Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thinking about making a list of films

Films that confront race either explicitly or implicitly, and films that represent race and ethnicity in ways that are culturally and/or politically significant come in many different genres. Some may not seem to be about race at all. Nonetheless these films made us reconsider our assumptions about what race means in our lives and how we relate to each other.
So far I can think of at least 5 in the past decade that made a big impression:





  • Crash (definitely NOT my favorite film, but it's important)
  • Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story -- an important documentary, which too few people saw, and which says a lot about the role of race in politics.
  • Monster's Ball
  • Something New
  • Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (Sepia Mutiny did A LOT on this film. Light but innovative and significant I think to South Asian community. Here's an interesting post on it http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/000200.html)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

When Race is a Political Weapon

A symbolic racialized attack, even within the Black community, is a poisonous political weapon. This story by Arianna Huffington effectively demonstrates why the Call & Post's Aunt Jemima editorial cartoon is so insidious. Not so long ago Sharpe James deployed similar invective --crazy, highly racialized charges--against Cory Booker: taking money from the KKK, "collaborating with Jews", being a "faggot white boy," a "white republican," a "black trojan horse," and "errand boy Black politician ." Seriously, these are quotes from the ex-Mayor James and from some otherwise impressive people. 


Back in 2002, Huffington reported:


In elected office for 32 years, and feeling the heat of a surprisingly tight race, four-term mayor Sharpe James has leveled a variety of lunatic charges against his opponent, city councilman Cory Booker, accusing him of taking money from the KKK and the Taliban, collaborating with Jews to take over Newark, being a "faggot white boy" and (cover your ears, children) a Republican. What makes this mouth-foaming vitriol especially nutty is that Booker is an African-American, a Democrat and a Stanford and Yale Law School-educated Rhodes scholar, who, in case you're wondering, is straight and hasn't received a dime from David Duke or Mullah Omar.

The point and the problem is this -- this type of racial accusation is powerful if not confronted. It can be used to punish, stigmatize and potentially silence almost anyone, even sincere public officials with great records serving the community. 



What's more, this choice of rhetoric and this type of image doesn't just shame its intended target. It introduces poison into the community well and ultimately demeans and therefore damages us all. As a commenter on Jezebel.com said: "Internalized racism is still racism."


Read more

Arianna Huffington's Salon.com
piece "The madness of Newark's King James"



Join the Facebook Group condemning the Call & Post's Aunt Jemima editorial cartoon 

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Racist Editorial cartoon of State Senator as Aunt Jemima (updated)

This is a sad story involving race, representation and local politics, but I'm hoping it will have a satisfying conclusion. A little over a week ago an Ohio newspaper, the Call & Post ran an editorial cartoon depicting African American Ohio state senator Nina Turner as Aunt Jemima and saying in broken English, "I be’s da new leader." Just as disturbing, the newspaper is Black owned. 



This cartoon clearly exploits demeaning 19th century stereotypes for political retribution--Turner supported a ballot initiative for county government reform that the Call and Post opposed. It's not the first time this paper has punished African American leaders that challenge them, and a broad based coalition of Clevelanders and friends have joined forces to say this is unacceptable. A few people have written letters to the editor. Over 1200 people have joined the Facebook group my friend, Robyn Minter-Smyers started to demand an apology.


Here are a few key links for more information:
Facebook Group: http://bit.ly/7OWlH2
Cleveland Scene http://bit.ly/8qyTi1
Cleveland Plain Dealer column - http://bit.ly/6SAHH7
Deborah Plummer on the Huffington Post: No Confusion When It Comes to the "Isms" http://bit.ly/88HEV2


12/7 update. There are now over 1300 members of the Facebook Group and Crain's Cleveland Business just published a great piece on this issue entitled "Call & Post sparks collective outrage." The article quotes Brian Hall, a local African American business leader who is demanding a strong, clear community response: "if this (Aunt Jemima cartoon) were published by a white institution, it would be national news and we would be in the streets in protest. We cannot let a black man destroy the fabric of two great institutions (the local NAACP and the Call & Post) that have served our community for over a century.”


Cleveland Magazine editor Erick Trickey also has a fascinating post detailing the fierce power struggle behind the cartoon. Definitely worth reading. Key quote: "Some people are just incensed that the paper would use an old racial attack to try to enforce political conformity."

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Updates on Twitter

Follow me on twitter at twitter.com/BellCV or follow EntStudies  (AEJMC's  Entertainment Studies Interest Group) for thought-provoking tweets about the study of entertainment.