When critics talk of the great “antiheroes” of TV drama right now, they mention the Walts, the Dons, and the Rusts. But what about Olivia Pope? White men on television, of course, get to be morally questionable, and people will love it. Black women on television are expected to be role models, to “represent” the race in a positive light. Black women on television are allowed to be heroes, but not in a way that threatens whiteness. They are allowed to be strong, but not overpowering; smart, but not arrogant. They’re expected to be independent but also team players.
At the forefront of How To Get Away With Murder is Annalise Keating (Davis, whose performance is unquestionably the best part of this pilot). Annalise, much like Olivia Pope, flies in the face of all that bullshit. She’s a tough-as-nails criminal defense attorney and law professor whose students, rightfully, both fear and admire her. She cheats in court and cheats on her husband with a hunky detective. She’s a real human woman with real human flaws.
“I want to be her,” Michaela Pratt (Aja Naomi King) says when Annalise and her team literally slow-motion strut out of court after winning yet another case. Annalise certainly isn’t “likable,” but that’s because the characters of How To Get Away With Murder transcend the silly likable/unlikeable dichotomy. And at the end of the day, you do want to be her. Not because she fits the mold as your typical “role model.” But because she’s awesome. And characters of color don’t usually get to be awesome. They’re often too tied up in tokenizing goals on the writers’ parts or racist expectations from viewers or respectability policing from both sides of this equation to just be. Let alone just be awesome.
”—Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, HTGAM Pilot Review (via lettilove)
As per my mother’s rule, I read all six of Addy’s books before being gifted the doll. But unlike Felicity’s, I didn’t often revisit them for pleasure. In my constant search for American historical fiction with protagonists of colour written for young readers, I often come across the same problem I did when I was younger: it’s all really depressing.
…White characters not only get a wider variety of books to choose from, but books in a wider variety of settings. Characters of colour in American hist-fic tend to exist strictly within certain boundaries of time or not at all. African-Americans exist within the boundaries of slavery, the Jim Crow South, or the Civil Rights movement. Native Americans exist in the mythical west until about 1870 or so, Asian-Americans exist during World War 2, only in the west (and only from Eastern countries), and I had to reach out to our followers to fill in the gaps my childhood reading material left when it came to Latin@s.
…This isn’t to encourage the erasure or minimalisation of the realities that people of colour have historically faced, but rather a desire for authors and publishers to realise that all of us existed in America outside the times of our most publicised oppressions. And that, even during the most difficult times, we still had lives that didn’t necessarily completely revolve around the overhead political themes of the day.
”—Today on The R, Kendra’s talking young adult historical fiction and handing out some book recs that might make history a little more enjoyable for young readers.
This month, long time friend of the blog Rebecca Traister wrote a stunning profile of candidate Lucy Flores for Elle Magazine. Flores, the Democratic hopeful for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada decimates other political origin stories – she’s Mexican-American, one of 13 siblings, the child of immigrants, and former gang member. She turned her life around, started at community college, became a lawyer, and decided to run for office. She’s unapologetically pro-choice (and one of the rare candidates that will share her own story.) Domestic violence shaped her world – and her life experiences lead to a very pro-populist platform.
But what really gives Flores’ story bite is her unique position in politics – not only who she is, but what she represents for the Democratic party:
"When a governor steps down in the state [of Nevada], the lieutenant governor, who’s not necessarily of the same party, assumes the post. Nevada’s current governor is the immensely popular Republican Brian Sandoval, whom Politico Magazine dubbed “The Man Who Keeps Harry Reid Up at Night.” That’s because many believe he’ll challenge the majority leader for his Senate seat in 2016, if, that is, the person who’d take his place is a fellow Republican: Flores’ opponent Mark Hutchison. Which makes Flores, to use Politico-speak, “The Woman Who Could Save Harry Reid’s Hide—and Keep the Senate in Democratic Hands.”
From NPR’s transcript of a Morning Edition story: Group of researchers ran this interesting field experiment. They emailed more than 6,500 professors at the top 250 schools pretending to be the students. And they wrote letters saying, I really admire your work. Would you have some time to meet? The letters to the faculty were all identical, but the names of the students were all different. […] Brad Anderson. Meredith Roberts. Lamar Washington. LaToya Brown. Juanita Martinez. Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong, Mei Chen. […] All they were measuring was how often professors wrote back agreeing to meet with with the students. And what they found was there were very large disparities. Women and minorities [were] systematically less likely to get responses from the professors and also less likely to get positive responses from the professors. Now remember, these are top faculty at the top schools in the United States and the letters were all impeccably written.
Two more kickers: “There’s absolutely no benefit seen when women reach out to female faculty, nor do we see benefits from black students reaching out to black faculty or Hispanic students reaching out to Hispanic faculty,” and, “In business academia, we see a 25 percentage point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males vs. women and minorities.” Word, this sounds great, we’re doing great. [NPR]
But white male privilege doesn’t exist?
And then there’s this:
Milkman found there were very large disparities between academic departments and between schools. Faculty at private schools were significantly more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty at public schools. And faculty in fields that were very lucrative were also more likely to discriminate. So there was very little discrimination in the humanities. There was more discrimination among faculty at the natural sciences. And there was a lot of discrimination among the faculty at business schools.
Uh-huh tell me again how science and money are ideologically neutral.
Hi! I'm sorry to bother, but I have a question. I have a friend who looks white (blonde, light skin, green eyes) but was actually born and raised in India by her Hindu parents. She practices Hinduism and only recently moved to the states. She still wears traditional clothing, but the other day she posted a picture of herself in her traditional clothes and got a lot of hate for it, people saying it was cultural appropriation. She's bummed out about it and is now questioning her ethnicity. Help?
1. All those people screaming cultural appropriation at her are ignoramuses who are basically saying, “Wow, you don’t look like my ill-informed, narrow-minded stereotype of what people from this region actually look like!” and “I actually subscribe to horrible, reductionist stereotypes that Indian people can only have dark hair, skin and eyes. Light hair? Green eyes? European (origin) only!”
This is gonna be a tad long, because it’s gonna delve into biology and history- and it’s because I hope people realise how artificial the US paradigm of race is. It’s woefully incompetent at understanding the biological diversity of our species because it is a social construct. Modern scientists and historians generally refuse to categorise people on the amount of melanin they have because it’s just reductionist and oversimplistic- what they do is classify people by their geographic origin, linguistic and cultural ties.
2. India is an EXTREMELY diverse continent. It’s so genetically diverse that the only place more genetically diverse is the African continent, aka, the birthplace of humanity. And this is a big deal. I’ll explain why.
Presently, the most widely-accepted theory of our origins is the Recent African Origin, or Out of Africa Theory. This holds that originally, humans first appeared in Africa, thus all of us have African ancestors. All modern non-Africans are descended from much smaller groups of people who migrated out of Africa, anytime from 65,000 to 125,000 years ago. How do scientists know this? By looking at our DNA, in addition to fossil and archaeological records. They discovered that the differences in the DNA of non-African peoples like say, a German a Japanese and a New Zealand Maori was far less than the genetic differences between people from different African ethnic groups. (Somali, Dinka, Yoruba, San, Kikuyu, Luo etc- I’m BARELY scratching the surface)
What this meant was that Africa had to be the original, diverse genetic pool where modern humans first appeared. Everybody else outside of Africa today is descended from much smaller groups of people who left Africa at various times- and that ancestral genetic “bottleneck” is why people who appear to have very different heritage (e.g European vs East Asian) actually havefar less genetic variation than the various African peoples.
Genetic studies have shown that if you take a modern Indian from any part of India, no matter how dark or fair they are, his or her lineage will consist of mixing from two main ancestral groups. One is the Ancestral Northern Indians (ANI), and the other the Ancestral Southern Indians (ASI). You may have heard of the ancient Indian caste system which put a lot of social pressure that prohibited marrying outside your caste. Caste discrimination is banned today, but old attitudes do persist. However, even this caste rigidity wasn’t so 4000- 2000 years ago. ANI people married ASI pretty freely, so that’s why every modern Indian has heredity from both groups. So, already to start off, you got quite a fair bit of diversity hidden in people’s genes.
And the next interesting part to explain why it IS possible for Indians to have features stereotyped as “European” is because while the ASI seemed to be genetically unique to the Indian subcontinent, the ANI people are genetically related to Middle-Easterns, Europeans and Caucasians (and I mean this not in the sense of “white” as often used in the US, but the actual region of Caucasus, which borders Europe and Asia).
You mentioned she looks “white”- and the American-understanding of “white” being hurled at her by those people screaming cultural appropriation are actually ignorantly treating “white” as synonymous with “European-origin”. In reality, it’s completely useless in the realm of biology. Biologically, there is actually no real dichotomy where “European” suddenly ends and “Asia” begins.
As I earlier pointed out, well, we’re all kinda related. And it’s not at all earth-shattering that some people from India look like they’re of “European-origin”. Because modern Europeans, Central Asians and the Ancestral Northern Indians are all believed to be descendants of a group of people called the Proto-Indo-Europeans. It’s believed they lived around 6000-7000 years ago. Some modern people that are descended from the Proto-Indo-Europeans are French, Germans, Iranians and Pashtuns (a major ethnic group in Afghanistan). It’s even been found that Europeans and Indians shared a gene for fair skin from a common ancestor- which is why there ARE people who look like your friend. Naturally, fair skin is just relatively rarer in India vs Europe because more parts of India are located in hotter regions. Therefore, there’s more selection pressure for darker skin which has more melanin to protect from the sun- making fair skin rarer, but still possible.
(This is a map of the Kurgan Hypothesis, which is currently the most popular theory for how the Proto-Indo-Europeans migrated from their homeland to settle Europe, Central Asia, Iran, India and Turkey etc)
Saying Indians are descendants of the Proto-Indo-Europeans is NOT the same as saying they’re of “European origin”. For example, think of the Proto-Indo-Europeans as like the “mother” of Europeans, Central Asians and the Ancestral Northern Indians- they’re like “sibling” groups, not descendants. The original Indo-Europeans were not “European” in the modern sense. I am clarifying this because plenty of colonial-era scientific racism tried to attribute ancient India’s achievements to “European who left Europe for India”- you might have heard the phrase “Aryan” thrown around in Nazi Germany, which was used to mean “blonde hair, blue eyes”. Nazi scientists and historians also abused it to explain away the sophistication of non-European civilisations in Ancient Egypt and India. In reality, ”Aryan” is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word “Arya" which means "noble". Sanskrit is an ancient language still used in classical Indian texts, and is of Proto-Indo-European origin. For example, the name of the country “Iran” actually means “land of the Aryans”- it was the names ancient Iranians (another people descended from the Proto-Indo-Europeans) gave to what others called the Persian Empire for more than a thousand years before the Third Reich.
Furthermore, many languages we often separate as “European” and “Asian” like German, English, French, Italian vs. Hindi, Farsi (Persian), Gujarati, Punjabi, Pashto, Sanskrit etc are ALL classified by linguists as belonging to the same Indo-European language family- which all evolved from the original language the Proto-Indo-Europeans spoke. See how artificial the Europe/Asia dichotomy really is, in terms of human genetics and origin of cultures?
4. Finally- there’s plenty of modern proof that the region we call Europe today does NOT have a monopoly on producing people with blonde hair, fair skin and green eyes.
This is Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a popular Indian Bollywood actress who is also known for her striking blue-green eyes. She’s 100% Indian- she was born in Mangalore, India to Indian parents.
5. And in the first place, what makes up a person’s identity IS NOT JUST HOW MUCH or HOW LITTLE MELANIN THEY HAVE.
Tell your friend she is 100% Indian, because what makes up her identity is not just how she looks. Identity is what feels most natural to her, and if that identity is indeed very intertwined with major aspects of Indian culture- then well, she IS Indian and noone can say otherwise.
Those people had no right to make her feel awful and “not-Indian enough” because it’s clear she identifies as such due to actually being born there and also practising major aspects of Indian culture. The best example I can think of to explain this is how in the US, people sometimes use the term “Latino” as a race category, with the stereotype that all latinos must have tanned skin and dark hair. In reality, it’s more of a cultural identity. The are fair haired-latinos and darker-skinned latinos whose ancestors included the African slaves brought to the Americas four hundred years ago. But what really makes them “Latino” or “Hispanic” is their upbringing- growing up in the environment of Latin America, which is culturally a syncretic fusion of Amerindian, African, Spanish, Portuguese and other European influences.
(This is the Brazilian football team that won the 1970 World Cup- you can see Pelé- second from the bottom right. He is an Afro-Brazilian. If you look at his teammates, you can see how latinos come in ALL COLOURS.)
6. Your friend should not be questioning her identity, but those people attacking her should be questioning their utterly myopic worldview. The history of human genetics and migrations makes it abundantly clear how DIVERSE India is- so it’s perfectly possible for her to be Indian but have blonde hair and green eyes, even if it may be less common.
7. On a more general note, I cannot stress this enough to everyone- DO NOT GO AROUND ATTACKING PEOPLE for “cultural appropriation” when you are NOT even from that culture in question and/or don’t actually know in detail the history and genetics of that region.
If you suspect cultural appropriation: DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST or ASK SOMEBODY you know who actually belongs to that group. You may be attacking mixed-race people or people like the anon’s friend, who simply has features that are less genetically dominant- blonde hair shows up less easily in countries with a bigger pool of people with dark hair because dark hair is dominant. Even if her parents had dark hair, it’s possible they both carried a recessive gene for blonde hair that was suppressed by their dark-hair gene. Their child would be blonde if she happened to get both copies of the blonde gene instead of the dark hair gene.
Also, even if you think the person isn’t of that group, please bear in mind they might have been invited to dress in that clothing by a friend, or because they’re at an event. (I.e let’s say, at an Indian wedding)
I can’t stress how infuriating this “white knight” complex is. Speaking as someone pretty familiar with colonialism, I’ve had people who didn’t grow up in my culture condescendingly insist that if I’m okay with somebody doing something from my culture, it’s “self-internalised oppression”. I’ve studied African colonial literature, and the way people insist on defining what people should be alright with is very reminiscent of 19th century imperialists high-handedly saying, “oh, we have to bring the light of civilisation to save those backwards colonial subjects from themselves!”
This is Reese Witherspoon, wearing a kimono in Japan, where she is being taught by JAPANESE people how to perform the traditional tea ceremony. This is not reducing a culture to a caricature because she’s actually learning stuff respectfully and wearing a bona fide kimono.
Fighting against cultural appropriation is to prevent cultures from being cheapened, made into jokes, sexual fetishes or ugly caricatures. Part of returning power to people to define themselves is ALSO by allowing them to set the parameters of what they want to share with others- and many cultures are perfectly willing to share aspects that are non-sacred or do not have to be earned. So, for example, do not go around insisting a Japanese person should not be allowed to teach non-Japanese people to wear a kimono- because a kimono, unlike a Navajo war bonnet (akin to veteran’s medals), is something anybody can wear. Recognise this difference.
Don’t roll your eyes. I am really need to know about this. Because I am feeling some kind of way…1.
I am pretty sure y’all know what church queens are (or can guess). It is a gay (often closeted) man in the church who sighs heavily and sucks their teeth when they see a more flamboyant gay man walk down the aisle at altar call. If you are trying to spot him, he can usually be seen sporting a…
Voluntourism is ultimately about the fulfillment of the volunteers themselves, not necessarily what they bring to the communities they visit.
This must-read article looks at the power of imagery and photography in the growing business of global voluntourism - a popular trend amongst youth from Western countries that involves young, and sometimes inexperienced, individuals paying large amounts of money to travel to ‘developing’ nations to do everything from teaching, to building schools and providing healthcare.
Whilst intentions may be well-meaning, aside from the patronizing aspect of these projects that resemble colonial missionary missions, the very fact that volunteering has been turned into a for-profit business is of major concern. So why does voluntourism still continue to be popular? According to Lauren Kascak & Sayantani DasGupta at the Pacific Standard, photography plays a significant role in the recruiting of people to participate in these programs.
As Kascak and DasGupta say:
Photography is a big part of the answer. Voluntourism organizations don’t have to advertise, because they can crowdsource. Photography—particularly the habit of taking and posting selfies with local children—is a central component of the voluntourism experience. Hashtags like #InstagrammingAfrica are popular with students on international health brigades, as are #medicalbrigades, #globalhealth, and of course the nostalgic-for-the-good-days hashtag #takemeback.
One of the writers themselves was inspired to become a “voluntourist” for this very reason citing “photographs posted by other students” as the inspiration that propelled them to go on their first overseas “medical mission”:
When classmates uploaded the experience of themselves wearing scrubs beside adorable children in developing countries, I believed I was missing out on a pivotal pre-med experience. I took over 200 photos on my first international volunteer mission. I modeled those I had seen on Facebook and even pre-meditated photo opportunities to acquire the “perfect” image that would receive the most Likes.
With time however, she became “uncomfortable with the ethics of those photographs” and decided not to take her camera along. One of the things I’ve always wondered about concerning voluntourism and other noble charity missions is why the need for all the press and cameras? Why the need to take the same types of photographs of the same kinds of work by the same kinds of people? It seems I, and many others, are not the only ones with these critical thoughts in mind. That’s because, as the writers say, “voluntourism is ultimately about the fulfillment of the volunteers themselves, not necessarily what they bring to the communities they visit.” It’s a self-serving mission fueled by a mixture of narcissism and ignorance. As Kascak observed whilst on her medical mission trip in Ghana (a hotspot for many western volunteers),
“I realized that local people weren’t purchasing health insurance, since they knew there would be free foreign health care and medications available every few months. This left them vulnerable in the intervening times, not to mention when the organization would leave the community.”
Kascak and DasGupta have broken down the three most common types of voluntourist photographs, as per their observations.
THE SUFFERING OTHER
In a photograph taken by a fellow voluntourist in Ghana (not shown), a child stands isolated with her bare feet digging in the dirt. Her hands pull up her shirt to expose an umbilical hernia, distended belly, and a pair of too-big underwear. Her face is uncertain and her scalp shows evidence of dermatological pathology or a nutritional deficiency—maybe both. Behind her, only weeds grow.
Anthropologists Arthur and Joan Kleinman note that images of distant, suffering women and children suggest there are communities incapable of or uninterested in caring for its own people. These photographs justify colonialist, paternalistic attitudes and policies, suggesting that the individual in the photograph …
… must be protected, as well as represented, by others. The image of the subaltern conjures up an almost neocolonial ideology of failure, inadequacy, passivity, fatalism, and inevitability. Something must be done, and it must be done soon, but from outside the local setting. The authorization of action through an appeal for foreign aid, even foreign intervention, begins with an evocation of indigenous absence, an erasure of local voices and acts.
THE SELF-DIRECTED SAMARITAN
Here we have a smiling young white girl with a French braid, medical scrubs, and a well-intentioned smile. This young lady is the centerpiece of the photo; she is its protagonist. Her scrubs suggest that she is doing important work among those who are so poor, so vulnerable, and so Other.
The girl is me. And the photograph was taken on my first trip to Ghana during a 10-day medical brigade. I’m beaming in the photograph, half towering and half hovering over these children. I do not know their names, they do not know my name, but I directed a friend to capture this moment with my own camera. Why?
This photograph is less about doing actual work and more about retrospectively appearing to have had a positive impact overseas. Photographs like these represent the overseas experience in accordance with what writer Teju Cole calls the “White Savior Industrial Complex.”
Moreover, in directing, capturing, and performing in photos such as these, voluntourists prevent themselves from actually engaging with the others in the photo. In On Photography, Susan Sontag reminds us:
Photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that…it is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.
On these trips, we hide behind the lens, consuming the world around us with our powerful gazes and the clicking of camera shutters. When I directed this photo opportunity and starred in it, I used my privilege to capture a photograph that made me feel as though I was engaging with the community. Only now do I realize that what I was actually doing was making myself the hero/star in a story about “suffering Africa.”
THE OVERSEAS SELFIE
In his New York TimesOp-Ed, that modern champion of the selfie James Franco wrote:
Selfies are avatars: Mini-Me’s that we send out to give others a sense of who we are…. In our age of social networking, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, “Hello, this is me.”
Although related to the Self-Directed Samaritan shot, there’s something extra-insidious about this type of super-close range photo. “Hello, this is me” takes on new meaning—there is only one subject in this photo, the white subject. Capturing this image and posting it on the Internet is to understand the Other not as a separate person who exists in the context of their own family or community. but rather as a prop, an extra, someone only intelligible in relation to the Western volunteer.
“I don’t know if it’s more important to have just shows and exhibitions and have the black artists included in just exhibitions, you see. What I would prefer to have, and I think it may be more important, and maybe I’m not making myself clear, I would like to see a black critic on a major newspaper like many of the other critics.”—Jacob Lawrence (via blackcontemporaryart)
It’s a wild ride being an intern at AAWW…one minute you’re eating banh mi sandwiches and the next minute you’re getting your photo snapped by your boss in an elevator while you’re trapped under Ikea furniture and you don’t exactly know what’s going on yet and then he puts it on…
Hey, I came across your tumblr from the TTW14 panel you were on, and wondered what your favorite race-centric tumblrs where? I'm especially interested in tumblrs from the non-western world, women of color, trans(especially especially trans femmes) people of color and queer people of color.
Sorry, I (Latoya) forget to check the inbox on Tumblr. Favorite is hard to choose - I follow a mix of art, political, fashion, and theme blogs and then I just select things that match with race. I love 18 Million Rising and Dynamic Africa, but a lot of the great stuff are reblogs from smart people like Ethiopienne. Feel free to look at who I follow personally on Tumblr - a lot of what goes on Racialicious is curated from there.
Hi, I love your blog! I’m a mod at bookendeds. We’re a diverse media review blog focussing on books. Our aim is to bring media with themes and characters that are scarcely represented in mainstream media to your attention, as well as to give you an overall assessment of its progressiveness and quality. We’re new and could use some promotion. Would you mind publishing this ask for your followers to see?
Hello. Welcome to the party! Book reviews are difficult for us and we’ve done less of them as the years have gone on, so we are excited to see what you post.
What is the Racialicious opinion on the video for All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor? Like with the Lily Allen song Hard Out Here, there are racial issues in the casting of black dancers to twerk behind a white lead singer - but it is less extreme than in Allen's video. With Allen, the issue was the simultaneous appropriation and shaming of black culture. Do you think this video did the same?
I don’t think we have an opinion yet. This is the first I’ve heard of the song/video, though Kendra or Arturo may have. Will look into it. - LDP
“Every single Marvel Studios movie has centered around a presumably straight, white, male protagonist, even if white women (mostly love interests) and men of color (support roles) have played roles in the film. The franchise is a box office juggernaut and has a ton of movies on this list, but we’ve gotten two to three movies about each of the men on the Avengers and there’s yet to be a film about Black Widow.