It’s safe to say that Netflix’s latest original series, “Orange is the New Black,” is nothing short of binge-worthy. I devoured the entire first season in under 96 hours (seriously). Groundbreaking on many levels, the show openly displays queer female sexuality and features a uniquely complex portrayal of a black transgender woman (played by the brilliant black trans actress Laverne Cox). What’s more, the vibrant cast of diverse characters offers viewers a rare exploration of what privilege is and how it works. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the show’s main character, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a perfect lesson in privilege.
I can’t stand Piper. I find her whiny, entitled, possessive, incredibly self-obsessed, an emblem of unchecked privilege. But I actually think that’s intentional; Piper would be the character we all root for, when in reality, she seems to be one of the least liked. As Salamishah Tillet noted over at The Nation, the main character of “Orange” probably had to be white and college-educated for the show (and memoir upon which it’s based) to get picked up, and this is a valid point. But with Piper, we’re also forced to come face to face with her privilege, and we can’t stand what we see. [Spoilers after the jump!] Keep reading »
The film industry is one that desperately lacks female influence, so Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ election as President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a particularly cool victory. In its 86-year history, the Academy has only had two other female presidents — the most recent being almost 30 years ago. Cheryl Boone Isaacs is also the first ever African-American president for the Academy. Keep reading »
“The Sapphires” is reportedly one of the very best films of the the year. It’s won all kinds of awards! But the DVD cover is … problematic. The flick stars Chris O’Dowd as the manager of a ’60s girl group in Australia comprised of four Aboriginal women, including “Australian Idol” runner-up Jessica Mauboy. Based on real events, “The Sapphires” is a love story that also tackles the racism these women faced in their native Australia. Alas, the U.S./Canada DVD cover for the film (above) plops O’Dowd front and center while the four women — their darker skin tones appearing blue along with the graphic design — smaller, behind him in the background. Keep reading »
“You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it. … I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree.”
– Oprah Winfrey stars in the upcoming Lee Daniels film “The Butler,” about a Black man who works in the White House, and explained in an interview with Parade how she got Daniels to stop saying the N-word, as he put it, “quite a bit.” I don’t think Oprah’s opinion about that slur are showing her age; instead they show her commitment to social justice. Elsewhere in the interview, she is asked about what young people know about the civil rights movement today: “They don’t know diddly-squat. Diddly-squat!” [Parade] [Image via Fame/Flynet]
When you grow up in a relatively small town in suburban New Jersey, being the only person of color in your class, you’d understand why I had no idea that other members of my race consider me “light-skinned.” Where I grew up, there was no such thing. You were either black, white, Spanish or Indian. No one paid much attention to the shade of your skin or where your blackness/whiteness originated –at least not in my circle. You only cared about what you saw. Sure, some racism and stereotyping existed, but there was no in-depth analysis or scrutiny about the shade of your skin.
In some ways that method was great. It erased the turmoil experienced by many other African-Americans and allowed everyone to just be accepted for who they were. On the other hand, my peers and I were ill-prepared for the real world. We grew up a bunch of colorblind individuals who believed in treating everyone equally regardless of historical implications and racial indifferences. We were ignorant. Keep reading »
We were walking down the street when Colin asked me if I’d ever feel comfortable saying that word. Colin — 24, biracial in the way that is still largely read as black — and me, a Jewish but let’s be serious, white, girl on the edge of 30; and Colin wanting to know whether I, with my intelligent, progressive world view, would ever say that one word that white people are not allowed to say.
I paused before responding. “Well,” I said finally, “on the one hand, I think that words on their own are completely meaningless, and only ‘offensive’ because we, as a society, imbue them with meaning and power. On the other hand, I understand the painful history behind that word, and I don’t think that arguing for my supposed right to be able to say it is a battle worth fighting.”
“Have you ever said it?” he asked.
I had. Years before, as a younger and more naive me working at an after school program serving low-income (and predominantly Black and Latino) high school students, I’d said it during a class. I forget the point I’d been trying to make; but I remember assuming the affect of one of my students and saying that word, though, of course, with a soft a at the end. The stunned, uncomfortable silence that resulted was enough to deter me from ever saying it again.
“Yeah,” I said. “And I didn’t feel good about it.” Keep reading »
In the wake of George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict this past weekend, I wanted to gather a group of parents to discuss the jury decision as well as the larger impact of Trayvon Martin’s murder. I especially wanted to hear from fellow mothers of boys, in hopes of fostering dialogue about how we as mothers can move forward given what happened. I gathered an incredible group of women and over the next couple of days, I welcome you to read our conversation. Part one of our conversation ran on Wednesday, part two ran yesterday, and this piece is the conclusion.
- Jamila Bey hosts the radio program, “The Sex Politics And Religion Hour: SPAR with Jamila.” The show can be heard in NYC, DC, Miami and Chicago and online. Find her on Twitter.
- Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a writer living in Western Massachusetts. Find her on Twitter.
- Carolyn Edgar is a lawyer, writer and single mother of two who publishes the blog CarolynEdgar.com. Her work has been featured in a variety of outlets, including Huffington Post and CNN.com. Follow her on Twitter.
- Denene Millner is a New York Times-bestselling author of 21 books and the founder and editor of MyBrownBaby.com, a blog that measures the intersection parenting and race.
- Shay Stewart-Bouley is a non-profit administrator, freelance columnist who writes on issues relating to diversity for the Portland Phoenix, and blogger at BlackGirlInMaine.com where she muses on race, motherhood and middle age.
Read on, after the jump: Keep reading »