Jan 13 2012

Joshua Bennett’s ’10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman’ — To Click or Not to Click?

Spoken word artist Joshua Bennett has ten things he wants to say to a black woman, and I’m not sure I want to hear it.

I’ve happened upon Bennett’s YouTube video and I see that hundreds of thousands of viewers have already clicked play.

I’m curious, and dubious. Haven’t I seen more than enough of these user submitted monologues and their hurtful diatribe masquerading as “advice” on how black women can become less flawed?

Yes, I’m defensive, despite the fact that whatever Bennett’s message is, it is probably not directed at me.

As a “mixed” woman who did not inherit my black father’s genetic code for brown skin, I exist in a narrow category of African Americans for whom the “racial” identifier “black” is hesitantly (at times begrudgingly) applied. Despite my stubborn insistence on claiming my “blackness,” the truth is, I have walked through life experiencing the privileges white skin affords one in America. Privileges I am acutely aware of due to my proximity to brown-skinned family and friends whose social interactions differ so greatly from mine.

I’m sure there are some privileges I’m clueless about because they are conferred when I’m not paying attention to how brown I am not.

But sometimes I am paying attention.

Like recently when I sat with two four-year-old brown girls to watch Disney’s latest princess movie, Tangled. And, no, this won’t be a rant about popular culture’s preoccupation with the pretty white girl and her extra-long glistening blonde hair. I can discuss that image with my girls, no problem. I can confirm to my little ones that Rapunzel is bright, brave and beautiful under her blonde tresses, and in the next breath I will rave about how smart, sweet and stunning my girls are beneath their brunette twists and braids.

As a mother of four brown-skinned daughters, I have become quite adept at explaining how the Creator made us all with varied skin tones and physical features that are a perfect reflection of the Universe’s awesome diversity. In our discussions, brunette does not trump blonde. Long and straight isn’t more perfect than tightly kinked. Vanilla is delicious. Chocolate is delectable. It’s all good. It’s all beautiful. 

I can do that conversation. No sweat.

But there are times when the Media are so blatant and brutal in their bias against black women that it knocks me back a few paces and I have to regroup.

Like when Psychology Today publishes “scientific” findings on why black women are the least attractive on earth.

Or when the Los Angeles Times Magazine honors the 50 Most Beautiful Women in Film, and omits stunning black women who apparently are too brown to be visible.

Or when First Lady Michelle Obama must publicly defend herself against accusations she’s an “angry black woman.”

Or when filmmaker George Lucas spends his own money to make an amazing film about the black Tuskegee airmen of WWII, omits the black wives, and focuses instead on a love story featuring a Portuguese woman. (By the way, George, there were Tuskeegee Airwomen, too.)

With the exception of a rare few (most of whom are very light skinned), black women are not celebrated in mainstream American culture, or held up as role models for American children to cherish, respect and emulate.

Having said that…

We are twenty minutes into Tangled, these two little brown girls and I, and we are getting to know and love this feisty Rapunzel, and we are celebrating her escape from the tower, and she is led by prince-to-be Flynn Rider into a dark den of disgusting, mean , lawless outcasts, and…

Disney flings this dagger at my little loves:

Flynn Rider: You smell that? Take a deep breath through the nose. (He inhales.) Really let that seep in. What are you getting? Because to me, that’s part man-smell, and the other part is really bad man-smell. I don’t know why, but overall it just smells like the color brown.

Really, Disney?

There wasn’t one human being among the hundreds who worked on this picture who read/saw that scene and said something like,

“Um, won’t there be little brown children watching this? Won’t this movie be around, like, forever, and should we equate the skin color of millions of children who will watch this with ‘really bad man smell’?”

*blink*

Seriously?

And, what might this moment have to do with white privilege?

Everything.

It has everything to do with having the privilege (or not having it) of raising daughters in a society where their skin color will be publicly celebrated. Where it will be held up as something beautiful and worthy of admiration and protection. Where it will not be referred to, even indirectly, as something really bad smelling.

Before you watch Joshua Bennett’s poem, watch this excerpt from Kiri Davis’s brilliant film A Girl Like Me, and ask yourself what is going on in the heart and soul of this little girl at marker 1:36. What messages has she already received about being a black girl, and from where are they coming? Who will counter those messages with beautiful truth?

I must admit, when I clicked on Bennett’s YouTube video, “10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman,” I steeled myself for what I suspected would be another disgruntled man giving “advice” to black women on how to be less “angry” and more “lovable.”

Not even close.


Dec 31 2011

Conservative Bloggers Call First Lady ‘Fat Cakes Michelle,’ Criticize Her Fashion Choices

Ever on the hunt for something disparaging to say about the first family, conservative bloggers have criticized President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for various aspects of their 17-day vacation in Hawaii–including the first lady’s fashion choices.

“While Obama sits back in DC making sure Congress passes the payroll tax holiday bill, Michelle Obama and her kids decided to begin their ultra-expensive, ultra-lavish, tax payer funded 17 day Hawaii vacation. Fat Cakes Michelle just couldn’t wait another day or two for business to wrap up in DC.,” according to the right-wing website “fireandreamitchell.”

In addition to criticism of the timing, destination and cost, Michelle Obama is also taking heat for a dress she wore to Christmas day church services at the Kaneohe Bay Marine Base.

According to ABC News, Mrs. Obama was photographed in a striped white sundress by French-born, U.S.-based designer Sophie Theallet, with an estimated price tag of $2,000.

“Some see the first lady’s penchant for expensive labels at odds with her reputation as a bargain shopper who frequents J. Crew and Target,” ABC News reported.

One comment about the First Lady on the Naked DC website read: “She claims to be a champion of the poor and a fellow bargain shopper, but yet, here she is, sporting a dress that no unemployed American can afford.”

Of course, it wasn’t reported that Mrs. Obama wore that same dress to an official ceremony in Accra, Ghana back in July 2009, and wore it again that same year during the family’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

The first lady appears to not only have a good eye for fashion, she’s also not averse to wearing and being  photographed several times in the same outfit.

I give her mad props for providing a great example of how to stretch a dollar–well, two thousand of them, that is.

by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com


Oct 26 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Bestseller, ‘American Grown’

I don’t know if the first lady of the United States named her book “American Grown” with the intention of  b***h slapping those who’ve accused her over the years of being unpatriotic (the same ones who accused her husband of being a non-American.)

But, ahem, take that.

Though the title could easily be a tongue-in-cheek reference to Michelle Obama’s American roots, the book is actually about roots of another kind–the ones you find beneath the dirt in the White House garden.

“American Grown: How the White House Kitchen Garden Inspires Families, Schools, and Communities aims to explore “how increased access to healthy, affordable food can promote better eating habits and improve the health of families and communities across America,” according to a press release issued Monday by the Crown Publishing Group.

“Mrs. Obama will describe how her daughters Sasha and Malia were catalysts for change in her own family’s eating behavior, which inspired Mrs. Obama to plant an edible garden on the South Lawn — the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s ‘Victory Garden,’ planted during World War II.”

The first lady did not receive an advance for the book and all proceeds will be donated to charity, the statement says. Random House Inc., Crown Publishing Group’s parent, will also make a donation of the books sales to a charity.

American Grown will be on sale nationwide starting April 10, 2012.