Entries Tagged as 'Race'

VQR: The Price of Black Ambition

October 7, 2014

“I am thinking about success, ambition, and blackness and how breaking through while black is tempered by so much burden. Nothing exemplifies black success and ambition like Black History Month, a celebratory month I’ve come to dread as a time when people take an uncanny interest in sharing black-history facts with me to show how they are not racist. It’s the month where we segregate some of history’s most significant contributors into black history instead of fully integrating them into American history. Each February, we hold up civil-rights heroes and the black innovators and writers and artists who have made so much possible for this generation. We say, look at what the best of us have achieved. We conjure W. E. B. Du Bois, who once wrote, ‘The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men.’ We ask much of our exceptional men and women. We must be exceptional if we are to be anything at all.”

— Roxanne Gay in The Price of Black Ambition for VQR. This essay is on point and deeply moving; I was in tears. But then I pulled it together and did something I’ve been meaning to do since August: went to Amazon and bought Gay’s book Bad Feminist because I need more of her in my life.

On the table: Things little black girls love

September 20, 2014

Misty Copeland photographed by Pari Dukovic via The New Yorker

Pari Dukovic, The New Yorker

Happy weekend, folks! Here’s what I’m reading/discussing/thinking about this morning…

Clair Huxtable. So, yesterday the New York Times had an epic fail with Alessandra Stanley’s racist article about Shonda Rhimes. It was just. So. Bad. Among Stanley’s errors was when she wrote that Shonda Rhimes’ leading black ladies are “certainly are not as benign and reassuring as Clair Huxtable, the serene, elegant wife, mother and dedicated lawyer on ‘The Cosby Show.’” But as Kara Brown pointed out in her (excellent) response piece:

“Clair Huxtable is an incredible character because she gets angry. She gets angry and frustrated at times that are angering and frustrating. She is a successful lawyer and a caring mother and devoted wife. She is sweet and measured but is also quick to put you in your place if you say or do something stupid. (And she could even do it in Spanish.) Clair Huxtable accepts foolishness from absolutely nobody, but she also picks her battles.”

After watching the embedded clip of a scene in which Phylicia Rashad plays Clair Huxtable as perfectly angry, I ended up going down the Huxtable rabbit hole. And it was lovely (if unsurprising) to read about the huge impact the character had on young girls, particularly young black girls. I know I watched “The Cosby Show” as a little girl, but in all honesty, I don’t have a ton of memories of it. In the past couple years, it has crossed my mind from time to time that I should just watch the entire show. Last night I discovered that the show is turning 30 today, so it seemed like the perfect time to start re-watching. So after finishing this article about all the ways Clair was a badass, I started with the pilot episode of “The Cosby Show” on Hulu Plus. I got through the first three episodes and I was literally laughing out loud alone in my room and texting Eric (who was traveling) like, “OMG, I just discovered the best new show!” If you want to re-watch, TV Land is airing a Cosby marathon today. And ABC news rounded up 30 interesting facts about the show, but you know I’m mostly interested in the sweaters.

Ballerinas. This morning I read Rivka Galchen’s profile on Misty Copeland in The New Yorker. I feel like the word “inspiring” gets tossed around a lot, but I truly find her story inspiring.

“Her memoir, Life in Motion, written with Charisse Jones, portrays her childhood as having been in some ways idyllic: swimming at the beach, a circle of loving and talented siblings, a charismatic and beautiful mother, and a gift for responsibility and leadership. But another version of Copeland’s childhood, which also comes through in her memoir, is the hardship tale: not knowing her real father, a succession of differently difficult stepfathers, and uncertainty about whether there would be dinner on any given night.”

When I was a little girl, doing my interpretive dance to the soundtrack from “The Little Mermaid” in our apartment, I know I would have just loved her. As an adult, I still think she’s really great. I don’t need any new workout clothes, but I kind of want to buy something new from Under Armour just to show my support.

Project Runway. I don’t follow this show, but this week there was an American Girl challenge. Like, OLD-SCHOOL ACTUAL AMERICAN GIRL NOT THIS MODERN BULLSHIT. I’m looking forward to watching that today and further re-living my childhood.

Handsome princes. This morning, I saw that Price Harry “rescued” a little girl who couldn’t see at a concert this week, putting her on his shoulders so she could get a better view. The only thing that’s been harder on my ovaries this week (well, along with Ovaries Week over on The Cut) was discovering the DILFs of Disneyland Instagram account.

Let’s all watch Sha’Condria Sibley deliver an inspiring and badass poem

September 13, 2014

My pal Chanelle shared this Upworthy post last night, and while I generally find Upworthy smarmy as hell, I’m actually glad I clicked through on this one. Here’s the video.

It’s so interesting to me that in recent years, more and more white kids are getting saddled with “big names.” While these names are the subject of plenty of mocking, I doubt the Kaybryns and Teiguns (it’s pronounced TAY-gun) will have the same results as the Sha’Condrias of the world when they send their resumes to potential employers. 

Egotistical doctors and badass women from days gone by: My current TV lineup

September 10, 2014

I usually don’t watch much TV, but Eric loves TV and we’ve recently started watching three new/new to us shows…that all happen to be set in the past and center mainly around complicated, liberated (or will-soon-be liberated) women and asshole MDs.


Outlander. This show, based on Diana Gabaldon’s book series, is basically a romance novel sprung to life. Except better (at least than the three paperbacks from K-Mart I read when I was 14), because the heroine, Claire, is a really great character. She’s charming, feisty, “strong” (whatever that means), smart, passionate, and she gets shit done. She also happens to be the MD (well, the “healer”) in this show and she’s not an asshole (at least not most of the time). “Outlander” is set in Scotland, which means sometimes Eric and I wish we had the subtitles turned on, and we frequently have to pause to decipher exactly what is being said on screen. But! That setting also means the show’s backdrop is just gorgeous.

Speaking of gorgeous, leading hunk (a far more accurate term than “man” here)Sam Heughan really brings the romance novel feel to life as Jamie. He’s so shirtless, so charming, so lock-of-hair-falling-over-sparkling-blue-eyes that sometimes I’m just like, “…really???” It’s a little much. (Almost as much as Claire’s LITERALLY HEAVING BOSOM on this week’s episode. I cannot wait till he actually rips her bodice!) Anyway, I actually like that the show doesn’t feature the traditional male gaze and is giving ladies some hot Scottish man candy to ogle. (Personally, I’m more into Graham McTavish as Dougal than Jamie. I love his jaunty hat and his beard.) The show moves a little slow overall, but I’m sticking with it for now.

The Knick

The Knick. This show stars Clive Owen as a—you guessed it!—asshole doctor in 1900 New York. There are a lot of things to like about “The Knick,” including the way it’s shot, the creepy vibe, the soundtrack, and the medical problems explored in each episode; on the other hand, Owen’s character, Dr. Thackery, is SUCH an asshole that it’s just frustrating at times. While I like the show, right now I’m kind of stuck on the racism as a main plot point. André Holland plays Dr. Algernon Edwards, a gifted black surgeon who is generally treated like shit by all his white counterparts at the Knickerbocker Hospital. I think if Dr. Edwards were the main character, I’d feel less bummed about this…but it’s just frustrating that every time he’s on screen, someone’s treating him like shit. I know that would have been his reality, so my issue with this is a bit hard to articulate, but the bottom line is that it’s often hard for me to watch, and it makes me wonder who the target audience is. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes.

Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex. So, I DVRd the series premier of this show a year ago and never got around to watching it. Then seeing Lizzy Caplan at the Emmys a couple weeks ago (where she looked STUNNING! See ya later, Janis Ian!) reminded me that I still hadn’t seen it, so I watched the first episode and am now COMPLETELY hooked. Michael Sheen’s Dr. Masters is an asshole and a robot, but gahtdamb, the female characters are all SO GOOD. Aside from Caplan as famed sex researcher Virgina Johnson, there is Allison Janney as Margaret, Caitlin FitzGerald as Libby Masters, and Heléne Yorke as Jane, and they really carry “Masters of Sex.” I really love the way the show explores women’s reproductive health issues and the things we sort of take for granted now (like, say, not having to get your husband’s permission to have a medical procedure), along with women’s needs and desires in relationships in general. I really don’t like Dr. Masters at this point and some of his scenes have me shouting, “Gross! YOU ARE GROSS, DR. MASTERS!” at the TV but…whatever. Every great show about women needs its Porn Stache, right? Anyway, we’ve got three more episodes in Season 1 to watch and then it’ll be on to the second one!

Let’s all watch Kerry Washington read “Ain’t I A Woman?”

September 7, 2014

I saw this on For Harriet last week; even though the video is several years old, it’s still amazing and powerful and inspiring.

And if you need any more convincing that Kerry Washington is the best, this story ought to do the trick.

On the table: Sad and angry

August 25, 2014

Eric turned on the TV while we were eating breakfast yesterday morning. It was turned to Investigation Discovery, and he told me I’d like the show that was on. “Like” isn’t quite the right word for how I felt about it…but I’m glad he convinced me to keep watching. The show was The Injustice Files: Sundown Towns. When we started watching the hour-long documentary (which Al Roker executive produced), they were discussing the murder of a 21-year-old black woman named Carol Jenkins in Martinsville, Indiana.

Carol Jenkins

Everything about it was completely heartbreaking. Jenkins was selling encyclopedias in the sundown town (i.e. no black people allowed after sundown) in 1968 when she became separated from the group she was with. Worried she was being followed by two men in a car, she eventually knocked on the door of a young white couple, who took her into their home. They tried to get the license plate number of the car she said was following her. They called the police…who were mostly concerned with why a black woman was in their town after dark. They offered to let her stay the night, but she refused, saying “I’ve already bothered you people long enough.” And after she was stabbed to death about 5 minutes after leaving the couple’s home, the couple suffered harassment from the police and locals for letting her in in the first place. The police finally arrested a 70-year-old man, Kenneth Richmond, in 2002, but he died of cancer before he was could be tried. The identity of the other man who may have been in the car with him that night remains unknown.

Everything else I read yesterday seemed to tie back to this theme: that black boys and girls are forgettable, that they don’t need protection, that their lives don’t matter. But these stories also had another thing in common: they were examples of the ways we are continuing to push back against these ideas, to remind the world—and maybe ourselves—that our lives do matter. 

The history of sundown towns. Coincidentally, Melissa Harris-Perry just discussed this topic last week in the context of Ferguson. 

Carefree Black Girl: The Life And Death Of Karyn Washington by Anita Badejo. This is a long read, but so worth it. The author explores the idea of the carefree black girl in depth, and memorializes Washington in a really beautiful way.

What Black Parents Tell Their Sons About the Police by Jazmine Hughes. This piece starts with the Jonathan Lethem “At what age is a black boy when he learns he’s scary?” and features black adults of varying ages talking about when they gave their sons the talk, or when their parents had it with them.

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson is not a gang member. He’s just a Kappa. by Soraya Nadia McDonald. I actually read this last week, but figured I’d include it in case anyone wanted to tell me racism isn’t still a thing.

And finally, there is this illustrated photo project which I had seen earlier last week, and went back and looked at again yesterday. Created by Shirin Barghi, the graphics display the last words of young black men who were unjustly shot and killed.


Is it really any wonder we’ve all been freaking out over little Blue Ivy and re-watching that lovely Carter-Knowles moment from the VMAs last night?

We really needed a win.

BuzzFeed: 18 Stunning Photos Of Black Women At Work During World War II

August 19, 2014

Remember that time a post I wrote made the BUZZFEED DOT COM HOMEPAGE?

Read it on BuzzFeed!


20 photos of black women at work during World War II

August 18, 2014

When I was in Chicago last month, everyone asked me what Eric was doing to keep himself busy while I was out of town. Every time, I replied, “Watching shows about World War II on the History Channel, probably.” And every time, there was a look of recognition among both the married women (and men) in the room. Apparently, I’m not the only one whose husband spends every Sunday watching what I refer to as “the White Men’s History Channel” or, simply, “the Hitler Channel.” 

I specialized in history in college, so I want to like the History Channel…but just I’m not here for all the programming that’s devoted to white men doing it by themselves. But yesterday, I got my own history fix when I went way down the rabbit hole that is the Library of Congress website (something I really need to do more often). Eventually, I started looking for pictures of black women during World War II…and three hours later, I emerged with these lovely photos. 

20 photos of black women at work during World War II

Four WACs during World War II.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Lt. Harriet Ida Pickens and Ens. Frances Wills, 1944.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

A black woman working on a dive bomber, 1943. (Photo by Alfred T. Palmer.)

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Miss Amanda Smith working at the Long Beach Plant of the Douglas Aircraft Company.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

A group of nurses receiving mail in 1943.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

20-year-old Annie Tabor at work at a plant in the Midwest.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Five women working for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company, 1943.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

A riveter at work in Burbank, California.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Three nurses at work, June 1944.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Army nurses arriving in Greenock, Scotland.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Miss Juanita E. Gray at work in the Washington Navy Yard.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Miss Lucille Little at work at the El Segundo Plant of the Douglas Aircraft Company.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Pfc. Johnnie Mae Welton working in a lab at Fort Jackson Station Hospital in 1944.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

According to the original caption, “Hospital Apprentices second class Ruth C. Isaacs, Katherine Horton and Inez Patterson (left to right) are the first Negro WAVES to enter the Hospital Corps School at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD, 03/02/1945.”

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Willa Beatrice Brown was the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license in the US, and she is widely credited with creating the squadron that became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. (Maybe you’ve heard of them?)

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Pvt. Ruth L. James, 1945.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

WAAC cooks making dinner, 1942.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Two WAACs at work in Washington, DC in 1942.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

Mrs. Mary K. Adair takes an exam at Officers’ Candidate School, 1942.

20 photos of African-American women at work during World War II

US Navy WAVE Apprentice Seaman Frances Bates, 1945.

Remember these women the next time historians are pretending that African-Americans weren’t invented until 1960.


August 14, 2014

I haven’t had time to organize all my thoughts on what’s happening in Ferguson into a coherent post, but I wanted to share a few photos today.

And the one that makes me feel so incredibly emotional every time I look at it…

All ova it

August 4, 2014

All ova it

One of the things I’ve noticed about the past year is that my friends and I all know when we’re ovulating and will casually mention it during conversations. As in: “Ugh, I’m ovulating right now and my ovary hurts” or “I noticed I fight more with him when I’m ovulating…” Is this what happens when you turn 28?

I thought of this this week when I saw the article 22 Thoughts You Have When You’re Ovulating…and subsequently sent it to all my friends. No one responded with, “Um, why do you know when you’re ovulating?!” They all thought it was spot-on. 

It’s particularly interesting to me because none of us knows we’re ovulating because we’re trying to get pregnant; it just seems to be a side effect of getting older and knowing your body better. I actually do track everything using an app (Period Tracker Lite which is…not elegant or cute at all) because I hate going to the doctor and not immediately knowing when the start date of my last period was (a question that just seems designed to confuse). But even without the app, I always know.

It’s small things like this—along with walking into Express and immediately walking out, and 90 percent of popular music—that make me feel much closer to 30 than to 20. 

In related news, here’s more reproductive reading that my friends and I have been discussing lately…

Can Parenthood and Pessimism Live Side by Side? My friend Ashley sent this to me on Sunday after we discussed this Washington Post article and talked baby ambivalence on Saturday. The NYT piece reminded me of the wonderful Why Would I Ever Want to Bring a Child Into This Fucked Up World? by Erin Gloria Ryan. “I don’t want to give birth to a child in a coastal city that will be under water in 100 years, to one where boys who grow up wanting to serve their country end up dying to protect Dick Cheney’s stock portfolio.” 

The Ordeal of the Bitter Waters. I read this six-part series a few weeks ago, and it’s really good. It’s how one Christian woman formed her opinion on the pro-choice/anti-abortion debate, and it’s fantastic. I’m so impressed by the amount of research she did.  It doesn’t take long to read all six parts, and it’s a must-read for anyone who grapples with the morality of abortion, particularly from a biblical perspective. 

The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker. John H. Richardson’s in-depth profile in Esquire is a long read but it is a great one. It’s so moving and so well-written; Dr. Parker is just so incredibly brave. One of my favorite lines from the piece brought up the other doctors who won’t perform abortions thanks to the pressure from anti-abortion protestors. “And other doctors will say, Bless you, you’re so brave, but they turn women away and often don’t even refer them to someone who will help them. And some will say smugly, We don’t do that here, failing to recognize that what he does allows them to make that smug declaration, allows them to present themselves as noble caregivers while they send their most desperate patients out to fend for themselves.” That line made me really want to find a new doctor who believes in his patients’ rights to reproductive freedom. Grab your coffee, get comfortable, and read the whole piece. 


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