Month: August 2010

So Close to a Creamy

The votes are in an it’s a swing and a miss for Lorenzo Dow Turner, the first prominent African American linguist. Kudos to him for earning a

A Harvard degree, straightened hair and if he weren't in sepia tone, the ability to pass the paper bag test?? So close to a top tier Oreo!

Master’s Degree from Harvard and  PhD from The Unviersity of Chicago–in around 1915, when people thought even worse things about of colors.

But a big Oreo boo to him for taking those Oreo-tastic accolades and then using his academic acumen to study… black people!

Called “the father of Gullah stories,” Turner spent his years visiting the U.S.’s Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and learning how the linguistically isolated black folk there talked to each other.

A museum exhibit in DC is currently showcasing Turner’s work.

They called a small bird “bidi.” They called a white man “buckra.” They said “dash away” to get rid of a bad habit. And used “de” instead of “to be.” They used “e” as a pronoun for “he,” “she” and “it.” They said “eh” for “yes.” And “fanner” was a basket used to thresh rice. They said “hudu” was something that brought bad luck. And whispered sweetly “nyam” while encouraging a child to eat.

Is there something kind of pretty and lyrical and poetic about these words? Sure. But how typical! I’ve squelched my love for poets Langston Hughes  Nikki Giovanni for years just so I don’t look so…RBPis. It’s booooring when a black person says they’re into some other black person. But you get this totally cool look from folks when you tell someone that you heart Bukowski and Ondaatje.

A misogynist and a misanthrope, yum!!

(And seriously, The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje–mostbeautifulpoemofalltime–read it, it’s beautiful!!)

What’s on your beach/regatta reading list for this summer?

Going Solo

Just because they put it on doesn't mean you have to move to it.

As we have discussed, it is important to be the only person of color in the room at any given time or event. Having more than one of us around can lead to all sorts of miscommunication, embarrassing run-ins and tempt either of you to discuss common race-related issues that might trigger a long latent desire to read some Nikki Giovanni.

But sometimes a room is crowded, dark or split-level. So how do you both determine if there are any of colors in the vicinity and relax enough to proudly show off the pictures from Inverness on your iPhone?

Instead of prowling from corner to corner paper bag testing everyone you come into contact with, just look for a few key things to see if you are safe.

  • 1. Other guests never seem to quite finish the sentences: “So…you’re here with…..” or “You must be here to see…….” or “You must know Carol from……..”
  • 2. You are at the Viper Room.
  • 3. The DJ suddenly changes the music from relatively ambient Slowdive and Neutral Milk Hotel and includes a random cameo like Baby Got Back. Then a dance circle forms around you. Don’t panic, after they see your first perfectly precise box step, they’ll get the idea.
  • 4. People ask you oddly practical questions out of the blue like “Excuse me, do you know where the bathroom is?” “What time does are you closing tonight?” and “Can I give you my coat?”
  • 5. You cannot quite find the words to describe your complete and utter sense of relaxation.

First Kanye, Now Essence? More Options for the Oreo!

Take one magazine for black women, add one white fashion editor…ta daa! A new publication for Oreos to love and a media crapstorm!

For those of you who don’t read Essence–and my guess is that if you read this blog, you don’t read Essence–the magazine was once a highly political pub aimed at empowering black women. It’s become more of a fluffy lifestyle piece over the years, but the main goal is still the same: Reach out to RBP women, make them feel good, have them buy cosmetics.

As such, most of the top tier staff at Essence has been black.

Thankfully, that’s changed.

The magazine just hired the decidedly not-black Placas and many RBP are pissed.

But here’s the thing. It’s all kinds of awkward to go into someone’s home and see a magazine that touts ethnic identity as being a worthwhile pursuit. So now that Essence has a better chance of looking like any other fashion magazine, we can all relax. I mean, look how great this cover of Vanity Fair looked. Nevermind that Gabourey Sidibe was a total breakout star, she would have totally fucked up this magazine cover about young breakout stars in Hollywood.

Why put a black woman in a position of creative power at a magazine aimed at a black women when she might bring some icky, uncomfortable verisimilitude to said magazine. A black fashion director for example, would probably never let this romantic, antebellum-themed ad make it into her magazine’s pages and look how cute it is!

The touch, the feel of cotton

I’m sure that her experience in the fashion world makes her more than super qualified to be a magazine’s fashion director. And her experience not being black makes her a great choice to take a magazine that sometimes does the “wahwahI’mblack” into the modern day and have even more people picking up and running with the Oreo flag.

So congrats on the new gig, Ellana! Play your cards right and this Oreo will add a new subscription to keep her Harper’s and Horse and Hound company!

Other reasons the media is an Oreo’s friend: If you’re pretty and brown, you might be a terrorist, RBP in the movies can’t be wizards or go on dates, and is Tyler Perry, a sworn Oreo enemy actually an Oreo in disguise?

What do you think of the Essence sitch? Does it matter that a not-black person is directing a black fashion magazine? Are historical issues over and done with enough that fashion is an equal-opportunity self-loathing machine (even white girls have a hard time shedding as many curves as it takes to be  a supermodel, I’m guessing). Are specialty magazines passe, out of vogue?

The Black-and-Whites chasing a Black and White

Thanks to the folks at Sociological Images for posting a great story that made all my little Oreo hair stand up in their chemically relaxed folicles.

You can read the whole story here. But here’s the gist.

Two 7-year-old boys took their family’s cars without permission and led police on a chase. One kid is white. The other is an RBP. The videos below show how differently these kids were treated by the media.

The white boy, Preston, is interviewed with his family on the set of the Today show.  Knowing his kid is safe, his Dad describes the event as “funny” and tells the audience that if this could happen to a “cotton candy all-American kid like Preston,” then “it could happen to anybody.”

This story contrasts dramatically to the CNN story about Latarian Milton, a black 7-year-old who took his family’s car on a joy ride.  I’ll put the video first, but be forewarned, it’s disturbing not only because of the different frame placed on the boys actions, but because of the boy’s embracing of the spoiled identity:

With an absolutely polar introduction of “Not your typical 7-year-old,” this story is filmed on the street. Whereas the Today show screened the chase footage in real time, this one is sped up, making it seem even more extreme.

The non-color kid got a fluff piece on The Today Show and everyone laughed at his little mistake. The police held no grudge and everyone’s fine in the end.

The police who dealt with the RBP kid said that they do “want to get him into the system.”

Obviously, I was upset.

Had this kid just put on an Oreo game face, he could have totally booked the Today show! Imagine how much more fun his story would have been if he had worn a collard shirt and not used the word “hoodrat” or been named “Latarian.”

*OreoWriter rushes off to begin Oreo outreach program*

Interestingly enough, CNN did Oreos a favor by showing us that kids still prefer white dolls/kids to black ones…and then I suppose, the story on the car thief was the answer as to why they do.

Roots

First, let me say that as a good Oreo, I’ve only seen enough of Roots to know I don’t want to see the rest. Slavery, your name is Toby, wahwahbad, I get it.

But this weekend, after a family get together in Vegas, I discovered some interesting tidbits about my roots (other than the fact that I do need another relaxer soon). I learned that I am the niece of a Republican, of the inventor of a computer system that helps guide the F16 and of a champion cross country skier.

Clearly, I come by my Oreodom honestly.

Unfortunately, I did also find out that I am the granddaughter of a session musician for Duke Ellington and that one of my great uncles was a Tuskegee Airman. Two way ethnic occupations. Eh, we can’t all have perfect pedigrees. I’ll just make sure I frame the skier’s photos more prominently.

This is my great Uncle Lt. Andrew D. Marshall (the ethnic one). This picture is in the Smithsonian and was taken after he was shot down over Greece. Even though 'Tuskegee Airman' just screams ethnic...it's still pretty cool.

What fun stuff is hanging from your family tree?