Posts tagged ‘racism’

July 26, 2013

Big Brother 15: Racists & Bigots Reign Supreme, The Real Reason I’m Upset

I have been meaning to write a blog about Big Brother 15 for a couple of weeks now. This is a show that I had not watched in years, for one reason or another, and I had never watched the live feeds. This year, I happened to catch the season premiere and, since they were offering a 2 day free trial, I signed up for live feeds as well. To say that I was instantly addicted is an understatement!

Since I have always had an interest in observing human behavior, particular to our society here in the United States, having the opportunity to observe people in the bubble that is Big Brother opened up a whole new world to me. Yes, I know that I am late to the party, but at the time I thought, “Better late than never!”

In life, I like to consider myself an “extremely amateur” anthropologist,  but even with this interest, the ultimate purpose of watching Big Brother is to engage in a form of escapism. That is what all reality TV is for me. When I sit down to watch Big Brother, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, or Project Runway, I do so with the expectation that I will be amused and entertained for the following hour or so. I do not expect to end the night with a knot in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I don’t expect to end up reflecting on my own struggles in life based upon who I am on a relatively superficial level. And, yes, I do view race, as defined by our society, as quite superficial. My skin is brown, my nose is wide. My lips are plump, my hair is kinky. My voice is full, its tone is textured. None of these things define who I am on the inside.

When it hit the press that several of the cast members of Big Brother 15 had made bigoted and insensitive remarks, the story seemed to blow up overnight. It seemed that for a while, people were on “Racial Slur Watch”, waiting for the next bigoted remark to fly out of someone’s mouth. Most of the earlier offenses have been featured in this YouTube video. Fans of Big Brother flocked to social media to voice their outrage and many wanted the show to remove the most prominent offenders from the household altogether. Even Big Brother hostess, and co-host of The Talk, made a statement about how the racial slurs, made by Aaryn Gries and Gina Marie Zimmerman, made her feel as an Asian-American woman.

For a while, there was fear that Big Brother would cover up the bigotry altogether, but it seemed that they came to somewhat of a compromise. They would pick one house guest to feature as “The Racist” on the nationally televised shows. That person was Aaryn Gries.

While many were thrilled that they did not try to sweep the bigotry entirely under the rug, it doesn’t seem fair to exclude the comments of Gina Marie (who just this week called Candice Stewart an “oreo cookie” and mocked her attempts to come to grips with who she is as a biracial person), Spencer Clawson (who has made more homophobic, misogynistic and grossly perverted comments than I can count ), and Amanda Zuckerman (who engaged in discussion of a brutal and graphic rape fantasy involving fellow cast member Jessie Kowalski and has accused Howard of playing the race card because he dared to voice his displeasure with Aaryn’s comments). SIDE NOTE: In the aforementioned fantasy, Jessie would be gang raped and brutally murdered by a slit to her throat. Spencer’s contribution to the fantasy was that they would use Jessie’s blood and tears for lubrication. In short, these people are nasty human beings and it is very difficult to root for them, but it has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to even tolerate watching them at all. 

In the game of Big Brother, each individual is expected to play the game to the best of their ability. Being a lying, conniving, manipulative snake is almost required if you expect to make it through each week, and definitely required if you want to win. These are things about the game that all fans have come to love and anticipate. These are things that the majority of viewers look forward to every summer… But, this summer, it’s different.

Flipped Mattress-Gate:

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to witness Howard comfort Candice after her “blackness” was mocked and her mattress was flipped. I cried with Candice, who desperately wanted to stand up to her bullies, and demand respect from them that she was and is never going to get. After Howard calmed Candice down, and she left the room, I cried again as I witnessed him struggle to get a hold of his own emotions.  The powerlessness he felt in that moment was overwhelming for me, so I know that it was at least doubly so for him. And, once again, later that night, I cried as I watched Howard and Candice make a pallet on the cold floor of the Have Not room as if it was 1955 and Rosa Parks had yet to Refuse to Move.  Even now, I cry as I recount the events of that evening. But here is the thing that people do not understand. The anger, the sorrow, the frustration, the tears are not because some 22-year-old sheltered, naive and ignorant little girl from Texas flipped a black girl’s mattress. It’s not even because she has  shown complete disdain and a total lack of respect towards, not only Candice and black people, but minorities and gay people across the world. My anger, my sorrow, my tears, MY FRUSTRATION is for the society that created her in the first place.

As minorities in the United States of America, we are tasked with the unique burden of carrying the weight of the entirety of our races on our shoulders – but, only the negative aspects. We do not get to be judged, first, on our own individual merits. Black women like me, like Candice, are all judged by the “Shaniquas” of the world. The BLACK “welfare queen” with five kids and four “baby daddies.” We are regarded as promiscuous sloths (or a “bitch sloth” as Judd Daugherty called Candice recently) and leeches on a society that we don’t serve a significant purpose in.  When faced with one who does not meet these stereotypes, the lesson is not that perhaps their outlook on life is limited or too narrow. The lesson is, either, “She is just one of the ‘good ones,'” or “She is fake.” It can’t be that they are just wrong about Candice’s character. It is obvious that she is trying to “talk like a white girl” intentionally, and that she is only pretending to be nice, right?

This burden.

For the last decade, plus, I have felt that I have served my purpose by being an example of what it means to be a black woman who is just a woman. You are more likely to find me listening to rock than R & B music. I have a range of interests from reality shows like Big Brother to Scandal and Masterpiece Theater. I am not Shaniqua with a lot of babies, living in section 8 housing. I am not on welfare, I do not receive food assistance.  I am just me, a woman who wants security and happiness in my future. I am just me, a woman who happens to have dark brown skin. I am just me.

My desire to be known as just me, a single and childless 34-year-old woman from the suburbs of Atlanta, isn’t mine alone. I know it may be presumptuous to state this, because I am certainly not the mouthpiece for all minorities, but I am fairly certain that the majority of minorities would love to partake in the experience of being judged as an individual.

Big Brother Elimination Show 07/26/2013:

Tonight, after Aaryn survived being eliminated for the second week in a row and, in fact, went on to win Head of Household, it suddenly dawned on me why I continued watching Big Brother, even after the producers opted not to remove the offenders. A part of me, probably all of me really, had been rooting and hoping for this tiny, insignificant victory because the issues that truly matter feel so insurmountable. I had been holding on to this notion that, AT LEAST, in a world that is not so real, good people can still get ahead of those who are not so good. No, minorities never do well in games like Big Brother where they have to rely on a majority cast of white people to support them, but I have grown to accept that. This is just a reality TV show, after all. It’s not real life. But… this season, it has been all too real.

In the end, the sad fact is that our society has been trained to disregard the plight of minorities. Technically, we are now given the same rights as white people, so people think that the work is done. It’s not. Underlying bigotry and discrimination continues to play a major role in the lives of minorities, everyday. Phrases like “playing the race card,” “chip on your shoulder,” and even “white guilt,” (which is really just a PC way of calling a white person a “nigger lover”) are frequently thrown out for the sole purpose of diminishing the concern of those who dare mention legitimate claims of bigotry.

Our society has also been trained to accept its prejudices towards minorities. Although 8 to 9 out of 10 times a white person is victimized, it is at the hands of another white person, it’s okay to fear all minorities because this provides an illusion of safety which seems to be more important than actual safety. 

Profiling black people because some black people do bad things, it’s okay.

Profiling all Muslims because some Muslims have done bad things, it’s okay.

Profiling all Hispanics because some Hispanics have done bad things, it’s okay.

Profiling all white people because some white people have done bad things, it’s not okay.

(It’s important to note that I am not suggesting that we start to profile white people for crimes they have yet to commit, just that minorities shouldn’t be neither.)

There will never be a time where all white CEOs, bankers, and other white collar professionals are placed under additional scrutiny because the vast majority of white collar fraud is committed by white men. There will never be a time where white men will have to worry about stop and frisk. There will never be a time where all white males between the ages of 14 to 55 are placed under additional scrutiny because they are most likely to go on a mass shooting spree or be a serial killer. This is what “white privilege” means.

White privilege is not having to answer for anyone but yourself.

White privilege is enjoying the benefit of the doubt.

White privilege means not having to justify your emotions when you are genuinely offended by someone.

White privilege is being able to sit around with other white people and say that people are too sensitive to racial slurs, as Jessie said last night when the white house guests were joking around about different offensive things that had been said.

White privilege is thinking that being called a dumb blonde is analogous to the racism minorities face.

Tonight, I called and canceled my Big Brother live feed account. While I know that the bigots in the house are products of their environment, and our society, the emotional toll derived from watching this show now officially outweighs its entertainment value. 

P.S. – Big Brother Edits:

OK, I know that things such as a “rape fantasy” could never be broadcast on national TV, but let’s not forget that Amanda was just featured as the “victim” of mean comments made by Elissa about Amanda’s risque”birthday gift” to McCrae. In jest or not, it was disturbing and it’s not the only time Amanda has mentioned using a knife on one of the cast members. She did so again, recently, the night she called Candice fat and ugly. Elissa’s comments were not nearly as harsh as that “fantasy,” but she did say it so that Amanda could hear it.  If the belief is that it is okay to talk about people behind their backs, we cannot forget that these comments are out there for the world to see and everyone will eventually see what was said about them while they were in the house. The point is,  if you are not going to air the horrible and cruel things that Amanda has said about other cast members, don’t REWARD her with television edits that make her look like a decent human being worthy of empathy that she herself does not seem to possess for others. That’s all.

CATHARSIS. 

I feel better now.

February 29, 2012

Colorism

Today I read an article regarding the cover for FHM Philippines magazine. The cover depicts a Filipino actress named Bela Padilla. She is surrounded by three Filipino models who are representing “the shadow” that the actress is emerging from. On the surface this sounds like an artistic, maybe even fashionable (for FHM), photograph. So, what’s the problem?

For starters, the three models accompanying the actress have been painted to appear as if they have much darker skin tones. The tagline for the cover is, “Stepping Out of the Shadows.” In America, this photograph conjures up imagery of “Black Face,” which is a medium that the majority of African Americans would agree is offensive. But, that’s our American slant on things. This publication is out of the Philippines and, to understand the backlash and the offensiveness of the cover, you must consider THEIR history.

Several years ago, I was on the interwebs looking for products to even out my skin tone. While I was researching this, I came across a forum where young, mostly Asian, girls were discussing different ways to lighten their skin. As an American, with little exposure to the outside world at the time, I was shocked at the suggestions that were given and I was shocked that there were girls out there who loathed themselves to that degree. That self-loathing didn’t come from a desire to skin cats or feasts on the bones of children, it was based solely on something that is completely out of their control. Their skin tone. As a black American, I was intrigued by what I discovered there because, until then, I had not heard of people from other, non-white, races suffering from “colorism.”

So, what is colorism? A quick web search will get you the following definition:

Colorism is discrimination in which human beings are accorded differing social treatment based on skin color.

I consider colorism to be the preference of light skinned individuals over dark skinned individuals within one race; or vice versa. People who “practice” colorism believe that if someone is dark skinned, they are generally and inherently inferior. (This mindset is often subconscious. Personally, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard men, in passing, describe their perfect woman as having light skin, for instance.)

Most people who do not understand the concept of colorism have a difficult time understanding the offensiveness of this photograph. If it wasn’t for my own experience with colorism, it’s a good chance that I would not get it either.

As I research colorism within the Filipino culture the picture that is painted is that, although they are the minority, light skinned Filipinos receive the best jobs and generally live a high class life while dark skin Filipinos do not.  If you were to see a Filipino movie, or to pick up an average Filipino magazine, you will likely see mostly light skinned Filipinos. Along with this, Filipinos are inundated with ads for skin whitening creams. I’ve read many comments like the following over the years:

“I’m just wondering if light skin makes a person more beautiful in the Philippines. It seems everywhere I go around the Philippines there are commercials, billboards, ads, ect. that promote skin whitening products.” (Link)

With the prevalence of this mindset, it is no wonder that FHM Philippines felt such a huge backlash from readers who are fed up with being told, directly and indirectly, that they are inferior. That dark skin is a shadow that must be shed in order to emerge, beautiful, pristine and, most importantly, white. In FHM’s apology, they stated that they will strive to be more “sensitive” in the future, but IMO, it goes beyond sensitivity. Until people understand the harm that colorism causes, they will never truly understand what is so wrong with that cover, thus it’s likely that they will struggle to see it in the future. For example, in an attempt to clear things up, Padilla stated that the models weren’t actually dark skin models, but had been made up to look as if they were. So not only are they portraying dark models as “the shadow” they also still refused to hire dark skin models for the shoot.

To sum things up, a user that responded to my post on the Huffington Post stated it perfectly:

…. this happens all over the world, especially in colonised/commonwealth places + among various ethnicities.

people are made complacent through controlled stimuli, while others try to imitate what is considered to be ‘majority’ social concepts – whether it is stifles them or not – to fit in…so sad. when messages such as the one depicted in the picture are so slight that most people miss it and some who see it chalk it up to a misunderstanding or overreaction, this is to be expected from both sides.

history is relevant. truly understanding a culture in order to appreciate nuances of perception is important. what to some might seem completely irrelevant, may not be so to others. it depends on how it impacts lives from both spectrums on a fundamental level. in this instance the message is clear. it helps when you understand the role of advertising. -Nikmc

I concur.

February 22, 2012

If I wanted to talk to myself, I would blog!

It’s been awhile, blogosphere, since I’ve made a post. I’ve been busying myself with various endeavors ranging from attempting to get my jewelry line off of the ground and venturing into creating textile fabric patterns for scarves, dresses, skirts, coverups and blouses. Don’t ask me why I have decided to start a fashion line. Not something that I thought I would do, but sometimes life just directs you in the… uh, direction that you need to go!

I figure now is a good time to start blogging again, with the 2012 presidential season well underway. While I focused mostly on politics in the past, I will now blog about my various other interests as well, which may include everything from my latest artistic endeavor to the latest episodes of “The Voice” and “Revenge.”  I once felt that these things should all be separate, but the fact is that I have a lot of interests and if I tried to have a blog for all of them, I would go crazy.. or crazier.

I’ve spent the last year and a half or so using various online websites to voice my opinions, but really, who can deal with all of the rampant censorship? The Huffington Post is the absolute worst offender, in those regards. Half of the time I don’t know if my post will even make it past the moderator, even if it isn’t ladled with obscenities or general insults. Besides, I like to converse “real-time” and not have to wait an hour for a post to make it onto the page. If I wanted to talk to myself, I would blog! So, here I am… doing just that.

So, here I am blogging again. What do I discuss first? The recent story about those teenage girls in Gainesville, Fl who are terrified for their lives after their racist rant via video blogging? (I can’t imagine why anyone would be offended!) Or, maybe the story about the school district in Georgia that believes that using the history of slavery in America as math problem is an effective teaching tool?

“If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”

Like… really?

OK, I have plenty to say about both of those stories, but what I really want to talk about in my first blog back is….

Whitney Houston.

I know. This story has been done IN over the last couple of weeks. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the topic as there is a lot that can be, and has been, said about this. It’s unlikely that I can add anything of value to it. I just wanted to share my memories of the singer for my own personal, selfish reasons.

Growing up, my cousins and I loved to sing and dance and Whitney is one of those singers we looked up to. I was 6 years old when her first album debuted, and I went on to enjoy it and several other albums after that. I remember watching “The Bodyguard” over and over again and just always being so excited to hear her sing, to watch her videos, and to see her on award shows.

It  saddened me to hear about all of her drug abuse and to see her life deteriorate to the point where people started calling her “Old Whitney” and “New Whitney,” most wishing that the Old Whitney would return. Deep down, I knew that her voice would never recover, but I did have hopes that one day she would find her way out of the darkness and recover from her addictions. Unfortunately, that day didn’t come soon enough.

In all of this, my heart is with Bobbi Kristina. As a woman who was only 2 years older than BK when my mother died, I know how devastating it is and how much it changes ones life. I wish I could say that I was strong in dealing with that death, but I wasn’t, and honestly, am still not. It probably has changed the course of my life forever. Fortunately, I could suffer this without being under the microscope of millions of people. I cannot imagine the weight of that.

There are so many negative things being said about this family that I just want to be one of the positive ones saying that I wish Bobbi Kristina the best and that she finds her own way to deal with this tragedy, and that it is HEALTHY. The disease of drug and alcoholism is a tough one to battle and I hope that she finds a way to deal with it that doesn’t end in the same way that it did with her mother.

I recognize the destructive path that Whitney went down, but I will not remember her for that. I will remember her for the memories she helped create growing up with my cousins. I will remember her for her mind blowing rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” I will remember her for “The Bodyguard” and “I Will Always Love You.” I will remember Whitney Houston for her influence on countless other young starlets who have taken the positivity that “I” grew up with and turned it into promising and successful careers. Personally, I would be shocked if I ever heard another female vocalist with quite the same quality, strength and beauty of Whitney Houston’s voice. That is bittersweet.

I WILL always love you Whitney. Rest in Peace.