The always-inquisitive Jada Pinkett-Smith recently posed a question that has many people scratching their heads and some folks outright upset. In short, she’s wondering if black women ask to be represented in mainstream media, on the covers of magazines like Vanity Fair, shouldn’t white women be represented on the covers of traditionally black magazines like Essence, Ebony and JET?
The answer? Yes and no.
It’s not enough to have this discussion without a little bit of context. We didn’t come to this dilemma out of nowhere. There is a long, difficult history that informs our current dynamics around race that can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. This country has a long history of exclusion and the many movements for equal rights and access including the women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement (both of which black women fought in) reminds us that every person is not considered deserving and some of us had to, and still have to, fight for representation.
Magazines like Ebony and Essence were created from a need for black people to see ourselves featured prominently and positively. Ebony, which was founded in 1945, aimed to focus on the achievements of blacks from “Harlem to Hollywood” and to “offer positive images of blacks in a world of negative images.” Back then it was rare for mainstream magazines like LIFE and LOOK to feature black people in a non-discriminatory way. During a time when blacks were fighting so diligently for equal rights, it must have been a devastating blow to morale to be disparaged in the folds of corporate media. We’ve seen other marginalized communities like the LGBT and fat communities create their own media for fair and just representation. This plight is not exclusive to black people.
However, Pinkett-Smith’s question forces us to think about something a little deeper than representation. There are two things at stake here: the common good and the self-determination of the individual. It feels almost impossible for these two things to co-exist” common good means that we have a shared vision that benefits everyone (which we don’t just want realized for the people who look like us, but for all people) and individual self-determination is a philosophy that exists because many people don’t believe in the common good but instead in prejudices that exclude. Blacks were self-determined to create positive media representation because there was none. Pinkett-Smith suggested wholly integrating media so all of society, regardless of color, can start seeing ourselves as cohesive (benefiting the common good) and that while there is still a need for black women (and other communities who have been traditionally excluded) to be represented, we would all benefit from a shared presence in corporate and specialized media.
I don’t disagree entirely. But I would be remiss if I didn’t name the obvious issue with this suggestion: racism still exists. Ebony and Essence were birthed because people were racist. That hasn’t changed. People are still racist and some of those people work for and make up the readership of corporate magazines. These people have no desire to see black people on the cover or inside of their magazines and until their non-racist co-workers hold them accountable for their bigotry, they’ll continue to exclude folks.
Shanelle Matthews, “The Soapbox: Should White Women Be On The Cover Of ‘Black Magazines’?,” The Frisky 3/26/13
Without further comment.
In the end NBC spent two weeks working two opposing angles. They couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful it was that American women medaled more than the men, yet, as Jay Smooth points out, the nature of the coverage was slanted less toward their talent and the exertion it took to make it to the games and more towards stretching any and all emotional threads as far as they could. Getting coverage required a pretty face or a sob story, though preferably both. Or maybe some cute kids; for instance, 400m hurdler Lashinda Deemus’ twin boys were always mentioned in her story.
It also “helped,” as in Douglas’ case, to be an athlete in a sport where their presence is…uncommon. One of my favorite Olympics activity is watching the announcers lose their minds when they encounter the athletic racial outlier.
Such was the case for gymnast John Orozco, a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent–a fact NBC never let you forget; every announcer was sure to say, “He’s from The Bronx,” at least once every time we saw him compete. Orozco and teammate Danell Leyva, who was born in Cuba (his parents were past Cuban Olympians, and his stepfather defected to the U.S. by swimming across the Rio Grande) seemed to present a double-WTF moment for NBC’s crew: during the Olympic Trials, one announcer actually said, “It’s amazing–the two best American gymnasts: One from Cuba and the other from The Bronx. Go figure.”
Again, while it might be ‘amazing,’ no one seemed to want to discuss what was so amazing about it, or why they considered it so amazing and unbelievable in the first place.
Would NBC have had to resort to the non-stories, numerous puff pieces, and Golden Girl (or Boy) stories if they could actually depend on viewers tuning in to see the results? NBC’s heavy use of tape-delayed broadcasts effectively makes it impossible for any potential viewer with internet access and a twitter account to not be spoiled by the time they actually air the events in primetime. It’s almost as if with the loss of the drama of the sports themselves, the media is forced to create its own beast…and we’re the ones left to suffer for it.
…and Guest Contributor Kendra James nails the landing on why NBC failed so badly with covering the London Olympics on the R today.
Living in this society, yes, there will be books, music, movies, etc. that have problematic themes in them. Also, there will be actors, singers, performers, etc. that have done and said problematic and hurtful things to marginalized groups. Some can apologize and change. But a lot will not (because their aim is only to market themselves to the majority, and they don’t really give a shit about you if you’re marginalized).
Then for some of us, we probably won’t notice the problematic material until later in our lives when we’re more self-aware, then we learn that a lot of crap we like was actually bad for us.
It’s disappointing to find out that a media that you liked or a celebrity that you liked has actually said and/or done hurtful, bigoted things. It feels like betrayal if you’re a part of that group yourself. And if you’re not, you just feel dirty continuing to like the problematic media or person.
Lots and lots of feelings surrounding it, I know. But here are some tips on how to deal:
- Just calm the fuck down jfc
- Just listen to what people are saying about the person, and don’t leap out to defend them and interrupt people. If you do, then you really have to pull back and evaluate how you can be so fucking petty and childish. Also, expect people to tell you to STFU and call you out for derailing.
- If you don’t know the context, be brave enough to look it up yourself instead of interrupting conversations and going, “I am a HUGE fan and have been for many years! I DEMAND PROOF! STOP YOUR GROWN-UP DISCUSSION RIGHT NOW AND SPOON FEED ME!”
- If the celebrity/book/movie/etc. hurts a marginalized group you’re a part of, and you want the marginalized group calling the problematic shit out to stop and validate you and your feelings so that you will feel less like a privileged asshole, then guess what? YOU’RE A PRIVILEGED ASSHOLE! One of the worst types, actually — a gross, emotionally manipulative one. You SHOULD feel like one, feel bad about it, and then stop being one if it makes you feel so bad. Seriously, don’t talk about how mad it makes you and whine about how much you like a certain movie or so-and-so celebrity. Also, if you are trying to be more aware of your privilege, yet you act like this, you’re failing extremely hard no matter how bad you feel about Dan Savage being an abusive shithead, Lady Gaga being transphobic and racist, Gwen Stephani being a typical racist white lady, etc.
- If the celebrity/book/movie/etc. hurts a group you are a part of, but you still like the celebrity/book/movie/etc., that’s great! Now, please just let people talk and share their opinions and don’t try to shut down others or think your voice is more important than anybody else’s. And if the problematic shit is indeed there, without a doubt, while you can have your own feelings about it, you don’t have a right to tell other people how they should feel. And if you’re just in denial about it all, then unfortunately, your own internalized stuff is yours for you to deal with. Go deal with it and let people talk, or better yet, just listen to what people say and think about the media you consume. You don’t have to make judgments on anything immediately — just think for yourself.
- It’s not the end of the world, you’re not “evil” for liking the person/media in the first place, up is still up, down is still down, etc. Seriously, it’s ridic how defensive people can get about these things. I can understand why — some books, movies, and celebrities have changed my life, too. There’s no undoing that. But there’s also no undoing the fact that we live in an oppressive society where bigotry is still very much alive and perpetuated through the media and the news. This is how stereotypes are kept alive, this is why characters are often whitewashed, this is how rape culture hasn’t died yet. It’s horrible. You might feel horrible that such a horrible piece of our culture has helped you at one point. But maybe you should learn not to worship people or put them on pedestals and realize that people, yes, even people you like (!), can do bad things, say bad things, write bad things, direct bad things, etc. that really, really hurt people. That’s on them. But it should be on you to see the problematic behavior, deconstruct it, and see it for what it is instead of losing your shit over it. You can take parts of the good yet acknowledge and condemn the bad. You can still like an idea behind a movie yet hate a bigoted actor who’s in it. You can still like music from a certain performer yet realize they’re -ist assholes. That’s totally possible to do. Not everything is all-or-nothing or “black-and-white.” Everybody has the ability to be perceptive, so ffs, work on your own perception. But if you shut down marginalized people calling shit out, then you ARE a bad person.
- And really, if finding out that something you like is -ist, oppressive, or bigoted completely destroys your foundation, then the person who called it out to begin with should pat themselves on the back for a job well done. And you should try to have a stronger foundation for your principals and morality instead of building it around a celebrity. For example, if Lady Gaga is the sole reason why you’re supportive of the LGBTQ community (and yes, lol I’ve heard this), then you find out she’s problematic, and that just changes EVERYTHING for you, then actually, you don’t give a shit at all. If that hurts your feelings and you want to scream at me, do two things. Go back and read the first point then the rest of this post, then go look up Lady Gaga and her transphobia and racism. Also realize LGBTQ should (doesn’t, but should) include trans* people and PoC.
What the actual shit? I am pretty sure this is not what you were like when people started telling you about it.
Thank God we have Lena Dunham to bring equality to us by not having one person of color on her show.
the white supremacy team? ‘i’m being racist to highlight how racist the world is!’
what the basic bitch hell?
^^^Reblogged for the commentary.
Monica [Rambeau] is perhaps still best known for being the second character to take on the name Captain Marvel (in Marvel canon, anyway), and for being written to not only appear in the Avengers comic book in the 1980s, but become the team leader.
As we’ve mentioned before on Racialicious, the key words there are “being written to ____.” Because ever since her run with the Avengers, not only have Monica’s appearances dwindled to a few miniseries, but she’s been written to give up her superhero name twice to the original Captain’s son, Genis-Vell, leading to Monica getting rebranded from Captain Marvel to Photon to Pulsar, with less emphasis on her along the way.
That doesn’t figure to change with the news that there will be a new Captain Marvel series, where Carol Danvers, the character formerly known as Ms. Marvel, will get the benefit of not only the Captain Marvel brand, but a new costume, and Marvel’s promotional muscle behind her. In other words, the Danvers character is being positioned to be all but a cinch for inclusion in the next round of Marvel films.
This isn’t a knock on the new Marvel’s creative team, writer Kelly Sue DeCormick and artist Dexter Soy. But Marvel editor Steve Wacker did shed some light on the company’s thought process in this piece by Comics Alliance’s Laura Hudson, where he told Hudson he “has been trying to get this name change since my first day editing the book about five years ago, so this has been a long time coming.”
Think about that for a second. Wacker had been working on raising the Danvers character’s profile for five years. All the while, Carol has been written to be a part of at least one Avengers team, on top of getting her own solo series. Has anybody given such consideration to an audience for Rambeau, even as she was part of the cult hit miniseries Nextwave?Apparently not, because ever since Nextwave, Rambeau has only been written as a supporting players in miniseries like Marvel Divas, Heralds, and Young Allies, none of which was promoted as a major event by Marvel.
Yay that Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is slaying it in The Avengers flick, but quite a few other characters of color in that ‘verse may not make it to the big screen at all. Arturo Garcia breaks it down at the R today.
is not coming back to Misfits, and she has four months in jail for “racially assaulting a taxi driver” (these are supposedly not connected, mmhmm)
A taxi driver said he has been left “distraught” after a drunk Bafta-winning actress racially abused him and punched him when he picked her up in his cab.
He said: “She called me a P***, a dirty b****** and said: ‘You’re Asian, f*** off back to where you came from.’
“She said: ‘Do you know who I am? I’ll have your family lifted.”’ [x]
But quite a few British folks deny that racism exists in that country (“Racism only exists in America! Bad bad bad Americans!”) so, yeah, it’s not connected…only their minds. And of course, the incidents are “isolated.”
Wait, where have I heard this before?
“One of the favourites to win [British show] The Voice has become the victim of racist internet trolls. The BBC called in police to investigate after Ruth Brown, 20, received a deluge of vile remarks on Twitter targeting her skin colour, appearance and weight. The singer said she sobbed when she read the comments. Some users even made derogatory remarks about her father, Lloyd, who died of stomach cancer days before she auditioned for the show.”
From the article (I am purposefully leaving out the transcription of the racist insults and those related to her appearance, though):
She has now spoken out about the growing problem of online bullying and racism. ‘Not only have I endured jibes of a racist nature but sick comments about my weight,’ she said in an interview yesterday.
‘Things have been said about my dad, too. At first, I was upset and cried my heart out. But I want to speak out because I hope it will encourage other people to fight back against bullies.’
She also defiantly reposted some of the hateful remarks on her own account to bring attention to the trolls, but the BBC has since asked her to take them down. They have been recorded as evidence.[…]
The BBC has also provided the aspiring star with a counsellor. Miss Brown, whose voice has been compared to Aretha Franklin’s, is mentored by Sir Tom Jones.
Watch her here KILL IT during her audition, with her rendition of When Love Takes Over. Also, Sir Tom freaking Jones is mentoring her? Racists lose, she wins.
it makes my stomach turn that everytime i am going to the DR, i always have to face some group of non-dominican black men before i even get there, because while im in the airport gates waiting area, they will watch me like im some vulnerable animal and they are fucking hunters. eyes following me everywhere i walk, sit, as i talk. coming up to me to ask, “youre dominican, arent you?” with silly grins on their faces, eyes lighting up as they imagine what other “goodies” they will find once they finally deplane?
because those….theyre there specifically FOR our female bodies. sex workers and otherwise—whoever they can get their hands on, really. (ladies, watch out if your man goes to the dominican republic without you lol)
when you work at hotels they all ogle w tongues out, pestering you to give them attention, along with the white men who are there for the same…its like we’re part of the hotel packages, you know (sometimes we literally are)?
and its always out of some “look at these exotical mixed black girls” shit.
and some “look at these foreign creatures who i view as above any of the black women back home” shit.
everytime i see photos of rosa acosta or yaris or arlenis sosa or any of the other dominican models who have had so much success in the u.s. for simply being the “average black dominican girl”, the same average black dominican girls that dominican men suck their teef at and use and discard?
all of these thoughts come rushing in my head.
the fact we are NOT appreciated by dominican men. and then those who “seem” to appreciate us only do so out of some perverse racist (or internalized racist), mysoginist inclination?
i know they say nadie es profeta en su tierra, but,
lose while neglected or lose while fetishized.