MonthApril 2014

Racism in Our Post Racial Society?

So as you all have probably heard, Donald Sterling (LA Clippers owner) was banned from the NBA for life and was fined $2.5 million for his racist comments made during an argument with his biracial side chick. A slew of tweets, facebook posts, and Instagram memes ensued. ESPN was the first major news outlet to jump on the story after TMZ released the recording. Slowly but surely, other major media outlets such as CNN and Fox joined the media bandwagon of coverage leading up to, what turned oblakeut to be, a much anticipated NBA news conference announcing the consequences Sterling would face for his actions. In the meantime, several sponsors of the LA Clippers wasted no time cutting the Clippers loose, for the time being, and news outlets pulled a plethora of black reporters, correspondents and commentators out of the wood works (who knew so many existed?!) to add to the media dialogue.

From a journalist’s perspective, I was interested to see how news outlets would frame this story, which had several components. The component that received the most attention was the racist comments made by Sterling. Also, Sterling’s long history of racist tendencies was pulled out of the closet for the world to see…I mean revisit. Then there is the issue of privacy and free speech, which begs the question of the legality behind Sterling being secretly recorded in the privacy of his own home. Lastly, you had the local LA NAACP chapter that was in the process of honoring Sterling with a lifetime award. But no worries, they decided to return Sterling’s most recent donation and withdraw this reward.

Donald-Sterling-Clippers-Meme_14Now that we all know what will happen to Sterling (although there is a possibility he will refuse to sell his team and take this controversy to court), I’m curious to see if the news will drop this story from its news cycle, or decide to dig a little deeper into issues such as the institutionalized racism that allowed Donald Sterling to practice housing discrimination.

After talking to a number of people about this issue, a friend of mine mentioned how he took issue with how racism is often talked about as an individual character defect. He said this takes away from the root of the issue, which is institutionalized racism, and I agree. Let’s talk about how black people and other minorities are systematically discriminated against in our criminal justice system, school system and economic system. In our post racial society that apparently no longer needs affirmative action (that’s a topic for another post), I find this problematic.

12 years a slave

I’m glad this story gained the attention that it did and appropriate action was taken by the NBA to begin to address this issue. I urge my readers, and adamant social media ranters to not let this story die as the major news outlets move on to the next big breaking news.


How Colorful is Your Comic Book?

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Poster

This weekend I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier with my boyfriend. Overall, the movie was great; it had a compelling storyline, a few twists, chair gripping scenes, and subtle critiques of society. But there was something that kept pinching a nerve, Falcon.

Falcon, one of Marvel’s first African American heroes, is Captain America’s faithful sidekick. In the movie, Falcon is there to answer Captain’s call for help when S.H.I.E.L.D is compromised and, at the end of the movie, Falcon solemnly swears to follow the captain wherever he goes. Falcon takes direction well and is strategically placed behind Captain America in most scenes. He makes Captain’s breakfast and clears the way for him to fight the villain and save the day. Even Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson), the commander of S.H.I.E.L.D, relinquishes his power and allowes Captain America to lead the way once he realizes there is no way to save S.H.I.E.L.D.

I understand that the sidekick is supposed to be a close companion and subordinate of the hero, but something about having Falcon be a black man and sidekick to a white Captain America did not sit well with me. Maybe because I knew the roles could not be easily reversed; I had never seen a black superhero with a white sidekick and probably never will.

Seeing Falcon in this movie caused me to inquire about black representation in the comic book world and sparked my interest in black superheroes. Not being familiar with comic books, I was surprised to find several black superheroes that play roles other than sidekicks.  The Black Panther, Storm and Blade are just a few black superheroes I ran across during my research for this blog post.

falco15The fact that I couldn’t list any black superheroes off the top of my head but could think of plenty of white superheroes is a problem. Luckily, I was able to Google search black superheroes and balance my exposure to black and white superheroes. But what about a black child who does not have this same initiative? What about a black child who grows up reading or watching comics and none of the heroes look like them? What does that do to their self-esteem? What does that tell them about themselves and insinuate about their people? At age 21, discovering so many black superheroes was empowering; I felt a sense of pride to see supermen and women that looked like me. Imagine how that same feeling would impact a child and influence the way they see themselves.

After the Captain America movie, my boyfriend and I had a discussion about the movie and the fact that Falcon was black. We also talked about how each time a comic story is remade for the big screen, different actors are casted to play them. And then my boyfriend had a crazy idea: What if a black man was casted to play batman or superman? That would be accepted in our “post racial” world right?

While you ponder that, leave your comments below! I’m curious to see who your favorite black superhero is and why. Which black actor would you cast to play a popular white superhero?

 

Twisting Things Up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5ApjuwME7g

For those of you who know me…or follow me on twitter, you know that I love Tuesday nights because that’s when my two favorite shows come on: Pretty Little Liars and Twisted. Both are ABC Family original drama television series, and both are the topics of my tweets on Tuesdays from 8-10 p.m.. Recently, both series aired its spring finale (*tear), and as I began to reminisce on Twisted’s season, I noticed something about the cast: It was super diverse!

twisted1

Left to right: Danny, Lacey, Joe

Twisted’s main characters are Danny, Lacey and Joe. The respective actors/actresses who play these characters are part Indian, black and white. Other reoccurring minority characters on the show include Rico (this actor is of Italian and Mexican decent) and Rico’s girlfriend, Andie, who is played by an Asian actress.

With such a diverse cast, interracial couples are inevitable. At one point Danny (mixed race) and Lacey (black) hook up, but then Danny (mixed race) realizes his true love is Joe (white). The actor who plays Danny’s dad, Tarek Jarar Ramnini, is of Palestinian decent and although his race on the show is unclear, Danny’s mom is white. As mentioned before, Rico (ambiguous race) is dating an Asian girl. And lastly, what’s a teen show these days without a gay/lesbian couple? Lacey (black) and Whitney (white) flirt with the idea of becoming an “item.”

I was surprised to find that it wasn’t until the end of the season that I began to contemplate Twisted’s diverse cast. This may be because, so far (we are now awaiting the second season), race has not been mentioned in the series’ story line and many of the character’s races are ambiguous. In fact, for most actors, I had to research their race. This just goes to show how seamlessly the writers and directors were able to incorporate diversity into the show without making it seem forced.

I know first-hand how hard including diversity into a T.V. show can be. For my final project in my “Diversity in Communication” course, my group had to create a pilot show for a new television series with a racially diverse set of characters. This turned out to be a difficult task because it was hard to come up with non-stereotypical characters. With this said, I commend the writers and directors of Twisted for its diverse cast and characters that are non-stereotypical representations of the actor/actress’s or characters’ race.

Shows like Twisted that have a diverse cast are important because these begin to depict the growing diversity in the U.S. population, thus depicting a more realistic representation of our country’s population. By not clarifying or focusing in on the race of its characters, Twisted also begins to discredit racial stereotypes and indirectly address the taboo surrounding interracial dating. So kudos to you ABC family for twisting things up a bit!


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