Breaking Down Privilege, Light Skin and Beyond

Precious-2
Precious wasn’t a 110-pound light skinned girl for a reason.

As NPR described, “the writer known simply as Sapphire, tells the story of a dark-skinned, heavy-set, illiterate African-American girl who has survived multiple pregnancies by her father.” In other words, the character Precious was created by Sapphire to depict one of the most rejected, unprotected, less privileged demographics.

In an interview, Sapphire explained,

I wanted to show that this girl is locked out through literacy. She’s locked out by her physical appearance. She’s locked out by her class, and she’s locked out by her color.

There were similar reasons behind the creation of  characters Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Celie in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Because of denied privileges to women fitting their characteristics, Black women writers felt a need to share these stories. Three things these legendary characters all had in common: poverty, dark skin and sexual abuse. This was not an accident.

It has been known for a very long time that people with dark skin have often been treated with the utmost disdain and abuse. This is not a new discovery. Yet still, a few of my readers had a digital meltdown when I discussed light skin privilege.

Dave-Chapelle-Rick-James

At first I was surprised but then I remembered how difficult recognizing privilege can be. After all, a huge component of privilege is not realizing it exists.

So I’m going to rewind and thoroughly explain what privilege is, how it works and who has it.

It wasn’t until I was older that I realized I had privilege. Even as a little girl, when a white class mate (afraid of my Blackness) refused to come near me, I had privilege. Even in middle school when a group of Black girls compared me to a gorilla, I had privilege. Even in the 9th grade, when I was bullied to the point of crying in class by other Black kids because of my permed but still nappy hair, I had privilege.

It wasn’t until I was older, when I saw some of these same people and their lives, that I realized the privilege I had. I grew up in a two parent household. Both of my parents were college graduates. The concept of college was never a question. Never had I ever been asked, “Are you going to college?” It was a given. Not only was I going, I had already begun writing, playing instruments, learning modern dance, and performing in theater productions. When I wanted to do something, my mother wrote a check.

Black-ish-money

We were not rich, but she was able to pay for every school activity I wanted to do.

My mother was very busy, but still had time to go over my school work. During the summer, I would get mad at her for forcing me to complete workbooks before I could go out and play. I didn’t know that any of this was a privilege. It was always assumed that everybody was able to do all of these things. In my mind, everybody’s mom read them stories, gave them books, made home-cooked dinners every night, and helped them apply for financial aid to attend college.

I later learned that some of those same people that bullied me so badly, were living in abject poverty. Baldwin County, Ga has a poverty rate double the national average. Many of their mothers were working overtime in service and fast food industries trying to make ends meet. I realized that those playground wars, where I had been called such horrible names, were their own attempts to feel better about their status in the world. If they could succeed in making someone else feel the way they felt, then they could feel powerful (even if it only lasted for a few hours.)

If you had told me at the time I was being called a gorilla, that I had privilege, it would have been hard for me to believe you. I would have said, “But my feelings are hurt, what privilege?”

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school, when so many Black kids failed to pass the Georgia High School Graduation Test, that I started to realize the disparities. It wasn’t until I saw members of my senior class receiving a certificate instead of a diploma that I realized what happened. Their lives were cheated, opportunities had been denied and it was systematic. I recalled how certain students were automatically put on the technical track while others were put on the college track. The state of Georgia had predetermined who was going to college and who wasn’t.

But not me. I was going to college. I was going to leave and study whatever I wanted to. In high school I worked at McDonald’s, Sonic and Papa John’s. Quitting these jobs was never a make or break situation for me.

half-baked-job-quit

I had no problem saying, “I quit,” because, I was college bound. Fast food or retail wasn’t going to be my future. Hence my confusion when I saw other students dropping out of high school once they finally got their highly coveted job at Walmart.

Later in college, I saw how girls that were darker than me in skin tone were treated by men. I saw first hand how their deep brown skin was used a prerequisite for excessive abuse or utter disregard. I’ve seen their love interests dodge them and pursue me or other girls. I’ve also seen how they were treated by faculty members and staff. They were under constant attack. My lighter skinned friends also faced hardships, being not considered Black enough or having to deal with people’s assumptions about them. But what our other friends were going through was undeniable.

We were also treated differently according to body type.

Coming-To-America

Dark skin plus thicker body equaled additional problems. It was during this time that I also realized thin privilege. And yes, that’s a real thing. I had never thought of this before either, but it existed and I benefited from it.

Later I learned about abelism and the privilege I have as a person with no physical or developmental disabilities.

So here I am a Black middle class, 2nd generation college graduate, with two educated parents, with no known disabilities, that wears a size medium. I have a lot of privilege that other people don’t have. That doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced racism or bullying.

So when I wrote about the documentary Light Girls, referencing its avoidance of privilege, the commentary was out of a real need to address historical facts that affect the Black community. Light skin privilege is real. It has been studied and documented throughout history. It is a subsidiary of White privilege, where people of hues closer to white on the racial hierarchy are afforded with certain advantages. Over the past 300 years, it has become a part of the fabric of Western society.

Here are the 6 most common responses when discussing Light Skin Privilege:

draya-bye-felicia

1. But I’ve experienced racism. I don’t have privilege.

2. But other Black people picked on me because I’m light skinned. I don’t have privilege.

1-2: Your concerns are valid. However, it needs to be remembered that this issue isn’t about individual situations or circumstances. Light skinned privilege isn’t about anybody’s assumptions or hurt feelings. Race is a social construct that was created to sustain a hierarchy. In the Western world “whiteness” has been used as a measuring stick for human value. People of lighter hues have been treated with less “disdain” than other Black people. This is a historical fact, not an idea or assumption. It doesn’t mean that light skinned people never face racism or colorism. 

3. But I went to prison or had some other horrible experience in life. I don’t have privilege.

Light skin privilege does not mean that people labeled as light skinned never experience hardships or adversity. However, it does mean that at times, certain hardships will have less of a blow if your skin tone is lighter. For instance, a recent study showed that among Black people in prison, those perceived as light skinned received shorter sentences than those perceived as dark skinned.

4. Stop making assumptions about my character. I don’t have privilege.

Privilege isn’t about making assumptions on someone’s character. People need to understand the concept of light skin privilege is not an indictment on light skinned people, but instead an indictment on how racial hierarchies operate. Challenging this issue, is necessary in order challenge the false concept of white supremacy.

5. I don’t believe it. Show me the receipts! Where is this privilege?

Whitney-Receipts-1

For all naysayers, part of “privilege” is having the ability to not “see” the problem, because it has become so normalized.

Here are the requested receipts:

http://www.theroot.com/articles/politics/2011/07/color_bias_do_lightskinned_blacks_get_shorter_sentences.html

http://www.multiculturaladvantage.com/recruit/diversity/bias/Skin-Tone-More-Important-Than-Educational-Background-African-Americans-Seeking-Jobs.asp

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/11/us/school-discipline-to-girls-differs-between-and-within-races.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/14/skin-tone-bias_n_4597924.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/study-people-associate-education-with-lighter-skin/283086/

http://thegrio.com/2014/01/16/study-light-skinned-black-men-perceived-as-better-educated/

http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/05/13/doll.study/

http://jezebel.com/368746/study-men-are-more-attracted-to-women-with-lighter-skin

http://www.sentencingproject.org/detail/news.cfm?news_id=1136

6. Why are you talking about this? What good does it do? This is just divide and conquer.

Talking about Light Skinned Privilege does not promote “divide and conquer.” Ignoring it does.

Divide and conquer can only exist in a state of confusion. Right now, confusion exists because we haven’t learned how to effectively pin point and deconstruct the inner workings of racial oppression. By rejecting the privilege of light skin or at least calling it out, we are also rejecting the concept of white supremacy. We are saying that all Black lives are just as valuable as the others. This same thing can be said we we reject homophobia and sexism in our communities. We’re saying all Black lives matter the same, despite our perceived differences.

Last but not least

Part of the normalization of privilege is not being aware it exists. Even as a former landlord happily called me her “new pitch black friend,” I had privilege at various levels. In other words, this isn’t about your or my hurt feelings. Transforming society hinges upon our ability to proactively breakdown privilege: white, light skinned, class, economic and beyond.

In the case of racism and colorism, recognizing light skin privilege is a step towards understanding how to dismantle white privilege and Black oppression. The recognition of light skin privilege is not an indictment against light skinned people, it’s an indictment on the currently normalized role of false white supremacy and how it plays out in our lives.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & Culture The Web. To bring JAM to your school or show, email OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci

Light Girls, When Documentaries Get It Wrong

darkorlight

Scene from Spike Lee’s School Daze

“If you love yourself, don’t watch Light Girls.”

This is what I told a dear friend of mine after watching the documentary. The film was a sequel to Dark Girls, a documentary about colorism in the African American community. Light Girls was supposed to show the other side of the coin and share the views of women that society labels as “light skinned.” Instead, it turned into a living rendition of  light skin vs. dark skin battles paralleling the epic scenes from, School Daze. Why the disdain? There isn’t enough time to cover everything but here are my top sources of contention with Light Girls.

1. The Denial of Light Skin Privilege

Light Girls perpetuated the stereotype that dark skinned girls are jealous, angry and violent. Rarely was there any nuanced or guided discourse behind light skin privilege. In fact, the topic was carefully avoided. If not for Soledad O’Brien’s brief acknowledgement that her color helped her career, one would think that light skin privilege is a figment of evil dark skinned imagination.

This is mostly because a discussion surrounding white privilege was painfully absent from most commentary. Light skin privilege exists as a subsidiary of white privilege. This is not a concept made up out of simple jealously. We cannot discuss one without the other. Light skin privilege is when people with skin color closer to what is associated with phenotypically “white features” are granted certain privileges relative to superiority over darker skinned people.

Consequently, light skinned women get lighter jail sentences, are more likely to get hired for a job, and are even disciplined differently as children. These are just a few examples backed up by data.

Understand that acknowledging light skin privilege is not about finger pointing. It’s about understanding racial hierarchies determined by structures of white superiority and the role that it plays in Black lives.

If we deny the existence of light skin privilege, we deny the existence of white privilege.

2. Black Men are not the gate keepers of Black women’s value

The documentary spent an agonizing amount of time featuring the scattered thoughts of random Black men, as if Black male scholars were unavailable. Dr. Steve Perry was very much alone in his contribution to the discussion. There were so many cringeworthy moments where men discussed their color “preferences” like a bunch of drooling 8th graders. I thought to myself, “Are we in middle school?” Along this line, the film completely ignored the possibility of Black women in same-sex relationships. The film placed the value of Black women on heterosexual, patriarchal male gaze. One commentator even exalted the faulty belief that dark skinned Black women are better than light skinned women because, they will do more for you. This type of unchallenged thinking reaffirms stereotypes of darker skinned Black women being built for work and lighter skinned women existing solely for the purpose of being a trophy.

3. The assertion that light skinned girls are molested or raped more than dark skinned girls is disturbing

Two commentators in the film recalled being molested and raped. One of them even boldly stated that light skinned girls are a prime choice for pedophiles. My mouth dropped open. “Is this really happening?” The film just continued onto the next topic.

To leave such an assertion unchallenged or glossed over is grossly irresponsible. Not to discredit her personal experiences, but that assertion deserved a very nuanced follow up discussion.  No way should this have been included without expert analysis. It was cruel and damaging to the film participants and audience.

Yes, pedophiles have varying preferences. They often take advantage of the more vulnerable segments of society. Yes, light skinned girls get raped, molested and sexually trafficked. However, because dark skinned girls are often less championed for, dark skin is often a determinate in sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

Society’s refusal to protect dark skinned girls is what lead to Toni Morrision’s decision to create the character Pecola Breedlove. Pecola who was both sexually abused and ignored, continually prayed for blue eyes believing it would be a type of salvation from the societal ills associated with her dark skinned Black identity. This is not a contest on who is sexually abused more.

This is more about understanding the power dynamics of sexual abuse and how it intersects within racial hierarchies. It deserved a fuller conversation.

4. Who are these people?

Raven

Raven-Symoné

Apparently, every person with an agent made it into this film except the leading scholar on the one-drop rule, Yaba Blay. It was as if they carefully avoided her input. And it showed. She was featured on Soledad O’Brien’s Who Is Black In America. You can learn more about Yaba Blay’s work here.

Light Girls turned out to be a mess of a documentary because it was filled with commentary from a slew of third-tier comedians and entertainers. Additionally, the film included remarks from pseudo doctor Farrah Gray. Of course there were also a few notable scholars and commentators. Michaela Angela Davis, Goldie Taylor, Jamilah Lemieux, and Soledad O’Brien were among the slim pickings of truthful and knowledgeable commentary. Yet, by the end of the film, many of them were also tweeting disgust concerning what the film had become. I’m still baffled by Raven Symone’s appearance as well, considering her ideas on “colorless” as a identity.

5. It’s not about jealousy

I shutter at the thought of having to say this but dark skin girls are not all lurking in the bushes waiting to ponce on the nearest light skinned person. This notion is ridiculous but was highly purported throughout the documentary. We’re not all crying in a corner somewhere filled with rage and jealousy. It reasserted the false narrative that all dark skinned girls are unwanted, hateful, mean and violent. The film made it look like we were all derivatives of the boogeyman.

Rarely did the documentary truthfully discuss playground wars and issues of Black children in general calling each other “too Black,” “ugly Africans,” or “high yellow” and using these learned internalized sentiments in hopes of feeling more superior to each other in the face of constant societal dehumanization.

It’s all a part of white supremacy and learned internalized racial hierarchies,  not simplistic hatred or jealousy.

6. Sisterhood Does Exist

for-colored-girls

There are issues of colorism throughout our society. However, this belief that Black women in predetermined skin-tone categories are genetically predisposed to hate each other is down right preposterous. As I’ve written before, it’s important to remember that there is sisterhood among Black women that has historically been a source of safety and empowerment. It has thrived, even in the midst of racism and colorism. This sisterhood bond continues to be the salvation for many Black women in need of support and love.

7. Colorism cannot be changed through positive thinking 

Pharrell-Happy

At one point “Dr.” Farrah Gray asserted that light skinned and dark skinned girls simply need to learn to get along and stop “blaming the white man.” Here goes the condescending, “You girls stop fighting,” speech. Other commentators docilely asserted we simply needed to think positive, look in the mirror and say, “I’m beautiful.” Then all will be healed. It reduced the entire subject to Black women being just silly or petty, which is not the case.

No pep talk in the world is going to cure colorism. The film put the onus of colorism on the literal and preverbal backs of dark skinned girls. As if to say colorism is a personal problem, not a real systematic lived experience. This teeters along the line of saying racism is simply an imagined Black problem that will go away if we just think happy thoughts and be New Black like Pharrell.

8. In conclusion

To be fair, the film had a few positives. For instance, at one point they tried to present a global perspective of colorism. This is helpful in highlighting the fact that colorism is not just a Black issue. The affects of slavery and colonization have been felt worldwide. Also, a film about how colorism affects light skinned girls is necessary and efforts of the film are appreciated. Still, the film did what most things in mainstream society do. Light Girls continued the devaluation of Black life by oversimplifying key issues and not providing a thorough analysis for deconstructing the core problems…structural racism and patriarchy.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com.
To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

An Open Letter To Joe Scarborough: This Is More Than About Mike Brown

Scarborough

Somebody needs to tell me when Michael Brown has been chosen as the face of Black oppression…There are so many great people to embrace as heroes in the Black community. Deciding that you’re going to embrace a guy that knocked over a convenient store, and then according the grand jury testimony acted in ways that would get my children shot…that’s your hero?” – Joe Scarborough, MSNBC Morning Joe

Dear Joe Scarborough,

The systematic and perpetual oppression of Black Americans is not an issue to be toyed with. Let’s be clear here. This is not just about Mike Brown. Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and so on are examples of how law enforcement is allowed to become judge, jury and executioner when it comes to Black lives. The anger and fury expressed by Black Americans is based on perpetual violence at the hands of law enforcement. To you, the police protect and serve but many of us need protection from the police. The denial of your privilege prevents you from acknowledging this.

In our lives, the jury decision not to indict does not suddenly absolve Darren Wilson of Mike Brown’s death. Historically U.S. jury decisions do not sway in favor of protecting Black lives. This recent decision is just another painful reminder of that fact.

Furthermore, the narrative that victims must be flawless in order to have justice is not only absurd but dehumanizing. The moment a Black body touches the ground, media is clamoring to search their records. Even 12-year-old Tamir Rice was not exempt.

This is about Black lives being threatened by law enforcement on a daily basis. All that is needed is a story/narrative which depicts the person as threatening. Suddenly, by invoking “fear” Black deaths are justified with all minds cleared.

The “I was afraid of a Black person” narrative is allowing murderers to run free in the name of court-justified trepidation. The Rosewood Massacre of 1923 is an example of the horrors Black Americans have faced with court refusal to prosecute their murderers.

We’ve been dealing with this for a very long time.

Civil rights leader and journalist Ida B. Wells spent years documenting lynching’s across America, bearing witness to crimes that would go unpunished. Unfortunately the words from her speech Lynch Law In America given in 1900 still ring true 114 years later.

In her opening remarks, Wells gives a chilling overview that is painfully familiar,

“Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob. It represents the cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent people who openly avow that there is an “unwritten law” that justifies them in putting human beings to death without complaint under oath, without trial by jury, without opportunity to make defense, and without right of appeal.”

Wells continues, “The thief who stole a horse, the bully who ‘jumped’ a claim, was a common enemy.”

The narrative of Mike Brown “the bully” or Mike Brown “the thief” is so eerily familiar. The storyline had already been created for Darren Wilson to utilize.

Wells also states, “In fact, for all kinds of offenses – and, for no offenses – from murders to misdemeanors, men and women are put to death without judge or jury; so that, although the political excuse was no longer necessary, the wholesale murder of human beings went on just the same.”

Approximately 114 years later, Darren Wilson still had the privilege of making himself judge, jury and executioner with no penalty. In fact, he’s become richer for it.

We are still living under the tyranny of America’s unwritten Lynch Laws. We’re then blamed for our own deaths for failing to respond properly to slave codes.

In the words of Jesse Williams, “We are not making this up.”

When we scream Mike Brown’s name at protests, we are recognizing him as a human being. We are crying out to the world, that our brother has been slain.

See here the blood that was spilled.

See here his mother’s tears.

See here he was just a boy that deserved to live like all the other boys.

As we recognize his humanity, Darren Wilson calls him a “demon” and compares him to wrestler “Hulk Hogan.” Referring to Mike as if he were some wild beast to be tamed. The St. Louis Police Department called him a “myth.” Even the New York Times said he was, “No Angel,” as if angel status was a prerequisite for living. This is also a reminder that for African Americans, mainstream media is often complicit in perpetuating stereotypes and fear mongering narratives surrounding our lives.

So no, we’re not making Mike Brown a hero. We’re asserting his humanity because if we don’t do it no one else will. His life represents our lives.

We yell Mike Brown’s name, shut down malls, boycott stores, block highways and chain ourselves to train stations because there is no other option for us.

Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer said the unforgettable words, ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” That meant she refused to stop working until the world was changed. As the children of her legacy we are going to do the same thing. We don’t want to die and have the world think it justified.

Mike Brown was human and he deserved to live. Whether you think he was a choirboy, college student, or thief, Darren Wilson had no right to take his life. Darren Wilson had no right to make himself judge and jury. Darren Wilson would have never killed Mike Brown if he weren’t terrorizing him in lynch law fashion, for walking down the street. And we know this, because we have lived this.

So yes, Joe Scarborough. You should get used to hearing the names Mike Brown, Aiyana Jones, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford and so on. Because we’re not going to let you or anyone else in the world forget them. We are not trash to have our lives thrown away, forgotten simply because our story no longer amuses you.

Black lives matter.

Sincerely,

Jessica Ann Mitchell

Update: Joe’s Response

Joes-Response

 

 

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

Ferguson Next Steps

As people recover from the grand jury decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, organizations are working on next steps so that what happened in Ferguson, Missouri will not be forgotten.

Organizers and activists are working on action plans for ensuring the human rights of Black and Brown citizens. Here are a few action plans, ideas and next steps.

1. Ferguson Action http://www.scribd.com/doc/248643832/The-Demands-Updated-11-29-14

http://fergusonaction.com/demands/

http://cdn.fergusonaction.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/demands.pdf

2. Think Progress http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/11/24/3593378/ferguson-next-steps/
3. Hands Up United http://www.handsupunited.org/about-us/
4. National Black United Front http://www.nbufdc.org/2014/11/the-national-black-united-front.html

To add to this list email OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Assism Is Not Feminism

Assism-Feminism-OurLegaci

People need to understand that women who present provocative images of themselves are not automatically making a feminist statement. This isn’t to say that a woman can’t express herself, but when this self expression is deeply hinged upon supporting oppressive systems it is not a liberation moment. This is why Nicki Minaj can express herself and still glorify Nazi propaganda. Kim Kardashian can express herself #ALLDAY and still glorify the hypersexualization of women’s bodies. Provocative imagery does not automatically equate to activism or empowerment.

feministtheoryThis point of confusion was described by bell hooks in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center:

“A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept definition(s) that could serve as points of unification. (p. 18)”

This statement feels even more relevant in 2014 as it did in 1984, especially with the emergence of what some are calling “Millennial Feminism.” Across the digital sphere conversations are constantly springing up around feminism. Still, few are actually producing or referring to a substantial definition of feminism.

The fixation on women’s butts, I’ll call it “assism” is a well documented form of objectification, deeply rooted in the commodification of Black women’s bodies. Kim Kardashian accentuates this fixation, layering it with the benefits of whiteness to score on monetary profits. Though Nicki Minaj is Black she comes as close as she can to Kim K by combining anti-black sentiments with the commodification of Black phenotypes to yet again benefit monetarily. Additionally neither of them are bothered by classism as a form of oppression. They are not feminists. Stop trying to make fetch happen.

ButSomeOfUsFeminism is hinged upon an awareness of oppression in conjunction with working towards ending all forms of it. In All the Women Are White, All The Blacks Are Men: But Some Of Us Are Brave, Barbara Smith explains:

“Feminism is the political theory and practice that struggles to free all women: women of color, working-class women, poor women, disabled women, lesbians, old women–as well as white, economically privileged, heterosexual women. Anything less than this vision of total freedom is not feminism, but merely female self-aggrandizement. (p. 49)”

To refer to Nicki Minaj or Kim Kardashian as de facto feminist icons is to minimize the anti-oppressive backbone of feminism. It’s reductionist thinking. Neither of these women have exhibited any substantial work towards ending sexist, racial, or economic oppression.

While some may point to their open display of sexuality as a liberation moment, this thought process over looks the fact that their displays are based more on the history of women’s commodified bodies under the patriarchal gaze. Yes, they make a lot of money doing this but that does not necessarily translate into freedom. They are riding the constant wave of hypersexualized images of Black women’s bodies with no intention of challenging the status quo. In fact it becomes a competition of who can promote sexual commercial objectification more, who can more closely embody the mainstreamed fantasy of women in sexualized positions.

Yet none of this is new or shocking. It’s actually pretty underwhelming. Another day another booty. Where is the triumph in that? It’s an attention getting tactic but it is not a feminist manifesto or challenge to oppression. The recurring statement is that they were “free” enough to show themselves. However if the only way for them to gain the public’s attention is through a constant stream of butt shots what does that say about society? That’s a far cry from freedom or liberation.

Nicki-Between-Women

Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda was an act of desperation used to counter the emergence of Iggy Azalea. Iggy then responded by appearing alongside JLo in a video for a song literally called, “Booty.”

Booty1

Since the emergence of her sex tape with Ray J, Kim Kardashian has been profiting from racialized butt adoration for years.

Kim-Kardashian-Jean-Paul-Goude-1stdibs

The sentiment has been, “You want to see more? Here you go!”

Oprah-Booty-Meme-Ourlegaci

Perhaps for her that’s winning. But is it winning for women overall? It doesn’t challenge the realities that women face everyday as constantly sexualized beings. This imagery plays up the dehumanization and never dares to deconstruct or even acknowledge it. This article is not suggesting a policing of women’s bodies. It’s about recognizing a thing for what it is. Nakedness can be a political empowering statement  but Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj are not examples of that. This may be provocative but it is not feminism.

We already have a plethora of mistruths floating around about feminism. Why add to the list? It’s very dangerous for feminists to automatically embrace commodified sexual images as feminist modules. There are levels to this. Where are the discussions about about intentions and context? It is a teachable moment. But it is not a grand moment in Women’s History.

Sorry folks but assism is not feminism.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

Now Hiring: Director of White Women Outreach

THE DirectorOf White Women Outreach (2)

Let’s face it progressives, liberals, activists and etc. White women voters as a demographic are a thorn on the progressive movement.

As an African American woman writer I focus much of my time on “African American” issues. For that reason it may seem odd that I’m using my platform to focus on White women as a voter demographic. I do this because mainstream media continually blames Black communities for not voting enough. Then President Obama is blamed for what was basically the outcome of extreme voter suppression and scaredy cat democratic candidates. Meanwhile Black women voters supported Democrats, in some cases voting over 90% for democratic candidates. Black men voters had similar numbers.

Days before election day, Obama said that “Pookie” needed to vote. Pookie was used as a character to describe young Black men like my cousins and brothers that you wouldn’t typically view as the “voting type” (what ever that is). This is a stereotype in itself but I knew where he was coming from. Basically, everybody. Absolutely everybody needed to vote. However, perhaps election day would have been better for the progressive movement if Democrats had said, “Mrs. Sally needs to vote and vote for candidates that will actually care about her health, education, and right to equal pay.” An entire demographic was preparing to solidify the working class’ fate to dust and the Democrats let it happen.

How did this happen?

1. Fierce voter disenfranchisement across the country targeted the poor, young, Black, Brown, and women. So much has been written about this yet mainstream media outlets are clamoring over all the various “reasons” Democrats lost, many of them overlooking the effects of voter disenfranchisement during the recent election.

2. Democrats fell for the mystical anti-Obama polls.  Thus, they hinged they’re candidacy on this, “I’m not really friends with Obama” theme. Michelle Nunn even aired commercials showcasing George H.W. Bush as some sort of ally. Alison Lundergan Grimes couldn’t decide if she’d ever voted for Obama. Grimes’ campaign slogan might as well had been, “Coal, Coal, Guns & NoBama.” It failed. It failed miserably.

3. White women voted but they weren’t progressive. The progressive movement has spent a lot of time focusing on what has been dubbed Women’s Issues, Black Issues, and Latino Issues but has not spent enough time focusing on “white women” as a specific demographic. I’ve been in a number of initiatives where the focus is automatically on people of color, “How do we reach them?” This makes white people once again be inadvertently viewed as the normative group. Yes, you know where they are. Yes, white people are predominantly on your mailing list but how do you reach white people outside of your progressive bubble? What is the plan for that other than ignoring it or pandering to “moderate” values? The answer is there is none. This is laziness and it is not working.

The cancer of racism is deeply rooted in patriarchy, classism, sexism and individualism. Thus, the Republican Party hires specialists to help them play up societal tensions under the guise of “Christian” family values and sexual wholesomeness. Religious rhetoric is manipulated and used as a communication tool for maintaining a mental stronghold over the conservative base. This abusive tactic of societal influence has been central to U.S. domination for 400 years. The concept of Manifest Destiny is a historical example of its usage. This is why fear mongering along with the perpetuating of these ideals are still successful even as the emerging majority becomes more centralized.

It also addresses why heterosexual married white women follow their husband’s vote. They are aligning themselves with white male privilege and adhering to obedience under the rules of male domination. This is where the staunch resistance to birth control access comes from. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the Republican platform for Renewing American Values. Check out the key words, “traditional” marriage and the juxtaposition of “culture” and “poverty.”

Republicans hired people. Really good people. The “Death Tax” guy is proof of that. It’s propaganda, subliminal messaging and entitlement signaling 101.

Consequently, many white women voters consistently vote against measures and candidates that would work towards advancing access to women’s health care, increase wages for the working class, build a better education system and anything that would support the upward mobility of the emerging majority (the others).

Why does this keep happening?

White progressives are guilty of normalizing whiteness by not treating it seriously, by not looking at white women and men as real demographics. White is not the “default” race. In many campaigns there are designated African American, Latino American, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Outreach Directors. People of color (I hate this term) are constantly “studied,” poked, and prodded.

Yet as Andrea Grimes noted in White Women: Let’s Get Our Shit Together:

Among voters, 94 percent of Black women, 90 percent of Black men, 61 percent of Latinas, and 49 percent of Latinos in Texas voted for Wendy Davis.

Meanwhile, just 32 percent of white Texas women who voted did so for Wendy Davis.

Who is in charge of outreach to white women voters? This a demographic that needs serious attention.

Black activists take a lot of heat during outreach and education efforts. We are doing our part.  We keep talking about outreach in Black hair salons, in barbershops, and on HBCU campuses. What about predominantly white hair salons, churches, etc?

Joan Walsh has been trying to make progressives think about this to no avail. John Haplin and Ruy Teixeira summarized a 2013 speech where Walsh advised that:

…whites are not a monolithic group: “If whites in Ohio and Wisconsin and other Mid-west states voted like those in Virginia, Obama would have lost the election.” Progressives, of course, are not unaware of these trends. But there is little evidence that much is being done to expand institutional outreach, community building, and political education in white working-class communities outside of the rust belt areas and big cities where labor unions and other working class organizations continue to do great work. The key for progressives is to develop a mechanism for reaching more members of the white working class in the same way that they have organized communities of color, young people, women, and professionals.

This is going to take willpower. Outreach efforts will require a nuanced understanding of public relations, while breaking down the often fear-filled logic behind many societal tensions. It also requires constant intensive face-to-face activism. There needs to be a real debriefing, an action plan for making sure this never happens again. Until then, I don’t want to hear another thing about the Black vote. White women voted. And look what happened.

If the progressive movement wants to succeed in the near future, it’s time to hire a Director of White Women Outreach.

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JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.
Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Phenomenal A Different World Episodes

A-Differen-World-Episodes

As an 80’s baby, I grew up watching A Different World. I can honestly say that the show affected my life in a number of ways. It was the reason why I wanted to attend an HBCU. Consequently, I attended both Albany State University and The Fort Valley State University for undergrad. The first time I ever heard Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping” poem, was while watching an A Different World episode. I was just a kid but I still remember thinking to myself, “Wow I have to find this poem.” Did I mention, I’m also a poet?

The power of A Different World was its complete grounding in the African American experience. It was when Debbie Allen stepped at the beginning of the second season that the show really started molding towards this trajectory. A Different World started off as a Cosby Show spin off, following Denise to college and ended as a show with a massive following and fan base completely its own.

There are a slew of memorable episodes but here are my top 5.

1. The “A World Alike” episode aired in 1990, when I was five years old. I saw it a number of times as a re-run. It was one of the first times I heard African Americans speaking about what I would later come to understand as Pan-Africanism. The students at Hillman College were putting pressure on their school to divest from South Africa and cut off all connections with any companies that engaged in business with South Africa during the apartheid era. It was real life worldwide protests like this that supported South African freedom fighters and helped bring additional awareness about the horrors of apartheid in South Africa.

2. The “Mammy Dearest” episode aired in 1991. Kim, an aspiring doctor recounted how she was called “Mammy” as a child, after she dressed up as a queen. The pain of this stuck with her, as a young dark skinned Black girl. Meanwhile, Whitley struggled with the new found knowledge that her family had owned slaves. It was during this episode that Kim triumphantly performed Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping.” She shed the mammy stereotype and was re-crowned queen (I’m pretty sure I practiced this scene about 10 times. My favorite line was, “I turned myself into myself, and was Jesus.”

3. The “No Means No” episode aired in 1989. In this episode Dwayne learns that one of his friends is a rapist. His friend Garth bragged to him about forcing a girl to have sex. Garth says, “Once we got started, she started putting up a fuss. You know how they are. They wanna do it but they just can’t give it up. It’s our job to let them off the hook.” Dwayne then realizes that his friend Freddie who has a date with Garth, is in danger. He rescues her right as Garth is trying to rape her. This episode does a great job of defining rape with its mantra, “No means no!” There is no confusion or excuses.

4. The “Love Taps” episode aired in 1992. In this episode Gina attempts to hide her abusive relationship with Dion, a local rapper. With black-eyes and bruises, Gina is caught in the cycle of abuse and is unsure how to escape. Her friend Lena tries to help her but she is too ashamed to accept assistance. Once the rumor spreads about her painful truth everything unveils and her circle of friends comes to support and protect her. This is what needs to happen in real life. So many Black women are in abusive relationships and not enough receive the support that is needed in order to break away from them. The episode also touches on the recursive nature of abuse. Dion recounts how his father beat his mother. In real life many abusers grow up in domestic violence environments and grow up to become perpetrators themselves. Most importantly this episodes shows Black women AND Black men coming to her defense.

5. “Save The Best For Last”, known to many at Whitley and Dwayne’s wedding episode is one of my absolute favorites. It aired in 1992. I don’t advocate someone storming into an ex-girlfriend’s wedding to confess their undying love and steal the bride. However, this episode showcases a powerful bond and love between two Black people that is not seen enough on television or anywhere in the media for that matter. I also rewound this scene a number of times.

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JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com. Follow Jessica @TweetingJAM.

Follow OurLegaci at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.