All Articles Tagged "black identity"
It may come as no surprise that while we go throughout our day looking for stories on relationships, ratchet entertainment, and crazy news to entertain you with, we find inspiration from morning talk shows like The View and the Today show. This morning, while watching Kathie Lee & Hoda and wondering (yet again) about how these two manage to drink merlot at 10am, one of the editors inquired about Hoda Kotb’s ethnicity. When I noted that she was Egyptian, my co-worker asked “how come Hoda doesn’t identify as a Black woman?”
Well, I didn’t realize that she didn’t identify as a Black woman. Does she really need to publicly exclaim herself to be a Black woman continuously in order to show pride?
Black folks are definitely representing in morning media: we have Robin Roberts, Al Roker, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, and Michael Strahan to name just a few. Although Hoda doesn’t necessarily come to mind when we think of Blacks in the media, do we need her to make a big to-do about being an African-American woman?
Personally, I don’t feel any type of way about it mainly because Hoda doesn’t seem like she’s trying not to be Black. She’s just herself. To be fair, when does she have the chance to speak out on Black issues on The Today Show? Between segments on makeovers, budget fashion and fluff celebrity interviews, I don’t know when she’d have the chance to really make references to her “Blackness” although I faintly recall her referencing her African roots when she discussed her personal hair care. The only thing I know about her that makes me question her self-identity is the title of her book: “Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee.” The fact that she refers to her hair as “bad hair” may or may not shed some light on how she interprets her ethnicity. But since I haven’t read the book, I’ll withhold a lot of my comments on that subject.
Who knows if she is embracing the “ambiguity” zone she’s occupying, alongside celebs like Rashida Jones and Maya Rudolph, and playing it to her advantage? Who knows if she simply doesn’t think about her ethnicity? Although I’m a strong proponent of Black celebrities leveraging their star power to advance Black causes, I can understand when certain celebs choose to keep a low profile on issues of race and rather lead by example.
What do you think? Does Hoda need to be more outspoken when it comes to her identity and speaking out on Black issues? Sound off in the comments section.
While everybody is still talking/reeling about Nicki Minaj’s “Hell raising” performance at the Grammys, we totally missed the two little British girls do their thang on the red carpet.
Sophia Grace Brownlee, 8 and her cousin Rosie McClelland, 5 are probably best known for their sickening cute cover of Nicki Minaj’s hit song, “Super Bass” on YouTube. The video of them twirling around in pink tutus and princess crowns was so big that it got the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who brought the girls on to perform it live with their idol Minaj. Eventually, this led to them being invited back to perform Keri Hilson’s version of “Turn My Swag On,” and a request by Ellen herself to cover the American Music Awards for the show.
On Sunday, the British invasion known as Sophia and her sidekick Rosie glided around the red carpet in gold and pink princess costumes rubbing elbows with Lady Antebellum, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Fergie, and Taylor Swift among others. During the show, Rosie confessed to Ellen that “we weren’t nervous but we were hungry…” so they even paused for a sandwich and juice box break on the red carpet. I swear children can be so deliciously cute sometimes. It makes me want to have a bunch of them but then I realize that I have to take care of them and go back to playing with my dog.
Like the rest of America, I have sort of fallen in love with Sophia and her off-beat cousin. Every since watching them on YouTube and then again on Ellen, I marvel at how talented and sophisticated they are to be so young. But I do wonder though if Sophia Grace and Rosie were two little black girls named Tamika and Shante, would we consider them special? Or would they, along with their parents, be chastised for having those kids sing songs that are way too grown for them? I mean, I can probably go outside right now and find several little Black girls singing all sorts of popular songs off the radio, so what makes them different?
Whether we like to own up to it or not, there is something both gravitating and gratifying about watching white people appropriate other people’s culture. We love it when Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake do a melody of rap songs more than we love watching the rappers, who actually sang them. We marveled at the spectacle of the white girl with her keyboard sidekick jamming through Look At Me Now, even though we don’t like Lil’ Wayne and Chris Brown. And what about the video of the white teenager singing Rack City with his grandma? It was quite cool watching his grandma do the awkward jig in the background while her sweat jacket-hooded grandson lip synced to the uncensored version. Those sorts of things are amusing to us. However we better never catch Tyreek and Grandma Bertha doing that. We would be the first people online searching the yellow pages for the number to Child Protective Services.
The implication here, of course, is that the fictitious Tyreek and his Grandma Bertha are not innocent or impetuous like the hooded white teenager. The assumption is always that they probably live in a predominately Black community and therefore are pre-disposed to criminal activity. Therefore, they need both help and condemnation. Whereas the white teenager and his grandma, well they are being delightfully mischievous. Of course, I’m comparing a real life instance to a ghost example however study after study has revealed that there is some truth to how we internalize these ideas. For instance, CNN recently conducted their own version of the now famous black doll/white doll test and showed that even 60 years after the initial experiment, both black and white children not only prefer the lighter skinned dolls but also identified the darker skinned dolls as bad.
This sort of subconscious association makes it easier for folks – Black, White and in between – to readily accept or even make stereotypes based upon what we have been conditioned to believe. Even if the truth is as far away from the stereotype. Just ask the Chicago news reporter, who took the words of the innocent 4-year old Black boy, who just witnessed a murder, and manipulated them to make him seem like a little serial killer in training.
Now I don’t say all of this to throw shade at little Rosie and Sophia. I honestly think they are cute as buttons. However I do wish sometimes that we have the same sort of whimsical fascination with little Black girls and boys as we do with them. In many ways, our attempt to shield our children from stereotypes placed upon us as a race has done just as much damage to their self-esteem than the actual stereotype could. If they grow up believing that, because of their color, everything they do is inherently wrong and worthy of added scrutiny and punishment, then can we really blame them when they grow up to be ashamed and distant from identifying with being Black?
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
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In the 1940s, African-American psychologists Kenneth Bancroft Clark and his wife, Mamie Phillps Clark, designed a test known as the “doll test” to see how children responded to race. The test was administered to black children between the ages of three and seven. When the children were asked which of the four dolls that they were shown did they prefer, the majority selected the white doll and described it as most desirable, whereas the black dolls were described as the least desirable.
In recent years, there have been conscious attempts within the toy industry to present a more diverse selection of dolls—Mattel introduced the “black” Barbie, the cabbage patch kids now include dolls of a darker hue, and Disney released a doll of its first black princess. Despite these efforts, some African-Americans have taken it upon themselves to create and produce dolls and other kid friendly items to help instill a sense of self-pride and self-awareness in minority children. Here’s our list of those black toy companies that are helping to make the industry more reflective of today’s diverse children’s population:
From the time he was a little boy, Sterling Ashby was a comic book enthusiast. His boyhood passion and a Christmas shopping experience inspired him to create his own line of collectibles. The idea came to Ashby in 2003 when he purchased a doll of a famous scientist for a friend’s son. Ashby and the young boy were both amazed by the doll. Using that experience as a guide, Ashby launched History in Action Toys, a line that consists of a series of action figures that Ashby describes as fun, positive role models whose real-life stories are designed to awaken both a child’s imagination and appeal to the kid in everyone.
Unlike the men and women who agonize over the decision for months, if not years, I came to my hairstyle change rather easy. It was after a trip to Brazil, in which a curling iron and flat iron were unavailable to me and the only other option, for the duration of the trip, was a neatly done two-strand twist.
There was no spiritual or political reasoning in my decision, just a desire to reduce the cost of hair salon visits and beauty supply expenditures as well as cutting down the many hours a month I gave away getting my hair “fixed.”
Yet despite the growing popularity of the hairstyle and its social acceptance in the black community, the decision to go natural or to lock one’s hair comes with deep ramifications both personally and professionally in mainstream culture. About three years later, my hairstyle choice has drawn a lot of attention, mostly from curious brothers and sisters, who tell me that they have considered it but are weary that there hair might be perceived as “too nappy.”
Take for instance the story of young Mr. Patrick Richardson, the 16-year-old Vicksburg, Mississippi high school student, who was recently kicked off of homecoming court because of his dreadlocks. Although there was no written policy about the hairstyle, Richardson, along with another student, were told by the principal that homecoming is of “a higher standard” and dreads are not acceptable.
This hair issue is not a new one. In 2006, the Baltimore Police Department issued a new dress policy, which prohibited ”extreme,” or “fad,” hairstyles including cornrows, dreadlocks, and twists. And who could forget that in 2007, Glamour magazine beauty editor made controversial remarks at a luncheon for women of Wall Street, that Black female attorneys should avoid wearing “political” hairstyles like dreadlocks or Afros, because these hairstyles are seen as unattractive and unprofessional.
With this kind of unwarranted mainstream fear of the kinks, it is no wonder that the vast amount blacks, particularly women, opted for the weaves, wigs and chemically and heat-induced straight hair. While straight hair is not necessarily an indicator of one’s own desire to assimilate into the dominant beauty standard, we can’t totally ignore that the decision to go natural can dictate between being employed or unemployed.
In the mainstream, kinky or nappy hair has gotten a bad reputation in our community as being as wild, dirty and shameful. The obvious root of our peculiar relationship to our hair can be traced back to slavery, when the half-white and longer, straighter hair offsprings were treated better – but not by much – than the darker black slaves.
And even in today’s Europeanized beauty-obsessed culture, many of our people still harbor deep in their sub-conscious the belief that straighter hair will be taken more seriously than kinky hair, which is why we spend hundreds of our dollars every year at Korean-owned hair supply stores in hopes that we can buy that professional look.
In a perfect world, Negro physicality including kinky hair, brown skin, full lips and broad noses, would be as normal and acceptable as our white counterpart. But in the real world, some of us cannot always afford to dismiss the societal prejudice that motivates black people, in particular black women, to straighten their hair.
Even after the black is beautiful movement in the 60s as well as affirmative action, sensitivity training programs of the 70s through the present, black folks and their hair is still subjected to the discrimination practices and policies of many corporations.
In other words, sometimes straightening your hair is not a matter of self-hate but rather of survival in hostile environments. On the flip side, I would never consider myself a revolutionary in any shape or form. The very idea that Black hair, in its natural state, is considered “revolutionary” is a point not missed on me. When you have [dread] locks, people treat you different. Prior to locking, I was “Hey Shawty” and “Miss.” After the locks, I am “Sista,”-with and without the “h” at the end.
And while I appreciate the new level of respect I get from members of my own community, it is an honor, which I had not earned. Nothing has changed about me except the hairstyle and yet because of hairstyle, people do make assumptions of me – both right and wrong.
Many of the same black people, who marched lockstep to the polls to cast a vote for the first black President and unapologetically admitted that race was the prevailing reason for both their enthusiasm and selection, are now saying that it was beyond the pale for Essence Magazine to discriminate in its hiring.
Not since Tea Partiers protested government involvement in health care by asserting that it would bankrupt Medicare has a group of people displayed such contradictory thinking. It is old news that Essence Magazine ignited a firestorm last week when it hired a white fashion editor. What is not old news, however, is the ferocity with which black Essence critics were attacked and marginalized.
After the initial uproar, Essence Editor in Chief Angela Burt Murray responded to the controversy by saying: “I understand that this issue has struck an emotional chord with our audience… We remain committed to celebrating the unique beauty and style of African-American women in Essence magazine and online at Essence.com.” Even CNN commentator Roland Martin, after a bit of bloviating, asserted that as a supporter of diversity, he does not oppose the hire.
The real cause of cognitive dissonance here is the political correctness which has returned to devour the very little angel faced darlings it was designed to protect. Political correctness was initiated in an effort to soften language and expressions which could be interpreted as offensive to disadvantaged communities. So instead of ‘black’ or ‘colored’, those of African descent were assigned the glossier, new and improved, Negro 2.0 category of African-American, and so on. A new school of words were employed to shave the jagged edges of the language which had been blamed for causing much of the emotional angst observed in the black community.
Political correctness became the billboard on which white America announced their collective regret for the misdeeds of their ancestors. But although words have power, they are only as powerful as the truth which they broadcast. And politically correct words are frauds, mere counterfeits masquerading as true voice.
Thus, the problem with political correctness is one of branding. Political correctness adds glossy packaging, but doesn’t add flavor, or in this case – truth. It produced, for us, images of ourselves as fair minded, caring individuals, but those images couldn’t have been further from the truth. And in our race toward weightlessness, in our haste to rid ourselves of our race baggage, we discarded the heaviness of truth by the wayside.
The truth at this moment is that blacks, once the beneficiaries of political correctness, are now the casualties of its overly simplistic approach at doublespeak. We’ve been forced into a corner where we’re no longer allowed to be pro-black because, according to the short-sighted notions of political correctness, to be pro-black is to be anti-white.
The historical truth which political correctness ignores is that to be pro-black is akin to being protectionist, not racist. It would not have been racist for Essence to hire only black fashion editors if we consider the publication’s history. The magazine was founded because black women had been locked out of mainstream publications. And in the fashion industry, not much has changed. Tell me, how many black fashion editors do you see at mostly white magazines? Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
The point of the matter is that we as African-Americans shouldn’t sacrifice our history in favor of some nebulous utopia of diversity. Our history includes slavery, segregation, and racism and if we’re only cautiously optimistic with regard to welcoming white America into our most hallowed institutions, then so be it. That is our right. And it is also our right not to be attacked by those African-Americans who are more interested in joining hands and singing kumbaya than they are in seeking genuine racial parity.
Those of us who stood in line to vote for President Obama, even after having perused his admittedly thin resume, did so because we believed that he had potential and that we as African-Americans deserved our fair shot at leading this great nation. That was not racism. It was self interest. It would benefit those of us in the African-American community to learn the difference.