Archive of ‘Race & Culture’ category

Your Facebook Picture Isn’t The Focus of The Paris Attacks

Paris Attacks

My Facebook profile picture does not have a French flag overlay on it, but it has also never had a rainbow overlay, or a pink  “I stand with Planed Parenthood” overlay. It’s never had any of these things, because I personally don’t feel inclined to use them to show my solidarity. The overlay is a way of showing other people a personal stance, but I know I already do that through my actions and words. Posting an overlay is an easy form of passive protest, and personally it’s not my style.

For a lot of people putting the French flag overlay on their profile picture has been a big issue of contention because Facebook didn’t offer the option for a number of other attacks that took place around the world; but I think that people are missing something in their arguments. (more…)

Race Over Privilege?: Identifying with Baltimore

RACE OVER PRIVILEGE copy

There has never been a moment in my life where I had to stop and consider where my next meal would come from. I’ve never worried about the cost of books, about how I would get from one place to the next, or even where I would live. I have never wanted for anything in this life and I recognize that my parents, to the best of their ability, have spoiled me with privilege. While I may not be upperclass, I don’t come from any means of significant economic struggle. I’m not ashamed of or feel the need to apologize for the fact that economically I’ve rarely if really ever struggled. I’m forever grateful to my parents for what they’ve afforded me, to my grandmother who cleaned floors for 20 years so I could be born in America; but I will also never pretend to understand the daily frustrations of those who are not afforded the same opportunities or lifestyle that I am.

I recognize that there are people in Baltimore who have been given very few if any real legs up in the world, and when you’re consistently beaten down by those who don’t understand your struggle, how are you supposed to feel? How are you supposed to feel when you consistently lose people in your life to the circumstances of your surroundings. When you lose someone at the hands of those who are designated to “protect and serve” you? Would you honestly be able to “Chill Out”. How would you feel if your community leader, whose face resembles yours, whose skin is your skin, took no real provisions for ensuring your wellness and healing your pain?

I’ve always been raised to understand that the destruction of property is senseless, purposeless, and wrong, so I can honestly say that riots have always made very little sense to me. I can’t say whether I agree or disagree with some protesters in Baltimore who have chosen this option. What I can say though, is that I can’t pretend to understand what fuels people’s decisions to respond this way. It’s easy to judge and condemn, shake our heads and click our tongues, because we haven’t lived their experience. Rioting would most likely not be my choice of protest, but aspects of my life have not warranted such a response, my community hasn’t failed me, my school system isn’t ineffective. I do not know their lives; but what I do know is that those faces filling the screen each night are mine. I know that I can’t wear respectability politics on my sleeve to protect me from becoming another hashtag. My privilege does not ensure that I won’t be Freddie, or Rekia, or Trayvon, or Amadou, or Eric, or Emmett.

For every moment spent lamenting over how awful the destruction of stores and property is consider how many people did not feel that lament over the loss of a life, something that cannot be replaced. I cannot pretend to understand how a person can be more frustrated over the loss of property than they are over the loss of life. I can only understand that those faces are mine, their skin is my skin, their blood is my blood, and we will always carry that common hardship.

Manufacturing Black Girl Magic

MANUFACTURING BLACK GIRL MAGIC
MANUFACTURING BLACK GIRL MAGIC

 

When I was in elementary school my favorite thing to do was go up to the chalkboard and show off my right answers in any subject, but by fifth grade I loathed & refused to do it. By then I’d hit puberty & every moment spent with my back turned to my classmates was another moment of snickers, mockery, & body shaming. I could hear it while I was working, “why is her butt  like that?” So it was no surprise when the tiniest & palest of my all white classmates came to me & blurted, “you’ve got a huge butt & it shakes when you erase. Why does it look like that?” Having been the resident pancake ass in my family, I never considered myself to have a big butt, nor was I ever self conscious about it. But the consistent teasing & shaming at the hands of my non- POC peers resulted in me hating my butt & my curves. From then until high school I wore loose fitting jeans or long skirts and boxy shirts and sweaters to hide my shape. Now fast forward to 2015 where white women are bending over backwards & physically harming themselves to look remotely close to what natural features Black women have. But Black women aren’t credited as the trendsetters, The Kardashians are. We’re praising Kim for paving the way for wide hips and curvy shapes, as if Black women haven’t had fat asses for centuries, but I digress.

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If Loving Dr. Huxtable Is Wrong: Prioritizing Gender and Racial Identity

Prioritizing Race and Gender
Prioritizing Race and Gender
Note: This was written before the release of Cosby’s deposition, in which he clearly states his use of drugs for sexual relationships with women. 

Over the course of the last few weeks more than 20 women have come forward with accusations of sexual assault by media icon, Bill Cosby. The media has exploded with coverage of the allegations and Cosby’s response. What has caught my attention the most in reading through all of this though, has been the difference in reaction between communities.

I read articles on two of my favorite news platforms, The Grio, which is geared towards the African diaspora community, and Jezebel, a more feminist toned outlet. Both articles adressed the same thing, Janice Dickinson coming forward to accuse Cosby. However, it wasn’t the articles that caught my attention but rather the comments on the articles. I get a kick out of reading comments, because I feel it tells me more than the actual article sometimes. The comments on Jezebel were as I expected them to be, a long list of women sympathizing with Janice’s plight and asserting the unfortunate upholding of rape culture in society. The comments underneath The Grio article were a conglomerate of side-eye emojis and memes that labeled Janice Dickinson a liar who was reaching for another moment in the spotlight. What was probably most interesting about the differences in the comments wasn’t that it was women on one side and men on the other, but instead that a majority of the comments condemning Janice Dickinson on the Grio were from Black women.

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What #CrimingWhileWhite Means For #BlackLivesMatter

Criming While White

The short answer to that is a very simple, nothing. Last night in the wake of the decision not to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner using an illegal chokehold, social media erupted once more in protest of injustice. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter resurfaced with just as much force as its use in the Ferguson decision. What was different about last night though was the accompaniment of the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite. The hashtag featured white people’s admissions of instances where they clearly got away with a crime because they were white. It was a stream of tangible admissions of white privilege and was relatively refreshing in the wake of events, but where does it go from here?Criming While White Trend Cropped

Having grown up as the only Black face among quite a few white ones for most of my life, I watched the experiences described in #CrimingWhileWhite, first hand. I watched friends in middle school shoplift and loiter. In high school I watched as my white friends strolled off of our closed campus to get high while security smiled at them as they passed, instead grilling me for not having my student ID clearly visible around my neck. Going to college at a predominately white institution just further confirmed white privilege to me. #CrimingWhileWhite while a step forward is still, as a whole, an example of white privilege. It exemplifies the privilege of white America to not only escape persecution for crimes, but the allowance for them to blatantly state it without any form of repercussion. It’s almost like being teased, “look at what we could do and you couldn’t.”

I have some white friends who used the #CrimingWhileWhiteHashtag last night but most, if not all, were already allies (good ones at that) who were fully aware of their white privilege and had an understanding of the significance of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. For some, the use of #CrimingWhileWhite was a wakeup call to the existence of their own white privilege, something that they had never before been able to really grasp. Some felt the need to apologize as the revelation of their privilege began to resonate, but there’s not much POC’s can do with that apology. As many on Black twitter pointed out last night, #CrimingWhileWhite can’t pay my bills, the apologies can’t bring back lives lost to injustice, and it can’t make white society care more about Black lives. What #CrimingWhileWhite has the ability to do is give perspective to white people about their privilege and create a space for the conversation about it. However, unless those who used the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag realized the importance of and began to support the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, we’re at a standstill.

The power of social media is not to be underestimated. If Black twitter can be “blamed for the non-indictment of Darren Wilson,” according to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, then we wield much more strength than we even recognize. To all those who felt compelled to join in on #CrimingWhileWhite, my question to you is, what next? If #CrimingWhileWhite compelled a percentage of the white population to recognize that they have power as allies, then it did something positive to contribute to an overarching issue, but Black twitter is most likely not holding their breath in hopes that there will be a fresh wave of new non-POC faces to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. At the end of the day, with or without the admission of white privilege by white people, Black lives matter and that’s the battle that the Black community will continue to focus on.

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The Problem With Loving Black Men Redux

The Problem With Loving Black Men Featured

I have chosen not to post anything new today in light of the Ferguson decision last night. I went to bed feeling numb, because I couldn’t watch anymore and I woke up to footage of mass chaos. I just want peace.This piece was originally written and posted in August, but I feel that it is still fitting now in November. 
 

I love Black men. I love their skin, their strong jaws, those heavy lips, and wide-set noses. Black men are these beautiful amalgamations of strength, pain, growth, and determination; which makes them my greatest weakness. I love everything about Black men, everything except their disposability. (more…)

5 Times This Week When Black Culture Needed To Say Bye Felicia [BuzzFeed]

nene bye felicia

Sometimes a situation is so ridiculous, so overwhelmingly irritating, and causes you to feel so over it, that you can’t find words to deal with it. That’s when you turn to the age-old reliable adage of “Bye Felicia”. So here are five things this week that were so upsetting to Black culture, that there was nothing better to say then “Bye Felicia”. Check out my BuzzFeed Post here.

nene bye felicia

No You Can’t Have Nappy

Credit: OrganicBeautyTalk.com

When I was 8 years old I had a classmate who came from a mixed background, her mother was white and her father was Black. One day I was over her house when her mother called her over so she could braid her hair. I watched as she separated the mass of curly fluffy hair on her head and braided 4 pig tails. “My mom could never do that to my hair,” I commented as I touched the bo-bo secured around my tiny afro puff. To which her mother replied, “I don’t know how she manages to do anything with your hair, I would die if my daughter had nappy hair like that.” My feelings were hurt and I wasn’t even sure why, what was wrong with my nappy hair?

Nappy is not the same type of N-word as nigger is. Historically nappy was a means of spitting on the phenotypically African nature of our hair. It was a way of separating African Americans from Europeans and it was a means of shame that we connected back to being a slave. When we existed as a Black society obsessed with European features, when we lived by hot combs and created straightening creams and chemicals, nappy was a means of signifying that we had ugly, slave like hair.

Credit: OrganicBeautyTalk.com

Credit: OrganicBeautyTalk.com

Black Girl Long Hair came out with an article today pointing out that the hashtag nappy was hijacked by white girls with messy bed head and unwashed hair. It was so… infuriating. To think that something else from Black culture had been columbsed yet again. But unlike cornrows and baby hairs, the term nappy carries a history of self hate that was instilled in Black people by European culture. Even worse is that the white women using nappy to refer to their hair are not using it as the positive adjective that we’ve adopted into Black culture, but instead are choosing to use it to describe undesirable hair.

Taking back nappy was a means of reclaiming pride in a natural thing. By nature our hair is nappy, kinky, and full of life. It battles us because it grows however it feels, and it doesn’t like to be forced into unnatural states, and we work with it and love it because it’s beautiful. Nappy is a celebration of accepting the beauty of our own hair, it’s become a commonplace term in the Black community and even more so in the natural hair community. Nappy is a difficult term, it wasn’t quick to be picked up and accepted, but once it was embraced it was a positive norm.

As a kid, growing up in an all white school had me begging my mother to rid me of my kinks. I hated my hair, it didn’t hang or flip like all the white girl’s hair did. All the characters in our books at school had long silky locks, and even the girls younger than me, just had all of this “pretty hair”. Growing up with white people turned nappy into an ugly thing for me, until I was old enough to understand that my hair struggles were a part of my narrative, a part of finding and being me.

Nappy means kinky and coily, and natural, and when used to refer to hair as such, it is a celebrated word. When nappy is used as a negative connotation by anyone it’s an issue, regardless of race. When you try to take something we fought to accept and make positive and use it as a negative, in a pejorative nature, or in reference to something undesirable you are making an effort to look down on and disrespect a part of a culture. Ignorance is not an excuse, just like ignorance of the history of black face is not an excuse for its use. If your hair is unwashed and unkempt, then those are the words to use when you want to describe it. Nappy is not dirty, it is not ugly, and it is not bed head. It is not the ugly insult Europeans leveraged against us as slaves and it is not a word to be claimed by those who don’t understand it’s meaning. So no you may not have nappy, the Santa Maria can sail right on by.

Bye FeliciaDon’t forget to like the Facebook page for more and follow me on Twitter for some good ole’ rants.

Harassment is never Black & White: Jezebel’s Video Response

Cat Calling

By now, it’s safe to assume that pretty much everyone has seen the video from Hollaback that follows a woman for a day through the city as she is catcalled over 100 times. The video went viral with over 3 million views, and women were happy that people now could see that catcalling isn’t harmless or an exaggeration by women. All was good and well until we began to take a closer look at the video and began to realize that it was missing two very important things; white men and women of color. The video only followed a white woman and had somehow conveniently excluded any shots of white men in the video.

Umm…

Where Dey At Doe? Once people began to comment on the video’s lack of inclusiveness Hollaback came out with a statement that essentially said they had very few shots of white men and that those they had, were in passing or were off camera. It was all very convenient, but ultimately their actions stunted the conversation on harassment and race. Nothing about harassment is simply black and white. No woman should ever assume that she is exempt from the possibility of harassment based on the color of her skin, her level of perceived attractiveness, or her size. What should be noted is that no man is exempt from being labeled as a harasser for their actions because of the same. Excluding white harassers from the video turns harassment into a racially specific issue, which it isn’t.

Jezebel came out with video and accompanying article in response to the exclusion of the feelings of women of color, and it says so much, while saying so little. This is the video that needs to go viral. In the article author Collier Meyerson, writes, “The Hollaback video’s omission of white men, and the omission of black and brown women, worked together in an sinister alchemy to reinforce centuries-old stereotypes about who needs to be saved and protected and who needs to be feared and controlled.” The Jezebel video features women of color, all women of color, discussing their experiences with street harassment and their feelings about being excluded from the video.

This insight into how women of color feel about street harassment certainly doesn’t level the playing field in terms of the damage done by the video but it does help to create visibility for this message. Harassment is a real thing, a way too commonplace thing, and a color blind thing. As the video will point out women of color and larger women are actually more susceptible to catcalling, but it does not exclude other women.

As a plus sized Black woman I can say first hand that I walk out of my door and expect to be catcalled. For some reason men seem to believe that they are doing some sort of favor by jeering and yelling out “compliments”. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told to smile, or asked if my breasts were real, or have had a man tell me how much he loves thick women. It’s unnerving, but I have to admit I’m pretty numb to it. White men love to comment on how much they love natural sisters, and I love to point out that I’m no sister of theirs. I’ve had white men who were attached to my hip at parties, whispering how much they love my hair or how cocoa butter my skin is. It’s not a compliment and it’s not a feel good moment. What it is, is skeevy, an invasion of personal space, and disrespectful. I don’t get dressed for men, I don’t do my hair for men, and I don’t need  a man to re-affirm my belief that I’m attractive.

I wish I could embed the video straight into the post for all of you to see but it seems to be hosted on Jezebel’s site, so for now a link will have to do. Watch it, share it, talk about it, so that we can push for people to understand that harassment is never Black and White.

Don’t forget to like the Facebook Page & Follow Me on Twitter for more updates and to keep the convo going!

Raven Symone and The Unwritten Rule

raven-symone-oprah-billboard-650

Raven Symone’s Where Are They Now interview with Oprah, has been creating buzz on social media all week, when the former child star told Oprah that she didn’t want to be called African American because she is an American just like everyone else. Was Raven’s comment a way of denouncing her Black identity, or is everyone just reading too much into it? Find out what I think in my latest vlog!

 

 

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