“Chill out, it was Just a Joke.” – Is America Getting too Sensitive?

 

I get so annoyed when people complain that America is “getting too sensitive”. What does that even mean? Is it wrong to respect humanity so much that we get upset if anyone commits mental and emotional violence on others with their words and actions? Is it wrong to be concerned that negative ideologies, beliefs, and stereotypes are being reinforced by the media or people who simply like to hear themselves talk?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fun and “ratchet” music and TV or a (thoughtful) satire or a sarcastic joke as much as the next person but sometimes humor and entertainment value are used as excuses to continue to cast a blind eye on how marginalized groups are treated and viewed in this country. Sadly, the unwillingness to learn about others takes precedence over understanding others’ experiences in order to simply treat people better. And it doesn’t stop at entertainment and social media. There are many offensive things that take place in our everyday lives that have been so accepted that it is hard to convince people of their harmful nature. Things like work and school micro-aggressions, exclusionary practices, and cultural and ethnic erasure and homogenization are just a few ways we have ingrained ignorance into our existence.

 

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Black TV: “Unrealistic” Black Excellence vs. The “Relatable” Stereotype (Part II – The Black Woman)

Just like the Black family, Black women have had a similar struggle to be represented positively and accurately on TV. It’s important that Black women are not only given more roles but that these roles are accurate and positive, thereby making them for us, not just about us.

But throughout the years, it has seemed like too much to ask to see TV shows that were both about Black women and also made for Black women. Black women have been awkwardly inserted into TV shows as the token on mostly white shows or as incidental characters on shows with Black ensemble casts (e.g. if the star of the show is a Black man, he will most likely have to have a Black girlfriend, wife, mother, etc.) These characters don’t always necessarily speak to our real experiences as Black women and that is usually not the purpose that they were created for.

I believe that for these shows and characters to be not only about us as Black women, but for us, the shows must be created by Black women, or at least feature our writing or direction so that we can have more control over how we are portrayed. Then we can create characters that exemplify attainable #BlackGirlMagic as well as the relatable girl-next-door persona. We don’t need any more characters who represent the gamut of negative stereotypes; from being fetishized to being the best friend with no love life to being the angry Black woman. In addition, it’s important to note that depending on the era, the face of the Black woman and how we want to be portrayed on television changes.

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Black TV: “Unrealistic” Black Excellence vs. The “Relatable” Stereotype (Part I – The Black Family)

 

Everyone can agree that representation of Black people in the media is a huge issue, but our reactions to the attempts made to be more inclusive vary depending on each of our own experiences. It’s obvious that there is not enough representation of Black people on TV in general, but the other concern is that the representation that we do have is not always positive or accurate. The argument over what positive and accurate representation looks like is an argument that we have been having for decades, especially when it comes to the portrayal of the Black family and the Black woman.

Often the argument comes down to whether we as Black people disagree with the constant barrage of stories with a slave or house servant narrative or whether we are annoyed by stories featuring characters with almost superhuman qualities or “unrealistic” excellence. Do we feel alienated by upper-middle class Black families on TV or do we feel offended by the stereotype of poor Black families on TV?

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Freedom: The Fight isn’t Over

I have been avoiding writing about this topic ever since November 9th. But in a few days, our nightmarish fate will be sealed. People say not to have a defeatist attitude but it’s hard not to.

After the election results surfaced I was devastated, as many of us were. I couldn’t express my feelings in full sentences but the one word that did come to mind was, “Angry.” I tried so hard to make some sense of what had happened by writing. All I could think of to write were these words, “An open wound, salt, never been more woke, beaten and beaten, we are being tested.” I couldn’t get any farther than that incoherent string of words. As I bring my mind back to that day and weed through the foliage of my thoughts, I think this is what I was trying to say:

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The Top 10 Books on My Holiday Wish List

 

As I have said before, I used to be an avid reader growing up. Even now, I absolutely love reading. But, as I got older I’ve had less and less time to read. Or maybe I just wasn’t making the time. Either way, adulting definitely distracted me from my favorite hobby. Thankfully, I have started to get back into it.

Here’s a list of books that I have on my Christmas wish list. Some of them I have been hearing great buzz about lately and others are books I have known about the past few years but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. This holiday season, I hope to get all of the books on this list, and more!

1.

Another Brooklyn, By Jacquline Woodson

This book speaks to me because I remember when I was younger there were so many coming-of-age stories for white children and not many for young women of color. So when I did come across any, I would be so excited to read them. Another Brooklyn is about a woman reflecting back on her experience as a young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn during the 70’s. This seems like the perfect adult coming-of-age story and I can’t wait to read it. 

2.

Purple Hibiscus, By Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche

This is the debut novel by acclaimed author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, so I’m a bit late. But better late than never. I knew this book had to be on my list because I really enjoyed reading Adiche’s other work and the story, about a young Nigerian woman’s internal struggle for autonomy from her family, was something I think many people can relate to. 

3.

Underground Railroad, By Colson Whitehead

I read a lot of historical fiction when I was younger but, as an adult, I haven’t found any that sparked my interest. What struck me about this book was that not only is it set in pre-civil war America, but Colson added his own spin – the underground railroad is an actual railroad and not just a metaphor. It tells the story of a courageous young woman who escapes slavery via the railroad and all of the adventures that come with that voyage. I’m sure this book will be just as heartbreaking as it is exciting but I’m looking forward to the entire experience. 

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The F!@#$%&* Word

7d3dae0986567e077ab4d6679d2acc33At first, I was only going to write about what feminism means to me because after all, everyone these days seems to be a feminist and yet so many people have different interpretations of feminism. But recently, I have noticed that people are still struggling to grasp what feminism is at its most basic definition. There is still a significant stigma behind the word and there are many people going around explaining (and mansplaining) what they believe that it is.

I don’t have an issue with most of the varied interpretations of what feminism means to people who identify as feminists because it is usually related to how each person practices or displays their feminist views in their own lives. But I do have a huge problem when people who aren’t feminists decide that they know exactly what feminism is when, in fact, they don’t. I have heard the usual – ‘feminists are women who hate men’ and ‘feminists are lesbians.’ Sadly, I’ve heard these definitions from just as many women as I have men.

But the other day I found out that some men are in the practice of swiping left when a woman’s profile reads, “feminist.” While I’m sure the women are better off without a date with these men, it was still puzzling to me. But my confusion turned to disgust when I learned some of the reasons why a woman identifying herself as a feminist would be a turn-off for some men. But, to protect the innocent, I won’t even get into those reasons. Just know that they are gross.

For all of those who don’t know, feminism is the belief that women and men should have equal rights. That’s it. It isn’t a hard concept. I guess it’s difficult for people to understand in the same way some people will never get that #BlackLivesMatter means that Black lives are just as important as White, Yellow, Purple, Brown and even *gasp* Blue lives, so we should start acting like it. More and more every day I wish that some people would just pick up a book and read it.

Anyway, I like to believe that I was a feminist before it was the thing for “strong, independent” women (and men who were ‘down for the cause’) to be. Even though some people still think of unshaven underarms and bra-burning when they hear the word feminist, today you hear one celebrity after another claiming to be a feminist. I’m not hating on that at all, I’m just saying it has become a bit of a fad, complete with its own key phrases – “lean in”, the “shine theory”, and even “pop feminism” (think Taylor Swift).

I’ve always had kind of off-center ideas about what a woman should be expected to do and how women should be expected to act. But before I knew exactly what the word feminist actually meant, I just figured I was thinking as if I was a man, which just goes to show that I was still being constrained by traditional, stereotypical gender roles, despite my liberal ideas. It wasn’t until two of my male friends called me a feminist that I began to look more into feminist theory. Sure, one was playfully mocking me, but the sound of the word in reference to me sounded very fitting.

Today, I know that feminism is the belief that women should have the same opportunities and rights that men have. But to me, more specifically, feminism is also the belief that women should have the freedom to be the kind of people they want to be, just as men are able to do so without question. Our personalities and our dreams shouldn’t be stifled or drowned out by what society expects from us solely based on the fact that we are women. Continue reading

America, Police Your Racism

Police Brutality Protest in Union Square

In just two days, two black men were gunned down by police officers without justification. One, Alton Sterling, was pinned down by the police who were restraining him. He was immobile and his hands were nowhere near his pockets, yet the officers shot him multiple times, killing him. The other, Philando Castile, who had a license to carry a gun, told the officer who had pulled him over for a supposedly broken tail light that he had his legal gun in his vehicle. Despite him having done nothing wrong, the police shot and killed him in front of his fiancé and young daughter who were in the car with him. These stories are becoming entirely too familiar.

What disturbs me the most about the continuous police brutality that black people in this country face today is not only that it is still happening, with little or no consequences to the perpetrators and endless demonizing of the victims, but that not everyone in this country, where we all claim to value freedom above all else, sees these killings as a problem that must be solved. There are people who would rather point out that there is violence all over the world and that, according to them, there is so much black on black crime that more black people dying shouldn’t matter so much. Violence in any country is horrendous, but who are we as Americans to use that as an excuse to ignore the atrocities that happen every day on our soil? So much for patriotism.

As for black on black crime, of course that is upsetting but it is horrible in the same way as people on people crime is. When people of any color are involved in violent crimes it is deplorable but there is a specific difference. With racially motivated violence, there is an added layer of trauma. It is not just the tragedy that violence causes that is of concern, but it is also the hatred that spurns such violence and the fear that creeps into the back of every Black-American’s mind that they could be next. This violence is even more sinister when it is at the hands of those who vow to serve and protect us but yet in the name of their blue badges, they gun down men, women and children simply because they are black. How is this not a problem that we all care about and all want to change?

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Cultural Appropriation: What it is, What it is Not, and Why it Matters

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When I first had the idea to start this blog I knew that one of my focuses would be topics that affected me as a member of the Black community in America, among other things, and at the same time balance it with not-so-heavy topics because everyone deserves to smile every once in awhile, despite all the injustices and annoyances in the world. 

So here goes, my very first serious topic, cultural appropriation. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. This is such a loaded topic so we will start by breaking it down. I think we can agree that culture is a culmination of the characteristics and practices of a particular social or ethnic group and that to appropriate means to take for oneself, often without permission. Simply put, cultural appropriation is the theft of what makes a community of people unique.

In my experience, this term has most often been used to describe what mainstream-White society has done to minority or other cultures, such as Native-Americans and Black/African-Americans. We all know that White society stripped both of these communities of their cultures from their very first encounters with them hundreds of years ago. These cultures were not just erased, but many parts were stolen as well. But the usual question for people who just don’t get cultural appropriation is, “How is it happening today?”

In a bit, I’m going to use the example that irks me the most: hair. I have seen so many arguments about how a hairstyle is or is not cultural appropriation that it is clear that mainstream-White society and even minority community members oftentimes completely miss the point. Let me break it down.

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Social Media (& Black Twitter) – The Gift & The Curse

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As a new blogger (I know I’m super late to the game) I have been realizing that I have to step up my social media skills. Not to say that I don’t usually do social media, because I do. I just miss the days of Facebook, for example, where not everyone and their mom could sign up and it wasn’t such a free for all. Mind you, I’m not one to be elitist about things, especially not something like Facebook but I enjoyed it a lot more when friends were actually friends.

Nowadays, even if you do actually know your Facebook friends in real life, some of these “so called” friends might not be so friendly. We all know of people who use Facebook as a platform to spew their ignorant, often hateful or just plain old judgmental speech. It gets so bad that we end up having to un-friend these people. As a writer, I’m all about free speech but it’s come to a point where I dread having to log on to Facebook, a network that I used to use to keep in touch with friends and family and share with them the current statuses of my life. If I wanted to hear ignorant, hateful speech, I would turn on Fox News and if I wanted to argue with people, I would join a debate Meetup, or better yet, call one of my exes. I wish I could permanently log off of Facebook but alas, it is connected to pretty much every app I use and as intrusive as this may be, it’s pretty damn convenient for log in purposes.

And then there’s these new-ish social media platforms like Snap Chat. Don’t get me started on that one. It looks so fun when other people use it, but for the life of me I can’t figure it out. I’m more of an Instagram person. As much as I love words, there’s nothing like a simple yet beautiful or funny picture and a cute caption to go with it – not that I am in any way an expert on captions. I’m more of a “Happy Friday!” captioner.

Anyway, the one social network that I still don’t entirely get but am determined to add to my very small social network repertoire is Twitter. It can be a great way to spread the word about everything from a blog, a movie, or even breaking news. So I was all for it, ready to start tweeting, sharing links and pics, re-tweeting and mentioning. But after following a few of my favorite personalities, bloggers and podcasters, and seeing the hell they get from not only trolls but *gasp* Black Twitter, I began feeling a little intimidated.

Trolls are awful and can’t be helped, I suppose, but Black Twitter is actually something that I used to imagine that I could be a part of, until recently. I will say Black Twitter is very in tune with what is going on in the Twitter-verse (or is it Twitter-sphere?) but they are also always ready to pounce, sometimes without the proper information. It doesn’t help that there probably is no vetting process to becoming a member. I’m pretty sure you just have to identify as Black, have an active Twitter account, and use whatever clever hashtag all the other members are using. I’ve never been one to back down from a good argument but like I said above about Facebook, who wants to be involved in unnecessary Twitter beefs? I just want to promote my blog and put my words out into the universe, not be a part of any drama.

But, at the end of the day, I have decided to forge ahead with my entry on to Twitter because I have to admit that Black Twitter does attack those who definitely need to be attacked, not just the undeserving, and Black Twitter is funny as hell and consistently provides me with laughs.

Here are some examples of Black Twitter moments and hashtags that I’ve enjoyed and also some not so great Black Twitter attacks:

1. I love when Black Twitter gets political: The hashtag #WhichHillary #WhichHillary Trends on Twitter after BLM activist interrupts Clinton fundraiser (Note: this hashtag was used by many on Twitter not just Black Twitter, but it was started by a Black Lives Matter activist and member of Black Twitter)

2. And when it fights for Black feminism and social justice: See New York Times Dubs Shonda Rhimes and Characters the “Angry Black Woman,” Black Twitter Attacks; and the hashtag #LessClassicallyBeautiful #LessClassicallyBeautiful Takes Over Twitter Challenging NYT’s Review of Viola Davis and White Beauty Standards; and the hashtag #SayHerName Twitter Expresses Outrage Over Sandra Bland With #SayHerName and 32 #SayHerName Tweets That Spotlight The Police Brutality Black Women Face, Too

3. I especially love when Black Twitter is just plain old hilarious: People Are Doing #TrapCovers Of Pop Songs And It’s Incredible, #WhitePeopleInvitedToTheCookout Is The Best Thing To Happen To The Internet, Once You See A Little Bit Of #BeyonceAlwaysOnBeat You Just Can’t Stop, and Black Twitter Nailed What It Was Like #GrowingUpBlack

4. But we can’t forget when Black Twitter is simultaneously thoughtful while making jokes, a skill in and of itself: The hashtag #CNNBeLike BLACK TWITTER REACTS TO RACIST REPORTING OF OTIS BYRD WITH #CNNBELIKE and the hashtag #AllLionsMatter #AllLionsMatter Parodies the Fact That People Are More Outraged Over Cecil the Dead Lion Than Slain Black People

5. Unfortunately, a thoughtful and funny response can sometimes go wrong: The hashtag #RealBlackPeopleQuestions hashtag was great Black Twitter asks #RealBlackPeopleQuestions after this Buzzfeed Video fail, but then Black Twitter attacked Black Buzzfeed writers who had nothing to do with the video Why Buzzfeed’s Latest Video “Questions Black People Have for Black People” is Out of Pocket

6. And sometimes attacks can be divided, and in some cases both sides can be totally off base – even if only in the delivery of the message: Black women attacked Ayesha Curry and then, surprise surprise, Black men attacked black women for not being more like Ayesha Curry after a Tweet she posted, see Ayesha Curry Ruffled A Few Feathers On Twitter With Commentary On How Women Dress

What I’ve learned about this social media world is just like with so many other things, I’m going to have to take the good with the bad, and most importantly, enjoy the laughs along the way. Oh yeah and I will have to avoid the dreaded #hoteptwitter and Hotep Facebook at all costs. Those who don’t know what that is, consider yourself lucky. Just know that if they dare come for me, I’ll be ready – maybe even with my own Femme-inist Black Twitter posse.