Reigning from the Ground: The Gravity of Soledad O’Brien

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-04-04 22:43Z by Steven

Reigning from the Ground: The Gravity of Soledad O’Brien

Bitch
Issue #78 | Spring 2018, 2018-03-13

Lisa Factora-Borchers

photography by Margarita Corporan

The rumors circulated and reached me months before I met her. People who knew her in various capacities—from her personal representatives to those who briefly met her at a speaking event—repeated the same sentiment: Even with all her successes and all the reasons not to be, Soledad O’Brien is incredibly sweet and down-to-earth.

Like millions of other CNN viewers, I became familiar with O’Brien’s broadcast journalism in the early 2000s, when she secured her status as one of the few women journalists of color in mainstream media. In 2006, during the zenith of blogging, Heather B. Armstrong, a popular writer in the mom-blogosphere, gushed about meeting O’Brien in person and described her “glowing aura”:

“She was exquisite in every conceivable way, perfect hair and makeup and wardrobe, and when she greeted everyone and made small talk, I got the sense that her brain was wired to a digital encyclopedia of everything that has ever happened on Earth, because she spoke with authority on every topic.”

Some descriptions stay with you, even after 11 years, until you have to shed them as prep—because you can’t interview a master interviewer when you’re preoccupied with talk of glowing auras and infallibility.

O’Brien’s home is a sprawling apartment in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood (where, it should be noted, she has lived since well before its ascent to ultra-gentrified chic). Its white built-in shelves are stacked with impeccably aligned books interrupted by candles, framed photos, and artisan bowls and vases. The place is immaculate, but not intimidating. This feels intentional. As far as the famed O’Brien aura itself, it is a bit different than I imagined. She carries herself with a sense of ease and casual authority; although she comes through the door with her hands and arms full, that doesn’t stop her from calling out friendly greetings to me and the photography team. O’Brien has spent the past three decades telling stories. Google her—every kind of story that a journalist dreams about covering, she’s covered: natural disasters, structural inequality, national identity, politics, sports, and narrative stories from marginalized communities. There isn’t one way to describe her successes; they’re like vines—woven and connected, multitudinous and plentiful. After she dropped out of Harvard, she began working as a reporter, in 1989, for the medical radio show Second Opinion. She spent the ’90s reporting and anchoring weekend and morning shows for NBC before eventually transitioning to CNN in 2003. While anchoring CNN’s American Morning, O’Brien was moved to the documentary division and from 2007 until 2013 hosted the series In America, which eventually led to two spin-offs, Black in America and Latino in America

Read the entire article here.

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National Geographic’s race cover story misconstrues multiraciality

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive on 2018-04-02 22:42Z by Steven

National Geographic’s race cover story misconstrues multiraciality

The McGill Tribune
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
2018-04-02

Emma Avery, Managing Editor

When I first read Patricia Edmonds’ cover story on Millie and Marcia Biggs—half-black, half-white fraternal twins—for National Geographic’s April 2018 Race Issue, I felt conflicted. As a person of mixed race, with a father from Hong Kong and a mother of largely Scottish descent, I was happy for this family’s opportunity to share their experiences. Although national media are increasingly latching onto stories about race, people of mixed race don’t often get the spotlight.

National Geographic’s cover is undoubtedly an attempt to normalize multiraciality and destabilize false notions of ‘race’ as a natural category. Yet, by focusing on the visual differences between the twins, the article misses more meaningful and nuanced questions of culture and identity that people such as myself often grapple with. Instead, it places mixed race children on a pedestal that risks exoticizing them…

Read the entire article here.

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National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2018-03-24 19:49Z by Steven

National Geographic Replaces Racist Fictions With Post-racial Fantasies

New York Magazine
2018-03-16

Lauren Michele Jackson


Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic. Photograph by Robin Hammond

In her honest but odd memoir that it seems, thankfully, few besides me have read, National Geographic emerges as a crucial touchstone to Rachel Dolezal’s supposed racial awakening. Isolated regionally and culturally by Christian-fundamentalist parents, copies of the magazine were one of the few tokens from 1980s and ’90s American culture allowed to Dolezal in a home that forbade television and processed food. And while her older brother scrounged pages for photos of topless women, NatGeo begat Rachel’s earliest racial fantasies. Coating herself in mud from head to feet, she “would pretend to be a dark-skinned princess in the Sahara Desert or one of the Bantu women living in the Congo,” images conjured exclusively by the monthly magazine. “I would stay in this fantasy world as long as I possibly could,” Dolezal writes. “It was never long enough.”

Over the last century, National Geographic has used the guise of ethnographic research to stoke the racial imaginations of curious white people. Investigating peoples and cultures like flora, splaying their images upon glossy pages with unchecked fascination, the magazine does not have a great track record when it comes to stories about people of color. And yet, these are the stories NatGeo is most famous for, training generation after generation to gawk at peoples other than themselves through telephoto lenses. Founded in 1888 to document the interests of affluent explorers, the name alone evokes a colonial impulse — the National Geographic Society started as a private club dedicated to worldly, exotic travel. The publication has long been an unrepentant descendant of those beginnings — until now, allegedly…

Read the entire article here.

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It’s Not Always Black And White: Biracial Narratives In TV

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-03-19 02:19Z by Steven

It’s Not Always Black And White: Biracial Narratives In TV

Odyssey
2017-05-16

Jasmine Ramón
Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts


Cover Image Credit: Vulture

It is refreshing to see more and more shows and movies are depicting biracial narratives.

We usually talk about race as if it’s merely black people and white people. Often the critique is, what about if you’re neither? A question asked much less often is: “Well, what if you’re both?” Up until recently, there was little to be said about being biracial or mixed race in TV and movies. But there is so much complexity there as well.

There is a subtle moment in “Dear White People” when biracial main character Sam White changes her music to hip hop as she strolls past a group of black girls on campus. There is an equally subtle moment when Jerrod Carmichael’s biracial girlfriend Amber asks him if the classic Biggy song he is listening to is a new song on “The Carmichael Show.” These moments might be missed entirely, or merely chuckled at, but they are slight nods to what it means to constantly be bargaining one’s identity.

Both shows are largely about blackness, and the experience of black people. But they also both seem to suggest the remnants of the ‘one-drop rule,’ where any bit of blackness largely means acceptance into the black community, and exclusion from the white community. Of course, there are layers to this. At one point, Sam’s friend Joelle makes a comment likening Sam to a “Tracie Ellis Ross” (left in image below) rather than a “Rashida Jones.” (right)…

Read the entire article here.

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National Geographic acknowledges its racist past, then steps on its message with a cover photo

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Social Justice, Social Science, United States on 2018-03-18 04:12Z by Steven

National Geographic acknowledges its racist past, then steps on its message with a cover photo

The Washington Post
2018-03-16

Victor Ray, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Tennessee. Knoxville

National Geographic has long offered a kind of pop-cultural imperialist anthropology that centers the white gaze and exoticizes people of color. The current issue of the magazine makes a brave attempt to deal with that messy history around race and racism.

To get an outsider’s view of its coverage of race, National Geographic hired the University of Virginia history professor John Edwin Mason, who studies the history of photography and African history. Mason found that the magazine was often on the wrong side of racial history. For instance, it glossed over the historical significance of the brutal 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, in which white South African police killed 69 unarmed peaceful protesters.

National Geographic’s editors rarely questioned the colonial legacy and power relations that allowed its photographers and writers to shape a global conversation on race and difference that was too accommodating to white supremacy. I was happy to see the magazine take up the laudable goal of addressing its racial history. Many mainstream publications, were they to examine their own history surrounding coverage of race and the protection of white supremacy, would probably not fare much better than National Geographic.

Unfortunately, the cover story for this issue traffics in the very racial cliches the magazine’s editor says National Geographic was guilty of in the past. The cover photo depicts 11-year-old mixed-race twin girls, with the tabloid-esque framing that one is black, the other white. And the headline makes the grand claim that the girls’ story will “make us rethink everything we know about race.”

Read the entire article here.

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Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2018-03-14 16:57Z by Steven

Neo-Passing: Performing Identity after Jim Crow

University of Illinois Press
March 2018
296 pages
6 x 9 in.
11 black & white photographs
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-04158-7
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-08323-5
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-252-05024-4

Edited by:

Mollie Godfrey, Assistant Professor of English
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Vershawn Ashanti Young, Associate Professor of Drama and Speech Communication
University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Crossing old boundaries to create new identities

African Americans once passed as whites to escape the pains of racism. Today’s neo-passing has pushed the old idea of passing in extraordinary new directions. A white author uses an Asian pen name; heterosexuals live “out” as gay; and, irony of ironies, whites try to pass as black.

Mollie Godfrey and Vershawn Ashanti Young present essays that explore practices, performances, and texts of neo-passing in our supposedly postracial moment. The authors move from the postracial imagery of Angry Black White Boy and the issues of sexual orientation and race in ZZ Packer’s short fiction to the politics of Dave Chappelle’s skits as a black President George W. Bush. Together, the works reveal that the questions raised by neo-passing—questions about performing and contesting identity in relation to social norms—remain as relevant today as in the past.

Gale Wald offers a foreword and Michele Elam an afterword.

Contributors: Derek Adams, Christopher M. Brown, Martha J. Cutter, Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Alisha Gaines, Jennifer Glaser, Allyson Hobbs, Brandon J. Manning, Loran Marsan, Lara Narcisi, Eden Osucha, and Deborah Elizabeth Whaley

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The First Great Movie of the Trump Era

Posted in Articles, Arts, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-02-23 05:05Z by Steven

The First Great Movie of the Trump Era

Vulture
2018-02-22

Jada Yuan and Hunter Harris


Daniel Kaluuya and Jordan Peele filming the game-room scene of Get Out.
Justin Lubin/courtesy of Universal Pictures

How Get Out began as a rebuke to Obama-inspired dreams of racial harmony and became a conduit for fears reignited by the rise of the new president.

Get Out was shot in just 23 days on a budget of $4.5 million, but when it opened one year ago, it quickly became clear it was not just another low-budget horror movie. There were monstrous grosses and rapturous reviews, but most important, the film instantly became a cultural phenomenon — the subject of political commentary and social-media memes. The bizarre story of a young black man lured by his white girlfriend to her family home in the country, where they plan to replace his brain with an older white person’s, it immediately introduced into the lexicon terms like “the sunken place” — as in “We’ve lost Kanye to the sunken place,” used to suggest the rapper has lost touch with his black identity. Racial inequity, and the failure of white liberals to adequately address it, proved powerful fodder for a horror narrative. A year later, as one of the most unlikely Oscar Best Picture nominees in years, Get Out is being taught in courses on racism and Afro­futurism. It began as an insight in the brain of creator Jordan Peele during the 2008 primary fight between Obama and Hillary Clinton and premiered at Sundance within a week of Donald Trump’s inauguration. This is the story of how Get Out got out…

Read the entire article here.

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Inside the Biracial Advertising Boom

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-02-12 02:34Z by Steven

Inside the Biracial Advertising Boom

The Daily Beast
2018-02-05

Hallie Golden
Salt Lake City, Utah


State Farm

Biracial couples and families are becoming increasingly common. Companies are using them in advertisements to reflect that reality, and to sell to those who value diversity.

Infiniti USA recently released an advertisement featuring a dad repeatedly heading out to grab more food for a holiday meal with his wife and two daughters.

First it’s sweet potatoes, then shrimp, and finally the wife takes over to get a pecan pie. It’s a fairly straightforward 30-second advertisement riffing off of the idea that the husband and wife love to drive their cars so much they look forward to these types of trivial errands.

The unique part has to do with the actors who play this adoring family: The father is white, the mother is black, and their teenage daughters are biracial.

By casting the ad in such a way, Infiniti has joined a growing list of companies selling everything from breakfast cereal to cars to clothing that portray the American family in TV advertisements as more than a single race.

But why are all these companies jumping on the diversity bandwagon?…

Read the entire article here.

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When It Comes To Diversity, The Fashion and Beauty Industry Are The Absolute Worst

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2018-02-11 04:32Z by Steven

When It Comes To Diversity, The Fashion and Beauty Industry Are The Absolute Worst

Medium
2018-02-09

Ezinne Ukoha


These are some of the top fashion magazine covers of 2017

Including the sexy magazines that can’t stand dark-skinned models with puffy hair

As a child — I endured the casual comments from family friends who couldn’t help expressing how much I looked like my mother with the exception of her lighter skin — which I unfortunately didn’t inherit. This practice of exaggerating how my dark-skin didn’t measure up continued with my boarding school mates — who once compared my looks to one of the popular girls — and concluded that even though we looked alike — she was prettier.

We did sort of resemble each other — but she wasn’t prettier. She was just light-skinned. That same rhetoric was responsible for the infatuation and fascination assigned to the biracial students who almost always won beauty competitions and anything else that required the adulation of their prized features.

Interestingly enough — I never pressured myself into sourcing ways to solve the issue of my dark skin — the way other Nigerian women have resolved to do — at the risk of their health. Skin bleaching was a dirty secret when I was growing up — because even though it was glaringly obvious that Mrs. Kalu was indulging in potent solutions that couldn’t quite penetrate her knuckles, elbows or feet — we had to act as if her new complexion wasn’t weird as fuck.

My mother did an excellent job boosting my ego — and as a result there was hardly a time when I stared at the mirror and imagined how much more desirable I would be if the gods had been a little more miserly with the strokes of deep chocolate.

However — when I moved to the States to pursue my college degree — I was greeted with hard truths of what it means to be a “regular Black girl” — during an era when such a disposition was guaranteed to get you nowhere — especially in industries that catered to fashion and entertainment…

Read the entire article here.

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Blasian Invasion: Racial Mixing in the Celebrity Industrial Complex

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Monographs on 2017-12-30 04:08Z by Steven

Blasian Invasion: Racial Mixing in the Celebrity Industrial Complex

University Press of Mississippi
2017-10-26
192 pages (approx.)
6 x 9 inches, index
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496814227

Myra S. Washington, Assistant Professor
Department of Communication and Journalism
University of New Mexico

An exposition of a dynamic, multiracial-racial identity

Myra S. Washington probes the social construction of race through the mixed-race identity of Blasians, people of Black and Asian ancestry. She looks at the construction of the identifier Blasian and how this term went from being undefined to forming a significant role in popular media. Today Blasian has emerged as not just an identity Black/Asian mixedrace people can claim, but also a popular brand within the industry and a signifier in the culture at large. Washington tracks the transformation of Blasian from being an unmentioned category to a recognized status applied to other Blasian figures in media.

Blasians have been neglected as a meaningful category of people in research, despite an extensive history of Black and Asian interactions within the United States and abroad. Washington explains that even though Americans have mixed in every way possible, racial mixing is framed in certain ways, which almost always seem to involve Whiteness. Unsurprisingly, media discourses about Blasians mostly conform to usual scripts already created, reproduced, and familiar to audiences about monoracial Blacks and Asians.

In the first book on this subject, Washington regards Blasians as belonging to more than one community, given their multiple histories and experiences. Moving beyond dominant rhetoric, she does not harp on defining or categorizing mixed race, but instead recognizes the multiplicities of Blasians and the process by which they obtain meaning. Washington uses celebrities, including Kimora Lee, Dwayne Johnson, Hines Ward, and Tiger Woods, to highlight how they challenge and destabilize current racial debate, create spaces for themselves, and change the narratives that frame multiracial people. Finally, Washington asserts Blasians as not only evidence for the fluidity of identities, but also for the limitations of reductive racial binaries.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • CHAPTER ONE: Theorizing Blasians
  • CHAPTER TWO: Birth of a Blasian
  • CHAPTER THREE: Modeling Race: Refashioning Blasianness
  • CHAPTER FOUR: “Because I’m Blasian” Tiger Woods, Scandal, and Protecting the Blasian Brand
  • CHAPTER FIVE: Sporting the Blasian Body
  • CONCLUSION: En-Blasianing the Future
  • Notes
  • Index
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