Happy Birthday to Me, Tupac and a White Dude Who Dyed for Freedom (not a typo)

Happy Birthday to Me, Tupac and a White Dude Who Dyed for Freedom (not a typo)

Today is my birthday. And Tupac’s Too.

Another June 16th human being I really love is John Howard Griffin.

6/16/20 – 9/9/80

I hope you already know all about this man, but if not, he was a White anti-racist who grew up in the South and wanted to do something to reach the hearts and minds of White Americans, most of whom were in denial about the conditions under which Black people lived.

Griffin conducted an experiment in 1959 that included shaving his head, darkening his skin with lamps and pharmaceuticals and living as a Black man in the deep south.

Though he endured for several weeks, he ended up cutting the experiment short, as he found that being a Black man was too difficult for him to maintain for long. He wrote a book about his experiences that made him a celebrity and (to some) a villain.

“Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man’s face. I felt like saying: “What in God’s name are you doing to yourself?”

“Suddenly I had had enough. Suddenly I could stomach no more of this degradation- not of myself but of all men who were black like me.”

“When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin. My experience proved that. They judged me by no quality. My skin was dark.”

Mr. Griffin knew when he conducted his experiment he would forever be putting himself at odds with those in America who didn’t want the ugliest realities of racism to be exposed and so vividly expressed by someone White. After his book “Black Like Me” was published in 1961 he and his family received continual death threats. They left their Texas home and eventually moved to Mexico.

“John Howard Griffin was one of the most remarkable people I have ever encountered…He was just one of those guys that comes along once or twice in a century and lifts the hearts of the rest of us.” -Studs Terkel

Here is an excellent article about Griffin’s life, his experiment and his writings: JimCrowMuseum <<–Highly suggested reading!
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“It seems to me that our country is involved in a kind of mass insanity where you can abuse the gift of sight in order to use it to discriminate against somebody.”

♥ HIM !

 

Happy Birthday to Me, Tupac and a White Dude Who Dyed for Freedom (not a typo)

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]

 

Happy Birthday to Me, Tupac and a White Dude Who Dyed for Freedom (not a typo)

Week Before Airport Police Arrested Black Man for Sagging Pants, This Half-Naked White Guy Flew With No Problem

Photo by Jill Tarlow

How is it that a 20-year-old Black man with his pants sagging low enough to expose his boxer shorts made US Airways flight attendants feel the need to correct his fashion choice, yet this passenger flew with no problem on the same airline a week before–despite the fact that there were several complaints about his (lack of) attire. Disgruntled passengers were told the airline did not have a dress policy and they could not intervene.

*Clutching My Pearls*

Um. Oh, no they didn’t.

According to US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder,

“We don’t have a dress code policy. Obviously, if their private parts are exposed, that’s not appropriate… So if they’re not exposing their private parts, they’re allowed to fly.”

Deshon Marman, hold on just a few months, my brotha. You are about to be a very rich young man.

Read more about this at the San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/crime/detail?entry_id=91446#ixzz1Q2GuzJI5

Happy Birthday to Me, Tupac and a White Dude Who Dyed for Freedom (not a typo)

‘Black Like Me’ White Author Darkened His Skin to Write About “Being Black”

Today is my birthday. And Tupac’s Too.

Another June 16th human being I really love is John Howard Griffin.

6/16/20 – 9/9/80

I hope you already know all about this man, but if not, he was a White anti-racist who grew up in the South and wanted to do something to reach the hearts and minds of White Americans, most of whom were in denial about the conditions under which Black people lived.

Griffin conducted an experiment in 1959 (years before the Civil Rights movement) that included shaving his head, darkening his skin with lamps and pharmaceuticals and living as a Black man in the deep south.

Though he endured for several weeks, he ended up cutting the experiment short, as he found that being a Black man was too difficult for him to maintain for long. He wrote a book about his experiences that made him a celebrity and (to some) a villain.

“Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man’s face. I felt like saying: “What in God’s name are you doing to yourself?”

“Suddenly I had had enough. Suddenly I could stomach no more of this degradation- not of myself but of all men who were black like me.”

“When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin. My experience proved that. They judged me by no quality. My skin was dark.”

Mr. Griffin knew when he conducted his experiment he would forever be putting himself at odds with those in America who didn’t want the ugliest realities of racism to be exposed and so vividly expressed by someone White. After his book “Black Like Me” was published in 1961 he and his family received continual death threats. They left their Texas home and eventually moved to Mexico.

“John Howard Griffin was one of the most remarkable people I have ever encountered…He was just one of those guys that comes along once or twice in a century and lifts the hearts of the rest of us.” -Studs Terkel

Here is an excellent article about Griffin’s life, his experiment and his writings: JimCrowMuseum <<–Highly suggested reading!

Happy Birthday to Me, Tupac and a White Dude Who Dyed for Freedom (not a typo)

Disrespect Us? No They Won’t. (Yes. They Will.)

Okay. So. It is pretty much universally recognized that Beyoncé is THE ISH when it comes to demonstrating how it is done (“it” being how to use your talent, looks, brains and work ethic to dominate your industry).

As far as the song “Run The World (Girls)” is concerned, I’m wondering if maybe we should think of it less as a “girl power anthem,” and more as “The Secret” -type positive thinking. (That is–if you think and speak about something enough, through your intention, you can help it eventually materialize).

That is my disclaimer. Proceed:

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Amber says:

“It’s a song. I get it. It’s just a song…This video is not about Beyonce. It’s not even really about this song. My point is NOT that she shouldn’t have made this song because of X, Y, and Z. My point IS: Oh, Look! X, Y, and Z exist and this song is a great tie-in to a discussion of feminism. If you’ve watched some of my other videos, you would be able to sense the sarcastic tone. Relax.”‘

Update: I don’t know about you, but I would pay big bucks to see Amber debate Mitt Binders-full-of-women” Romney.

Can we say pay-per-view!?

 

 

Happy Birthday to Me, Tupac and a White Dude Who Dyed for Freedom (not a typo)

CBS Early Show Gives Term ‘White Wedding’ New Meaning

Tuesday on the CBS Early Show host Erica Hill gave new meaning to the term “white wedding” when her segment on why “we” like wedding movies so much managed to focus exclusively on films about white folks.

In keeping with the show’s committment to feeding its viewers a breakfast of contemporary culture, it is completely appropriate that the main course was a discussion about the popularity of wedding-themed movies–especially since there were three of them making money at the box office last weekend (Bridesmaids $26+million, Jumping the Broom $7+million, Something Borrowed $6+million).

Hill began the segment with a two-and-a-half minute montage of popular wedding film clips that included Bridesmaids and Something Borrowed, as well as a few older hits like Father of the Bride, 27 Dresses, and My Best Friend’s Wedding. Jumping the Broom, a smart and funny “class clash”  film (starring Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Paula Patton and Laz Alonzo) about a Black couple marrying on Martha’s Vineyard did not make the montage.

I don’t know how these things work at the network level — I mean, I don’t know if palms are greased or advertising dollars are required to get the show’s anchor to spend five minutes dishing with the director of  a just-released movie (Bridesmaids) and the author of the book upon which another just-released film (Something Borrowed) is based. If some saavy media buyers spent time and/or money to get that done, I say more power to ’em, and if Hill would have focused her discussion on those two movies, I wouldn’t be writing about this today.

I am writing a post about it, however, because the Early Show producers chose to frame the discussion with a broader story about the wedding movie “trend” that has overtaken Hollywood. According to Hill’s monologue intro, the opening weekend success of Bridesmaids

“got us to thinking what is it about wedding movies that we love oh so much.”

I’m not sure who Hill’s “we” refers to, but once she went there, reaching back twenty years to dust off Father of the Bride, when Jumping the Broom is currently in theaters, constitutes a snub.

I”m not saying it was intentional. I can easily see how an intern or production assistant was given the task of researching popular wedding-themed movies and they went straight to Google with the terms “wedding” and “bride.” Poor kid can’t be blamed for not knowing that “jumping” and “broom” had something to do with getting hitched. If they had been more thorough, however, while they were including Katherine Heigl and Julia Roberts on the list of could-be brides “we” have enjoyed watching over the years, they might also have added Jennifer Lopez (Monster in-Law, The Wedding Planner) and Nia Long (The Best Man).

It should not rest on an intern or PA to be responsible for something as important as reflecting America’s beautiful, flavorful diversity over the broadcast waves. Since this show is dishing out American culture on a daily basis, someone on the Early Show’s staff should be there specifically because they have an eagle eye for diversity, and if there is no one on staff who does, someone should be hired right now.

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Erica Hill seems like a very nice lady and I’m sure she didn’t mean to…Wait just a minute. Listen very carefully at the 6:22 mark. Did she say that these wedding films are “attracting a whiter audience?” Oh. Well, okay then. That explains everything.

(Hahahahahaha. I crack myself up.) <It was a joke, people. No mean emails, please.