WBEZ | racism http://www.wbez.org/tags/racism Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Suspicion lingers over Ebola treatment http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/african food truck.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Last Friday, Illinois health officials presented plans to deal with any future Ebola cases in the state. These include establishing a test lab, taking the temperature of some foreign travelers, and forming a task force aimed at better communication.</p><p>But a trip to a nearby West African lunch truck revealed that big communication gaps still remain in some parts of the city.&nbsp;</p><p>As the West African vendor served up plates of fufu and goat, he said that, so far, he hadn&rsquo;t seen any shortages in ingredients imported from Africa.&nbsp;<br /><br />But a customer standing in line thought the vendor was, instead, being asked about the safety of West African food.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Ebola cannot infect our food,&rdquo; said the cab driver who only wanted to be identified as Chris. &ldquo;Because our food is properly cooked. It is cooked to at least 90 degrees.&rdquo;</p><p>Chris continued by sharing his view on the true origin of Ebola.</p><p>&ldquo;That thing (Ebola) is a white man&rsquo;s disease,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;They created it in a lab to kill us, and to make the pharmaceutical companies rich.&rdquo;</p><p>Within minutes, fellow cab drivers joined in the conversation, asking &ldquo;Why is it that the black man who came from Africa, he died? But the white man lived. We won&rsquo;t let anyone fool us anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>While some of these views may seem extreme, they echo a larger question in the world health community about why an Ebola vaccine has been so long in coming.&nbsp;</p><p>Laurie Garrett is a Senior Fellow for Gobal Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. She said market forces affect the development of these medications.</p><p>&ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s so rare, and it occurs among very poor people, where is the financial market incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to get in there and commercialize it?&rdquo; she asked.</p><p>Indeed, until recently, that incentive has not existed. But it did get a big push last month when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $50 million to addressing Ebola.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, Garrett says there are other factors that have slowed progress on an Ebola vaccine.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you clinically test a vaccine against a disease that you cannot possibly ethically induce in your test subjects, and that occurs so rarely,&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Also, you don&rsquo;t really have a population that is routinely exposed in order to test how well the vaccine really works.&rdquo;</p><p>One Liberian-born, American professor offered up an answer to that question. He believes human trials have already begun...on unsuspecting Africans as part of a plan by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Delaware State plant pathologist detailed these suspicions in a letter that went viral last month in Liberia&rsquo;s largest daily paper, further fueling speculation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>This and other factors have driven continuing suspicion about a racial component to the outbreak.<br /><br />&ldquo;The white woman who went to England: she was healed,&rdquo; Chris, the cab driver, noted. &ldquo;The nurse who went to Spain: She was healed. The white boy who who came to America. He was healed. But the black man who came to Texas, in America&mdash;in America he died.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, Illinois&rsquo; Director of Public Health LeMar Hasbrouck stressed that communication will be key in the Ebola fight. And that the new task force would have to: &ldquo;Coordinate public messaging so we are not giving different messages to different audiences, so we are all on the same page there.&rdquo;</p><p>WBEZ asked Hasbrouck&rsquo;s department how and if it planned to address some of the racially-based perceptions on Ebola. The department did not respond.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 13:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/suspicion-lingers-over-ebola-treatment-110977 For fashion, if it's all white, it's all right http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-11/fashion-if-its-all-white-its-all-right-109069 <p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP924745381151%20%281%29.jpg" style="width: 620px;" title="(AP/Zacharie Scheurer)" /></span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Fashion is one of the last major industries to publicly and profoundly act as a system of discrimination and exclusivity. And Kanye West &ndash; despite his strange and inaccurate comments comparing his fiance, Kim Kardashian, to the FLOTUS, Michelle Obama &ndash; has recently come out with comments that touch on the industry&#39;s perpetual exclusion. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>In an interview with Ryan Seacrest on KIIS-FM, he <a href="http://guardianlv.com/2013/11/kanye-west-kim-kardashians-fashion-more-influential-than-that-of-michelle-obama/" target="_blank">said</a>, &ldquo;What I want to create isn&rsquo;t about black and white, but the reason why I&rsquo;m not able to create what I want to create is about being black, and is about classism.&rdquo; </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">The music industry works differently. It is not less racist, but it is more inclusive. It is driven more by profit (allowing for a more diverse array of voices) than by inclusiveness or exclusiveness. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Although the music industry also has a long history of cultural appropriation, the vast numbers of musicians and output has allowed people of color to flourish and cross boundaries in successes that can still be found in other industries such as the film, television, and yes, fashion industries. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Kanye has not yet differentiated the two industries and he exists with a worldview in which success in one area can translate to another. His quotes may seem silly or idealistic, but they actually reflect a progressive challenge to the fashion industry that has yet to budge on its methods of exclusion. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">We allow the fashion industry to exist in this world of exclusivity and have for too long. It remains under the radar and most discussions about its exclusivity happen sporadically and only within its close, small circles. We&rsquo;ll see an editorial or two from a feminist or women&rsquo;s-oriented website. But for the most part, the general public does not understand how little the industry values inclusion. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">For most of us, our interactions with fashion are through the trends that have been reinterpreted from the runways and mass produced. We are not on the direct lines of the design process, the model selection, or the print publications. There is less choice for the public which makes it easier to exclude our voices. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">This is more difficult in areas like film and television, where our choices to watch &ndash; or not watch &ndash; have ripples that affect projects already on the air or in theaters and those in development. Although the last step in the Hollywood cycle, our direct participation is a key component to decisions made for the future (Consider the success of the first <em>Spiderman</em> and the glut of superhero movies we&rsquo;ve endured within the past decade as a result.). </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP785523062393%20%281%29.jpg" style="height: 461px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(AP/Thibault Camus)" />The fashion industry is not a right system, but we can&#39;t pretend that it does not exist and ignore the far-reaching and continuous damage it inflicts. Its white supremacy and thin advocacy creates a homogenous culture that denies millions of potential customers the opportunity to own what has been created and makes those that are within the system exist in a constant state of reaction, maintenance, and competition. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Recall the <a href="http://www.complex.com/style/2013/10/barneys-nypd-racial-profiling-trayon-christian" target="_blank">recent lawsuits</a> filed against the Barneys department store in New York City by two black customers. In one case, a young man named Trayon Christian was accosted by the NYPD under suspicion that he used a fraudulent credit card to purchase a $349 Salvatore Ferragamo belt. But the debit card and identification used to purchase the belt were his.&nbsp;These are clear cut examples of racial profiling, inherent to the very fabric of the fashion world. Underlying these incidents is the idea that black people can not possibly participate in the overpriced world of Barneys. Even if their forms of identification and debit cards form no problem (as was the case with the two lawsuits), their mere presence is cause for alarm. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>West <a href="http://www.complex.com/style/2013/10/kanye-west-fashion-rant-yeezus-tour" target="_blank">confirmed</a> as much in a recent 10-minute &quot;rant&quot; during his Yeezus tour about the fashion industry, comparing the incidents to the lyrics in his single &ldquo;New Slaves&rdquo; (&ldquo;</span>You see it&#39;s broke nigga racism, that&#39;s that &#39;Don&#39;t touch anything in the store,&#39; and it&#39;s rich nigga racism, that&#39;s that &#39;Come here, please buy more.).</p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Soon after the Barneys controversy began, Jay Z, a collaborator with the store, <a href="http://lifeandtimes.com/a-statement-from-shawn-jay-z-carter" target="_blank">said</a>:&nbsp;</span></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span>&ldquo;I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgements, no matter who it&rsquo;s towards, aren&rsquo;t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?&rdquo; </span></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span>The prolific rapper and business man claimed that ending his collaboration with the store would ultimately hurt his foundation, The Shawn Carter Foundation, that stands to receive, &ldquo;25% of all sales from the collaboration, 10% of all sales generated in the store on November 20th and an additional donation from Barneys.&rdquo; </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Rarely can someone outside of the industry breakthrough and Jay Z&rsquo;s comments reflect the isolation, exclusivity, and change the system places on who they accept. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Although he claims his decision to not pull out of the collaboration is solely about the lost funding opportunity for his foundation, he also makes a point of comparing the discrimination felt by the two customers to making &ldquo;snap judgments&rdquo; about the character of the store and its employees. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>Any rational person can understand that these two situations are in no way one in the same. Discriminating against black customers further perpetuates a hostile environment of who is and is not included in the elite fashion world. Making judgments about Barneys documented actions against black customers creates an opportunity to create change, to eliminate that environmental hostility. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">The runways themselves are a perfect example too of the structural order. Rarely will one see a non-white face. Who belongs and who does not can be seen from the top (business executives, fashion designers) down. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/fashion/fashions-blind-spot.html?pagewanted=2" target="_blank">According</a> to the <em>New York Times</em>, </span></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span>&ldquo;After a notable increase in 2009 that followed extensive news media coverage, the representation of black models has remained fairly steady until this year, when they accounted for only 6 percent of the looks shown at the last Fashion Week in February (down from 8.1 percent the previous season); 82.7 percent were worn by white models.&rdquo; </span></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-43b2ccfa-2338-ad57-6380-9b69538baf6c">Kanye West&rsquo;s obsession with the fashion industry is an important one and his comments must play out on a world stage. While seemingly humorous, in fact, they highlight the very real barriers between what is and is not considered fashion. It is absurd to Kanye that he (and his fiance, Kim Kardashian) have been excluded because of their successes and infamy. But those two things are not enough for an industry that largely incorporates non-white people only as the labor to hem and stitch and toil and nothing else.&nbsp;Certain bodies belong and others do not. Anything that differs from this structure must be an affront to its natural order. </span></p><p dir="ltr"><span>In fashion, it is inherently &ldquo;not good&rdquo; and &ldquo;not right&rdquo; because it is different. It is not white.&nbsp;</span></p><p dir="ltr"><em><span>Britt Julious&nbsp;</span>writes about race and culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 04 Nov 2013 07:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-11/fashion-if-its-all-white-its-all-right-109069 Sorority racism: a legacy that needs to end http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-09/sorority-racism-legacy-needs-end-108690 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Rush%20at%20the%20University%20of%20Alabama-%20Lindsay%20Flickr.jpg" style="height: 418px; width: 620px;" title="Sorority Rush at the University of Alabama, Fall 2011. (Flickr/Lindsay Brown)" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">Last week, the University of Alabama&#39;s student newspaper <em>The Crimson White </em>published a lightning rod of an exposé on <a href="http://cw.ua.edu/2013/09/11/the-final-barrier-50-years-later-segregation-still-exists/" target="_blank">racial discrimination</a> during sorority rush. The allegations&mdash;that two black women were rejected from four traditionally white sororities this rush season because of pressure from racist alumnae&mdash;were based on the account of Melanie Gotz, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, and several other UA sorority members who wished to remain anonymous.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">This news does not surprise me. First of all, Birmingham, Ala. is the site of one of the most heinous hate crimes ever committed. On September 15, 1963, a group of white supremicists <a href="http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/15/20507957-birmingham-remembers-4-little-girls-50-years-after-infamous-church-bombing?lite" target="_blank">bombed</a> 16th Street Baptist Church, injuring two dozen black churchgoers and killing four little girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair. This year marks the 50th anniversary of their deaths.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Many of the white alumnae urging sorority members <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/13/us/sorority-exposes-its-rejection-of-black-candidate.html?_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">not to pledge black women</a>&nbsp;in 2013 may be old enough to remember this tragedy, or perhaps their parents witnessed it firsthand. Most likely, these women came of age in a place and time when violent racism was not only out in the open, but also publicly encouraged.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I was raised in the South and saw institutional racism almost everywhere I turned; although sadly, I didn&#39;t see it for what it was at the time. I joined a prestigious (read: overwhelmingly white) Southern sorority, as did my mother and older sister before me. The university that I attended for two years was not what one might call a shining bastion of <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/tcu-professor-criticized-email-students-of-color-2013-9" target="_blank">racial diversity</a>. My youngest sister rushed at the University of Alabama this fall, and was selected by one of the sororities at the heart of the current controversy, Alpha Gamma Delta.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I know how rush works. The pressure from alumni is intense. I know that most white women who enter into sorority rush, often at the behest of their female relatives, are either blissfully unaware that their &quot;sisters&quot; look just like them, or prefer (secretly or overtly) to keep it that way.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Still, I believe that in the vast majority of cases, it is the sorority <em>system</em>, not the sorority members themselves, perpetuating the age-old practices of elitism, segregation and thinly-veiled prejudice. Tradition is worshipped in sorority life, upheld as holy doctrine by the alumnae determined to keep their sisterhoods frozen in time. &nbsp;However, the new pledges are the ones to raise their hands and ask why. After all, when a perfectly qualified candidate is rejected for no other reason than the color of her skin, what does standing by &quot;tradition&quot; really mean?&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">My sister, raised in a city by an open-minded family, goes to parties in Birmingham and is shocked to hear students casually spewing racial epithets. She and her more progressive friends leave.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Members of Alpha Gamma Delta and several other sororities on the UA campus have spoken out against their Panhellenic legacy of <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/report-racial-segregation-university-alabama-sororities-2013-9" target="_blank">systemic racism</a>, and I commend them for doing so. Still, the system needs to change from the inside out, with the younger generations leading the way to bridge the divides.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Anyone who followed the Trayvon Martin&nbsp;trial or saw the hate roll in on Twitter for the new, non-white&nbsp;<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/a-lot-of-people-are-very-upset-that-an-indian-american-woman" target="_blank">Miss America</a>&nbsp;knows that we don&#39;t live in a post-racial world. Not yet. But as long we continue to speak out against injustice, much like sororities <a href="http://jezebel.com/tell-us-about-your-schools-racist-sororities-and-frate-1300421893" target="_blank">all over the country</a> are beginning to do in the wake of this report, then bigotry won&#39;t win.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Leah Pickett is a pop culture writer and co-host of WBEZ&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-changing-channels/id669715774?mt=2">Changing Channels,</a>&nbsp;a podcast about the future of television. Follow Leah on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Tumblr</a>.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 17 Sep 2013 10:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-09/sorority-racism-legacy-needs-end-108690 Interracial love on TV is the new normal http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-07/interracial-love-tv-new-normal-108249 <p><p><img alt="" and="" as="" class="image-original_image" fitzgerald="" goldwyn="" grant.="" kerry="" olivia="" pope="" president="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Scandal.jpg" starring="" title="Still from &quot;Scandal,&quot; starring Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn. (ABC)" tony="" washington="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">One of the hottest TV romances to enrapture audiences over the past year has been the steamy liaison between a fictional President and his former Communications Director, played by Tony Goldwyn and Kerry Washington, respectively, on the ABC smash hit <i>Scandal.&nbsp;</i>However, the &quot;scandalous&quot; aspect of their affair has been mostly focused on their clashing levels of political power (and the fact that the President is cheating on his First Lady), not the outdated, potentially hamfisted conundrum of a white man dating a black woman.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">At one point, Olivia Pope (Washington) mentions the <a href="http://www.racialicious.com/2012/12/13/table-for-two-scandals-brush-with-history/" target="_blank">Sally Hemings-Thomas Jefferson</a> nature of their relationship. President Fitzgerald &quot;Fitz&quot; Grant (Goldwyn) is stung by the comment, and later remarks, &quot;You&#39;re playing the race card because I&#39;m in love with you? Come on! Don&#39;t belittle us.&quot; Interestingly enough, I didn&#39;t give much thought at all to the interracial aspect of their pairing until Olivia brought it up.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I suppose the subject cannot be ignored completely, nor should it be; however, the choice of <em>Scandal </em>creator Shonda Rhimes to make their racial disparity more of a non-issue than a huge brouhaha may be the biggest watershed moment of all.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><i>Orange is the New Black</i>&nbsp;is another example of show that proves times are changing for the better. Not only does the Netflix prison dramedy contain a diverse range of romantic entanglements&mdash;from a Latina prisoner&#39;s dalliance with her white guard to a a plethora of same-sex encounters that nimbly defy racial divides&mdash;but the series also depicts an interracial family with appropriately subtle nuance and grace.</p><p><img a="" abc="" alt="" class="image-original_image" crazy="" eyes="" from="" gets="" her="" is="" new="" orange="" parents.="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Crazy-Eyes-Parents.jpg" the="" title="Still from &quot;Orange is the New Black,&quot; when Crazy Eyes gets a visit from her parents in prison. (Netflix)" visit="" when="" /></p><p>The parents of black inmate Suzanne &quot;Crazy Eyes&quot; Warren just happen to be <a href="http://www.examiner.com/article/uzo-aduba-on-adoption-informing-her-orange-is-the-new-black-character" target="_blank">white</a>; a shock to some viewers, maybe, but also a moment that feels heart-tuggingly genuine and perhaps even relatable to audiences who may have otherwise written her off as another &quot;crazy&quot; black woman stereotype. Did being adopted by a seemingly nice, affulent, &quot;normal&quot; white couple contribute to her issues later in life? As with the rest of the complex female characters on OITNB, I can&#39;t wait to delve deeper into Crazy Eyes&#39; backstory and find out.</p><p>Of course, interracial families don&#39;t seem like such a big deal to most people in 2013; in fact, white parents adopting black or Asian children are usually perceived as more <em>en vogue</em> than unconventional. But when a Cheerios commercial nonchalantly featuring a white mother, black father and cute-as-a-button biracial daughter can cause a <a href="http://gawker.com/cheerios-ad-starring-interracial-family-predictably-sum-510591871" target="_blank">racist uproar</a> in the new millenium, I am reminded that we still have a long way to go.&nbsp;</p><p>The fact of the matter is that TV shows still take great risks in veering from the norm, especially when the shows&#39; leads (not just their quirky supporting characters) are the ones to defy previously ironclad boundaries of race, sex and gender roles in relationships.&nbsp;</p><p><img a="" abc="" adopted="" alt="" an="" and="" as="" biological="" children.="" class="image-original_image" couple="" family="" gay="" interracial="" multi-ethnic="" of="" polo="" raising="" saum="" sherri="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The%20Fosters_ABC%20Family.jpg" starring="" style="float: right; " teri="" the="" title="Still from &quot;The Fosters,&quot; starring Sherri Saum and Teri Polo. (ABC Family) " /></p><p>Enter <em>The Fosters</em>, a new drama series from ABC Family about an interracial lesbian couple and their multi-ethnic family of foster, adopted and biological children. Yes, devoted families just like theirs exist outside the world of television, but rarely are they portrayed front and center as a brood akin to <em>7th Heaven</em>.&nbsp;</p><p>Thankfully, change has arrived in full force, whether the bigots like it or not. And while interracial relationships on TV are still considered &quot;groundbreaking&quot; in this day and age, my hope is they won&#39;t even bat an eye in the years to come.</p><p>We may not live in a post-racial world; but as an unremittingly hopeless romantic at heart, I&#39;d still like to believe that love is colorblind.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; ">Leah Pickett is a pop culture writer for WBEZ and co-host of&nbsp;<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-changing-channels/id669715774?mt=2&amp;ign-mpt=uo%3D2" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; font: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px; " target="_blank">Changing Channels</a>, a podcast about the future of television. Follow her on&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; font: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px; " target="_blank">Twitter</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; font: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px; " target="_blank">Facebook</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com/" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; font: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px; " target="_blank">Tumblr</a>.&nbsp;</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 01 Aug 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-07/interracial-love-tv-new-normal-108249 'Big Brother' 15: an opportunity to discuss discrimination of all forms http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-07/big-brother-15-opportunity-discuss-discrimination-all-forms-108178 <p><div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/big-brother-768.jpg" style="height: 233px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(CBS)" /></div></div><div>&#39;Only what can be seen can be considered real. Reality is not based on what you tell me, but what I choose to see and believe and recognize. Everything else holds no place in my world. &#39;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>This mindset appears on the surface to be harmless enough, but when it comes to forms of discrimination and prejudice, the voice of the narrator is far too often considered as unbelievable as the events themselves. As a society, we have been taught to recognize homophobia or racism or sexism in as blatant of terms as possible, and ignore the smaller things.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>When I was younger, I had a friend who had a difficult time understanding the microagressions I faced in my seemingly diverse school. <a href="http://www.div17.org/TAAR/media/topics/microaggressions.php" target="_blank">According to TAARM</a> (Taking Action Against Racism in the Media), microagressions are, &ldquo;brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults towards people of color. Those who inflict racial microaggressions are often unaware that they have done anything to harm another person.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Are you sure you&rsquo;re not just over thinking things?&rdquo; she would ask when, for example, during regulated classroom debates or discussions, my teacher would call me &ldquo;aggressive,&rdquo; &ldquo;angry,&rdquo; and &ldquo;confrontational&rdquo; whenever I disagreed with a fellow classmate.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;What else do I need to prove my point?&rdquo; I would ask her. &ldquo;A burning cross?&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It was not until my parents came to see him that he &ndash; a seemingly &ldquo;perfect&rdquo; far-left liberal &ndash; recognized that his words spoken in front of the entire class were problematic, at best, and emotionally crippling at worst.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>For <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels/changing-channels-podcast" target="_blank">the first episode</a> of WBEZ&rsquo;s <a href="https://soundcloud.com/wbezs-changing-channels" target="_blank"><em>Changing Channels</em></a> podcast, I said that <em>Big Brother</em> was one of my most anticipated shows of the summer. Like every other summer, I looked forward to the drama, manipulations, and lies of the <em>Big Brother</em> house guests. Hurtful comments are a given on a show in which contestants compete in challenges in order to eat good food, control what happens in the house, and avoid losing out on a $500,000 grand prize.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I have been a secret fan of the reality competition since it began and regularly troll online forums like <a href="http://Jokersupdates.com" target="_blank">Jokersupdates.com</a> or <a href="http://ONTDBB.tumblr.com" target="_blank">ONTDBB</a> for the latest information about the house guests. Season 15 began in late June and features a standard cast (beautiful, young, athletic, slightly diverse). What has not been &ldquo;standard,&rdquo; however, is the <a href="http://blog.zap2it.com/frominsidethebox/2013/06/big-brother-15-house-the-racism-misogyny-and-homophobia-comes-out.html" target="_blank">abundance</a> of racist, homophobic, ableist, and sexist <a href="http://forums.jokersupdates.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Board=BBDiscussion&amp;Number=19470364" target="_blank">comments</a> uttered by the house guests (seen above). In seasons past, such low level attacks were rarely seen (at least on the CBS broadcast) and if they occurred, they were usually only said by one or two house guests at most.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>This season has included offensive comments from numerous house guests, like Aaryn who said, when Helen, a Korean-American contestant was crying, that she should &ldquo;shut up, go make some rice.&rdquo; Or Spencer, who has referred to Andy, a gay contestant (and local Chicagoan) as a f-- and women in the house as c---s. Additional comments from four other contestants (Ginamarie, Jeremy, Kaitlin, and Amanda) have sullied the mood of the house.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The comments have sparked outrage among the public. A <a href="https://www.change.org/petitions/cbs-television-network-to-expel-current-contestant-of-big-brother-15-aaryn-gries" target="_blank">petition</a> to remove the most problematic house guest was created and both Aaryn and <a href="http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/07/03/big-brother-ginamarie-zimmerman-loses-job-racist-comments/" target="_blank">Ginamarie</a> have been fired or dropped from their jobs outside of the house.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But similar to the Paula Deen fiasco, the public outrage reflects the ways in which we dissect offensive behavior: go big or go home.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>We obviously should be talking about the problems with such statements. Although the term microagression is typically applied toward racially or ethnically-charged incidents, the act in itself can be applied to other marginalized populations. It&rsquo;s disappointing to think that a greater public outcry does not occur when smaller acts of racism or homophobia or sexism or ableism occur on television.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>This diminishes the impact of incidences such as microaggressions. It pretends that racism or sexism or homophobia or ableism only exist when they play into our mainstream ideas of what racism or sexism or homophobia actually are. There is no racism unless the n-word is dropped. There is no sexism unless it is in the law to discriminate based on gender. There is no homophobia unless it is coupled with violence. Essentially, there is no discrimination until those outside of the marginalized group &ldquo;recognize&rdquo; it as so.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Big Brother controversy provides an ample opportunity for more media outlets to not only report on the nastiness and the the outrage, but to also spark further discussion on how these statements are not just &ldquo;flukes&rdquo; of the house.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In a recent interview, newly evicted house guest Jeremy claimed that, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not racist, sexist, or homophobic&rdquo; despite the fact that he regularly called the women in the house &ldquo;bitches.&rdquo; If the house guests can&rsquo;t even recognize it when they do it, how can we expect people in other situations to recognize it when they witness it?</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the media, we can&#39;t just say, &quot;this is bad.&quot; We must also say, &quot;this is an example of the way some people think,&quot; and ask, &quot;What can we do to help end this?&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In order to better eradicate racism, homophobia, ableism, and sexism, we must actively recognize all forms of them, from the brief and commonplace forms of &ldquo;hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults,&rdquo; to the aggressive and confrontational interactions we read as offensive. And more importantly, we must also listen to and trust those who report when such aggressions &ndash; of all shapes and sizes &ndash; occur. Willful ignorance is no longer acceptable. In truth, it has never been okay.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em><strong>Britt Julious</strong>&nbsp;writes about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></div></p> Thu, 25 Jul 2013 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-07/big-brother-15-opportunity-discuss-discrimination-all-forms-108178 The good, bigoted people http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/good-bigoted-people-105967 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/121227_westboro_baptist_church-_ap_328.jpg" style="width: 530px; height: 280px;" title="(AP Photo) Westboro Baptist Church" /></div></div><p>When you&rsquo;re a kid, you don&rsquo;t see difference. You&#39;re trained to see difference by a society that tells you that other people are not like you. You are told to hate that.</p><p>When I was small, both of my younger brothers were born with genetic illnesses they wouldn&rsquo;t survive. Because we couldn&rsquo;t afford a nurse to take care of them, or food most of the time, the state paid for an in-home nurse. Her name was Julia, and she was black. I was best friends with her daughter, Lauren.&nbsp; Lauren and I would play Cowboys and Indians together after school, and sometimes on school days when our mothers let us play hooky. Because of my brothers, I got to stay home a lot. My preschool teachers always understood.</p><p>I knew that Lauren had different skin than I did, but it didn&rsquo;t register until one day when I was watching <em>Sally Jesse Raphael </em>with her mother, who is an active television watcher like my mother. It was one of the reasons they were such good friends. Julia would lean into the television as if she wanted to touch the people inside it. The segment that day was on being black in America. During one of the discussions in the episode, Sally interviewed a young black woman about her experiences with race, and Julia said to her, &ldquo;I know how you feel, honey.&rdquo; She leaned in as if for comfort. I couldn&rsquo;t tell which direction that comfort needed to travel.</p><p>But I didn&rsquo;t understand what Julia was sad about. Julia wasn&rsquo;t &ldquo;black.&rdquo; Julia was like me, and I was like Lauren. Julia was us, and us couldn&rsquo;t be black&mdash;whatever that signified. I walked up to her and put my hand on her shoulder. I tried to console her, &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t worry. You&rsquo;re not black. You&rsquo;re just made of chocolate.&rdquo; Julia immediately exploded with laughter, so hard that she fell off the couch.</p><p>I wouldn&rsquo;t understand what it meant to be different until I went off to elementary school and saw that no one else looked like her, where the other kids asked me about my Asian last name. It wasn&rsquo;t until I made a drawing of my Native American ancestors as an assignment for Diversity Day, while everyone else created cute cartoon leprechauns and pieces of pizza, and they looked at me as if I drew an alien. It wasn&rsquo;t until I asked my stepsister if she would marry someone &ldquo;who didn&rsquo;t look like she did.&rdquo; She responded: &ldquo;You mean a black person? No, that&rsquo;s disgusting.&rdquo;</p><p>I was ten and my stepsister was eight. We were at my father&rsquo;s wedding to his second wife, her mother, and I told her we couldn&rsquo;t be friends anymore and refused to speak to her for the rest of the reception. When my father found out, he took me outside and scolded me. Trying to be a good husband and keep the party going, my father promised me punishment when I got home. In the meantime, he told me to stop being rude and enjoy myself. He kissed me on the forehead and told me he loved me. This was for my own good.</p><p>My parents taught me what gay people were. Before he divorced my mother, I remember watching a Richard Simmons video at home with my father and Julia. Julia loved Richard Simmons and so did I&mdash;for his loud costumes, wild hair and the way the screen lit up when he was on camera. Simmons didn&rsquo;t look like most other people I saw on TV, and his voice was unbearably shrill, but I liked that. It was how my prepubescent, pre-queer voice sounded. I thought he meant I could be myself. Instead, my father made us change the channel, because he didn&rsquo;t want to watch <em>that</em>. I asked him what &quot;that&quot; was. I wanted know why I wasn&rsquo;t allowed to sweat to the oldies. I felt like Lucy Ricardo, kept from the one thing I really wanted for reasons that weren&rsquo;t clear. Why couldn&rsquo;t I be in the show? He wouldn&#39;t say.</p><p>The next time I saw Richard Simmons on TV, I changed the channel myself.</p><p>A few years later, I was driving down the road with my mother after we went to get a soda at the store. I bought a Sprite because it had the most bubbles, and I liked the way they tickled my nose when they reached the surface. I put it between my legs so I could put my hands out the rolled-down window, trying to grab the summer air. We were listening to Elton John, as he pined in space for a home he could never return to. Elton John was my mother&rsquo;s favorite, and she loved him dearly. She sometimes would sway with him in the dark as she got used to a life without my father. Elton was her candle in the divorce. However, she told me that if she I found out I was &ldquo;like <em>that</em>,&rdquo; she would &ldquo;lock me in a closet and beat me.&rdquo; I got it now.</p><p>I accidentally squeezed the Sprite between my legs, and the bubbles burst everywhere. They didn&rsquo;t tickle this time. They were cold.</p><p>I brought this incident up to my mother almost a decade afterward, because it was a formative memory from my childhood. When I grew older and my queerness became apparent, my mother became an ally and, more importantly, someone I could talk to, and she doesn&rsquo;t remember a time when she was not supportive or wasn&rsquo;t by my side, fighting with me. But I remember things differently. I remember when I was nine and having a hard time relating to the other kids around me, not as athletic and coordinated as the other boys or socially adept enough to hang out with the girls. I felt like I would never be accepted or have someone to love me for who I was.</p><p>When I asked her if she would be my friend, my mother admitted that if she were my age, she wouldn&rsquo;t be. She didn&#39;t hang out with kids like me back when she was in school.</p><p>She probably thought she was being helpful by being honest. She was being a good mother, sparing me years of pain by encouraging me to just fit in and keep my difference to myself. I needed to be like other boys&mdash;or I would always be picked on for being too short and too much of a &quot;sissy.&quot; I would always be the kid whose backpack was thrown in the garbage can and the one nobody would sit next to on the bus. I was destined to be alone. Adolesence is much easier when you drift along with the current and stop fighting the waves. It&rsquo;s a lot like drowning.</p><p>You don&rsquo;t hate by accident. You have to be taught to hate&mdash;in little ways that are reinforced every day, ways you might not even recognize. In my case, hating yourself takes a lifetime. It involves the help of many people around you. It takes standing in church and watching everyone talk to a God they think hates you, listening to a bunch of people silently pray that you will pay for being different, because they think it&rsquo;s the right thing to do. They think they are doing what God wants. I remember the nice ladies in church who hugged me when I was in the closet and hugged me differently after I came out, when I kept going to the same Baptist congregation, daring them not to accept me. They hugged me harder because they didn&rsquo;t want to let go of something. They just weren&rsquo;t sure of what.</p><p>No one thinks of themselves as a bigot. They don&rsquo;t look in the mirror and say, &ldquo;I hate gay people. I am a homophobe.&rdquo; Those women didn&rsquo;t hate me. They loved me so much that they didn&rsquo;t want me to stay the way I was. They didn&rsquo;t want me to experience an eternity of damnation. They wanted to save me, just like my mother did. My mother didn&rsquo;t want me to come home crying or have to stay up late with me because I was too scared to go to school the next day. She didn&rsquo;t want the world to break my heart at such a young age, and it was too hard to ask everyone around me to change. So she asked me to change and broke my heart her own way. I was the one being punished again for not understanding what being different meant.</p><p>I thought about this some months ago when I read a tweet from &ldquo;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/morgonfreeman">Morgon Freeman</a>,&rdquo; a fake Twitter account that facetiously bills itself as &quot;messages from God&quot;&mdash;or Black Hollywood God. In the tweet, Freeman <a href="https://twitter.com/MorgonFreeman/status/236212081978929152">wrote</a>, &ldquo;I hate the word homophobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.&rdquo; Were those nice ladies from church assholes? Was my mother being an asshole? Is my father still an asshole? My father and I haven&rsquo;t had a real conversation in years, not just because I&rsquo;m queer but because there&rsquo;s something about me he fundamentally can&rsquo;t relate to.</p><p>When I took Eric, my brother from my father&rsquo;s second marriage, to see <em>Life of Pi</em>, my father made a strangely big deal about it, but in a mock-genial manner. He told us it was a &ldquo;girl movie,&rdquo; and we should go see something else instead. How about the <em>Red Dawn</em> remake?</p><p>My father hadn&rsquo;t seen <em>Life of Pi</em>. He didn&rsquo;t even know what it was about. His problem wasn&rsquo;t with the movie. He couldn&rsquo;t articulate what his problem was, the problem he can never talk about, the one we&rsquo;ve never talked about. He was scared that I&rsquo;m growing up to be different than he is and that I&rsquo;m going to have a life he doesn&rsquo;t understand. He thinks he&rsquo;s going to get left behind. It&rsquo;s the same look I saw in his eyes when I was a kid and wanted to play with Barbies or asked to try on a dress. It&rsquo;s the same look I saw when I told him I was going to art school. It&rsquo;s the same look I saw when I eventually told him that the family I create wouldn&rsquo;t look like his.</p><p>He already lost two sons. He was afraid of losing another.</p><p>I thought about my father when I read Ta-Nehisi Coates&rsquo; piece on Thursday in the <em>New York Times</em>, which discussed the recent frisking of Forest Whitaker in a New York deli. This incident was yet another example of daily aggressions and microaggressions, not the capital-R racism that we&rsquo;re constantly told is a relic of the past but the smaller racisms that go ignored, the ones that thrive in the margins. It&#39;s about the racism that&#39;s so ingrained we don&#39;t notice, the racism of &quot;nice&quot; people. Coates writes,</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist&hellip;The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion&hellip;But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>We do this with homophobia. We believe homophobia to be the exclusive territory of diehards, the people who wave signs that &ldquo;God Hates Fags&rdquo; or broadcast their revulsion through a microphone outside Old Navy on State Street. We label them as &ldquo;crazy&rdquo; and quickly look away.</p><p>However, bigotry isn&rsquo;t so easily identifiable. It doesn&rsquo;t always wave signs or march on your funeral or spit in your face at a Pride parade. Bigotry might be your grandfather who turns away slightly when you hug your boyfriend or your grandmother who asks you&#39;re bringing your &ldquo;friend&rdquo; to Christmas. It might be your mother who gave life to you but doesn&rsquo;t know how to deal with this other thing inside you, who fights herself to love you better. It might live in your own heart, tucked away in one of the rooms you never go into, a room you might not know is there. It might shine in that ersatz smile you show to the trans* and queer youth of color that walk down your street, the ones you push past and learn to politely ignore when you get that late-night cocktail at Minibar. It might be the neighborhood you want to keep &quot;nice.&quot;</p><p>When I reflect on 2011&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nico-lang/when-in-boystown_b_1457969.html">Take Back Boystown</a> meetings and the people who told our youths they don&#39;t belong<em> here</em>, I don&rsquo;t think about bad people. I think about people who fear losing something. I think about my father. I think we&rsquo;re all not as different as we imagine.</p><p>A great filmmaker I know once interviewed Rev. Fred Phelps for a documentary. This is how I remember her story. She told me that when she turned the camera on, Phelps spewed the conservative religious dogma he is famous for, performing the intolerance we expect of him. However, after the film stopped rolling, Rev. Fred Phelps became a different person. He offered her a glass of water, because it was a hot day and he worried she wasn&rsquo;t properly hydrated. Phelps and his wife doted on her. They cooked for her. She met members of their family. She shook their hands. She sat on their couch and talked with them.</p><p>When she said goodbye and took her crew with her, they embraced her, hugging her differently than she expected. They hugged her like they didn&rsquo;t want to let go. She told me they were the nicest people she&rsquo;s ever met.</p><p><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 08 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/good-bigoted-people-105967 RedEye article sparks discussion about media racism http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/redeye-article-sparks-discussion-about-media-racism-105929 <p><div class="image-insert-image ">On days where the wintry weather overtakes Chicago and you can barely see outside of your window, I&rsquo;m oddly reminded of the 2000 kids&rsquo; movie <em>Snow Day</em>. According to the logic of the film, snow days change things; they re-write the rules. When the snow began to hit in the wee hours of the morning, I poured myself a glass of wine, listened to the new David Bowie and re-posted a photo of the <em>RedEye</em> to Facebook before bedtime. All in all an average night, right?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But I forgot the movie&rsquo;s lesson: anything can happen on a snow day.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">When I woke up Tuesday morning, that photo had been shared from my personal page over 2,500 times and another 600 from the author&rsquo;s page. I figured that a couple friends of mine would comment on it, and we would privately lament the state of media racism in this country, before we move on to eat sandwiches and poop (not at the same time). I&rsquo;ve become so desensitized to racism that I no longer am surprised when things like this happen, because they&rsquo;re such a common occurrence. We want to be newly incensed every time Victoria Jackson says something stupid or people have racist reactions to chips, but at a certain point, these things become the expected norm, yet another dick in the wall</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">On the evening in question, racism just made me sleepy. Call it <a href="http://jezebel.com/5987118/sexism-fatigue-when-seth-macfarlane-is-a-complete-ass-and-you-dont-even-notice">racism fatigue</a>.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">However, the photo going viral Tuesday reminded me how much we need this dialogue, how much we need to be reminded that these issues are worth engaging and that we have a responsibility to spread awareness. It reminded me of my own privilege in being able to shut the computer on racism and ignore it if I want to. I can plug my ears and say la-la-la if I want to, because (as a non-POC) structural racism benefits me. On an unseasonably cold March morning, it was the ultimate alarm call. The best part of waking up is racism in your cup.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For those unfamiliar, Westgard&rsquo;s photo breaks down the amount of coverage allotted to crime in Chicago, where the shooting of a woman in Rogers Park gets 10 times the word count of four people killed in the Back of the Yards, Englewood, Gage Park and New City. The <em>RedEye</em> piece is a abridged version of Adam Sege&rsquo;s original <em>Chicago Tribune</em> <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-03-03/news/chi-overnight-crime-20130303_1_yards-neighborhood-englewood-neighborhood-people-shot">article</a>, which goes further into the incidents in the latter four neighborhoods. It&rsquo;s problematic that Sege had to lead with the woman in the Northside neighborhood, burying the others at the back of the article. But at least it&rsquo;s more equitable. That&#39;s better, <em>n&#39;est-ce pas?</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Spoiler: <em>Non. </em></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/redeye.jpg" style="height: 536px; width: 400px;" title="(Source: Thomas Westgard) Breakdown of racial bias in Red Eye coverage" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Is it sad that I could even think about &ldquo;defending&rdquo; the <em>Tribune</em> for devoting 50 percent of their content to one North Side woman and the other 50 percent to folks in &ldquo;black&rdquo; neighborhoods? Is it sad that we can so easily overlook the fact that the <em>RedEye</em> truncated coverage of everyone not in Rogers Park, deciding that mention of them was all but expendable? Yes, but that&rsquo;s what it&rsquo;s come to these days. It&#39;s sad that this is the reality. You can comforting yourself by saying, &ldquo;Well, at least the <em>RedEye</em> didn&rsquo;t leave out the South and West Side stories <em>entirely</em>. Those folks got a whole paragraph, 23 words of shiny, abridged, motherf*cking inclusion. Where&rsquo;s my wine? Let&rsquo;s get drunk.&rdquo; Welcome to the fatigue.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In Westgard&rsquo;s breakdown of the article, he labels Rogers Park as being a &ldquo;white&rdquo; neighborhood, which (to an extent) it is. Statistics show that the neighborhood has a larger white population than any other demographic, but Rogers Park boasts Black and Latino statistics that nearly match it, with respective counts of 26.3% and 24.43%. If you&rsquo;ve ever been to West Rogers Park, you know that the neighborhood is famous for its thriving South Asian scene, with bustling Indian and Pakistani restaurants up and down Devon. You can&rsquo;t go anywhere without tripping over great South Asian cuisine.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">I live in a building that&rsquo;s half-immigrant and half-white&mdash;with Rogers Park&rsquo;s student population blending with its first- and second-generation residents, populations that overlap just as often as they don&rsquo;t. But despite this fact, Rogers Park is perceived to be white, with Loyola University getting most of the credit for generating the neighborhood&rsquo;s energy. Additionally, Rogers Park gets lumped in with the rest of the North Side (often called the &quot;White Side&quot;). Despite enjoying the diversity of everything from Uptown and Buena Park to Andersonville and Albany Park, we stereotype the North Side as a homogeneous Caucasian fantasia, as if Lakeview were the only neighborhood. Even if it&rsquo;s not the reality, the specter of Wrigley takes over the North. We get whitewashed.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Because of the North Side&rsquo;s perceived white centrality, we get the coverage that the South and West Sides do not. Last year, I wrote an article on my experiences living in Chicago, an ode to everything I love about the city after calling it home for almost a decade. The piece was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nico-lang/40-reasons-i-love-being-a_b_1523254.html">called</a> &ldquo;40 Reasons I Love Being a Chicagoan,&rdquo; and it included everything from Big Chicks to Costello&rsquo;s, whose Mess Sandwich I would eat every day if my heart would allow it. I wrote it from my limited view as a North Side resident, where I&rsquo;ve lived every year of my residency here.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">A number of respondents accused me of &quot;Northsider Bias,&quot; charging that I left out perspectives that were reflective of a larger cultural population. I was furthering the stereotype that Chicago only happens on the North Side. Where was Bronzeville? What about Pilsen? Why didn&rsquo;t I mention Bridgeport? At first, I was taken aback by the accusation&mdash;but then I realized they were right. I&#39;d been to the South Side a handful of times, and it was a faint blip on my cultural radar. This is a common reality in Chicago, where you can barely find a train to take you anywhere past Roosevelt. For Northsiders, it can be difficult to get outside of your niche experience or learn to think about Chicago differently. You get trapped in your own reality.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">This ideological infrastructure permeates the ways in which we talk about Chicago and how we live our lives here. When realtors and property agents signify &ldquo;good neighborhoods,&rdquo; they aren&rsquo;t talking about Back of the Yards or Englewood. They wouldn&rsquo;t even show you a property in Englewood. They mean Roscoe Village. When they talk about neighborhoods that are &ldquo;up and coming&rdquo; or &ldquo;on the rise,&rdquo; they mean Uptown. In Rogers Park, Loyola has been buying up a great deal of the property in the area. They now own our building. It might not be a &ldquo;white neighborhood&rdquo; currently, but it&rsquo;s slowly getting there. Baby steps.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As a representation of a city that&rsquo;s heavily segregated, the <em>RedEye</em> article reflects larger issues of racial inclusion in our city, ones that are so pervasive that they are nearly invisible. It&rsquo;s a symbol of a media industry that&rsquo;s equally structurally classist and racist as the city, driven by economic incentives to reach a majoritarian audience of white consumers. The reason I barely blinked at the <em>RedEye</em> article is that coverage like this is so commonplace. It even has a name: &ldquo;<a href="http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2010/07/missing_white_woman_syndrome.php">Missing White Woman Syndrome</a>.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Can you name any non-white woman who has gone missing and gotten major press coverage? Rosie Perez doesn&#39;t count, so me neither. <a href="http://reason.com/archives/2012/06/25/when-it-comes-to-crime-black-and-hispani"><em>Reason</em></a> magazine gives us two telling examples of this:</div><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Remember&nbsp;Laci&nbsp;Peterson, who disappeared on Christmas Eve, 2002? Her case received saturation coverage in the U.S., and widespread coverage elsewhere. You could follow it in the Taipei Times if you cared to. By contrast, Evelyn Hernandez &ndash; like Peterson, very pregnant at the time of her disappearance &ndash; went missing seven months before Peterson did. Her torso was later found in the San Francisco Bay. The case got a few mentions here and there, but was largely ignored.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Last summer a jury acquitted Casey Anthony of murdering her daughter,&nbsp;Caylee, in 2008. You remember. Her trial received seemingly nonstop attention across the nation. But as Alexander points out, just about nobody has ever heard of&nbsp;Aja&nbsp;Fogle,&nbsp;N&rsquo;Kiah&nbsp;Fogle,&nbsp;Tatianna&nbsp;Jacks, or Brittany Jacks. Like&nbsp;Caylee&nbsp;Anthony, those girls &ndash; ages 5, 6, 11, and 16 &ndash; were murdered in 2008. Their mother was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 120 years in prison.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>The more you read the news, the more you realize that the axiom isn&rsquo;t <em>if it bleeds, it leads</em>. The reality is that <em>if it bleeds white, it leads</em>. Such framing is meant reach the demographics that media outlets find more attractive as an audience; those with cultural and financial capital get the coverage, whereas less &quot;lucrative&quot; markets are otherized, left out or footnoted. (See: them urbans.)</p><p>Although the woman in the<em> RedEye</em> piece&rsquo;s race was never mentioned, ethnicity is often interpellated as white in news media&mdash;as whiteness has become our socioeconomic default setting. Observe any billboard, newspaper, advertisement or magazine. Turn on CBS, our most-watched network. The media is white people. We&rsquo;re looking at an industry <a href="http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2012/10/26/white-journalists-us/">where</a> &ldquo;white journalists write 93% of front pages in the U.S,&rdquo; and <a href="http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/diversity-at-work/101992/percentage-of-minorities-is-higher-than-last-time-newsrooms-were-this-size/">statistics</a> from 2011 show that just 13.26 percent of journalists overall are writers of color. Hell, I&rsquo;m white and in the media.<em> </em>I&rsquo;m part of the problem.<em> I am the man.</em></p><p>Written at the tail end of the Obama-Romney race, a write-up from <em><a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/10/25/huge_racial_disparities_in_political_journalism/">Salon</a> </em>further addresses this issue:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The percentage of [front page election] articles written by Asian American reporters is 3.3%, by African American reporters is 2.9%, and by Hispanic reporters is 0.7%. This under-representation of minorities reporting on the front page holds true across most media outlets for most ethnic groups. The Dallas Morning News stands out as an exception where 18.8% of their front page stories were written by African Americans. The most striking under-representation of minorities in our data is that of Hispanic journalists, considering the Hispanic population stands at approximately 16.3% of the U.S. population (according to the 2010 Census).&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Although I&rsquo;m happy to see the Internet take the <em>RedEye</em> to task over its exclusion of minorities in coverage, this criticism needs to be shared with an entire industry and city that continues to marginalize voices and perspectives of color. The <em>RedEye</em> is such a tiny fraction of the problem that I worry we&rsquo;re not seeing the forest for the racist trees, but I&rsquo;m heartened by the <em>RedEye</em>&rsquo;s timely response to the criticism.</p><p>In addition to reaching out to Westgard on Twitter, they released a mea culpa on social media within less than 24 hours of the meme going viral. They didn&rsquo;t even try to defend themselves or offer excuses for their gaffe. They simply apologized. It&rsquo;s an incredibly classy move, especially from an outlet often dismissed as tabloid journalism or &ldquo;fluff.&rdquo; This response is anything but. Here&rsquo;s what they <a href="http://redeyechicago.tumblr.com/post/44645507024/please-read">had to say</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The online conversation that&rsquo;s developing around this story is an important one. Thank you for the comments and feedback. This is incredibly important to us, especially as we set out to <a href="http://www.redeyechicago.com/chicagoviolence" target="_blank">shine a light on Chicago violence</a> this year. Conversations like these will continue to inform and improve our coverage. We hope you&rsquo;ll continue to join us in addressing these issues.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>We can shoot the messenger all we want, but as this statement shows, we must target the system along with them. By releasing this statement, the <em>RedEye </em>has recognized that this is a conversation we need to be having, whether we feel burned out on talking about privilege or our eyes are being opened for the first time by the simplicity of Westgard&rsquo;s graphic. In this photo, Westgard makes the allegedly invisible plain and clear. The visual brings the discourse to those who might not think critically about structural racism or take the time to check out <a href="http://www.racialicious.com"><em>Racialicious</em></a> or <em><a href="http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/">Crunk Feminist Collective</a></em>, where these discourses take place every day.</p><p>We need to keep in mind that making the <em>RedEye</em> apologize won&rsquo;t solve racism and remember to take accountability for raising awareness and shining a light on racism&mdash;with whatever tools we have available. Racism isn&#39;t just the<em> RedEye</em>&#39;s problem. It&#39;s everyone&#39;s.</p><p><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can follow Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or the <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Mar 2013 01:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-03/redeye-article-sparks-discussion-about-media-racism-105929 Warning: Lay’s potato chip contest may contain racism http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/warning-lay%E2%80%99s-potato-chip-contest-may-contain-racism-105624 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Lays.jpg" title="" /></div></div></div></div></div><p>The saying goes that you&#39;re never supposed to talk about politics or religion in polite conversation or mixed company, because they are topics that inherently cause conflict. I would like to humbly add one more to that mix: race.</p><p>If you needed convincing, I spoke this weekend with a source inside the Lay&rsquo;s Potato Chip contest, and he frustratedly told me that the campaign has been receiving surprisingly racist feedback. Titled &ldquo;Do Me a Flavor,&rdquo; the contest will award a quarter of a million dollars to the creator of the winning chip, and the three competing flavors are Cheesy Garlic Bread, Sriracha and Chicken and Waffles. Full disclosure: I&rsquo;ve been rooting for the latter flavor since the moment it was announced. As someone with a lot of family from the South, I was thrilled at the idea of Southern cultural specificity being spread to the American public. It was time for America&rsquo;s palate to be challenged by down home goodness. Chicken and Waffles had finally arrived.</p><p>However, angry commenters are complaining about that exact out-of-the-boxness. This was to be expected. You don&rsquo;t introduce Chicken and Waffles to Middle America without expecting them to be a little confused. Almost <em>all</em> of the angry comments on the Lay&rsquo;s Facebook page are about the Chicken and Waffles flavor, which customers have described as &ldquo;nasty&rdquo; and &ldquo;disgusting.&rdquo; One person remarked it made them throw up, and another quipped that they wouldn&rsquo;t eat another on a dare. Because you can only have so many smart comebacks at a chip company, one commenter summed up the rage with a Charlton Heston impression: &ldquo;WHHHHYY?&rdquo;</p><p>But this part isn&rsquo;t what my friend was talking about. The Lay&#39;s Facebook page has been bombarded with alarming comments about its chip flavors, most of which have been removed, as the page is heavily moderated. However, a few telling comments remain&mdash;with one person writing that the only reason the Chicken and Waffles chips were included was because of &ldquo;political correctness,&rdquo; and another stating that the chips are only for &ldquo;crack heads.&rdquo;</p><p>For those who haven&#39;t put racism and racism together, I&rsquo;m going to put that into my Racist Translation Robot and see what pops out. Dearest M4MM1, what say you?</p><p><em>Input: </em>[Whining about being PC] + [equating Chicken and Waffles customers to crackheads] = ?</p><p><em>M4MM1:</em> &quot;Black people, Dave. They&rsquo;re talking about black people.&quot;</p><p>But luckily for me, Lay&rsquo;s doesn&rsquo;t control Twitter, where people are more open about their bigotry and don&rsquo;t have to use thinly veiled code. This is a place where stupidity is perfectly preserved in time like Han Solo or Joan Rivers&rsquo; face.</p><p>Here, we get a more voluptuous picture of the undertones of the Chicken and Waffles backlash. On the overtly awful side of things, Zack Dannii of Deltona, FL implores us to &ldquo;celebrate black history month with some chicken and waffles.&rdquo; Another kerfuffle involves folks getting into an argument about whether or not Chicken and Waffles constitutes &ldquo;n***er food.&rdquo; On the subject, @tmbbandie01 broadens our racist horizons: &ldquo;A black person likes chicken and waffles? What&rsquo;s next, Asians liking rice? Or Mexicans liking tacos?&rdquo;</p><p>The logical fallacy of Internet journalism is to assume that when a couple of people on Twitter say something racist, the world is ending. This is why Reddit freaks out when people tweet Islamophobic things after <em>Zero Dark Thirty</em>, and we spend a great deal of time obsessing about what people think about Rue&#39;s race in <em>The Hunger Games</em>. It&rsquo;s a way of preaching to the already converted. It allows us to get mad at people we will never meet and have our differences out on Twitter, engaging in dialogues about race that can go away when you and some 40-year-old dude in Scranton get too mad to keep arguing and he has to get off the interwebs because his mom says it&rsquo;s lights out or you&#39;re cutting into his masturbation schedule with all of your thinking.</p><p>I&#39;m not saying you shouldn&#39;t get upset about racism on the Internet. You should get angry about all racism and want to transform into a Hulk who smashes social injustice. But to do so, you have to look at the bigger picture.</p><p>The larger problem is the persistent negative racialization of food in our society, which a 2012 <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGeMy-6hnr0">man-on-the-street video</a> filmed at Brigham Young University further indicated. White BYU students were asked how they planned on honoring Black History Month, one couple quipped that they were going to go purchase &ldquo;grape drank,&rdquo; probably not realizing that video will last forever. Their grandchildren will be so proud to see Pops doing racial impressions on the Internet of the future.</p><p>Comedian Wanda Sykes once commented on this in one of her <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EK2iPGy1vYs">sketches</a>. Sykes jokes that there are some things that black people are afraid to do around white people, which include eating fried chicken or watermelon. When she eats food racialized as black, Sykes feels like she&rsquo;s playing into a stereotype and &ldquo;setting her people back.&rdquo; She wants to be a &quot;dignified black person,&quot; and eating watermelon makes her feel like white people are watching her. She&rsquo;s probably right. When Obama recently dined at Roscoe&rsquo;s Chicken and Waffles, a <a href="http://globalgrind.com/news/barack-obama-Hollywood-fundraiser-gets-his-grub-roscoes-chicken-and-waffles-photos">great deal of attention</a> was given to the fact that he ate fried chicken, despite the fact that Reagan and Nixon were regulars at the iconic restaurant without anyone ever making a fuss.</p><p>Despite the fact that neither <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/20130213lays-chips-flavor-contest-phoenix-woman.html">the creator</a> of the Chicken and Waffles chip nor it&#39;s intended consumer base are black, many Twitter users are facepalming over the Chicken and Waffles chips existing at all. User @ElyasTweets writes that a &ldquo;black guy can&rsquo;t buy the new Chicken and Waffles flavor of Lays and still preserve his dignity,&rdquo; and @raymundrocket threatens: &ldquo;If you&#39;re black and I see you eating a bag of chicken and waffles Lays, I&#39;ma Mutumbo those sh*ts outta your hand.&rdquo; In response, @I_GO_BY_TY reminds us: &ldquo;Where I was raised, chicken and waffles isn&#39;t a black thing, it&#39;s a southern thing. So why are people embarrassed by a chip? Get it together.&rdquo;</p><p>Because of all the haterade being poured on Chicken and Waffles, early data on the Facebook page indicates they are being trounced in the standings&mdash;with the Cheesy Garlic Bread flavor ahead by a comfortable margin. Interestingly, the Garlic Bread flavor is the only one that&rsquo;s being racialized as white, since Sriracha hot sauce originates from American interpretations of Thai cuisine. The <em>New York Times</em> describes Sriracha as a &quot;polyglot puree,&quot; an interesting metaphor for our American culture of food. As a culture, we are what we eat, which is why it&#39;s important to talk about it. Food is identity.&nbsp;</p><p>But because the Internet is the best place, contest respondents have been complaining that it&rsquo;s too hard to spell. This reminds me of when my friend Samidha was told by peers in her student government class that her name was &quot;too hard to say.&quot; They insisted on just calling her &quot;Sam.&quot; It&#39;s not racism in the twisty mustache, cackle-in-your-face way, but the subtle kind, like &quot;flesh-colored&quot; bandaids or your grandma who constantly praises Morgan Freeman for being &quot;so well-spoken.&quot;</p><p>Of the three options, Cheesy Garlic Bread is by far the safest pick because it banks on an easily digestible culinary in-group: Italian food. Although Italians used to be racialized as non-white in America, they became part of the Caucasian mix over time, and Italian food gained the privilege of being accepted as &quot;white people food.&quot; Italian food tends not to upset people because despite its ethnic specificity, it banks on the presumed whiteness in our culture, where white is the default setting for consumption. When we deviate from the white norm, that&#39;s where we see backlash.</p><p>Based on a recognizable staple of Italian cuisine, the Cheesy Garlic Bread chips resemble a lot of the brands they already have on the market, flavors that rely on reaching the widest consumer base possible by not pushing anyone&rsquo;s cultural buttons. There&rsquo;s nothing about Sour Cream and Onion or Sea Salt and Vinegar that&rsquo;s going to provoke your palate or make anyone question what they&rsquo;re eating. Barbecue chips won&rsquo;t make anyone consider the politics behind them.</p><p>Congratulations, Cheesy Garlic Bread. You might just be harmless enough to win. Welcome to the world, baby girl.</p><p><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. Follow Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or find Nico on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 Feb 2013 00:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/warning-lay%E2%80%99s-potato-chip-contest-may-contain-racism-105624 Do the Grammys have a race problem? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/do-grammys-have-race-problem-105501 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/613f2ba412492a05290f6a7067008fd6.jpg" style="width: 350px; height: 226px; float: right;" title="(Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)" />If you ever want to win your Grammy pool, there&rsquo;s a great rule of thumb for striking gold. To predict the winner in any category on &ldquo;music&rsquo;s biggest night,&rdquo; choose the whitest act. This shortcut would have easily predicted previous winners in the Best Album category like the Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift and Norah Jones. It even helps explain how Herbie Hancock shocked the recording industry by winning Album of the Year in 2008. The influential pianist, composer, bandleader and jazz icon was rewarded for covering some of Joni Mitchell&rsquo;s most beloved songs, as his album paid tribute to her work. He wasn&rsquo;t white, but what&rsquo;s whiter than Joni Mitchell?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>River: The Joni Letters also </em>featured collaborations with Norah Jones and Leonard Cohen, similar to 2005&rsquo;s much-lauded <em>Genius Loves Company</em>. Ray Charles finally hit Grammy pay dirt by making a duets album that featured Jones, Diana Krall, James Taylor, Van Morrison and Michael McDonald, all of whom are exceedingly Grammy friendly. A soul legend got Grammys for hanging out with white folks.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">On Grammy night, a lot of people both expected and wanted Frank Ocean to walk away with arms full of Grammys&mdash;like Adele and Norah Jones. In addition to creating what is widely regarded as the best album of 2012 (and a soon-to-be contender for record of the decade), Ocean was a media darling last year. Frank Ocean&rsquo;s very public coming out was a landmark moment in a music industry unreceptive to change, and the critical and commercial success of <em>Channel Orange </em>proved that he was a music force to be reckoned with. Not only is Ocean our first successful queer rapper or R&amp;B performer, he&rsquo;s an icon to millions of people who know they don&rsquo;t have to sacrifice their identity for fame.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">If this were the Oscars&mdash;where winning is all about running a great campaign and it being &ldquo;your year&rdquo;&mdash;Ocean would have had that on lock. Ben Affleck and <em>Argo</em> are about to win for the same reason that&nbsp;Helen Mirren won for <em>The Queen</em> and Kate Winslet finally got her Oscar for <em>The Reader</em>. It was considered their time.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But that&rsquo;s not how the Grammys work. Other than Adele, who was a media force to be reckoned with at last year&rsquo;s Grammys, there was nothing &ldquo;of the moment&rdquo; or inevitable about wins for Kings of Leon or Lady Antebellum. In the case of the latter, it was one of the least acclaimed songs in the category and arguably the least successful. The &ldquo;it&rsquo;s time&rdquo; win would have gone to Eminem, whose &ldquo;Love the Way You Lie&rdquo; was a huge smash on an acclaimed album. When Robert Plant and Allison Krauss won Record of the Year in 2009, they won for the only song in the category that wasn&rsquo;t a hit. Robert Plant hasn&#39;t been relevant for decaides, and Krauss is the winning-est woman in Grammy history. She hardly needed the award.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Although U2&rsquo;s 2001 win in the same category for &ldquo;Beautiful Day&rdquo; is understandable, as it was a critical and commercial hit, their repeat win the following year for &ldquo;Walk On&rdquo; makes no sense. The tune never reached the Hot 100 and was nominated against both Alicia Keys&rsquo; &ldquo;Fallin&rsquo;&rdquo; and Outkast&rsquo;s &ldquo;Ms. Jackson.&rdquo; The latter tune won that year&rsquo;s Pazz and Jop poll, the most prestigious music critics&rsquo; list in the country, and the former was the second-biggest song of the year. Both of these tunes had that magic combination of critical praise and deafening popularity and would go onto become classics. Even a lot of diehard U2 fans forget &ldquo;Walk On&rdquo; was a thing. Great band, meh song.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Grammys doubled down on the race criticism this year by not nominating that many people of color in the major categories at all. Frank Ocean and Miguel got nods in the major categories, but the rest of the nominations went to traditional Grammy fare like The Black Keys, Mumford and Sons, fun., Kelly Clarkson, and Taylor Swift, none of which would offend your grandmother.&nbsp; Janelle Monae got a nod for being in two seconds of &quot;We Are Young.&quot; Such are the Grammys way.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Team Frank Ocean expected the overcrowding of whiteness to make way for his win, as the white people might cancel each other out. However, when wins for fun. and Gotye were called out, I wasn&rsquo;t surprised. Both songs were extraordinarily popular on top of being good, and Gotye might never be up there again, as that song&rsquo;s hyper-success was a miracle to begin with. This would be their only chance to honor him.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">But Mumford and Sons&rsquo; win was the clincher for me that the Grammys have a problem they need to kick. The Grammys are addicted to white people.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">To put it in context, Mumford and Sons got Album of the Year for <em>Babel</em>, the follow-up to their acclaimed <em>Sigh No More</em>. <em>Sigh No More </em>was one of the biggest albums of last year, and if not for Adele winning, it would have been a shoo-in for an award. But the band&rsquo;s sophomore record was largely seen as a disappointment and garnered none of the original&rsquo;s genre-reigniting buzz. Mumford and Sons knew a lot of people loved <em>Sigh No More</em>, so they gave them that record again. It was a shrewd move and hardly worth placing into the history books.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Unless you place the album&rsquo;s win in the context of race, their win makes no sense. Although the album was the fourth-biggest of the year, it sold far fewer copies than its predecessor and was the second worst-reviewed release in the category. Fun.&rsquo;s <em>Some Nights</em> wasn&rsquo;t as well-received (by a slight margin), but it spawned two huge singles off the record, whereas &ldquo;I Will Wait&rdquo; struggled to gain a foothold on the radio. <em>Channel Orange</em> and <em>El Camino</em> both were commercially successful, while spawning moderate hits. I could go on, but it&rsquo;s just shooting fish in a racist barrel.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Before the internet gets upset that I dared to call the nation&rsquo;s highest music honor racist, I&rsquo;m not the first one to suggest that the Grammys have some <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michal-shapiro/are-the-grammys-racist_b_890775.html">huge issues</a> in reflecting the <a href="http://www.policymic.com/articles/25763/are-the-grammys-racist-in-short-yes">eclectic nature</a> of our era. The Grammys&rsquo; race problems are indicative of an awards show that&rsquo;s increasingly out of touch with the industry it caters to, one that looks at the evolving times and reacts by retreating further into its shell. It wasn&rsquo;t always this way. The 70s saw<em> three </em>Album of the Year wins for Stevie Wonder, and the category honored Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill in the 90s.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Contrast that with today, where the last time non-white people won Album of the Year (without assists from a bunch of white people) is 2004, when Outkast won&mdash;while being snubbed for both Song and Record for the year&rsquo;s most beloved song. (Remember what a big deal &ldquo;Hey Ya!&rdquo; was? 2004 was a fun year.) Instead, those awards went to Coldplay for &ldquo;Clocks&rdquo; and Luther Vandross and Richard Marx for &ldquo;Dance with My Father.&rdquo; Once again, it&rsquo;s a lot easier to give black people (Vandross) things when white people (Marx) get to share the glory. It&rsquo;s like <em>The Help</em>, but for music.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Quick quiz: Do you know how many rap or hip-hop artists have ever won Song or Record of the Year at the Grammys? None, in the history of the show.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The bigger issue is that while the problem continues to intensify, nothing ever changes and the show continues to dodge accountability. No matter how often the Grammys get called out for being color challenged, they refuse to rectify the problem&mdash;or admit they even have one. While ostensibly celebrating the music industry, they continue to laud what is safe, palatable and white&mdash;letting Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, Miguel and Wiz Khalifa peform, to make people of color feel &ldquo;included&rdquo; in the show. Too bad that a lot of their categories get left off the air or cut for being too &quot;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michal-shapiro/are-the-grammys-racist_b_890775.html">ethnic</a>.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">At the Grammys, it&rsquo;s not enough to have faces of color onscreen&mdash;and let them accept the smaller category awards off. The problem is bigger than Frank Ocean. It&rsquo;s bigger than Alicia Keys or Nas or Kendrick Lamar or the other black voices that go home unrewarded every year. We have to let them win every once in a while, or the music industry&rsquo;s will continue to give America a show no one wants. Instead of celebrating whiteness, we have to start celebrating change.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Need somone to pine over Frank Ocean with? Follow Nico on Twitter @<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang">Nico_Lang</a> or <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang">Facebook</a>. </em><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org.</em></div></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/do-grammys-have-race-problem-105501 No, we don't need a white history month http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/no-we-dont-need-white-history-month-105434 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ChrisOMeara.jpg" style="width: 435px; height: 290px;" title="Victoria Jackson (Chris O'Meara/AP)" /></div><p>If you were to live on the internet, you would think the world is the worst place. A few weeks ago, SNL star and current conservative court jester <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/online/conservative-former-snl-star-victoria-jackson-deletes-white-history-month-article/">Victoria Jackson</a> added to the world wide web&rsquo;s daily quotient of stupidity by lamenting the fall of the white man in America&mdash;now that the brown people and commies are taking over. (I&rsquo;m not kidding; she actually says that.) Her claim is that we don&rsquo;t thank white people enough for their contributions to society (has she not watched CBS?)&mdash;and to rectify it, we should have a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/victoria-jackson-snl-white-history-month_n_2599938.html">White History Month</a>. Let&#39;s take a moment for a collective facepalm, shall we?</p><p>Although the original post has been taken down, here&rsquo;s a choice excerpt. This is not to be read by those prone to racial tension headaches or expectant liberal mothers:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;Just for the record, white men invented rockets, space travel, airplanes, the automobile, the English language, the U.S.A., most medical advances, electricity, television, telescope, microscope, Ivy League Universities, the computer, the Internet, and on and on. I think white men should be praised and respected. White Christian Conservative Men especially, should be loved and adored. They were the backbone and originators of the greatest nation on earth. We need more of them now.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s easy to dismiss Jackson as just a bigoted yokel and a radical in her own conservative ideology. As a media, we tend to focus narrowly on the mustache-twirling outliers, like spotlighting the people who said horribly racist things on Twitter about <a href="http://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/147053/">Obama</a> or <a href="http://mondoweiss.net/2013/01/reviews-thirty-muslims.html">Muslims</a> in <em>Zero Dark Thirty</em>, without showing how normative this thinking is. Jackson&rsquo;s not alone in lamenting the downfall of whiteness. Students at Maryland&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/11/white-student-union-towson-university_n_1958868.html">Towson University</a> tried to start a &ldquo;White Student Union,&rdquo; while fliers at <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/white-history-month-flier-mercer-university_n_1974736.html">Mercer University</a> advocated for not one but two months dedicated to white cultural awareness. As the flier <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/white-history-month-flier-mercer-university_n_1974736.html">argues</a>, &ldquo;There is too much white history to squeeze into one month.&rdquo;</p><p>For these students, a White History Month isn&rsquo;t just about race but about a society that they feel doesn&rsquo;t privilege their identities in the multicultural conversation. They feel left out, even on their own campuses:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;There are African American societies, black student organizations, and Indian heritage associations; however, there is not one white society of engineers, white student organization, or Caucasian heritage association. Why? Because if there are, various individuals will say this is racism.&rdquo;</p><p>We can see concern about the loss of privilege in the conversation about women&rsquo;s rights, where men feel that gender equality means the &ldquo;end of men,&rdquo; and that thinking is increasingly normative in our cultural conversation on race. Jason Kitchen of the <em>Huffington Post</em> provides a telling <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-kitchen/victoria-jackson_b_2619464.html">example</a>:</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;Two days before the presidential inauguration, Andy Borowitz, brilliant satirist for <em>The New Yorker</em>, published a piece entitled &lsquo;Fox News to Shut Down for Routine Maintenance Monday Morning at 11:30.&rsquo; Unfortunately, the seemingly obvious jab at the network&#39;s notoriously biased coverage was -- despite including quotes such as &lsquo;for the twelve hours Fox News is off the air on Monday the network will broadcast a continuous photomontage of white people&rsquo; -- misconstrued by some Fox enthusiasts as not only factual, but refreshingly novel.&rdquo;</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;People immediately took to Facebook to laud Fox for such a shrewd tactic, and then removed their comments upon the delayed realization that satire can be a cruel lesson. These are the same people who devour sentiments like Jackson&#39;s as sacred truths, and Jackson is but a blip on the radar among her ilk.&rdquo;</p><p>When I read about the GOP getting Jonathan Swift-ed, I posted on Facebook&mdash;in a fit of anger&mdash;that Republicans don&rsquo;t need a White History Month, feeling like everyone would agree with me. Most people were appalled that anyone would suggest such a thing, but one person spoke out by personally messaging me. This person&mdash;we&rsquo;ll call him Guyn Rand&mdash;argued my comments were racially divisive and spoke to the fact that he feels he doesn&rsquo;t have any outlets for his own identity in today&rsquo;s society. In his message, he said that he feels increasingly unwelcome in a modern America that&#39;s leaving guys like him behind. This is, of course, despite the fact that, as a Straight White Male, Guyn has the &ldquo;<a href="http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/">Lowest Difficulty Setting</a>&rdquo; in society. When SWMs start elementary school, clubs and organizations will cater to theur needs, make sure they get ahead and has all the opportunities they need to grow up big and strong. What else are the Boy Scouts for?</p><p>And for people like Guyn, every month is their month. To quote Tim Wise, they just have confusing names like March, April and May. They have holidays that celebrate their monogamous relationships, the Irish, veterans, the birth of the nation and whitewashing Native American genocide. (We even have <em>two</em> devoted to the <a href="http://www.kstrom.net/isk/books/adult/thanksgi.html">latter</a>, because America&#39;s a &quot;go big or go home&quot; kind of place.)</p><p>In all of these instances, the framing is predominantly white, heterosexual and male. Great White Men are the founders of our nation, the conquerors of the continent and even on Christmas, they dress up in jolly red suits and bring our presents. We have one nationally celebrated holiday for black remembrance&mdash;Martin Luther King Jr. Day (or MLK Day)&mdash;and neither Arizona nor DePaul bother to recognize it.</p><p>This shows just how engrained whites are into our nation&rsquo;s rituals and why it&#39;s bedlam for many to suggest otherwise we change the status quo and celebrate others.&nbsp; When we think of our sports heroes, we go to Joe Namath, Babe Ruth and Joe Dimaggio, just as our history books are dominated by our Lincolns, Jeffersons and Washingtons, rather than Crispus Attacks and Frederick Douglass, who are honored as footnotes. In the <em>Lincoln</em> movie, screenwriter Tony Kushner considered Douglass so unimportant to our popular history of abolition that he <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/therootdc/post/lincoln-where-was-frederick-douglass/2012/11/28/212a4e76-3978-11e2-a263-f0ebffed2f15_blog.html">left him out</a> together. Like in <em>The Help</em>, white people <a href="http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/01/artist_reimagines_the_help_poster_white_people_solve_racism.html">solve racism</a>, and black people get to thank them for it&mdash;to smile and nod while someone else gets <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/02/23/how_viola_davis_took_meryl_streeps_oscar/">their Oscar</a>.</p><p>Remember: it took white people to get <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/12/28/could_a_black_director_have_made_django/"><em>Django Unchained</em></a> and <em>Beasts of the Southern Wild</em> made. When we give credence to black filmmakers telling their own stories, it&rsquo;s either Tyler Perry or filmmakers emphasizing the <a href="http://theweek.com/article/index/102645/is-precious-racist">oppression</a> and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/21/movies/21precious.html?_r=0">suffering</a> of the community&mdash;like in 2009&rsquo;s <em>Precious</em>. (The much better <em>Pariah</em> didn&#39;t get nearly the attention, because it wasn&#39;t a sensationalized potboiler but an honest tale of triumph.) The idea of black people building up their own community (gasp!) is so foreign that efforts of community solidarity are often labeled as Affirmative Action or &ldquo;reverse racist&rdquo;&mdash;a charge often thrown at Black History Month.</p><p>A great example of this comes from a 2009 <em>Chicago Tribune</em> story, which profiles Maggie and John Anderson, a local black couple &ldquo;who just spent an entire year trying to contribute all of their money to black-owned businesses&rdquo; and &quot;buy black.&quot; In addition to being dismissed by black community members, who felt that black-owned businesses are inferior to the Caucasians, white business leaders <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-03-09/news/0903090094_1_john-anderson-black-african">cried racism</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Facing them at almost every turn was the insistence from some whites that the Andersons&#39; experiment was an exercise in racism, a charge they reject. They came up with the &lsquo;Empowerment Experiment&rsquo; to help solve persistent ills surrounding &lsquo;underserved communities&rsquo;&hellip;They note that African-Americans carry nearly $850 billion in spending power but that very little of that money circulates through those &lsquo;underserved&rsquo; communities. Most businesses in those neighborhoods are owned by people of other races who live elsewhere.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>The reason that black empowerment is met with such distrust is because people of color are so often marginalized and erased in American society, and empowerment brings visibility to our savage inequalities. Scholars and writers have long pointed out that most white people can barely name five black historical figures&mdash;of which Oprah and Denzel don&rsquo;t count. A recent man-on-the-street video interviewed <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGeMy-6hnr0&amp;noredirect=1">BYU students</a> on Black History month, and many of them couldn&rsquo;t even correctly identify Malcolm X or Rosa Parks. For black people, this would be like not knowing who Lincoln is, but no one seems to have a problem with that. Everyone can name ten white historical figures. Interestingly, many interviewees didn&rsquo;t even know when Black History Month was, and that included some of the black students.</p><p>We can laugh at them and folks like these for being &ldquo;stupid&rdquo; or &ldquo;ignorant,&rdquo; which is the easy response, but isolating individuals as the problem only takes us so far. We have to look at this video as a reflection of a society that doesn&rsquo;t privilege black voices or give weight to black histories, one that deems them worthy of peripheral inclusion but not remembrance. We&rsquo;ll allow black people to be our best friends and support out own narratives but not to tell their own stories&mdash;or listen up when they do. We need to look at this as a sign that our society must be doing more than dedicating one month to black narratives: we need them all year round, in our history books, our novels, our films, our television shows, our comic books and our lives. In America, every day should be Black History Day.</p><p>Until that time, white people have to start being okay with checking our own privileges&mdash;because without recognizing and dismantling hierarchies of oppression, there can be no change. Instead of overrepresenting whites in the media and putting people of color in discursive prison, we need to give others the opportunity to speak, whether they be Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, female, transgender or a gay black Jewish gypsy. They are America, too. They are us. Celebrating Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker, Sojourner Truth, Bayard Rustin, Assata Shakur, Langston Hughes, Angela Davis, Richard Wright and Garrett Morgan isn&#39;t black history. It&#39;s human history.</p><p>To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, if you only know your own history, you don&rsquo;t know any. Clearly in America we still have a lot to learn. And for the record, I don&rsquo;t think Joseph Campbell asked for a White History Month, either.</p><p><em>Nico Lang blogs about LGBTQ life in Chicago for WBEZ.org. Follow Nico on Twitter <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Nico_Lang" target="_hplink">@Nico_Lang</a> or on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/NicoRLang" target="_hplink">Facebook</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 08 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-02/no-we-dont-need-white-history-month-105434