Housing Discrimination

Meh…

I know I should care about the drama surrounding Donald Sterling, but I don’t.

Yes, it’s terrible he’s a racist, but his views have been known for a while now. Folks been calling out Sterling for years.

 I don’t care about any of the NBA folks in all this hoopla, they will be alright. They have their millions to keep them warm.  I also wasn’t impressed with the Clippers just turning their shirts inside out as a protest. I know they didn’t have much time to react, but come on. How about refuse to play the game, that would have made more of an impact.  Double meh.

The only thing that peaked my interest in all the media coverage, is Sterling’s recorded (heh) treatment of black tenants in apartment buildings he owned:

“As sports columnist Bomani Jones wrote, “Though Sterling has no problem paying black people millions of dollars to play basketball, the feds allege that he refused to rent apartments in Beverly Hills and Koreatown to black people and people with children. Talk about strange. A man notoriously concerned with profit maximization refuses to take money from those willing to shell it out to live in the most overrated, overpriced neighborhood in Southern California? That same man, who gives black men tens of millions of dollars every year, refuses to take a few thousand a month from folks who would like to crash in one of his buildings for a while? You gotta love racism, the only force in the world powerful enough to interfere with money-making. Sterling may have been a joke, but nothing about this is funny. In fact, it’s frightening and disturbing that classic racism like this might still be in play.”–http://www.thenation.com/blog/179551/donald-sterling-slumlord-billionaire#

Currently, in my city the issue of gentrification/housing discrimination is huge. As it is all across the country.  Poor (and working class) black people/folks of color are being pushed further and further out of the city.  Soon, we will be living in the ocean.

Last year, I read Anita Hill’s “Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home.” Hill looks at the ongoing housing crisis in America. It’s a good read. The book details the history of black people trying to find home in a country that has made it hell for them to do so:

I hope this situation with Sterling brings more attention to how poor folks/folks of color are affected by discriminatory housing practices.

Over 100 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted

Last week, the kidnapping of over 100 Nigerian schoolgirls kind of went under the radar. The abductions have been attributed to Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group in Nigeria:

“The group especially opposes the education of women. Under its version of Sharia law, women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write. It has repeatedly targeted places of learning in deadly attacks that have highlighted its fundamental philosophy against education.” http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/24/world/africa/nigeria-kidnapping-answers/

There has been little to no new information on the what has happened to the girls/young women.  I will post any updates as I hear about them.  The Human Rights Watch website is also a good way to stay informed.

SAAM #4: Street Harassment

I’ve written about street harassment before, but wanted to revisit it as I wrap up this week in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

“Street harassment is any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and is motivated by gender or sexual orientation. In countries like India and Bangladesh, it’s termed “eve teasing,” and in countries like Egypt, it’s called “public sexual harassment.”– http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/about/what-is-street-harassment/

Recently, one of my favorite black women bloggers posted about the work of Hollaback! an organization that fights against street harassment.  Majority of black women responded with support of the Hollback! campaign “stop telling women to smile…”

Poster by Tatyana fazlalizadeh
Poster by Tatyana fazlalizadeh

A couple of black men also responded, not understanding what the big deal was if they tell a “sista” to smile.  Because of the very real oppression black men face in our imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy (thank you, bell hooks) it’s hard for them to recognize that they receive male privilege. It’s not the same level of privilege as white men or other even other men of color, but they do get some.

“There are many reasons why black men, generally speaking, have issues with confronting sexism. One reason is explained by this common finding of social science research: Societies tend to align in hierarchies wherein one group is privileged over another. The natural inclination is to identify more closely with the group that provides higher status. Since men enjoy more privilege than women, and blacks less than whites, black men consider themselves men first because it affords privilege…The external narrative that focuses on the tragedies of the black male coupled with the mechanisms black men develop to cope with racism and subjugation equate to an inherent difficulty in seeing the world through the eyes of black women. As such, it takes a genuine and concerted effort for us to recognize the ingrained sexism in our communities.”–http://thegrio.com/2013/08/30/the-reality-of-black-male-privilege/

Because of their male privilege, many black men tend lack self-awareness about the things they do to women, just like other men.  They don’t understand why street harassment is annoying to black women, because it doesn’t click that they aren’t the  first one to give a “compliment” that day. They are not the second one to give a “compliment.” Or the third. Or the fourth. Or even the fifth. A woman can literally be harassed all day by strange men. Black women are especially vulnerable since our bodies/personal space has never been respected in America.  Telling a stranger “to smile” may seem like a little thing, but it can be stressful for a woman to have to entertain folks they don’t even know.

It’s strange a lot of black men don’t get this, as it’s no different from the racial games/masks they often have to wear in the presence of white folks.  Being forced to smile or cheese to show they are a non threatening black man.  It’s obnoxious, ain’t it.

Also, a lot of street harassment can turn scary quick. As I discussed in my previous post on this issue,  black women have been assaulted/killed for not responding “properly” to a strangers comments. I know a lot of men feel they would never got that far, but why create an uncomfortable situation for a woman to begin with?

It’s a tricky situation for black men and women, because it’s a cultural thing to give each other the head nod or call each other brother/sister, and really mean no harm.  I think majority of black women recognize this. However, this is different from someone hollering out degrading comments about your body parts or get hostile/calling you a bitch when you don’t smile right away for them.  That’s street harassment.

Hollaback is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world.  We work together to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces. – See more at: http://www.ihollaback.org/about/#sthash.RYbfxbX4.dpuf
Hollaback is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world.  We work together to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces. – See more at: http://www.ihollaback.org/about/#sthash.RYbfxbX4.dpuf
Hollaback is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world.  We work together to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces. – See more at: http://www.ihollaback.org/about/#sthash.RYbfxbX4.dpuf

SAAM #3: daughters who walk this path

Y’all know I like to read.

A few weeks ago, I read Yejide Kilanko‘s debut novel “daughters who walk this path.”

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“Spirited, intelligent Morayo grows up surrounded by school friends and a busy family in modern-day Ibadan, Nigeria. An adoring little sister, her traditional parents, and a host of aunties and cousins make Morayo’s home their own. So there’s nothing unusual about Morayo’s charming but troubled cousin, Bros T, moving in with the family. At first Morayo and her sister are delighted, but in her innocence, nothing prepares Morayo for the shameful secret Bros T forces upon her.” http://www.yejidekilanko.com/Books.html

The shameful secret that young Morayo struggles with is the sexual violence she experiences at the hands of her cousin.  The assaults happen frequently, until one night at dinner with family, she finally tells of her abuse. The response is not what she would imagine. It is there, Morayo slowly begins to heal as she grows into adulthood.

Kilanko’s does an excellent job of showing how sexual violence  shatters the lives of victims. Her story also details how cultural traditions/rigid gender roles can exacerbate the violence girls and women experience in their lives.

Morayo has to deal with her pain alone. Her parents refuse to acknowledge what has happened to her:

“At home, I could not get away from the unasked questions in my parents’ eyes as they lingered on my face. I no longer slept well at night, and my mind would play those questions over and over again (Kilanko, pg. 90).”

She finds support in her Aunty Morenike, who also was raped as a young girl. However, her family had a much different response. She helps Morayo walk the path towards forgiveness of self, empowerment, and love.

“daughters who walk this path” is a moving look at how sexual violence hurts not only individuals, but the whole community.

I definitely recommend folks include this book on their reading list.

Author Yejide Kilanko
Author Yejide Kilanko

SAAM #2: NO! The Rape Documentary

Rape is one of the most evil acts one can commit on another. What makes it more alarming is that it tends to be perpetuated by folks we know. Yet, even in 2014, rape is still depicted as a stranger hiding in bushes. The fact is survivors tend to know their assailants. These people tend to be relatives, friends, ex-partners, co-workers, casual acquaintances, etc.

The rapist isn’t a masked man

  • Approximately 66% of rape victims know their assailant. (2000 NCVS)
  • Approximately 48% of victims are raped by a friend or acquaintance; 30% by a stranger; 16% by an intimate; 2% by another relative; and in 4% of cases the relationship is unknown. (2000 NCVS)

http://www.sarsonline.org/resources-stats/reports-laws-statics

In communities of color, especially the black community, sexual violence is even more complex. Black women not only have to accept the fact that they know their rapists, but grapple with what will be their next step. Despite being more prone to sexual violence, Black women/women of color tend to be very racially loyal.

A lot of it has to do with Black women worrying about feeding into stereotypes about Black men or not wanting to “lock another brother up.” This fierce community protection comes at the expense of Black women’s physical and mental health:

“Historically, law enforcement has been used to control African-American communities through brutality and racial profiling. It may be difficult for a Black woman to seek help if she feels it could be at the expense of African-American men or her community. The history of racial injustice (particularly the stereotype of the Black male as a sexual predator) and the need to protect her community from further attack might persuade a survivor to remain silent.”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/shenegotiates/2012/04/25/black-women-sexual-assault-and-the-art-of-resistance/

In her film, NO! The Rape Documentary, Aishah Shahidah Simmons does a great job of deconstructing the myths about rape and how sexual violence affects the lives of Black women.  She shows how the intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism,  etc., prevent Black women from reporting their assaults.  She also shows the healing process of the survivors in the film.

I met Aishah a few years ago, when she did a screening of NO! in my city. I was extremely moved by the film, and was so glad that someone was speaking out on this issue.It took her over 13 years to make the documentary. She was committed to making the film because she thought it was important that this issue was discussed in the Black community. Much respect for that!

I have shown the NO! documentary as a way to support Black women’s voices during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). I encourage other folks to do so as well. It can be a great way to start a conversation on how this issue is unique to Black women. And the ways Black men can be our allies.  If my group had a bigger budget, we would’ve also brought Aishah to speak about her film. If your school or organization has the funds, not only show the film, invite Aishah!  She’s an amazing woman who we should support.

The NO! Rape Documentary is a powerful act of resistance against the oppression of Black women’s voices/bodies.

SAAM #1: Rape Culture

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  This week I will be dedicating the blog to this important issue…

“The month of April has been designated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in the United States. The goal of SAAM is to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. By working together and pooling our resources during the month of April, we can highlight sexual violence as a major public health, human rights and social justice issue and reinforce the need for prevention efforts.” —http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/what-is-saam

In order  to successfully prevent sexual violence in our communities, we  have to acknowledge that we live in a Rape Culture. It’s noted that “in feminism, rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society,[1] and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape.” For example, when Rick Ross made a casual reference to date rape in his song “U.O.E.N.O” (Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that/ She ain’t even know it.) He was rightfully clowned and called out for using this lyric.

Of course, it isn’t just rappers/entertainers who normalize rape in our culture.  It also isn’t a new phenomenon. It can be argued that rape culture has its roots in slavery.   In order to justify the rapes/sexual assaults on black women’s bodies (to keep the slave trade business intact), black women were horribly stereotyped:

“The portrayal of black women as lascivious by nature is an enduring stereotype. The descriptive words associated with this stereotype are singular in their focus: seductive, alluring, worldly, beguiling, tempting, and lewd. Historically, white women, as a category, were portrayed as models of self-respect, self-control, and modesty – even sexual purity, but black women were often portrayed as innately promiscuous, even predatory. This depiction of black women is signified by the name Jezebel.1 ” http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/jezebel.htm

The young slave woman who has come to symbolize the normalization of abuse on black women’s bodies is Saartjie Baartman. Baartman is often known by the racist term “Hottentot Venus:” 

“Sara ‘Saartjie’ Baartman was born in 1789* at the Gamtoos river in what is now known as the Eastern Cape. She belonged to the cattle-herding Gonaquasub group of the Khoikhoi. Sara grew up on a colonial farm where her family most probably worked as servants. Her mother died when she was aged two and her father, who was a cattle driver, died when she reached adolescence. Sara married a Khoikhoi man who was a drummer and they had one child together who died shortly after birth. Due to colonial expansion, the Dutch came into conflict with the Khoikhoi. As a result people were gradually absorbed into the labour system. When she was sixteen years old Sara’s fiancé was murdered by Dutch colonists. Soon after, she was sold into slavery to a trader named Pieter Willem Cezar, who took her to Cape Town where she became a domestic servant to his brother. It was during this time that she was given the name ‘Saartjie’, a Dutch diminutive for Sara.”http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/sara-saartjie-baartman

I had the misfortune of watching the film “Black Venus.” It’s supposed to be based on the life of Baartman. I felt the film was really a white man’s story, not Baartman’s. She barely has any lines in the film. I also felt ill at ease that the black actress in the film was really being mistreated. However, I did think the film gave some insight into the horrifying ways Baartman was treated on a daily basis. It is a thin line of trying to show the reality of her life, but not being exploitative about it. The director failed. Hopefully, someday the fullness of  Saartjie Baartman‘s life will be told.

While I also had some of the same issues with  “12 Years a Slave,” I thought the film did at least show the hatefulness of white supremacy and the beginnings of rape culture:

“Although the kidnapped freedman Northup is the main character, the film also does an excellent job of exposing the gendered sexual violence at the very foundation of enslavement. Patsy isn’t the only victim of rape culture, either. In their brief scenes Mistress Harriet Shaw (Alfre Woodard) and Eliza (Adepero Oduye)—both objects of the affection of their masters—intimate a complex interplay between sexual coersion and agency in a corrupt system that gives them zero options. “The Accused,”* the 1988 Jodie Foster film, dramatized victim-blaming in gang rape. “12 Years a Slave” crystalizes in images and in sound what it is to be owned and exploited.” http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/10/i_saw_12_years_a.html

Recently, a friend told me that true liberation can not come about until black women are allowed to give voice to the sexual violence they have experienced in their lives. I agree. Anti-rape activists need to acknowledge that this country was built/continues to be built off the abuse/ sexual assaults on black girls/women, in order to truly dismantle rape culture.

Photo from: http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/10/i_saw_12_years_a.html
Photo from: http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/10/i_saw_12_years_a.html

 

 

 

Tico Armand

I was tripping when I saw these photos of Tico Armand featured on AfroPunk:

TicoArmand3

TicoArmand2

TicoArmand

Wha-! Go girl!

 I envy women who rock the baldie look…someday 🙂

Armand is more than fabulous looking, she has an amazing story to tell:

“Her story is one of great joy and great pain, struggles, self-acceptance, identity, abuse, trauma. Haitian activist and model Tico Armand exposes her truth. From being a baby born into poverty in Haiti, to her move to Brooklyn as a young girl and the adversities she’s had to endure, her experiences filled her with the strength and the motivation to succeed. She is now an accomplished model who has graced the pages of various magazines, and runways across the globe.”http://www.afropunk.com/profiles/blogs/interview-activist-and-model-tico-armand-shares-her-powerful

Have a great weekend!

Steel Magnolias

Last year, when Lifetime Network announced they were remaking “Steel Magnolias” with an all black cast, I wasn’t impressed. “Steel Magnolias” is one of those classic films that shouldn’t be messed with. Also, why not make an original film about black womanhood? The remake has an amazing and accomplished cast. They were wasted on this film:  Phylicia Rashad (Tony Award Winner), Alfre Woodard (Academy Award Nominee), Queen Latifah (Grammy Winner/Academy Award Nominee), Jill Scott (Multiple Grammy Winner), Adepero Oduye (Independent Spirit Award Winner), and Condola Rashad ( Phylicia Rashad’s daughter. I just caught that…lol. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 2012). See…stellar cast.

I thought it was kind of half-azzed of them to just make the characters black when the film  is mostly known an empowering story of white female sisterhood.

Women are all the same right? *rolls eyes*

The new “Steel Magnolias”is currently streaming on Netflix. I wasn’t in a big rush to watch it when it first came, since I thought I wouldn’t be good. I watched the film the other day, and I was right. Well, it’s okay. The original cast members made the characters so much their own, that you just can’t separate the two (or at least, I couldn’t).  Also, the southern accents were all over the place. Scott was especially hamming it up. LOL. I am from the south, so I know a good southern accent when I hear it 🙂 I will say I thought Woodard was perfectly cast as Ouiser and I actually preferred Rashad’s Shelby over Julia Roberts portrayal. Julia Roberts irks me for some reason :O/

The male characters were pretty forgettable (but I think they were also forgettable in the original film).

While they did add some cultural tweaks, I thought it was odd the film completely glossed over that the beauty salon has different connotations for black women. I thought they would have gone deeper with that. And I thought it was suspect that they kept the “there is no such thing as natural beauty! line in and it’s said to the black woman with natural hair. Also,  it was bizarre one of the characters points out at a party that she just hooked up another character’s wig. I don’t know no black woman who would want folks knowing her business like that. LOL.

The remake just had to include an interracial relationship subplot. I have nothing against interracial relationships, but it seemed so random. As if Lifetime worried white folks wouldn’t be interested in the film if it didn’t have at least one white person in it.  Ouiser is the one who gets the white love interest.  Another reason why I didn’t buy it.  She’s supposed to be an older black women from the Deep South. I would think it would be  more complicated than she’s just a fussy old woman who doesn’t appreciate love when it’s right in front of her face.

The film also left out some major scenes from the first film, I guess their attempts to make it original :O/

Despite my bashing, the film still gets ya.  I mean, anytime someone is dying and they seem like a very sweet person, you are going to be touched. It’s decent enough to check out. You just have to try hard not to compare it to the original (I failed).