Tag Archives: racism

Documentary on Miami’s Liberty City

This is part one.  If you only know about this community based on Grand Theft Auto, then get your learn on.

If you are deciding to watch this or not, zip this video up to the 6:40 mark and pay attention to the young man in the red hat.

Don’t forget to watch parts two and three.

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Filed under documentary, drugs, police, race, representation

Trayvon Martin and victim blaming for hate crimes

Plies is one of the least conscious rappers I know.  Despite his cultural fifteen minutes crossing over with Gucci Mane’s fraternity party anthem “Wasted,” Plies has made music discussing his problems associated with the representation of young black men and violence. His song about Trayvon Martin covers some of the predictable landscape and I find surprisingly poignant.

Perhaps the massive resonance of the murder of Trayvon Martin is because the crime is so obscene.  The victim seems so innocent and the killer seems so enthusiastic to kill.  The crime is enraging because of the 911 tapes, the images of Martin in his football uniform, and his desperate phone call to his girlfriend.  We are invited to view a real injustice.

But of course racist killings take place all the time.  The difference is the victims are often blamed for their killing.  The usual way this is done is to associate some socially unacceptable behavior (sex, drugs, rap music, clothing) with the murdered victim and call them a “suspect.”

For people who regularly experience police harassment, the inaction taken probably seems like a confirmation that the system works against you.  For people who do experience privilege of not having to regularly deal with police (corrupt and otherwise) the inaction taken against Zimmerman probably seems like a grotesque aberration of the system.

Both of these groups of people will don hoodies to march for justice for Trayvon.  A big part of that anger is fueled by the perception that this violence was exceptional.  I would argue that it is ordinary.  What is exceptional in the Trayvon Martin case is that the victim blaming is particularly hard. *

Lets take a quick look at the ways the press and police did Sean Bell dirty after he was killed.  Undercover police officers shot fifty bullets into Bell’s car the night before his 2006 wedding.

Five of the seven officers investigating the club were involved in the shooting. Detective Paul Headley fired one round, Officer Michael Carey fired three, Officer Marc Cooper fired four, Officer Gescard Isnora fired eleven, and veteran officer Michael Oliver emptied two full magazines, firing 31 shots from a 9mm handgun and pausing to reload at least once.

via Sean Bell shooting incident – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Although Sean Bell’s case is used as an example of police misconduct, there was a lengthy series of public relations attempts to blame Bell for the murders.

Initially it was claimed that the officers were afraid of gun violence from Bell and his companions.  Never found a gun or evidence that there had been a gun in the car.

Then the press and police pointed out that that Bell had been legally intoxicated at the time he took the wheel, usually adding in that he was drunk at a strip club.    In essence suggesting that Bell had been shot because he had been drinking and driving or cavorting with strippers.

Michael Wilson from the New York Times makes this idiotic statement:

Further, trial testimony showed that Mr. Bell may have played some role, however unwitting, in the shooting, as he was drunk by legal standards when he pressed down on the accelerator of his fiancée’s Nissan Altima and struck Detective Isnora in the leg in an attempt to flee.

via Sean Bell Case.

Despite being a poster case for injustice, the victim blaming helped to let the police killers go free.   The cops were acquitted because they were found to be confused and it’s okay to kill people if it’s a mistake.  Scratch that, it’s okay to empty your magazine into a car and then reload and empty the second magazine into the car before figuring out what is going on.

But yesterday something interesting happened.  The cops who killed Sean Bell, some eight years ago were finally released from their jobs as cops.  One is getting fired!  Huh?  I wonder if the public scrutiny in the Trayvon Martin case raised up enough public discussion to pressure the New York Police Department to clean house.


For an interesting view on the construction of public information.  Check out the discussions about the editing of the Sean Bell Wikipedia page.  Note the battle over how to talk about Sean Bell’s arrest record.  Fascinating discussions about what to include and how to write the information.   A great place to view the articulation of victim blaming.


* Of course victim blaming isn’t impossible in the case of Trayvon Martin.  Check out Geraldo Riviera making the worst version of this argument.

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Filed under communication, hip hop, human rights, learning, memorial, police, propaganda, race, representation

Cultural assimilation vs. Marketing: the Nike Black and Tan edition

Thanks to kicksonfire for the image.

Nike’s new shoe, the Black and Tan, has been released presumably to take advantage of St. Patrick’s day drinking/marketing opportunities.  Whoops.  Turns out that the Black and Tan is a sour brand in Ireland because of the hated military/police group which murdered and terrorized civilians during the early twenties.

The Black and Tans were a colonial army recruited from England ostensibly to police the people of Ireland.  The lack of oversight and genuine racism in the face of a guerrilla uprising led to a terrible disdain for civilians.  The roughshod police force (their name is a reference to the haphazard uniforms of the unit) was almost 7-10,000 strong and recruited from former World War I veterans.

In retaliation for attacks on police forces, the Black and Tans attacked civilians, burned homes and businesses and in one case refused an entire village food.  Consider the documentary The Burning of Cork.

The Nike marketing error is evidence of the smooth appropriation transforming actual Irish history into a bizarre tourist narrative emphasizing drinking, leprechauns, and Irish-affiliated brands.  These tourist realities corrode against the actual history of Sinn Fein, Home Rule, and the bodily struggles associated with Irish Nationalism.

The assumption of Nike, that their party, party, party language was the universal meaning points to a kind of linguistic arrogance. NPR’s Melissa Block and Robert Siegel interviewed Brian Boyd of the Irish Times on the Nike apology.

BLOCK: Now, Nike has released a statement saying: We apologize, no offense was intended. At the same time, Nike says the sneaker has been, quote, unofficially named by some as the Black and Tan.

SIEGEL: That said, if you look inside the shoe – as we have done with online photos – you see an image of a pint of beer with two colors, black and tan.

BLOCK: Brian Boyd of The Irish Times has reported on some outrage over the shoe. But really, he says, it’s not about a shoe. It’s about a holiday.

BOYD: It’s how the Americans view Saint Patrick’s Day and view Irish culture and history. And it’s the very fact that some people are saying that these are beer-themed sneakers, that the only way to celebrate a national holiday of a country with a very rich culture and a very rich history and literature, et cetera, is to pour massive amounts of alcohol down your body.

It’s how the American treat St. Patrick’s Day. So we’re using this story to say, look, it’s the silly Americans, stupid Americans, look what they’re doing again. They’ve got it all wrong.

via Nike Kicks Up Controversy With ‘Black And Tan’ Shoes : NPR.

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Filed under capitalism, colonialism, communication, human rights, juxtaposition, learning, police, propaganda, protest, representation, resistance

Engagement with ol’ friends (frenemies?)

The day the story of this young woman, who claimed to have been beaten by “Obama Thugs”… a common way of Ghettoizing Obama supporters, was revealed as a hoax, I suggested that Omri may want to add an UPDATE signaling that this woman had behavioral health issues and was thus not more evidence of Obama’s ‘Thug (Political) Life.’ His position was that he didn’t care about its accuracy… that this is a strategic game, and that if I want to pronounce opposition I should ‘get a blog.’

Well. I have.

I let this one go… having other concerns, and wary of losing friends, but since the ethical purity of anti-Obama rhetoric is supposedly a premise that can be assumed, I think it’s time to be honest.

via Omri Ceren’s Racist Website « WaspInABottle.

WaspinaBottle is stronger than I am.  I follow Omri on Twitter, but can’t quite RSS his web page.  But Wasp is willing to engage with a thoughtful discussion about what this kind of anti-obama racism means in regards to the people who die in events like the Tulsa riots.  Read it and get it together because the dinner tables, water coolers and bars are going to be productive spaces to clash with racism in the next few months.

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Filed under communication, race

Kids and their feminist moms

Cool interview with both Erica Jong (Fear of flying) and her daughter Molly Jong-Fast.  It is obvious that they are close, although they scrap in the interview!  Both are authors and they have an exchange in this interview that highlights the differences between the language of generations.  Check out the embarrassment about the lack of thought over word choice.

Here is Erica Jong describing what she thinks is the biggest challenge to feminism today. And her daughter’s retort.

EJ: Waking up the women who don’t realize the risk they’re in. Getting the conversation going again. It’s hard to get the conversation going again, because people think they have it all. And meanwhile all these states are going to outlaw not just abortion, but birth control, which is what they were always about. If you read successive UN reports on the status of women, there is one thing that leads to prosperity in poor countries, and it’s controlling fertility. Once women can control the number of children they have, everybody’s life gets better – economically, and healthwise, and in every other way. It’s been proven. So to see our country going backward in this way is ridiculous. There are probably many unconscious factors, like the fear of being outnumbered by brown and black people.

MJF: You can’t say it like that. It sounds inherently racist when you say it like that. “Fear of being outnumbered by” – it’s not a race war! First of all, you can’t say it like that. To say someone’s “brown” or “black,” you can’t say that. Every liberal bone in my body cringes. And the reality is that it’s not; America’s going to be more Hispanic, but it’s not going to be more “brown.” I don’t know what “brown” is. Is that tanned people? You can’t, I mean, what planet do you live on, “brown?” Mulatto? Did you mean Mulatto? Quinteroon? You can’t say that.

via The Feministing Five: Erica Jong and Molly Jong-Fast.

For the record, I don’t think that Erica Jong said anything all that unsettling.  But I appreciate the willingness of her daughter to challenge the simplistic language.   It is a loving call-out — one which asks her mom to reflect on the simple story of race.  I suspect that Erica Jong’s last sentence is spoken in the-voice-of-other-people.  Good artifact and good luck on the next linguistic clash!  Thank you feministing for the interview.

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Filed under feminism, race

Racist geography visible in signs

One of my favorite writers is James Loewen, a Sociology professor who wrote Lies my teacher told me.  The book is an analysis of the most popular US history text books assigned in high schools.  Loewen cruises through outlining how the texts are written to exclude and teach generations faulty understandings of our history. His work uncovered “an embarrassing blend of bland optimism, blind nationalism, and plain misinformation . . .”

He also  has a nice book on American monuments Lies across America: what our historical sites get wrong.

Gwen Sharp is working out some recent work on whiteness and geographical markers in Sociological images.  Here is the discussion of historical markers that identify whiteness.

So what story about our nation do these two monuments tell? The only information contained on the two-sided Fall City monument refers to the activities of Whites; the Native residents were important only when they lost land. For all intents and purposes, the history of the area started only once a White man had set eyes on it. Similarly, Tallent’s arrival in the Black Hills is memorable largely because she was a White woman, whose presence is by definition worthy of note and celebration — imagine, a vulnerable White woman braving the wildness of the Dakota territory! The fact that she was an illegal prospector camping on land she didn’t own while in the pursuit of quick wealth is neither worth mentioning nor a cause to question whether she’s a laudable figure deserving of a monument. Thus, the effect of both of these monuments is to normalize colonization and illegal settlement, and present the arrival of Whites as the beginning of meaningful history.

via Whose History Do Monuments Tell? » Sociological Images.

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Filed under colonialism, Native, propaganda

Juxtaposition on prostitution

Artifact 1:

Who says a zombie apocalypse has to stop a working girl from making a little cash? Guide Lola past hordes of undead zombie hookers to collect weapons and cash AND guide your still-living Johns back to your trailer for a little “business.” Fulfill the night’s quota, hop in your trailer and do it again the next night.

via Free Online Game – Zombie Hooker Nightmare from Adult Swim.

Artifact 2:

One feeling is that white women are in the club as a side thing: a hobby, for a good workout, to pay for college, etc. While women of color in the business are in it as a long-term career and to support children. Women of color also talk about how difficult it is to get into a strip club in the first place. Pornography already has a reputation for producing films with many racist themes. These are just some basic examples of racism that affect sex workers. It pits workers against each other and makes it nearly impossible to forge a truly cohesive community. I will explore this topic more in the future but for this post I would like to elaborate on how sex workers respond to clients who are men of color and how this directly affects our ability to fight against racism.

via Womanist Musings: The Colour of Money.

Artifact 1:

X – Tempt nearby Johns and make them follow you.

Touching Johns – Makes them follow you.

Guide Johns back to the trailer to turn tricks. Reach the night’s quota and enter the trailer to progress to the next level.

via Free Online Game – Zombie Hooker Nightmare from Adult Swim.

Artifact 2:

One of the most memorable part of working at that club was my experience dancing for white men. I am light-skinned but my features often prompted men to ask if was Latina or Asian. An affirmative answer nearly ALWAYS produced a response of “How exotic” “Ooh I love Latinas, they are so….(insert ridiculous comment here)”. I also noted that white men propositioned me for sex much more often than men of color and were much more persistent about it. Once again, a boring stereotype that is reproduced often in the media and carried out in the club (and online, in the street, etc) which paints women of color as exotic, and excessively sexual. Such bodies are so promiscuous that they are easy to buy – the sale of these bodies is assumed, even.

via Womanist Musings: The Colour of Money.

Artifact 1:

You don’t have to touch Johns to get them to follow you. Pressing X will get almost any John you can see on the screen to follow you as long as zombies aren’t currently attacking them.

via Free Online Game – Zombie Hooker Nightmare from Adult Swim.

Artifact 2:

In order for us to effectively fight racism and racist institutions, we must reach out to sex workers and begin a dialogue. This dialogue is necessary because sex workers encounter so much racism (in such blatant forms) and reproduce these racist behaviors as well. Without a connection to anti-racism efforts, change will not happen in this industry-not for sex workers, not for our clients and not for our community.

via Womanist Musings: The Colour of Money.

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Filed under feminism, human rights