Blackface: Neva Eva Eva

If there’s one rule you can bet your lunch money on it’s that putting on blackface will get you flamed.  It may get you lots of hits–you’re sure to get attention, but it may not be the attention you crave.  Quick-someone send a link to smntks to Boglarka Balogh before she keeps helping African woman show off their beauty to the world! The Hungarian photographer, well travelled across the continent (of Africa) wanted to bring attention to the wide diversity and beauty of African women.  In order to show African’s finest she took a bunch of pictures of…herself.

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Yup, that’s right.  Despite having a bunch of pictures of beautiful African women, she chose instead to don blackface and mimic her photoed beauties. Slowly for those in the back–in order to show how beautiful African women are she took their style and showed picture of herself a-la-“enough about me! What about you? What do you think of me?”

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This is where appreciation becomes appropriation.  The women are beautiful–so just show their pictures!  To assume that their beauty is only accessible when filtered through the lens of a white body is racist.  While I do believe that she believes that she is showing their beauty, she is little more than a thief, knocking off their looks and turning the authentic inauthentic. Boglaka, I admire the intention–and a dope set of passport stamps–but check you ego at the  door and let the true beauty of Africa that you’ve captured shine!

Not to throw shade, but duck: In a head to head match up of the women she copied, I’m sorry but Balogh loses to every one.  She looks best as herself, but most def can’t best an African beauty at being, well, an
African beauty.  You be the judge: who takes the cake?  Weigh in in the comment below for most beautiful African.

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2016 Terror Attack!!

Someone forget to rest the chill button for 2016.  Just few days into the new year we have a terrorist attack right here in America, and what’s worse, there seems to be some sort of news blackout going on. What’s the haps?!

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is that….?

Here’s the scoop:

On Saturday afternoon about 300 Muslims gathered to protest government abuse.  After a peaceful march, a splinter group of jihadists–some known to police and the FBI for previous radical activities–broke off to head to a federal airport.  They occupied a local federal building-an empty airport terminal-and reports of 15-150 people with an unknown quantity of guns have said thy are now prepared to hold the airport hostage for “years.” One of the leaders involved told a reporter they are willing to “kill and be killed” in the name of Allah.

Wait, no that’s all wrong. There is no armed muslim extremist group holding federal land.  Besides, if there was, would Fox news be referring to them as Patriots? Hell no.

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hold on a sec.

On Saturday afternoon about 300 Black Lives matter protesters gathered to protest police brutality.  After a peaceful march, a splinter group of BLM leaders–some known to police and the FBI for previous standoff in Baltimore–broke off to head to a federal courthouse closed for the holidays.  They occupied a local federal building-the courthouse-and reports of 15-150 people with an unknown quantity of guns have said thy are now prepared to the courthouse  for “years.” One of the leaders involved  told a reporter they are willing to “kill and be killed.”

Oh, wait, totally wrong again.  Despite many, many protests in support of the movement for Black Lives, no part of the movement has staged an armed takeover.  No leader of the movement has advocated kill or be killed. Fox called them Anarchists.  I call them citizens acting within their constitutional right.

Here’s the real story:

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yeah, this ones real

On Saturday afternoon about 300 people gathered to protest government abuse.  After a peaceful march, a splinter group of militia leaders–some known to police and the FBI for a previous standoff on the Clive Bundy ranch–broke off to head to a federal wildlife preserve.  They occupied a local federal building on the preserve and reports of 15-150 people with an unknown quantity of guns have said thy are now prepared to occupy the preserve for “years.” One of the leaders involved, Ryan Bundy, told a reporter they are willing to “kill and be killed.” Despite the fact that an armed militant group has taken over federal property, listed demands, and is holding territory with weapons, no law enforcement has engaged with–or even driven out to monitor more closely the movements of the armed militants.

Yes, that story is correct.  Now check out story 1 and story 2:  can you imagine them ending with police falling back?  would this ever happen?

Despite the fact that armed jihadists have taken over federal property, listed demands, and are holding territory with weapons, no law enforcement has engaged with–or even driven out to monitor more closely the movements of the extremists.

Or this?

Despite the fact that  armed Black radicals have taken over federal property, listed demands, and are holding territory with weapons, no law enforcement has engaged with–or even driven out to monitor more closely the movements of the armed radicals.

Nope, never going to happen.  The language and framing of the Oregon standoff case shows again the huge disparity in not only how we talk about protest, violence and terrorism, but how we as a nation think about these things. It is not just the way one group is treated, but the differential in validation, blame and punishment between groups where modern racism is at its most visible.oregon-under-attack-armed-militia-takeover-government-building.jpg

Apologists for the Oregon armed invaders are already lining up to minimize, deflect and defend. They are quick to point out that there is no looting. No looting?  Don forget the deamnds.  These “protesters” are demanding the federal government give them  federal land–how’s that for looting?

Stay tuned.

 

 

New Walls, New Ways

2015, by any measure, was pretty shitty.  Unless you don’t watch the news, you know the past month season year has been intense–full of bad news, real tragedies and a world wide wrestling match with the most difficult issues humanity faces. I teach about media and race so this is my wheelhouse–writing about it all the time should be a given with so much to address.

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But this year has tested even those of us who are comfortable in the challenging arena of isms.  How many times can you explain that yes, racism exists, and no calling out racism does not make you a racist.  How many words can you hurl at the behemoth of hate before your arm falls off, or worse yet, you come to despise the futility of your own meager weapons?

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Tucked in between 1,134 black men killed by police, racism also made a come back in higher ed:  remember the threats at University of Missouri, racism at fraternity SAE in March and at a different chapter in November and, in case you missed it, a heated debate in higher ed around professors’ using the n– word in class.  Between writing, teaching about race and media, and fighting the local battle in my own tower, I ended the year despising more than just the futility of my weapons.

As an nontenured faculty of color at a predominately white college that focuses in part on social justice I believe I have a duty to prepare students who will combat structural inequality with a solid understanding of systems of oppression.  Not surprisingly, our little community is not unlike many of the other higher ed institutions “dealing” with diversity issues.

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I have been reminded that to speak out against racism, to name that racism exists in our community is a brave thing to do.  The unspoken flip side to this compliment is that to name racism at the institution is  dangerous business. I work on a contract, and can be released from my job of 10 years at the end of the year with no reason given.  A decade of good teaching evaluations or hard work will not protect me.  Each time I open my mouth and call out the racism I see, I am at risk.  And I have felt at risk.  Every time. Break came just in time to retreat and lick my wounds.

But every day is a new day, and a new year?  Well, that’s a time for magic.  I needed to clear the deck to get writing.  Since the year has been so heavy, this isn’t any average clear the deck–I’m in my writing room stripping shit down to the bare walls.

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Something about working on a household project unlocks a way of working on yourself.  Stripping wallpaper is a junior high level metaphor for cleansing for a new year, so no surprise  as I do I’m thinking about letting go, razing the ground to grow something, anything untainted by this years infestations.

But I’m also learning about how to pull down wallpaper that has been stuck to the wall since the 1950s.  While hacking away with water and an ice scraper, I learned something surprising.  the best way to pull it down is gently, softly and with love.  Sure the wallpaper was coming up with the scrapper in resistant tight crumpled rows, begrudgingly, and an inch at a time.  but if I spray it lightly, wait patiently and pull gently at the decay it comes off in long lacy strands that fall apart at the slightest touch.

While having drinks with my parents, my father said he always wished he could be forgiving.  I was surprised: I reminded him that he had indoctrinated me with a pathological ability to let go. So many days coming home from being bullied at school, he would simply tell me, “Not everyone’s going to like you.  Let it go.”  When I gnashed my teeth and plotted revenge he would rustle his paper, fanning away the evil deeds of the world with a terse, “Get over it.”

He laughed when I reminded him.  “I may have told you that, but that doesn’t mean I did it.  I’ve never been able to forgive.”  Quick to reinforce the old lesson, he added, “It’s good to forgive.  Then you’re free and you don’t carry it your whole life.” I’ve spent years forgiving and this year more than any, trying to be free of the pain of racism big and small.

The promise of forgiveness is freedom.  But when people refuse to acknowledge your humanity, much less take responsibility for trying to diminish you, forgiveness starts to feel too much like granting permission.  I have been pained to learn that sometimes forgiveness means you carry the memory for those who forget they victimize you, and it is them that goes free, unburdened by having to confront their own small mindedness and bad acts.

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Google wallpaper removal and their are lots of choices: chemicals to burn it off, machines to blast steam to disintegrate it off, paper tigers to shred it off.  I thought that ripping off the wallpaper would give me a chance to rip something up, to release the burden of all I have forgiven, but instead I find just another reminder that this slow gentle relentless attack, for me, is the only way.   Two days later I am still in there, peeling it off, rubbing it gently with water and then easing it off, sliding it to the floor and patting the wall clean.

Why?  I want a clean room but I care about the wall underneath–I don’t want to be left with holes to fill and scratches to heal.  My soft strategy rewards me. At the cost of checking my desire to destroy, the wallpaper comes off in long strands still holding the memory of all it saw. The war that I thought I wanted turned out to be a long moving mediation–both on the walls and in the work.

So I’ll scrape the walls slowly, and when they and my mind are clean I can return to the larger battle.  With each strand in the pile I remind myself of the reasons to keep scraping away at racism. Fuck forgiveness and the risk of raising your fist. I speak out anyway.  Because that’s who I have chosen to be.  Because the students deserve teachers willing to advocate for their dignity.  Because that is the job of a teacher–to provide a space for students to learn and grow.  Because I have a responsibility to model what I teach. Because I will not be silent when something must be said. Because with no justice then can never be peace.  Because racism hurts white people and they deserve to know the truth. Because hate will not eradicate itself. Because I believe that we can be better. Because I am black. Because I am human.  Because we the people are still trying to form a more perfect union.

Because the moment is now. Happy new year.