Childhood Should Not Be A Privilege: The Projection of Adult Stereotypes on to Black Girls

Intersectionality theory asserts that individuals experience varying degrees of oppression and marginalization due to social factors or constructs such as race, gender, class, etc. that work in a reciprocating and cumulative manner. Accordingly, the simultaneous effects of racism and sexism are part of the lived experiences of women of color on a regular basis. This, of course, is nothing new as scholars including Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Hill-Collins, Angela Y. Davis, bell hooks, and Melissa Harris-Perry have all eloquently examined the relationship(s) between and among social constructs used to label and subjugate women, people of color, and/or low income persons. In deed, in her highly insightful and influential work, Black Feminist Thought, Professor Patiricia Hill-Collins elucidates what she termed the Matrix of Domination – an invisible yet unavoidable socially manufactured system of power that disproportionately impacts women of color. In Black Feminist Thought, Professor Hill-Collins explains that “controlling images” of black women perpetuate stereotypes that negatively impact the manner in which they are perceived thereby influencing how they are treated on a day-to-day basis. Common “controlling images” or stereotypes of black women include but are not limited to the jezebel, mammy, sapphire, welfare mother, etc.

Although such is the reality for black women, unfortunately, it seems that such is the case for black girls as well. During the 2013 awards season, Quvenzhane Wallis, then 9-years old, received much deserved attention upon her Oscar nomination (more…)

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Come A Long Way… Still Have A Ways To Go…

Selma 50 years ago

Image from usatoday.com

As a country, we recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery, also known as Bloody Sunday. Civil rights leaders, community activists, and anti-racist advocates marched in order to secure the right to vote – a privilege long denied to people of color in this country. Of course, racial and ethnic relations have improved significantly since that dreadful Sunday. Civil rights for marginalized persons, including people of color and women, have ameliorated many of the social, political, and economic problems that once plagued this nation. However, it should not be forgotten that, while we have made much progress in this country, we still have much more progress to make. (more…)

Homogenous Hollywood & Sustaining the Status Quo

Each year, Hollywood celebrates what it considers to be the best in motion picture entertainment. The event, better known as the “Oscars”, presents awards to everyone they perceive as the best that year by category including best leading actress, best leading actor, best supporting actress, best supporting actor, best director, best musical composer, best screenwriter(s), etc. Nominees are decided based on a vote of The Academy, a collective body of persons deemed to possess expert knowledge in the respective fields of expertise within the business of motion picture development. Final award recipients are also determined by a vote of The Academy. Hence, it is widely perceived that a nod, or nomination, by The Academy, gives an individual or artistic endeavor even greater credibility.

It should go without saying that the Oscars are a monumental, cultural event. Television and print media outlets, morning shows, and web-based entertainment sites, to name a few, invest heavily in the coverage of the Oscars. All aspects of the Oscars are covered and speculated upon including the attendees’ fashion choices, after parties, menu, and of course, the nominees and eventual winners. Because of the attention that Oscar nominees receive, it is often a career validating or catapulting moment for those in the movie making business.

Oscar Nominees 2015 ImageThis year, as in previous years, there has been an enormous amount of discussion about the lack of diversity among this year’s nominees. (In fact, this year’s ceremony has earned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.) Not one person of color was nominated for the categories of best lead actress, best lead actor, best supporting actress, and best supporting actor. This was especially an issue for many, as the movie Selma that, chronicled the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, did not receive the nominations many believed it deserved. A range of hypotheses have been offered in response to the lack of diverse nominations. Some have contended there simply was not an adequate number of persons of color in leading roles this past year while others have contended that the demographic composition of the Academy obscures the unbiased perception and subsequent equitable selection of nominees. (more…)

A Few Suggestions for Mr. West’s “Enthusiasm”

By now, everyone has heard about Kanye West’s most recent rant after the 2015 Grammy’s.  To provide a brief summary, Mr. West expressed frustration with Beyonce’s loss to Beck for Album of the Year.  Initially, I thought to myself, “Can you please stop perpetuating the ‘angry black man’ stereotype?!”

K West and Beck at Grammys

Image from hollywoodlife.com

However, I eventually acknowledged my own hypocrisy.  On numerous occasions, I have said to my students, “it’s okay to be angry.”  As a caveat, however, I always follow up that statement with, “as long as you direct that anger into something positive.”  Accordingly, I am asking Mr. West to channel his frustration into something that would be of benefit to the collective good – and not just Beyonce’s trophy case.  So, here are a few other things that Mr. West could be angry about instead… (more…)

My Wish List for 2015 (Or Until We Get It Right…)

Yes, it’s that time again – the beginning of a new year. As we are all aware, this is the time of year when we each decide to make changes, or resolutions, in our individual lives for the better. They may include, but often are not limited to, lose weight, maintain an overall healthier lifestyle, pursue a change in career, find that special someone, build and sustain positive relationships, etc. Some of us actually keep our resolutions. Others don’t.

Still, we persist in identifying needed changes, or resolutions, out of an unwavering sense of hope that a new year brings. With that said, I am listing my desired changes, or wishes. Instead of listing my desired changes for myself as an individual, I am listing my wishes, or needed changes, for the betterment of the collective. (more…)

Through the Eye’s of a Child

Eric Garner ImageMe: Watching news coverage of the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who placed Eric Garner in a choke hold, a method banned by NYPD.

My 5-year Old Son: “Mommy, why did they do that to him?  That’s not nice. They didn’t have to kill him. Why did they do that?”

Me: After staring at his young, handsome face wearing a simultaneous look of bewilderment and innocence (yes, I used the word innocence to describe a child of color), I simply responded with…  silence…

How do I explain to a 5-year old child that his presence will one day be considered deviant?  Thoughts?