Ah the splendor of black music. What would white supremacist civilization do without it? Homegrown, soulful, it is the forbidden spice in a thousand scenes of white folk romancing, cutting loose, getting it on and minding the empire’s business. Black dynamism has always been a wellspring for white theft. For many people of color, going to 21st century movies is a soul-sucking exercise in being trained to see power through white eyes, often with the strategic pomp of a black soundtrack. Death by trailer, it is the masochistic pleasure of being bludgeoned into mental submission by the narrative of white heroism (in the form of Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon and George Clooney), white hetero-normative romance (in the form of faceless anorexic white girls and boys slobbering over and devouring each other) and white domesticity in white picket fence communities.
Generations after psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s 1947 doll test experiment on racial identification (which has been updated several times over the past decade), children’s images of whiteness remain rigidly framed through the lens of humanity, civilization, ingenuity, genius, beauty and morality. When children of color see themselves at all in American film it is as ethnic exotica, sidekicks for the enterprising white boy/girl protagonist or fly-in-the-buttermilk diversity mascots fleshing out a classroom scene. According to a 2012 study by the USC Annenberg School, 76.3% of all speaking characters in American film were white while whites comprise 56% of U.S. ticket buyers. By contrast, Latinos comprise 26% of ticket buyers and 17% of the U.S. population, yet account for only 4.3% of speaking roles in film.
In 2013, the American film industry raked in over 10 billion in profits, plowing over people of color who now comprise the majority of California’s population. In the new film American Hustle blacks, Latinos and Arabs are the colorful backdrop to the ribald shenanigans of a cunning yet endearing white couple cruising toward redemption and nuclear family-hood in New Jersey. Continue reading “Hollywood’s Tea Party”→
The WLP is a feminist humanist mentoring, leadership and social justice advocacy program for young women of color in South Los Angeles high schools. For the past several years, the WLP has successfully “pipelined” first generation students into college and careers in communities with historically low college-going, retention and graduation rates. Due to the expiration of L.A. County funding the program is in jeopardy of being discontinued.
In my home and in my community I have always understood that a higher education is not as important as having kids and staying home to clean and cook like a “real woman/ wife” does. I think of WLP as the light in the darkness. As a senior at Gardena, I had no hope or desire to go to college before WLP. I used to think it would be impossible for me to attend college because I’m undocumented. —Lizeth Soria, WLP alum 2012
“The Secular Student Alliance wants to support the Women’s Leadership Project with a $1,500 matching offer. This comes with no obligation on your part, other than to keep helping young women challenge the sexism, misogyny, and homophobia that can so powerfully shape their lives.”
–August Brunsman IV, SSA Executive Director
On Sunday, December 15th, The People of Color Beyond Faith network will host a Google Hangouts discussion on coming out as a non-believer of color with a diverse panel of African descent atheists. The discussion will be moderated by Donald Wright, founder of Houston Black Non-Believers:
Don Barbera has been in the world of business for more than 25 years and is the author of several books including, “From Here to There: Improving Interpersonal Communications.” Don is a graduate of PittsburgStateUniversity and holds degrees in Journalism, English and Business Administration. With nearly 20 years in the print journalism industry, Don is also an experienced writer and instructor, holding adjunct faculty positions at LangstonUniversity, TulsaJunior College as well as the DeVry Institute of Technology. He has written hundreds of newspaper stories and articles, as well as a book of poetry, “Until It Ropes Like Okra. “Black and Not Baptist,” and “The 80% Solution: Christians Doing The Right Thing.”
CUNY Ph.D. Student, novelist & radical activist who doesn’t hold back a word on subjects of Atheism v Religion, Gender & Sexuality Wars, Race Battlefield, Corporate Political Chicanery & Media Miseducation. Because we won’t agree on many things, that very space of disagreement provides opportunities for our sharing, learning, and growing. Check out DadlandShutUP.com.
Co-host of The Em & Evil Show on the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, Author of Children’s & Young Adult Novels, Goddess Beauty and Freelance writer, ghostwriter and copy editor.
President of Black Skeptics Chicago, motivational speaker, civic and social justice activist.
Ph.D. Student, Neuroscientist, Host of The RSS Feed on the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, social justice activist, and blogger.
Vice-President of Black Skeptics Group, President and Host of the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, IT Trainer, civic & social justice activist.
“No one ever discussed Trayvon Martin with us in class,” said Sydney, an introspective 9th grader, wistfully. Sydney is a participant in my Young Male Scholars pilot at Gardena High School in South Los Angeles. He and a dozen other 9th and 10th graders are having a spirited discussion about the impact of Martin’s murder on the criminal justice system in Gardena’s college center. According to the school’s college counselor black boys are a “rarity” in the center and our small meeting is the largest number that he has ever seen here. On a campus where black students are the second largest ethnic group next to Latinos, black males are either pounced on by military recruiters or left to fend for themselves, implicitly branded as troublemakers and potential dropouts.
The college counselor’s observation was the impetus for my starting the pilot in collaboration with Brandon Bell, a young, South L.A. community activist alum of King Drew Medical Magnet and Princeton University. In an educational climate where there were only forty eight black male students in the freshman class of internationally prestigious UCLA, the pilot is specifically designed to pipeline black males into college through targeted intervention. But it is also geared toward politicizing young men of color by providing them with the historical consciousness and space to become an activist generation of organizers, scholars and intellectuals.
Our discussion about the political implications of Martin’s murder took place a day before the death of Nelson Mandela. As the world mourns Mandela and president Obama touts an eleventh hour focus on “income inequality” neo-apartheid conditions in American education continue to fester. Last week was bookended by two powerful education reports which indirectly indicted the myth of American exceptionalism. The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that American students remained static in reading and science and were well below average in math, falling from 29th to 31st in global rankings. The Campaign for College Opportunity’s “The State of Blacks in Higher Education: The Persistent Opportunity Gap” illustrates the devastating impact of California’s anti-affirmative action policy.
The Campaign for College Opportunity report concluded “that gaps between Blacks and other ethnic groups in college-going and attainment have remained virtually unchanged for more than a decade, and in some cases, have worsened.” Despite claims of increased college opportunities for millennials, “A smaller share of today’s California Black young adult population holds postsecondary degrees than that of Blacks between the ages of 35 and 64.” Put bluntly, in an era in which affirmative action has been viciously discredited and all but gutted by both the Right and neo-liberal “left”, young African Americans are less educated than older African Americans. African American students attend community and for-profit colleges in higher numbers than other groups and have the highest student loan debt and default rates. In addition, black youth still have the lowest graduation rates in California.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the class of 2017 (this year’s 9th graders) will be required to have college prep classes in order to graduate. They must earn a C or better to do so. They will have to achieve this feat despite the Obama administration’s Race to the Top emphasis on high stakes tests that narrow the curriculum, undermine critical thinking and force teachers to be glorified proctors. Nationwide, black students are the least prepared for college, have the lowest enrollment in honors and college prep classes and the highest drop-out or push-out rates. The LAUSD requirement is set against the backdrop of deepening unemployment, prison pipelining and black male homicide rates. According to the Education Trust, “If current trends continue only one in twenty African American students will go on to a four year college or university.” The forty eight black males in UCLA’s freshman class are swimming in a sea of over 5000 new students. Enraged by these stats, black male UCLA students recently released an activist video critique which went viral. But despite renewed attention to racial disparities in college access there is no federal, state or local policy or call to action that specifically addresses the fact that young African American male high school students are routinely dismissed as not being college material.
As the Martin case demonstrated yet again, the dominant culture does not associate young black men and boys with tenderness, caring, sensitivity, and compassion, much less intellectualism. Since white supremacist culture can never see black youth as victims they can only be predators and aggressors. The visceral fear that adults have of so-called black male criminality is one of the primary reasons why black boys are suspended and expelled at higher rates for lesser offenses than are white students.
Like white kids, youth of color are trained to see explicit acts of individual prejudice as the only standard for racism rather than institutional racism and white supremacy. So when Brandon and I discussed how mass incarceration was devastating our school-communities some of the boys in the group said that “bad environments” and “bad choices” simply lead black youth to commit more crime. But after examining disproportionate crack cocaine use amongst white males and unpacking how legacy admissions policies allow mediocre white students like George W. Bush get into Ivy Leagues the students’ consciousness began to shift. Not seeing themselves in the curriculum, public education socializes them to believe that disproportionate numbers of their brothers and sisters are in prison due to bad choices while college is the reward for the elite few who make good ones. Teaching them to see the connection between the racial politics of college access and the invisibility of Martin’s murder in their high school curriculum is a step toward defying this criminal mis-education.
As with Martin Luther King, Jr., we see in the remembrances and tributes to Nelson Mandela a certain oversimplification, appropriation, and white washing of not only the complexity of his political history but of his comprehensive social justice philosophy.
Former senator and failed Republican presidential candidate compared his party’s fight against Obamacare to the “great injustice” Mandela fought against, apparently unaware that South Africa has universal health care. The infamous man-on-man candidate would also take issue with Mandela’s support of LGBTQ rights, as the post apartheid South Africa enshrined in its constitution discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender, something the U.S.A. has yet to accomplish.
We should also accurately recall the U.S.’s reluctance to fully support the struggle against apartheid. Until 2008, our country labeled Mandela’s ANC a terrorist organization.
And just like King’s comments about economic inequality and in opposition to the Vietnam are glossed over for the safer parts of the I Have A Dream speech, largely ignored in the last few days have been Mandela’s critiques of American racism, warmongering and imperialism, and his unwavering support of the labor movement.
Moving beyond the superficial lip service tributes involves support of the comprehensive social justice philosophy Mandela embraced.