Archive of ‘Social Commentary’ category

But… You’re Only Technically Black

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So just in case you haven’t heard there is an amazing new movie that is blooming out of Sundance , aptly titled, Dear White People. I won’t go in-depth with this movie, but what I will tell you is that it seems like its going to be the perfect embodiment of an unspoken definition of “blackness” today, with all of it’s faces, all wrapped up in the perfect microcosm of an ivy league school. And I do mean perfect microcosm in the sense that it portrays a community dominated by a White superpower. I’m really excited to get a hold of this movie, but it prompted me to think again about my own experience growing up against the “white wall”. I’ve always loved informing people that I in fact did not grow up “tragically colored”. I, like Zora was proud of the fact that I stuck out among my White peers,

Cast of “Dear White People”

excelling and proudly representing my race; but recently I was having a conversation with one of my White peers and somewhere in our mix of words, she uttered the phrase “Well, I mean you’re only technically Black.” It took me a minute to bounce back from that statement and very politely end the conversation, because here’s what was going through my head: What the hell is “technically Black”? After some careful consideration I came to the conclusion that she meant I was only Black by virtue of the color of my skin. Now in my head this could go one of two ways. On the one hand it seems as if this is a masterful breakthrough in race relations where a White person has realized that race is really just a performative, disciplinary, action based on self-created social order (bear with me I know Foucault is a mouthful). On the other hand, and what I believe to be the more accurate reason, there stood the idea that a Black person who succeeds and even surpasses a White person in something that is not singing, dancing, or sports has somehow found a way to “escape” the daunting oppression of their own blackness! So essentially I am so very lovingly stripped of my “accursed Blackness” by my White peers in an effort to comfort them into the belief that I do not concede to an existence as a Black person because I’m intelligent. My intelligence excuses my Blackness as if it is some sort of accursed chip on my shoulder that only non-Black people have the power to remove. Where do I even really start with this? First of all, this to me is like when people tell me they don’t even see color; contrary to popular belief, this is the rudest statement ever. You should see race, because acting as if you don’t see it brings about situations like this, where one tries to strip you of your race as a result of a characteristic. My skin is Black, that will never change, the end. So to imply that you will recognize my intelligence in spite of my race is such a spit in the face it isn’t even funny. I’m not smart… for a Black girl. I’m smart; Period. It’s times like this that I get frustrated when I hear my Black peers say something like.. well I’m only Black because of my skin. While I wholeheartedly agree that you are not defined by the color of your skin, I also staunchly advocate for the recognition that the color you carry holds a deep, painful, beautiful history. So to chalk up your Blackness to simply the color of your skin is the greatest disservice you can do yourself. With Black History Month right around the corner you should gear yourself up for the firestorm of sympathetic statements from White people in an effort to make an apology to your entire race. My advice, don’t just brush past the statements. Listen to it, analyze, because what they say speaks volumes about how they perceive you as a representation of your race. Are you going to like the reality?

Twerking and the Downfall of the Black Woman

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Let me start by saying that as a black woman who has herself occasionally engaged in a twerk or two it really is easy for most of us to disregard twerking as being anything serious. It’s just another dance sweeping through the clubs, harmless right? Well in early September an op-ed article was published in the New York Times entitled, Explaining Twerking to Your Parents. It defines twerking as “a dance move typically associated with lower-income African-American women that involves the rapid gyration of the hips in a fashion that prominently exhibits the elasticity of the gluteal musculature.” You read that correctly LOWER -INCOME AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN. So to be clear, an article in a major news publication, penned by a white journalist took time to explain to white adolescents how they can shirk twerking off as something black girls do, and that in fact when they are doing it, it’s harmless, and when Miley Cyrus twerks it is due to ” a raft of personal, socioeconomic and third-wave-feminist issues.” So now I ask, is twerking still harmless?

Cinderella Twerking

Credit: hiconsumption.com

An article like this should really be a driving force, no, a wake up call that brings to our attention a cultural relapse the likes of the days of  black face, minstrel shows, and cake walking. Ratchet culture is the new blemish on the face of Black culture as a whole. It’s something else to add to the list of things White people can associate negatively with us, as if the list couldn’t circle the globe twice already. But above all else we should be concerned that it has become so much of a cultural norm. I think twerking is a word that most black people say daily, it’s just become so natural. Meme’s on twerking, jokes about twerking, incorporating twerking into everyday life and everyone seems completely accustomed to it, so what’s the problem here? The problem is that when a black woman twerks or discusses twerking it becomes another reinforcement that twerking is a BLACK thing. When a white woman twerks or discusses twerking it is still a BLACK thing. Twerking isn’t the issue here, the association of twerking with the definition of a Black woman is the issue. Twerking is ratchet, yes, but it is not Black and I need Black women to stop getting upset that Miley Cyrus “thinks she can twerk”. As far as I’m concerned Miley can twerk till her ass falls off, so long as she isn’t out here claiming that it’s her way of indulging in Black culture.

Side Note: Ratchet culture, is not new. We may have assigned it a new name, but make no mistake, it didn’t pop up over night. The other mistake people seem quite content on making is aassigning ratchet culture to Black culture. Again no! I’d like to re-introduce one of my favorite white families, the Thompsons, better known as the stars of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Just when you thought you couldn’t top this farting, mud wrestling, teenage

Credit: TVRage.com

pregnancy family, in walks the ladies of Gypsy Sisters! I don’t think there is a better definition of ratchet anywhere! Google them, YouTube them, watch them fight and dress up in glitter and marry their first cousins! The best part about all of it though, it’s cultural! They literally explain how fighting and bling is a cultural installation for them, so reassign ratchet to where it belongs.

Let’s make something clear here, black culture is not & should not be synonymous with twerking! It is a dance; and not one in the realms of, something that the slaves did to keep their spirits high in the fields, so why should we be so adamant about claiming it for our culture! Now I’m not calling for a worldwide ban on twerking, because on occasion it can be a fun indulgence when you’re out with your girls. What I am calling for is a halt to the millions of twerking videos posted by black women, the constant cultural references to twerking, and the die-hard claim that twerking is a Black thing. Twerking is a dance thing, not a way of life, and certainly not a black way of life.

Never Seen an Episode of Love and Hip Hop But I Love Honey Boo Boo

If I was being held up and the only thing that could save me was re-capping last weeks episode of Love and Hip Hop, I would be one unfortunately doomed girl, considering the fact that I have never seen an episode. Typically when I tell fellow black women this they seem taken aback, as if I have missed a milestone in black womanhood, but what tends to surprise them even further is that I can in fact tell them how  little miss Alana, star of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, makes “sketti” with her family. I want to be confused about why people react like this but the reality is I understand. Understanding, however is not the same as being in agreement, because I feel  that I can explain my addiction to Honey Boo Boo with very simple reasoning.

My Crazy family If you know nothing about Here Comes Honey Boo Boo then you need only know this much, this reality show centers around a Caucasian lower class family who live in rural Georgia, quite literally on the other side of the train tracks. They live in something like a trailer, are all to some extent relatively overweight, they fart, flick boogers, eat fast food and roadkill (yes I said roadkill), and oh did I mention teenage pregnancy? Sounds like stuff that can only be written for television right? Wrong. The thing I adore so much about this show is the simple fact that in my heart of hearts I do believe it is real, just like I’m sure people believe the things that go on in Love and Hip Hop are real. Of course reality television is a little blown out of proportion but I mean they had to start somewhere right? When Honey Boo Boo first made its debut America just seemed to be up in arms about how crass and disgusting the show was and how it was an insult to America. Umm… but no one is going to say anything about Love and Hip Hop’s horrible characterization of black people with money?

To me the type of people in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are like America’s handicapped child that they try  to keep inside and away from the neighbors for fear of embarrassment. It’s really hard for America to swallow that, guess what? White people somewhere in America DO ACT LIKE THIS! Honey Boo Boo showcases a whole American community that I think is conveniently neglected in the realm of the media, because they expose a side of Caucasian America that they just wish didn’t exist and I love it. Now it’s not in a venomous sense that I love this but rather it just seems fair! I feel like more than 50% of shows centered around black people just emanate this concept of ratchetness that seemingly exists in the black community. To me shows like Love and Hip Hop send this message to other races that says, “see even when you give them money and put them in expensive houses black people are ghetto, tacky, and incapable of acting like civil people.” I’ve never watched the show but I have seen some of the stars both in articles I’ve read and in person ( a few cast members of the original show shop at the mall in my area). The reality is  that these people are not special and when you see them on the streets, they remind  me of any other tacky person you might see. They neither sum up nor define black culture and for that reason highlighting and promoting them is simply self-destructive.

What’s even more destructive is black people’s indulgence in the show, I mean I get it, guilty pleasure and all but that Here Comes Honey Boo Boopleasure is costing the African American image a pretty penny. Too many black people spend their time obsessing over the show and it’s happenings, lets be honest here, white people aren’t really out there obsessing over what Honey Boo Boo and her family are going to do next. Even the hype around Jersey Shore didn’t seem to equal, to me, the hype around Love and Hip Hop and it’s spin-offs. They are a household staple, and that to me is a problem. Black America is way to comfortable with poking fun at themselves and although I think maybe we know this, I don’t think we really KNOW this because clearly we are still fueling shows that blatantly disrespect us. In America image is everything, and right now ours is tainted and getting worse with each television season. Do yourself a favor and support Caucasian ratchetness, it’s just as enjoyable and much less damaging!

I Could Write About Trayvon Martin… But So Could Anybody Else

Ladies & Gentlemen, I could sit here and type for days about the decision in the Trayvon Martin case. I could craft paragraphs about the injustice and biased nature of the American justice system.  I could comment until I am blue in the face about the fact that we allowed a panel of all white women invalidate the basic value of a teenage life and had the audacity to call them a jury of peers. I could write about how I cried when I heard the verdict, how my heart dropped, how my body went numb, and how I was unable to function or sleep. Or I could tell you how I prayed, got on my knees and actually prayed for the first time in years. I could tell you these things, but doing so is not what will affect change.

My Trayvon Martin Tribute Photo (March 2012)

In the coming time you will see hundreds of articles about the Trayvon Martin case, you will see people who will write rants, others who could care less, even more who will explain that people should not care so deeply about this specific case but instead be more concerned that black people kill each other everyday. What I say to them is this: We as African Americans live in a world where we are faced with a hefty laundry list of social, political, and economic issues; this fact shouldn’t be news to anyone. What I feel that Black people should focus on right now, is how to find ways to grieve appropriately and address ALL of these issues as efficiently as possible. This case warrants so much attention because it sets a new precedent in injustice. Just because this is true does not mean it invalidates the crime, death rate, or tragedies enacted on Blacks by blacks. They are still just as important and still should warrant attention on our radar, but understand this, no one will fight for us if we don’t fight for us.

Trayvon Martin’s case warranted attention because we fought for it to do so, we refused to be quiet  about it. If you feel so greatly about an injustice then that is what you do and that is how we should fight for every case of unjust death or prejudice. While this is a highly racially charged case if you take race out of the equation this is STILL a grave injustice. An unarmed teenager was killed, his killer was acquitted to walk the streets, and returned the weapon with which he killed this teenager. When you take color out of that equation it is still an awful and unthinkable thing for a country who is so poised about the “protection” of its people. At the end of the day it sends the message that depending on who you are there are no consequences for your actions.

Legally, this man cannot be tried again for this crime (double jeopardy), but that does not yet mean that all is lost. He can still face federal charges for hate crimes and there are still actions in motion to find Justice for Trayvon. If you want to help, you will not riot, you will not contribute to or allow mass chaos to ensue, simply because all it does is give the group who believes we don’t deserve justice more leverage to say that we are savage and unable to control ourselves.  In this situation we must live b y this thought: take nothing lying down but recognize that you can learn nothing up in arms. If you want to beat the system you must learn it, infiltrate it, and take some control of it and I say this firsthand whilst I study for my law school entrance exams. When your jury duty letter’s come don’t groan and attempt to avoid it, instead take your opportunity to play a role in the justice system.

Please be angry, be frustrated, upset, disappointed, disheartened, disgusted, and every emotion in the plethora that come with occurrences like this, but please do not grow violent and do not let them force ourselves back decades. Stand and fight, the right way. Try this way: NAACP PETITION

College Race Relations: Being Black Enough for Black Students on a White Campus

Greetings Readers. I’m a little bit sad today as I write this. Black history month is coming to a close and I’ve learned a few things that I can’t really say I’m glad to know. I’m a college student in a predominately white school and to me that would obviously translate into black students ability and feeling of need to come together. Sadly that’s really not the case here and I really have to sit down and look at why.

First and foremost the majority of the black population on my campus just hates and refuses to indulge in the idea of the black student union. Please don’t ask me why because I still haven’t found someone who could really tell me. My assumption right now though is that it’s because we as black people on this campus are not comfortable with each other and we aren’t willing to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. Crazy, right? So there20121101-121825.jpg goes strike one for the black population on campus.

Next up is the fact that there is such a huge class divide amongst the black people on my campus. No one wants to really make this statement so I will. My school takes a majority of its black students from urban and statistically underprivileged areas and yes while these students are smart, they’re still from the hood. Lets be honest socially there are certain avenues that no one has ever really taught them to maneuver. On top of that they essentially classify any black person not from the hood as a snob or boogie black person. So there goes strike two.

Now what’s possibly the worst issue about all of this is that everyone wants to lead and no one wants to follow. There are lots of organizations that have spun off of the black student union and we all have our own internal issues. None of them communicate with each other and our events and membership step on and compete with each other. Basically we look sloppy as a black community and it just makes us look bad to other races on campus. Then we complain that white people on campus don’t like us. Honestly they just don’t know how to approach us and frankly I don’t anymore either. Strike three.

At the end of the day I’m laying this all out to ask some questions. When I used to think about & imagine my experience on a predominately white campus I was excited at the idea of getting to come together as black people and celebrate and grow in knowledge and it was just this crazy Cosby Show / A Different World dream I had. I feel like being in college right now I’m in a constant struggle for acceptance amongst my black peers even though I’m actually just saddened by the way most of them act.

Regardless my question is, am I the only one dealing with this? Are there any other black college students out there who are on a campus with black people who can’t get it together? What happened to the days when we used to join and fight for a common cause? When we looked for universal acceptance? White race relations is the least of our problems right now.. Because the way I’m seeing it right now black people just don’t love each other. We need another civil rights push and this time lets bridge the gap between blacks and blacks.

End of Rant.

An Open Letter to AIDS

AIDS,

I wish you would just kiss my black ass. As a black woman in the year 2012 I am much too informed and have way too much common sense to allow you to catch me and ruin my life. Don’t I? But why does it seem like you still manage to catch and punish my peers? How is it that as of 2009 African American women still account for the largest share of new HIV infections among women (57%) and the incidence rate among Black women is nearly 15 times the rate among white women? What is it that we still seem to be doing wrong? We use condoms right? We as black women are smart enough not to just “trust” every man we choose to get into bed with aren’t we? I could have sworn we were! We’re much too clever to be wooed by the “baby you know I’m clean” or “I just wanna feel you & nothing else”! Besides, we get tested, every 6 months right? You obviously have no intention of laying off my people. But I just wanted to let you know that you aren’t going to win. Because as you continue to rage on we will continue to educate ourselves and our coming generations. We will arm our youth in the war you have waged and protect ourselves from your attacks. We are a strong, industrious, and brilliant group and we will fight you to the death. We’re gonna kick your ass, just watch!

Love Always,

Ari

Ladies, it’s World AIDS day, but today is not the only day you should be thinking about the effects of AIDS. This epidemic is and has been coming for us for years. Arm yourselves with information and physical protection. Do not forget to practice what you preach, because the hardest thing is deciding in that moment if you will pick your carnal desire over the safety of your health. Don’t make the wrong decision, because whatever 5 minutes a man can offer you physically isn’t worth the years of treatment and sickness that will follow. Love yourself, respect yourself, protect yourself.

High School Blackface 101

People, society is really tweaking my nerves lately. Apparently we’ve revisited the days of young white men finding entertainment and amusement in darkening their faces and making fools of themselves. Oh and apparently domestic violence is funny now; news to me!

At a pep rally in a New York High School (heavily lacking in diversity), 3 white male students thought it would be fun to paint themselves with brown make-up and perform a skit that satirized the  infamous Chris Brown-Rhianna beating. Where do I even start? How about with the fact that they PAINTED THEMSELVES BROWN! I have to wonder do they even know what black face is? Or the history of racial insensitivity that it embodies? I think that makes it worse, that they are so ignorant of this practice that they see absolutely no problem with doing it. To them it’s a costume.

Now on top of the racially insensitive slap in the face, these lovely young men thought domestic violence would be a safe topic to poke fun at as well. I’m sorry but I don’t see where there is a grey area here! The entire student body, teachers, alumni, and local news outlets watched as the boys imitated  the infamous beating and dragged the third boy across the gym, and get this nobody said anything or thought to stop it!

After some outrage from pictures of the event posted on Facebook and news outlets picking up the story the school district started to sweat, but before that no one was talking about punishing these boys for their blatant disrespect on so many levels. Really, still no one is looking to punish them. If they want to claim that black face isn’t illegal and therefore can’t be punished (which is completely asinine reasoning) then it’s  whatever, but come on there is no getting around the whole “domestic violence as a joke” factor! School officials are talking about rethinking the activities of the pep rally and maybe considering working on incorporating some more diversity sensitivity training but I mean, so what?

The worst thing about this entire situation is that the kids in the school were not aware enough to see an issue with what they did. Schools need to stop waiting for something like this to slap them in the head to wake up and realize that teaching students the nature of racial sensitivity is actually very important. Again people, we do not live in a post-racial society, we can’t act like it’s all good. Do not allow yourself to be ignorant of racially insensitive and discriminatory acts in this country or else you could be the next dumb ass who didn’t know black face was just plain rude!

Okay end of rant lol.

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Why Aren’t We Rocking The Vote?

With only a few weeks left until the 2012 elections I wonder am I the only who feels like there’s no hype? Four years ago around this time even the most politically uninvolved youth were out pounding the cool autumn streets canvassing for the Obama campaign & registering people to vote in a truly historic election. Now, just because Obama has already been president does that make this election any less historic? It seems like we’re all sleeping on the importance of re-election. What happened people, was it just a fun trend, did we just hop on the wagon because it seemed cool to elect the first black president? The last presidential election boasted record numbers of youth voters, I don’t really know what to say about this one. I’m sad and disappointed, but above all I’m scared. I do not indulge in the idea of a Romney led nation, that’s heavy reason for me to contemplate living abroad for a few years. But at the end of the day the point is, you are not allowed to complain about your leadership if you didn’t make an effort to influence it somehow. That means wake up and get involved, democracy is not a trend, or a fad; it’s a system that effects our everyday way of life. People please get with the system! Pay attention, watch the debates, educate yourselves on the issues and make an informed decision because come November 6th every single of one of you should be dragging your asses out of bed and to the polls. No excuses or I’ll send Samuel after you!

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We Bleach Minorities Now?

New York Fashion Week

Photo Credit: BET.com

So while casually browsing through the Black Voices Twitter feed I came across a story about minority students at the University of Texas who had rallied against a recent string of what has been perceived as hate crimes. Students in an on campus dormitory had been dropping water balloons filled with bleach on the heads of minority students walking below, specifically African-American and Asian American students. The article goes on to illustrate the going ons of the rally and the college communities response to it, which it would seem was not negative but at the same time not exactly very welcoming. They just seemed indifferent, students made arguments that it wasn’t just minorities but that a favored target were women during Greek life rush. Regardless of all the fine details my biggest concern here once more is the lack of publicity on what seems to me to be a clear and apparent injustice! When you read the article you begin to see that this school has a pleasant history of a disrespect for the feelings of minorities, as several greek organizations have been lightly “reprimanded” for throwing parties with themes that just screamed racial insensitivity and insult.  Now just for a second let’s disregard the idea that this is a racially charged act and focus on the act itself. How the hell do you sleep at night knowing that you lobbed a harmful chemical at an unprotected persons face?! It’s outrageous. We like to often chalk things like this up to college stupidity, frat boy pranks, and drunken decisions but really you can only stretch this excuse so far. I think its terrible for the school to attempt to so quickly dismiss the racial undertone of the action. We excuse way to much in the college society and as a college student I can attest to this. We live in a land where we yell about our freedom of speech and our rights as students to exercise our beliefs, but what about the right of a person to feel safe? I go to school on a campus where I am in the minority as a black student completely engulfed by white people. I can’t lie I occasionally feel uncomfortable surrounded by nothing but white students in my classrooms but I could never imagine having to, on a daily basis, fear for my life because of my skin color. We really think that we live in a post racial society and that is so far from the truth. Just because our president is black does not disband the stigma of hate and prejudice. There continues to be this push to sweep all of our racial tension and issues under the rug, so issues like this one don’t make the headlines, but you know what? THEY SHOULD! This should be plastered everywhere and college campuses alike should be banding together to help make a change! [polldaddy poll=6592100]

Crackin’ on White People..It’s Cool..?

We all remember the Don Imus controversy from a few years back. If not let me recap it for you. Radio talk show host Don Imus made some nasty comments about the women of the Rutgers basketball tea. In short he uttered the unforgivable.. in the year 2007 this white man blatantly called these young black women nappy headed and hoes all in one breath. On top of that he told people to basically get over it, it was just a comment. Needless to say the black community was in an uproar about this blatant racial statement broadcasted over the airwaves… But did we really have the right to be so pissed? How many times have you watched the comic specials of black comedians where a good 50% of their act revolved around taking shots at the white masses. We just seem to get a pass that makes it acceptable. White people will laugh right along with us as we tease them but dare a white person to poke racial fun at us and see what happens. Al Sharpton & the NAACP is what happens! Don’t get me wrong I’ll be one of the first people to scream outrage at a disrespectful or racially insensitive comment but I mean isn’t it a two-way street? I know there is a deep history of racially disrespectful media directed towards black people but does all those years of blackface buildup give us a green light to casually and nonchalantly tear into white people? What do you think?

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