Category Archives: race

Do yourself a favor….

Take nine minutes out of your day and watch this video. Then think about it. And react

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Guest Blogger: Shane Samuel

Does Violence Equal Change?

As I sat in my American Studies class and watched the ending scene of the movie, Do The Right Thing, I felt a sense of confusion. Watching the people of Bedstuy Brooklyn, destroy the property of the neighborhood pizzeria as a way to retaliate against police brutality— which resulted in the death of a neighborhood resident— I was on unsure as to whether or not their actions was justified.

I believe violence is necessary when the people in power do not want to compromise or listen to those in the minority. By minority I am not solely referring to different races, although it will be the basis for this article; instead I use the terminology to refer to groups that are not heard in society.

I am not saying violence is the end of all means, I understand that violence can actually make things worse. However, I view violence as a form of democratic rebuttal in the sense that it is used to make a statement to those who refuse to listen. The Los Angeles riot of 1992 is a perfect example of how effective the use of violence was. After the acquittal of four white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, thousands of people took to the streets of L.A. and raised havoc for over 6 days, causing millions of dollars in damage.

As a result of this, the four officers were retried and although only two of them were found guilty, at least some justice was achieved. Sure, one can make the argument that the marches held by Martin Luther King Jr are examples of how the use of non-violence can be a success, but I think those marches were the exception. The reason I say this is due to the 2006 police shooting of Sean Bell.

Just like the beating of Rodney King, the officers involved in the shooting were acquitted of all charges. However, a riot did not break out, instead hundreds of people took to the street for a peaceful protest but nothing was done, the incident was brushed off by those in power; so how effective is non-violence.

To bring my argument into more recent times, take a look at Egypt, where the use of violence was necessary in order to achieve the change the people of Egypt wanted. The revolution started with acts of civil disobedience similar to the marches held by King, but no real change came about—besides the shutdown of internet access. It was not until the people of Egypt started to get violence that the Egyptian government actually started to take them seriously, which eventually led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

The 2011 Egyptian revolution was reminiscent to the overthrow of the Paris commune in 1871, where Parisians used violence as a democratic rebuttal to the dictatorship of the Parisian government. These events show how the use of violence is sometimes necessary in order to achieve change.

Returning to the movie I mentioned earlier, after the people of Brooklyn rioted; it not only garnered a lot of attention but it resulted in the mayor calling for an investigation of the cause behind the riot—something I doubt would have happened if they peacefully protested. Do not get me wrong, I am not radical by any means; I agree that violence should not be the first thing one should result to but I do believe the use of violence is necessary when your cry is being ignored.

Guest Blogger: Shane Samuel

Racism Is Not Dead In 2011

Why is it in 2011 people are still so damn ignorant? The video below shows a diverse group of skaters minding their business and a racist white woman comes out of nowhere and starts spewing hatred towards them. When I saw this video I was extremely pissed off, even as I write this post my heart is still trying to recuperate. Why are people so ignorant?

Racism Still Alive: Old White Lady Sweats A Mixed Minority Group Of Skaters In Las Vegas! “I Am Sick And Tired Of Seeing Black & Whites Together”

Guest Blogger: Marcela Melara

There’s something wrong with this picture…

I had meant to write about this for some time. The reason why I say this is because I noticed a picture that was quite disturbing to me (to say the least) about 6 weeks ago, and I don’t think it’s gotten the attention it deserves… The photo I’m talking about is the front cover of this Ocotber’s edition of Elle magazine featuring Gabourey Sidibe:

Quite a lovely picture, and it’s nice to see that Elle magazine also decided to feature a heavier-built woman who also happens to be a woman of color. Just looking at this magazine cover, the image seems fine. But that’s not how I came about seeing this picture for the first time. Instead, I saw a far more shocking image (some of you may have seen it already, and I remember we touched on it for a little bit in our WMST 100 class):

Yes, it’s the exact same woman.

Who is Elle magazine to lighten up anybody’s skin? I have no idea what the picture editors were thinking when they did this, but I find it to be insulting and even immoral. This magazine cover is one of four 25th anniversary editions Elle magazine is issuing this year, and the other three cover-girls have nothing in common with Gabby Sidibe in terms of appearance and physiognomy. Here is an image showing all four magazine covers:

The other three women are clearly white and slender, so Gabby Sidibe just doesn’t quite fit in the way she is… “Well, we can’t change her weight on the picture, but we could make her skin fairer so it is slightly more in accordance to the other covers.” Is that what Elle magazine was thinking? And I’m sure many people will try to argue that maybe the lighting for Gabby Sidibe’s photo shoot was different, but the discrepancy between both pictures is just too large…

It bothers me that this picture modification hasn’t really made the news like other social issues have recently. There are still racial issues going on in this country and I feel like many people consider this to be a problem of the past. Well, it’s not, or else Gabby Sidibe’s skin wouldn’t have been lightened in the above picture. And another thing… notice how they abbreviated her name to a more English-sounding name; suddenly Gabourey becomes Gabby.

Just as a comparison, here is a comparison of Elle magazine’s cover with Ebony magazine’s cover also featuring Gabby Sidibe:

Elle magazine just wanted to be more inclusive, I guess.

Guest Blogger: Emily Clemetson

The Woman behind HeLa Cells

The first line of immortal human cells to be grown in culture was the HeLa cells.

The name “HeLa,” came from the first two letters in the first and last name of the patient they were taken from. Since the cells were simply referred to as HeLa cells very few people know that the cells were taken from a woman named Henrietta Lacks in 1951 without her knowledge.

Dr. George Otto Gey, a physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, had been trying to keep cells alive in his laboratory but was unable to do so until he removed and cultured cervical cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks. These cells were crucial for the development of the polio vaccine and a key part in understanding cancer, viruses and the effects of the atom bomb. They also helped lead to important advances such as gene mapping, in vitro fertilization and cloning.

Henrietta came from a poor African American family and lived on a tobacco farmer in Turners Station, Maryland with her husband, also her second cousin, and their five children, Lawrence, Elise, David, Deborah, and Joseph. Elise was deaf and dumb; she eventually died in a State Hospital. Henrietta’s family didn’t learn about her cells until more than 20 years after her death and even then no one explained to them what it meant for their mother’s cells to still be alive when she had been dead for so long. When they were told that Henrietta’s cells had been cloned they thought that somewhere there were hundreds of their mother walking around. They were worried that scientists were hurting her when they used her cells in experiments and sent them into space.

Scientist also began using Henrietta’s husband and children in research without their consent. During the 1950s it was all too common for scientists to experiment on African Americans for research. When scientists wanted to discover the effects of injecting the cancerous cells into a human they didn’t hesitate to use African Americans as well as extremely poor people in this research.

It’s rare that we sit down and think about the origins of some of the most important tools in medicine. More often than not we take for granted the medical advances that have been made and we don’t think about the research and experimentation that made them possible. The story of Henrietta Lacks gives us insight into how some of these medical advances were made possible.

Nice White Lady

I was gathering something to kick off our second day of discussion in Adolescent Literature about Push and stumbled over this fantastic vid.  I love MadTV.  It is so much more brilliant than SNL…far outlasting the longevity of humor.

I had to post it here.  Especially since this week is the Women’s Collective’s Annual Conference, Got Privilege? This video is perfect to add to the discussion:

Guest Blogger: Daphney Etienne

The Play’s the Thing

Gerard Depardieu and Abigail Breslin have been in the news lately for the same reasons that Angelina Jolie was in the news in 2007, and Jennifer Lopez, back in 1996. Not because of their superb acting skills, but because they’re applying their skills to play someone who is physically not the same as they are.

When Jennifer Lopez signed on to play Selena in the 1997 biopic about the late Tejano singer, the Mexican community was outraged. Mexican-American activists were critical of Lopez taking the role, preferring an actress with Mexican roots, rather than the New York City native born to Puerto American parents.

Three years ago, Angelina Jolie took on the role of Marianne Pearle in A Mighty Heart, the story of the search for kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearle. Although the movie was met with positive reviews from critics and viewers alike, many criticized the casting choice.

In the movie, unlike in Selena, race was not an issue. However, the African-American community questioned the choice of having Jolie, a white actress, playing an Afro-Cuban woman. The director, Michael Winterbottom, defended this, claiming that the two women are friends. They are very similar people in their roles as woman and their respective roles as journalists and actors.

If to act basically means “to become the other”, why does race or nationality matter so much? It is physically impossible to become the same nationality as another, but it is totally possible to portray another. Both Lopez and Jolie received great praise for their roles, with people deeming Jolie’s performance as Oscar Worthy.

Gerard Depardieu, a white actor from France, is the latest to be criticized, and even attacked for playing someone of another race. He is set to portray famed writer, Alexandre Dumas in the new film L’autre Dumas. France’s Representative Council for Black Associations said “it’s insulting for a white actor to play Dumas, whose grandmother was a Haitian slave”, claiming that it is as if saying a Black actor is not talented enough to play Dumas.

Are these groups forgetting that Dumas like Marianne Pearle, are both mixed race. (Pearle, like Jolie, are both half French). Dumas spent his whole life in France, so if race or ethnicity really matters in the casting choice, is not more fitting to have French men to play Dumas?

We now have talented young actress Abigail Beslin playing Helen Keller in the Broadway revival of The Miracle Worker.

Groups representing blind and deaf actors are outraged. Sharon Jensem, executive director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, told the New York Times, “We do not think it’s OK for reputable producers to cast this lead role without considering an actress from our community”. The show’s producer, David Richenthal, claims that “the production was unable to find a blind or deaf child actor with the star power to bring enough of an audience to justify the show’s large budget”.

He is right. Acting is a business. Breslin, Jolie, Depardieu are big enough names to attract people to come see any movie or play. As sad as it is, and as much as I hope it changes, for an actor or actress of color, if your name is not Jackie Chan, Will smith, Morgan Freeman, Halle Berry, or Denzel Washington, chances are you cannot open a movie, and when there is so much money involved, it is not easy to take a risk and cast an unknown.

How very white of you.

I used to have a subscription to Vanity Fair.  This was from way back—in high school—when I was still mystified by New York nightlife and how a real metro city functioned, not the mid-west metro of Cleveland, OH.

I loved seeing the busyness of social events, trying to name the participants before I had to look to the boxed number of names at the bottom of the page.  I loved Dunne, Hitchens, Leibovitz and Wolcott; I tried to imagine any one of them as the Dorothy Parker of my generation.

Over the years, I have let my subscription come and go, renewing when I realized I was picking it up at the drug store, which I tended to do when the Hollywood issues started to come out in the 90s.



I love the Hollywood issues.  Not only are they beautifully photographed; they usually introduce me to someone new, cutting edge, up-and-coming, someone that is just a little left of the indie scene that they make look just fantastic enough that I want to know who they are.




Imagine my surprise when this year’s issue was released this morning.  The cover text reads, “A New Decade, A New Hollywood! 2010.”  So apparently, this is what the brilliant minds at Vanity Fair think is A New Decade of Hollywood.  Notice anything that might just be a bit problematic?


Define normal.

Last night, just as I was ready to go to bed, I stumbled on this website from Life Magazine: The Many Faces of Serial Killers. I suppose I should be embarrassed to admit that this website had me up until 4a reading every detail I could on those listed—gotta love Wikipedia.

[And I suppose I probably shouldn’t even admit my fascination for serial killers, only the second week into the semester but yeah, it is what it is.]

So there it is: serial killers tap into my curiosity something fierce.

Really. Because you know what? A true psychopath is so normal.

Well, what we define as ideologically normal. They could be anyone—your cousin, brother, your neighbor. Especially your neighbor.

The whole serial killer persona peaks my interest for several reasons. First of all, because I am from Ohio. Do you know how many serial killers are from Ohio? Almost all of them. No, really. Ohio has the highest connection of any US state to serial killers either by crimes committed or where they were born or once lived. (OK. I have no citation for that. But if you Google Ohio and serial killers, you will be totally surprised how many come up with the Ohio connection).

The second thing that makes me stand on alert is the lack of female serial killers. In fact, if you look at the list provided by Life magazine above, there is only one female serial killer listed: Aileen Wuornos.

And we pretty much know who she is because of the film with Charlize Theron.

There is no way there are that few female serial killers. If there were, how can you explain shows like Oxygen’s Snapped or We TV’s Women Behind Bars?

I am also intrigued that the statistics on serial killers are changing. In the past, the average serial killer was a Caucasian male in his mid-thirties. Yet the biggest shocker in the serial killer fan community (of which I am not a member, really) is the discovery of Anthony Sowell, an African-American male.

He, allegedly, killed eleven women before the police caught him. And hey—shocker:

He’s from Ohio.

I think this is why I like CSI. And SVU. And watching truTV. (Not Reality. Actuality.) Because the more I learn about serial killers, the more normal they make me look.