impact of Colorism… My hope is that Black women with darker complexions move away from seeking acceptance in empty, cold places and hold themselves in high regard, despite the odds stacked against them.
Prolific film director Bill Duke eloquently explores the issue in this 9-minute trailer for his documentary,  
Dark Girls





Original post

              Recommended Reading:  

February 23, 2012

Post-Racial America: The Mis-Education of Mainstream Youth...

The featured video is what happens when parents (and so-called responsible adults) fail to educate their children properly and mainstream media perpetuate tired racial tropes and stereotypes...
This is yet another inarticulate and very public rant courtesy of the sad and misinformed; this time in the form of two young high school aged women from Gainsville, Florida; who-- coincidentally enough-- opine that Black people "can't fucking talk right", yet can't discern between the words "intelligible" and "eligible".
Needless to say, these two unintelligible young women aren't eligible representatives of what evolved young minds are supposed to be. And while one of these quacking ducks has enthusiastically pointed out what a very "nice white neighborhood" she lives in, her rant is one of the reasons why platforms like the Un-fair Campaign have cropped up and are needed.

Racism, hate-speech, and class-discrimination -- (some of which comes from Conservative Republican pundits and political hopefuls) -- seem to be at an all time high (especially in the wake of the current political debates). This is why I refuse to subscribe to the post-racial, color-blind propaganda people like to trot out, whenever the issues of race and xenophobia come up.

White privilege and supremacy is still very much alive and kicking. The idea that there's a post-racial society is a farce concocted and heavily pushed by its proponents, because they want to be able to spread hate freely, marginalize people of color and falsely appropriate marginalization as an issue that solely affects them, and teach their ignorance to young people, without having to be held accountable for their actions. I'm curious to know what type of conversations these girls have with their respective families at home and how their parents will set about dealing with their daughters' racist YouTube rant and the subsequent fall-out. On a completely unrelated note, I hate World Star Hip Hop and everything that site represents... That's all.

**Additional Reading







January 25, 2012

Yo Quiero Taco Bell: Translation; East Haven’s Mayor is An Insensitive Bigot


Photo: easthaven.patch.com
Racism and bigotry… This year, political hopefuls and elected officials seem to be wearing the ignorant tags like an expensive, well-tailored suit and my home state of Connecticut offers no exceptions.
After the FBI arrested four East Haven, CT police officers for gross instances of racial profiling and terrorization of Latinos navigating the town; assistant director-in-charge of the NY office of the FBI, Janice Fedarcyk, fittingly described them as a “cancerous cadre that routinely deprived East Haven residents of their civil rights.”  

Rather than co-sign the deserved sentiment and taking an opportunity to speak out against the racial profiling issues that've plagued his town for the past couple of years, East Haven Mayor, Joseph Maturo decided to skip on down to the edge of the plank and plunge head first, into a sea of hot, steaming caca… which splashed and hit the proverbial fan.
When prodded on camera by WPIX reporter Mario Diaz, about what he planned on doing for the Latino community to diffuse the situation, Maturo relaxed his shoulders and stupidly thoughtfully farted out this answer: “I might have tacos when I go home, I’m not quite sure… uhh, I’ve spent two years in Puerto Rico…” to which Diaz promptly snatched his wig and alerted him to the sheer stupidity of his comment. Not taking heed to the reporter’s warning, Maturo started to shift uncomfortably and tried to shake the poo he dove in, off. But alas, it was too late… he was covered in the stuff, but continued


"... uhh, I might have spaghetti tonight being of Italian descent. Uhhh… I’ve had ethnic food and when you asked me what I was doin’ for Latinos tonight I said I may have Latino food in the Latino community and there’s nothing wrong with that… so you can twist and turn it whichever the way the press decides to do!” he said defiantly, as he awkwardly continued to plod his way through the interview.

Joseph Maturo is a man at the helm of an entire town, yet he plunged the knife in deeper and continued to mar its reputation even further (the interview has made national headlines) - instead of acting like a responsible leader capable of formulating carefully constructed sentences about an already tense and delicate situation, not laden with racial stereotypes.  He was presented with the opportunity to reach out to the town’s Latino community while helping endorse a teachable moment, and he arrogantly opted to make things worse by perpetuating stupid racial tropes about a community of people, who've already been marginalized in his town.
Maturo not only trivialized the gravity of the situation, he became verbally combative with Mario Diaz when he should’ve taken the time to recover from his gaffe... even when he was flailing and fumbling to speak articulately about the situation.


Maturo’s foolery has taken the focus off of an important issue that needs addressing. He may want to consider more PR people…

The comment below following a story in the New Haven Register, pretty much sums it up:

“I was struck quite deeply by the Mayor’s words as they showed just that: racism. How can a man in such a position lead a community to healing, reconciliation and a better future when thru his words he reveals what is in his heart. Even the way he said it showed not only arrogance, but a kind of contempt. You’re right it kind of brought to my mind images of the old recordings you see from the 1960’s where the minorities are viewed as subhuman by the authorities.
The treatment of minorities in East Haven has been a badly kept secret in the Hispanic community for a long time… How can I spend my hard earned money in a community where its leaders show contempt for me?Last night I couldn’t sleep because I felt so angry. I kept thinking of how I show that hurt and anger in a positive way. Was thinking of sending Maturo tacos for lunch and encouraging others to do the same.”

**UPDATE:  Reform Immigration for America, a group focused on helping fight racial injustice, delivered 500 tacos to Mayor Joseph Maturo's office. Here're the details.

Additional Reading




  
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December 21, 2011

Blogging Elsewhere: Dutch Magazine Labels Rihanna "De Ultimate NiggaBitch"

Ever since Barack Obama was voted into office as President of The United States, liberal types have been dropping constant memos stating: Obama’s presidency is proof positive that we’re living in a post-racial society!  In fact, they’ve been virtually imploring  people of color to stop griping about racism and to get a sense of humor about the piss-poor comedic stylings showcasing their hipster racism.
Barack’s presidency is considered the ultimate triumph over White supremacy.  Once the First (Black) Family settled into the White House, Black citizens suddenly felt comfortable enough to enjoy a slice of delicious, refreshing watermelon and that piece of chicken at the company BBQ without reproach or side-eyes from their co-workers.  People of the African Diaspora the world over (especially Afro-Europeans) rejoiced and seemed compelled to action as they re-evaluated their place among European society. Despite protests to the contrary, America is still grappling with racist agitators and questionable images portrayed in the media, even as we’re right on the cusp of 2012.  And while offenders in this country are often taken to task for fanning the flames of ignorance, Europe and European media outlets continue to have a complacent, laissez faire attitude or seem to harbor a lack of education when it comes to global race relations… particularly how it functions here in the United States. For instance, Vogue Italia came under fire this past summer for referring to hoop earrings commonly worn by women of color as “slave earrings” and made sure to amend their gaffe since the backlash.
This latest and flagrant act of ignorance came courtesy of a Dutch magazine called Jackie. Applying the wit of a hipster telling a racially insensitive joke, a writer for Jackie advised its readers on how to dress like super Popstar, Rihanna, without looking like “De Niggabitch”  …   …  Yes you read correctly. Someone from a legitimate fashion publication actually wrote an article touting the attributes that make a true “niggabitch”and titled it as such. See, a post-racial society prompts media types to use precarious language and reinforce stereotypes when referencing Black women…
“She has street cred, she has a ghetto ass and she has a golden throat. Rihanna, the good girl gone bad, is the ultimate niggabitch and displays that gladly, and for her that means: what’s on can come off. If that means she’ll be on stage half naked, then so be it. But Dutch winters aren’t like Jamaican ones, so pick a clothing style in which your daughter can resist minus ten. No to the big sunglasses and the pornheels, and yes to the tiger print, pink shizzle and everything that glitters. Now let’s hope she won’t beat anybody up at daycare.”  The journalist wrote… adding insult to injury by getting the Bajan singer’s country of origin wrong.
Jackie Editor in Chief Eva Hoeke issued a half-hearted and seemingly forced apology via the magazine’s Facebook page…
Dear readers,
First: thanks for all your responses. We are of course very fed up over this and especially very shocked. However I’m glad that we’re engaging in a dialogue on this page — not everybody does that. Thanks for this. Other than that I can be brief about this: this should have never happened. Period. While the author meant no harm — the title of the article was intended as a joke — it was a bad joke, to say the least...

November 28, 2011

This Land Was Made For You And Me...

Post-racial Society: Post-racial Society is a theoretical environment where the United States or other first-world countries in the west, is void of racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice. In the U.S. some Americans believed that the election of Barack Obama as President and wider acceptance of inter-racial marriages signified that the nation had entered this state, while others believe that groups such as the Tea Party movement prove it has not. In January 2010 the Pew Research Center conduced a poll in conjunction with National Public Radio that indicated that 39% of persons of African-American descent felt they were in a better position than they had been five years ago, an increase of 19% from the previous poll taken in 2008. Actor and director Mario Van Peebles made a television documentary titled Fair Game that challenged the idea that the United States had become a post-racial society. --Wikipedia





August 08, 2011

If You're Black, Get Back!

No rap lyric has incited Black women to chorus the way the beginning of Lil Wayne's verse in Every Girl In The World, in which he expresses his desire for "a long-haired, thick Redbone, who opens up her legs to filet mignon" has. 
Hair and skin-color continue to haunt my sistren. Deeply rooted issues of Colorism are extensively blogged and written about by mostly Black female bloggers and writers, who take rappers to task for preferring racially ambiguous looking, seemingly non-Black women to frolic with on and off the sets of their videos. 
Recently controversial novelist, Kola Boof sounded off at Wale via Twitter, in a long, sometimes expletive-filled tirade about his video Pretty Girls not featuring enough Black women... that eventually culminated in a feud of sorts. Kola berated Wale (whose parents are Nigerian)- accusing him of prompting young Black women in Nigeria to want to bleach their skin in order to compete: "Wale is doing more than just dig light women. He [sic] selling AFRICAN CHILDREN on skin bleaching ... making them feel BLACK is ugly..." 
Read the rest over at The Intersection of Madness & Reality! ... 
Recommended Reading: Don't Play in the Sun by Marita Golden 






March 10, 2010

Fat and Greasy

Bastion of all things lewd, crude, sexist, and sophomoric, Howard Stern- (with the approval of his trusty dick wart, Robin Quivers)- has managed to make his ramblings relevant again by attacking up-and-coming actor and recent Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe for her appearance. Gabourey, who was up for an academy award for her debut performance in the film 'Precious' -(adapted from the book 'Push'  by author and performance poet, Sapphire)- is witty, college educated, articulate, comfortable in her skin, and did a hell of a job interpreting the title character in her very first film role. I read the book twice and saw the film an equal number of times. The film and book offer a bitter, gut wrenching pill to swallow and is glaring with the delivery. It could not have been an easy role for an actor just getting her feet wet in the industry, to perform, and so Gabourey was lauded for the strength of her debut by Oprah Winfrey, with a heartfelt tribute... but none of that matters... 
According to Howard Stern- (whose own physical appearance is a few notches under average at best, which makes his career in radio that much more fitting)- and Robin Quivers, Oprah is a "filthy liar," for Gabourey will never work in the industry again due to how she looks...  overweight, darker complected, and apparently offending to Howard's personal aesthetic and views on what he considers to be attractive and worthy. I won't bother linking to the offending diatribe available on YouTube, but I will relay some of the more notable quotes:
"There's the most enormous, fat Black chick I've ever seen. Everyone's pretending she's a part of show business,  and she's never going to be in another movie," he opined.  
"She should have gotten the Best Actress award because she's never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?" Stern continued to quip. 
He and Robin- (who has struggled with her own weight via questionable diet methods)- also said Gabby would die in about three years and should basically just shrink away into the abyss because she didn't resemble any of the other Oscar nominees. They suggested that she may have a shot starring in a sequel to 'The Blind Side,' though. There you have it. It's just that simple, despite the fact that Gabourey actually has several projects lined up beyond her role in 'Precious.'
Some Black people, in fact, refused to support 'Precious' while it was in theaters, simply because they were turned off by the fact that Gabourey didn't fit some hegemonic beauty standard. I can't even begin to count the reasons relayed to me, why people weren't interested in it... not even knowing the movie's premise. Someone complained to me, "Why do they have that big, fat, DARK-skinned girl in the movie??? She's a bad representative for Black people! I'm not going to see that mess!" Needless to say, I blinked at her incredulously. I've also read the hateful jokes on Black entertainment blogs... hyucking over Sidibe's complexion and weight.
Once again, a Black woman's body and overall look has been codified and reduced to a thing of repulsion... othered... her personality and creative gifts gently placed down her throat for her to swallow and perhaps spit back up, so that she'll pare down her substantial size to a body that's more palatable. Much of the unofficial jury seem to agree that Howard's biting remarks has some merit, because Gabourey just looks so... so, unhealthy. Suddenly folks are speculating and ticking off a list of issues she could potentially, but may not even suffer from! I am in awe that merely looking at a person automatically determines their vitals. Since it's that easy, to hell with Sidibe's doctor, because anybody not skinny automatically has health problems and live sedentary lives steeped in deep-fried Twinkies, while every skinny person is automatically healthy and fit sans any issues to speak of. It's official... everyone's an expert... medical licenses for all!  *insert side-eye here.* 
Dictating who's healthy and who isn't... who's beautiful enough to be on film and who's not, undermines what is essentially wrong with how this cult of personalty rate and judge people ... and it's also indicative of how often we don't mind our own business. Essentially, we all have room for self-improvement... Howard Stern especially.
In the grand scheme of things, who cares if Gabourey does have health problems? Those are between she and her doctor. So what if in addition to being overweight, she has the unmitigated gall to be darker-skinned than most people are comfortable with seeing on their American screens? The contempt that people like Howard Stern display when body-snarking and in determining whether Sidibe's race and figure will guarantee her continued fame and success, is indicative of their own self-loathing. Gabourey's health is no more at risk than actors' who smoke, binge and purge, get excessive amounts of plastic surgery, or snort coke.
I'm still enraptured by her spirit, the outstanding performance she gave in 'Precious,' and how infectious her personality is during interviews. Sidibe seems to be above the nonsense, as she  stated that suddenly one day, she woke up and determined for herself, that she was beautiful.

That is all.









July 21, 2009

It's a Mad Houuuuuuuse...

And I'm mad. If you've yet to read the media circus surrounding the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. then you're probably a bit perplexed by the public outrage... mostly by people of color. For those not in the know, Henry Louis Gates, Jr is a writer, literary critic, scholar extraordinaire, and tenured professor at Harvard University. He has hosted and produced compelling documentaries for PBS such as; American Lives and American Lives 2, where he helped noted Black American celebrities trace their lineage through DNA testing. Gates also created and edits an online magazine called The Root. So in summation, the man has the skills to pay the bills, and is a distinguished member of the literati. So it was with dismay and shock that many of us read that he had been arrested and taken into custody, where he was kept for 4 hours, before being released. Anger and exasperation soon followed after details of his arrest came to light.
Apparently, after returning from a trip to China where he was filming his latest documentary, Gates came home and discovered that his door was damaged, had jammed and so had problems entering his home. He then entered through the back, and he and the driver who transported him from the airport proceeded to try to pry the front door open. Upon doing so, said driver helped Gates bring his bags inside before driving off. Gates immediately got on the phone with the Harvard Real estate office to tell them about the damaged door. During his phone call, Gates noticed a police officer on his front porch. Through a recently released statement via an attorney/friend/colleague to the press, he would express his surprise at finding several police officers outside his residence. Apparently they were responding to a phone call placed by a neighbor- a 77 year old magazine fundraiser- that "two Black men with backpacks" were on Gates' front porch, one of whom was "wedging his shoulder into the door."
According to Gates' statement-After proving he was was a resident of the home, and after asking the interrogating officer for his badge number and name, and after showing substantial identification, the officer simply walked off sans an apology. Incensed (undestandably so) by the humiliation, Gates exclaimed that the police were displaying bias and being racist. To make a long story short, the police arrested him for "disorderly conduct" because he displayed "loud and tumulutous behavior."
I felt compelled to be thorough about the details leading up to his arrest, because general, mostly White consensus (because many have failed to read and grasp the details concerning the matter)- is that Gates deserved to be arrested, and that he had no right to question the obvious racial profiling that was taking place. To say I was upset by the comments displayed on the Boston Globes' comment board would be putting it mildly. I would then go on to read "Stop playing the Race Card" type propoganda on Facebook's "I Love Black People" board as well as on various other forums. Hence this blog post. One common thread in these comments were "Obama is the president, therefore RACISM NO LONGER EXISTS. GET OVER IT!"
Apparently ignorance is bliss for you naysayers. While it is true that minorities, namely Black folk, have made some strides... we have a looong path ahead of us. Uncompromising situations such as the one Gates experienced is demonstrative of that. How DARE you, having little knowledge about the daily struggles of minorities, tell us to get over it, and stop playing the race card?? I don't expect THE PRIVILEGED MAJORITY to even have an inkling of an idea of what it's like to have to fight to disprove racial stereotypes because people have no faith in your intellectual prowess. Until you many of you (this guy gets it)- take your heads out of your asses and stop pissing all over progress, then NO we will NOT get over it. Since when is it against the law and disorderly for one to express his opinion, on HIS PROPERTY? After Gates identified who he was and why he had to force his way into his home, the officer should have stopped questioning him, apologized for the intrustion, and moved on.
See, the visual that plays in my head, when I picture this happening to a White professor is as follows: Officer examines ID, and says, "Sorry to bother you and for the confusion Mr. Smith. Have a great day."
You mean to tell me that after a long trip, not being able to get into your house, and then having the coppers show up on your doorstep because of some busy body who thinks we're all suspect, to question you for only wanting to decompress that you wouldn't be ruffled by the experience?? Give me a break! You would be mad too! Period. The neighbor in question obviously thinks A Black man trying to force a door open, in broad daylight, whether she recognizes him, what was going on, or NOT, was suspect enough to call the cops rather than making sure she knew what she was seeing was in fact a burglary. While no charges have been filed against Henry Louis Gates, the scar still remains, and tax dollars have been wasted.
We will stop playing the RACE CARD, when it stops getting DEALT.
That is all.

April 20, 2008

Hair Raising Tale

Recently, while browsing in a store at the mall, an attractive, young Black woman and sales associate (she worked at the store) around my age approached me. "Excuse me, are you from around here?" she asked me. A bit perplexed I answered, "Yes. I am."
She said, "Like reaally from around here or from somewhere else?" "I dont' know how you mean," I answered. "Do you want to know if I'm from this particular town, or if I'm from this state??" "Well, I'm asking you, because I think your hair is BEAUTIFUL and I love it!" she exclaimed. "Wow, thank you!" I answered sheepishly. "No really!" she said. "I think your hair looks great. See, I'm not from around here. I just relocated from Minnesota. I live in Middletown, CT. I've been here for six months, and the towns I've frequented so far haven't been that receptive to my hair." Confused, my gazed found the top of her head... "Oh, I'm wearing a wig." She said, shyly. "My hair is natural underneath here, and I usually wear it in a style similar to yours. Since I've moved here, I haven't worn it that way though." "Oh why??" I asked her. "I don't know," she started. "but I get this weird feeling when I'm out shopping at organic food markets or if I'm out and about running errands, people stare at me disapprovingly. Like they don't like my hair! And the job interviews I've gone on since moving here... I since that they find my hair inappropriate... plus I'm a full-figured woman so I feel..." At this juncture in the conversation, an older White sales associate happened upon the conversation and listened with interest. "Well what towns are you going to? I know Middletown is known as a relatively artsy town." I conversed. "Well, towns like Glastonbury..." she started. I rolled my eyes knowingly, as did the White sales associate. "Firstly, Glastonbury??" I smirked. "Look girl, I think you should not hide your hair underneath that wig. I get nothing but positive feedback from people. I've been on numerous job interviews with my hair just like this! Perhaps it's my attitude and demeanor. But I've never had that issues. And if someone doesn't like it, I could care less. My hair is neat, I keep it combed and it's not unruly and unkempt when I venture out in public. I completely understand that 'feeling' you get, however. And it's certainly valid. I don't understand why someone would demand that we wear our hair a certain way that isn't natural to who we are ethnically!" She nodded appreciatively. The white sales associate (who's hair was dark, somewhat course, and curly) opined that she doesn't understand why someone would discriminate against the texture of someone's hair. She also pointed out that people in the major cities and towns (in Connecticut) could care less! I agreed and told her the black hair issue is a complicated and multilayered situation. And that it'd be hard to explain and chop up in just fifteen minutes. "Look, wear your natural hair." I told the young sales associate. "Don't hide behind the wig." "I just want to thank you!" she said. "You've inspired me to do just that! You really have. I'd like for you to return so that you can see it! Perhaps we can become friends and you can suggest other places and towns I can roam freely, without feeling insecure!" I told her it was a done deal. And that I'd return to the store, when time permitted me to.
The issue of Black hair is indeed a touchy one for the Black community. Many of us have a difficult enough time coming to terms with specific aspects of our ethnicity, but when you have White people weighing it, it makes it all the more difficult to navigate! While the situation is a little more tolerable now, Corporate America has, for years, made it taboo and uncomfortable for Black professionals (especially women) to sport braids, dreadlocks, and naturals to work. Preferring that we chemically process our hair or sport hair extensions to properly "fit in" with what 'the majority' considers to be the norm. I highly doubt White-American women would be asked to tan and perm their hair, to add texture if they want to be hired or considered as a candidate for employment. So why are Black women, Black people expected to change those parts of ourselves, we can't help being. Natural hair dictates just that! Something that's natural to our ethnicity and race. Glamour Magazine came under fire last year when an editor accepted an invitation from a New York law firm, to present a slide show on the "Do's and Don'ts of Corporate Fashion."
The first slide allegedly featured a Black woman wearing a stylish afro. "A real no-no" scoffed the Glamour editor. Who followed up by stating that dreadlocks were "truly dreadful!" She continued that it was ’shocking’ that some people still think it ‘appropriate’ to wear those hairstyles at the office. ‘No offense,’ she sniffed, but those ‘political’ hairstyles really have to go. I'd be willing to wager that the offending editor pissed off several African-American lawyers, who were undoubtedly present during her presentation.
Glamour Magazine found itself doing major damage control, by hosting a panel discussion in November, dedicated to Women, Race, and Beauty. The March issue featured a transcript of said discussion. Not good enough, because the fashion industry and society, no matter how many panel discussions (a seemingly common solution to flagrant bigotry)- are hastily thrown together, Black beauty will forever come under fire. And quite frankly, I'm sick to death of it. Period. I find it appalling that a woman who makes no apologies for her "blackness" is accused of trying to make a "political statement." Or is described as a "nappy-headed ho' "
Perhaps if I bleached my skin along with over processing, beweaving, and damaging my hair, I can avoid offending racist and self-hating zealots who refuse to acknowledge that blond, skinny, and spray-tanned is not the sole criteria for beauty. I'm sorry (not) if my brown self and kinky hair offends. But then again, that's not MY problem. It's White and Corporate America's hurdle to get over. Black people... Black women specifically need to get over it and stop allowing society, people, Black men, other Black women, White men, purported White "fashion mavens" and the media dictate and define how our beauty should register, just so they can feel comfortable.

February 16, 2008

Arn't I A Woman Pt II

I happened upon this article entitled, "Not Woman Enough" over at racialicious, written by a contributing guest writer who calls herself Tami. Tami, a Black woman, questions her femininity and ponders the inner workings of White privilege (particularly of the white, patriarchal variety ofttimes with very narrow views of beauty and intellect)- after a White male colleague (unconsciously?) makes her feel inferior and less alluring than her White female counter-part and co-worker. The writer hit on a number of very relevant points and raises some interesting questions about the de-sexualization and fetishization of Black women... How we can't be beautiful (to them... as if it matters) sans a long list of prerequisites or unless they're trying to meet their "I've never had sex with a (insert race) girl before" ethnic quota. So we fall under their "to do" list. Some Black women may try to assimilate completely, by engaging in damaging behaviors such as, pouring bleach on their heads, slathering on the wrong type of make-up, wearing painful and cheap looking weaves and wigs that contradict their ethnicity, and rubbing dangerous skin lighteners on their persons. I don't think the writer is seeking validation from her white male counter-parts nor is she speaking from a particularly vain view point. I think she is simply tired of being invisible and seen as less than. Sometimes that experience has nothing to do with aesthetics, but can be on an intellectual level as well. One would have to be living at the opposite end of the spectrum, to truly understand where she is coming from. Here is an excerpt from the article:
Today I was reminded of my place in the female hierarchy.

I was in an impromptu meeting with a 50-something white man and a white woman who is my age, when this exchange occurred:

White male: The only people who liked that design were under 28.

White female: Under 37…I loved it.

Me: Yeah. Me too.

White male: (to white female, pointedly) Well, YOU don’t look older than 28.

White female: (to me–maybe attempting to soften white male’s comment) You don’t either.

White male: (eyeing me) Mmmm…I don’t know about that.

It is peculiar–in my experience, some white men don’t relate to black women as women. On more than one occaision, at more than one job, a white male co-worker has made comments to me that violate society’s codes of chivalry. What gentleman comments on how old a woman looks? This is not the first time the man in question has made a subtly derogatory comment about my appearance. I have also noticed how his eyes slide distastefully over my natural hair.

When I began typing this post, I worried that I was overreacting. In the re-telling, the offense seems so petty and maybe subject to interpretation. Maybe it wasn’t about race at all, maybe my co-worker simply finds me haggard looking and is surprisingly untactful. So, I called up a good friend–another black woman–that I can always count on for wise counsel. She understood exactly what I meant about the peculiar state of non-femaleness black women sometimes occupy in the mainstream. It is the weird flip side to the stereotype of the wanton black sexual temptress.

Read the rest of the article here and visit Tami's Blog and PLEASE read this post (something Black people do, and is at the top of my list of pet peeves!), while you're over there...

January 21, 2008

Unsung Activists

While everyone uses this day home from work and school to reflect on Martin Luther King's birthday, attend special observances and programs, or simply to piss around (or however you choose to spend your free day off)I'd like to take this opportunity to recognize the women who made a significant impact during the Civil Rights Movement. It's rare that we read or hear about how Black women (in addition to Rosa Parks) have impacted our (black) history and women's history in general. Stereotyped, hypersexualized, and often labeled as 'right bitches (or hoes, depending on who's hurling the insult), Black women... we don't get a fair or accurate rap sometimes. Zora Neale Hurston's contribution to African-American literature was written off by her Black, male literary peers, who accused her of "romanticizing" the Black experience, but that's for another post. My point is, we often can't get a break or any cred for the things we've done in the past and the ways in which we continue to thrive presently. We hear so much about the indelible mark Rosa Parks - left, it probably leaves some folks wondering if she was the ONLY black woman who fought for equality during this time. She's not.

JoAnne Gibson Robinson was a professor of English at Alabama State and member of the Women's Political Council. Months prior to Rosa Park's negative bus experience Gibson-Robinson experienced similar treatment from an abusive Montgomery City Lines driver and used her membership to the WPC as a catalyst for change. Ella Baker. Septima Poinsette Clark. Fannie Lou Hamer. Civil Rights overlooked revolutionaries who remained stealth, in the background... perhaps due to sexism, racism, and other biases. Author Lynne Olsen writes:

After the bus boycott got going and (Martin Luther) King got involved, they wouldn’t even let Rosa Parks speak at the first mass meeting. She asked to speak, and one of the ministers said he thought she had done enough.
Olson added that Parks is often depicted as a deferential woman who defied segregation laws at the urging of movement leaders, but in fact she had for years quietly pushed for racial justice — and she had carefully planned the actions that led to her arrest. She was not just a symbol, She was an agent. Olsen also added. I think it's great that we get to observe the significance of Martin Luther King's birthday and that it was made into a national holiday. I think he also wouldn't mind us extending thanks to some of the women that helped him make such relevant and important changes in helping him further his cause. ...

  • Ella Baker was a charismatic labor organizer and longtime leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She believed the movement should not place too much emphasis on leaders.
  • Septima Poinsette Clark, often called the “queen mother” of civil rights, was an educator and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People activist decades before the nation’s attention turned to racial equality.
  • Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, was beaten and jailed in 1962 for trying to register to vote. She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and gave a fiery speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
  • Vivian Malone Jones defied segregationist Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace to enroll in the University of Alabama in 1963 and later worked in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department.

November 12, 2007

Just 'Cause

My favorite clips from La Haine and Do the Right Thing. There's no way you can miss the social commentary on the state of race relations, the ways in which young urbanites get through their day and their disenchantment with law enforcement, or the fact that these matters still apply today, unfortunately. I'm sure Dog the Bounty Hunter would agree that the dialogue needs to remain open.

October 22, 2007

Full Speed Ahead on the Ignoramus Express

This is why race matters continue to fester. And why I become a little more bitter (with a dash of militancy thrown in for good measure) and a little less hopeful. Racism and bigotry in varying degrees continue to percolate, because many members of the majority refuse to acknowledge or accept the fact that people with dark skin, are not intellectually inferior. And have the capacity to excel and be successful. People like this piece of shit are archaic (but unwelcome) artifacts, that need to be buried for good with the rest of the fossils. UGH! Maddening!

September 08, 2007

Re-birth of a Nation

"the greatest americans have not been born yet they are waiting patiently for the past to die. please give blood" -Saul Williams
During the summer of August 9, 2006 in Sound Beach on Long Island, a heated confrontation at a party- (where he was accused of threatening to rape a young white girl some months prior to the summer celebration)- prompted Aaron White, a 19 year old Black teenager to leave sans argument, after it was demanded that he do so. On his way home (nearby Miller Place, a predominantly white community), Aaron exchanged a series of angry cell phone calls with 17 year old Daniel Cicciaro, who alerted Aaron White that he was coming to his home. Drunk, Mr. Cicciaro with four of his friends in tow (all white), proceeded on with the threat of their presence. All five angry teenagers pulled up in front of the Whites' residence in two cars shortly after 11pm and were greeted by Aaron White and his father, John White via the garage. Father and son felt threatened enough to arm themselves for the impending showdown. Yelling ensued, in which Cicciaro and friends allegedly hurled racial epithets and refused to leave. At some point during the melee, Mr. White (father) shoots Daniel Cicciaro in the face with an antique handgun he inherited from his own grandfather. Daniel Cicciaro is felled by the gunshot, and is announced dead upon arrival to the emergency room. John White- who moved his family to their dream home on the North Shore in 2004- is described as a harding working "upstanding citizen" with no prior police record and who has never committed a crime in his life. He expressed deep regret and sorrow toward the Cicciaro family, claiming the incident was an "accident' and that he never meant to shoot the young man. That his only intent was to protect his family and scare his son's pursuers away from his home. John White was charged with manslaughter and criminal weapon possession. Internet users would then blow online news forums up with hateful racial epithets upon hearing the father's fate. Including cries for John White to be hung from a tree. While the outcome of the altercation is tragic, indeed. Can one blame John White for protecting his family and his son? The teens were unarmed, yes. But alcohol, bravado, hate speech, anger... Perhaps Daniel would be alive today, if he and his friends hadn't tried to recreate some vigilante style style of revenge. It's purported that during the 911 call and the race to get young Daniel to the hospital, his friends were overheard (through the phone) spouting off even more contemptuous race rhetoric. ...
Miles away, in Jena, Louisiana racial tensions are also brewing. Reaching their peak on August 31, 2006 after a black male freshman asks the Jena High School principal if he could sit under the shade of the "white tree" (where most of the white students usually convened amongst themselves). The principal suggested that students could sit wherever they wanted to. Three white students disagreed however, because the next morning three nooses were found hanging from that very same tree. The three students were later found to be guilty of the infraction and were up for expulsion... which the school board and superintendent promptly overruled. The superintendent would later trivialize the threat as a joke, as opposed to a threat against Black students' sensibilities. The school administration would later fail to report the incident to the police or the FBI (such brazen incidents can and should be reported as a Hate Crime). The decision and subsequent indifference would cause racial animus to reach a fever pitch. A series of disagreements, racially charged fights, and arson would soon occur over the course of three months. Black students would continue to grow disenchanted and slighted by the school's administration and local law officials. These disagreements would eventually culminate in the assault of a 17 year old white student named Justin Barker, perpetrated by 6 Black Jena High School students: Robert Bailey, Mychal Bell, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw, and an unidentified minor. Barker allegedly hurled racial epithets, a charge his family denies. Barker was taken to the hospital and treated for a concussion, bruising, and various other injuries and released two hours later, in time for a ring ceremony. The Jena Six, however were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. The overzealous District Attorney would then decide to increase the charge to attempted second degree murder which could result in the defendants being imprisoned past age 50. This blow prompted outrage from the Black residents of Jena, because the charges were disproportionate to the crime. On June 26, Bell's sentence would be reduced to aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated second-degree battery. According to my research, a deadly weapon would've needed to be used, to warrant being charged with such. The DA argued that Mychal Bell's tennis shoes he wore during the day of the assault and kicked Barker with, were deadly weapons. The all white jury agreed. The other defendants' charges would eventually be reduced, leaving Mychal Bell to remain in jail, facing 22 years in prison. All are waiting for their day in court, which will happen later this month. So many conflicting accounts and mishandling of this case. The public outcry and online groups supporting the Jena Six are warranted. The case has garnered national attention and has drawn the ire and support of black leaders and organizations. Jena's Black community are skeptical that the boys will receive a fair trial. I mean after all, their wariness is justified considering the glaring segregation and aloof attitudes toward the "noose" incident. The Jena Six should indeed pay if they assaulted Justin Barker. But they should pay with a sentence that matches the crime. Most murderers and repeat sexual molesters get off with with less time. How much responsibility do Jena High School administrators bear, by deciding not to address the root cause of the issue to begin with? They, in essence, instigated a terrible situation by choosing not acknowledge it. A prank is stealing the school mascot or T.P.ing the halls. Hanging nooses, racially charged graffiti, and the like are not mere pranks. It's hateful propaganda that has no place in the school system or anyplace else... not in this day and age. It's frustrating that in 2007, issues of race still abound. Technology, the current cult of personalities, media, and celebrity help exacerbate hateful language and inane rhetoric. The structure of most institutions and a dubious this White House administration continue to disadvantage many ethnic groups by fanning the flames of xenophobia, racial profiling, and not accepting that we're in the midst of the 21st century! A multicultural era, where we should be evolved by now. Instead, we're slowly regressing. Most of us are still scratching our heads over the outcome of Hurricane Katrina. As much as I'd like to think we'll reach some sort of resolution on race matters, the fact is, I don't think there will ever be a workable medium. Period. That would require cooperation from the powers that be. That would require those same powers that be, to relinquish some semblance of control by distributing justice and equality fairly and accordingly. Fat chance of that ever happening. Divide and then conquer. The most antiquated (and seemingly effective) method in the book. ... Why do hate and growing racial disparities still continue thrive and fester? The Jena Six deserve a fair trial plain and simple, and are being railroaded. P.S. I'm dying to hear Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly weigh-in on the Jena Six situation, if they haven't already.

May 25, 2007

Keeping Our Head Above Water...

Yesterday, after I was settled in at home from work, I caught an episode of Good Times on the TV Land network. Florida (matriarch of the Evans clan) came home, excited and breathless... ready to share with her family that she had just enrolled herself back in school, in hopes of obtaining her GED. Before she could relay the good news to her family, father James [Evans] interrupted, chastising her for not listening to HIS good news first. He had been hired for a better paying job with a construction company as a foreman, and the opportunity would possibly allow him to move up. Excited, Florida heaped praise upon her husband, before telling her family that she was back in school, and may finally have the opportunity to get her diploma after having dropped out in the 10th grade. Thelma, J.J., and Michael were ecstactic and hugged their mother. James (who dropped out of school in the 6th grade) on the other hand wasn't thrilled and a dark look came across his face. Suddenly he became discouraging and somewhat insulting... commenting, "Everybody knows that you can't teach an old dog new tricks!" He suggested that best friend, neighbor, and modern woman (for the time) Willona was the one, undoubtedly, putting such nonsense, as going back to school, into Florida's head. James also demanded to know what she planned on fixing for dinner. Willona proudly told James that she had finished school, got her diploma, and that it afforded her the opportunity to work at a clothing boutique. Florida challenged James (with Willona's encouragment) that if he tried to stop her from achieving her goal, he was gonna be faced with "One hell of a fight!" from her and suggested that she wouldn't be able to improve the quality of her (or the family's) life if she didn't see her education through to fruition. It was an intense episode. Due to my getting up to get a glass of vino and some Ramen, I missed the end. Good Times was filmed during the mid 70's, which wasn't that long ago. That particular episode, where James discourages Florida's desire to improve herself by turning into a chauvinist extraordinaire... brow beating and insulting his wife's desire to excel, prompted me to think about how difficult women... black women (as well as other women of color) in particular, had it during that time (and how difficult it still can be for us). I'm reminded of the whole concept behind (and need for) the womanist movement, encouraged by author Alice Walker and adapted from her book: In Search of Our Mother's Garden: Womanist Prose. The concept of womanism came to be, because women of color were left out of the mix during the feminist movement... which dealt largely with issues pertaining to white, middle-class women; and focused predominantly on suffrage and sexism. Racism and classism were not issues they related to or felt compelled to fight against. Womanism paints a portrait from the perspective of black women. When discussing issues of race or classism, the focus tends to be about the oppression of black men. Sexism tends to chart the plight and suppression of white women and how they overcame their struggles. It's rare to find literature that deals specifically with the oppression, suppression, and plight of black women, specifically. There are Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, but how many other black women have traveled tumultuous roads, paving the way and fighting for civil rights and liberties for women of color? We grapple with sexism, classism, and racism. Throw sexual stereotypes based on ethnicity into that equation, thanks to the rump shaking featured in rap videos and the media's portrayal of us, and you begin to understand WHY the Don Imus incident caused such an uproar, after he described the Rutgers University women's basketball team as being "nappy headed ho's." Many people seemed flummoxed about the furor that statement incited. Some martyrized him, saying that his constitutional right to free speech was being infringed upon... which is true, but so is our right to freely be WHO and WHAT we are, without having to continously apologize or go through this multi-step assimilation process, because people aren't happy with how we look. It's maddening, and I'm sick to death of it. Snoop Dog weighed in on the Imus controversy, by justifying his (and other rappers') use of the term "ho's", after the rap community came under fire (or were scape-goated) for desensitizing the masses to the use of the word ho'. Snoop suggested that it was okay for rappers to disrespect certain types of women by calling them the ugly name, because they're referring to the ho's living in the projects, not "a successful basketball team." That didn't really do much to help our cause, now did it? It's a neverending battle, particuarly when you consider that we already have 3 strikes against us. I think of some of my own personal struggles, particularly since I wear my hair natural, I carry around an ample rear end, and I constantly have to defend the reasons WHY I don't act like [insert stereotype here], WHY black women aren't one- dimensional, and WHY I'm not going drop my shit like it's hot for some ignoramus who has OD'ed on videos shown on BET... or WHY I want you to kiss my ample rear, when you pigeonhole me and women of color or chastise me for my blackness. I will gladly continue to fight the good fight and refer to myself as a 21st century womanist.

February 05, 2007

Memo: I Speak Well!

It’s like an educated black person is a rare sighting, like seeing a spotted egret. We’re viewed as a fluke. How many flukes simply constitute reality?
Reginald Hudlin, president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television.

My friend Cat, recently forwarded a New York Times article to me regarding Senator Joseph R. Biden’s assessment of Senator Barack Obama. Biden seemed struck with amazement when he referred to Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” OH ME! OH MY!

You know, very rarely do I get political on my blog, but statements like this make me flinch. Comedian D.L. Hughley couldn’t have put it more beautifully when he said,

"subtle words like this are more insidious. It’s like weight loss. The last few pounds are the hardest to get rid of. It’s the last vestiges of racism that are hard to get rid of."

Statements made by people like Senator Biden get under my skin, because I experience similar, back-handed compliments just like it… and often. Some white people look at me, they see the color of my skin, and they expect sheer and utter trash to come spilling out of my mouth. They must be, if they’re that taken aback by my diction.

At times, much to my amusement, they’ve read something I've written, and will comment, “You speak just like you write!” They’re aghast that I can string together complete sentences, or engage them in intelligent discourse. I remember once, I visited a graduate studies course on blogging and media, where students and their journalist professor wanted to interview me, about this very blog. I remember this one man, while he was extremely kind, kept on commenting on how “well” I spoke. I was a slightly agitated, and thought to call him on it, but didn’t.

While I’m sure Senator Biden didn’t mean any harm, covert bigotry is so much more insulting… damaging even, because it dictates that Black people can’t be intelligent, cultured, articulate, and that people have low expectations of us. It takes a page out of the book, The Bell Curve and it measures intellect on a scientifically bigoted scale. It perpetuates this ridiculous notion, that Black people can’t be beautiful, successful, attractive, or smart without all these prerequisites and quite frankly I’m tired of it.

“Oh, she’s sooo pretty for a Black woman.” “Wow, I didn’t know you were a physicist! You’re so tall, I thought you played basketball!” or my favorite, “He/She must’ve gotten into Harvard Law, because of Affirmative Action.”
President George W. Bush (of all people) has also described Obama as being “articulate” during interviews.

People who don’t experience this type of back-handed, concealed (and oft times harmless and unconscious) bigotry may read this entry and roll their eyes, but understand that it can’t be understood, if you don’t experience people having a low opinion about your capabilities to begin with, because of your ethnicity or skin color.

It’s the same feeling I get when men (especially white men) expect less from me, because I’m a woman. Or they become exasperated and call us nasty names that rhyme with witch and hunt, because we won’t acquiesce or dumb ourselves down, to placate them.

Biden would later go on The Daily show and expound on his comments, “Look, what I was attempting to be, but not very artfully, is complimentary. This is an incredible guy. This is a phenomenon.” Intellect covers a wide spectrum... race, sex, and ethnicity notwithstanding... and so does ignorance and stupidity, apparently.

My question is; Why not say, to begin with, “Barack is dynamic, an incredible and charismatic man!” rather than insinuate he’s a rare, extinct breed of Negro?? And just for the record, he is NOT the FIRST mainstream African-American who is articulate, bright, and clean...