You Need to Watch Laverne Cox’s Inspiring Speech on Transgender Issues

Last week, the Trans 100 list went public, celebrating those who have raised the public profile or made a difference for transgender people. This list was read live two weeks ago, at the Trans 100 gala in Chicago. The event also featured keynote speeches by author Janet Mock and Laverne Cox of Orange Is the New Black.

Cox’s speech hinged on the saying, “Hurt people hurt people” and the “revolutionary action” of trans people loving each other, and touched on issues of oppression, kindness, and healing. It’s a powerful, emotional speech, especially when she speaks of the crowdfunding effort for the documentary about CeCe McDonald, a transgender activist who served 19 months in a men’s prison after defending herself from an attack in 2011.

“So often, trans people are told that our lives don’t matter,” Cox says. “Particularly black trans women. And tens of thousands of dollars were raised for this woman CeCe McDonald to prove that our lives do matter.”

Co-Screenwriter of ‘Noah’ Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film

O.K. let’s see if this makes sense.

No doubt, one of the most talked about films so far this year is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. The film has gotten its share of rave reviews, though there are those who have major problems with it. However, one cannot deny that it is truly an ambitious, unique and original film – the kind of risk-taking movie you wish Hollywood would make more of, like they used to.

However, there is that one thing; That one thing that stuck out in my mind when I saw the film: “Hey, where are the black folks or people or color in the film?

If this film had been made back during the epic “Biblical film” era, in the 1950s, well then, yes, you would expect that.

But even Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments has black people in it. So, here we are well into the 21stcentury, and Noah is populated with nothing but white people, many who speak with British or Australian accents.

Well, in a new interview on the website The High Calling (HERE) the co-screenwriter of the film Ari Handel, who wrote Noah with Aronofsky, was asked about the lack of diversity and addressed by saying:

“From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise.”

He goes on to say:

“You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to it, or you just say, “Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with everyman.” Looking at this story through that kind of lens is the same as saying, “Would the ark float and is it big enough to get all the species in there?” That’s irrelevant to the questions because the questions are operating on a different plane than that; they’re operating on the mythical plane.”

Really? That’s the best he could do? Why not just say, we just didn’t want to be bothered? I would have bought that.

So let me see if I understand this. In other words, if we put black people or POC in the film, then people would notice it, and that would have been like really, really distracting, taking people out of the film. So instead, we got a whole bunch of white British, American and Australian actors to represent all mankind, because it‘s just a lot easier?

And, furthermore, putting people of color in the film would have somewhat diminished the biblical Noah, making it look, God forbid, like some kind of Star Trek movie?

Sorry I’m all confused here. I was thinking that, if you want to represent all mankind in a film, then wouldn’t it make sense to have a cast that did actually represent all of mankind, in every color and hue, instead of having an all white cast, and telling audiences to just squint their eyes, and pretend that he’s another race, because it’s all just a myth after all? So black people can’t be mythical too? Nope, I guess we’re too real, too urban.

Am I wrong here, or is Handel? You tell us.

[source]

What I Learned From Tweeting With A Black Woman’s Avatar For #RaceSwapExp

Two weeks ago, after writer and activist Suey Park sparked a wave of protest and dude-bro angst with her response to the Colbert Report’s racist tweet, I heeded Suey’s call and began to tweet about why Colbert’s work did not qualify as satire, did nothing to improve the lived experiences of people of color and was often racist and transmisogynist. Some of my tweets were included in the first half dozen or so pieces about the trending hashtag and the conversation it ignited. For me, the experience was thought provoking and empowering; it was also rather easy. How? I was tweeting as a white man. Everything I said was accepted, supported, re-tweeted or (at worst) ignored.

That was in stark contrast to the countless rape/death threats leveled at Suey and many other women. Not to mention the myriad bro-pundits—Huffington Post’s Josh Zepps and Slate’s Dave Weigel are obvious examples—desperate to derail and silence Park by calling her opinions “stupid” and using phrases like “weaponized hashtags.” This flurry of dude-bro logic and mansplaining led to something unexpected in my timeline, as many women of color and black women began to switch their avatars to those of white men. The result? A dramatic decrease in the number of trolls and the severity of said trolls. Fed-Up Hipster wrote a great piece about why she’s had a bearded white hipster’s avi since last fall.

Mikki Kendall—who launched #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, among others—inspired other women of color and black women to offer up photographs of themselves for white people who wanted to participate in #RaceSwapExp for the week. Shortly thereafter, I expressed my interest in participating and Feminista Jones was gracious enough to allow me to use a picture of her for the next five days. I’ll admit I was hesitant: How would people respond? Would the content of my tweets change or be received differently? The basic requirement for #RaceSwapExp was that you couldn’t change how or what you tweeted—and you had to obtain permission from the person whose avatar you used. I learned a few lessons about white supremacy and misogyny while tweeting as “Christine” with a picture of Feminista Jones as my avi.

1. My follower count went up by about 65. The vast majority of these were social justice-minded people; many (not all) were women of color. I’m not complaining. In fact, I’m thrilled.

2. My troll count went from a handful per week to many more, overnight. I was blocking/reporting around 15 to 25 of them per day. Many were eggs, some were white liberals, some were right-wingers and others were just dudes of unknown political origin.

3. The level of hateful tweets went from zero to off the charts. With many of these trolls, I would respond once and then block them, or just block them. One such troll, @vincentBrook666, tweeted the following to me in all caps.

(This was a manual RT response to the original tweet, as @vincentBrook666 deleted the original tweet.)

That type of language was fairly typical and nothing like I had ever experienced before. I was simultaneously horrified and not surprised. Though this language makes you feel uncomfortable (as it should), people are spoken to this way on a daily basis.

4. I didn’t change the tone or content of my tweets; however, I did tell at least one troll to jump off a cliff. I called another troll “white boy,” which in hindsight was probably provocative. I was very frustrated. Would I have tweeted that with my regular avatar? I believe so. I’d called out Dave Weigel’s ahistorical and white dude-bro coverage of #CancelColbert—with my regular avi—and he responded by blocking me. Were both of my responses perceived differently with a black woman’s avi? Definitely. Is this perception because of racist assumptions about black women and women of color? Of course.

5. Before switching my avatar, I’d been labeled a white hipster and called a faggot. One troll said that I was only defending women of color because I wanted to sleep with them. Because it’s somehow impossible for a man to just respect the humanity of black women?

6. The mansplaining came from all directions—self-proclaimed liberals, far-right conservatives and libertarians. A gay white journalist who I know in real life explained that I don’t understand satire.

For me, #RaceSwapExp was eye-opening because it allowed me, for one week, to experience a little bit of what black women and women of color deal with 24/7/365 in all online spaces: endless trolling, racist and misogynistic hate, tactics that silence and derail, demeaning assaults on their humanity. Even so, no matter what happened to me, it was just an experiment. I was (and am) privileged—I knew that in a few days I could go back to the safety of my regular avi. For the brilliant women of color that I follow, that’s not an option. If nothing else, this experience has given a new urgency to my personal resolve: I will work to dismantle white supremacy, decenter whiteness and center the voices of black people in my work and my life. TC mark

By  CHRISTOPHER CARBONE for Thought Catalogue

The Changing Face of America

We’ve become a country where race is no longer so black or white.

What is it about the faces on these pages that we find so intriguing? Is it simply that their features disrupt our expectations, that we’re not used to seeing those eyes with that hair, that nose above those lips? Our responses can range from the armchair anthropologist’s benign desire to unravel ancestries and find common ground to active revulsion at group boundaries being violated or, in the language of racist days past, “watered down.”

Out in the world, the more curious (or less polite) among us might approach, asking, “Where are you from?” or “What are you?” We look and wonder because what we see—and our curiosity—speaks volumes about our country’s past, its present, and the promise and peril of its future.

The U.S. Census Bureau has collected detailed data on multiracial people only since 2000, when it first allowed respondents to check off more than one race, and 6.8 million people chose to do so. Ten years later that number jumped by 32 percent, making it one of the fastest growing categories. The multiple-race option has been lauded as progress by individuals frustrated by the limitations of the racial categories established in the late 18th century by German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, who divided humans into five “natural varieties” of red, yellow, brown, black, and white. Although the multiple-race option is still rooted in that taxonomy, it introduces the factor of self-determination. It’s a step toward fixing a categorization system that, paradoxically, is both erroneous (since geneticists have demonstrated that race is biologically not a reality) and essential (since living with race and racism is). The tracking of race is used both to enforce antidiscrimination laws and to identify health issues specific to certain populations.

The Census Bureau is aware that its racial categories are flawed instruments, disavowing any intention “to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.” And indeed, for most multiple-race Americans, including the people pictured here, identity is a highly nuanced concept, influenced by politics, religion, history, and geography, as well as by how the person believes the answer will be used. “I just say I’m brown,” McKenzi McPherson, 9, says. “And I think, Why do you want to know?” Maximillian Sugiura, 29, says he responds with whatever ethnicity provides a situational advantage. Loyalties figure in too, especially when one’s heritage doesn’t show up in phenotypical facial features, hair, or skin. Yudah Holman, 29, self-identifies as half Thai and half black, but marks Asian on forms and always puts Thai first, “because my mother raised me, so I’m really proud of being Thai.”

Sandra Williams, 46, grew up at a time when the nation still turned on a black-white axis. The 1960 census depicted a country that was still 99 percent black or white, and when Williams was born six years later to parents of mixed black and white ancestry, 17 states still had laws against interracial marriage. In Williams’s western Virginia hometown, there was only one Asian child in her school. To link her own fair skin and hair to her white ancestry, Williams says, would have been seen by blacks as a rejection. And so, though she views race as a social construction, she checks black on the census. “It’s what my parents checked,” she says.

In today’s presumably more accepting world, people with complex cultural and racial origins become more fluid and playful with what they call themselves. On playgrounds and college campuses, you’ll find such homespun terms as Blackanese, Filatino, Chicanese, and Korgentinian. When Joshua Ahsoak, 34, attended college, his heritage of Inupiat (Eskimo) and midwestern Jewish earned him the moniker Juskimo, a term he still uses to describe himself (a practicing Jew who breaks kosher dietary laws not for bacon but for walrus and seal meat).

Tracey Williams Bautista says her seven-year-old son, Yoel Chac Bautista, identifies himself as black when he’s with her, his African-American parent. When he’s with his father, he’ll say Mexican. “We call him a Blaxican,” she jokes, and says she and her husband are raising him in a home where Martin Luther King, Jr., is displayed next to Frida Kahlo. Black relatives warn Williams about the persistence of the one-drop rule, the long-standing practice of seeing anyone with a trace of black “blood” as black. “They say, ‘He may be half, but he’s still the N word.’”

Certainly, race still matters in this country, despite claims that the election of Barack Obama heralded a post-racial world. We may be a pluralist nation by 2060, when the Census Bureau predicts that non-Hispanic whites will no longer be the majority. But head counts don’t guarantee opportunity or wipe out the legacy of Japanese-American internment camps or Jim Crow laws. Whites, on average, have twice the income and six times the wealth of blacks and Hispanics, and young black men are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. Racial bias still figures into incarceration rates, health outcomes, and national news: A recent Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial family prompted a barrage of negative responses, including claims of white genocide and calls for “DIEversity.”

Both champions and detractors of that ad based their views on what’s known as the eyeball test: A study of brain activity at the University of Colorado at Boulder showed that subjects register race in about one-tenth of a second, even before they discern gender. In May researchers reported that political conservatives are more likely than liberals to categorize ambiguous black-white faces as black. We assign meaning in the blink of an eye.

When people ask Celeste Seda, 26, what she is, she likes to let them guess before she explains her Dominican-Korean background. She points out that even then she has revealed only a fraction of her identity, which includes a Long Island childhood, a Puerto Rican adoptive family, an African-American sister, and a nascent acting career. The attention she gets for her unusual looks can be both flattering and exhausting. “It’s a gift and a curse,” Seda says.

It’s also, for the rest of us, an opportunity. If we can’t slot people into familiar categories, perhaps we’ll be forced to reconsider existing definitions of race and identity, presumptions about who is us and who is them. Perhaps we’ll all end up less parsimonious about who we feel connected to as we increasingly come across people like Seda, whose faces seem to speak that resounding line from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

“I am large, I contain multitudes.”

[source]

Why the Fear of Becoming a Minority Could Lead to a Lot More Republicans

Surprise! Fear of losing their majority status actually makes Americans more conservative.

At least, that’s the conclusion of a new study by two psychologists at Northwestern University investigating how white people react to the possibility of losing their majoritarian status.

While researching for “On the Precipice of a ‘Majority-Minority’ America: Perceived Status Threat from the Racial Demographic Shift Affects White Americans’ Political Ideology,” psychologists Maureen A. Craig and Jennifer A. Richeson conducted four experiments to assess how people who identify as white reacted to racial demographic changes regarding three different population sets. The first study showed that making Californians aware of the shift in demographics led “politically unaffiliated white Americans to lean more toward the Republican party and express greater political conservatism.” The other experiments showed similar results.

In other words, when the majority — here the still-existing racial majority of “white” Americans — perceives, even if not statistically factual, that they have become the minority, their psychological response is fear and loathing. Fear at the prospect of having to actually consider one’s race as not inhabiting the dominant position; loathing for having to realize that they live in a multiracial world, and that they have effectively become “othered.”

While certainly unsettling, the results of the survey may not surprise anyone familiar with, say, cable news. The fear the researchers are speaking of was, in fact, apparent last year when outlets like CBS News, CNN and Fox spent days reporting on recent census numbers with not-too-subtle headlines like “Whites losing majority in U.S. in under-5 group,” “White kids will no longer make up a majority in just a few years,” and “Minorities now surpass whites in U.S. births, census shows.” That last piece, from Fox News, nonchalantly throws in a highly problematic aside — “[T]he numbers also serve as a guide to where taxpayer dollars could be going in the coming decades” — to further perpetuate racist notions of the welfare state.

These psychological reactions to perceptions of a demographic shift also arguably influence legislative policies and legal decisions. As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in the shocking 5-4 Supreme Court decision to overturn key parts of the Voting Rights Amendment last summer, ”Our country has changed. … While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

In other words, the white majority will try to “ensure” that they remain as such for as long as possible.

[source]

Heidi Klum’s redface photo shoot is a massive insult to Native Americans

Back in January, designer Walter Van Beirendonck sent a model down the runway wearing a comically large headdress with the words “stop racism” scrawled across it. It was a potent and powerful message, a message that apparently Heidi Klum didn’t get. In a continuation of fashion’s backward practice of cultural appropriation, Klum had contestants on Germany’s Next Top Model travel to Utah and pose as sexy indigenous people. What?

In this latest iteration of fashion’s ongoing cultural faux pas, the models posed in headdresses, blankets and face paint, some holding peace pipes and spears. The photos were later shared in a photo set on Facebook and described, in a supreme case of tone-deafness, as “Endlose Weite und einsame Wildnis – meine Girls beim Shooting in Utah” (“Endless length and lonely wilderness – my girls during the shoot in Utah”). Think Progress deservedly put the media microscope on the images yesterday.

Unfortunately, the sight of models in “red face” is a frequent occurrence. From headdresses on Victoria’s Secret runways to the recalled “hipster headdresses” at H&M, the fashion industry somehow hasn’t caught on to the fact that this is downright offensive cultural appropriation, no matter how often and how impassioned the online masses call them on it.

Indigenous people have long been stereotyped as serene and romantic token images, a practice obviously still perpetuated in fashion and pop culture and brought frequently to dreamy photo shoots. Even as Native, activist and feminist voices consistently explain why it’s wrong the internet continues to be forced into a position of ethical counterweight as big fashion business repeatedly opts for appropriation.

The outcry against Klum’s latest has been uniform and entirely legitimate. Writing at Last Real Indians, Ruth Hopkins, a self-proclaimed fan of Heidi Klum’s show Project Runway since episode one, summed up the both the broad Native response to the shoot:

“As a Native woman, I’m tired of being bombarded with negative, false imagery of who society thinks I am. For once I’d like to enjoy a fashion show, a music video, a football game or a photo spread without being singled out because of my race. It’s not just offensive, it’s discriminatory and just plain rude.”

So far, two weeks since sharing these photos, Klum has not issued any apology or statement.

It’s high time the fashion world opened their eyes, put away the offensive regalia and listened to the masses. We’re right.

[source]

[Op-ed] I Don’t Want Children

I will not succumb to the expectations of society. If I ever choose to be a mother, it will be because I truly, profoundly and without a doubt want to be a mother. 

“That will change,” I’ve heard throughout the years. A week ago, my mother’s friend uttered those very words when somehow, we landed on the topic and I told her I don’t want children.

“You really don’t want children? You’re going to be lonely!” My little sister, who’s not so little anymore, warned me just days prior.

“No, I won’t be. I’ll have you guys, and in time, my nieces and nephews. I’ll be the cool aunt. Your children will jump for joy upon my arrival: “Mommy, mommy, it’s Titi Gera! I wonder what she brought us from South America,” I said with enthusiasm. “They’ll ask where I’m off to next.” She giggled. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people have kids in an attempt to prevent loneliness.

There have been times when I’ve wished I fit the mold: the woman who dreams of starting a family. That would’ve made things easier growing up and while I was in a long-term relationship. I wouldn’t have had to dodge the topic of motherhood when it arose or explain my desire to experience fulfillment in other ways, ways that are more in tune with my personality. I would’ve averted quite a few arguments with my then-boyfriend, who insisted on having children immediately after graduation, as though I’d worked hard at my studies to settle down straight out of college.

“You’re thinking like that now because you’re young and want to travel. You’ll change your mind when you meet the right guy. Children are a blessing,” my mother’s friend continued, looking at my mother and asking if she’d heard me when I said I don’t want children. This wasn’t something my mother hadn’t heard before.

What I didn’t bother to tell my mother’s friend is that I’ve already been with someone I perceived to be the right guy, and even then, I didn’t want children.

Children are a blessing. Motherhood is a miracle, to say the least. I believe having a child shouldn’t be a decision made on a whim, or even worse, by mistake. Though for some, that’s the case and it turns out to be the most unexpected, frightening and yet amazing experience.
I love children. They can fill a room with happiness, even on the darkest of days. But I’ve never felt the soul-clenching desire to become a mother. I don’t want the physical changes it entails, the career and physical break it requires or the great deal of responsibility that soon follows. I’m too much of a free spirit.

Babies are adorable, but babies grow up. A child is a blessing, but a child is also the biggest responsibility. Do my thoughts make me selfish? Perhaps. But there is also selfishness in wanting a child to avoid loneliness.

Experiences have shaped me and continue to shape me. I think differently now than I did in the past. Who’s to say I won’t change my mind in a few years? I may. But like I told my mother’s friend, I may not. Maybe I’ll never feel the desire to be a mother; maybe I will. Maybe I’ll want to have my own children; maybe I’ll want to adopt. There’s no telling what the future holds. I’m open to possibilities, even the ones I can’t visualize right now, but I won’t mute my feelings or decisions simply because they’re so rare, so “unwomanly-like,” they make others uncomfortable.

I spent about five years with a man I thought I loved, or maybe did love. I battled with the notion that because I’m a woman I should want to be a mother. I thought that if I spent enough time with other people’s children — and believe me I did — the feeling would come. At times, I hoped for simplicity reasons that it would… but it didn’t. And it hasn’t.

I will not succumb to the expectations of society. If I ever choose to be a mother, it will be because I truly, profoundly and without a doubt want to be a mother. Society can call me selfish and criticize me for being different, but I prefer that a million times over than to have my child look me in the eyes and sense even the slightest hint of resentment.

[written by Geraldine Estevez on Huffington Post]

16 Children And Their Bedrooms From Across The World

Some kids grow up in poverty, lacking food and sanitation, while others are born in countries where basic necessities are taken for granted.  Photographer James Mollison came up with the project when he thought about his own childhood bedroom and how it reflected who he was. Where Children Sleep – a collection of stories about children from around the world told through portraits of their bedrooms – stemmed from his ideas.

Alex, 9, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Indira, 7, Kathmandu, Nepal

Anonymous, 9, Ivory Coast

View the entire photo collection here.

How American Films Use Black Cops for Comic Relief

If you’re a black cop in an American movie, you’re a lot more likely to end upsquatting on a toilet with a bomb in it than sharing scars with the hottie from Internal Affairs. This isn’t anecdote; it’s research. A recent study from two criminal justice experts shows that for 40 years black police officers have most often been the punchlines of the American cop movie genre.

The researchers found that only 21 out of 112 police movies released from 1971 to 2011 had a black cop in a heroic role. And, in over half of those, black officers were there to give the audience laughs, rather than significantly advance the plot. Outside the movies, around one in five officers is black, say the authors.

lethal-weapon

The researchers took every film classified as a “cop movie” since the Clint Eastwood vehicle Dirty Harry (which they say defined the genre as we know it today), and culled all those that were specifically comedies, science-fiction, or anything that featured cops acting outside their jurisdictions. Then they sat down and watched over 240 hours of cinema, looking to see how the black and white main characters were portrayed, and using 40 criteria to classify on-screen actions into types.

Franklin Wilson, of Indiana State University, was one of the paper’s authors. He told Quartz: “Quite honestly, it’s eye-opening. You can watch a film and see one thing here or there, but when you watch 40 years’ worth of films, you can start seeing a pattern develop.”

In addition to the comic-relief stereotype, black cops were often portrayed as being caught between the black community and the police, Wilson said. There is a longstanding lack of trust between police and African Americans, stretching from colonial laws that allowed police to arrest blacks for being out after dark (ebook, pg. 22), to modern stop-and-frisk practices.

There’s lopsided justice inside the police force, as well: There have been black officers in America since 1802, but even up until 1962 many police departments required them to get a white officer’s permission before arresting a white suspect. In his book Policing America (pg. 364), author Ken Peak said this results in a so-called “double marginality”, where black officers feel ostracized both by the African-American community, and their fellow police.

The researchers say their next project is to see if the movie-world portrayal of black cops has any relationship to the way they’re perceived in the real world. If past efforts to connect media portrayals to society are any indication, they are up against a steep wall.

And if you’re wondering whether being a “hottie from Internal Affairs” is the typical fate of a female co-star, you won’t have to wonder for long: Wilson and his co-author’s next paper will give the same treatment to women in American cop movies.

What to Watch: BUSK [documentary]

BUSK is a short, social issues and subcultural music documentary, following five musicians as they busk in the arteries of the NYC subway system––Persevering to display their talent for income, sustenance, and a means to work, the busker’s experiences are portrayed through interviews, and live performances on the subway platforms. By exploring the city’s music programs, laws, and the musicians’ passion to perform, BUSK, takes the audience below into the heart of New York to hear the real sounds of the subway system.

BUSK – film from Ramon Nyitrai on Vimeo.

Street performance or busking is the practice of performing in public places, for gratuities.[1] In many countries the rewards are generally in the form of money but other gratuities such as food, drink or gifts may be given. Street performance is practiced all over the world by men, women and children and dates back to antiquity. In English speaking countries people engaging in this practice are called street performers or buskers.