Posts from the ‘Controversy’ Category

Omar Thornton: Casualty of Racism?

From Afro Ink:

For anyone, white, black or otherwise, to walk into a business and murder the occupants, for any reason, is horrifying. No one goes to work expecting to be slaughtered, and my heart goes out to all the families touched by this tragedy.

But we don’t live on the “Little House on the Prairie“. Gone are the days of old fashioned wisdom and the prevailing of cooler heads. Today, we live in a volatile society. People murder each other over nothing, everyday. And it doesn’t take much to push people’s buttons. And if you add a sociopathic personality to that mix, you get a walking time-bomb.

Before the DC sniper shootings, the face of mass shooting culprit was often a white one, but when the shooter is black we rarely stop to think about how racism or discrimination played a role. I think it’s very possible that in the case of Omar Thornton it did–and recent stories have pointed to this fact. We should really have more conversations about Black people, racism, pathology, and sociopathic behavior. The connections could amaze you.

One could say “What does it matter? Innocent people were killed.” But without understanding the link between a violent act and outside factors that lead up to someone to go on a killing spree. That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if instead of asking these type of questions, the media is still focused on the “black man goes and kills people” angle. Sigh.

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Essence Hires a White Fashion Director

Yes, you read that right.

From Fishbowl NY:

The door continues revolving atEssence: now, the magazine has named Ellianna Placas as its new fashion director and Tasha Turner as its new senior beauty editor.

Placas will make her debut with the magazine’s 40th anniversary September issue and will oversee the conception and packaging of Essence‘s fashion coverage, feature stories and multi-platform packages. She began her career in publishing styling cover shoots for 0: The Oprah Magazine. Placas has also worked forUs WeeklyReal SimpleNew York,More and Life & Style.

Former Fashion Editor Michaela Angela Davis had some choice words to say about Essence’s recent decision on her Facebook Wall:

“It’s with a heavy heart I’ve learned Essence Magazine has engaged a white Fashion Director. I love Essence and I love fashion. I hate this news and this feeling. It hurts, literally. The fashion industry has historically been so hostile to black people–especially women. The 1 seat reserved for black women once held by Susan Taylor, Ionia Dunn-Lee, Harriette Cole(+ me) is now-I can’t. It’s a dark day for me. How do you feel?”

….

There is one precious seat at the fashion shows that says Essence the magazine for black women. When asked, “What is your unique perspective for black women?” How is that answered? Even if they got Anna Wintour herself (which editors inside Essence assure me she is NOT) it still would hurt. From a brand perspective there should be a unique lens through which information is filtered…at Essence it is believed that filter is black, female..connected through shared history and soul…I believe we’ve not come far enough for this move.

There’s already been a lot said about this story, so I’ll try to make my comments on this brief. Aside from the most obvious argument–that having a white fashion director at a black women’s magazine raises a few eyebrows–I have to make the point that not hiring Ms. Placas based solely on her race would have been discrimination. But furthermore, Essence has been white-owned for quite some time now, so how surprised can we really be?

I do worry about how having a white fashion editor at a magazine that is supposed to be devoted to the life and style of Black women will effect the magazine’s brand, as Clutch brings up in their write-up on the news.  What does it mean when a magazine for Black women sees fit to have a white fashion editor when there were so many other (black) candidates to choose from? What about her experiences positioned her to become the editor at a Black women’s magazine? And what will she do differently that a black editor wouldn’t have done?

On the other hand, maybe we can’t judge too harshly until we see what Placas does. I’ve heard this argument several times this week, but it’s hard when as a girl I looked to Essence to see images of black beauty and style and I remember wanting to be as regal and as beautiful as the women in the magazine. Essence fashion spreads made me embrace everything that black beauty was and could be.

What does it mean when a new fashion editor of the most popular black women’s magazine didn’t grow up with that experience?

Are Marriage rates trumping our Unemployment rates?

While the rest of the Black Blogosphere is still reeling from that Nightline Faceoff about why Successful Black Women Can’t Find a Man (I guess unsuccessful Black women fare better, whatever that means), I think we’re all failing to pay attention to a bigger issue: why successful Black women can’t find a job.

A friend of mine shared this NY Times chart that shows  how different groups are effecting certain groups of people. Depending on what group you select (Black Women, White men with a degree, Black men without, etc), it shows you the unemployment rate for that group.

For Black women of all levels of education, the unemployment rate is at 11 percent. What bothers me is the gap between White and Black women’s unemployment–the same chart showed that the unemployment rate is just under 6%.

Does anyone see a problem here?

It really does seem as though perhaps Black women are being passed up for jobs that are otherwise going to white women or men. But more troublesome is that we are so stuck on how single Black women are that we don’t stop and reflect on how unemployed we are, which whether we know it or not DOES effect our dating and relationship life; if you’re not gainfully employed, your focus won’t be on finding a man; most times you’re busy hustling trying to find a job that will afford you the time and the money to actually go out and meet someone. And yes, I do think unemployment is why so many Black men are single as well (but no one wants to discuss those numbers either).

Granted, it’s not a sexy topic at all and it’s not one people are writing books about or putting on panels about how Black women can find job. But to me, this is a much bigger issue than whether or not I’ll find a Black man to marry or whether I’ll marry my current partner. To hear other people tell it, you’d think being single and a Black woman was a crisis, but what bothers me is that being single is being presented as a crisis while our unemployment rates are hardly even whispered about. The Economist of all things had a whole article about why Black women are sooo single and yet no article about the fact that some of us can’t find a job? #iCant.

Even though I’ve recently found a new job,  but I went several months without finding something after being laid off in January. But just because I was able to find a job in three months doesn’t mean that there isn’t a Black woman out there who is still looking and wondering how she’ll pay her rent. Let’s deal with that situation instead of berating her for being single (or just not married).

#PRFail: Nestle is doing it all kinds of wrong

Check out BNet’s post:

About 10 hours ago, Chocolate-maker Nestle posted a seemingly innocent request on its Facebook page: Nestle fans, don’t use an altered version of the company’s logo as your profile pic, or your comments will be deleted. (I’m paraphrasing, but only a bit.)

The reaction from more than a few followers: Don’t tell us what to do, Big Brother! (Again, paraphrasing.) Nestle’s response: The logo is our intellectual property. This is our page, we set the rules. You don’t like it? There’s the door.

In other words, whoever mans Nestle’s Facebook page went on the offensive, responding to individual posters in a tone that was at times sarcastic or antagonistic.

Check out the rest of the story and accompanying screenshots here.

…I’m really hoping that a few heads roll for this one.

Did Desiree Rogers have a Personal Branding Problem?

I’m sure some of you saw my short vlog bidding Desire a farewell. While I still think DC will be a little less fabulous, a recent NY Times article made me re-think my position when it comes to the reasons for Desiree Rogers’ departure.

First, there was this opening paragraph:

Ms. Rogers had appeared in another glossy magazine, posing in a White House garden in a borrowed $3,495 silk pleated dress and $110,000 diamond earrings. But if the image was jarring in a time of recession, Mr. Axelrod was as bothered by the words and her discussion of “the Obama brand” and her role in promoting it, according to people informed about the conversation.

“The president is a person, not a product,” he was said to tell her. “We shouldn’t be referring to him as a brand.”

…But that’s the thing. The Obamas are a brand. While they may not be a product, there is a level of personal branding that was a part of both President Obama’s election campaign and now his presidency. And I realize that some people hate the idea of personal branding and that it’s taking away from the fact that we’re dealing with people and not products. But in my mind, the thing that makes personal branding so key is that it is about who you are as a person and the aspects about yourself that you want reflected in the public eye. I really believe that if Desiree Rogers wasn’t creating events that were reflecting the “Obama Brand”, they wouldn’t have happened.

Then the Salahis happened.

While I do believe that there’s a little bit of falling on the sword going on with Desiree’s departure, I think there was also the issue of balancing building her own personal brand and also still promoting the Obama brand and making that her top priority.

Here’s what I mean by that:

Ms. Rogers’s hip style, expensive clothing and presence at fashion shows at first were seen as symbolizing a new Camelot but ultimately struck many as tone deaf in a time of economic hardship and 10 percent unemployment.

The White House eventually clamped down on her public profile. She was ordered to stop attending splashy events and showing up in fancy clothes on magazine covers. When Michelle Obama learned one day that Ms. Rogers was on a train heading to New York to attend an MTV dinner, the first lady told her longtime friend to cancel, associates said.

When I read this, the first thing I thought was: Wait a minute. She was going to go to this MTV dinner without the White House’s permission and, moreover to a dinner that Michelle Obama wasn’t invited to? #iCant.

I realize that perhaps Desiree was trying to build relationships but the way to do that when you’re the White House Social Secretary is a.-to not be in a hurry to be in the limelight and b.-build relationships within DC. To my understanding, it seems as though the White House Social Secretary must have a knowledge of the way Washington works and it’s possible Desiree didn’t grasp hold of that knowledge. But more important, she may have been doing the #2 item on this list of how to get fired for building your personal brand: putting her own brand over the White House brand when it came to her own priorities.

Seems like a classic case of not balancing your brand with the company’s brand. And in that case, it easy to understand how Desiree could have gotten in trouble with that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still sad to see Dez go but I’m starting to understand how the idea of personal branding could have played a role in why she left.

Utah Bill will Criminalize Miscarriages

Yes, you are reading this right.

From RH Reality Check:

A bill passed by the Utah House and Senate this week and waiting for the governor’s signature, will make it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage, and make induced abortion a crime in some instances.

According Lynn M. Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, what makes Utah’s proposed law unique is that it is specifically designed to be punitive toward pregnant women, not those who might assist or cause an illegal abortion or unintended miscarriage.

The bill passed by legislators amends Utah’s criminal statute to allow the state to charge a woman with criminal homicide for inducing a miscarriage or obtaining an illegal abortion. The basis for the law was a recent case in which a 17-year-old girl, who was seven months pregnant, paid a man $150 to beat her in an attempt to cause a miscarriage. Although the girl gave birth to a baby later given up for adoption, she was initially charged with attempted murder. However the charges were dropped because, at the time, under Utah state law a woman could not be prosecuted for attempting to arrange an abortion, lawful or unlawful.

I don’ t really know what to say about this, except for the fact that it’s yet another policing of women’s bodies, especially when it comes to childbirth.

Black, Successful, and (not so) Unhappy

It’s taken me a long time to talk about the now-infamous Helena Andrews profile on Black Girl Blogging, because it made me so upset. Not because I think there is truth to how lonely, sad, and unlovable black women are, but because I know that there isn’t much truth to it to begin with.

What really sticks out to me are the lack of narratives about Black women who are happy for reasons other than finding and keeping a man. The “single, sad, lonely Black woman” meme assumes that without a man we can’t be happy and can’t even begin our search for happiness.

My black girl blogger-in-crime Rosetta Thurman has started a “happiness project” of her own called The Diary of a Happy Black Woman. A few nights ago on Twitter, she talked about why she has decided to embark on this new project.

I hadn’t thought about this angle of the story until I saw it mentioned in the above tweet. What really has annoyed me about the whole damn dialog about the poor, single Black women is that it not only paints all Black women as unlovable, but it also assumes that until we find a man we can’t be happy or fulfilled. It even pre-supposes that Black women should be perpetually unhappy.

Yes, there are Black women out there who are sad and who are lonely…and perhaps who are also angry. But those feelings often have very little to do with their marital status (or lack thereof). Many of us  can find ourselves feeling that way even after we’ve found the supposedly elusive relationship with a successful Black man. I should know: I was one of them for quite some time before ending my last immediate long-term relationship (another story entirely).

It’s true that I have since then started a new relationship with a new partner, but I spent the better part of 2009 getting back in tune with the things that make me happy outside of being with someone who liked me and cared about me and took me out on dates and stuff.

In 2009, I lost 42 pounds after getting back in touch with physical activities I love (yoga, dance, walking/jogging), and doing something else I loved too–cooking delicious, healthy meals. I explored new angles and avenues to the media career I have chosen for myself and began to carve my own niche. I traveled to different cities and went to some great conferences. I kept in touch with old friends and made new ones. And I did all of that despite not having  a boo by my side to witness me doing all of this. I did the “brave” thing and started last year without a relationship, having broken up with my then-boyfriend around this time last year. And I regret not one damn second of it.

My soror and friend Cheri had a great response to the profile on Helena Andrews, with whom she happened to have attended Columbia once upon a time:

She said “I’m a successful black woman” several times, listed off the things that validated the statement, and then says she isn’t happy. I know many women who describe themselves this way, and they too end up in that same place at the end of the sentence. “I’m a successful black woman, why can’t I find love or happiness?”

It might be worth while to go back to the beginning of the sentence and see where we made a wrong turn.

What is success? I’ve heard it described a number of ways: having a degree (or two), a house, a car, a job, the right clothes, and/or invites to the right parties. Some women define it as beginning married or having a child. But in many cases, all of this “success” is not accompanied with happiness.

If what you want is happiness, then are you really successful without it?

Someone along the way told us the work is done once you get the tools. We want a cake – so we get the eggs, sugar, and the flour…. but we leave them on the counter and go get ready for the club. We go out, drink, dance, have a good time, and wonder why we don’t have a cake with cute rose petal frosting details when we get back. We want the results but have not done the work.

In this first week of 2010, I’ve had the chance to think about what new things I want to do at Black Girl Blogging this year and in years to come. If there’s one thing Helena Andrews’s new book Bitch is the New Black and the accompanying profile in the Washington Post showed me, it was the need for more Black women telling their stories and having their stories told their way. Stay tuned and join me as I feature and highlight Black women (and a few men) who have made their lives and their work about a pursuit–or several pursuits–of happiness.