Colorism: The Jaded Mystery of Race and Skin Color

The concept of discrimination and colorism has become a prevalent topic for many people in today’s generation. Young African-American men and women are constantly targeting the plight of skin color and how today’s society is trying to uphold the standards of privilege and self-hatred among groups of people. It is obvious that in today’s society, people are so caught with personal  aesthetic and social positions, than actually embracing their own features, cultures and talents. In October, I wrote an important post on America’s views of identity and race, in which I touched on the problematic issues of American society, often immersing in topics concerning the biological composition of a person and making assumptions based on one’s class background.

Personally, I have come across several people and media platforms, which target the problem of colorism in today’s society and just how disturbingly obvious Black society has become perplexed about the ‘dark-skin and ‘light-skin’ phenomenon. There are some who feel as though light-skinned Blacks have often been more appreciated in the western world, just by the color of their skin. The loathing of what occurred during the destructive and horrific events in American slavery always creeps into the discussion (i.e. the ‘house’ negro vs. the ‘field’ negro). However, I would like to go beyond the simple generalizations about internalized racism and observe deeply into just how this destructive system has truly plagued the black community.

While it is clear that many people have used their biological composition to compensate for the self-hatred they uphold, as an ethnic group, we must realize that we don’t derive from a monolithic background. Our identities and experiences certainly aren’t the same, so why are we so desperate to look at the black experience from one perspective? Furthermore, do we even realize that the system of racism has already negatively impacted us in several ways?

A year ago, I captured my family during the Thanksgiving holiday and it was quite interesting to uncover the feelings several family members felt when it came to colorism in America today. It goes beyond skin color, identity, societal class, and the preconceived notions people have about a particular person. Colorism has also affected our judicial system as well. In the video below, I wanted to exemplify all of the frustrations and deeply-rooted problems that are commonly related to colorism and hopefully make these issues aware, as well as pushing for people to ‘break the color dilemma.’ It is deeper than what we see.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Transcends In Us All

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

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He was emblematic of the love, compassion, hope and generosity that existed in all people. Through the horrific episodes and social unrest of apartheid, he conquered every ounce of oppression and his resilience spoke to a generation unheard, unseen, and overshadowed. Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) stood as a distinctive individual not just for his courageous spirit, but for his commitment to break the pathological chain of injustice and inequalities that seeped into the world.

I will always be indebted to his ultimate vision, which was to look deeper at our own freedoms, no matter what we endure in the experiences of our journey. I am equally empowered by the philosophy of ‘Ubuntu,’ which is the belief that true power relies in the collective, not just the individual. From this philosophy, we must uphold the values and wisdom by spreading awareness of self-love and giving credence to one’s own purpose.

“I am what I am because of who we are.”

Humanism is a concept and practice that we should all tend to utilize every single day of our lives. It is the engine that makes up our existence, as well as the universal adhesion that holds us together. Through sources of education, knowledge, and perseverance, Mandela’s ultimate vision is preserved in our social existence. In this day and age, our ever-varied forms of expression and communication can spark a purposeful dialect toward the world and how we live, however, we must not forget that it takes a collective to build a purpose for the good of our society. For us to mobilize toward this level, we must be determined to conquer every shortcoming, obstacle, and injustice with our voices, talents, art, and knowledge. There will be those who shun us, criticize our existence, and even try to annihilate us. However, our position determines our consequence. We hold a unique purpose on this small universe to be compelled in challenging the systematic injustices of our society and dismantling them for the better.

It takes all of us, not one of us.

What’s with this ‘knockout’ sensation anyway?

Just when individuals couldn’t get any less bored or senseless, they did. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been so much attention from both mainstream media and the public about a new sensation that has taken over. The “knockout” game has been presented as a popular game, in which a teen violently attacks a person walking on the street, or subway station, with a single punch. It has become a sensation that has gained much controversy among several people and has turned into a discussion about race in America.

In one sense, I feel as though it has been rather disturbing just how American media has turned this phenomenon into a race apocalypse, deeming it to be performed by only predominantly black youth. I came across a post from Slate Magazine, where Emma Roller explicitly compares ‘Knockout’ to the recent racial profiling incidents from George Zimmerman as well as law enforcement when it comes to the ‘stop-and-frisk’ debacle.  Roller argues that this ‘Knockout’ debacle will most likely be another example of some people believing that the color of a person’s skin will predispose a person from committing a crime. This may be a half- true fact, in the sense that now people are literally filming videos of these actions and posting them on YouTube. However, it isn’t so much race that I have a problem with. It’s really the fact that the today’s youth are in a whirlwind.

I personally haven’t been involved in mob attacks or street attacks, but ‘Knockout’ is nothing new. I remember peers doing it in school all of the time, and while it was not as vicious as these recent reports of attacks, I never understood the impact of this sensation. It is absolutely deplorable how youth have adapted this ‘craze’ and have now magnified it to ridiculous extremes. For one of the first times of my life, I am seriously indifferent about matters such as this, and I am terrified about the outcome of this ‘sensation.’

Deconstructing Don Lemon: How image and media misconstrues everything

Throughout the course of 2013, I’ve come across some rather blunt and heavy-handed assertions from the public regarding the viewpoints of news anchor and journalist Don Lemon. His viewpoints have been strongly directed at the Black community, and while it is commendable for an individual of color in the news industry to provide Black social commentary, I’ve often questioned the position of his viewpoints. To what degree  is Lemon looking at the problems that are commonly associated with Black society from all perspectives? Is he criticizing the black community from a perspective that is valid or antagonizing? Why isn’t he looking deeper into the systematic injustices that have been perpetrated toward Blacks as well as the poor?

One crucial moment that I can recall regarding Lemon and his critique on Black society occurred during the George Zimmerman trial, which was already a spectacle that gained notoriety and criticism from the entire nation. During a CNN broadcast, Lemon asserted his own views on Black life and how blacks have made their place in the world difficult from certain behaviors and occurrences.  He took the liberty of actually constructing “five ways to fix the Black community.” At the time, I was bewildered and astonished that he would venture to such extremes in ostracizing those who are marginalized in the larger society. I couldn’t help but to reconsider the many times I’ve overheard the viewpoints from those who have not necessarily lived the lives of those who have been overlooked or treated unfair. There is certainly class stagnation that Lemon fails to address in several theories, such as this one, and it only exemplifies that he undermines the social climate in which black youth continues to be examined from a monolithic perspective.

In addition, Lemon has recently been under harsh criticism among many for his comments regarding the much-discussed ‘stop-and-frisk’ debacle. He has been under fire for stating that ‘stop-and-frisk’ is a rather correct policy in protecting communities from corruption and crime. He later commented that his comments were ‘misrepresented,’ however, I would like to challenge Lemon’s commentary on this controversial issue from a different perspective. I came across an interesting fact sheet pertaining to the effectiveness of ‘stop-and-frisk’ and it is quite interesting that someone of Lemon’s stature would deem this policy as a positive necessity in society. According to a report from the New York Civil Liberties Union, “no research has ever proven the effectiveness of New York City’s stop-and-frisk regime, as other large cities experienced a large drop in violent rates without relying on stop-and-frisk practices.” Some of those large cities include Los Angeles (59%), New Orleans (56%), Dallas (49%), and Baltimore (37%). Just from this report alone, the idea of police stopping an innocent person on a street, just from what they are wearing or otherwise is plain absurd. What evidence do they have to support that an individual has committed a crime? Is Lemon making the typical claim that image perceives everything about a person? Well, we certainly have a slight answer to that last one, as Lemon explicitly agreed with Bill O’Riley’s comments regarding black youth and the plight of the Black community. Ironically, it has been revealed that Lemon once sued a store for profiling him. Hypocritical? Perhaps.

In all honesty, commentators such as Lemon, who will only ‘point the finger,’ are reduced only to dialect, and not enough action. He certainly isn’t a voice to the people, and even though he does provide some valid points about the plight of the black community, he isn’t attacking the system that continues to demean black America. Additionally, people move in the same territory when they give credence to the fact that he believes ‘cleaning up an image’ will change the evil perceptions about blacks in society today. There is a bigger picture to it all, and Lemon needs to wake up and realize this fact.

“Race-Themed?”

Just when things couldn’t get any perplexed in the media, they did. This past weekend, USA Today tweeted an article sporting a tense headline, stating that the highly-anticipated sequel to the urban comedy-drama classic “The Best Man,” “The Best Man Holiday,” is a ‘race-themed’ film.

Journalists and bloggers have become outraged, stating that the publication’s choice to tweet an article on a Black film’s box office success and considering it ‘race-themed’ is one that is devastating as well as unfair on many levels. The negative reception streamed over social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, with the public even weighing in on the state of Hollywood films and the niches they are placed in when it comes to subject matter and race.

On one hand, it is rather absurd to know that a color barrier still exists today when it comes to entertainment and media. Over 60 years ago, the film industry limited Black actors and actresses to a certain role, never allowing them to be showcased in other roles. 60 years later, the film industry has opened up the floodgates for diversity in films, but there are still dilemmas that range from story narratives to social roles. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

On the other hand, we must all ask ourselves what is the true meaning of ‘race-themed’ anyway? Is it necessary for the public to release attention and power to media systems, that only wants to generate attention and traffic for their websites? Given the fact that the American entertainment industry is already strained with surface level factors that divide us as a society, there has to be the demand for talented Black filmmakers and actors to redefine the industry and showcase the diverse perspectives of Black America. We can’t expect the media to stand for all of us. However, we can redefine the perspectives of America and the people who reside in it through the modes of art. Either way, the attention it garners speaks louder than words ever can.

Do we really want it back?

A week ago, I read a People Magazine article on rapper Kanye West’s controversial decision to sell and wear questionable merchandise at his latest tour. The merchandise features symbols of the Confederate flag, which the famous rapper is trying to “take back and make his own.”

For those who don’t already know, the Confederate flag has been met with mixed reception for several years, as endless debates have been conducted over whether the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism. Most conclude that it is a symbol of white power at a time when Whites wanted to uphold slavery and didn’t believe in the justification of equality for all people in America. For these individuals, it is a symbol that also stirs up the feelings of slavery, discrimination, Klu Klux Klan, and treason. On the other hand, there are others who conclude that the Confederate flag is not a symbol that represents racism at all. Instead, individuals feel that it is a symbol that represented the patriots who fought in the Civil War to protect America and make sure it remained as the founders intended.

Whatever the case, as of 2013, people are still allowing symbols and individuals to spark attention toward surface level issues, as well as accepting the means of their art to rationalize it. It is obvious that as we are looking at Kanye West, who has a record for garnering controversy for certain moves he has made both outside and inside the hip-hop world, we should be educating ourselves about why branding and commercialism are factors that won’t help mobilize people in America. While it is true that people should still oppose actions that only further degrade and  ostracize a particular group, we should also look deeper into social policies and the current position of Black America.

I can’t say that I was initially upset at West’s decision, but I was modestly surprised that he would feel as though making a brand out of a symbol, that is deeply rooted with so much scorn and opposition on American soil, would be a suitable prop for his artistic virtues. Outside of his decision, I would like to ask West one thing: when will you start challenging imperialistic thoughts and institutional issues, and stop attacking these surface level issues? Clearly that would be too complex for him because history has fooled him, just as much as history fools everyone else. I guess we are really in this New Slaves generation, as West calls it.

Follow-up: Barneys Drama Intensifies!

In the year of our Lord 2013, it is completely unbelievable that people of color are still the subjects of racial discrimination in America. Even though it is a sickness that will probably never be eradicated from the Earth, people are still acting toward false depictions and ignorance that plagues this country. The recent example of this is the controversy that clothing store Barneys New York is under at the moment. After allegations of racial profiling, lawsuits, and petitions, things have gotten tense.

Last week,  CEO of Barneys New York, Mark Lee, staged a press conference at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters in Harlem. He professed that the clothing department had no dealings with racial profiling. He also makes an apology on behalf of the clothing store for the alleged criminal acts that were committed toward 19-year-old Trayon Christian, falsely accusing him of identity theft.

After the lawsuits and press conferences, do you think this ordeal will decrease racial profiling in public places? Why do people make preconceived notions about another’s income bracket, just by a person’s image or ethnicity?

PLEASE DISCUSS, RATE, AND SUBSCRIBE! 

From The Writer’s Chair: The Typical Black Hollywood Narrative

Over the past six decades, it is clear that there have been many holes that are simply uncovered or unknown among individuals in the U.S. Much of the blame relies on the fact that U.S. school systems are commonly monolithic with history in general, and in today’s society, films follow the same parallel.

I came across a post on The Grio, spotlighting today’s Hollywood films having limited narratives and storylines for the Black experience. While films like The Butler and recently, 12 Years a Slave, have been greeted with much acclaim, there is still wonder why there are more historic or important films spotlighting Blacks in servitude roles. Last year, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained received an immense amount of acclaim and criticism for its depiction of American slavery and of course, the brutal violence.   

I recently did a video commentary on this phenomenon that is running rampant in the film industry today.  There is simply no way to dismiss that fact that filmmakers have an obsession with retelling obvious parts of Black history and undermining the holes that are usually untold or uncovered. While it is admirable that Black actors and actresses are being shown on the silver screen more than ever, there is still the demand to tell more diverse stories that pertain to the Black experience.

Check out the video below and RATE, COMMENT, and FOLLOW! How do you all feel about this? More to come soon!

The profiling code: How image and perception screws us all

A Facebook status post came to my attention earlier this week about an upscale clothing store in New York being sued based on alleged racial profiling. As the story goes, 19-year-old Black engineering student, Trayon Christian, filed a  lawsuit, claiming that he was targeted by workers at Barneys flagship store on Madison Street. Police detained Christian after he purchased a $349 Ferragamo belt, because they assumed that he couldn’t afford it. He was eventually released from jail, after cops confirmed that the ID he used with the credit card to pay for the belt actually belonged to him.

A report has recently surfaced about another profiling incident that occurred at Barneys earlier this year, involving a 21-year-old nursing student from Brooklyn, Kayla Philips. She has filed a lawsuit against the store for $5 million, as well as New York.

When I read several of the articles regarding these two situations, I couldn’t help but cringe at the fact that racial profiling is a prominent factor in our society, as of 2013. Personally, I am no stranger to being perceived as a lower-class minority or even worse. I often wonder about how completely indebted we are about image in our culture today. From the quality of our hair to the clothes that we wear, it is obvious that even if someone is highly educated and self-conscious, it is simply not enough. What would cause someone to spear another the utter embarrassment and distress of having to be followed and apprehended by workers or security officers in a store, restaurant, or any other public place?

If these uppity stores are concerned with security and shoplifting, then certainly therein lies a major problem with their perception toward Blacks visiting their stores and purchasing items. Another thing is the lousy perception of the income and economic viability of minorities (specifically Blacks).

Here’s something to think about—according to a 2013 Nielsen report released last month, Black buying power amounts to 1 trillion a year. To go a step further, “there is simply no profile for a typical shoplifter, as they come in all colors and across all income brackets,” according to the Nation Association for Shoplifting Prevention.

So what is the real issue here? It’s very simple: public institutions, commonly stores, find an easy target to discriminate on the basis of class and skin color, which is indicative of societal problems. There is simply no one way to look at racial profiling, as it is part of a disease that plagues the entire world and sadly, lawsuits, petitions, and protests are not going to be the solution to put an end to it.

This weekend, I came across an online petition on Change.org, which is a website that promotes social change and empowerment. It was a petition demanding that rapper Jay-Z, who is collaborating with the Barneys  brand on an upcoming clothing ensemble, to dismantle dealings with the clothing company. On the website, there is a photo headline that graces the Barneys imprint, ‘BARNEYS NEW YORK,’ yet ‘YORK’ is overwritten with ‘SLAVES,’ forming the phrase: ‘BARNEYS NEW SLAVES.’  From its aesthetic value, it is a compelling statement that has promise, but there is a double-sword message in its execution.

It is clear that as American citizens, we have the freedom to purchase anything we want. For better or worse, we as consumers have choice in everything that we consume or purchase. Indicating that this incident is related to ‘slavery’ so to speak may be somewhat of a poor scheme to utilize initially, as no one forces us to buy anything. However, in earlier civilization, the oppressive and exploitative measures of slavery certainly related to a slave’s existence being connected with price and worth. There were no rights granted to Blacks. The American slave system was outright evil, in every sense. From its economic and commercial impact to the capitalistic practices that were utilized, there is simply no way to make lighter of it, as it continues to affect American society today.

In another sense, it is clear that using ‘SLAVES’ in this context speaks to the racial degradation that Blacks suffer today. In Black America, racial profiling goes far than just the stores. It lives in the public eye, day-by-day. No matter what community one may live in, or lifestyle that is lived, the evil and immortal plague of racial degradation troubles Black society as a whole. In this case, what will this petition really achieve in the end? Well Jay-Z himself has responded on his website, and he’s typically not bothered. Certainly, there’s a bigger picture to the profiling that is still rampant in our society, and in matters like this, we must stop giving money to these stores and reach a higher consciousness. There will be much attention and controversy that shines on stores like Barneys, but at the end of the day, they aren’t going to be in trouble for long.

In the end, it’s going to be us

Guns In Chicago: Can The City Be Saved?

Rev. Al Sharpton has recently announced his plans of visiting Chicago next summer, in hoping to help address and fight the city’s gun violence. He also added that he will be bringing a host of leaders, including Martin Luther King III. He added that this will be a source of “encouragement to groups who are already doing anti-gun violence work.” Talk about trying to add more fuel to the fire! Better yet, it could be yet another publicity move on Sharpton’s part.  Whatever this move may be presented as, I wonder what this will do for Chicago? What’s the real fight here?

While it is known that Chicago has been fighting the plague of gun violence for several years, it is also known that homicide rates have grown steadily throughout this amount of time. Several groups have tried to help decrease the violence that has become widespread in several communities in the Chicago area, however, the real dynamic that has to be questioned is not the violence that continues to plague Chicago. It isn’t even about gangs. It is about Illinois and the state’s gun laws.

Over a long period of time, purchasing a gun has had a set of simple procedures in many states. In general, gun ownership and control in America has become one of the most controversial topics of the day, as a number of killings have spewed across the country—both near and far, yet the endless conversations of any mass shooting, suicide, murder, accidental shooting, or police intervention always comes back to this one complex debate: altering gun laws in America. There is no easy way to come up with an explanation as to why there are so many precedents and conditions that are in place when buying a gun. Above all, Illinois has become a target for its strict federal gun laws, as some have found that many other states have gotten into a “loophole” that allows people to buy firearms easily. According to a National Rifle Association of America report, if one wants to buy any firearm in the state of Illinois, the person is required to show an Illinois Firearms Owner’s Identification card (FOID). It also states that if one sells or transfers a firearm, they have to keep a record of the transfer for up to ten years, including a description of the firearm with its serial number, the identity of the buyer, and the buyer’s FOID number. What is with the legislative imbalance of Illinois’ gun laws and gun laws of certain states? What is the major reason for mandatory background checks in Illinois, when there are a number of unmarked firearms that are always passed through the hands of people, day-by-day? The answers to these questions are probably hidden in the governance of Illinois.

The politics of gun shows have also been known to play a major role in the gigantic “loophole” that have not only challenged gun laws across America, but have challenged the way lawmakers are even approaching the whole firearm situation. Federal law has allowed people who sell guns to avoid running background checks or keeping records by calling themselves occasional sellers. The biggest problem with this is that there is no exact profile of who is buying a firearm and what they may be using it for. It is true that Americans own about 270 million guns, nearly one for every person in the country; some have more than one firearm, whereas millions have no firearms in their possession. There is also a valid understanding that many who do own guns use them for hunting and sporting, protection, or collection purposes. While these facts are indeed relevant to the purpose of firearms beyond what they are commonly known for, one can’t easily infer why states, like Illinois, have strict gun laws. However, the American government has been known to control and protect its people in the most condescending ways possible. Maybe this explains why there is an uneven dynamic in all of these gun laws in America. After all, there are people in Illinois who simply violate the state’s regulations and still get firearms. What is this all about?

What is quite alluring and shocking about the strictness and condescending nature of Illinois’ gun legislation is that Chicago’s murder rates have been at an all-time high and yet, authorities haven’t been able to easily conclude whether private gun purchases have played a role in these homicides. When one takes into account all of the regulations that have made up Illinois’ gun laws, one will ask, “why does Illinois have all of these laws and they are bypassed in the first place?” According to one Chicago Sun-Times report, there is a big chunk of Chicago guns that have come from out of state, most notably Indiana and Mississippi, which are two states that have been known for their laxer gun laws. This is certainly a major problem as felons, gang members, and criminals alike are able to buy any weapon at their own will. However, why hasn’t Mayor Rahm Emanuel, or Illinois senators looked more deeply in the transmission of firearms from other states? It seems fishy and scary to say the least. Yet, there’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel who feels that increasing the penalties for illegal firearm possession will keep convicts from the streets and decrease gun violence in Chicago.

How about looking for ways to decrease the transmission of firearms from states that have laxer gun laws? This may seem to be a perplexing proposition for many, but if people are violating Illinois’ gun laws, that may only prove that background checks are not as effective as they seem. So, why is Illinois implementing them? In the state’s own corruptible and condescending ways: to govern, protect, and conquer. However, these have done nothing, but create more problems than are needed both in Chicago’s urban communities and everywhere else.