Tag Archives: race

3 Things EVERYONE Can ALWAYS Do To Support The Cause #Charleston #BlackLivesMatter

Dear All Frustrated Parties, including White Allies:

The past week has been… so many things —heartbreaking, disorienting, painful, numbing… It’s starting to look a lot like the stages of grief, only this grief is centuries old and never really goes away; it just cycles over and over again.

At this point in the cycle, you might be trying to claw your way out of the numbing stage into some version of yourself that can get past the hopelessness and try, against all hope, to do something productive about all of the pain you’re feeling right now.

For me, time and a night of bourbon and re-watching The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 was enough to reignite a semblance of…if not hope, then certainly a more productive rage. But now it’s time to deliver on that rage.

As much as we’d all like to organize a massive boycott or protest that would magically garner the right attention and change all the minds and fix everything, the fight is a struggle that takes place on a daily basis. The protests and big events are crucial, but they mean nothing if we all just go back home and do nothing until the next call to arms. We have to change our own lives, act on a daily basis if we want to see change reflected.

So, for all of you who are angry or sad or hopeless or numb and feel that there is nothing you can do besides post another iteration of that “Take Down The Confederate Flag” petition.

Here are three simple things we can all ALWAYS do to support the cause:

1. Buy

Image: Flickr/Elvert Barnes
Image: Flickr/Elvert Barnes

Buy Black, that is. By now this is an old call to action, but it’s a crucial one. Or as Lewis Michaux, former owner of the African National Memorial Bookstore in Harlem, says in the Black Power Mixtape, “knowledge is power, for you can be black as a crow, you can be white as snow, and if you don’t know and ain’t got no dough, you can’t go, and that’s fo’ sho’.”

If you have money, put it where it counts. Support Black-owned businesses and organizations. But don’t just support Black-owned businesses, you’ve also got to stop throwing your money at big corporations. The idea behind this call to action is to prove that Black lives matter by using the language that America speaks — money. Prove that #BlackLivesMatter by showing that #BlackDollarsMatter.  Yes, this means you too, white allies. You don’t have to be Black to throw your money in the pot. Don’t know where to find those Black-owned businesses? Google it. Doing your homework is part of the work. And remember, this ish is work. But also,  Support Black Owned (SBO) is a nice sit for finding Black-owned businesses.

2. Read

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Image: Flickr/Just Deon

It’s not enough to just “be down” with the cause, you have to know your shit, which means not just trying to get by on your 5th grade unit on the Civil Rights Era. You might be able to throw around some of the names and dates, but there’s a whole lot more to Black history and racism in this country than slavery, the Civil Rights Era, an the Black Power movement. Believe me, your history classes left out a lot, oversimplified everything, and flat out lied about quite a bit.

So, time to crack open some books and watch some films. If you don’t know where to start Google it!  There’s no hand-holding in self-education. That said, here… try this lovely list for starters. And venture your way over to the “African American” section of the bookstore. Or better yet, since you’re on the supporting Black businesses tip now, do some of that book shopping at the Hue-Man Bookstore, one of the largest African American bookstores in the country (which, btw had to shutter its physical store a few years back… But maybe with more folk buying from them, they could come back with a vengeance).  Now, go know something, so you can…

3. Talk

Image: Flickr/Dsdriver
Image: Flickr/Dsdriver

This one is particularly important for white allies. Most Black people think about race on a daily basis. We have to, we’re Black. Race hits you in the face everywhere you go. Ignorant white people, for some reason, don’t seem to think race has anything to do with them. But race is as much, if not more, of an issue for white people as it is for Black people.  So, dear educated white allies, now that you’ve done all that reading, go forth and make other white people confront and talk about these issues.

One of the most common sadnesses that so many of my Black friends and  family faced shortly after the horror at Charleston’s AME church was that when we went into work the next day at our predominantly white offices, no one… not one single person was talking about Charleston. So we’re sitting there full of sadness and anger and barely able to keep it together, meanwhile Dave and Linda are having a conversation about how they binged on adorable cat videos last night. It’s a slap in the face, another reminder of how devalued Black lives are in this country, that a tragedy like Charleston can happen and people aren’t even acknowledging it… at all (but the Boston Marathon Bombing was at the tip of everyone’s tongues at the time).

“The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it.” —James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

The point is forcing people who would normally do a damn good job of ignoring these issues and certainly don’t have to confront them on a daily basis aren’t gonna just start caring, much less learn or change their minds. You have to force it into their faces. And, white allies, you have access to these spaces that many Black people do not. Even if they do, conversation about race with a white person coming from a Black person is often seen as hostile or hysterical or delusional. So, step up and correct that. Also, white allies, get your people. Y’all just need to start talking to each other and confronting race on your end. Racist and ignorant white people is a white people problem.

Or in other words…

Whatever changes you make, however you act on a daily basis to end white supremacy, the important thing is to keep on. The struggle is a lifetime fight. You gotta live it every damn day.

header image: Flickr/neil conway

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Remember This?? URSULA K. LEGUIN’s *Badass* Response to Syfy’s WhiteWashed EARTHSEA Adaptation?

Back in 2004, the Syfy (back then “The SciFi Channel“) released a miniseries “adaptation” of Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Earthsea trilogy, titled Legend of Earthsea

The main cast was entirely white, except for the character Ogion, who was played by Danny Glover (and apparently some spear-wielding primitives).  The problem with that isn’t just that there is a gross lack of diversity in the series (which is a completely legit problem on its own, and one that plagues science fiction entertainment today).

earthseaposter

The problem was that the series was based on books in which the majority of the characters were brown or black… (except for a people made up of brutish, war-hungry white men). The main character was described as “red-brown” and his best friend as just straight up “black”.

Somewhere this got conveniently “lost” in translation. Numerous readers (of every hue– I mean, the books freaking sold over a million copies!) were seriously miffed about many of the liberties taken in the series, and the lovely Ms. Le Guin stood up on the soap box herself and took SyFy to town in an article on Slate.

And boy did she lay down the law!

ursula2
Just look at the side-eye! She means business! (© 2012 Laura Anglin)

The first book of the Earthsea trilogy A Wizard of Earthsea was published on September 13th, 1968– 46 years ago today. So to commemorate this dope series, and her-geeky-outsiderness Ursula K. LeGuin, here are some of the gems from the magnificent shade she threw at the SciFi Channel some 10 years ago:

 

“I had been cut out of the process. And just as quickly, race, which had been a crucial element, had been cut out of my stories. In the miniseries, Danny Glover is the only man of color among the main characters (although there are a few others among the spear-carriers). A far cry from the Earthsea I envisioned.”

 

“My color scheme was conscious and deliberate from the start. I didn’t see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill. I didn’t see why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white (and why all the leading women had “violet eyes”). It didn’t even make sense. Whites are a minority on Earth now—why wouldn’t they still be either a minority, or just swallowed up in the larger colored gene pool, in the future?”

 

“I was a little wily about my color scheme. I figured some white kids (the books were published for “young adults”) might not identify straight off with a brown kid, so I kind of eased the information about skin color in by degrees—hoping that the reader would get “into Ged’s skin” and only then discover it wasn’t a white one.”

Boxed set cover art of the first three books in the "Earthsea" series, as issued in 1975. Artwork by Pauline Ellison.
Boxed set cover art of the first three books
in the “Earthsea” series, as issued in 1975.
Artwork by Pauline Ellison.

“Gradually I got a little more clout, a little more say-so about covers. And very, very, very gradually publishers may be beginning to lose their blind fear of putting a nonwhite face on the cover of a book. “Hurts sales, hurts sales” is the mantra. Yeah, so? On my books, Ged with a white face is a lie, a betrayal—a betrayal of the book, and of the potential reader.”

“I think it is possible that some readers never even notice what color the people in the story are. Don’t notice, don’t care. Whites of course have the privilege of not caring, of being “colorblind.” Nobody else does.”

 

Read the full article here

The best part of the article, though, and one of her best points, is that many readers of color wrote to her and let her know how important it was to them to feel included and see themselves represented as heroes in a genre that neglects them to an astonishing degree.

Race-bending characters in adaptations is really cool and can be really interesting. But in a genre (ahem… and an entire entertainment world) where characters of color are completely absent or never get to play hero, it’s something entirely different to take the color out of the picture…