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Tone Deaf and Colorblind : The State of America

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Children restrained and detained by ICE Ross D Franklin/AP

This is America. This has always been America.

The infamous quote from James Baldwin that states “To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage,” is not an exaggeration. I feel that it’s true for all persons of color in this country now. We are a nation built on a foundation of broken bodies held together with our ancestors’ shed blood as the mortar. The atrocities perpetrated against the people of the First Nations, stolen Africans, and Indigenous peoples of Mexico have led us where we are today. Yet, not once has an apology been issued or compensation been rendered for the horrors that saw families ripped apart, men broken, and women abused.

How could America even begin to repair the rift between the oppressor and the oppressed when even now families are destroyed by aggressive anti-immigration laws enacted by territorial usurpers?

 

At this moment, immigrant children are sleeping in detainment centers in cages on bare floors separated from their mothers. They are separated by age and gender, robbing many of the slight comfort having their siblings close by could bring. These children are facing neglect and abuse.

Thanks to the FOIA request by the ACLU, we now know the span of trauma immigrant detainees are up against. The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed approximately 4,600 pages of records documenting the complaints submitted by legal service providers and immigrants’ rights advocates on behalf of the children.

How could America even begin to repair the rift between the oppressor and the oppressed when even now families are destroyed by aggressive anti-immigration laws enacted by territorial usurpers? Click To Tweet

Vile Treatment

Many of the victims were seeking asylum and suffered physical, verbal, or sexual abuse from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials. While the report is truly expansive, it is imperative that we understand this may be just the tip of the iceberg. We have no idea how much has gone unreported for fear of retaliation.

In addition to the threat of physical or mental harm, the fear of never being reunited with their families looms heavy in their hearts. During the last three months of 2017, Steven Wagner, a top official within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), admitted to something heinous. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the DHHS, LOST 1,475 children it had placed into the homes of sponsors. How this happened is beyond the comprehension of many because of the stringent requirements and documentation necessary for sponsorship to be effective.

Sponsorship for immigrants is a legally enforceable contract, meaning the government or the sponsored immigrant can take the sponsor to court if the sponsor fails to provide acceptable support to the immigrant. An applicant must first complete an I-864, an affidavit of financial support. Defaulting on such an agreement can result in fines. With all of this at stake, the government office of DHHS insists it is not legally responsible, but if it were it would require a significant increase in funds/resources. If this were happening to anyone else in another country, the American government would be outraged.

#WhereAreTheChildren

The reality of this lapse is that it is very possible nearly 1500 children have been lost to human trafficking under the nose of the American government. An excerpt of the reports shows just what these minors could be facing.

As we wait in anger and disgust at the delay of response by Trump, many questions what actions we can take as citizens to get justice for the lost. The numbers below provide a way for us to reach beyond our borders in an effort to report or glean more information about the crisis affecting these youth.

International Human Rights Watch 212-290-4700 United Nations Human Rights 212-415-4026

 

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Advice

John Gray, We Are not Raising Men

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While looking through Twitter today, I came across an excerpt of Pastor John Gray on Sister Circle. What I saw disappointed me. A choir of sisters sat beside him advocating for women sidelining themselves to raise adult males. I was tight. Speaking about his wife, Aventer, Pastor John Gray said:

She’s a covering not a lid because if a man marries a lid she’ll stop your dream. But if you marry a covering, she’ll push you to your destiny.

To that, I say men who believe this are lids.

Not Your Mama, #NotYourMule

Women are burdened with confining gender roles that minimize the freedom women have in an oppressive patriarchal world. We are seen as lovers, maidens, mothers, queens, huntresses, sages, and mystics. Women are expected to be therapists, expert chefs, maids, and submissive to their significant others, at least in heteronormative relationships. We are expected to stay youthful, speak little, spend nothing, and be grateful for the opportunity. Not only are women subjugated to lives of servitude at their own expense, its due to the emotional immaturity of their spouses.

Men are particularly guilty of exploiting the maternal strengths many women possess. This notion that “a woman will inspire me to be my best self” is pure narcissism. Stringing women along with “I know I’m not perfect” or “I’ll make it one day” is manipulation. Judith Orloff, author of ‘The Empath’s Survival Guide’, says:

What narcissists see in empaths is a giving, loving person who is going to try and be devoted to you and love you and listen to you. But unfortunately empaths are attracted to narcissists, because at first this is about a false self. Narcissists present a false self, where they can seem charming and intelligent, and even giving, until you don’t do things their way, and then they get cold, withholding, and punishing.”

“I had to grow into her”

Empathetic people are patient to a fault and believe they can fix people with compassion. As John continued, he mentioned the pain he caused his wife because of his failure to heal himself.

My wife has endured more pain birthing me than both of our children. She has sacrificed these past 8 years, uncovering the painful areas of my manhood and covering the areas that could have exposed me.

That’s not her job! Toxic masculinity and the rejection of feminine energy has convinced men that they can wait until they’re in a relationship to deal with their baggage. While we frequently refer to this as a woman raising a man, its actually trauma bonding. Trauma bonding is when a victim and an abuser form a connection that makes it impossible to leave the relationship, no matter how much damage it’s doing. Much like the relationship between Michelle and Chad, these bonds are formed by the tactics narcissists use.

In situations like these, you just have to be prepared to say those people aren’t healthy for you. Let them go.

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For The Culture

Jemel Roberson Killed by Police after Responding to Shooting

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Jemel with his newborn son
Jemel with his newborn son

Jemel with his newborn son (AP : Avontea Boose)

Twenty six-year-old Jemel Roberson was an armed security guard at Manny’s Blue Room Bar. Working in the Chicago suburb of Robbins, he was killed by a police officer responding to his call.

Many await judgment as the story unfolds in yet another officer-involved shooting. Roberson, who was an armed guard, already had the suspect pinned to the ground when the responding officers arrived. According to Gregory Kulis, an attorney for Roberson’s mother, he was wearing a hat emblazoned with the word “Security” when he was shot several times.

At 4am November 11th, the initial shooting was reported. With four victims total, the shooting saw only non-life threatening gunshot wounds. However, it was not until police arrived on scene that a life was lost.

Officers from the nearby village of Midlothian and Robbins were the first to arrive. Cook County sheriff’s spokeswoman Sophia Ansari says it was an officer from the Midlothian department that fired at Jemel.

NBC news reports that according to the Robbins Police Chief, the shooting is believed to have been from a previous conflict.

An investigation is currently in progress with the Cook County Sheriff’s Police and Robbin’s Police Department. They are investigating the criminal aspect and the State Police Public Integrity Task Force is investigating the Officer involved shooting. The officer, who remains unnamed, is on administrative leave.

Jemel’s family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for his wrongful death. Some members of the Roberson family have taken to social media to share their grief. In a tweet, Jemel’s paster lamented:

“Jemel has played for @PurposedChurch for the last several years and just played for my grandma’s funeral Friday and now he is gone. Rest In Peace #JemelRoberson #JusticeForJemel”

As of Tuesday, the suspect of the initial shooting has not been charged.

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“Instagram Impostors: Twitter Exposes White Womens’ “N*ggerfishing’ Tactics”

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On election night, while the nation waited with bated breath over poll results, Twitter user, Dee (@yeahboutella) shared a series of Instagram screenshots on Twitter regarding their dismay and shock over a white woman outed for being white. Now you may be asking yourself how is someone is outed regarding race in 2018 and especially as white? Evidently, a Swedish white woman Emma Hallberg, who goes by the username @eemmahallberg on Instagram, was accused of sleeping with braids to give her hair a fuller and more textured look, spray tanning her skin until it was five or six shades darker, and using foundation to deepen the appearance of her skin.

These white women are physically altering themselves to look like mixed-raced women of African descent for social and monetary capital. Click To Tweet

Replies to Dee’s thread consisted of equally shocked Twitter users, and one tweet even featured a stark contrast between @eemmahallberg’s appearance in 2016 and 2018. Another tweet revealed a shot of her Youtube video showing the disparity between her darker foundation and her naturally fairer skin. Writer Wanna (@WannasWorld) who has masterfully framed Black women in the hood and their direct influence on fashion, asked her followers to add more women like Hallberg, who essentially cosplay racially ambiguous mixed-race women of African descent to showcase the Instagram phenomenon. Moreover, she brilliantly highlighted it as a “ni**erfishing epidemic.” Replies flooded Wanna’s tweet and even prompted accounts dedicated to exhibiting what can only be described as something along the lines of racist body dysmorphia.


So what is the issue here besides the complete absurdity of it all? Well, for one, there are multiple issues with this. Let’s look at the most obvious: these white women are physically altering themselves to look like mixed-raced women of African descent for social and monetary capital.

Due to the vigorous erasure of unambiguous Black women in mass media, the market for mixed-raced and racially ambiguous women has skyrocketed. To illustrate this point Black women’s representation drastically shifted from the Afrocentric look in the 1990s to what we have seen and continue to see in contemporary eras of the 2000s and 2010s, which is a more “universally appealing” look generally found in women who are not monoracially Black. The abundance of Black women who cannot be cosplayed by white women such: members of En Vogue, Blaque, Brownstone, SWV; Brandy, Lauryn Hill, Tatyana Ali, and Nia Long dwindled in preference to: Zendaya, Kehlani, Alexandra Shipp, Amandla Stenberg, Jhene Aiko, Cassie, Yara Shahidi, and Cardi B.

The high demand for women with features that are Black enough to provide the exoticism and white enough to appeal and provide accessibility to white women created the space for literal imposters — or ni**afishes. ‘The look,’ popularly known as ‘Instagram Baddie,’ relies on Black women as its foundation, but because Blackness fails white beauty standards it has to be adequately removed from Blackness to appeal to white women. The Instagram Baddie aesthetic for non-Black women results in more likes on social media which operates as social currency thus inadvertently; however, more times than not, intentionally garners recognition from beauty corporations invested in exploiting the insecurities of women for profit.

The high demand for women with features that are Black enough to provide the exoticism and white enough to appeal and provide accessibility to white women created the space for literal imposters — or ni**afishes. Click To Tweet

 

Brands reach out to non-Black Instagram baddies, at remarkably higher rates than the Black women whose looks create the foundation for the aesthetic. These corporations provide the “universally appealing” women with lucrative opportunities such as brand ambassadorships; all expense paid trips, advertising deals, and free products. The business becomes cyclical: white and non-Black women alter their appearance to become ‘Instagram Baddies,’ they gain social validation through likes which subsequently increases financial profits on both the woman and brands side, and it reinforces a beauty standard at the ironic exclusion of Black women.

Disappointingly, because the Black folks — en mass — continue to uphold and adhere to the racist one-drop rule, racially ambiguous mixed-race women are seen as Black although their sociopolitical and economic experiences are measurably different in comparison to Black women. The differences between the two groups of women is an iteration of the colonial three caste system in Southern Louisiana, a part of U.S. history that isn’t as widely interrogated as it should be although it set a precedent for colorism the United States.

Now, in the modern-age, racial ambiguity has afforded mixed-raced, and consequently white women, the privilege of trapezing a broader demographic. For whites and non-Black people of color Instagram baddies are ‘exotic,’ and to Blacks, these women are still seen as Black because there may be a little bit of Black in them, even when it turns out there isn’t any at all. This more expansive demographic translates to higher opportunities for marketability and monetary profit because diverse groups of people will consume the image of these women more favorably.

The preeminent non-Black women to ni**erfish in the contemporary era are the Kardashian-Jenners. They may not have been duped the public into believing that they are Black; however, they tap into Black women’s aesthetic for their marketability as well as steady proximity to Blackness by way of their male partners and high-profile Black women friends. It is not by chance that Kim and her family have dominated ‘urban’ blogs like Bossip and The Shade Room and have become household names among Black America in comparison to other non-Black and white celebrities like a Sofía Vergara or Jennifer Lawrence who are also positioned as standards of beauty.

Rapper and ex-boyfriend of the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner klan, Kylie, recently spoke about the deliberate efforts the Kardashians make in co-opting Blackness. Regarding Kylie’s drastic shift from ordinary white girl to an Instagram baddie, he said, “you gotta look at the before and after. She always had a platform, and she was always destined to be what she was going to be regardless, but, when I stepped in, there was a lot of codes being taught.” By codes it can be inferred he means Black codes, presumably the way Black women pose in pictures, dress, and wear their hair and makeup. He followed up by saying “…it was like, you could do this, you should start this, you should start doing your hair like this, you should add that because you need black people to f— with you…” “…if you ain’t got Black people behind you, you ain’t got nothing.”

It was one thing for the Kardashian-Jenner family to satisfy the Black Male Gaze but by donning the entire custom of racial ambiguity and signaling cues of Blackness is how they fascinated the community as a whole. Their shape-shifting allowed them to not only sell their products to white women desperate to look more interesting, seen in the timing of Kylie’s lip kits and her lip filler debacle but also to Black women who also aspire to attain a look that receives widespread approval, particularly from Black men.

A hard truth in this trend is the complicity of Black people. As Tyga truthfully articulated, “…if you ain’t got Black people behind you, you ain’t got nothing.” There has to be a substantial investment in racially ambiguous mixed-race women and an affirmation of their Blackness even when it is not being asked for by them in order for them to pull the con off.

For Black men, their internalize anti-Black racism is projected through implicit and explicit violence against Black women. They shame and vilify Black features and characteristics on Black women with colorism and featurism yet praise and seek out white and non-Black women who have transformed themselves into caricatures of Black women. Moreover, because they are still men, the act of women contorting themselves to appease them is an added ego-boost. Partnering and creating progeny with these women ultimately fulfill their white male penis envy and erases the parts (or entirety) of Blackness they wish did not exist in themselves.  

For Black women, their participation in the elevation of these women is a more woeful tale. Because they desire to be desired by Black men they follow whom they see appealing to Black men. Because patriarchal domination transcends sexual orientation, the desire is not solely based in cisheteronormativity but rather the general oppression of women. Their added media erasure — which has not yet happened to Black men — creates a void in healthy self-esteem building. Thus, allowing for any representation no matter how fictitious to serve their need to be seen and affirmed. Capitalism, racism, and patriarchy become the driving forces that create the environment for Black women become reliable and loyal consumers for racially ambiguous mixed-raced women and now white women who advance their erasure and sell their image back to them.

So, yes the ni**erfishing trend is ridiculous, and the name — coming from a Black woman — may make you let out a hearty chuckle, but the implications are dire. Not only have mixed-race women replaced Black women in spaces designated for them thanks to the one-drop rule but because of their easily mimicable features, white women and non-Black can now take up space and opportunities that were already hard for Black women to access and now make it all but impossible for Black women to do so. More importantly, outside of the monetary and social capital, the diet blackface only further complicates an already complex sense of self among Black women. Unlike women like Hallberg, Black women’s race-based body dysmorphia has not and is not met with light-hearted Twitter jokes or compassion but instead vitriolic shaming and silencing. Since social capital, in this case, is controlled by users of social media platforms, shifting your following and likes to unambiguous Black women is an excellent starting point to remedy the damage caused by ‘ni**afishes.’

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