Tag Archives: racism

Barney’s Why so Racist? Classist? – On Discount Designer Stores

So I’m sure most people have now heard about the young black man who is suing the NYPD and Barneys. While buying a $350 Ferragamo belt he saved for he showed his ID when using his debit card (they keep saying debit so I assume he used his pin as well) and left the store, only to be stopped by 2 undercover cops  a couple of blocks away because he didn’t look like someone who should have that much money.

Here’s a link with quotes from the young man.

Then the young black woman who was stopped after buying a $2500 purse came out.

Then a black actor talked about what happened to him at Macy’s in June.

Barneys has released a bullshit statement that is a non-apology basically stating that their clerks didn’t have anything to do with it and they’ve hired someone to look into their practices.  Since this has been going on for decades ( look at this HuffPo article quoting a man who had it happen to him 2o years ago at Barney’s.) I doubt anything will change. They’re blaming the NYPD who apparently has undercover folks in the district’s stores all the time because of shoplifting/fraud. Last I saw the highest demographic of shoplifters was white women in their 30s-40s but that was a while ago so perhaps the statistics have changed? I sincerely doubt it. I have no idea about the statistics for credit card fraud.

Whether the stores or the NYPD are at fault (I’m sorta leaning toward NYPD) I’m not at all surprised that it was Barneys & Macy’s where these incidents occurred. These sort of discount designer stores with intense pretensions of frou-frouness often have this assumption of class based on outside factors including clothing and race (which is an assumption many of us deal with on a daily basis in the real word). However in actual high end boutiques and/or designer stores (especially in NYC) you don’t usually get the same assumption of class and monetary worth based on physical appearance. Most stores like those have learned the hard way that you can never really tell how much money someone has by the how they look, act, dress.

I’m not saying I think they’re better politically, in fact I’m pretty sure it’s a purely capitalist motive. Those sort of really expensive boutiques don’t do the briskest business especially in this economy. They rely on every sale and on brand loyalty/returning customers so they really cannot afford to alienate anyone. They also have regular customers who save to have that one great basic piece.  This is not to say that you might not encounter a whole host of other aversive racist behavior there but in my personal experience high-end boutiques are less likely to assume they know your monetary situation based on what you look like or how you dress/talk/act.

We shouldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of people also can’t afford to shop in those high-end spaces. There is after all a reason discount designer stores exist, for those of us who save for that one brand piece . So it’s a horrible, capitalist catch-22 that you might get treated better in the stores you can’t afford to shop in. And I say might because there are always exceptions such as Hermes’ treatment of Oprah Winfrey. Though that was also outside the US which means very different economics and race politics were in play in that interaction.

All the same Hermes really took it in the teeth for that whole thing. I would not be surprised if Ferragamo gives the young man the belt for free or some sort of gift certificate or something just to clearly separate their brand from the stink of Barneys/NYPD issues. They have a real chance to take this bad business for Barneys and turn it into good business and publicity for themselves.

But in the end while I’m saddened by all of these incidents I’m not surprised at all, that anywhere at anytime in the United States of America they could happen. Most People of Color in America live with the knowledge that our monetary existence is subject to a lot of suspicion and doubt at the best of times and these are not the best of times. I also think there could be a lot of aversive/unconscious/conscious racism/classism at play here around the expectation that “that sort of person” should not have the money/clothes/car/life that they do especially when you do not.

These incidents are not all recent either. I don’t know when the gentleman’s incident with the belt happened but Kayla Phillips had her altercation back in February, actor Robert Brown’s incident happened on June. I don’t know if these people only came forward after the incident with Christian and the belt came to light or if the media only picked up on their suits after the first one blew up but either way it’s telling.

It’s either:

We as people of color expect to be treated this badly by society, know how often those expectations are fulfilled and are afraid to stand up without other people around ( and I’ve noticed this in myself, when racist incidents have occurred I will turn to other people that were around and ask them to confirm my experience as if I can’t trust myself or know I’ll need outside <preferably white> validation if I choose to talk about it – but that’s a post for another day).

The media doesn’t care for one person of color being mistreated or even two, it has to be a mass of them (and even then if it can be ignored it will be).

Maybe the saddest part is that both the above things are true I just wonder which is truest in this case.

(I didn’t notice the resemblance of this title to my older post: Glee, why so white? Thinking this might become a series of posts. The ” (BLANK), why so (fucked up) ?” posts. Hmm, maybe. )

Blackface is Racist. Period. Mocking Domestic Abuse is Misogynistic. Period.

So this happened.

http://jezebel.com/5952124/idiot-students-in-blackface-reenact-chris-brown-beating-rihanna-at-worst-pep-rally-ever

Yeah an almost all white school had a performance where they did a skit in blackface portraying Chris Brown beating the shit out of Rihanna to win a popularity contest. This was a skit approved by school officials, watched by staff and community leaders. And now many of the students and faculty are defending it, saying it’s not racist at all. Sadly I’m not that surprised by this but it did make me feel some things I wanted to share.

First of all, as always I love it when white people, especially white people who obviously have no cultural knowledge of the history of blackface, and have close to no diversity in their community tell me what’s racist.

‘Cause they know right? They’ve been hassled by the police. They’ve been called the n-word by people that were supposed to be their advocates. They’ve been targets of harassment where people wouldn’t believe them because of their skin tone. They’ve been assumed to be a thief, thug, stupid, animalistic. They know how much it hurts some members of the black community to see blackface, how it’s tied to a time when we were considered less than human, how it was used to mock, belittle, terrorize, and propagandize to keep a group of people from having basic rights.

Blackface is racist. The end. Any comedy that requires you to darken your skin to be funny? Relies on the characters race for humor and considering you couldn’t get a black person to play the role I’m going think that the comedy wasn’t exactly flattering. There is no reason for blackface. Why is your art relying on an archaic and problematic premise?

Prejudice is the easy joke, it’s the simple laugh. Watch any frat dudebro comedy and you’ll see, they go for the old school stereotypes about women, foreigners, LGBTQI folks, disabled people, poor people, etc. for their humor. The women are always virgins or whores there to be mocked for either decision, the POC are always thugs (Af-Am), hackers (As-Am), mocked for their misunderstanding of America (everyone), etc. and the gay characters are there to be mocked with old stereotypes that compare queer women to men and queer men to women. We’re not even going to go into that problematic binary, that’s a completely different post. The point is it’s the easy laugh. HaHa look at the outsider, they’re not like me so their funny. If that’s the only humor you can reach for, aside from being privileged and oppressive you’re just a bad comedian. It’s old, it’s tired, it’s racist, it’s no longer okay.

And I assume if they’re defending this and past examples of blackface they’ve examined why they feel the need to use blackface. They’ve delved deep into their psyche and examined why an almost all white community that has little to no contact with People of Color finds blackface so entertaining it had to happen repeatedly.  They have a really good defense and reasoning for why they did this, why educators approved it, why everyone thought it was funny, aside from their critics being stupid or oversensitive, right? They were doing some good work deconstructing race and gender and the male gaze right? ‘Cause if they don’t have any that.

It’s. Just. Racist.

This is without even going into the fact that they were recreating the act of a black woman being abused! Go to the link above, look at that photo, look at the all-white audience laughing and smiling while they imagine a brown woman being thrown to the ground in violence. I don’t care what the skit was, I don’t care what they meant by it, I don’t care for anything the students, faculty or attendees have to say that is not a heartfelt apology, an explanation why they thought this was funny, and a commitment to examine their own amusement at mocking the physical assault of a black woman. Would it have been just as hilarious if it was recreating Pamela Anderson’s abuse incident? Sharon Osbourne’s? There’s misogyny here to be sure but the racial aspect turns it into something even worse.

What is it about seeing a brown woman beaten that these white boys think will win them a popularity contest, that their community will be entertained by the misogynistic, racist spectacle?

Also I’m sure the faculty and advisers know that 1 in 3 teens report knowing a friend in an abusive relationship, that 1 in 4 teen girls have been forced into sex by a intimate partner, that 80% of abused teen girls continue to date their abuser, that almost a third of teen girls killed every year are killed by a boyfriend or husband. Given these statistics they must also know that there are likely girls in that auditorium watching that performance that are currently involved in an abusive relationship. So what message did they get from the faculty approving of this? How likely are these girls now to feel safe reporting anything about abuse to this school, to anyone in their community? They’ve effectively told all who see this that the misogynistic atmosphere of the community is the arbiter of who gets to complain, who’s pain is real and whose is a joke.

But it was all a joke right?

No, it’s not a joke. Abuse is not a joke, racism is not a joke. I’ve been known to make the off-color joke myself among friends, true but first that is among friends and I always try to be aware of the privilege I have and how that factors into what I’m saying. I try not to be defensive if people decide to call me on what I say. It seems like this community wants none of that. They want to pretend that blackface is just make-up, that watching a woman getting an abusive beatdown is all good fun, that a community rallying to defend white boy’s right to recreate a brown woman’s fear, terror and pain as entertainment is okay. It’s not. This is not art that’s meant to inform, educate or examine abuse in certain communities which is one thing but entertainment that mocks her pain, belittles it, makes it fodder for the humor of an all-white community.

And that? Is. Not. Okay.

Racism as Involuntary Manslaughter?

The verdict has come down in the Oscar Grant trial as Involuntary Manslaughter. Not unexpected but still disappointing and hurtful. They say he meant to pull his taser though he pulled it twice and put it back before pulling his gun. I am told once again that my life does not matter that it can be thrown away. I sit here in my apartment downtown and my city explodes around me.

There are outside SWAT teams with snipers in my city.

There are Homeland Security vans in my city.

There is a sound cannon in my city.

There is tear gas in my city.

The response to police brutality is more intense brutality and fear.

Are riots the answer? Despite the anger and rage I can feel in me I hold onto the idea that violence is not the answer.

But what is? We’ve been shown time and time again that authorities care little for our lives. I now know that anytime I ride the BART I may be shot in the head and if the person that does it is wearing a badge they will very likely get away with it. This is a fear I’ve always had and it only increases with the continual evidence that my life is worth little to the world at large.

People gather and it is called unlawful assembly.
We are told to keep it peaceful but the police are never told the same.
Property damage means more to people that lives lost.

Do I condone the unfocused destruction? No.
Do I understand it? Yes.

We cannot rely on the system and we cannot gather to have our voices heard. People see no recourse. I am not leaving my house because I’m afraid of some mythical ravening hordes of mostly People of Color. I am afraid of the authorities. I am afraid of what they will do, what they have planned to do.

The media tries to present this as a riot waiting to happen. From what I’ve seen of the gathering from people who are there they were mostly peaceful. Meeting a force with police is not the way to diffuse a situation but instead a way to douse it in gasoline.

The system does not work.
And there are no easy answers.
All I know is a young boy is dead.
We are in mourning and my city is exploding.

Why do they keep letting M. Night make movies?

So I’ve talked about the whitewashing of films before on this blog and about The Last Airbender specifically. I’m especially bitter about this whitewashing because I’m so in love with the source material and by shifted something so important about the protagonists identity (and also the fact that they’re surrounded by POC as if their whiteness just dropped from the sky and that the only POC in the film are the F*&KING villains!) seems like nothing less than pissing on the fans of the original cartoon. An aside – all 3 seasons of the show are up on Netflix watch instantly so if you have it check it out.

Imagine my joy when the reviews for the movie started to come in. There was a struggle to find someone who would give it two stars. Now that’s pretty bad. Roger Ebert opened his review of the film with:

“The Last Airbender” is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.

Oooooh BURN! He gave the film half a star.

And in one of the funniest reviews I’ve read in a long-time, maybe ever, Charlie Anders over at io9.com has a lot to say about it but my favorite part is probably:

This is the part where I would insert a quick plot synopsis of the film, but it’s really unnecessary – Shyamalan has boiled every epic heroic story of the past 20 years down to its most basic, primal soup-y essence, so he can spray it all over the audience, in a kind of Hero’s-Journey bukkake. You will be finding chunks of Joseph Campbell’s calcified spooge behind your ears for three days after watching this film, no matter how many times you bathe.

And it goes on from there, love it!

So all these bad reviews and such led me to ask the most confusing question in the universe. Why is M. Night Shyamalan allowed to still make movies?

The Sixth Sense was a one-shot wonder, once you know the twist the movie’s not nearly as interesting or groundbreaking. In fact it sort of stretches out it’s one gag into this hour long angstfest when it could have been a short film of 20-30 minutes.

Unbreakable is actually what I consider his best film, a very interesting look at the whole superhero mythos.

Signs is kinda meh and predictable.

The Village made me want to punch him in the face! It wasn’t a twist ending so much as withholding information from the audience and keeping them ignorant until the last minute. Also if I’m promised monsters? You damn sure better give me some monsters!

Lady In The Water

The Happening just made me go: Really? REALLY? Aren’t you just ripping off The Day of the Triffids but with less of the making sense?

And here’s the thing I’m not alone in this thinking. Most of Shyamalan’s post-Sixth Sense work has received pretty lackluster reviews so why is he allowed to keep making movies? I’m not asking this to be mean I’m actually really intrigued by this. In a business that will kick you to the curb for one “meh” film and start giving you lower and lower budgets why does he constantly get to make these big-budget movies? Does he have dirt on all the studio heads? Has he kidnapped their families and now has them suspended over vats of acid?

He’s like Uwe Boll, he just will not go away. And actually I can handle Uwe Boll and his horrible game-based films quite a bit better because they’re not supposed to be staggering works of amazingness. They’re just a fun, popcorn fare and even if they fail on that level I never leave a Boll film feeling bamboozled, I know what I’m getting into but society conspires to make us think Shyamalan’s a genius and I just can’t see it.

And I’m not even gonna respond to most of Shyamalan’s ridiculous defense of his whitewashing of The Last Airbender except to say (1) No Mr. Shyamalan we all realize you’re a Person of Color that actually makes it WORSE and (2) having a bunch of POC in the background or as villains does not make your film diverse, it’s the same bullshit Hollywood has always pulled, they are happy to have us as long as we’re silent or showing our evil ways.

Appropriative Racial Politics VS Pseudo-Liberalism in Glee

So I am addicted to the new tv series Glee. I talk about it with friends and never miss an episode. Last night’s episode was…interesting in terms of racial identity.

Warning Spoilers Ahead

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Manifesto! 5/5 – Not The Marrying Kind – Statements…The End

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I think there’s humor in the hypocrisy of a movement that fights for marriage equality while lauding a film like “Brokeback Mountain” as romantic when the core basis of the film is an extra-marital affair. But it seems being on the down’low is acceptable as long as those engaging in it are white and only betraying women. Although the theme of pretending to be something you’re not fits in quite well with the homogenizing view of the large GLBTQ organizations.

Manifesto! 4/5 – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…(cont.2)

Previously – Not The Marrying Kind: Statements…(cont.)

I believe that the fierceness and power of the movement has been bled out by the constant focus on marriage equality as the only issue of importance perpetuated by large, wealthy, privileged groups such as GLAAD and the HRC who are looking out for themselves as opposed to the community as a whole.