Archive for the ‘black people’ Category

Lorde knows

March 11, 2010

so when i was still reading ms. lorde’s excellent biography, i came across this sentence below, hooted with laughter out loud, then felt a  slight discomfort settle in the pit of my stomach afterwards—i’m not exactly sure why. . .

on March 18th 1978, in an unpublished journal, Audre Lorde noticed after touching down in Trini—her only comment on that instance in Trinidad—that: “The Grenadians and the Barbadians walk like an African people. The Trinidadians do not.”

muy interesante.

i swear, only a poet could make an observation like that yes. & it’s stuff like that that makes the interior of a writer’s cranium so fascinating.

brouhahas and caustic interruptus

September 16, 2009

so, i didn’t watch the infamous broadcast but i heard about it then saw some of the footage via youtube. i think it’s interesting how some of the legions of people out there fussing about kanye west’s outburst the most, are largely some of the same people, most vocally promoting these swaggerific ideals on other days. and what’s swagger anyway? but a kind of aggro ego on steroids, masquerading as superficial threads, or “stacks” or the ‘way one carries one’s self.’ swagger (as we know it now) is NOT ever just confidence, which can be quietly internal–this is external and show-offy. it’s oftentimes a kind of corrupted self indulgence and self-absorption too. and worst of all, you can never have too much of it either—allegedly (when realistically you totally can).

swagger is ego dressed up as something and too many people are erroneously proposing it to be some enviable quality all over the place. it revolves around your view of how the world [people, friends, so-called “haters” etc.] views YOU. it’s brash. it’s cocky. and lauded. and for the possessor, probably eats away at certain other constructive ideals like a hungry catepillar—i’d imagine. you can’t have your swagger on high AND be self-reflective at the same time. then when you add some henny into the mix–well, for some folks, it’s a wrap. i mean, people are acting like it’s just kanye but truly, there’s a culture of ego that is popular everywhere you look. since unchecked swagger is so widely promoted in hip hop culture and other kinds of lifestyles: why are people surprised? and suddenly aghast all of a sudden?

or are they?

there are some aspects of contemporary pop and hip hop culture that desperately need new vocabulary and new frames through which to view and understand the world. because the ones they’re working with are sort of problematic to say the least. of course, this being america and kanye being black AND a rapper and taylor swift being who she is, it’s no surprise then that the racial element is being gleefully thrown into the mix by certain kinds of people on top of everything else. he is a product of his industry and american culture, no doubt (among other factors). everyone should just calm down—they’ll both be fine. kanye’s a resilient dude. and maybe ms. swift, upon seeing what happens when the eternally cranked up morning swag goes woefully awry— will surely hop out of her own bed in the morning, with way better things to do. [<— in case you missed this reference entirely, this here unfortunately, is how you turn your swag on and up.]

Chomping at the Bit Wondering: Where have All the Black Vampires Gone?

August 23, 2009

I have been watching True Blood since it premiered, unlike some of the legions of never-see-come-sees out there and while I have never read a single Charlaine Harris book yet—surprisingly. I have skimmed them in a book store and I do think that I would enjoy them very much. About as much or even more than I enjoy the shows which are very entertaining. I also watched and enjoyed all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so go figure that I would jump at the creation of a new vampire show.

I may not be at all Gothic and stuff but I do love imaginative story-lines and great characters. Ok, and I might be slightly, admittedly emo too. I’ve come to that realization. In a way that a quirky black West Indian feminist with a bit too much internal angst can be—without the requisite Hot Topic staples, dark clothes and strangulated countenance. Alas, but I do love me some black eyeliner. I know I have too much boobies and ass to be emo, swivel too much when I walk apparently and have an affinity for most variations of hot pink. But the whole emotionality thing? So got that. (more…)

Sex.music.dancehall. blah blah blah…

July 29, 2009

This is an addendum to Hot Wuk in the Dancehall: What’s Sex Got to do with it? that’s been lurking around the place for me to finish and post. So a certain male, um, friend of mine, who likes to complain that I unfairly bash men all the time (so not true!), responded to my blog in person a while ago, by telling me that his beef with what I had to say was that “the women singing the same thing too!” I don’t know if I agree with that entirely or that it makes much of a difference to my stance in the original piece. Mainly because female performers like Tanya Stephens and Lady Saw still complicate their sexual experience(s) in ways that male djs hardly (n)ever do today.  (more…)

of nostalgia and whatnot. and random places you meet island folk.

July 16, 2009

so i’m currently in new england, in a state that has a “1.0 % black” population [according to the U.S. census bureau] as well as according to my eyes, or as far as my eyes can see. and surprise, surprise — i run into a west-indian. from st. kitts! a real one! with an accent and everything! i was like, so floored. a caribbean person? here? who would have guessed. people who measure levels of authenticity [no one does that, right…] will be pleased to know that i pointed her in the right direction of where to find up to date soca online to download [legally and otherwise] to tune in live, as well as where to randomly listen to soca playlists. the poor girl was out of the proverbial soca/all and anything west-indian loop for quite a while.

i felt so bad for her that i wanted to hug her because i couldn’t imagine settling in a place where i was so far removed culturally from my culture or access to it. sure, you can go online but you still need to know where to go and you still have to possess a connected-to-culture impetus with which to do so. but then again, that is just me, projecting my rendering on what i interpret — that is not necessarily hers  nor what she must be feeling. i cannot claim to speak for everyone’s experience but i do know that that is how i would feel. anyway she ended up here, by way of boston [which makes slightly more sense] and she goes to school here. it was all so refreshing though. and slightly mind-boggling too. i really never expected that. she spoke about a proposed sean-paul concert up here, which didn’t exactly quite materialize in the way that patrons expected it to, for some reason [which was also mind-boggling, speaking of where people end up] but other than that, no one west-indian comes to perform here. or anything. yikes.

on a further positive and equally random note, today i bought cookies and lemonade from two lovely, brown-haired little white girls with a lemonade stand, in a nice middle-class neighborhood filled with well kept flowers, oak, pine, fir and acorn trees; painted fake-shutters on the side of the windows  [or probably real] which i have only seen on the fisher-price toy-houses of my childhood and it struck me as a very American scene within which i had stepped into. and there i was — this trini, this black west-indian — having the best home-made chocolate chip cookies i’ve had in eons [and really, oatmeal and raisin is usually my thing] and drinking lemonade after a game of softball at a neighborhood field , no less [i spectated. did not play]. now i wish i had bought a stack of them. they were only a quarter. finally i can mark that off on my checklist of things to do in life: i’ve officially purchased from a lemonade stand! with a sign and everything!

afterwards, a friend that i’ve made in the program, asked me if there were lemonade stands in trinidad? and i was like um, no. then i described the neighborhood scene there to her: the wrought-iron gates, bad dogs and long driveways of the neighborhood that i live in, in east trinidad. the ridiculously loud green amazon parrots squawking at dusk and the early morning, the various fruit trees, the bats swooping in when the sun sets to attack the ripe sapodillas — and that we don’t make lemonade, lime juice, yes, sometimes. despite some of my issues with the states sometimes — i was thinking of the juxtaposition: of this sweet slice of Americana that i am experiencing, that you sometimes have to see, in order to know that it’s really there. this, layered with the scenes of my own homeland and the exquisite beauty existing within both. 

sometimes, certain people get so hyped when they hear that you are from an island up here. it must be soooo beautiful, they often proclaim. and it is. but so too is this country and i sometimes forget that. alot. but never while i am here in this state, as i am taking in the endless stretch of pine trees, wild flowers of every shade, lavender flowers blooming in an open field. it’s like everything i’ve read about in an enid blyton book or looked at in any compilation of what’s quintessentially American. not to mention, the fresh butter and bread, all local. lush organic gardens and their produce. maple syrup from trees grown here. sheep and lambs on a farm — some of the cutest creatures ever, by the way. a deer at the edge of the forest. a sad but gorgeous grey-brown horse. a wild turkey strutting across the winding, country road, like a trini with an attitude saying, “bounce meh nah!”  all this i’ve seen and more. sure, it’s no maracas look-out — but then again, no where else on earth is. so i’m taking it all in and reluctantly admitting that it’s places like these, that make me feel like i could fall in love with America, if i wasn’t already married to somewhere else.

Michael and Me

June 26, 2009

I really felt compelled to write something on the advent of Michael Jackson’s passing. Which really hit me. In my life, when I think about Michael — I think about my big brother and the two are inextricably connected for me in a multitude of ways. He is one of the biggest MJ fans I know. While everything I learnt about American and British 80s pop culture, its music and icons — I learnt from my big sis, hearing her play the music when I was little and watching her dress in the fashions of the day.

Everything I learnt about Michael Jackson, his music and that of others from the 90s, before and beyond in pop, rock, rap, conscious, dancehall, calyso, soca and soul — as well as show business and how to recognize the consummate performer — I learnt from my brother. From listening to the “Bad” or “We are the World” LP to watching marathon sessions of “Moonwalker” and “Thriller” on vhs. Or “Michael Jackson Live in Bucharest” from the Dangerous tour. Before it fell apart in tatters, the poster of Michael Jackson on the door of the bedroom that I grew up in — I’d received from my brother.

I had forgotten all about video tapes until a friend of mine from undergrad, who grew up in Ghana, posted his own memory on facebook of seeing “Thriller” for the first time there on video, “through a mosquito net” and I laughed and was reminded of my own childhood. I’ve read “Moonwalk” and probably seen “Smooth Criminal” too many times to count. I had to eat my words as I watched my brother moonwalk across the carpet of our house in Trinidad after doubting that he could. In socks! On carpet! Guess all that practice and attention to detail paid off after all.

I used to cringe when my friends were educated in the artistry of Michael by my brother sometimes, when they came over but I grew to love Michael Jackson because, I grew up with him, about as much as I grew up with my brother. My friends in turn, learnt a lot about Michael, whether they wanted to or not. So, Michael Jackson reminds me of childhood and the reach and span of American pop culture around the world. He and other symbols of American music and culture embody so much of  what I love about pop culture and reminds me why I like to write about it, read about it and learn about it so much. Both the good and the bad aspects of it.

Any one who knows my brother can attest that he is one of the biggest Michael fans in Trinidad. Also a serious movie and music buff. One of the coolest people I know, a sometimes quiet, thoughtful fella — who always looks out for those he loves. No one brought my brother out of his shell growing-up, like Michael Jackson’s music and talking about the talent that he was. As a lover of great music across genres, I was (and still am) a little sister, basking in the recommendation of anything by my big brother. I am as big a Michael fan that I am today, largely due to him. So I was contemplating various angles to undertake when I thought about writing this.

Obviously I’ve been contesting with all the MJ naysayers in the facebook world and I wanted to talk about that, what that means, if anything. Secretly pleased to see how many people I know are as touched by his passing as I was. Legitimized that I am not an anomaly. Legitimized that some of the most negative people I know of, [NOT friends of mine but acquaintances] have the worst things to say about someone, on the eve of their death, via online communities, as though they know nothing about speaking ill of the dead.  These are the kinds of people who wear negative vibes like a shroud around them, so much so, that Michael Jackson is the least of their concern — not that much outside their realm is. Who you are sensitive toward in your life that you know personally, doesn’t impress me much (that’s okay though), it’s who you are compassionate toward that you don’t know, now that’s most telling.

Thanks to many branches of American media, to be part of a community of persons who love and appreciate Michael’s art was equated with some kind of freakishness. The man and his genius became nothing more than a caricature to some people. Some people from a certain generation —  their only understanding of the man’s legacy? Through a Katt Williams routine. If I never hear “wacko jacko” again, it’ll be one of the things making me happy. So will a certain someone’s spirit, resting easily now, rejoice too with happiness in this knowing, I am sure.

Now, on to the naysayers who probably shouldn’t be reading this anyway. About the extortion-plots, the child abuse charges — I’ve been a one-woman rallying cry amongst some of the people that I know personally, pointing them toward articles, encouraging them to get more information and alternate insight into the story. Before anyone starts, no I was not there — neither were you. But I do know that the media bias, the cultural witch-hunt and the mob rampaging after Michael Jackson, never went to any great lengths to paint an accurate portrayal of the extortion angle in the Michael Jackson case, the dubious characteristics of the accuser/s and their parents and their shady past — even though evidence for all this exists.

It was much, much easier to tie someone’s supposed eccentricities to alleged criminal behavior. Not that I think that Michael Jackson is any kind of weirdo at all, though pop cultural discourse loves to paint him that way. Some of the weirdest things — thoughts and habits, go on inside the heads and lives of all of us. All. People like you and me. What’s weird? Wanting to stay a child? I’ve felt that way sometimes. Loving the company of children? I have — at times. Ill-behaved brats, not so much. Not liking what you see in the mirror? Been there, done that. Wanting a cool pet chimp? Ok, maybe not. Monkeys kind of creep me out but I do want a baby pig! And what’s weird anyway? Think about that. Weird I say, not criminal. Not problematic. It’s not all the same thing either. People would police Michael Jackson’s behavior so much that the inane became “weird,” code in MJ-related speak for normal for him — but not us! Everything therefore, was always weird when it came to him. He became a spectacle for the media especially, as though any of the rest of us are fucking normal. Whatever that even means.

Like the boy who cried wolf! The ploy only worked because since actual wolves existed, the fear of a wolf existed and people knew that it was entirely possible for one to eventually appear one day — and it did. But people also lie about awful things all the time. People do. And people also forge all kinds of terrible allegations for money or in the hopes that money (gobs and gobs of it) will be forthcoming, all the time. Child abuse — not unlike wolf! is one of those cries where the fear of such a crime, manifests itself in the awfulness behind even just an implication and the implication alone becomes enough. The mere fact that it was even made in the first place.

We might need to see a wolf first but some things in life require just a hint, a whisper, a creepy consternation in the mind of one or two bad-minded persons. An imagination of the awful takes root in a masquerade of truth. Why was that even said to begin with? — some people say in retaliation. It must be true, they contest. I mean, why is anything ever said? Depends on who’s doing the saying and why. And about what. If we understand more about the boy who cried wolf! (that’s a metaphor folks!) then perhaps we’d understand more about why he said what he said in the first place. And for that story, you have to go look for it and really want to unearth it. That story will not be brought to you by the people who have drawn the “weirdo” line in the sand and are pointing and laughing at the person on the other side from theirs.

Some of the least informed people are the people holding these things to be true most vehemently. Likewise, they tend to be those people who least appreciate Michael Jackson — but love to think that they know more than his supporters who actually got informed about various aspects of the allegations. I started embarking on this piece by looking for an article that I read in Vibe magazine — one of the best articulations that I’d read at the time about Michael, through a lens of deconstructing race.  Got me to thinking too — that piece, saying some of the things that people don’t want to hear. Or think about. Got me thinking about how some black people were upset that he became so-called “white” [not that it’s even possible] — like some of them never wanted to themselves and white people were upset that he had the gall to try.

What do black people really see when they look at him? Do you look past the external? Is the outside, in this case, at all relevant to your view? And what do you think about, if you’re white and you look — really look, at the face of Michael, through that kind of critical-thinking lens: that he’s trying to be you, look like you? That he just hated his nose? Or do you see “a freak?”  Do you try to reconcile this with your sense of self — your people’s history of white dominant values and constructions of beauty? Or do you dare not tread there, just detach yourself and talk about how fucked up he must be? Just him. That man over there with the tweaked nose — The Fucked Up One?

What about you reading this? Have you thought about what you think about Michael Jackson? And why you think what you think?

I was originally tempted to do a retrospective about what his transformation — said about race and identity [topics that concern me].  Then I thought, that maybe now wasn’t the best time to do so. But when is ever a good time really? Seems like never. So here I am, just going with the flow instead, doing a kind of retrospective on the man, his music, race, color, what it means for me in my life — however the heck it flows. And it’s flowing. Here I had been, hopefully waiting for the announcement of US tour dates after Europe [I knew they HAD to be coming] and had told my brother that we would be going, no matter where in the States they were — I’d get us tickets. He’d fly up and we’d go. Might be his last tour. The man’s no spring chicken I thought, never ever expecting this. Thought he’d just kick back in Neverland, enjoying watching his kids grow  up. So much for that. *Inward sad sigh*

Earlier today,  I got a call from a dear primary school friend in Trinidad and we talked about the news, the music, the memories, the sadness. She also reminded me that some people under a certain age just will NOT get any of this at all.  Plus we both understand that some people in the world, just feel like they have to loathe Michael Jackson for whatever reason — any reason or no reason. So we’ll just ignore them and all the folks like them. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the man, the music, the legend, humanitarian, father, brother, son, the memories, the innovator — the icon.

Disclaimer: So as not to field any comments (emails) and feedback from people getting all defensive and shit. Of course, child-abuse is a serious charge and crime; whenever, wherever it occurs. And whomever commits it. I am not contesting that. If you think I am, then you’ve clearly missed the whole point entirely.  

Things to check out:

Please read Mary Fischer’s “Was Michael Jackson Framed: The Untold Story” below, for added perspective that you probably don’t have. You don’t have to be Nancy Drew to connect the dots between the first extortion case and the 2003 charges leading up to the 2005 trial.

http://www.buttonmonkey.com/misc/maryfischer.html

The article I referenced above in my blog was “Black Skin, White Mask” by Karen R. Good from the March 2002 issue of Vibe Magazine. Read the article here at The Michael Jackson fanclub. Short but lovely piece taking on the intricacies of skin color, race and identity—and Michael.

One of the best blogs I’ve surfed onto about Michael Jackson and race, performativity, identity, pop culture, prescribed gender roles, the media–among other things. Do check it out below:

http://orvillelloyddouglas.wordpress.com/2007/09/04/michael-jackson-and-james-blake-a-product-of-north-american-society/

Pan on the Net Radio does a stellar show dedicated to Michael’s memory through sweet pan! Click  above link to take a listen.

I also liked these celebrity responses found at yahoo! in response to Michael Jackson’s death.

John Mayer: “A major strand of our cultural DNA has left us.”

And ?uestlove from The Roots, whose original tweet/post [whatever it was] this morning, when I read it said:  “I just hope that he will get due justice in all the press memorials and whatnot. I know he was mired in controversy the last decade of his life but I think it’s time we let him rest in peace and learn to separate the ART and the ARTIST. That is the MJ I will forever remember. Elvis got revisionist media treatment. I expect the friggin same for my hero.” The version on yahoo! now has the Elvis bit edited out. Interesting.

Poignant and telling MJ quotes from the interview on Oprah in 1993:

About the press: “The press has made up so much…God…awful, horrifying stories…it has made me realize the more often you hear a lie, I mean, you begin to believe it.”

On performing: “Well, on stage for me was home. I was most comfortable on stage but once I got off stage, I was like, very sad.”

On his physical appearance: “No, I’m never pleased with myself. No, I try not to look in the mirror.”

Elizabeth Taylor on the misunderstanding of Michael Jackson: “He is the least weird man I have ever known. He is highly intelligent, shrewd, intuitive, understanding, sympathetic, generous – to almost a fault, of himself.”

Click to read the rest.

The 2005, inteview with Jesse Jackson: “…But what I like to do is help other children who are less fortunate than I am. You know kids who are terminally ill, kids who have diseases, poor children from the inner cities, you know the ghettos, to let them see the mountains, or to let see or go on the rides, or to watch a movie or to have some ice cream or something.”

From the 1999 interview in Britain’s Daily Mirror: “I’d slit my wrists rather than hurt a child. I could never do that.”

Lyrics from “Childhood,” written and composed by Michael Jackson, from the HIStory album, [disk 2] 1995:–

“Have you seen my Childhood?
I’m searching for the world that I
Come from
‘Cause I’ve been looking around
In the lost and found of my heart

No one understands me
They view it as such strange eccentricities
‘Cause I keep kidding around
Like a child, but pardon me

People say I’m not okay
‘Cause I love such elementary things.
It’s been my fate to compensate,
for the Childhood
I’ve never known

Have you seen my Childhood?
I’m searching for that wonder in my youth
Like pirates in adventurous dreams,
Of conquest and kings on the throne

Before you judge me, try hard to love me,
Look within your heart then ask,
Have you seen my Childhood?”

MJ

John Mayer (el douche) pays tribute.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kX2Vb68egWA]

Retrospective clip from Moonwalker.

Man in the Mirror.

Montage of Michael to the fabulous sounds of Phase II Pan Groove doing “Billy Jean.”

RIP.

yea i know this is not a hair blog, but…

May 31, 2009

“small ting” as we say in trini.

i’m soooo excited about how moisturized and black and scrumptious my hair looks in this random pic that i espied in a friend’s photo album. [post-slight-fiasco-on-virgin-hair and several packs of braids later. so yes, all things considered, i’m frickin’ excited about it].

black girl hair :-)

also, when i go to work,  i love how some of the little black girls in our program, who are still sporting their natural afro-coils and plenty baubles and barrettes, play in my hair. their little hands idly grasping some sections, fake-stylin’ telling me what i should do with it—put a pink band with a bow on it here or there. hmmm….you know what?  i’m so thinking about that too.

in trinidad, when i was in primary school, we were fascinated with hair, among other things. older girls played with younger girls’ hair whom they knew and friends played in [or tried to play in] other friends’ hair. i remember little girls would tell other little girls that “letting somebody play in yuh hair” would “make yuh hair fall out,” kind of like what jet beads are supposed to ward off. it was the nascent covetousness and all that supposedly came along with it that was supposedly dangerous to a young girl’s flowing mane. so this was highly discouraged. wisdom passing down from the mouths of mummies, mum-figures and other appointed gate keepers of little girls.

still, some of this inevitably fell on a few harden ears, as we un-braided and re-braided somebody’s plait at one time or the other, re-fashioned a woolie or a selection of hair-clips. somebody’s mummy was bound to be displeased when they got home. fun hair to style, was never hair like mine. it was something silky. something long.  something closer to what we styled on our barbies’ heads at home. even, ahem—all my black barbies. nary a kinky coil in sight on any of them.

and so i never swat a kid’s hand away from my hair—i smile at their excitement and i  try to hang around at least a little bit, to endure some random texture feels and impromptu hair fixing. like i am some giant dolly gone askew [without the requisite dimensions, painted on face and the like]. i know i’m no where as cool as these kids sometimes seem to think i am. my hair isn’t even that cool–or that special. but it’s extremely nice to see young black girls interested and excited in the potential of their own kind of natural hair.

trust me, you don’t see that happening a whole lot these days so when it does—it’s significant to me and quite refreshing to see. plus the little girls with relaxed tresses, while interested in me, in the capacity that i function in, they are decidedly less impressed with my hair, one even voicing loud disapproval after my last braids-with-extensions removal. interesting stuff. working with kids and the way in which they reflect society in their own kiddie ways. 

yes, i am not my hair and blah, blah, blah and all that stuff but in many ways—i am and that’s a-ok with me. for more adventures in black girl hair, google “natural hair blogs,” “black girl with long hair,” or peep the link below: 

http://blackgirllonghair.blogspot.com/

granted there are many excellent hair blogs out there; all good in a variety of ways. and i am by no stretch of imagination, a connoisseur of the entire range of them. this is just one that of late, i visit frequently and enjoy. this link really serves as a kind of validation and is really either for a) anyone who doubts the issues of black girl hair or questions the relevance of this post in relation to that or b) my own issues with staking a claim that there are black girl hair issues and putting it out there. again.

cause i kind of have before —– here,

gotta love the complexities of life y’all. and some days, i truly do.

Invisible Women

May 14, 2009

ok, the rest of this post [which will run in a couple segments or so] started a while ago. got posted, then muddled. apparently wordpress or my theme layout or something or the other, has trouble with super long posts so this piece is evidently long by some standards. hmmm…..yes i guess it is kinda long. so when i posted it all as ONE on my blog originally, the words were scrunched up kinda funny and it was hell to re-edit and re-organize. then after not being able to make it work, i deleted it altogether and decided to re-post perhaps breaking it into two [or three] parts at some later date. until now, i hadn’t done so quite yet.

then i was reading sugabelly’s fantastically illuminating blog which i surfed onto recently, on intra and interracial dating [and no, it’s not one of those kinds of blogs]. google it, i would link it—hmmm…..maybe i will but i don’t know if she’d be down with that or not. she absolutely does a stellar and poignant job of articulating the fears and frustrations of dark-skinned black women when it comes to black men, love, the love of black men and lack thereof, notions of attraction and desirability, colorism, sexuality, the media in relation to black women’s bodies and perceptions of beauty etc. lots of stuff. do check it out! which reminded me of my languishing piece because of the connections i saw between what she expressed and the supposed value placed on black women in our society. [which is to say there is none]. because i was focusing on missing black women—those inherent connections, to me, seemed relevant. so it reminded me once and for all, that i still had to re-post this piece and i finally split it up into bite-sized segments and did it.

for missing women of color everywhere.

[ok i went ahead and linked it. read sugabelly’s awesome blog here http://sugabelly.blogspot.com/2009/04/okay-my-two-kobo.html]

Invisible Women [pt 1]: The Plight of Missing Black Women and the Media

May 14, 2009

“I have come to the conclusion that to a lot of people, nothing black girls do is good enough!! They get the blame for everything seem like it!!”–young black girl commenting on the demonizing of black women on a BET message board.

“I am so sick of losers like you putting black women down, like we are the lowest thing on earth.”—black female poster on another popular black message board.

It’s an interesting time to be a black female in America. The difficulties it seems are paramount. What makes it so difficult being black and female in America in this day and age? Well, lots of things. First of all, there are many more mediums out here that do more harm to the representation of black women than good. American pop culture and its ideas are so pervasive too; its images take root and reach all around the globe, far and wide. Think about the implications behind this range of the image of black women and girls, and not just on this continent.

In particular, the position of young black females who view these images (wherever they might be located) is particularly tenuous. It is this group that I am most concerned with as well as not so young ones (smile) like myself. The insistence of the media in various forms and fashions to blatantly ignore the plight of young black women wherever danger befalls them, to consistently fall short in its representation of women of color ends up sending a clear message to young women of color. One that says, you are not valued and you are not important.

If you think this message is not resonating loud and clear in the minds and souls of young black girls, then maybe you should find a cross section of them, sit down with them and see what they have to say. Or perhaps take the time to trawl some message boards where they frequent. Everywhere you go, the message is this same. Young black girls feel increasingly disenfranchised, they feel ugly, unrepresented, unimportant and irrelevant.

While young black girls should not be looking to the media to develop a sense of self worth, they still do so. Teenagers are particularly susceptible. Now there is nothing innately wrong with doing so, if there were balanced healthy images available for them to ingest and if they could consistently view these images with a critical eye. Young people must be actively given the tools with which to develop the skills that will allow them to take in these messages into a more discerning mind. Still, TV and pop culture should not be the sole outlet by any means because we all can see that MTV and BET and the like, seriously fall short.

However my central criticism is that whenever the media does send a message of inadvertent omission (or a consciously direct one), this in and of itself, is a message. One of the most powerful ones of all. If it’s not a message that black people do not exist within a particular space whether it’s as scholars, upper class, intellectuals, middle class, eclectic and so forth, because these images are nowhere near as populous as some of the other kinds. Then it’s one of dismissal. Non recognition and non inclusion makes an equally powerful statement. So it becomes an argument quite beyond that of simple inclusion and visibility. It’s also about those faces and voices that have been seen, felt, heard and still ignored. Maybe because they were not deemed good enough or worthy enough.

The significant thing about the invisibility of black women in some places despite all that I have learnt about race, gender, sexism and the like, is the strange way that I end up internalizing some of it. I feel as though I am less fearful than some of my fair headed and fairer skinned female friends when it comes to certain matters. I am not afraid of The Bad Man (whoever that is), some infernal boogeyman or strange things that go bang in the night. No looking out for suspicious vans with curtains that practically scream “serial killer inside!” But it’s not because I think that I am invincible at all, rather I have, at one time or the other, in a dark parking lot with aforementioned creepy van encroaching thought, “now who would want to grab me?” I suppose I am more fearful of specific people, places and things—more than any mysterious things out there.

Pop cultural discourse on The Serial Killer and Other Scary Things doesn’t ever seem too concerned with trying to make black women look over their shoulder but as a demographic—white women always must. Not just the actual Ted Bundys out there but all these other myriads of scary things out there, primed to get women—white women. The biggest difference we see with this message is when The Serial Killer forays into the world of sex workers or some other group supposedly on the fringes of society—then and only then, does the call to fear and fearfulness usually begin to cross racial lines.

Like Jada Pinkett-Smith’s character in the Scream 2 movie—subtextual messages in certain films, the absence of people of color in many popular horror films or the ease with which they might be decapitated early on, if there are any in the first place—all help contribute toward creating this absurd, twisted bubble of safety that I feel I sometimes exist in. These representations are further compounded by the fact that the black actresses and actor in the second Scream movie were seen by many as a way to save face for the absence of any in the first film. Black women in horror films are clearly dispensable when we even exist to be preyed upon at all.