Why mass media’s fixation on respectability is killing Black and Brown people

Jordan Edwards, 15, was killed on Saturday night while riding in a car with friends. The teenager was unarmed and was not suspected of any crime. Yet, police authorities in Balch Springs, a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth, fired into the vehicle anyway. They struck Edwards in the head, killing him.

It is no question that Edwards’s death is a tragedy. That much can be deduced without any additional information about his life or the conditions of his death. Continue reading “Why mass media’s fixation on respectability is killing Black and Brown people”

As An Overweight Queer Black Woman, I Need More From ‘This Is Us’

Let me start by saying this: I am neither trying to be contrarian nor attempting to get clicks. I actually really truthfully don’t understand the mass appeal of NBC’s new hit show This is Us. In fact, I find much of the show alienating and undermining of what it means to be Black and/or woman and/or overweight and/or queer in the United States today. Continue reading “As An Overweight Queer Black Woman, I Need More From ‘This Is Us’”

Where Does the Black Woman’s Body Belong?

Few things personify white privilege more than the erasure of Black women’s bodies from the public sphere. Evidence of this fact can be found in the reactions to Serena Williams’ recent Wimbledon title and the faux outrage at Amandla Stenberg’s commentary on Kylie Jenner’s culturally appropriated cornrows. In the face of these obstacles, an important question we must ask ourselves is: Where does the Black woman’s body belong?

Serena Williams – arguably the best tennis player of all time – has been insulted, diminished, erased, and disrespected since she started playing the sport professionally nearly two decades ago. A recent New York Times article describing her body as “muscular” and questioning her womanhood is just a glimpse into the insults she has had to endure over the years. From racism and sexism to transmisogyny and flat out hatred, she has had to experience a myriad of criticisms just for existing in professional tennis while Black and female. The road to loving herself wasn’t easy.

But, Williams learned to do it despite the hate she continually faced from white critics, coaches, commentators, and fans.For Williams, her body belongs precisely where she has been all along: on the tennis court. While efforts to erase and exclude her from that predominantly white space prevail, she has been crystal clear that she both deserves and has earned the privilege to be there no matter how threatening it is to systems of white superiority.

Read more at For Harriet.

“All Lives Matter” but the KKK is Marching in 2015

I wonder if the words “All Lives Matter” get caught it people’s throats when they realize that the Klan is still marching in 2015. Yes. In 2015. The Klan is still marching.

I mean, I wonder about that but I don’t really wonder because I know it doesn’t happen that way. The events of last week alone sum up how difficult it has become to be Black and free in America. And, they’re further evidence  that the “all lives matter” narrative is meant to pacify rather than empower Black people.

Last week, a young Black woman with a new job, a bright outlook, and a life ahead of her was found dead in a Texas jail cell after a “routine” police stop for her failure to use a traffic signal. Her name was Sandra Bland. She was only 28-years-old. Within days, another young woman named Kindra Chapman was found dead in an Alabama jail cell just over an hour after she was booked. She was arrested for allegedly stealing a cell phone and was just 18-years-old.

Both women’s’ deaths have caused many to question how this happened. Many on Twitter struggle with placing themselves in a similar position. The hashtag #IfIDieInPoliceCustody has given voice to the fact that many Black people face the reality that they are one traffic stop or petty arrest from death in this country. But, you know, “all lives matter.”

 

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.

What if We Loved Black Women Like We Love Black Male Rapists?

When I was seventeen, I was groomed and preyed upon by a high school basketball coach. He told me to stop wearing panties if I wanted to get a ‘real man.’ He invited me to drink, smoke weed, and hang out with his twenty-something year-old friends. He explained to me that part of becoming a woman was wrapped up in how men viewed me. For months he did these things. Then, when I had ongoing issues with my abusive dad, he coerced me into sex (an act of statutory and coercive rape) after I asked for his help and called him on a school day seeking safety.

Oddly, even though this happened to me over a decade a ago, I was only able to admit and come to terms with it just before my 30th birthday. This is mainly because his actions, taking advantage of, manipulating, and coercing a teenaged girl at his place of employment (a public high school) into sex, are normalized in a country consumed by rape culture. In fact, they’re defended especially when the rape survivors are Black women.

 

Read the full story at Water Cooler Convos.

In Defense of Nene Leakes’ Femininity

Let me start by saying: Nene Leakes is incredibly problematic. She has said terrible things about LGBTQIA folks, she called a biracial woman a “half-breed”, and she may have distributed t-shirt designs that weren’t her own work. She isn’t perfect. But, this piece isn’t in defense of her actions. Some of those are indefensible. Instead, it’s in defense of her right – as a tall, dark-skinned, outspoken cisgendered, heterosexual woman – to be feminine. That’s something, to me, that shouldn’t be up for questioning. Ever.

I was parousing the internet last night and was reminded of how often Leakes’ gender takes center stage both on RHOA (which I still watch) and in general. Last year, when Leakes got into an argument with Marlo Hampton, someone who was once her dear friend, Hampton pulled the “you look like a man” line with ease. It wasn’t the first time Leakes’ gender and femininity were questioned.

Kim Zolciak and Sheree Whitfield – ex-cast mates on the show – also questioned Leakes’ gender and physical appearance with reference to her femininity. A simple google search yields hit after hit of questions on the web about Nene Leakes’ gender. Like Wendy Williams, another tall, Black, outspoken woman, there seems to be this perception that taller than average Black women with large personalities are “manly” or less feminine than other women. Unfortunately, this is an issue I can relate to.

I have been tall for as long as I can remember. I have been over six feet tall since middle school. In elementary school, I frequently saw the tops of the heads of my peers and teachers. I towered over all the girls and the boys. And, coupled with my outspoken nature, billowing voice, and forward demeanor, I was often called a “tomboy.”

I never really knew what that meant. I wasn’t a boy. I didn’t feel like a boy. But, then again, I didn’t know what being a boy felt like. I just felt like me.

For one reason or another, other children and society in general separated me. I had to play basketball with the boys while the girls played Four Square. I played tether ball (and whooped everyone) while the other girls jumped rope. By fourth grade, there was a clear distinction between me and the “cool girls.” Whenever one of them felt threatened by me, they’d say, “Jennifer, why don’t you just go do ‘boy’ stuff?” To which I’d answer, “Why don’t you shut up?” A reply that almost immediately landed me in the principal’s office at my very parochial Catholic school.

Read more at WCC.

My Final Goal for 2015: I am Going to Not Care

This sounds rash. I know. But I mean it. One of my greatest flaws is my inability to not care about situations or people who set out to harm or otherwise negatively impact me. In 2015, I am letting that go.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to just be “carefree”. I like the goals of the “carefree Black woman” movement – to show that Black women do things beyond stereotypes like riding bikes, eating brunch, and hanging with friends. I’m just not overly concerned with perception here. I am making this goal an introspective, self-centered one. On purpose.

I definitely think we need to care about plenty of things like social (in)justice, economic wealth disparities, unequal access to healthcare, or increased unemployment across Black communities in this country. I plan to continue to devote my intellectual abilities to asking questions about Black women’s self-making and politics in this country. And, I don’t plan to abandon my research in post-racialism or media framing of violence against Blacks. I support the notion of self-care, but I am not seeking ambivalence here. Instead, I just want to stop caring about how others feel more than how I feel about myself. I want to stop caring so deeply for people that I support hostile or unjust social groups and institutions in the name of solidarity.

This is something I struggled with at my first job out of college. I had grown up adoring Disney. My favorite childhood movie was Cinderella. I knew all the words. I knew all the songs. And, when I was asked to interview on those hallowed grounds, I felt beyond honored. But, what I wasn’t prepared for –  in my naiveté – was the fact that everyone working there was human. Deeply human. They weren’t princesses or princes. There were plenty of villains but no fairy godmothers. Well, maybe a few. In my blind devotion to the few people there who I cared deeply for and to the brand itself, I lost sight of myself.

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.

WCC: Stop Shaming Black People For Not Listening to the Beatles (and Other White People Music)

I never listened to a Beatles song until I was twenty-three. I heard a few snippets when Across the Universe (2007) was advertised. And, I enjoyed the covers on American Idol. But, I never heard them sing their own songs until I was cornered by white coworkers shocked and amazed at my inability to name a singular member of the group or song.

Their puzzlement went from inquiry to harassment to public shaming as they paraded me around the office showing me off to other white people who were similarly shocked at my apparent “poor upbringing.” They had no idea that their projections of what constituted “good music” denoted their own simmering privilege. Meanwhile, they were discrediting everything I actually had grown up listening to.

It all started when a young white lady in the office was commenting on her favorite Beatles song. When asked, I responded, “Which group is that?” Then, ‘el shit’ hit ‘el fan.’ I got the Beatles mixed up with the Eagles mixed up with the Rolling Stones. They asked me to name them and I said “Well, I know it’s not Elton John. Bob Dylan? Maybe Billy Joel?” Shit everywhere. It was completely foreign to them that I could have possibly missed something so integral to their lives. So, they attempted to shame me.

Read the full article at Water Cooler Convos.

WCC: We’re Black, We Didn’t Jump the Broom, and It Kinda Sucks

I never expected to get married at 22-years-old. I envisioned myself as a briefcase wielding, pseudo-Oprah taking over the world. Then, my husband happened in my freshman year of college. And that was that. While we have a pretty fairytale style romance, we neglected to do what most black couples do on their wedding days: jump the broom. I feel pretty sour about it.

We were college sweethearts. We knew we wanted to get married and have children within months of dating. After being best friends for almost a year, it was like the stars had aligned. And, the wedding was the best day of our lives. It was a beautiful sunny May day in Orange County. We had everything and everyone we needed. Everything except the broom.

We are both black folks from California. He is a Socal native and I hail from the Bay Area (Oakland to be exact). We were both raised by single mothers. And, we both understand our black history. So, everyone expected we would be ‘jumping the broom’ at our wedding. But, neither of us was interested.

Several times during our two year engagement I asked him, “You sure you don’t want to jump the broom?” To which he’d answer, “For what?” “I don’t know…tradition,” I’d say reluctantly. Then we’d both do a Kanye shrug and go back to playing video games.

What was most interesting was everyone else’s reaction to it. “So, who’s going to carry the broom?” my wedding planner asked me a few months before our wedding day. “No one. We aren’t jumping the broom,” I said ready to rattle off all of my reasons for that choice. She looked at me. Her eyes were gasping. You know that look when, if eyes could talk, they’d be saying “Gurl! Are you outta your mind!?!” It was actually pretty funny. “Well, I am sure you have a good reason for that. So, do you honey,” she chuckled after her eyes caught their breath. But, I knew her judgey eyes linked to judgey thoughts.

 

Read the full article at WCC.