All Articles Tagged "race"
From Hello Beautiful
I remember the first time I met Ernest Green, the first to graduate Central High School of the Little Rock Nine–that group of students who made school integration in America a moment of historical and democratic note. I learned about him watching a Disney movie, as a 10 year-old, which effortlessly offered more depth than the five pages of study on the entirety of the Civil Rights Movement allotted in my college preparatory school’s 500-plus-page American history book. So when he shook my hand, years later as a recent college graduate, I responded, “I guess you do look like Morris Chestnut.” We shared a laugh.
The power of Hollywood film imagery rests in the fact that not too many people really takes the time separate biopic from fact. So, the growing clamor around the casting choice for a film on Nina Simone, which would be the first major telling on a subcultural hero for African beauty, is worth note.
Read more at Hello Beautiful
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By Rachel Garlinghouse
I’m an adoptive parent. I’m white. My two daughters, ages three and one, are both black. It’s glaringly obvious that my kids and I don’t “match” and that they are adopted.
We have been asked a slew of questions. “Are you girls REAL sisters?” “Did you hear that Katherine Heigl adopted another baby?” “Are your kids full or mixed?” “Why didn’t their birth parents keep them?” “Why couldn’t you have your own kids?”
One question that I found incredibly interesting, and one that the media is asking more than ever is, “Why didn’t you adopt one of your own kind?” (Yes, this is exactly how the question was asked.) It has been implied that there are plenty of white babies who need good homes, so why would we, as whites, pluck a black child out of the mix of available kids? (This is actually not true. Many adoption agencies have a tremendous need for families to be open to adopting black children, including sibling groups and kids with special needs, as many white parents only want to adopt healthy white infants.)
The media and the public are asking these questions of transracial adoptive parents: Are you trying to capitalize on some sort of trend? Why are you stealing a black baby away from her racial culture? Are you trying to make your child white? How in the world can a white family raise a black child properly?
The increase in media attention on celebrity adoptive parents, particularly transracial adoptive celebrity families like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, and Katherine Heigl, has brought transracial adoption to the forefront of pop culture. I have read, much to my dismay, article after article that begins by prompting the public to question the integrity and intent of such parents.
I have to admit, I don’t necessarily blame people for their assumptions and skepticism regarding transracial adoption, particularly white parents who are raising black kids. Whites have a long history of treating blacks and other races in degrading, dehumanizing manners. There is a seemingly natural and underlying distrust between whites and all other races. Despite people claiming to be “colorblind” and spouting that “the world is a melting pot” which is magically full of harmony and unity, I know otherwise.
You might question if parents are adopting minority children because it’s the trendy thing to do. Here are some truths, from my experience, regarding transracial adoption:
1. Transracial adoptive families are double-minorities, facing endless discrimination.
Until we adopted our first daughter, I was, unknowingly, enjoying white Privilege. No one ever looked twice at me in a shopping mall or restaurant, no one questioned my motives, no one asked how authentic my family was, if we were a “real” family or not.
But when my husband and I brought our first daughter home, we were quickly inducted into the life of a minority. We have been asked by an airline to provide our youngest child’s birth certificate to prove that she is actually our daughter prior to us boarding a plane. When we went to obtain a social security card for her, the attendant gave us several glares, making it clear she didn’t approve of our transracial adoption. She then asked, quite judgmentally, a question that had nothing to do with the application for the social security card: “Do they [our daughters] have the same parents?” I’ve been asked about the girls’ “real” mom, as if I am the fake mom. A cashier at a local store asked why the hell my girls’ birth parents would “give them away” because after all, the girls were “so pretty.” My family deals with, on a daily basis, discrimination related to adoption and race.
2. Transracial adoption is a path to parenthood.
Individuals and couples adopt because they want to be parents. Maybe they couldn’t have biological kids, couldn’t have more biological kids, had always wanted to adopt, didn’t want to wait for a partner to have children, or chose to adopt to avoid passing a genetic condition on to any biological children. The reasons are many.
When I was twenty-four years old, I was diagnosed with an incurable disease: type I diabetes. I am dependent on insulin for life; without it, I will die. Type I diabetes can be accompanied by a slew of dangerous side effects, all of which can impact the life of the diabetic’s unborn baby. My husband and I chose not to have biological children because we felt the risks outweighed the benefits. So we filled out paperwork to adopt, marked “open to a child of any race,” and waited. We were chosen, twice, to adopt black children. Without adoption, we wouldn’t be parents. We wanted to be parents. So we adopted. It’s really that simple.
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.
Barack Obama’s position as the first black president of the United States has certainly exposed a lot about how our society truly feels about race and politics, and in an effort to make sense of it all, legal analyst, author, and professor Charles Ogletree has developed a course on “Understanding Obama” at Harvard University’s Law School. According to Mediaite, the course will go as follows:
“This reading group will focus on the way in which race, religion, and politics have impacted the development of President Obama as a leader. We will explore his views as a biracial child, his time as a student at Harvard Law School, the successes and failures of his political campaigns, and the way religion and his views on faith nearly derailed his campaign. Finally, time will be spent analyzing the challenges he faces as president of the United States in establishing both his domestic and global policies.”
Ogletree, who was a mentor to the President and First Lady during their time at Harvard Law, told The Daily Caller that the class will touch on both negative and positive aspects of Obama’s political career.
“They’ll be reading both critical and positive issues about Obama — of what’s happened in terms of the way the race and religion have been viewed during his candidacy, his presidency, and how it affects the larger country; and some other classic reading on issues of law and justice.”
Ogletree said his personal feelings about Obama will not be a part of the curriculum, but he did say, “I’m an Obama fan, I love the president — love him and his wife. They were wonderful people to serve as a mentor when they were here in the law school at separate times in the 1980s. There’s a lot to learn.”
Perhaps this course will open student’s eyes on how having a black president has and has not made us a post-racial society. What do you think about this course idea?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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The way people grossly underestimate children never ceases to amaze me. Children are people, with brains that develop at a much faster rate than ours. Sure every once in a while they may say things that will catch us off guard but we should never underestimate what they are and are not able to comprehend.
We re-learned this lesson in the clips from CNN’s upcoming special, “Kids On Race: The Hidden Picture.” In this video psychologists and even some of the CNN journalists, including Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brein, spoke with a diverse group of children and even their parents to discuss the issue of race in their schools, in their friendships and in their homes.
Check the video clip below:
The video found that while both children recognize differences in race, black children are more likely to be open and optimistic when it comes to interracial friendships.
Are you surprised about the results from this video?
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Current Occupation: Director, Technology Business Operations
Favorite Website: learnvest.com
Recent Read: Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni
2012′s ultimate goal: Finding ways to better integrate my work life and personal life
Quote that inspires you:: Just Do It – Nike, The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before. – Albert Einstein.
Ready for another installment of the largest building profile archive of African-American women in technology? I’m bringing it to you straight, with no chaser! This time, the focus is Ebony Frelix, who is a colleague of mine in the tech realm. More specifically, she is the the Director of IT Business Operations at Salesforce.com a company that provides solutions for businesses wishing to better utilize the power of cloud computing as well as CRM (customer relationship management). Ebony also gives back to the young, Black female demo in a very special way too. Read on to find out more….
LDC: Ebony, what was it like growing up in San Francisco and earning your computer degree there? In fact, what led to your initial interest in computers or is it almost obligatory living so close to Silicon Valley?
EF: I’ve always loved the rapid pace and constant speed of innovation in technology organizations. Prior to starting my career in technology, I found myself drawn to techie’s in my company – I wanted to understand what they were doing. So I worked with my manager to create a career path leading to tech. At the same time, I shifted my degree to CIS so I could have the credentials to back me up in my new endeavor.
LDC: How did you obtain the position you have now?
EF: Through my social network. I was at my previous company for 11 years and I wanted to take my career in a different direction. While still focusing on technology, I wanted to spend more time driving strategic initiatives and programs on a larger scale. When a friend forwarded the job description at salesforce.com, I knew the job was the perfect match for my skill set and career goals. Before I was called in for interviews, I used my social network to research the role, hiring manager, and company. I knew before my first interview that I wanted to work at salesforce.com.
LDC: So given that, describe exactly what you do and what a typical day is like for you?
EF: Typical day? There is no typical day. That’s what I love about my job at salesforce.com. My focus is on finding ways to increase the bandwidth and velocity of our leadership team, and creating a framework that enables the organization to evolve and mature. Every day is something new and exciting, giving me an opportunity to work with various internal and external partners for the success of the company. It’s a blast.
LDC: So you’re company focuses on cloud computing (a lot of people say they don’t understand what clouds are, but in fact, if they have ever used Gmail; they’ve accessed a cloud. It’s being able to pull massive data from an independent storage area, so to speak). Why you think cloud computing is so important and what its future impact will be on general consumers.
EF: Cloud computing is important because it’s mobile, it’s social, and because it changes with you. Cloud computing brings real-time collaboration to the enterprise using concepts we already know from services we use in our consumer lives. And as an IT executive or CIO, you don’t have to buy any hardware, software or infrastructure, so you’ll never need to budget for an upgrade or buy another server; it just makes sense.
I think we’re seeing the future of cloud computing happening now. We call this next phase the social enterprise, where companies are transforming how they engage with their customers and employees. We live in the cloud already, working there just feels natural.
LDC: So true! But talk to me a little about the philanthropic organization Year Up and why you feel that program is so important.
EF: I’ve worked with Year Up since the Bay Area site opened in 2008. To date, salesforce.com has hosted 47 interns. The program is important because it introduces youth and more diversity into our offices. There is a divide that exists in this country that prohibits talented young adults from accessing opportunities in technology – this is even more challenging for young African-American women. Year Up Bay Area is not a hand-out but a hand-up for young, talented adults to access the skills, education and networks so critical to be successful in today’s corporate environment. For many of these women, this is their path to college success and it’s possible only through the support Year Up Bay Area provides. I feel the work Year Up Bay Area is doing is crucial because it increases the opportunities available to African-American women, opening the doors to management roles, increasing annual earnings, and creating further opportunities for minorities in the future – ending cycles of poverty and dependence. The Year Up program provides the platform and opportunity for young women of all ethnicities to attain success for themselves.
LDC: Do you see Year Up also assisting with encouraging more African-American females to get involved in science & technology?
EF: Yes. Year Up clearly works hard to reach that specific demographic, enabling them to become self-sufficient. I’ve worked first-hand with quite a few talented young women from the program and am thrilled to see doors opening for them. The overall goal of Year Up is to connect skilled talent with corporations looking to hire talented workers, and that is not limited to any specific demographic. In fact, one of the Bay Area classes was the first in the program to have more female students than male!
LDC: Understanding what hurdles these girls might have to overcome, what hurdles have you had, if any, that you feel may have been a bit race/gender related and how did you move past them?
EF: Before salesforce.com, I recall a time early on in my tech career where a co-worker commented ‘Why are YOU here?’ I was a junior computer operator working the graveyard shift and had been on the job less than a month. Instead of letting him discourage me, that comment acted as a motivator. It became my goal to show him and others like him why I was qualified. Not in a sense to prove anything to them – instead, I was proving to myself that I had what it takes to go wherever I wanted to go. As a rule, I don’t let hurdles distract me; I use them as a launching point (turn a hurdle to a step) and move past it. In a few years, I went from junior computer operator to First Vice President.
LDC: Speaking of hurdles, race and all; What are your thoughts on this recent Infographic regarding diversity and Silicon Valley which is causing some controversy?
EF: I believe the gap is in education. If we want more minorities in technology, we need to focus on providing education and training programs that reach them. As a child, I was never discouraged from considering technology, management, or other high-level career tracks. So as both a woman and a minority, I don’t focus on barriers. I believe it has more to do with education and mindset than a deliberate attempt to exclude minorities from entering into technical professions.
LDC: What’s your greatest hope for your career and the tech industry for 2012?
EF: Personally, I will look for ways to continue to learn, grow, and drive change. As an industry, we must continue to look for opportunities to hire from a diverse candidate pool when applicable. It’s not about handouts, it’s about a hand up. I was certainly given opportunities in my career, and I look for ways to pay it forward.
Don’t miss the next profile. In the meantime, keep up with the intersection of tech and lifestyle via my site www.ldcoleman.com and follow me on Twitter @mediaempress.
Earlier this month, Vogue Italia’s released its March issue, which featured a number of the world’s top models including Jessica Stam, Joan Smalls and Coco Rocha, in a spread ironically titled “Haute Mess.” The spread, which is said to have been inspired by the “messy” side of drag queen culture, features these top models, who are mostly white, playing up images of neck and facial tattoos, gold teeth, and wigs made of money and candy-colored towering hair styles.
Of course, Vogue Italia has caught some flack over the fashion spread, mainly for perpetuating stereotypes of black women and ridiculing the culture. Despite Vogue Italia’s assertion that drag queens were the inspiration, many folks have drawn a very clear – and in my opinion, obvious – correlation between Haute [or High] Mess to the “Ghetto Fabulous” panache we see on sites like Hot Ghetto Mess. Some pictures featured in Haute Mess, including the Easter basket and the Skittles-appliqué hairstyles, have clearly been ripped directly from photos, which have been circulating for many years online.
Yet Franca Sozzani, editor of Vogue Italia, denies even knowing about the existence of these photos of the inner city black women we see sprawled all over the internet and the corresponding sites, which mocks their fashion motifs. Likewise, she dispels any suggestion of a racist element to the spread, saying that: ”A racist image, I really do not understand. I went through the pages so many times. Like when we did the Black Issue, everybody said that we did that on purpose because Obama was the person chosen to go to the White House, and if you just think one second, not more than one second, you can see that to make a magazine like what we did for the Black Issue, it takes six months [to do]. … People wanted to see an economical and a financial [decision], just to get more money, because we talk about Black Issue, it’s probably because the president is black. What do you answer? They don’t know what it means to work at a magazine. That’s it.”
Sozzani’s meandering aside, I’m much less interested in the “is it racist or not” discussion (of course, this is the same Vogue Italia, who christened hoop earrings as slave earrings, so I’ll let you all draw your own conclusion) as I am about the clear case of theft related to the pictorial. For the sake of argument, let’s say that this was a homage of some sorts to a fringe culture the editorial board found fascinating – how do you justify taking a cultural representation outside it’s respected realm without proper attribution to the source? It’s obvious that the fashion elite in Milan have an obsession with the American Black community. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing Skittles colored cap wigs, gold teeth and dollar bill insignia fingernails during fashion week pretty soon – just don’t expect Black folks to get the proper credit.
The whole issue reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine recently about a car I’ve seen rolling around in my neighborhood. Some young dude, maybe in his early 20s, had tricked-out his all black Crown Victoria, with 26 inch rims, red and green stripes and a huge Gucci logo on the sides. The vehicle stands out like a thumb around these parts because the Donk car style is what we usually associate with the South, particularly Memphis, and certainly not Philadelphia. Anyway, I was telling my friend about seeing the car and how some people shake their heads at the pure “ratchetness” of it. That’s when my friend showed me a link to another vehicle and said: “you mean like this?” It was a link to the new Fiat 500 by Gucci, which too included green and red stripes and Gucci insignias.
I do not have the words to fully express the sadness, grief and flat out anger I am experiencing over the senseless death of Trayvon Martin. But that only pales in comparison to what his family might be feeling.
Martin, a 17-year old Black teen, was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a 28-year old White Hispanic man in the Central Florida town of Sanford late last month. Zimmerman, who was the self-appointed neighborhood watch, claims that he’d shot and killed Martin after the teen allegedly started an “altercation.” But Martin’s real crime was being a suspicious black male in the wrong community at the wrong time.
If you haven’t listened to the 911 calls from Zimmerman and the various perspectives, which were revealed on Friday, you can listen to them here, but be warned, they are a hard listen. In one tape, Zimmerman, who had spotted Martin from inside his parked car, tells the dispatcher that there had been a few break-ins lately, and now there was another suspicious guy in his Twin Lakes gated community. He describes the SUS as a young black male wearing a hooded sweatshirt. He looked like he might be on drugs and “up to no good,” he says to the dispatcher. Later, he says that the SUS is retreating in the other direction from his vehicle. He then exits his car and follows the SUS. The dispatcher tells Zimmerman that it is not necessary to follow him. But Zimmerman, frustrated, had already lamented that: “These a**holes always get away.”
In another tape you can hear what appears to be a muted bang followed by a young man in the distance crying repeatedly for help and then a loud pop that silences the wailing completely. Other callers reported hearing the same thing as well and described for the police dispatchers the end result: Martin, lying on the ground, dead. Later it would be revealed that Martin was far from a SUS - just an unsuspecting teenager, who was visiting his father and just so happened to be walking back from the store with a can of sweet tea and a bag of Skittles to share with his younger sibling. For that, his life was silenced. And 28-year-old Zimmerman, who claims he was acting in self-defense, has yet to be arrested or charged with a crime.But as much as this story pains me, this post isn’t about the vicious murder, instead it’s about one of the witnesses: a 13-year old Black boy named Austin, who just so happened to be out walking the family pet and observed what happened. He and his family tells the Miami Herald:
“I don’t know that it was the person on the [ground] who was screaming, but to me it sounded like a kid who was crying. It was a yell for help, and I think it was Trayvon. Austin wasn’t sure if the person was in a fight or had slipped and gotten hurt. Austin’s boxer puppy got off the leash so the boy went chasing after the dog and lost sight of the scene for a moment. Then, he heard a gun go off. He ran home and told his sister to call the police. The boy, who is black, has been rattled ever since. He feels angry and disconcerted, and wonders whether he’s at risk too. That people can stereotype like that makes you scared, he said. Austin’s mom said he’s been acting out in school and seems mad all the time.”
As gut wrenching as it is to read about the death of Martin, it is equally as heartbreaking to think about what this witness must be going through. Not only did he see a murder in his front yard but has to live with the “what if” questions, the fears of his own safety and the confusions of how this, in the time of our first Black president, could happen? Prior to the murder, he probably was a normal teenager, close in age to the victim. He lived in a neighborhood that was overwhelmingly white (including Hispanics who classify themselves as white), therefore considered safe away from all the urban crime we hear about in inner city Black communities. He probably saw Zimmerman “patrolling” the neighborhood on a few occasions. He might have even had a conversation with him, maybe found himself too under the surveillance of his neighbor’s watchful eye. He probably wondered if those interactions were just the result of an overzealous busy body or a precursor to the paranoia of a bigot.
He probably has those same questions about his friends he met within his diverse neighborhood. And the teachers and staff at his school too. Prior to witnessing the murder of a kid close in age and hue to his, he probably believed in a colorblind society and was taught to respect every one of all races. But watching the video of a bewildered little Austin as he speaks about how sometimes people get stereotyped and how he fits into this stereotype as the person who got shot, you can almost see the trepidation in his eyes, as if he is pondering what if that had been him. And maybe one day, it might be him.
After reading about the Trayvon Martin story last week, it really hasn’t been sitting well with me.
Trayvon Martin was shot and killed back in February in his father’s gated community by neighborhood watch leader, George Zimmerman. He was only 17-years old.
Martin was an unarmed black child and only had a bag of skittles and Arizona Ice Tea on him.
This story touches me because it happens way too often. That kid could have been my cousin, my brother, my best friends. I just can’t. All I can do is continue to spread awareness. This child deserves justice. This just wasn’t another cop kills armed black kid story. This was a man who took upon himself to kill an unarmed kid, instead of waiting for the police, after he was instructed to do so.
Zimmerman currently hasn’t been arrested because he is saying that he shot Martin in self-defense.
There has been a lot of chatter online about whether Zimmerman’s self-defense case is actually legitimate. Some people believe that he had every right to protect himself; others believe that he had no reason to take on the cop’s job.
My mom has 20 + years of criminal justice experience, she’s an NYPD cop who works in one of the roughest neighborhoods in NYC. My mom didn’t have to read any book or take a class to know what happened to that kid was a tragedy and what Zimmerman did was the epitome of a racially motivated attack.
I know what it’s like to be afraid to go into certain neighborhoods because I’m black. I know what it feels like to go into some high end retail store and be followed around by the white employees like I’m going to steal their overpriced items. Being black in America still means you’re a criminal by default for some folks. Trayvon Martin could have been my future nephew, or future son. I fear one day, if I were to ever bear a son, he must live everyday with the fear that some crazy lunatic will shoot him in cold blood because the perception America still holds on to when it comes to our black and brown babies.
There’s a petition going around on Change.org, started by Martin’s parents, to persecute Zimmerman for the murder of their son.
On the petition the parents describe their son:
Trayvon was our hero. At the age 9, Trayvon pulled his father from a burning kitchen, saving his life. He loved sports and horseback riding. At only 17 he had a bright future ahead of him with dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic. Now that’s all gone.
This is truly a heartbreaking case and I can’t even phantom what his family is going through. Trayvon Martin didn’t deserve to be shot down like an animal, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
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The first professional job I ever had was teaching sexual health part-time at a nationally recognized non-profit. I traveled a short 20-minute commute outside of the city into the surrounding suburbs, but the differences between the two areas were like night and day. As I breezed along the expressway every morning and left the busy hustle and bustle of the inner city behind, I would always look at the opposing traffic braking and beeping loud and do a happy little shoulder-lean to my music over the fact that I didn’t have to be stuck in that mess everyday anymore. When I got off at my exit, it was clear that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore; the most popular spot in an area of all interstate and backwoods was the local Wal-Mart.
I was definitely out of my element, but I didn’t feel the urge to hightail it back to the city so I could be surrounded by people who looked like me and spoke like me. I embraced the duality that had just become my personal and professional life. This particular position meant that I was included in the administrative level of the organization, and surprisingly, I didn’t notice that not only was I one of the youngest employees on this level, but also the darkest. As I entered community meetings and corporate conferences, I knew based on my appearance alone that people thought I looked more like the young women I was teaching more than a facilitator. Still, I wasn’t uncomfortable, and even though I may have looked like I should be asking the questions instead of answering them, I knew that I belonged in those meetings. I’m educated, professional and damn good at what I do.
One of the things that I strive for in my career is to challenge young people to step outside of the world they know. So many young people are afraid to leave the 10 blocks of their neighborhood and unfortunately for some, that means that the only thing they will ever see are a lot of the same, whether that includes hustlers, baby mommas, crime, poverty–whatever. My parents always gave me a certain pride about my community, but they also made my childhood rich with experiences that took me outside of my familiar surroundings. As a result I feel just as comfortable at the block party BBQ as I do at a black tie gala.
But I’ll never forget a class I once observed. While a co-worker and I discussed the different opportunities students would have to visit places like the zoo and the art museum, the first question one young lady asked was, “Will there be white people there?” As we went on to discuss why this was her primary concern, she went on to reveal that she had never been an actual victim of racism, but simply felt like she didn’t belong and wasn’t comfortable around them.