All Articles Tagged "melissa harris lacewell"
Professor, political commentator, columnist, and author Melissa Harris-Perry, whose book, “Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought” won the 2005 W. E. B. Du Bois Award, returns with her latest book to explore the multi-realities facing black women as they attempt to affirm themselves. Harris-Perry, who can regularly be seen on MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts Show and the Rachel Maddow Show, returns with “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America”, an exploration into citizenship and black womanhood. Sister Citizen examines what it means to be a black woman and an American citizen in the 21st century. Taking a deeply concise and committed approach, Sister Citizen explores pervasive stereotypes impacting black women’s lives today and their effects on black women’s claims to the full rights of citizenship.
Atlanta Post: Can you talk a bit about some of the pervasive stereotypes that you explore in your new book?
Melissa Harris-Perry: Part of the reason that they remain so pervasive is because we reproduce them in popular culture pretty often. There exists a catalogue of negative ways that African American women have been characterized. At one point I talk about the Mammy figure in the “Sex in the City” series and in the first Sex in the City film. If I were to say there are Mammies in Sex in the City people might ask me what I was talking about. There are no black housekeepers, but what we do see are these black women who are actually inconsequential characters and who we typically never see again. They pop up in white women’s lives with these magical abilities. They come in, and despite having resources or being younger, are able to fix all of the problems that the white women are having.
At its core, that’s actually what the Mammy image is. It’s the idea that an African American woman might have skills, talents, and capacities, but they’re never put to use for herself. They’re never used to follow her own dreams or to nurture her own family or community. Instead, these skills, talents, and capabilities are always put to use assisting white women or white families. We see this pretty regularly deployed in contemporary media.
The same thing with the angry black woman. I have my criticism of her, but there is this idea that Maxine Waters is always angry about something. As if there is no context to what she’s angry about. I’ve often seen Maxine Waters angry, but she’s always angry about something quite specific. There is also the idea of black women as oversexed or hypersexual. This is reproduced in everything from hip-hop music to cartoons. I talk at one point about how First Lady Michelle Obama before the election was called Barack’s baby mama, despite the fact that Barack and Michelle were the only couple who were married to the first spouse and raising the biological children of that family.
I try to go back and show that these stereotypes are historically rooted, but the point is that they are very active and alive right now.
Here are just a few things I love about Herman Cain… and by love I mean that I find them fascinating and worthy of study.
(1) Cain’s campaign is a reminder that black political ideas are complex and multi-layered. I became fascinated with the political history and contemporary manifestations of black conservatism while writing my first book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought. In it I argue that it is ahistiorical to dismiss black conservatives as race traitors laboring under self-serving, false ideology. Conservatism has deep roots among African-Americans. It appeals to self-help, views the state as overly intrusive, and believes free markets are non-discriminatory. Black conservatism stresses that political strategies are inferior to efforts for economic empowerment for addressing racial inequality. These tenets echo Tea Party rhetoric, but among black Americans this form of conservatism is typically, especially racial.
Traditionally, when the media wanted African-American commentary on the news topic of the day, there were the predictable go-to-guys: Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or Reverend [insert name here], to name a few. However, in the midst of a digital revolution and in the age of Obama, a new generation of African-American scholars has emerged. While they are all educated, opinionated and engaged, interchangeable they are not.
It is their experiences combined with their individuality that shape their resounding and distinctive voices. Nowadays, in order to have a fresh and modern analysis of political and cultural affairs, the media and the public welcomes these faces. Beyond the national press, these individuals have adopted the social web [Twitter, Facebook] and personal websites as vehicles to communicate their insights and advocate on behalf of the issues dearest to them. Through writings, activism, interviews and commentary, they have proved to be some of the most interesting African-American voices heard above the crowd. And, obviously, there are many riveting pundits out there but we had to narrow down our list to a mere 11. Feel free to cast your votes for other commentators we didn’t mention in our comments section or on Twitter with the hashtag #blackpundits.
Twitter Handle: @Tanehisi
Excerpt: On black support of Proposition 8 (gay marriage)…. “There is a deeper dislogic haunting this country on race. It can’t be beaten with facts, stats and arguments. The notion that black people are a problem is superreligious. It is bone-deep.”
About: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ is the senior editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he blogs about culture, politics and society. The Baltimore native is at his best when he ties events of the past to a “contemporary” analyses i.e his reflections on the Civil War illuminate an interesting connection to modern day trials.