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[sticky post] Race and the Walking Dead

Now that we are in the mid-season break of the Walking Dead, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the glaringly obvious racial problems within this potentially interesting show. (My comments are about the show only—I have not gotten the chance to read the comic book. I certainly hope it does race better than its television counterpart.)

As someone who writes genre fiction myself, I understand the difficulty in writing fully actualize minority characters and the fear of doing it wrong. I understand that it’s just easier to ignore race all together or succumb to the idea that minorities don’t watch genre shows anyway, so choose not to bother. This attitude, though, leads to problems as evidenced by the big fat racial disaster in the Walking Dead.

The show is not necessarily a disaster because of the plot, though it’s slow and there are few likeable characters. It’s such because of the elephant in the room.

It was Toni Morrison who said that the “black presence*” is placed in fiction (and in this case TV) according to the needs and desires of its white creator and that the presence has been there since the creation of the construct of race—or at least the beginning of the American slave trade. Most notably, though, she says that the black presence is there even if it’s ignored and especially if it is unrecognized. In other words, blackness is a part of our social consciousness (in binary opposition to whiteness) and to ignore it shows more about the society than about the people the society hopes to alienate.

The Walking Dead is prime example: in the heart of downtown Atlanta, which has one of the largest black populations in the country, there should be blacks. Lots of them. Everywhere. In fact, it’s hard to imagine writing about Atlanta without having a significantly black cast. Other than perhaps Gone With the Wind. We’re damn near 60% of the population.

Blacks would have been within the homeless which turned into zombies that invaded the city, they would have been within the working population, and obviously they would have been a significant part of the survivors. Assuming you couldn’t find walk-ons to play the zombies, it should have been imperative to cast more than a few for main roles. Instead the unique Atlanta location was ignored and with it the opportunity to do race better than its genre predecessors.

The show began with so much promise. In a small town somewhere near Atlanta (close enough to ride a horse to into the city) a white cop, Rick, awakes to the world all zombiefied. He eventually runs into a black father (Morgan) and son (Duane). I’ll be honest with you. To me, these two characters are the most interesting characters in the entire series. They had all of the makings of a long thematic future: inner turmoil, focus, a father’s fight for his son while suffering visits from the child’s dead mother. From a viewer’s standpoint it was very effective to see this dead woman appear at the door, menacingly spying into the peephole torturing the pair. There has been only one parallel moment in the show (those who watch it will remember the shocking ending to the third episode in the second season).

But from this point it becomes wholly unremarkable and even problematic. The white man leaves the blacks behind. Naturally this is what the “characters” want (this becomes important again later) and so Rick doesn’t have any choice but to leave them. Now, this is completely ridiculous premise or at least needs a better set up. Not only do I think this dude would have taken his son the hell out of there, but he would have done it long before the cop even showed up. Of course it’s easy to talk about the character’s motivations and whatnot, but the truth is that this is written. It’s not real life which has no plot or reason. No. Instead someone wrote this fantastic duo out of the show after manipulating them to set up Rick’s search for his own son.

The show moves on (slowly) and the father finally finds his family—with a group of approximately 20 other survivors. The racial makeup: two blacks (woman and man), a Latino couple and two children, one Asian and the rest were either white or looked so**.

Two of the characters are redneck white dudes. They’re racist and they are used to show us how bad racism is so that anything else pales in comparison. At least they show us how bad obvious racism is. Instead the show uses long hidden biases within our society because by the time the finale comes around the black woman has out grown her usefulness.

One possible highlight: Somewhere around mid season, the group runs into a gang of Latino “thugs.” We know they’re thugs, because, well they’re Latino**. However, at this point the show does something interesting. It turns our preconceived notions of minority thugs on its head and shows us a group of individuals who are taking care of the elderly. Of course it’s done through a gang like structural group which is wholly different than our obvious “good guys” and the viewer realizes that Rick and his group cannot stay less the head gang member outshine him.

This leads me to one of the most obviously fucked up moments in the show. After discovering the CDC they’ve taken shelter in is going to explode, one of the white women decides to stay, taking her own life. Likewise the black woman, Jacqui, does the same. A white male character comes back for the white woman and tells her he refuses to let her die. Obviously she’s worth more than blowing up in the bunker of an obsolete federal building. Too bad Jacqui isn’t also. The white man tells the white woman that he will stay with her and die too if she doesn’t leave. Not wanting to risk the white man’s life, the white woman leaves and her life is spared. No one tries to save the black woman—none of the white characters or the minority ones. It can be assumed then that even the minority characters realize that this woman is not worth saving.

The two whites share an odd glance with the black woman as they leave. The glance speaks volumes and the “black presence” stumbles all over itself trying to ignore the obvious ideology within the show: black women are valued less and are not worth the effort it takes to save them; and minorities must be left behind, they are expendable, useless to the new society. Of course Jacqui blows up at the writers’, I mean …. um… her own insistence.

Somewhere around this time the Latino couple and children decide to leave off on their own. They probably saw the warning signs and chose to rough it out, less being considered expendable within the group structure. Or, you know, the writers didn’t have a use for them anymore.

At this point, there are a few main characters left in the show, but the remaining black man is certainly not one of them. The Asian guy could be argued as such, but only in that he is the errand boy for the rest of the group. Seriously, he’s “small and fast” and sent to get stuff, like pregnancy test for the white characters. Yep, they’re reproducing while the minorities are dropping off like flies. Actually, now that I think about it, isn’t that the basis of the eugenics movement of the last century and one of the major concerns of whites of the time. If the people of the last century had only known that a zombie apocalypse was the answer.

Either way, the black man hardly appears in the show at all and he’s actually one of the most pathetic people on TV. The whites on the show are running around, protecting the group while the black guy gets his ass kicked; drops a key, effectively killing the racist white dude; and gets a blood infection. It could be argued, though (and I’m willing to accept this argument to some extent), that the character is the exact opposite of the typical black male in other shows. And it’s true. Other than the name “T-Dog” (WTF?) he’s not obviously the black “hood,” he isn’t the black “businessman” and he isn’t the black “intellectual.” No instead he’s a completely blank slate. We don’t know anything about him which is not the case for any other character in the entire show.

For example:

Rick, a white cop has a wife and son and we have flashbacks back to them before the apocalypse. He’s the leader for whatever reason, but he’s not particularly good at it. But he’s a cop, and can shoot a gun, so why not?

Shane: the other white cop is his friend and is in love with his wife. For the life of me, I don’t know why. She seems to be the only chick who doesn’t find a way to shower and she’s constantly dirty. He’s also a leader or was before Rick came back. He shoots things and protects the group.

Lori, the wife is torn between two men. She has a son, she was having problems with her husband before he died and then moved on right after. She’s pregos and whiny and we don’t know who’s kid it is. But she assures us it doesn’t matter. She’s a woman so naturally she cooks. That’s what women do. But she helps the group this way.

Andrea lost her sister and is suffering from depression. She wanted to die but the writers interfered. She’s turning out to be a good shot. Even she hunts and helps the group now.

Carol’s husband abused her. She has a daughter who’s missing/dead and suffers for it. Woman = cook. And she’s sad which shows she’s a real person.

Daryl sacrificed his racist brother for the sake of the group. He is a great fighter and does what has to be done for everyone to survive. He is the only person who didn’t give up on the little girl—which show he’s a real (not racist like his bother) person. He hunts and protects the group and has an awesome silent shooter.

Dale: the old man. He’s in love with Andrea—whether physically or just in a daughter way, I can’t tell. He sees everything around him and doesn’t like Shane. Who can blame him really, but it’s none of his business and he can’t stop interfering. He often keeps a look out and protects in that way.

Glen, the only other minority, is sleeping with a white girl. They’re a cute couple and we’re supposed to like them. He’s a gofer for the group because…he’s Asian and small and fast. Oh and at one point the group decides to put him in the well with a zombie for no clear reason at all. And why not, the U.S. has been putting Asians in dark oppressive holes since the beginning of the transcontinental railroad.

T-Dog?…. I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know if he was related to the black woman. I don’t know if he was married or if he has ever had sex in his life, to tell the truth. If the show told us this, I don’t remember because it wasn’t important. Nothing about him is. Nothing about him is memorable, either.

I take that back. He did have one memorable moment other than getting his ass kicked by Daryl’s brother and losing the key.

The only other time race was mentioned was after T-Dog (seriously, what the fuck’s up with the name?) cut himself and became infected. The redneck, Daryl, saves his life which is meant to tell us something really important such as if the redneck has finally gotten over race and become “colorblind” then by god everyone should. Including the viewers.

But not, of course, their own character. After getting saved by Daryl T-Dog gets a blood infection (he truly is pathetic). In his delirious state he goes on a racial diatribe, complaining that everyone around him is “racist” and explaining that it is not safe for a black man to be around southern Georgia cops and too many white folks. Of course these are valid concerns but he is shut down effectively by Dale. T-Dog hasn’t really appeared in the show since that time which, I suppose, is the proper smack down for daring to challenge the white powers that be.

The interesting thing here is the implication that race is only ever a problem when minorities mention it. And obviously it’s only mentioned when the person is crazy or delusional. Race, within the show or otherwise, is never an issue for practical, rational thinking people—only infected black men. Racism is either blatant in your face (the racist redneck) or it is an accusation (the black man) and doesn’t really exist. Either way, it does not belong in a zombie apocalypse.

Ironically the character during this rare moment of honesty is probably right. At least about the show and the black presence that Morrison has outlined. The show does race in a really poor way and this is highlighted by the fact that they have until this moment ignored it and then out of nowhere attacked it so aggressively, as if to silence any dissenting voice daring to challenge them.

The truth is that race is an issue and it will still be an issue after the apocalypse, no matter the source. It’s not realistic to ignore it. Of course the real message seems to be that black and minority people are expendable—no need to replace them—just keep moving, ignoring the obvious. They don’t belong in our new (soon to be zombie free, we hope) society.

The real question of course lies with the Walking Dead staff—the presumable white creator. Will they continue to play ignorant with the “black presence,” ignoring it but never truly succeeding because of the inherent nature of blackness in our society? Or will they challenge themselves, realizing they will probably get things wrong but that doing it wrong, and trying, is often better than not doing it at all?

Practically anything is better than what we have now.

*Toni Morrison refers to the black presence as the “Africanist presence” in her literary criticism Playing in the Dark. It’s brilliant and I wholly suggest reading it.

**I realize that some of the actors’ racial identity may be different from the characters they play, but that is irrelevant to the stereotype we are given on screen.

Originally published December 20th, 2011.

Jul. 20th, 2015

So, stuff happened on FB yesterday. I made an off handed comment about using "niggardly and niggly" in conversation and people had feelings. Lots of them. But it was this comment that was quite telling.

So I think I need to make a confession.

I have breast.

I enjoy them, embrace them and even show them off sometimes. And, truthfully, I haven't really been able to hide them since I was about 12 years old. But I was young, well endowed and embarrassed because a boy touched me without my permission, so I wanted them to go away. But that was a long time ago and I'm not that girl anymore.

I am not ashamed of my body. And you, stranger, FB "friend," man or woman cannot shame into behaving the way you want. You certainly can't call my intelligence into question because of my attire. For one thing, you have no control over the way I feel about myself.  For another, as a black woman in this world, I have had to do nothing but prove myself. That means I'm smarter, and have more confidence and consciousness than you can ever hope to understand. I don't apologize for that.

If you feel a disconnect between my sexiness and my intelligence, that's a problem within you. And I don't apologize for that either.

I refuse to apologize for my body, my mind or my existence. I am not that 12 year old girl anymore. I am not hiding. My existence is a sight of resistance. So is my mind. As is my body.  I love, honor and enjoy them all equally. You cannot change that. Ever.
As you may know, singer Ani DiFranco decided to hold a "righteous retreat" at a southern plantation. Naturally, Black feminist--and pretty much anyone with an understanding of history--were dismayed. For days feminist who were upset by the site of the venue, which "is not just the site of one of the largest slave plantations in the area, but is also preserved as an exclusive resort actively distorting and even glorifying brutal history of slavery in the United States," spoke out.
So of course, as a feminist and ally, Ani apologized, acknowledging the hurt that this choice of venue has caused, right? No. Instead, in her faux apology, she plays the victim, accuses Black women of being "bitter" and having "hatred" and manages to make the apology all about her deep sorrow and her own pain and hurt.

Are you shocked that someone who professes to be a feminist, a woman who is concerned with the oppression of all women and peoples, would be so callous? Go and read the apology for yourself. As always, though, don't read the comments. Although they claim that Ani is anti-racist and seeks only unity, her supporters manage to be racist and dismissive of minority women's search for equality.
If, however, you cannot stand to read another screed from yet another White feminist who refuses to acknowledge that Black and minority women have the right to define feminism for themselves, then no worries. I suffered for you. I. Read. Every. Word. Here is a running commentary I wrote while reading Ani DiFranco's response on Twitter, with the hashtag #NoPology.

Read @anidifranco apology & weep b/c if oppressed people cant recognize the oppression they inflict on others, there is no hope. #nopology

Let's break down the #NoPology: "I have heard you." That's not what you say to those you respect. You say this those you look down on.

@anidifranco didnt know the setting would "trigger such high velocity bitterness." Bitterness, like cattiness, is bad. Stop it WOC #NoPology

@anidifranco thought "the setting wld be a participant in the event" Nothing like singing Dixie songs w/WW to make me feel welcome #NoPology

@anidifranco: "this was a gathering of progressive people." I.E: folks who believe slavery & racism is past--not like patriarchy. #NoPology

"i believe people must go to [hurtful] places, meditate & absorb the pain" Or, @anidifranco thinks you should heal as she sees fit #NoPology

@anidifranco: "if nottoway isnt acceptable, then let me concede b/f more divisive wrds are spilled" If? BINGO! WOC are being divisive. #NoPology

BW,@anidifranco thinks it's unfortunate how you've chosen to deal w/the pain of slavery. Now you've been properly chastised by a WW. #NoPology

@anidifranco: "i canceled to restore peace & respectful discourse." B/c BW who reject oppression arent peaceful nor have respect. #NoPology

@anidifranco "entreats u to refocus comments w/positive energy" In other words, ignore ur oppression & be happy. Kinda like slaves? #NoPology

@anidifranco: "allow us now to work together towards common ground and healing." UNITY, BW. Which really just means stop questioning WW. #NoPology

@anidifranco cant say "nottoway reached depths of racism but nowhere else." So,a plantation is as good a place as any-get over it. #NoPology

@anidifranco "knows buildings built bfore 1860 in the South were built on the backs of slaves." She just doesnt let it effect her. #NoPology

@anidifranco: "not using buildings w/history of slavery wuld mean moving away." And make things really hard for WW to plan events. #NoPology

@anidifranco: we all "sit on stolen land from original people who suffered genocide." Think of the Natives. Stop being selfish BW. #NoPology

@anidifranco: "a large % of taxes goto making weapons." There're problems bigger than ur oppression/racism-but not mine/patriarchy #NoPology

@anidifranco: "it's a imperfect world & im trying mybest to negotiate it." BW will build a cross to nail yourself in appreciation #NoPology

@anidifranco: "the current owner disturbs me but I dont know owners of other venues." Excuse me while I play willfully obtuse now. #NoPology

"is it possible to separate positive from negative people in this world?" @anidifranco, please please put the pen down. Back away. #NoPology

@anidifranco: "is it possible to ensure no bad person will profit from my work?" No. So why not willingly hurt WOC? #NotYourFault #NoPology

@anidifranco: "shld hatred be spit at me?" No one hates u. Well, I hate u for this long ass #NoPology. But u havent been hurt-just ur pride.

@anidifranco: "we need every ounce of energy to create positve change in this world." The cross is still waiting. Shld we burn it? #NoPology

@anidifranco: "i planned to go to Roots of Music, a free music school for underprivileged kids." She has servant's hearts. #NoPology

@anidifranco: "i believe Roots could've gained a few new supporters." And thus BW you've hurt your people w/your selfish demands. #NoPology

We'll pretend, @anidifranco, you couldn't still do these things w/o holding the event where thousands of Blacks suffered & died. #NoPology

@anidifranco: "let's not oversimplify to blck & whte a society that contains shades of grey." It's the gender divide that matters. #NoPology

I'd like to remind @anidifranco, and the feminist that support her, that if men were to give them this bullshit #NoPology, theyd be offended

@anidifranco No renouncing Mandi Harrington? Your call for unity is only a condemnation of BW for speaking aganst their oppresson. #NoPology

@anidifranco: "let's be compassionate as we write the next pages in our history." Or, you know, rewrite it to suit our needs. #NoPology

@anidifranco: "our story isnt over, it is ours to write." And if we write enough words maybe we'll get folks to believe our #NoPology.

@anidifranco's fans still keeping it classy: "i agree ani, we are all slaves these fucks are just too stupid to know it." Fucks=BW #NoPology

When you hurt someone you care about, you apologize. You do not explain, describe, wax philosophical or rationalize. @anidifranco #NoPology

Through it all Ani DiFranco does not do the one thing you do to those you have hurt; she doesn't apologize. She barely even acknowledge that there is hurt, other than her own. She instead chooses to double down, blaming and condemning minority women who have not fallen in line with her desire to "make the world a better place"--in a $1000 retreat at a Southern plantation.  In other words, she behaves very much as a someone who supports a White dominated, patriarchal, hegemonic, capitalistic society. I.E. the very society her supporters claim she rejects.  
Although we have met in real life, you and I have gotten acquainted through Facebook, which it seems is where all true friendships go to die. We have not spoken in years, but respond every now and again to each other’s post. But we are “friends” in only the way that modern 21st century folks can be.

I link to a blog post which calls out White feminism and their behavior towards Michele Obama. You reply and preface your statement with a comment about your Native American ancestry to, I suppose, establish your non-White authority—which only adds to your White authority, so you have all bases covered now.  You disagree with the author stating that White women have been in a power struggle with White men, because you say White women rank “below” all men and then you go on to boil the conversation down to “feminist bickering.”

You are, you admit, “ignorant” of feminism, but you are adamant that until men treat all women as equals nothing will change.

Others chime in to express their disagreement. Some point out the history of Black men and White women and the threat of rape. Some mention class. Others discuss patriarchy. It’s a lively, but interesting discussion.

You respond a few times, mostly stating that “the fight shouldn’t be against other women.” In other words Black women you should start fighting the real enemy: men, not White women. You do not see this as your argument, but those who have a history of feminism have seen it many many times before. You see, when suggesting that groups get along to oppose only the most dominate group, the minority group’s voice is always drowned out. Their priories are ignored. Minority women know this because they have been asked to do this too often in the past.

Someone expresses the frustration that your ideology is part of the problem and you get indignant, angry. You write, delete and rewrite a comment stating that you have been insulted. You, quite frankly, make this entire conversation about yourself. It’s about your feelings, your hurt at seeing the struggles of White women diminished, your pain at being associated with those oppressive White women, despite your Native roots that you so desperately cling to.

Seeing that this is getting out of hand, I quickly, but carefully explain the history of feminism to you, although you could not be bothered to research yourself. I do the heavy lifting for you, which I have often done. But, hey, we’re “friends,” right? I say: “White feminist have always asked Black and other minority women to “stop fighting against them,” or to toe the line. Of course we should all just be fighting against misogyny. Let’s just ignore racism, and more importantly, let’s just ignore the racism that White women themselves often perpetrate against minority women.”

You get it. For a moment.

Then your indignation makes you angry. Are you that White woman? You need to know. You comment, then email me demanding for me to come clean, to absolve you of the connection to the dreaded White woman who has done all of those terrible things.

You tell me that you are not responsible for the way that I have misinterpreted your words, and yet you want to make me responsible for the way that you have misinterpreted mine.

You are a smart woman. MA. PhD. M.D. All of the important initials behind your name, you carry them proudly. You’ve earned them. You’ve fought for every single one.  And so you believe that I have committed an “ecological fallacy” every time I call Whites racist simply because they are White, not understanding that I see racism as a system. That I, unlike you, have studied this. I’ve lived it. That I understand that although individuals can be racist, it is the systemic structures of racism that oppress groups of people. Systems, as we were talking here, such as feminism, which has too often ignored and even endorsed racism against Black women and minority peoples.

But now I cannot be bothered. I have done this before. Many many times, in fact. I do this monthly, weekly, daily sometimes. I am often “that” friend. The Black friend. The woman. The Black woman to whom many of my White acquaintances request I absolve them of history’s past, asked to bear the guilt that they feel, told that I’m mean or angry or bitter if I refuse.

So I respond, without responding:

I believe the meme is cute, non-aggressive, and expresses my own frustration with you and your demands of me. (Of course, you probably did not notice that I never made any demands of you. I did not expect you to justify my own ideologies. I am not privileged enough to expect this.)

You get angry. You unfriend me. Then you take to your FB page. You call yourself a “cracker” to gain sympathy, although that’s a term I never used. You misquote me (whether deliberate or not, I’m not sure), but you invoke the equivalent of online White women’s tears. Your tears, you believe, are true. They are clear, pure, genuine.

Mine do not exist.

You get your sympathy. The White men (and women) come to comfort you. Of course in comforting you, they disparage me. There cannot be one without the other. They express their disappointment in me.  You see, I am not the person they wish I was, that they want me to be. I am not quiet, do not acquiescent, cannot be submissive. I am not that Black woman. The Black woman they would have me be.

In the mist of it all the message is lost. The sisterhood that you sought is quickly thrown aside in favor of that familiar connection with the dominant status quo.  My behavior, you believe, is representative of my hypocrisy.  I didn’t toe the line because I had my own thoughts and ideas that did not fit in line with yours. That makes me a hypocrite.

To you your anger is justified. Mine does not exist.

It doesn’t exist because I’ve done this before. I’ll do it again in the near future. Probably this month, week, or even tomorrow. While you, you can go on and believe that that mean Black woman will never be happy until she understands that White crackers are just a “little salty” sometimes, if never really hurtful.

My pain, you see, is invisible. 

Summer Research and Writing

I finally turned in my essay, Black Women and the New Magical Negro: How the Combination of the Magical Negro and the Strong Black Woman Stereotypes Combine to Oppress Black Women Within Speculative Genre Films, for The Wiley-Blackwell Companions to National Cinemas Series edited by Mark A. Reid. It's based off an article I wrote for Clarkes World Magazine.

I've also finished the rewrite on by Black female detective novel set in 1920s Harlem Renaissance and will get it to the agent soon. Now I have to hand in two short stories and one academic piece about Michonne and The Walking Dead by end of the month before I start my masters program at Georgia State University. And I just got another request to write a story for an anthology that sounds interesting--which of course I accepted because I'm a glutton for punishment.

That said, I'm just peeking my head up for a bit to let you know that I will be leading a workshop on Writing the Other at Context 26 in September. In case you will be in the area:

Are you worried about reinforcing stereotypes or offending others with your depictions of racial, gender and other minority characters? Do you want to find that balance between exploring different places and people, without exploiting them for cheap scares and entertainment? In this intensive two hour workshop for beginning and advanced writers, you will focus on creating characters who are different from your own perspective in a comfortable, safe space so that you can learn to avoid common pitfalls and mistakes. Chesya is currently getting her MA in African American Studies at Georgia State University and her 2011 fiction collection, Let's Play White, is being studied in several universities around the country and received high praise from Samuel Delany and Nikki Giovanni. She's also a juror for the upcoming 2013 Shirley Jackson Awards.

I do not like reality shows. I never watch them, and feel annoyed when show creators insult my intelligence by pretending their “reality” is anything other than manufactured for ratings, which in turn lines their pockets. This, of course, being the most important thing—their pocketbook.

I know this.

Some of the other things that I know for sure is that racism still exists; homophobia still exists; sexism still exists. These things are apparent when the Supreme Court strikes down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, or when many politicians are creating anti-abortion bills that threaten to close clinics where women receive much needed care, or when we are still fighting for a portion of our populations’ right to get married.

So imagine my non-surprise when I hear that there are racist and homophobic bullies on this season's Big Brother. In case you aren't aware, as I wasn't, "three female [Big Brother] participants Aaryn, GinaMarie and Kaitlin were caught last week on the show's live feed launching into racist and homophobic tirades against fellow housemates."

To make this clear, I realize that the tirades were only seen on the live feed, and were not aired on the weekly shows. So maybe you’re thinking: “Sometimes people joke about things, we shouldn’t take jokes too seriously. Lighten up, everybody!” So here are a few examples of what is happening within the closed doors of your house, CBS:

“When discussing Asian-American housemate Helen, contestant Aaryn says: '...like shutup, go make some rice'. Then contestant GinaMarie adds: 'Andy was like, ''I'm gonna punch her in the face,'' and I was like, ''Maybe that'll make her eyes straight.'''

That not enough? Well, here is an exhaustive list of what was said, and I pasted a few blow:

GinaMarie said that, because of her income level, she receives “nigger insurance” (she whispered the n-word, so it’s possible she said the version that ends with “a”). She whispered it to both Nick and Andy, neither of whom challenged her. In other words, she is playing on the stereotype that only Blacks receive welfare.

Aaryn said of Andy, “No one’s gonna vote for whoever that queer puts up.” She also suggested he’d win MVP because “people love the queers.”

Talking about sheets that smelled bad, David said they were that way because “black Candice” was on them, and then admitted, “that was totally racist.”

So there are some bigots in the Big Brother house. I’m sure they aren’t the first, and unfortunately, do to our society, they will not be the last. The problem is your reaction to it, CBS. We learn from the DailyMail that in complete contradiction to “reality,” you will not be airing the racist, misogynistic and homophobic slurs, and instead have edited them out of the episodes of the show that air weekly.

Make no mistake, however, by editing these comments, CBS is condoning them. As one commenter said, it’s as if they’re saying: “Well, we don’t like that they said it, but we are going to support the contestants who did it by making it appear it didn’t happen.” They are propping up racism and homophobia by hiding it away and SHOWCASING the perpetrators as nothing more than young people…having fun.”

Of course every single time a company ignores the harm that these insidious prejudices cause, they acerbate the problem. Bigotry has an alarming effect on the populace, and ignoring it never works. In this day and time bigots rarely put on hoods or burn crosses, or even lynch people anymore. Instead, they hide behind their prejudices, run to the internet where they can be anonymous, or cast their votes in whatever manner they can.

Such as political races…. or TV shows.

What is to stop the racist and homophobic undercurrents of the American populace to start voting to insure that these biased individuals have power within the house, as if to correct the power that they feel they are losing to diversity in the outside, real reality world? Then, because CBS has not made known what is happening, others, who would not condone such ridiculousness, also vote so that these offensive people slowly begin to gain control within the house. To bigots this is a victory. And the American people, yet again, will have lost the opportunity to address this type of behavior. They won’t even have been given the opportunity to. They will have been coddled as if they could not handle "real reality," as if they can only the face the reality that CBS offers. This puts you, CBS, in the position of not just condoning racism, but fostering it in the house, and in the outside society as a whole.

By not taking action, and deliberately covering it up, you are in fact supporting racism and homophobia. You, CBS, are creating an entire institution structured around it, and supported by it. You, CBS, are making money from bigotry.

I realize, of course that the, racist and homophobic comments do not add to your bottom line, but of course neither does addressing them or weeding them out. So instead of taking action, such as pulling the guest or actually airing what was said so that the viewers will be aware of what is truly happening within this reality, and can then begin the long needed dialogue on how to fix things, you, CBS, have opted to condone it.

I do not believe that you have thought this through, CBS. I would like to ask you, again, to do the right thing and hold these bigots accountable for what they have done, and not care more for your bottom line. Or, let's face real reality and let America decide.

So, I responded to a Facebook conversation about Paula Deen yesterday. Now many will believe that this is where I made my first mistake and…well, you’re probably right. But at the time, it actually seemed like a sound idea. Despite the fact that there were mostly comments by white men and many were defending Deen, I still thought: rational conversation. After all, we are Facebook friends, right? And there was just no way that this could go wrong.

Here’s how it went down, with commentary.

The post began, “Anne Rice is right” about Paula Deen. For those who are not aware, Anne Rice, the author of Interview With the Vampire, made statements that she felt Deen was being publically “lynched” because of racist statements and business policies that Deen had enacted within her restaurants.

As you can imagine, comparing Deen with lynching, in which whites would hang, burn and castrate blacks who dared to challenge them, did not go over so well. People were naturally upset that a person who made her living using words, could be so careless with them. Now this person defended Rice, who defended Deen. So I commented that, “it’s really interesting to see people defending and feeling sorry for poor Paula Deen and how she's being lynched and crucified--as if her use of the "n" word once in her life is the problem. If you want to feel sorry for someone, how about feeling sorry for her poor black employees who were forced to enter and leave through back doors and use separate bathrooms than whites....”

The oddest response in the history of responses followed: “Chesya, in spite of yesterday's ruling, it's still not legal for people like me to get married, a right that every race, creed, and religion enjoys, that convicts and mentally incapacitated people enjoy. Furthermore, when people like me point it out, they're told to check their "white privilege." Please, let's not go there with the victimization Olympics, at least until we have a gay President in the White House….”

Um…okay. Your gay rights are being trampled by…Paula Deen…oh, no, by the people who are calling out Paula Deen for racist policies? Okay, I admit, I don’t make the connection, but…actually, why are we talking about gay rights, again?

Because, he said, “the double standard that seems to apply for public outrage of this magnitude is ludicrous and noxious” and “it stopped being about "racism" days ago.” Okay, but I don’t think we should dismiss what Paula Deen has said and done because gays aren’t getting a fair shake.

Then the white male upset: “No one is dismissing what she said, but the fact that you need to manipulate what my post actually says speaks to the weakness of your own position.”

Manipulate? “By saying that Anne Rice is right,” I told him, “I believe that you are dismissing what Paula Deen has done. After all, Anne Rice dismissed it herself by saying what Deen had said wasn't a problem because she only said it to a white woman. This is dismissive because it pretends that Deen's actions are somehow no big deal.”

Then more white man upset for the poor, rich, Southern, white woman while pulling the whole, you’re-just-a-youngen’-stop-trying-to-talk-with-the-menfolk card: “Anne Rice did not say that, sorry. Again, if we could stick to actual facts rather than distortions, that would be terrific. You've already distorted what I've said, now you're distorting what Mrs. Rice said. These entry-level political tricks are tedious, and I was watching them happen before you were born. They're tired.”

So I quote Mrs. Rice: “[Paula Deen] made the remark privately to Lisa Jackson. She did not say it to a black person to offend that person or hurt that person. She isn't the one to broadcast that comment to the whole world.... Lisa Jackson did that. And she's white by the way."

I think I did a fine job of summarizing what Anne Rice said, actually. And I said so.

But he responded: “That is not what she said.... You stated that she said the comment "wasn't a problem because she only said it to a white woman." As you yourself just quoted, that is neither what she said, nor what she meant.”

Now, I know that words have meaning, and I know that it’s important to get to the root of the meaning, so let’s figure this out. How does Anne Rice’s words that she said it to a white person, so as not to hurt a black person not mean the same thing as it wasn't a problem (i.e. hurtful) to black people because she only said it to a white woman? I don’t know, but I really need someone to explain this to me.

Oh, but this gets better.

Because during this whole ordeal, this “gentlemen” continues to use the “n” word over and over again. But don't worry, he always put it in "quotations." In several different post, even within post back to back to back to back to back, as if to make a very important point about how he’s not racist. And evidently how he didn’t want to appear racist while talking to a Black woman about racism and using the “n” word over and over and over again. It didn’t matter that “I” never used it; it didn’t even matter, evidently, if I was offended by it.

If I had pointed this out, I probably would have been accused of whining. How do I know? Because soon after, I was accused of whining. When he asked me to “prove” that Paula Deen had admitted to many of the allegations during her deposition, I said there was no point “because it will probably be ignored or claimed that a direct quote does not say what it actually says or that I've misrepresented something.”

The response: “Chesya, please don't whine. If you have an example of her admitting to "many of the allegations," just post them. Don't play the victim here, it's not necessary.”

Then another white guy: “I know I'd like less whining and more posting of FACTS.”

So I’m perceived as whining. Although I didn’t start a conversation about “racism and sexism” and then turn it completely around and make it about my own oppression, complaining that I can’t get married and black people can or that there’s no gay president in the white house. But these dudes tell me to stop whining? Let me guess, I’m a woman, so I whine. He’s a man, so he….what?

Again, I need help with this.

Eventually, for some reason, Anne Rice is linked to (as if he expects her to bring down her rain of truth on me) and her son is spoken to as if he’s commented (I have no idea if he did): “Note to Christopher Rice. I did not need another reason to love your mother, but she has been so stand-up in this instance, I applaud her. Even more.”


Then there was some half ass thank you to “everyone, for the thoughtful, respectful commentary.” I assume he means other than constantly using that derogatory word in his responses to me or accusing me of whining—you know, like a girl.

Things I learned from this conversation, Paula Deen was actually being “quite complementary” when she said she wanted blacks dressing like slaves, and if I like Jesse Jackson I’m a hypocrite and I don’t know anything about race or history (the last two must be true, because a black guy said it).

Eventually, I stopped responding because, let’s be honest, there was no point. Whining again, sorry! But I have a few thoughts on the conversation that I tweeted throughout yesterday and many people responded to.

But none of this matters because, you know, it’s easier to just dismiss me as whining. That means you don't have to address your hurtful ideologies.

As you've probably heard, Quvenzhané Wallis, the young actress from Beast of the Southern Wild, received some very insulting criticisms at the Oscars and over the internet last night. In case you didn't know, young Ms. Wallis is only nine years old, which makes most of the comments even more puzzling. Author Nora Jemisin sums it up nicely:

"[For some reason] half of Hollywood decided that it hated [Quvenzhané Wallis].

The reasons for that hate vary. Some of it’s just… Hollywood, land of the unbelievably hateful people who tear each other down to build themselves up. (Where I come from that’s called bullying, and it happens most often in a schoolyard.) There’s a billion snickering comments and articles online right now about the fact that one of the Oscar winners tripped. This is a professional culture of 12-year-olds.

Well. Except. Most of the ones with power are old white guys. They just have the sense of humor of 12-year-olds.

Here’s some things they did:

Oh, and it wasn’t just Hollywood misbehaving. The better-known chunks of the feminist community got in on the act, calling her “disgusting” and “insufferable” in the comments. Those people are getting told by quite a few people, but just goes to show you that even (sometimes especially) feminists can be racist fucks."

You should really follow the links and take a look at the insults that are being thrown at this child. And as for the feminist blog Jezabel, many of the comments can pretty much be summed up with, "this girl is just too uppity." In other words, she should know her place and be appropriately humble so she won't annoy the vast population who really only wants to see the real life reincarnation of Ruby Bridges on screen for them to romanticize.

But I think we must ask ourselves why there is so much anger toward Quvenzhané. Why does her presence cause so much animosity that there are so many people talking about a nine year in sexually derogatory manner? LOTS of people. People in power who are using that power to subjugate this little girl. What is the message here? Why, we must ask ourselves, have these (usually, literally, open-minded) people felt that it was acceptable to behave this way.

As a commenter on Twitter stated, most of these same people were rightfully angry when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut. But now they defend The Onion for referring to Quvenzhané as a c***. Could it be, perhaps, that Quvenzhané's race does not summon the same emotional innocence within our society as a white woman's does? 

Africana Studies Award and publication

I'm excited to find out that I won the Africana Studies Award for best essay for my paper, “The Creation of the ‘Spiritual Black Woman’ Genre Image Through the Strong Black Woman Stereotype.” I wrote the paper for the Comparative Black Feminisms course I took last spring. Although the award is an honor itself, it also comes with a cash prize! Now I must get my 13 page paper down to 8 or 9 pages and then read the whole thing at the reception on February 25th.

BTW, for those interested, I wrote a short article titled,
Super Duper Sexual Spiritual Black Woman: The New and Improved Magical Negro, about the topic for Clarkesworld Magazine.

CAAR Conference Presentation

I'm very excited to find out that I'll be presenting my paper "In Service to the White Creator: The Black Maid Archetype in Ann Petry's The Street and Kathyrn Stockett's The Help" at the CAAR Conference in March. I will be presenting on the panel BLACKNESS AND THE ETHICS OF PERCEPTION: BLACK WOMEN, BLACK BODIES, BLACK TEXT. It also looks like I'll be the only undergraduate presenting. Everyone else is a PhD candidate. No preasure.

From the CAAR site:


The 10th International Conference of CAAR, to be held in Atlanta from March 13 to 16, 2013, continues the work on social transformation in the black world of CAAR 2011 in Paris.

One hundred and fifty years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation and fifty years after the March on Washington and the death of W. E. B. Du Bois, the Collegium for African American Research (CAAR) holds its biennial international conference for the first time in the United States. We are meeting in Atlanta, bastion of the civil rights movement, the home of Martin Luther King Jr., and brief residence of W.E.B. Du Bois.