Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

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.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-FJKzJeVlA[/embedyt]

 

Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

Brown and Beautiful: 10 Children’s Books That Nurture Healthy Self-Esteem in Black Toddlers

More than 70 years have passed since Dr. Kenneth B Clark and his wife Mamie designed and conducted the “doll test” to study the psychological effects of racism on young children.

They showed four dolls, identical except for color, to black children ages 3 to 7 and asked them questions to determine racial perception and preference. When asked which they preferred, the majority selected the white doll and attributed positive characteristics to it, leading the Clarks  to conclude that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred.

In 2005, 18-year-old filmmaker Kiri Davis recreated the Clarks’ experiment with 21 young black children, and included footage of the testing in her short film A Girl Like Me. The stunning and disheartening results mirrored those in the Clark experiment so many decades earlier:
[embedplusvideo height=”387″ width=”480″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/zJJSps0CUr8?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=zJJSps0CUr8&width=480&height=387&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep3779″ /]
“These children, even though they’re 4 and 5 years old, they’re kind of like a mirror and they show exactly what they’ve been exposed to by society,” Davis says. She hopes her documentary will help people see how subtle messages—like those in the media and through product marketing—continue to affect children.

Knowing our children will be bombarded with negative images that  can undermine their ability to look in the mirror and admire what they see, we must remain ever diligent to ensure that they are receiving daily as many affirming messages about their beautiful selves as we can give them.

Removing terminology like “good hair” from our conversations is a great place to start in preventing the erosion of our children’s self esteem. Not using or allowing the words “black,” “African,” and “nappy” to be used as insults in our homes is also a must. And, while we’re at it, one truly powerful way to give our children positive feelings about themselves is to read, with love, uplifting stories that feature children whom they resemble. Here are 10 books parents, teachers and librarians highly recommend:

It should be noted that these are excellent books to read to all children, regardless of their ethnicity or skin tone. The messages in them are universal, and the positive exposure to brown skin as something to celebrate is a lesson every child can ultimately benefit from.

This is where the breaking down of old barriers and old stereotypes begins.

Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

Mexicans Recreate ‘Black Doll-White Doll’ Experiment to Measure Skin Color Preference South of the Border

In an attempt to measure the degree to which Mexican children are affected by the legacy of European colonialism and the present day images they are bombarded with via the media, researchers in Mexico conducted an experiment modeled after the famous 1940’s Clark study that was designed to measure skin color preference in black American children.

Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination, or CONAPRED, are circulating a video in which children who are mestizos, or half-Spanish, half-Indian, are asked to pick  the “good doll,” and the doll that most resembles them. The children, mostly brown-skinned, almost uniformly say the white doll was “better” or was most like them.

“Which doll is the good doll?” a woman’s voice asks one child.

“I am not afraid of whites,” he responds, pointing to the white doll. “I have more trust.”

Mexicans who viewed the video online said that they were disturbed but not surprised by the results.

Some comments on the video have noted that the options were “very limiting” in that the children were offered only black and white, or good and bad as choices.

“It is a poorly formulated question, it is pretentious,” one viewer said on the website VivirMexico.

Others say the study reveals a deep-seated prejudice that is taught to Mexican children from an early age.

Wilner Metelus, a sociology professor and leader of a committee advocating for Afro-Mexicans and black immigrants, said the doll video shows the prevalence of racism and the need to educate young people.

“The Mexican state still does not officially recognize Afro-Mexicans. There are few texts that talk about the presence of Africans in Mexico,” Metelus said. “We need a project in the schools to show that the dark children are just the same as them, as the lighter children. And not only in schools; it is also necessary in Mexican families.”

Luz Maria Martinez, a leading anthropologist on Afro-Mexican culture, said, “We do not know how to value the indigenous culture, which is very rich, or the African culture, which is as great as any in the world.”

by Kathleen Cross for rollingout.com

Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

Desperate Ex-Skinhead Turns to Former Black Enemy to Escape Life of Hate

“I wasn’t on any great mission for the white race. I was just a thug.” -Bryon Widner

Bryon Widner gets frequent migraines and has to stay out of the sun. He calls it “a small price to pay for being human again.”

Before he fell in love and married his wife, Julie, Bryon Widner had once devoted his life, his heart and his body to the cause of white supremacy. A pillar in the neo-Nazi movement, Widner was one of the most violent and well-known skinheads in the nation, and he had the tattoos to prove it. A blood-soaked razor, swastikas, and the letters “HATE” stamped across his knuckles, were but a few of the outrageous messages his body was broadcasting to the world.

After marrying in 2006, Widner and his wife (who had also been an active white supremacist) changed their minds about the movement and began trying to build a life free of hatred. Widner left behind his old ties, and looked forward to a future in which his children could look at him and be proud.

Unfortunately, and, understandably, Widner could find few people willing to look past his hate-filled tattoos to determine if the man behind them really did want to change his life.

Unable to afford the expensive removal procedure, Bryon began experimenting with homemade concoctions to try to burn the tattoos from his face and body.

He reached the point, he said, where “I was totally prepared to douse my face in acid.”

In desperation, Julie reached out to a black man whom white supremacists consider their sworn enemy.

Daryle Lamont Jenkins runs an anti-hate group called One People’s Project based in Philadelphia. The 43-year-old activist posts the names and addresses of white supremacists on his website, and alerts people to their activities. Jenkins has been the target of death threats and vicious hate speech from various white hate organizations around the country.

The Widners had sought advice from the right man. Jenkins’ introduced them to T.J. Leyden, a former neo-Nazi who is now an activist for tolerance.

Leyden knows better than most the barriers faced by those seeking to turn their backs on their neo-Nazi roots to begin anew.

Leyden ultimately led the Widners to the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala.  Through the help of the SPLC an anonymous donor paid the estimated $35,000 it cost to free Bryon from his prison of ink. The donor’s conditions were that Widner get his GED, get counseling and pursue either a college education or a trade — he was happy to comply.

Read the entire AP article at the Salt Lake Tribune.

Michael Baisden Radio Show and Comments

We’re a Culture Not a Costume (REPOST)

Fed up with the annual parade of white folks in blackface, “Indian squaws,” and other culturally insensitive Halloween costumes on their campus, a group of students at Ohio University decided to do something about it.

Members of the campus club STARS (Students Teaching Against Racism) created a poster series with the theme “We’re A Culture, Not A Costume,” featuring Halloween revelers dressed in costumes STARS members consider sterotypical and offensive.

The group says the intention of the posters is to:

“Educate and facilitate discussion about racism and to promote racial harmony and to create a safe, non-threatening environment to allow participants to feel comfortable to express their feelings.”

The campaign has definitely incited dialogue, though some of what is being posted on the Internet is not fit to be printed here. Melissa, who blogged about the poster campaign at her website Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, had to disable her comments due to the volume of racist  remarks she received.

Arizona University student, Kristine Bui, wrote this about the posters in her school’s paper:

“It’s hard to explain exactly what is so wrong about being a geisha or a sheik for Halloween. It’s unsettling. It’s a feeling I’ve always struggled to articulate — a discomfort that sort of just sits in the place between your heart and your stomach, quietly nagging. It’s a sense of being wronged without knowing exactly what was done to you.

“People who think racism is dead think so because they don’t see active discrimination. They think, ‘But minorities are allowed to do everything I’m allowed to do, so where’s the harm?’ STARS’ poster campaign calls attention to another problem: Minorities are often made into caricatures … As a minority, you’re a character, not a person. People dress up as you on Halloween. On TV, you’re the token black guy, easily replaced by some other black guy after one season.

“Racism is so much stealthier now. It doesn’t announce itself, and it’s complicated.”

 

STARS President ‘Sarah’ recently posted this update on her Tumbler page:

POSTER CAMPAIGN UPDATE:
Any questions about the posters can be sent to OHIOUSTARS@GMAIL.COM. We are so proud of all the support but it’s overwhelming; We have less than 10 members in our group. lol We ask that you do not personally email any of the exec’s or message their personal tumblrs. Thank you guys so much for the love! The purpose was to educate and create dialogue and it did 🙂 We have a meeting with a lawyer on Monday so we can protect our posters and the posters will be all over Ohio University’s campus this week! Again, thanks for the support and have a happy Halloween!
Best, Students Teaching About Racism in Society (STARS) at Ohio University Executive board

 

Although I’ve never been one to wear ethnically stereotypical or disrespectful costumes, I am definitely thinking more deeply about this issue. These posters have inspired me  to take a mental inventory of my own Halloween costume choices over the years, and I don’t think a casual walk through the costume store will ever be the same.

Congratulations on all your hard work STARS. You’ve got people thinking, talking, and costume changing.