The Criminalization of Black Women

The shooting of Justine Diamond by a Black officer, has riled up white folks. Diamond’s death has caused white folks to bemoan the overuse of force on the most “innocent of victims.”  Besides the curiosity of this outrage, has been the amusing scolding of the Black community to come together as “humans” and fight against police brutality.  Huh? These are the same people who cursed Black Lives Matter activism. They tend to see Black victims as having “done something wrong” to warrant their killing. Even when the victim is a child. The lack of support from many Black folks has confused white folks, but what did they expect? You can’t treat a group of folks sh*t, then turn around and expect them to be a shoulder to cry on.

While it’s a terrible thing that happened to Diamond, in the end she will get justice. Already the police chief has resigned, and the black officer that shot her is getting vilified (no Blue Lives Matter love for him!) The same can not be said for Black victims. I’m not going to get too emotionally involved in this particular case.

What did pique my interest, this past week, were two articles I came across on the ‘net. Both deal with the criminalization of Black women, particularly poor Black women. In “A Warrant to Search Your Vagina” Andrea J. Ritchie discussed the abuse of Black women by police officers. Ritchie  has written extensively about the sanctioned violence by the criminal justice system against Black women. Ritchie detailed how Black women are often beaten, raped, and killed by police. It is the combination of race and gender, that makes Black women particularly vulnerable to police harassment.

Currently, there has been a call of compassion and health crisis by politicians for opioid/meth users (usually 90% white), this olive branch has not been extended to Black women. Black women are still being brutally attacked and exploited in “the war on drugs.” Black women bodies are routinely degraded.  It is reminiscent of the days of slavery, when Black women were made to strip naked and sexually assaulted.

“In 2015 Charneshia Corley was pulled out of her car at a gas station after a police officer claimed he smelled marijuana during a traffic stop. Two female officers then forced her legs apart and probed her vagina in full view of passers-by.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/opinion/sunday/black-women-police-brutality.html

Ritchie noted that police CAN issue a warrant to search one’s vagina. It may seem absurd, but it is true. This is alarming and sets the stage for abuse of power, as illustrated in the cases discussed in the article. Generally, the women did NOT have drugs on them, but will forever be humiliated by this invasive body search.

Continue reading “The Criminalization of Black Women”

The Fragility of White Women’s Allyship

About a month ago, there was controversy surrounding the release of “Beguiled.” Side eyes were given when director Sofia Coppola casually erased two Black women from her film. These characters were featured in the book and original 1971 film of the same name. Eyebrows were raised when Coppola tried to justify  why she left these women on the cutting room floor. To paraphrase Coppola she stated her film was “about gender dynamics, not race.”

In the article “The Beguiled’ Sanitizes Racism by Masking It with the Pretty Faces of Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning,” author Kendra James deconstructs the film and Coppola’s stance.

Of course, this left Black women to ask “but aren’t Black women, uh women?” Coppola’s dismissal of Black women, highlights the problem of so-called white feminists. These women keep reminding Black women/women of color, they aren’t really too worried about us.

A few weeks before Coppola showed us who she was, another white woman, Ann Thompson (editor at Indiewire), decided to kick Black women in the teeth. After another white woman, actress Elizabeth Banks bemoaned the lack of opportunities for women in Hollywood, particularly zeroing in on Steven Spielberg. While Black folks on social media agreed Spielberg could do better,they pointed out he did produce/direct one of the biggest female lead film in the ’80s…The Color Purple.

This is when Thompson decided to jump in and declare The Color Purple a flop. Well, Black folks got their laugh on that day.

This disparaging remark made by Thompson showed that white women know nothing about Black women’s lives, don’t care to know about Black women’s lives. Because if Thompson really cared about Black women as “women,” she would know The Color Purple is beloved by Black women. Black women know every line in the film. Black women know every song sang in the film. Black women know when they have been done wrong by someone, to stick a finger (or knife) in the offender’s face and say with confidence “until you do right by me, everything you think about is going to crumble!”

Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Also, Thompson would be aware that The Color Purple earned over 11 Academy Award Nominations and ranked in over $100 million dollars. The film resulted in a popular play on Broadway and of course it all started with the best-selling book by Black feminist writer, Alice Walker. I mean really…

I wanted to revisit these “flops” of white women like Coppola, Banks, and Thompson because it speaks to the bigger issue of the fragility of white women’s allyship. Despite these women often calling on women to come together for “x,y, z…” they generally are not thinking of Black women/women of color. The truth is, majority of white women feel absolutely no connection to Black women. It’s why even motherhood, which one would think women could build community, makes no difference to white women.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve noticed white mothers tend to be indifferent to me if not worse. When I attend family events (library, park, etc.)  white mothers will chat it up with each other, while ignoring me.  Or they give me and my child exasperated looks. I remember once my sweet little guy, smiling and saying hi to a white woman at the store. The white woman gave him a dirty look. I made sure she saw my middle finger. White women can be hateful to Black children. They tend to teach their children not to play/engage with Black kids. I don’t know how many times I’ve witness white mothers whisk their kids away from the playground area when Black children/children of color show up.

I think this has to do with stereotypes around Black motherhood and that many white mothers think Black moms are incompetent. Never mind the fact we took care of their children for hundreds of years while they sat on their azz and ate bon bons.

These increasing incidents of white women crapping on the lives/voices of Black women, is why a lot of Black women feminists have given up. They have grown weary of white women’s “allyship.” It seems to create more headache than needed when you think about all the other nonsense Black women have to deal with in the world.

The Strange, Sad Case of Laci Green

Yes, yes there are some “decent” white women allies. But what’s the point of the “decent” ones if they are not calling out the obnoxious ones? Until this happens (on a consistent basis) feminists of color distrust of white women will continue to grow.

The Trump Years

“When people show you who they are believe them…”-Dr. Maya Angelou

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016 the majority of (white) Americans decided to ignore the common sense message of the late goddess…Maya Angelou. Now we are stuck with Donald John Trump for president. Le sigh. Of course, there’s been an avalanche of articles on how could this have happened. Particularly, a focus on the “disappointments” and “anger” of the white working class. Most folks of color (including myself) don’t understand why we are supposed to empathize with the problems of working class white folks over working class communities of color. From what I’ve read, many of their concerns are the same (livable wages, good education for their children, etc.) Also, more bizarre, why did white working class folks think a billionaire (who has every opportunity ever handed to him) would be able to relate/improve their lot in life?

What about the working black class?

I had the misfortune of happening upon Fox News “The Trump Revolution” and all I could do was shake my head. A bunch of confused white folks not quite sure why they voted for Trump, other than he wasn’t a woman/colored (okay, they didn’t say this, but that’s the underlining vibe I got from watching the program). One man broke down in tears and stated Trump would be able to help his improved elderly mother. Umm, okay. The irony of all this, despite the legitimate concerns/fear of folks of color when Trump takes office in January, it will be white people who find themselves struggling the most. The thing about folks of color, we are survivalists. We have learned how to navigate oppressive times. Not all of us made it, because we are only human and the body/mind can only take so much, but overall all the majority of us are still here.

Many white folks have shown they can’t handle stress/hard times. Think The Great Depression where suicide rates skyrocketed. Where, even now white folks tend to have the highest suicide rates when things go amidst. Hell, the election results themselves show how white folks can’t handle change. Instead of embracing the growing diversity of our country, how it could empower us all with folks different talents/contributions, many see it as a threat. Most would rather hearken back to a time of blatant violence/hatefulness of folks who don’t look like them. I currently reside in a red state. I see/hear this mentality all the time. I have to look at a confederate flag everyday. It’s sad and alarming.

But in the end, its white folks I wish luck to. They are going to need it.

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Meh

Presidential Election 2016

Thank goodness the elections are almost over. This has been the most tortuous presidential campaign ever. Neither candidates are that amazing. Donald Trump is self-explanatory. As a feminist, I want to champion for Hillary Clinton, but despite her female empowerment stance…she’s actually a strong upholder of white supremacy/the status quo. It may be due to a need to prove to (white) male politicians that she can be as tough as they are on certain issues (e.g. the criminal justice system).

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Basically…(as seen on Facebook)

The third-party candidates have been no better, really. Surprising, as this was a great opportunity for a third-party group to shine, as the two main attractions are unpopular with the majority of Americans. However, no one has really stood out. Perhaps, it shows how hard it is for third-party folks to break into mainstream media. I find it disturbing that when I turned 18 and voting for the first time, Bill Clinton was running for office. In a few weeks I will be turning 43, and the current presidential choice is another Clinton. All these years later, and there is still no diversity/alternative voices in politics.

In any case, this nonsense will soon be over. It’s all been depressing as hell.

Sexual Violence and Black Women/Girls #1

Well, leave it to Erykah Badu to force my hand. She has a knack for keeping things off kilter.

I had planned to start my series on Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) which is in April…next week. But Badu’s recent comments regarding sexuality and young girls has left me shaking my head.

“Badu, who had a child with Andres 3000 in 1997, said that teenage girls should wear knee length skirts to protect them from the “natural” desires of men.“There was an article ruling that high school girls lower their skirts so male teachers are not distracted. I agreed because…” she began on Twitter.“I am aware that we live in a sex l-driven society. It is everyone’s, male and female’s, responsibility to protect young ladies…” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/erykah-badu-accused-of-victim-blaming-after-saying-girls-should-wear-knee-length-skirts-to-stop-a6980721.html

Badu’s views are alarming, particularly when thinking about how vulnerable young black girls are to sexual violence/abuse, especially from older men. Black girls are already marginalized/stereotyped in educational settings. Are we now going to shrug our collective shoulders when a male teacher is behaving inappropriately because they are of “childbearing age” and wearing short skirts?

“Sixty percent of black girls have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of black men before reaching the age of 18, according to an ongoing study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint.” http://newsone.com/1680915/half-of-black-girls-sexually-assaulted/

Perhaps Badu should speak with some of her fellow black women celebrities. Vanessa Williams, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliot, and Tisha Campbell have all shared about being victims of sexual abuse as young girls. Folks might argue that they were children, so it’s different. But there have been cases where girls as young as five years old have been blamed for their rapes. For appearing “sexually mature” for their age. That’s why Badu’s words are disturbing, because it then becomes a slippery slope of putting the onus of male self control on girls, no matter what their age is.

“Childhood sexual abuse has been correlated with higher levels of depression, guilt, shame, self-blame, eating disorders, somatic concerns, anxiety, dissociative patterns, repression, denial, sexual problems and relationship problems” (Hall & Hall, 2011 p.2).  http://www.apa.org/pi/about/newsletter/2014/11/child-sexual-abuse.aspx

Campbell recently made a video about the abuser who hurt her. Campbell, who is 47 years old, struggles to talk about the assault until this day. Sexual violence haunts black girls for the rest of their lives. We owe them more than telling them to wear longer skirts.

Nina

Last year, black folks were  concerned when it was announced Zoe Saldana was cast as the iconic, Nina Simone. Folks worst fears were confirmed when the trailer for “Nina” was released this past weekend.

A lot of the criticism has focused on Saldana basically engaging in black face to portray the high priestess of soul. It’s considered offensive because Simone’s music was dedicated to speaking out against the marginalization of black folks, specifically darker skinned black folks. The (hideous) makeup job makes a mockery of her life’s work.

My other issue with the trailer is the story line of an “out of control” Simone. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the mental health struggles of Simone. Honestly, I did not know this was something that affected her life, until recently. It’s not talked about when folks praise the legendary singer. I think mental health needs to be discussed more in the black community. Two groups I follow do an excellent job supporting black folks and mental health (No More Martyrs and Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc.)  Artist Erykah Badu recently highlighted bi-polar/depression at a fashion show. So, folks are working hard to bring more awareness to this important issue.

However, I find it interesting the writer-director decided to focus solely on this aspect of Simone’s life. It was not surprising to learn that the writer-director is a white woman (Cynthia Mort). It makes sense why she used black face to represent Simone. White women tend not to relate to the beauty struggles black women, particularly darker skinned black women, face under white supremacy. It makes sense why Mort zeroed in on the “breakdown” of Simone. She could not see the brilliance of Simone without framing it in a stereotypical “crazy” black woman caricature. Simone was regarded as a child progeny. She had to deal with harsh racism  while growing up. Imagine the pain navigating oppression when you are a gifted black child. I’m sure Simone’s mental health problems were exacerbated dealing with the daily abuse of white racism. But a film like that probably wouldn’t get the green light.

As far as Saldana, she should know better. Simone’s daughter has defended her in this role. I’m sure some of it is genuine support, but Simone’s daughter also has not found closure with her mother. She has talked about Simone being an abusive/neglectful parent.  It’s probably hard for her to look at the bigger picture of why Saldana was not a good fit for this role. Celebrities like Queen Latifah and Paula Patton have stood up for Salanda, but they are doing so in case they ever want to look ridiculous on film. You know celebrity egos.

The problem is Saldana tends to flip flop on the subject of racism (colorblind rhetoric). And yes, she’s tends to say she is a “black Latina,” but often celebrates her Latina side/declare she is more than “just black.”This is not someone who needed to represent Nina Simone, a consistently proud black woman.

 

The Oscars

Initially, I wasn’t going to write about the hoopla surrounding the Oscars. I agree there needs to be more diversity/embracing of characters/stories of color. And while it’s fun to see your favorite actor/actress of color win the coveted statue, in the end it’s another self-congratulatory award show for overpaid celebrities. When you have poor folks becoming sick from contaminated water due to heartless city officials, in the grand scheme of things the Oscar boycott was meh to me. Particularly, since there has been criticism of how the Oscars are racist since forever.

But then some white actors/actresses started running their mouths. The one good thing that tends to come from controversies like the Oscar white out, is that folks show you who they really are. Folks who you thought were “liberal” and “colorblind” turn out to be clueless racists. The common complaint from these white actors/actresses is that maybe black folks just weren’t good enough to be nominated. This tends to be a typical response by many white folks when called out on the lack of diversity in work environments, etc.  Of course, they had to be mediocre, because white folks performances are always top notch *eye roll.*

Another amusing comment was made by actor Michael Cain. He said black folks just needed to be “patient.” What is this…1916 and not 2016? Has the whole Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) been invisible to him? Black folks are refusing to wait. This was recently illustrated by a BLM protestor who interrupted a news conference holding up the sign #LaquanMcDonald‬People aren’t playing anymore.

The most offensive comment was made by actress Julie Delpy.

“It’s funny — women can’t talk. I sometimes wish I were African American because people don’t bash them afterward.”

Huh? She really would prefer to be black, eh? Anyway, isn’t Jada Pinkett-Smith a woman. She has been heavily criticized by folks, including this Delpy woman. Or does her womanhood don’t count because she’s an “African-American.” White feminists already failing in the new year. It’s interesting when speaking about women they are obviously only thinking about white women. From Patricia Arquette to Madonna they have framed their pro-woman rhetoric that exclude/insult black women/women of color. They don’t see us on the same level. Hmm…

In any case, it will be interesting to see how the Oscars turn out this year. It’s usually a snore fest so folks not showing up would at least give black folks a good chuckle when reviewing the YouTube clips.

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Photo from: en.wikipedia.org

 

 

 

India’s Daughter

A few years ago, I got the opportunity to travel to Southern India. It was a community service course offered via my graduate program. We traveled from Chennai to Madurai. The cities were beautiful as well as the Tamil people.

The purpose of the trip was to learn about the roles/lives of Indian women. We attended lectures at a women’s college and engaged with the students around/off campus.  One of the more interesting lectures we attended was on dating/love relationships. Basically, those things just didn’t happen in India culture. Arranged marriages are still dominate in India and a young woman has a lot to lose if it’s even suspected she likes a boy, let alone actually talking or going out in public with one.

Of course, as a feminist I was annoyed by this but many of the young women saw nothing wrong with it. This is the world they have been raised and conditioned in.  Even if they didn’t like it, why risk being rejected from your family/society. The consequences were too great.  However, there are Indian feminists/activists who are resisting the oppression faced by women in India.

You see that activism in the PBS documentary “India’s Daughter.” The film chronicles the horrifying gang rape/murder of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh. The film interviews one of the rapists and defense attorneys. Their rationale for the young woman’s assault is disturbing. Basically, she had no right to be out with a boy late at night. The boy was actually just a classmate and “late at night” was only around 7-8pm. One of the attorneys even stated he would light his daughter on fire if she ever did such a thing.

It was a hard film to watch, especially as it brought back memories of my time in India. I meet so many dynamic young women, who because of the reinforced rape/anti-woman culture, will have a hard time living lives free from abuse.

Yet, one can’t get too smug about “those” people being uneducated, etc. The fact of the matter is male violence against women is a worldwide problem. This is illustrated in the ending credits highlighting the staggering statistics of sexual assault against women in different countries.

I mean we just had a Canadian judge tell a young teen to close her legs when being sexually assaulted.  Or the Georgia police chief who said women can’t get raped they’re just stupid. Or the U.S. representative who said a real rape victim’s body knows how to shut down a pregnancy. Ignorance knows no cultural bonds.

“India’s Daughter” will be available online until February 13, 2016.

Rest in peace Jyoti.

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Empire

Poor Taraji P Henson.

Since being nominated for an Academy Award in 2008, Henson’s career has seemed to be a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Nothing significant has taken off for her. But this can be said for the majority of Oscar-nominated/winning Black women actresses. Unlike their white female counterparts, they tend to struggle. There’s been hope for Viola Davis (nominated for Academy Awards for her performances in “Doubt” and “The Help) and Lupita Nyong’o (Academy Award winner for her role as Patsey in “12 Years a Slave”). Davis is currently starring on the hit show “How To Get Away With Murder” and Nyong’o is slated to star in an adaption of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s “Americanah,” “Star Wars: Episode 7,” and “The Jungle Book.”

Henson’s acting is definitely on caliber with these women, so it’s surprising she hasn’t had her own big breakout opportunity. She may have found it in “Empire.” “A unique family drama set in the world of a hip hop empire.”http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3228904/

I watched “Empire” on Hulu this past weekend. I thought it was okay. Also, I’m a bit turned off with Terrance Howard these days. I used to think he was a great actor, but he comes across as one-note these days. And it doesn’t help that he seems to have misogynistic feelings about women/allegations of abuse. But Henson did bring the heat with her “Cookie” character. She really is the star of the show.

There’s been criticism that “Empire” feeds into stereotypes about black folks. Well, of course it does, it’s on the FOX Network. But I also think “Empire” is just trying to capitalize on the current adult drama craze that mixes thriller/sex/murder/power/vengeance that can be found in shows like “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Scandal,” “Revenge,” “Deception,”  etc.

Besides side-eyeing Howard, I’ve also been side-eyeing some of the comments made by one of the creators of the show…Lee Daniels.  One of his goals  with the  show is to address homophobia in the hip hop community. Okay, cool. But his rhetoric has basically been  that the black community is more homophobic than other communities, which is not true. If that were the case, white LGBTQI folks would have wonderful coming out stories, which they don’t. The issue of homophobia is a problem in all communities.

It will be interesting to see where the “Empire” storyline goes. If it will even survive a season. It’s all over the map, right now. Henson deserves so much more, so hopefully it works out for her.

Aaliyah

I will forget never when Aaliyah died. I was visiting my mom and had fallen asleep on the couch. She shook me and asked me if I had known about the singer. She had been watching television when news broke that Aaliyah died in a plane crash. I remember popping straight up and asking in an incredulous voice, “Aaliyah is dead?”

I’m sure most Black folks have similar stories. Particularly, if you were young at the time. I was in my 20’s and the event shocked me. Aaliyah was the first major star of my generation to die so tragically. It was unsettling.

When it was announced there was going to be a movie on Aaliyah’s life, folks asked why? Well, why not. Trust when Britney Spears passes on there will be a movie about her life,  and Black women singers like Aaliyah (and Janet) are the ones she was groomed to copy/rip off,  so I didn’t see anything wrong with Aaliyah getting her due. Also, it’s just sad when someone dies so young in such a horrific way.

I didn’t see the film this weekend, but I read it was a bust. Not surprising, as the “Aaliyah” movie was a flop from the start.

(1) The fact they kept trying (and eventually did) to cast (Latina looking) biracial women to play Aaliyah. This is the continuing agenda to erase Black women from mainstream roles/images. It’s like how they had a biracial woman play Harriet Tubman in “Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter.” Come on, now. (2) The producers of this film weren’t allowed to use Aaliyah’s music in the film. A movie about a singer and you can’t use their music? It defeats the purpose. We want to hear the tunes that made us like the person in the first place (imagine “What’s Love Got to Do With It” without music!). (3) I read they romanticized the relationship between Aaliyah and R. Kelly. Kelly was 13 years older when he married Aaliyah (28/15).  Even if she thought she was “in love,” Kelly knew better. Why they would want to make it a love story, is beyond me.

This film was just a bad move from the start. Aaliyah was a young star whose light was diminished much too soon.  Rest in Peace.

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Photo from: wblk.com