All Articles Tagged "race in america"
UPDATE: “This Is A Conversation You’re Clearly Uncomfortable With:” Soledad O’Brien Responds To Criticism Of Her “Black In America” Series
Soledad O’Brien recently discussed modern journalism, social media, and her Black In America series at Harvard’s Institute of Politics with Callie Crossley, a Boston-area journalist with WGBH and producer of the documentary series Eye On The Prize, and had some very straightforward and colorful things to say about responding to criticism of her popular series.
“It was only white people who ever said that… If only we could see beyond race,” O’Brien says at one point in the video. “OK, white person, this is a conversation you’re clearly uncomfortable with,” O’Brien continues in her hypothetical conversation. LOL.
In the video, Soledad O’Brien also discusses some of the conditions of modern journalism, such as the impact of social media, which has its pros and cons, as demonstrated in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. The discussion is part of The IOP’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. You can watch the whole one-hour conversation online here.
You’ll recall that O’Brien was named Distinguished Visiting Fellow for 2013-2014 at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, in part to talk about just these issues. What’s interesting — and refreshing — is the candor with which she speaks about them.
UPDATE: With that in mind, O’Brien is taking her response a step further and says that a series called “White In America” is in the works. TVNewser quotes her saying, “As a journalist, my job is to probe the uncomfortable topics to drive conversation. I’m happy to see that’s still happening as a result of ‘Black In America,’ and I look forward to continuing that conversation as we continue to tell the stories of who we are. We’re not just working on BIA, but also developing a ‘White in America.’ Stay tuned for that one.”
She also takes a jab at the blogosphere for what she says are “ taking the conversation out of context and ginning up headlines” by calling out her previous comments.
Will you watch “White In America?”
Check out the clip below.
I’m a black woman. Obviously. Born that way. Don’t know any other life. Any other life, as Evelyn Lozada would say, I wouldn’t be “about it.” Not about that other life. But sometimes I can’t help but wonder – humorously – what if?
What if I was something other than what I am? And, I’ll be honest, I think my situation would be drastically different. Not worse or maybe even necessarily better, but – by golly – it would be different. For one, I might be markedly less focused on whether or not how I look physically has affected my career as a journalist.
Male political pundits on TV don’t seem to have the same – ahem – looks-based standards.
But it’s not just me I play the “What if” game with, I do that with famous people too.
What if … they were black?
So let’s play the game – me here in the column and you in the comments – of what would happen to these famous and infamous individuals if they suddenly came down with a case of the permanent tan that never ran.
In the book Confronting Authority, the late, great-Law Scholar Derrick Bell wrote about the events, which led him to forfeit his professorship at Harvard Law School in a protest over the university’s refusal to tenure a female professor of color. At the time, the Law school had only tenured three blacks and five women in total – and none of them were black women. The much criticized and condemned protest not only highlighted the deep problems of merit, sexism and racism within academia but also stressed the importance of taking a stand in the name of racial and gender justice – even if it means standing alone.
For the past few weeks, the entire nation has been focused on the “Occupy” protest, which has not only happening at Wall Street but in almost 300 cities around the country as well. While the ideas behind this impromptu revolution seems vague to some, the spirit of confronting the authority over the direction in which this country is taking has resonated with the general population, who has seen their standard of living negatively impacted over the last decade. Yet some folks of color are rightfully wondering where they actually stand in this movement, which seeks to speak in their names.
In the first few days of protest, I remember watching the live streaming video of Occupy Wall Street, zeroing in on anyone who looks like me and wondering why in a city, which is heavily populated by black, brown and various other ethnicities, were “we” largely absent from the protest? And then I began to think about the overall unspoken nuances over the term “occupy” on the same grounds, which was once Algonquin native land and, upon conquest, acted as a major trading post for black slaves.
For communities of color, the message of “we are the 99 percent” takes on dual meaning when you consider that sizable percentage of the 99 had long been dealing with sub-standard living conditions, occupation through the criminal justice system, political marginalization and economic disenfrashment. Even in the best of times, the black and brown community specifically dealt with higher levels of unemployment than their white counterparts. Both communities were also subjected to the unfair and racist 100:1 sentencing guidelines, which sought to make possession of crack more sentencable than just regular cocaine. Likewise, any and all attempts in the past to protest, march and even speak freely about how racism has created paradox of inequality were met with accusation of playing the proverbial race card.
With this “Occupy” movement, which has largely been seen as a movement of solidarity, it appears that some of the same oppressive social constructs of the past remain. Despite emphasis of being a leaderless movement where anyone with a gripe about the 1 percent can come, plan and get involved, there have been countless reports about people from historically marginalized communities not feeling the welcome mat from all and having their voices silenced through the individual movement’s general assembly as well as in facilitator’s positions, which basically act as the de facto leadership of the movement. Sure we can come, wave signs and join in on the chanting. However, when attempts have been made to discuss substantial and tangible ways in which race, gender, sexuality and ethnicity intertwine with capitalistic oppression in this country, some folks have been accused of trying to divide the movement.
This is in no way to discredit what is happening around the country but if the ultimate goal is to create a movement, which is representative of all people, than shouldn’t the movement be putting in the work to not fall into the usual traps of mimicking certain kinds of oppression in the same system they seek to upset?
Fortunately people of color, and other historically disenfranchised communities, are not waiting around for the rest of the 99 percent to “get it.” In New York, where the original “occupy” protest began, a group of people came together to form a People of Color Occupy Wall Street committee, which seeks to “build a racially conscious and inclusive movement.” Likewise, there is also an Occupy the Hood movement, which has seeks to attract minority voices to the “occupy” movement.
In Philadelphia, Ive spoken to some in the black, brown and other marginalized communities. They have struggled with feelings of isolation and marginalization within the larger context of the movement, and have also decided to approach the movement with both open-mindedness and cautious skepticism. While they have taken up the task of creating a people of color working group to speak to the overall power structure both inside of the movement and the larger society as well, they have also rallied and protested inside of the occupation site, which doubles as Philadelphia City Hall, to challenge the unbridled concentration of power and demand that folks of all color be heard .
A true revolution, or any version of change, cannot and should not be carried out by those who were once comfortable with the power structures when it was in their favor. Nor should we, as people of color, feel the need to place “our” issues to the back of the bus. No, we should be questioning and confronting authority, whether it comes in the guise of conservative, liberal and even progressive movements.
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
It’s been 20 years since Rodney King was arrested and beaten by LAPD. It may have been just another day in L.A but that fateful arrest made history and ignited a turbulent discussion on race in America due to the fact that it was caught on camera. Today, cameras are ubiquitous (thanks to smartphones) and police officials are more aware of being watched by bystanders. Police brutality stilll exists however. Rodney King talks to CNN’s Don Lemon about the past and present.
In the January 29 issue of the New York Times, I was met with the news that the biracial and multiracial classes are still as confused about their identify as they’ve always been. The self-indulgent 2.0 version of “Imitation of Life” reared its ugly head for the gazillionth time in a four page spread where mixed race kids (again) lamented their victimhood and difficulty belonging.
In this article, one young man who was half Ghanaian and half Scottish bemoaned how his grandmother on his Scottish side dressed him in kilts and his grandmother on his Ghanaian side dressed him in dashikis. Tragic. I’m sure the introduction to two very rich cultures by adoring grandparents was internalized unfavorably by the already befuddled and blended creature. The poor young lad probably headed off to therapy the very next week.
For too long, African Americans have allowed biracial and multiracial members of our community far too much latitude. This is due in large part to biracial tales of woe and other tragic mulatto-isms. Enough already. A cloud does not put out the sun and adding white to color just creates lighter color. If you have a black mother and a white father, then you are of course, less black than your mother, but you’re not white. You are a watered down version of black. Feel better now?
In these tragic mulatto debates, the topic that is all too often skimmed over is the goal of starting biracial clubs like the ones mentioned in the NYT piece. Why do they have an unyielding desire to isolate themselves from the broader African American spectrum? It seems that even mixed race people know that they aren’t quite white (enough),so they trot on over to the middle and settle for biracial and multiracial clubs in an effort to further distance themselves from their darker brothers and sisters. This is the only conclusion I can reach since I know first-hand that having lighter skin isn’t enough of an encumbrance to require a support group (and I doubt curlier hair is either).
(Black Voices) — Soon after America elected its first black president, pundits and politicians began proclaiming that America was now post-racial, or beyond race. If it wasn’t obvious at first, as the months wore on, it was clear that we weren’t. President Obama spoke out about racial profiling and it almost derailed his efforts to reform our health care system. A clip showing USDA official Shirley Sherrod talking about racism was taken out of context and she was fired in a harsh rush to judgement. The conservative movement in this country is using the threat of reverse racism against whites as a political strategy.