Needless to say, hair ish is exhausting for the entire family. I’ve been seriously considering creating a set of business cards for her to hand out to the overly inquisitive. On one side of the card would be several images of the amazing versatility of Black girl’s hair. On the other, there would be these simple sentences: To paraphrase Prince, “my hair is something you will never comprehend.” Just let it go.
Archive for the ‘race/anti-racism’ Category
This new documentary, Lucky by journalist, Laura Checkoway about a young, punk, homeless mother called Lucky Torres who is living in New York with her seven year old son looks really amazing. It was selected for New York’s Documentary Festival. I am very excited to see more stories about motherhood on the fringes being told and this one looks particularly engaging, but I must admit to feeling a little apprehensive too. We feel an enormous entitlement to poor people’s lives. We scrutinise the most intimate aspects of their choices and somehow imagine we have great insight to their history and circumstances. Documentaries can do much to highlight our ignorance to us, but they also encourage objectification by their very nature. And so here we are in, what must be said is, a really interesting interview over at ColorLines with the film-maker, talking about Torres’ behaviour at a screening and although the answer was quite good, I would hate to see the discussion around Lucky orientate too much towards this kind of analysis.
Anyway, I will keep an eye out for opportunities to see this film as it hopefully makes its way further afield.
Stacia L. Brown is really worth following on twitter (@slb79) and by the way, here’s her blog post on an incredible exchange that happened last week between Tanya Fields, Melissa Harris-Perry and bell hooks about the shaming of black single mothers. Go read it. And there’s a photo of the hug over at Colorlines.
This essay is perfectly argued. (Read the whole thing).
I do not know how much my mother spent on her camel colored cape or knee-high boots but I know that whatever she paid it returned in hard-to-measure dividends. How do you put a price on the double-take of a clerk at the welfare office who decides you might not be like those other trifling women in the waiting room and provides an extra bit of information about completing a form that you would not have known to ask about? What is the retail value of a school principal who defers a bit more to your child because your mother’s presentation of self signals that she might unleash the bureaucratic savvy of middle class parents to advocate for her child? I don’t know the price of these critical engagements with organizations and gatekeepers relative to our poverty when I was growing up. But, I am living proof of its investment yield.
Why do poor people make stupid, illogical decisions to buy status symbols? For the same reason all but only the most wealthy buy status symbols, I suppose. We want to belong. And, not just for the psychic rewards, but belonging to one group at the right time can mean the difference between unemployment and employment, a good job as opposed to a bad job, housing or a shelter, and so on. Someone mentioned on twitter that poor people can be presentable with affordable options from Kmart. But the issue is not about being presentable. Presentable is the bare minimum of social civility. It means being clean, not smelling, wearing shirts and shoes for service and the like. Presentable as a sufficient condition for gainful, dignified work or successful social interactions is a privilege. It’s the aging white hippie who can cut the ponytail of his youthful rebellion and walk into senior management while aging black panthers can never completely outrun the effects of stigmatization against which they were courting a revolution. Presentable is relative and, like life, it ain’t fair.
From “The Logic of Stupid Poor People” at tressiemc. Thanks to Tedra for the link.
This is exactly the kind of stuff I had in mind when I wrote about the homeless mother jailed for getting her kid into a good school.
Very thought-provoking article on cultural capital, parenting, high and low art, racism and representation from David Osa Amadasun – “Black people don’t go to art galleries: the reproduction of taste and cultural values”:
Here’s the scenario: two children, one white and one black, walk into an exhibition filled with portraits of white people. Both children enjoy it. After the exhibition they make self-portraits out of food. The black child asks for brown ingredients – cocoa pops, hot chocolate powder – to represent his skin in the portrait. The white child does not bother with colour in the same way. Her whiteness is not a colour that needs to be marked or thought about, it is naturalized as normal, a seamless part of the wall-to-wall whiteness of the surrounding exhibition. On closer inspection the portraits show further nuances of colouring and also commonality. Other features such as nose, lips, eyes and hair were not represented mimetically. As the brown skin colour of the portrait on the left stands out because of its purposeful colouring, it creates a link between the child and their artwork, making visible what is taken for granted in this space – whiteness.
There has been progress in the diversity of representations within exhibitions, for example the Meshac Gaba and Ibrahim El-Salahi exhibitions at the Tate – which the kids and parents loved. But adequate progress has not been made in how these institutions, funded by public money, encourage those from underrepresented groups. As Dr Eleonora Belfiore from Warwick University has pointed out, there are fundamental and ‘awkward’ questions that need to be asked about the social and institutional structures that support and maintain hierarchies of taste, ‘if the debate on cultural value is to go beyond an empty rhetoric of self-celebration’ Belfiore writes ‘then it needs to be an occasion in which awkward questions are asked of the sector as a whole. Questions such as ‘For whom does the sector generate value?’, ‘What do organisations big and small do to live up to their status as public cultural organisations?’
And I love the questions he closes with in this article. “Do we want to encourage cultural omnivores by diversifying taste and/or do we want a radical overhaul of the very values that make distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture?”
Thanks to Shawn Taylor for the link.
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice… who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait.
Martin Luther King.
I’m interested in how the confessional is so abrasively critiqued today. I’m not really comfortable with simply confessing but I do think “confessing” is a major part of reckoning. One of the problems with a lot of “confessional” writing is that it starts and stops with the confessional and doesn’t really tie the “I” into a “we” at all. I’m still surprised at how mad critics get at that kind of confessional writing. They call it “navel-gazing” and “self-indulgent” but really it’s often just writing that needs four or five more revisions. That’s it.
In essay writing, I’m trying to push the form of expository writing. I’m trying to remember, trying to reckon, trying to find connections with the world, the nation and me, but I’m always trying to push the form, too, without being too obvious that I’m trying to push the form. The “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others” essay was so hard to write because of the memories, the sensory stuff, but also because it didn’t follow the form of any essay that I’ve ever read. And the truth that I was exploring necessitated that obliteration of traditional form, I think.
From Kiese Laymon in The Rumpus.
Lovely thoughtful piece from my friend, Shawn Taylor in Ebony on what his life-long love of hip-hop brings to his parenting.
From a young age, we were insistent that she knew her artistic lineage—broadly cultural and familial. She is the heir to hip-hop, jazz, blues, reggae, ska, and her grandfather’s guitar, harmonica and drums. We inculcated in her that art was important, and that her life was a continuous work of art. When she was old enough, and I began to really introduce her to hip-hop, some of my parenting became easier. By using the four original elements of hip-hop culture, I’ve been able to paint her world with a much wider brush.
This is how the writing on Mad Men can be so sagacious and imaginative about life in America for one set of characters and so casually insulting for another — not because its mastermind, Matthew Weiner, is a racist but because auteurist television is capacious and permissive enough to subscribe to the institutions of racism, the racism you sense, the racism you breathe, the racism that makes you turn to your friend and say, “That just happened, right?” There is n-word racism. Then there are the lingering, toxic particles that centuries of n-word racism leave in the air. We all breathe them, but we don’t always like to talk about it. So it is heresy to mention that, say, the strategic use of Planet of the Apes in the same Mad Men episode that featured Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination might itself be heretical. It’s still hard to talk about negative depictions of race in culture without comments sections and Twitter feeds turning infernal. We’re breathing the same air, and yet we’re not.
From Wesley Morris in Grantland with “Strange Fruitvale”.