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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Where are All the . . . ? Take Two.

I love award shows.  It’s the little girl in me who watched The Oscars as a kid and dreamed of being up on that stage.  And while that dream has certainly faded as I’ve moved into my mid 40s (gasp!) , I still enjoy seeing the actors I love get recognized.

However, with the tinted glasses of feminism, award shows generally piss me off.  The lack of diversity in this year’s Emmy awards is frightening. And even more so, in some senses, than Hollywood.  Movies cost money, much of television doesn’t.  (although more and more shows being recognized are from HBO, Showtime, and Netflix, channels that do cost money).  What is most accessible to young people is a white coated representation of life, as shown in the nominees for this year’s Emmys.

There was never more than two people of color nominated in any category.  Lead Actress in a drama: one African-American woman.  Lead Actor in a drama:  all white men.  People of color did best in the “Guest Actor in a Drama.”  Two men of color were nominated for House of Cards, with Joe Morton taking the Emmy.  Two women of color were nominated in the same category with Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black taking the Emmy.

 

uzo-aduba

For Directing a Drama, there are two men of color, Carl Franklin for House of Cards and Cary Joji Fukunaga, who won for True Detective.

 

Cary Joji Fukunaga

The most diverse lineup of nominees was in Best Direction for a Comedy Series, which had one African-American man and two women in the lineup with Gail Mancuso winning for Modern Family.

Spend some time scrolling through these lists of nominees and you’ll get a white view of television’s lack of diversity.  What is someone who cares about representation to do?

I don’t watch a lot of television these day, but I need to become much more investigative in who is directing and who is represented.  I love VEEP, strong female role, but that show is also very white.  I know that Orange is the New Black is the show to watch for diversity, but I can only get sucked into one series at a time.  I watch Scandal because I believe in Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington being the first African-American women lead in decades.  Modern Family has a touch of diversity, as does The Walking Dead, my husband’s favorite series right now.  I love Key and Peele.  But my love of fake news shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are led by two very white men.  And honestly, there are only so many hours in the day to even watch television if you roll in at 6pm, put dinner together and get to bed by 10pm.

The only way to keep on task is to keep talking about it and keep sharing information on good examples and bad examples.  And maybe, just maybe, turn off those shows that reflect a society that really doesn’t exist anymore.

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Words are Hard to Come By

I want to write about Michael Brown and the struggle and strife in Ferguson, Missouri.  But words are hard to come by,  especially as a white person who cares deeply for social justice and hates racism.  But what can I say?  The police are racist?  That is not new information.  Black people are targeted by the criminal justice system?  That is not news, either.  The only good cops I know are the ones with a college degree.  Is that a bad thing to say?  I think all police should have degrees in sociology or psychology.  Much has been written on this topic, so I am going to include some other folks’ words that resonate with me.

USA Today reported that on average there were 96 cases of a white police officer killing a black person each year between 2006 and 2012, based on justifiable homicides reported to the FBI by local police.

 Blogger Eric Brewton, in his blog “The Game is Rigged in Ferguson,” writes

“It was Wilson who pulled his police issued revolver and fired anywhere between five and seven shots at an unarmed Michael Brown, killing him while his hands were in the air in a show of surrender. It was Wilson’s police chief Tom Jackson who took the first step towards putting Brown on trial by releasing a convenient store surveillance tape that showed the eighteen year old swiping cheap cigars and shoving a store clerk who tried to stop him just minutes before his death. It was Jackson who admitted that there was no link between that robbery and Brown’s deadly encounter with Wilson. It was the city’s mayor James Knowles, who in the wake of public unrest displayed a frighteningly high level of ignorance by suggesting the town had no racial strife when everything from traffic stops to the lack of diversity on the city’s police force would have suggested otherwise, and it was the state’s Governor Jay Nixon who was missing in action Wednesday night when the St. Louis County police force put on a performance that would have made the cops from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago proud. Nixon’s presence hasn’t exactly made the situation better. His latest stunt, calling for a citywide curfew for it’s residents has only added to the raw anger and intense pain being felt by so many.”

In Mother Jones last week, Jaeah Lee’s article “Exactly How Often Do Police Shoot Unarmed Black Men?” contains a troubling graphic:

 

Who Is Shot by New York City Police?

So what’s a well-meaning white ally to do?  How can those of us committed to an anti-racist world stop violence against people of color?  What can we do to change the ways that people are socialized in our society and by our media?  I don’t know.  But I am thankful to Janee Woods for giving allies a place to start.

1. Learn about the racialized history of Ferguson and how it reflects the racialized history of America.

Michael Brown’s murder is not a social anomaly or statistical outlier. It is the direct product of deadly tensions born from decades of housing discrimination, white flight, intergenerational poverty and racial profiling. The militarized police response to peaceful assembly by the people mirrors what happened in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Reject the “he was a good kid” narrative and lift up the “black lives matter” narrative.

Be mindful, political and socially aware with your language. Notice how the mainstream news outlets are using words like riot and looting to describe the uprising in Ferguson. What’s happening is not a riot. The people are protesting and engaging in a justified rebellion. They have a righteous anger and are revolting against the police who have terrorized them for years.

4. Understand the modern forms of race oppression and slavery and how they are intertwined with policing, the courts and the prison industrial complex.

We don’t enslave black people on the plantation cotton fields anymore. Now we lock them up in for profit prisons at disproportionate rates and for longer sentences for the same crimes than white people. And when they are released, they are second class citizens stripped of voting rights and denied access to housing, employment and education. Mass incarceration is The New Jim Crow.

5. Examine the interplay between poverty and racial equity.

The twin pillar of racism is economic injustice but do not use class issues to trump race issues and avoid the racism conversation. While racism and class oppression are tangled together in this country, the fact remains that the number one predictor of prosperity and access to opportunity is race.

6. Diversify your media.

Be intentional about looking for and paying close attention to diverse voices of color on the tv, on the internet and on the radio to help shape your awareness, understanding and thinking about political, economic and social issues. Check out ColorlinesThe Root or This Week in Blackness to get started.

7. Adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence as you resist racism and oppression. 

Dr. Martin Luther King advocated for nonviolent conflict reconciliation as the primary strategy of the Civil Rights Movement and the charge of His Final Marching Orders. East Point Peace Academy offers online resources and in person training on nonviolence that is accessible to all people regardless of ability to pay.

8. Find support from fellow white allies.

Challenge and encourage each other to dig deeper, even when it hurts and especially when you feel confused and angry and sad and hopeless, so that you can be more authentic in your shared journey with people of color to uphold and protect principles of antiracism and equity in our society. Go to workshops like Training for Change’s Whites Confronting Racism or European Dissent by The People’s Institute. Attend The White Privilege Conference or the Facing Raceconference. Some organizations offer scholarships or reduced fees to help people attend if funding is an issue.

9. If you are a person of faith, look to your scriptures or holy texts for guidance.

Seek out faith based organizations like Sojourners and follow faith leaders that incorporate social justice into their ministry. Ask your clergy person to address antiracism in their sermons and teachings. If you are not a person of faith, learn how the world’s religions view social justice issues so that when you have opportunity to invite people of faith to also become white allies, you can talk with them meaningfully about why being a white ally is supported by their spiritual beliefs.

10. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular.

Let’s be realistic. If you start calling out all the racism you witness (and it will be a lot once you know what you’re looking at) some people might not want to hang out with you as much. That’s a risk you’ll need to accept. But think about it like this: staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression. So you can be the popular person who stands with the oppressor or you can be the (maybe) unpopular person who stands for equality and dignity for all people. Which person would you prefer to be? And honestly, if some people don’t want to hang out with you anymore once you show yourself as a white ally then why would you even want to be friends with them anyway? They’re probably racists.

11. Be proactive in your own community.

As a white ally, you are not limited to being reactionary and only rising up to stand on the side of justice when black people are being subjected to violence very visibly and publicly. Moments of crisis do not need to be the catalyst because taking action against systemic racism is always appropriate because systemic racism permeates nearly every institution and community in this country. Some ideas for action: organize a community conversation about the state of police-community relations* in your neighborhood, support leaders of color by donating your time or money to their campaigns or causes, ask the local library to host a showing and discussion group about the documentary RACE – The Power of an Illusion, attend workshops to learn how to transform conflict into opportunity for dialogue. Gather together diverse white allies that represent the diversity of backgrounds in your community. Antiracism is not a liberals only cause. Antiracism is a movement for all people, whether they be conservative, progressive, rich, poor, urban or rural.

12. Don’t give up.

We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily. You may not see or feel the positive impact of your white allyship in the next month, the next year, the next decade or even your lifetime. But don’t ever stop. Being a white ally matters because your thoughts, deeds and actions will be part of what turns the tide someday. Change starts with the individual.

What will you do?

 

Where are My Pockets?

I was recently talking with some feminist friends about blog ideas.  In general I just write about whatever is pissing me off as pertains to women, politics, food, theatre, etc.  The subject of our lack of pockets came up.  This spawns two areas of critique.  One:  why don’t women have pockets built into their clothes as ALL men’s clothes do?  And two:  is this the reason behind pocketbooks or purses?

First of all, in general, women’s pants have tiny pockets you could barely fit a key into.  Skirts and dresses almost never have them.  If you do find a skirt or a dress with pockets, you are going to pay a pretty penny for that item.  Even suit jackets, those that do have pockets, have tiny outside pockets you might be able to squeeze a phone into.  My husband’s suit jackets have two large pockets on the outside and often one or two internal pockets.  He’s the one who has to carry my shit when we go to a wedding.

Why is this?  Does anyone know?  I mean, is the reason we don’t have pockets built into our clothes so that we have to buy a matching pocketbook for every item we own?  Nice purses cost big money. I have friends who pay hundreds of dollars for their purses.  $60 is a splurge for me.  (This story changes drastically when we are discussing shoes, however.  We all have our edge!)

Let’s talk about what women NEED to carry, at minimum.  I will only reference myself here as this differs from chick to chick.  Tampons or Pads.  (Yes, only for a week or so a month, but for some women, that arrival day is never predictable.)  Lipstick.  Or some kind of lip ointment.  Phone.  Keys.  Emory board in case you break a nail.  Business cards.  Cash.  Quarters if you have to park in a city.  Am I missing anything?

My husband carries the following:  phone, keys, butts, lighter, money clip wallet.  And he always asks me to carry his stuff if we go somewhere fancy where I have a bigger purse.  And he has a wallet that looks like this.

wallet 2 photo 1 wallet

If you like this amazing money clip, the link below will take you to my friend’s amazing printed leather products.

http://www.sharaporter.com/

My Administrative Assistant insists that she only searches for dresses or skirts WITH pockets.  I’m not sure where she gets them as I have never seen them at places I frequent.  Maybe there is some secret women’s clothing store that sells clothes with pockets?

As far as I’m concerned, this is just another piece of the puzzle of women’s oppression.  Not to mention those back problems from carrying those huge purses on our shoulders!

 

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critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

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Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.