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The whole country was talking about the weird back-and-forth between Iyanla Vanzant and the rapper, DMX. It’s clear that the rapper needs help with his personal life, and that drugs have clearly caused him to lose it. But the other thing people are noticing is that it seems that the Oprah Winfrey Network [...]
Writing for Clutch magazine, Danielle C. Belton argues that the new Bravo reality series Married to Medicineis the same old Atlanta reality series with a different name. The only thing different about “Married to Medicine” is that the women seem painfully aware of how black women are portrayed on reality shows, yet they all fall [...]
Between the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the recent spate of high-profile hate crimes, there has been plenty to keep those of us who care about civil rights busy in the Obama era. But it’s always refreshing when fellow advocates for equality and justice call attention to those major civil rights battles often overlooked by the mainstream media. The kinds of meaningful, substantive battles that can change lives and make the world a better place for future generations. Obviously when most of us think “meaningful,” “substantive” and “civil rights,” we think The Bachelor. When I first read that a class-action suit had been filed against the masterminds behind the reality TV juggernauts The Bachelor & The Bachelorette for casting discrimination, I assumed I was reading a headline from The Onion. But after realizing that the reports were not in fact a joke (even though I think this lawsuit is) I was speechless. (Those of you who know me personally or have merely been annoyed by me on television know that this is a rare occurrence.) I can think of a laundry list of civil rights battles that still loom large for people of color, even in the age of the first black president. Among them, the issue of racial profiling which has finally been thrust into the national spotlight due to the Trayvon Martin tragedy, employment discrimination so blatant that white men with criminal records still have a leg up over black men without one, and yes, the lack of diversity in quality entertainment, as demonstrated by the recent backlash to the new HBO show, Girls. But part of why I was so shocked by the lawsuit is because if I were to name two places in which my people are unjustly overrepresented, the first would be prisons and the second would be bad reality television. There are certain entities and institutions where no group should aspire to greater representation because doing so does not improve the standing, quality, or equality, of said group, but actually devalues the group as a whole. Reality television is one such vehicle. As I clarified while discussing this subject on MSNBC , I’m not referring to shows like American Idol that actually require a legitimate talent or skill. I’m referring to shows that claim to showcase the lives of “real people” who are “just like the rest of us.” Only the real people selected all seem to have severe emotional problems or criminal tendencies, or in the case of many of the cast members of color they select, both. At this point I’m starting to believe that’s not an accident. I didn’t have to look very far for validation of my theory when the very week The Bachelor critics filed their lawsuit, a cast member of a show called Basketball Wives filed a lawsuit against another cast member, who has since been charged with misdemeanor assault. For those who missed it, the women (and make no mistake, these are full-fledged adults over the age of 30, not kids who don’t know any better) got into a verbal altercation that resulted in one hitting another, while another woman removed her shoes and climbed over a table to continue said altercation. Did I already mention the part about these being adults? As embarrassing as this altercation is, or at least should be, for all parties involved, it’s not nearly as embarrassing as the fact that it’s not the first physical altercation that’s happened on the show. But even more embarrassing? The fact that this formula — angry women of color getting into fistfights, catfights and weave-pulling smackdowns — seems to have become the go-to reality TV recipe for success, with Basketball Wives joined by shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta, Bad Girls Club, and others to perpetuate a stereotype so enduring and pervasive that First Lady Michelle Obama expressed her own fears about it just months ago: the image of the angry black woman. These shows send the same message. No matter how much you dress us up, or how much money we may have, lying underneath it all for every woman of color is a neck rolling, finger pointing, profanity using stereotype ready to solve any dispute with physical violence because that’s how we “keep it real.” Only that’s not how most of us “keep it real.” But you wouldn’t know that by watching reality TV. In the early days of the genre, even those shows that did not encourage physical violence, per se, seemed to encourage the perception that one of the black cast members would resort to it if they felt the need to (think Omarosa on season one of The Apprentice and Kevin on season one of The Real World ). Now here we are years later and though the diversity of reality TV shows has expanded, the depiction of people of color on them hasn’t really. So is the answer a lawsuit to make shows like The Bachelor more inclusive? I would say the answer is a lot simpler than that. Even more embarrassing than the behavior of the women of color on some of these shows is the fact that there are women of color who help keep them on the air. If you are one of these women who watch these shows dismissing them as “harmless,” then you can’t be outraged the next time some conservative shock jock tries to stereotype Michelle Obama as an angry black woman. You’re helping to perpetuate that stereotype. As the saying goes, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. After all, when Don Imus called black women “nappy-headed hoes” and Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut,” we were outraged. Yet you will hear women — of all colors — called much worse than that in ten minutes of a Real Housewives or Basketball Wives reunion show. Where’s the outrage then? For the record, I know that these types of shows don’t exactly present any group of people at their best. And I don’t believe that media should be required to depict any group of people in an exclusively positive light, including black Americans. But black people are approximately 13% of the population and yet if you were to take a look at reality shows, or at least the coverage of them, you would think that we are responsible for the overwhelming majority of threatening behavior in social settings. (Click here to see a list of some of the worst reality tv moments.) While white Americans enjoy multi-faceted representation in mainstream media — from Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady to Bridesmaids — to balance out the Jersey Shore s of the world, we are left portraying maids on our best days (the Oscar-winning film The Help ) and real-life women who beat up other women on our worst (such as on most of these reality shows.) Filing a lawsuit against The Bachelor may not be the answer, but voting with your eyeballs in support of programming that does actually “keep it real” when it comes to depicting us, may be. Just as we worked together to send a message to Don Imus and Rush Limbaugh about the perils of demeaning women, why haven’t we sent the same message to the people peddling this dehumanizing content? For those who think I’m overreacting, I have a trivia question for you. What has served as the greatest recruitment tool in the history of the Ku Klux Klan? You give up? The answer is a movie, Birth of a Nation. Released in 1915, it was filled with every negative stereotype of black Americans (or white actors in blackface portraying them) imaginable. We were depicted as lazy, over-sexualized and violent. Sound familiar? Its release caused Klan membership to skyrocket nationwide. Now nearly 100 years later, the imagery of us hasn’t progressed all that far. But today the culprits responsible for such imagery are not white actors in blackface, but black people willing to take on the role of modern day minstrel for a quick buck and black producers willing to sell out their own people for a check. (I’m looking at you Shaunie O’Neal, producer of Basketball Wives. ) But she’s not alone. Like many of the white record executives during the era in which gangsta rap reigned supreme, Andy Cohen, the Bravo svengali behind the Real Housewives franchise, continues to serve as a modern-day D.W. Griffith (the director of Birth of a Nation ), serving up devastating and dehumanizing stereotypes, but all in the name of “entertainment.” But it’s okay. I’m sure he has a black friend. And perhaps he or she thinks his programs are all just harmless fun. To some people, they probably are. But tell that to the hate groups whose memberships have been increasing in recent years, or to those who have experienced the recent rise in hate crimes firsthand. But Ms. O’Neal and Mr. Cohen are probably too preoccupied to notice or care. After all, they’re busy laughing all the way to the bank. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared.
Melissa Harris-Perry What does it mean to be a young black male in the United States?
Every parentâ€™s worst nightmare is having to bury one of their own children.Â Losing a son or daughter is undeniably one of the toughest things a person has to go through â€” especially if that son or daughter is very young.Â But imagine for a second if this death is sudden; if itâ€™s the result of violence; and if you still donâ€™t know what really happened.Â To all of the mothers and fathers out there, try to comprehend the pain and agony of watching the killer of your child roam the streets as if nothing happened, and try to understand what it would feel like if the authorities were helping the murderer and not you.Â What would you think if your teenager (who never hurt a soul, never committed a crime and was a good student) was drug tested after being shot to death while the shooter was not?Â How would you feel if the child that you raised with love, protected through the years and taught to be an upstanding young man was killed on his way home from buying skittles and an iced tea?Â Put everything aside, and just for a moment, imagine what it would be like if Trayvon Martin was your son. RELATED: How Occupy Wall Street Co-Opted The Million Hoodie March Trayvonâ€™s Parents Address NYC Marchers When Black Folks Donâ€™t Get The Trayvon Issue, Weâ€™ve Got A Problem â€˜Million Hoody Marchâ€™ Organizer Says Trayvonâ€™s Murder â€˜Very Personalâ€™ For all our Trayvon Martin coverage, click here . It has been almost a month since that tragic evening when Trayvonâ€™s life was cut short.Â And yet, when people still hear of this case and the ridiculous gun laws that allowed George Zimmerman, the accused shooter, to claim self-defense, they are both shocked and outraged â€” and rightfully so.Â Earlier this week, we saw masses gather in New York for a â€œmillion hoodiesâ€ march to signify the absurdity of the fact that Trayvon may have been perceived as a so-called troublemaker simply because of the way he was dressed.Â And on Thursday, we at National Action Network joined leaders, clergy and citizens from around the country at the Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, Fla. to show our united support for Trayvonâ€™s family in their fight for justice.Â We demand that Zimmerman be immediately arrested, that a proper investigation take place, that the Sanford police department be held accountable for their shoddy handling of this case and that the â€œstand your groundâ€ defense laws be re-examined in Florida and elsewhere. Thanks to the continued dedication and strength of Trayvonâ€™s parents, their sonâ€™s story has been heard around the world.Â And they have vowed to keep pushing forward and keep this painful incident in the news until they achieve success.Â Weâ€™ve watched people from all walks of life, all races and all backgrounds come out and support Trayvonâ€™s family because they understand the depth and pain of injustice weâ€™ve seen here.Â Losing their child was terrible and unbearable enough, but to add insult to injury, the Sanford police department and authorities in Florida have allowed the accused murderer to roam freely, in possession of the same weapon that cut this young boyâ€™s life short. Next week, my own son turns 13.Â I often worry about what kind ofÂ world he will live in and what kind of man he will grow up to be. Will he be able to get a good education, will he continue to stay away from bad influences, will he work towards a successful career, will he one day raise a strong family of his own, and will he find health and happiness?Â Never in a million years did I think I would be worried about the next time he walks to the store to buy a snack. Trayvon Martinâ€™s family is working to prevent another family from having to go through the horrors of what theyâ€™ve experienced.Â So anyone who may not understand why they refuse to give up, just imagine if Trayvon were your son. RELATED: How Occupy Wall Street Co-Opted The Million Hoodie March Trayvonâ€™s Parents Address NYC Marchers When Black Folks Donâ€™t Get The Trayvon Issue, Weâ€™ve Got A Problem â€˜Million Hoody Marchâ€™ Organizer Says Trayvonâ€™s Murder â€˜Very Personalâ€™ For all our Trayvon Martin coverage, click here .
I wait for an era when young Black men will no longer have to live in fear. Decades after the abolishment of slavery, we were haunted by the reality of being hunted down, beaten and lynched by both everyday citizens and law enforcement. Young boys like Emmett Till were openly and viciously murdered because of the sentiments of bigoted individuals who believed they had the right to carry out their own brand of injustice. Today, Black (and Latino) youth are routinely targeted, profiled and ‘mistakenly’ shot by those sworn to serve and protect us (i.e. Sean Bell). And now, in what can only be described as the most blatant form of vigilante murder, a 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin loses his life at the hands of self-proclaimed ‘crime stopper.’ But the only crime here is that this killer has ended poor Trayvon’s life under the guise of his own preconceptions and has not been charged, nor arrested. We will head to Florida to ensure that all that changes immediately. On Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m., National Action Network (NAN) and I will convene an urgent rally at the First Shiloh Baptist Church in Sanford, FL. to demand justice for Trayvon Martin. We will be joined by community leaders and concerned citizens from all ethnicities, backgrounds and walks of life that cannot even begin to comprehend this nightmarish situation. A young teenager walking home, armed only with candy and a drink, should never lose his/her life because someone in a gated community feels ‘threatened.’ George Zimmerman, the accused adult shooter, is roaming the earth freely while Trayvon’s mother, father and family members must bury their precious child. It is an atrocious miscarriage of justice, and we demand that authorities in Florida arrest Zimmerman immediately and charge him for the crime of murder. Anyone with sound reasoning cannot disagree. In 2005, the state of Florida enacted one of the toughest ‘stand your ground’ self-defense laws which allowed civilians to use deadly force against ‘intruders’ or anyone they believed was a ‘threat’ to their life. Supported — and in many ways lobbied — by the National Rifle Association, these laws don’t require a person to retreat from the situation, thereby allowing them to even pursue someone who ‘threatens’ them. The legislation not only protects individuals from prosecution, but goes so far as barring them from civil suits in many cases as well. As the model for dozens of other states that now carry similar laws, the Florida self-defense rule creates an environment where anyone at any moment can claim they were fearful of someone as a justification for cold-blooded murder. And that’s exactly what we see here in the tragic case of Trayvon Martin. In the recently released 911 tapes of that fateful day, Zimmerman was clearly told to stand down by authorities, but he didn’t comply. Many eyewitnesses said they heard screams of help, but no one came to Trayvon’s assistance in time to save his life. Zimmerman claimed he had spotted a ‘suspicious’ individual, and as several news outlets have reported, he pursued Trayvon, not the other way around. In a society that still views young men of color as threatening, dangerous and suspicious without cause, these self-defense laws in Florida and elsewhere give free rein for anyone to openly kill those that they may not like or those that make them feel uncomfortable because of their own inherent prejudices. And the race/ethnicity of Zimmerman or any citizen in this type of scenario doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day, it is the race of the victim — Trayvon — that does matter. It is his race and his demographic that is consistently depicted as the threat, and negatively portrayed in popular culture. A few years ago, a man in Oklahoma City shot and killed a 16-year-old who allegedly tried to rob the drugstore where he worked. This pharmacist attempted to plea self-defense, but because he shot the teenager in the head, chased someone else out and returned to shoot the kid five more times as he lay on the floor, he was sentenced to first-degree murder. Young Trayvon’s only crime was buying a pack of skittles and walking through the wrong neighborhood. He had his entire life ahead of him and we demand justice without delay. Zimmerman must be held accountable. Join us in Sanford on Thursday as we call for a repeal to Florida’s outrageous self-defense laws. It’s about Trayvon’s life, not supposed self-defense. I’m still waiting for the day that young Black men (and women) can walk freely in any neighborhood without fearing for their lives.
March is synonymous with Womenâ€™s History Month.Â Itâ€™s something weâ€™re all very aware of and something which we openly recognize and celebrate.Â But during a month in which the extraordinary accomplishments of females should be honored, weâ€™re finding a virtual war on women instead.Â From a Governor proposing required â€œvaginal examsâ€ to restraints on access to birth control and Rush Limbaughâ€™s vile comments , attacks on women and our liberties have reached disturbing new levels. SEE ALSO: Study: Black Women Are Doing Just Fine Contrary To Popular Belief And itâ€™s not just conservatives either.Â Just last month, rapper Too Short delivered a recorded video message to young middle school boys on â€˜how to turn girls out .â€™Â Itâ€™s a sad state of affairs, and as the Mothers, sisters, and wives who make up the majority of our population, weâ€™re just not going to tolerate it anymore. Growing up, I was surrounded by strong women who taught me the value of getting an education, having a voice, and establishing myself in the world.Â Most of us learned great lessons of how remarkable females pushed the envelope to secure equal access in society on so many levels.Â But when I studied the womenâ€™s movement, I would have never guessed that weâ€™d be here today, at a point where all of these gains would be under attack.Â Didnâ€™t we squash many of these issues 50+ years ago?Â Am I dreaming, or is this not 2012? Rush Limbaughâ€™s syndicator has suspended all national advertising on his show for two weeks, which is good â€” but we want more.Â Too Short has apologized for making a video urging young boys to â€˜turn outâ€™ young girls â€” but we want more.Â When men degrade, insult, or attack women, they do a disservice to everyone.Â You canâ€™t just say whatever you want and think a quick apology (whether sincere or not) is enough.Â Whoâ€™s responsible for fixing the environment of disrespect and hatred when men humiliate women?Â And who will bring us back to sanity when politicians use contraception and other wedge issues to get elected? We just passed the middle mark for the month, and so far, itâ€™s been a disappointing one to say the least.Â Instead of focusing on the amazing contributions of women, weâ€™ve spent the last several weeks covering fools who continually put us down. Â Itâ€™s not OK to require â€œvaginal probes,â€ itâ€™s not OK to call us â€œslutsâ€ and itâ€™s not OK to teach young men how to disrespect us.Â Everyone â€“ not just women â€“ should be outraged by this war on women.Â Rush Limbaugh is now learning that the nation is not on his side.Â Let that be a lesson to anyone trying to attack women; you will find yourself isolated. Itâ€™s Womenâ€™s History Month, and itâ€™s time we really recognize it.
For years, Rush Limbaugh has virtually gotten away with making some of the most outrageous and insulting statements about everyone from Blacks and minorities to women.Â But his now infamous comments regarding Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke hit a new low, even for Rush.Â Attacking aÂ woman whose only crime was to testify, Rush proved that he has absolutely no respect for women and our voices in society.Â And his non-apology â€œapologyâ€ satisfied no one, not even his own advertisers.Â Itâ€™s seriously time for Rush to start rushing off of our airwaves everywhere. RELATED: Rush Limbaugh Has Lost 42 Sponsors Since â€œProstituteâ€ Incident Rush Limbaugh Defended Joseph Kony And Lordâ€™s Resistance Army Since the Sandra Fluke scandal, several stations have already dropped â€œThe Rush Limbaugh Show.â€ Over 40 advertisers have pulled their spots from the broadcast, and several members of Congress have spoken out against Rush and his deplorable remarks.Â And on Wednesday night, Sen. Carl Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he would like the Armed Services Network to also drop the show.Â As a woman, and as a mother, I couldnâ€™t agree with these leaders more.Â Itâ€™s time for Rush to go. Thereâ€™s no place in our discourse for someone who calls an innocent woman a â€œslutâ€, a â€œprostituteâ€ or worse.Â Freedom of speech doesnâ€™t give people with a platform and bully pulpit to openly spew hatred.Â In 2007, Don Imus thought he could make bigoted comments and get away with it, but he soon learned that racism would not be tolerated.Â Similarly, Rush will wake up to the reality that sexism wonâ€™t be tolerated either. In November, voters will head to the polls and decide who will lead the country for the next four years.Â A majority of these citizens â€” like the majority of our population itself â€”will be women.Â And these women (myself included) will not forget the vicious attack against Sandra Fluke.Â Nor will we forget the lack of leadership from Republican leaders in calling out Rush Limbaugh.Â Women, and the men who love us (including our fathers and grandfathers), will not forget. Rush foolishly thinks he provides some sort of entertainment.Â We are not amused, Rush, and neither are your advertisers.Â During this Womenâ€™s History Month, how dare you insult us.Â Someone please turn his mic off. SEE ALSO: Radio StationsÂ Pull Out Of Rush Limbaugh Show Rick Santorum Thinks NY Press Is Out To Get Him
In an exchange with writer Dream Hampton, rapper Too $hort opened up about an controversial XXL blog video which seemed to encourage young boys to assault girls. The rapper discusses both his reaction to the criticism as well as where the mindset which led to the video originated: Iâ€™m not going to lie to youâ€¦my [...]
Last night, we watched Willard Mitt Romney give another lackluster speech following his victory in Arizona and extremely slim win in Michigan. Once again devoid of passion, it was as if he was reading someone else’s words without any clear vision of what his platform would be in office. At the same time, you had Rick ‘I don’t believe in higher education’ Santorum give his own speech as if he didn’t lose yesterday. And whether it was Romney or Santorum speaking, it’s important to note that neither mentioned the other by name last night, indicating therefore that they’re in it for the long haul. The truth is, it really doesn’t matter who becomes the eventual GOP nominee because all of the contenders and the Republican Party as a whole have proved that they would indeed like to take the country back — back to a time when systematic maneuvers suppressed the votes of people of color and the marginalized. While they try to regress us back, we must do something today for the sake of our collective future. From March 4-9th, my organization, National Action Network, will partner with congressional leaders, activists and everyday citizens as we once again make the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. We will begin at the Edmund Pettus Bridge this Sunday, march at least 10 miles per day, stay in tents along Route 80, convene rallies and teach-ins along the way, and finally gather in front of the Alabama State Capitol on Friday, March 9th. After the state of Alabama passed the most draconian anti-immigration legislation, and at least 31 states now have voter ID laws on the books, we must take immediate action if we hope to preserve any notion of progress. The Selma to Montgomery March consisted of three different marches in 1965 that marked the political and emotional peak of the American civil rights movement. Beaten with billy clubs and attacked with tear gas, it was the third march which lasted five days that made it to Montgomery after soldiers from the Army, members of the Alabama National Guard (under federal command), FBI agents and federal marshals eventually protected the demonstrators. It was because of these marches, and the national and international attention they garnered that Congress rushed to enact legislation that would protect voting for all Americans. It was called the Voting Rights Act, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law later that year on August 6, 1965. It’s amazing that almost 50 years after this historic legislation was enacted that we now find ourselves under attack yet again. After countless sacrifices — including many people of all races that literally gave their lives for equality — we are watching the very gains we achieved being slowly and covertly stripped away. It’s important to remember that our Selma to Montgomery March next week isn’t about the past, however — it’s about the future. Your future, my future, our children’s future and the future of this very nation. Without any validation, individual states are passing these strict voter ID laws that are clearly designed to disenfranchise the poor, people of color, the elderly and young folks. Instead of allowing utility bills and other items that were used for years as appropriate forms of ID for voting, supporters of these new laws would like nothing more than to discourage people from participating. Rather than making the process easier and open to all, they are working diligently on finding new ways to suppress the vote. The state of Alabama is where the civil rights movement found its heart. Today, when voter ID laws have crept into dozens of states, and one of the toughest and most reprehensible anti-immigration bills passed in Alabama, we will gather once again in the deep South and march. Congressman John Lewis, who helped lead the march in ’65 will join us, as will leaders from across the country. To learn how to participate in the Selma to Montgomery March, please visit nationalactionnetwork.net . Whether you march along this historic route with us, or help organize buses, or participate in any fashion, make sure you do something. We have fought far too long and sacrificed far too much to allow anyone to repeal justice. Say no to voter suppression and anti-immigration laws. Let’s remind the world once again what’s at stake here. It’s time to go back to the future: all roads lead to Selma on Sunday.