Tag Archives: justice for some

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. )

Comics – Vote For Genius!

So Top Cow Comics is having their pilot season where they release 6 one-shot comics and people vote. The top two vote-getters get picked up as series. I’m really hoping Genius is one of the two. The story…well –

Alexander, Hannibal, Napoleon, Patton. What if the greatest military mind of OUR generation was born in strife, surrounded by violence and combat since birth? When the gauntlet is dropped, the question isn’t “How did 17-year-old Destiny Ajaye unite the gangs of South Central into a killer army and declare war on the LAPD?” No, the question is, “Can anyone stop her?”

I think the question is – Should anyone stop her?

Already a lot of folks are saying how hateful the comic is and how horrible it is that Destiny has organized the gangs into a force to attack the police. How most of the police are really good people and this doesn’t make sense. I’m willing to bet all my possessions that 99.9% of those folks have never lived in the ghetto. To them the black-and-white in the rear view, the flashing red-and-blue is indicative of safety and protection.

To me and most other brown folks – well we know the score, the police are just as likely to fill us full of 40 bullets, say we had a gun afterwards and get off when they go to trial as to save our lives. We’re told over and over that our lives don’t matter,  that the police can snuff out our breath in a matter of seconds and have absolutely no repercussions. It is a war, a cold war at times, an undeclared war all the time but a war none the less and we (brown folks) are all – whether we acknowledge it or not – potential victims.

Amadou Diallo, Johnny Gammage, Abner Louima, Sean Bell, Rodney King, Ousmane Zongo, Patrick Dorimund, Kathryn Johnston, Steve Biko, Robert Davis, and those are just the ones that received national attention and not even all of those. I’d like to point out that in most of these cases the police themselves were not punished at all. Sure the county or city might have paid millions to the family but the killers were just allowed to return to work – what message does that send both to the terrorists and the community they’re terrorizing? 

If you live with that constant fear you don’t need to see the cops act bad and evil to know the justification for this war, you live the justification every damn day. And this is nothing new, we’ve tried to bring this up many times – remember Fuck Tha Police (1988) & Cop Killer (1992)? This is far from the first time we’ve brought it up and far from the first time we’ve been placated by a bunch of nice words and no real change has happened.   

Also the hypocrisy of folks that will read horrible graphic comic that slaughter women and brown folks like pigs – “Wanted” comes to mind – but somehow this comic is too violent or too angry? These are the same folks that are ready to pick up the whole Grand Theft Auto series and slaughter minorites, women and police with equal abandon and for no reason at all! Just because they’re there.  But this comic with it’s societal critique and political message is somehow too offensive or violent?

What you really mean is this you’re scared. That you realize the inequity in our society, you see it and do nothing about it and the fact that brown folks themselves might take action – violence in response to violence “By Any Means Necessary” kind of violence – scares the pants off of you. It’s why society always talks about MLK jr. instead of Malcom X (despite the fact that later in life their positions flip-flopped). You acknowledge the inequity by the constant fear that brown folks will riot, you acknowledge that they might have a reason to riot and that scares you more than anything.

Go Here To Check Out The Preview Of “Genius” And To Vote For It.  Vote now and often – I think you can vote once a day.

Other Discussions Happening About Genius:

White People Can’t Understand Police Corruption @ Seeking Avalon (Has some of the odius comments in the post itself, pay special attention to the ‘Special Notes’ Avalon’s Willow adds to a couple)

Frustration…thy name is LJ conversations @ Karnythia’s LJ

Tangentially – LAPD Looking For Andrea Wilson-Smith – Missing 14-Year-Old Girl @ And We Shall March

(links via delux_vivens)

Post-Script: I don’t think I have to point out how awesome it is that the military genius of our generation is a black woman.

E.T.A. – I’m really glad it’s getting good reviews.

Terminology – Savagification!

In my post last week about representation of Africa in the media I talked about the savagification that bleeds through in these articles. If you haven’t heard of “savagification” used in this way let me explain:

Savagification is the way in which countries/continents, not in the affluent West (This does of course have exceptions. It also happens in articles about Indigenous People located in the West, brown folks who live in the ghetto in the West, etc.) are dealt with in the press. Often the articles are written to be as inflammatory and “fear the brown invaders” as possible and very often include very little input from folks from that region except for small soundbites that bolster the reporter’s view that the people are just a bunch of savages. There are a couple of methods used to achieve this end.

Savagification means that the acts the people/country (because often the articles do not distinguish between individual acts and the country as a whole, so if Gambia has one serial killer all the people must be serial killers in the making) are accused of are described in loving gory detail. There will often be pictures that accompany the article that do their best to show the person in their “native dress” or poised with a machete or in some way that depicts them as savage and untameable. Those are often the only pictures that accompany the article unless there are to be some pictures that show the victims of these acts, often bloody mutilated and sitting on a filthy dirt floor with big tearful eyes staring up at the camera. This is a deliberate scare tactic used to bolster the West as some bastion of truth and civilization while painting the “others” as “savage uncivilized places” (and of course any people of the Diasporas of this country also carry that violent brown blood!). They won’t show the skyscraper cities with computers, cars, etc. because that would refute the “this whole country is just a backward savage place” notion they’re trying to promote. And of course they wouldn’t think to examine the colonialism that profits off of this view, the destabilization of the country and the continued subjagation of the people there.  

Another way savagification is achieved is by ignoring any history in the situation.  This is seen when the Rwandan genocide is discussed and there is no mention of the fact that colonialist policies are what instituted the original separation between the Hutu and Tutsi. When there are articles about witch-hunts in Africa that fail to point out the West’s own history with women accused of witches and the pagan-bashings that happen everyday in America. Because if they showed that horrible things happen in America too that would undermine the sensationalism of the article itself. Articles written about horrible things in the West are always carefully formed to present the atrocity as an isolated incident, actions by sick individuals but not part of the fabric of the country. (In a way you can zero this in to how POC are treated in the media versus White people, where anything that POC do is seen as representative of all POC whereas whiteness doesn’t hold that monolithic idea.)

There are other ways the people/countries in these articles are savagified having to do with word choice and the angle at which facts are presented but these were two of the big ways I wanted to touch on. So now you know what to look for in these articles and knowing is half the battle (I’m sorry, I’m a child of the 80’s I couldn’t help it).


Movies, Cops & Emails 5-09-08 Links

I’m going to designate today an actual writing day so just some quick links and I’m gone.
WOC PhD deconstructs the Iron Man film in The Summer of Men (Some Spoilers)

I’m not asking for a completely sympathetic image of Arabs that glosses over the real role of warlords in prolonging and exploiting the conflict; saying any group of people is all good or all bad is an unprovable position. However, presenting flattened out stereotypes of Arab people as blood thirsty war mongers is the kind of war propaganda I had expected to be dismantled by this film not reinforced by it.

Ultimately, Rhodes is reduced to a whinier, darker, version of the machines that Stark surrounds himself with throughout the film. Interesting, some people have said that slavery came to an end because of the rise of machines and an MTV ad once compared slaves to “obsolete machines,” and before you say I am taking it too far, remember that insipidly inaccurate Will Smith version of I Robot? It too compared the plight of machines to those of black people.

There is nothing enlightened or feminist about being self-aware and still willing to be objectified because you are in love with your objectifier. And there is certainly nothing empowering for women in a character who has the nerve to demean and mock other women for falling for that same man’s charm.

Lauren Williams over at Stereohyped briefs us on the NYPD Sued For Using Fewer Resources For Missing Blacks. All I can say is about damn time and I wish I could quote the whole article, just go read it now.

Ever heard of Romona Moore? I hadn’t either. She was a 21-year-old Hunter College student who lived in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn with her parents, who are immigrants from Guyana. When she left the house to go to Burger King one night five years ago and didn’t return by the next morning, her mother, Elle Carmichael, called the police. The police told her she shouldn’t even be calling for a 21-year-old missing woman.They didn’t help and closed the complaint that an officer had drafted out of pity. In the four days that followed, as the police refused to help Carmichael by opening an investigation, Romona Moore was being raped and tortured by two men in a house a few blocks from her home. They beat her death on the day that police reluctantly launched an investigation. Carmichael had to help the police find her daughter’s body by conducting her own amateur investigation.

Here’s a link to the full Village Voice articles with details of what Romona had to go through, exactly how the NYPD ignored calls for help and how the family organized on their own. WARNING – SEXUAL ASSAULT TRIGGERS plus heartbreaking and angering (not at the author but at the NYPD and Det. Carey in particular) especially the last line of the article.
In a post from a few weeks ago Less Lee Moore over at The Automatik talks about those annoying white pride emails we’ve all recieved and refutes it point for point in Not Proud of Being White

This is an extremely significant point. The United States of America didn’t come into being until the Revolutionary War of 1776, but for the preceding 150 years or so, it developed through the suffering of those that the settlers considered to be subhuman and according to theologian Cotton Mather “enslaved because they had sinned against God.”

The citizens and residents of a country that is founded and predicated on such beliefs must continue to champion these beliefs because to do otherwise calls the very existence of the country, not to mention their own rights and freedoms, into question.

A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but any color can be in the Miss America pageant.

Again, only addressing the African-American issue, it must be noted that The Miss America pageant began in 1921, but according to Wikipedia, Rule Number Seven stated, “contestants must be of good health and of the white race.”

No African American women participated until 1970, although African Americans did appear in musical numbers as far back as 1923, when they were cast as slaves. Until at least 1940, contestants were required to complete a biological questionnaire tracing their ancestry.

Vanessa Williams was the first African American woman to win the crown in 1984 but resigned because nude photos of her surfaced, although she is still listed as the official winner.

If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships you know we’d be racists. There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US. Yet if there were ‘White colleges’ THAT would be a racist college.

AfricanAmericans.com does list 60 “historically black colleges and universities.” That’s only 60 out of the thousands of regionally-accredited ones in the entire country. Statistics across all colleges show that white college students outnumber African-Americans by eight to one. Thus, most colleges are in fact, white colleges.

When GLBT Groups Advocate for Bashers…

Most of you have probably heard of the Lawrence King shooting. If you haven’t the rundown is that Lawrence King is a 15-year-old POC child that was shot twice in the head by one of his bullies McInerney after turning the tables on him. McInerney’s defense seems to be that old “gay panic” classic, you know that King flirting with him drove him to do it. The defense completely disregards the fact that King flirting with him was an attempt to get McInerney and others to stop bullying him and leave him alone. We’ve seen the old gay panic defense work over and over however and the child may well get off but that isn’t even what I want to talk about.

The DA in this case has decided to try McInerney as an adult but there is a coalition of GLBT groups that are agitating to have him tried as a juvenile. When I first saw this information a couple of weeks ago something about it bothered me but I couldn’t put a voice to it.

Well here it is, Lawrence King was a Person of Color and McInerney is White and none of that is being interrogated or taken into account anywhere that I’ve seen. Many of you who know me know my issues with a lot of the mainstream GLBT groups (which are similar to mainstream feminist organizations) in that they purport to advance the causes of all GLBT folks but are overwhelmingly White and focused on issues, such as marriage, that have more of an effect on and interest from White middle class GLBT folks than anyone else.  I point you to a wonderful essay written a few years ago by Kenyon Farrow – Is Gay Marriage Anti-Black

Now the coalition that is calling for McInerney to be tried as a juvenile holds a lot of overlap with the groups that are at the forefront of the push for gay marriage. Many of these are groups that have specifically have been called out before for ignoring issues that queer POC, differently-abled folks & Folks of Lower Socio-Economic levels. Basically they’ve been accused of ignoring the same groups that the mainstream tends to ignore.

In light of this history of alienation what does it look like when they stridently advocate that a white boy who has killed a POC be tried as a juvenile? Well, it sure ain’t pretty.

Now I’m not saying that I want McInerney to fry. In fact I’m attempting to be really objective and leave my personal feelings on the case out of this. What I’m saying is that if we want to show mercy, we show it equally to everyone. Where are these groups when the victims are White and the perpetrators of queer bashings POC? Are they out advocating that those underage youths be tried as juvenile? I haven’t heard anything like that but I don’t know every queer bashing case that happens in the world. So if they do happen to do this sort of thing for every queer bashing involving underage kids (and I’ve somehow just never heard of it), please let me know and I’ll be happy to let go of this knot of anger in my gut and write an apology.

But my guess…my guess is that I won’t get any replies with a case of a single or group of POC youths that killed a White queer child having this huge coalition of GLBT organizations pushing for them to be tried as juveniles. I’m not saying the organizations are doing this consciously but when we realize that we live in a White patriarchial society that automatically values the life of its White citizens over anyone else. When we think about the fact that any POC child who commits a crime gets the book thrown at them while White youths are generally given a slap on the wrist. Everyone remember in Texas last year when the white girl who burned down her family home got probation while the black girl who shoved a hall monitor got 7 years in prison? (Note: Shaquanda was finally released after more than a year in prison though the harshness of her sentence and the reasons behind it were never really addressed.) We could also talk about the ongoing Jena 6 problems and who got charged in mutual fights (hint: it wasn’t the White kids).

These are just a couple of examples of it but this happens all the time. White teens who commit crimes are constantly excused on the fact that “They’re young, they have their whole life ahead of them.” POC youth are rarely (if ever) given the same consideration. We’re considered bad from birth on virtue of our skin, so the thinking becomes “Why not lock them up for a good long while so they can’t get into trouble?”

I’m all for mercy for people who make mistakes, because we all make mistakes. And I’m not saying these coalitions should stop pushing for McInerney to be tried as a juvenile. I just hope that when this happens and it’s the reverse, when it’s a POC child whose queer bashed a White child that I’ll see all these same organizations advocating that that kid be tried as a juvenile.

And until I do see that this whole thing is just another case where our pain and our anger and our bodies and our lives mean nothing when compared to white folks.




Revisiting the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program & Safety

Now I still fully support the Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Program (WBEOU) and am not turning in Y-Chromosome Reserve card but I was remiss in not analyzing the intersections in this program and how they could affect me if it were not women run and focused and how it can still affect me even being women run and focused.  

Let’s put forth a scenario, now most SF cons are very white. Even at WisCon (which I love, don’t get me wrong) among about 1,000 attendees approx. 50 are People of Color (these are from my own observations not an official number), that’s 5% of the total attendees. So odds are that if I see a woman being followed or bothered by a creepy guy they’ll both be white. Now if I, as a black man of size, approach this situation and try in intervene there are a number of complications that can arise.

#1 The white woman might feel she’s safer with the creepy white man than the large black man

#2 The man could get very confrontational and physical thinking he’s protecting the white woman from a rampaging black man

#3 Others outside the situation could misconstrue what’s happening when they look at it through the eyes of their own prejudices.

All three of these can lead to the authorities being called and exactly how would my story stand up in this situation? When it’s my voice against one or two white people, now I’m not discounting that the woman may stand up for me but I’m not counting on it either. Now I feel this is especially important to bring up regarding WisCon because it’s coming up soon and because there was an incident last year where “Niggers!” was yelled from a passing car as a friend and I walked down the street in Madison.  No othjer passerby on the street acted like they were surprised or angered or that anything unusual had happened (Note: Almost everyone at the Con itself who heard about this though was horrified on our behalf and supportive of our feelings).

This has understandably colored a lot of my perceptions of Madison, WI and makes me even more wary of the possibility of involving the authorities in that area. I have a healthy fear of the police as most POC do considering the relationship between POC and the police and the constant knowledge that any interaction with police could very well lead to a story like the one linked.

Now if it’s a member of WBEOU asks for my support in a situation that’s gotten out of control I’m happy to provide it but I do think we need to keep in mind the safety of everyone involved. And realize that should the authorities become involved (because the harasser could very well make up his own story and involve the police himself) that women’s complaints to the police in situations of harassment are often written off (and I’ve already talked about the interactions between POC and the police). We have to keep in mind at all times that we are working within a system where doing the right thing can lead to disbelief of your story and punishment from the authorities that are supposed to protect us. The white male harasser is often more “believable” to the authorities because they see themselves in him, and us well were just a bunch of b*tch*s and n*gg*rs.

And this doesn’t even take into account the scenario where the woman being harassed is a WOC. Most WOC can tell you about various instances were the police either hauled them in instead of their harasser or where the police were the harassers themselves.  Like a comedienne once said “Black women when were in trouble we call our cousins instead of the police because you call the police you have a good chance of ending up in jail. You end up in jail and you’re the one who called them!”

Just some things to keep in mind.



White Liberal Feminist Imperialism & Torture

*If you want more info on the white liberal feminist imperalism that’s splattering all over the feminist blogosphere, here are a couple more links for you. Again I encourage people to click on the links in each article.
Brownfemipower, Amanda, and Thieving WoC’s Efforts: Publicity or Plagarism???

Feminism and Appropriation

This has not been a good week for woman of color blogging – Acoording to some folks this one includes some comments from Marcotte herself which basically have consisted of her whining about how it’s all a personal attack. I don’t have the constitution to actually look right now but if y’all wanna check it out and report back to me, feel free.

*Daily Kos has a post which includes a memo signed by Dubya allowing torture. There’s been a lot of talk about how he was insulated from the decision in a effort to protect the resident from rightful censure, well that was a lod of lies and BS. WARNING! – The comments contain pictures of torture performed by America which may be triggering for some.  They’ve been altered so they read “Autorized by the President of the United States of America” w/ Dubya’s signature across the bottom. Powerful and if you can stomach it look at what our government is doing in our name.  


The HRC Is Made of Fail!

Most of you probably heard about the ENDA bill and how transfolks were taken out of the wording and how HRC (Human Rights Campaign) backed that bill instead of the Trans-inclusive one. Well there have been a series of protests by transfolk and allies at all HRC dinners since about October 2007. Tomorrow the protest is in Houston so what does the HRC do? They call the Houston PD! OK, so besides trying to violate someone’s first amendment rights this is such a position of privilege I can’t even wrap my mind around what they thought they were doing.

Really they should know (and do know) about the antagonistic relationship that exists between GLBT folks and the police, especially transfolks who’ve repeatedly been harrassed by police all over this “great land”. The HRC called the police. They called the enforcement arm of a government that has never been the most accepting of those who step outside the bounds of what they deem as “right”.

In this case it turned out okay but what was the HRC expecting to happen is my question. When we have repeatedly seen police forces that do not care about not only GLBT folks but POC which guess what? Some GLBT folks are. This is not a rant against the police, really it’s not, I’m sure there are some great officers of the law across this country, and in fact I know a few that I really like. That however does not erase the history of abuse of power, cover-up, attacks and sexual abuse that is the history of interactions between the police and GLBT/POC folks.

This simply reinforces my  thoughts on the HRC, that they are primarily and organization for the rights of: white, male, high socio-economic level gays. Sure there are some other people thrown in for flavor but I’ve been to an event organized by them before and really it’s nothing more than a bit of tokenism, to let everyone know they are all about diversity, really they are!

As my friend Joyce is fond of saying: My eyes roll forever.