The Internet Is A Scary Place for Black women: the Leslie Jones debacle

By now, many have heard of the situation surrounding SNL cast-member, comedienne, Leslie Jones. Jones’s troubles started with the July 2016 release of the all-female remake of Ghostbusters. Though she’s not the first female to be hacked, or have nude photos leaked, Jones’ case underscores or highlights what many black female bloggers have dubbed, misogynoiry (misogyny + noir) or the hatred or abuse/harassment of black women.

Attacking black women isn’t new, nor will it go away, but as The Establishment writer, Talynn Kel highlighted in her article on Jones’ case–black women are the least defended group, and are therefore deemed safe targets for trolls. The  dating site experiences of black women, along with Psychology Today’s article: Why are black women ugly, both drive the point home: the world wide web is a scary place for black women.

With the rise of black women–the most educated group in America–and women in general, white men have become defiant in their opposition to sharing power, which they see as a zero-sum effect.The Ghostbusters remake was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it resulted in an active campaign to destroy the film.

A similar curated movement originated in the science fiction writing community, wherein a group calling themselves the Sadpuppies (comprised entirely of white males) led campaigns (2015/16) to flood out Hugo-nominated novels written by POC authors. They too have anointed a villain for their attacks: black female SF writer, NK Jemisin, one of the most outspoken critics of them.

Jones has sadly found herself the center of these troll movements. Like Jemisin, Jones represent what white males oppose the most (POCs and women). Like Serena Williams before her, Jones does not fit into the feminine ideal set by white males. Like Serena, she’s physically big, dark-skinned, and in Jones case, she’s pushing 50. By all means, these traits should render Jones’ a non-factor in Hollywood. Yet, despite being a dark-skinned older black woman, Jones is successful.

Serena Williams has been dealing with similar attacks on her personhood/womanhood, and her crime appears to be winning–at the expense of skinnier, younger, whiter women.  Indian Wells CEO, Raymond Moore, defended his sexist comments against female tennis players by saying he found Genie Bouchard and Garbine Muguruza attractive, and believe they could take up the mantle of  [generating interest for the WTA] when Serena was no longer there. In another incident, a Russian Tennis coach was fined for calling Serena and her sister, “The Williams Brothers.” And, I have come across more than one photo likening Williams to a simian, similar to the photos likening Jones to Harambe, the popular gorilla killed at the Cincinnati zoo in April 2016.

Some other factors to consider. Jones is the only cast member of Ghostbusters 2016 with an active social media account. Jones is not only on social media, but has embraced it.See her Tweets about the Rio Olympics. Moreover, Jones made the mistake of fighting back, which is a no-no against Trolls. The more one fights back, the more she encourages trolls.

Patriarchy  plays a role. One of the “privileges” of patriarchy is female protection. Many women can bank on men to protect/defend them. That is true, except for black women, especially those of a certain hue and age.  Sojourner Truth’s Aint I a Woman, too, is a must read for the ways in which black women never benefited from patriarchy.

Jones’ very presence offends her detractors, who believe wholeheartedly that someone who looks like her shouldn’t be successful. For years, they dogged Serena Williams, who, like Jones, has challenged her lesser position in a white male society, and defied the odds.

 

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#All Lives Matter–please read the fine print


Why is it so hard for white people to get that when black people say ‘black lives matter’ it means “we, black people, don’t feel our lives are as valued as the lives of white people”?

Numerous studies and daily police shootings, disrespect and brutality towards black bodies confirm that blacks are treated worse than whites. One study shows doctors were less likely to offer pain-relieving medication to blacks than whites--believing that blacks don’t feel pain as much as whites, and doctors show more empathy toward white patients than black ones.

Furthermore, if Alton and Philando were white, they’d be alive. Studies also show police are quicker to shoot black suspects than white ones. Blacks are more likely to be stopped, pulled over, charged and imprisoned than whites who commit the same crimes. Black Lives Matter means blacks don’t feel their lives are valued the same way white lives are.

Saying“All Lives Matter” shows DENIAL of the unequal treatment of blacks, AND other racial minorities like First Nations/Native Americans. Saying “All Lives Matter” is pretending that everyone is EQUAL. Equality exists on paper, but real life treatments of nonwhite groups such as blacks, Indigenous, and non-white Hispanics say otherwise.

Do not condescend to black people by denying the existence of racial disparities and inequality. In an ideal society, all lives do matter, but in THIS REALITY, black lives DO NOT carry the same value as white lives.

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Black People In India

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Nayara Justino deemed too black for Miss Globaleza Title

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Stop Using ‘People of Color’ Phrase

I won’t go through the long list of ethnic adjectives used throughout history to describe various peoples (Savages, Redskins, Negroes, Coloreds, Kaffirs, etc.). That is not my concern. My concern is the phrase, People of Color, which, over the last ten years, has become the main descriptor for those not of European descent.

Each time I hear  People of Color, I am reminded that I have the burden of race, and then I start to wrestle with what this means. Does this mean that white people lack color, which is genetically nonsensical? The incident that placed the phrase into perspective, was the Benedict Cumberbatch mini-controversy, in which he used “Colored people,” instead of “People of Color.” If POC is okay, then why not Colored people?

POC is not an ideal term. POC does not challenge white supremacy norms, which is used to justify the exclusion of Non-White Peoples (NWP) from the mainstream (most glaringly in media and entertainment). It excludes NWP on account of the burden of race, which can be defined to mean that while whites are raceless and normal, nonwhites are not. A nonwhite person is always limited to racial expectations, while whites are deemed individuals, and are judged as such.color-of-people In context, this means that the failure of a Tom Cruise movie hurts Tom Cruise (an individual). The failure of a Denzel Washington movie hurts black actors (see: Sony Email Hack Scandal). Continue reading

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On Having A Scottish Last Name

scottishtartanI recently started genealogy research into my Jamaican roots. My last name, like those of many other Jamaicans, is Scottish. I knew it was beforehand but I didn’t care, not until my father accused me of not caring for my heritage. I decided to do some research into Jamaican history.

A genealogy search revealed some deep-rooted ties between Scotland and Jamaica, and I found information on the Scottish History Society. Now I have a bizarre “soft-spot” for Scotland, but feel weird about it, because I am black. Yet, it’s a tie that binds. When I see people with my last name–black or white–I feel the need to reach out to them.

Black people with white names is not something I think about often, to be quite frank. Years ago I came across a book analyzing the last names of Americans, expecting the author to mention something about African-Americans. I remember the author being dismissive, insisting the black people with these names had them due to slavery–that’s all, and now back to the main show. This dismissal had always bothered me, even now that I can’t recall the title of the book. I also read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and found the interview with the “white” Lacks jarring–dismissive and incredulous.

As a writer, I rarely write characters with non-white names (even when my characters are black). I also have a pet peeve about black Africans (people directly from Africa) with European last names. Is it not hypocritical of me, a woman with a white last name? I have considered changing my last name a handful of times; but, I have reservations about westernized blacks who re-name themselves.

There are pros and cons of changing my last name to an African one (Uhuru?). It’s a way of reclaiming one’s stolen heritage. But at the same time, I feel doing so is letting white people off the hook (out of sight and out of mind sort of deal).  My last name is part of my heritage, as a woman from a society colonized (unwillingly) by my ancestors 400 hundred years ago. It is more honest, as it, added to my race, links the two sides of my heritage (African + European). It’s a testament that colonialism happened. Slavery and miscegenation happened.

I cannot claim Scottish heritage, and fear the message buying a tartan might send (however cool it might be to have one dedicated to my last name); but, at the same time, I can’t help but watch Outlander and note similarities between Scottish dialect and Jamaican (slang: jouk) and that my last name is prominently featured in the show. Or, relishing the fact that the people who gave me my last name came from the northeast/highlands (there’s a street in Edinburgh called Jamaica North Street Lane).

 

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The Niqab In A Liberal Society

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Zunera Ishag at citizenship ceremony

This post is late. It was due in October 2015, during the Canadian federal elections. The now-defeated Conservative government, led by then Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, sought a judicial decree to get the niqab banned from all citizenship ceremonies.  The issue, deemed a ploy by the Harper-led Conservatives to deter the populace from real issues (climate change, Syria, federal debt/budget), took on brief dominance in the press.

The Niqab debate spawned a Twitter-trending hashtag, and later was framed as a “women’s right to choose” issue.   While the niqab debate was indeed meant to distract voters from Harper’s terrible record, I was disturbed by the framing of the issue as a “right to choose” issue.

The supporters of Zunera Ishag — the woman in whose name the federal bill was challenged–took her word for it that she freely chose to cover herself in many layers of cloths, hiding everything except her eyes. I am all for giving the benefit of the doubt and respecting her choice; however, no one considered the complexity behind “her choice.” That, in a liberal society, freedom of choice can be burdened and compromised by culture, peer and family pressure. Continue reading

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