Lifetime’s new makeover show layers racial politics on top of the uncomfortable dynamics of manipulating beauty and style choices, and comes up with something to offend just about everyone.
Popular entertainment targeted to white women is thick with obnoxiously other-ish fairy godpeople: the gay friend, the keeping-it-real black friend, the Latina neighbor, the wise black boss. There’s always some earthier, real-er, truer person whose task it is to flutter around to provide perspective, to fix what’s broken, and often to embarrass you for your foolishness. This is problematic for white women who don’t care to be cast as badly dressed, helpless dummies who need constant life coaching, but it’s no better for black women who don’t care to be cast as flashy-dressing, finger-waving, fast-talking fixers whose mission is making Cinderella presentable for the ball, or for gay men who don’t care to be asked to tag along on shopping trips.
Read whole piece here.- Via npr.org
It’s hard to learn a new language. But it’s way harder to learn a new culture.
Ta-Nehisi Coates narrates Bourdieu in this autobiography of race, culture, and educational attainment. Brilliantly.- Via theatlantic.com
If you’ve never experienced arbitrary harassment or brutality at the hands of a police officer, or seen law enforcement act in a way that defies credulity and common sense, it can be hard to believe people who tell stories of inexplicable persecution. As I noted in “Video Killed Trust in Police Officers,” the dawn of cheap recording technology has exposed an ugly side of U.S. law enforcement that a majority of people in middle-class neighborhoods never would’ve seen otherwise.
Today, what’s most disheartening isn’t that so many Americans still reflexively doubt stories of police harassment, as awful as it is whenever real victims are ignored. What vexes me most is police officers caught acting badly on camera who suffer no consequences and are defended by the police agencies that employ them.
The latest example of abusive, atrocious police work posted to YouTube comes from St. Paul, Minnesota, where a black father, Chris Lollie, reportedly got off work at Cossetta, an upscale Italian eatery, walked to the downtown building that houses New Horizon Academy, where he was to to pick up his kids, and killed the ten minutes until they’d be released sitting down on a chair in a skyway between buildings. Those details come from the Minneapolis City Pages, where commenters describe the area he inhabited as a public thoroughfare between commercial buildings. If you’re 27 and black with dreadlocks, sometimes you’re waiting to pick up your kids and someone calls the cops to get rid of you. The police report indicates a call about “an uncooperative male refusing to leave,” which makes it sound as though someone else first asked him to vacate where he was; another press report says that he was sitting in a chair in a public area when a security guard approached and told him to leave as the area was reserved for employees. The Minnesota Star Tribune visited the seating area and reported that ”there was no signage in the area indicating that it was reserved for employees.”
So a man waiting to pick up his kids from school sits for a few minutes in a seating area where he reasonably thinks he has a right to be, private security asks him to leave, he thinks they’re harassing him because he’s black, and they call police. This is where the video begins, and that conflict is already over. The man is walking away from it and toward the nearby school where he is to pick up his kids.
So problem solved? It could have been.Instead, this happened.
Continue reading. Video included in full article.
Absolutely and utterly disturbing. And heartbreaking.- Via theatlantic.com
Guangzhou is witnessing many Afro-Chinese marriages, but the mainland’s lack of citizenship rights for husbands and a crackdown on foreign visas means families live in fear of being torn apart, writes Jenni Marsh
Eman Okonkwo’s foot-tapping at the altar is not a sign of nerves. The groom’s palms aren’t sweaty, there are no pre-wedding jitters and certainly no second thoughts. Today he is realising a dream imagined by countless African merchants in Guangzhou: he is marrying a Chinese bride.
Seven days earlier, Jennifer Tsang’s family was oblivious to their daughter’s romance. Like many local women dating African men, the curvaceous trader from Foshan, who is in her late 20s - that dreaded “leftover woman” age - had feared her parents would be racially prejudiced.
Today, though - having tentatively given their blessing - they snuck into the underground Royal Victory Church, in Guangzhou, looking over their shoulders for police as they entered the downtown tower block. Non-state-sanctioned religious events like this are illegal on the mainland.
Okonkwo, 42, doesn’t have a single relative at the rambunctious Pentecostal ceremony, but is nevertheless delighted.
"Today is so special," beams the Nigerian, "because I have married a Chinese girl. And that makes me half-African, half-Chinese."
In Guangzhou, weddings like this take place every day. There are no official figures on Afro-Chinese marriages but visit any trading warehouse in the city and you will see scores of mixed-race couples running wholesale shops, their coffee-coloured, hair-braided children racing through the corridors.
While Okonkwo’s dream of becoming Chinese through matrimony is futile - the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau (PSB) denies African husbands any more rights than a tourist - his children, should he have any and they be registered under Tsang’s name, will possess a hukou residency permit and full Chinese citizenship.
The relationship with Africa that China has so aggressively courted for economic gain - 2012 saw a record US$198 billion of trade between the pair - is producing an unexpected return: the mainland’s first mixed-race generation with blood from a distant continent and the right to be Chinese.
And unfortunately, people reacted exactly how you’d expect them to.
- Via mic.com
- Via sociology.about.com
This year’s annual meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) recently took place in San Francisco. Coming on the heels of the killing of unarmed black teen Michael Ferguson Jr. at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and in the midst of an ongoing community uprising shrouded in police brutality, many sociologists in attendance had the national crises of police brutality and racism on their minds. The ASA however created no official space for discussion of these issues, nor has the 109 year-old organization made any kind of public statement on them, despite the fact that the amount of published sociological research on these issues could fill a library. Frustrated by this lack of action and dialog, some attendees created a grassroots discussion group and task force to address these crises.
Neda Maghbouleh, Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Toronto-Scarborough, was one of those who took the lead. Explaining why, she said, “We had a critical mass of thousands of trained sociologists within two blocks of each other at ASA—equipped to marshal history, theory, data, and hard facts toward a social crisis like Ferguson. So ten of us, complete strangers, met for thirty minutes in a hotel lobby to hash out a plan to get as many concerned sociologists as possible to contribute to, edit, and sign a document. I was committed to helping in any way possible because it’s moments like these that affirm the value of social science for society.”
The “document” Dr. Maghbouleh refers to is an open letter to U.S. society at-large, that has been signed by over 1,400 sociologists, this author among them. The letter begins by pointing out that what transpired in Ferguson is born of “deeply ingrained racial, political, social and economic inequities,” and then specifically names the conduct of policing, especially in black communities and in the context of protest, as a serious social problem. The authors and signatories implore “law enforcement, policymakers, media and the nation to consider decades of sociological analysis and research that can inform the necessary conversations and solutions required to address the systemic issues that the events in Ferguson have raised.”
The authors point out that much sociological research has already established the existence of society-wide problems present in the case of Ferguson, like “a pattern of racialized policing,” historically rooted “institutionalized racism within police departments and the criminal justice system more broadly,” the “hyper-surveillance of black and brown youth,” and the disproportionate targeting of and disrespectful treatment of black men and women by police. These troubling phenomena foster suspicion about people of color, create an environment in which it is impossible for people of color to trust police, which in turn undermines the ability of police to do their job: serve and protect.
The authors write, “Instead of feeling protected by police, many African Americans are intimidated and live in daily fear that their children will face abuse, arrest and death at the hands of police officers who may be acting on implicit biases or institutional policies based on stereotypes and assumptions of black criminality.” They then point out that brutal police treatment of protestors is “rooted in the history of repression of African American protest movements and attitudes about blacks that often drive contemporary police practices.”
In response, sociologists call for “greater attention to the conditions (e.g., joblessness and political disenfranchisement) that have contributed to the marginalization of residents” of Ferguson and other communities, and explain that “focused and sustained government and community attention on these issues is required to bring about healing and a change in the economic and political structures that have thus far ignored and left many in such areas vulnerable to police abuse.”
The letter concludes with a list of demands required for “an appropriate response to the death of Michael Brown,” and to address the larger, nation-wide issue of racist police policies and practices:
- Immediate assurance from law enforcement authorities in Missouri and the federal government that constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of the press will be protected.
- A civil rights investigation into the incidents related to the death of Michael Brown and general police practices in Ferguson.
- The establishment of an independent committee to study and analyze the failures of the policing efforts during the week following Michael Brown’s death. Ferguson residents, including leaders of grassroots organizations, should be included on the committee throughout this process. The committee must provide a clear roadmap for resetting community-police relations in a way that grants oversight power to residents.
- An independent comprehensive national study of the role of implicit bias and systemic racism in policing. Federal funding should be allocated to support police departments in implementing the recommendations from the study and ongoing monitoring and public reporting of key benchmarks (e.g., use of force, arrests by race) and improvements in police practices.
- Legislation requiring the use of dash and body-worn cameras to record all police interactions. Data from these devices should be immediately stored in tamper-proof databases, and there should be clear procedures for public access to any such recordings.
- Increased transparency of public law enforcement, including independent oversight agencies with guaranteed full access to law enforcement policies and on-the-ground operations; and more streamlined, transparent and efficient procedures for the processing of complaints and FOIA requests.
- Federal legislation, currently being developed by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), to halt the transfer of military equipment to local police departments, and additional legislation to curtail the use of such equipment against domestic civilian populations.
- Establishment of a ‘Ferguson Fund’ that will support long term strategies grounded in the principles of social justice, systems reform and racial equity to bring about substantial and sustained change in Ferguson and other communities facing similar challenges.
To learn more about the underlying issues of systemic racism and police brutality, check out The Ferguson Syllabus compiled by Sociologists for Justice. Many of the readings included are available online.
"We don’t like pictures like this. It is not good to deduce an entire country to the image of a person reaching out for food. It is not good for people to see us like this, and it is not good for us to see ourselves like this. This gives us no dignity. We don’t want to be shown as a country of people waiting for someone to bring us food. Congo has an incredible amount of farmland. An incredible amount of resources. Yes, we have a lot of problems. But food is not what we are reaching for. We need investment. We need the means to develop ourselves."- Via facebook.com
(Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo)
- Via alj.am
WASHINGTON — The soaring sound of “Wade in the Water,” a Negro spiritual once said to be used on the Underground Railroad, filled Plymouth Congressional United Church of Christ Saturday morning.
But on this particular Saturday, church-goers offered their respects to the Great Spirit, in addition to the Holy Spirit, looked on as a Native American drum processional wound its way through the aisle, and took part in a ceremonial tobacco offering.
At the first gathering of the newly created National Congress of Black American Indians, organizers and attendees came to unite and celebrate individuals of both African and Native American ancestry — a subject often fraught with complicated questions of race, identity and citizenship.
Although Native Americans and African-Americans have crossed paths, intermarried and formed alliances since pre-colonial times, often uniting in their common fight against slavery and dispossession, their shared history has been slow to be unearthed and brought into the light.
The formation and the first meeting of the NCBAI sought to remove the taboo of mixed ancestry and bring together those who could trace their ancestry to both communities. The gathering received endorsement and letters of support from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, D.C. mayor Vincent Gray and Prince George County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.
"This has been a conversation that has been avoided and pushed aside, and folks who have wanted to have this conversation have been marginalized, subjugated, separated, downtrodden, stepped on," said Jay Gola Waya Sunoyi, one of the founders of the National Congress. “But still we’re here.”
Sunoyi, a member of Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama, said that black Native Americans historically concealed one part of their ancestry to avoid the trouble that would inevitably come along with being a part of both marginalized groups. Sunoyi said he himself did not know that he was descended from enslaved black Americans until after his grandmother, a Taino Indian from Puerto Rico, passed away and old family letters were recovered. For others, it was easier to integrate into black communities and avoid claiming their Native American identity.
"In the history of this Western Hemisphere, because of the price on Native American people’s heads, our people hid in other folk’s identities just to survive," he said. "But if you don’t accept all of you, you are lying to yourselves."
Some attendees had done extensive research into their genealogy to find their Native roots, while others were more reliant on oral histories and anecdotal evidence. The lore of Native American ancestors runs deep in many African-American families, although geneticists have found the numbers of black Native Americans to be relatively small. When activist and scholar Henry Louis Gates looked into the subject, he found that only 5 percent of African-American people carry more than 2 percent Native American ancestry.
Still, David Rich, 62, said he thought “more people had claim to it than they know.”
Rich, who was not a member of any tribe himself, said he was drawn to the gathering to pay respects to his grandmother, who he said was a Cherokee Indian.
Marlene Parker, 47, who recently discovered through family records that she had ancestors who were part of the Meherrin tribe of North Carolina, said she felt liberated to be in an environment where her heritage was celebrated. Although she had grown up identifying as an African-American in the black community, Parker said she wanted to know more about her Native roots.
"For such a long time, it was outsiders who defined who we were, depending on what we looked like," she said. "This is about finding the truth."
The common linkages between blacks and Native Americans have not always been celebrated. In 2011, the Cherokee Nation revoked the tribal citizenship of 3,000 black Freedmen — descendants of slaves that Cherokees once owned, with ugly accusations being hurled about race, politics and who could rightfully claim millions of dollars in casino revenue.
Although its charter says the organization seeks to “uphold the rights of all Native people with African ancestry,” Sunoyi said that the National Congress had no overt political goals and did not seek to get involved in disputes over government or tribal benefits.
"It’s about fulfillment of self," he said. "It’s about knowing who you are. If you know who you are, you know where you stand in the universe."
Penny Gamble-Williams, a black Native American activist and a member of the Wampanoag tribe, similarly said at least culturally, it was time bury old stigmas and stop subjecting people to arbitrary tests to prove themselves “Native enough.”
"It is time to move past these conversations about ‘Who is more Indian? Who looks more Indian? Who can speak the language?’ These things are only somewhat important," she said. "This is all about healing."
Maimouna Youssef, a musician of Choctaw, Cherokee and Creek as well as African ancestry, recounted the poking and prodding she endured being “the brownest child” taking part in powwows and other Native American dance ceremonies as she was growing up.
Youssef remembers asking her mother, “Why can’t I just be black?”
"And she told me ‘It’s not enough. You have to be all of who you are.’
"People would say to me, ‘What, you’re trying to go to college for free?’" Youssef added. "It’s got nothing to do with that."