To be a person of some “other” identity, means being acutely aware that, at a default, you are perceived (and likely, treated) as “different.”
Instead of merely being ‘human’ like everyone else, your humanity tends to conjure several questions (and people probe earnestly): “does your skin get darker in the sun? Is that your real hair? Do you feel the same level of pain? How do you have sex? When did you know you weren’t like everyone else?
For me, accepting that I will be perceived differently as a Black woman is both a blessing and a curse. I learned early on to expect the worst from most people in terms of how they perceive me, so I don’t make myself a sponge to people’s discriminations and abhorrent sentiments. It’s a lonely space to be in, even when amongst other “like you,” but it also gives you an unwavering comfort that you will be ok no matter what. The world could give you the worst, and so be it–you’ll still be you. Your life could be cut short but, you still lived it (and hopefully, to the fullest). You may lose a lot externally, but what you gain internally can never be taken from you. Nonetheless, having to program yourself to believe this makes life’s difficulties a little easier to swallow, yet still a bit heartbreaking, as so many people simply don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes.
That’s why it’s especially refreshing to hear stories like your own that reassure you that it’s not all in your head–it’s real and hurtful; the unwelcoming energy, glares, microaggressions, and bold insults. All of it makes overcoming the adversity, let alone rising above it, an enormous feat. I celebrate the people who garner the will to do this despite being treated as “other,” especially those who are women. People like Kristina and Lise, two Black women breaking all kinds of barriers in the white-washed world of luxury fashion by their mere daring to exist within that space. I chatted with them both to encourage more people who aren’t from marginalized identities to advocate for those who are, whether it be in business or in life, there’s no limit to how we can uplift and empower one another, and especially, people striving every single day to be accepted.
This one is for anyone who seeks to understand more about how media works, and especially for the folks naive enough to believe the things they heard in a certain TV appearance I did around this time last year.
Being made into a caricature for a corporations gain is one of the nastiest experiences I’ve ever had, but I’m still here. it’s been hard reading the comments, peeping tweets, and knowing that even the people who you’ve been open with can so easily believe things they see on TV. so now, I’m having the final word, showing receipts, and using research to discuss how media has historically aimed to paint Black people and POC in a damaging light.
I’ve wanted to make this video for some time but honestly, the things that I’ve learned as of late, and some relationships had to end in or can go on and on about how racist society is and always has been, but that means nothing without identifying the structures in place and how they’re used by different entities, starting and ending with: media
I want to talk about my portrayal by a TV network who I won’t name, but if you need a hint, they’re most recent award show failed to garner more views than Brandy and Monica’s Verzuz battle.
I am saddened that it is still the norm for media to depict Black people–especially Black women, in ways that are detrimental to their public reception; and so I’m offering some analysis on the research behind that, in addition to my own experience.
I want to start this off by saying that the emotional labor I did to be part of this experience was beyond anything I’ve ever done for content, but I am never a victim, just a person with a lot of stories to tell. This is my truth, and some insider information, and since I’ll still be questioned for it, I, again, have done research on top of having lived experiences I can reference.
Let’s jump in by figuring out how media’s influence affects the way people of other races view and interact with each other:
Nancy Yang Wuen’s report, HOW RACIAL STEREOTYPES IN POPULAR MEDIA AFFECT PEOPLE — AND WHAT HOLLYWOOD CAN DO TO BECOME MORE INCLUSIVE, found that “beyond specific effects on particular groups of viewers, racial images packaged as entertainment can skew the way all viewers understand and categorize people.”
And, “the media’s tendency to fuel racial misperceptions can contribute to public support for harsher punishments for people of color.”
Imagine just trying to de stress and seeing the character who looks like you always being disrespected and shat on the way Hilary Duff was by her stepmother in A Cinderella Story. IMAGINE! That’s my life as a BW, and it’s constant because of how much media I consume.
It’s not surprising that, “prolonged television exposure predicts a decrease in self-esteem for all girls and for black boys, but an increase in self-esteem for white boys. These differences correlate with the racial and gender practices in Hollywood, which predominantly casts white men as heroes, while erasing or subordinating other groups as villains, sidekicks, and sexual objects.”
My own experience on TV consisted of being villainized, and made into a welfare queen, who somehow, someway, asked to borrow $100k to pay for a grad program that costs €13,800 or approximately $16,169.53.
So…how did we get there? Where? When? Why that portrayal? Racism.
Other things that I saw, in hindsight, was that they sought to use used for white character’s development
Being asked to “teach my friend why it was wrong of her to vote for this dangerously, incompetent president.” I, the person who experiences racism in their everyday life in some form or fashion, needs to make myself available to do more emotional labor??
How about this person looks in the mirror? How about this person considers why it’s wrong to vote for an overt racist? How is helping her do either of those thing my burden?
I’m unsure if the producers also positioned one of the hosts, another Black woman, to criticize me for not doing more emotional labor for a white woman, or if she put herself up to that, but either way, it was disgusting. Nonetheless, she still stepped into that role to “do her job,” so there’s still accountability to be had here.
Now that I think of it, this experience consisted of not one, but two Black women criticizing me for not “teaching my friend wrong from right,” more or less. You can figure out the other one, she was a news anchor, I really respected her then, but now…that’s another story.
It’s not uncommon to see Black women playing this role: which invites the white gaze to share in that criticism, then reinforcing the idea that it’s ok for white people to not just form these opinions, but to rely them. It also serves to absolve white people of white guilt…“Yeah…I voted for T*um* too, why is it so bad to sTaRt A cOnVeRsAtIoN about it instead of cutting me out of your life? I voted for someone who was open about their hatred for you during their campaign, and now has cemented that hate into various harmful policies, but, like, aren’t we friends? Don’t friends talk??”
There are so many examples of this in the mainstream: Oprah, unfortunately, has done this to many Black women, namely, Toni Braxton:
This feels way too familiar. The gaslighting. The cruelty. It’s upsetting to watch.
But, let’s back up and talk about how these trends have been used in media from its very inception:
A report by NARISSRA M. PUNYANUNT-CARTER shows that historically, “media often portrays African Americans in occupational roles, such as servants, a crooks, cooks, an entertainer, a musician, a sad non-White person, an exhibitionist, an athlete, or a corrupt individual.”
“Black females were typically perceived as low achievers and white females were typically perceived as less dominant than Black female counterparts. She also discovered that the viewers’ perception of a white character on a Black program, such as The Jeffersons was not positive. Reid argued that such perceptions regarding Black and white females are due to the stereotypic images that are portrayed on television.”
“Performing a content analysis of 139 television series, Donagher et al. (1975) found that… white people were more likely to be victims than Black people.”
“Cultivation theory states that our perceptions of reality are ‘‘cultivated’’ or developed by what we view in the media (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorelli, 1986); it offers an explanation for the way individuals organize social reality and make social judgments of the world (Perse, 1986).
Punyunant-Carter also states that “cultivation theory is also the basis for the expectation that media exposure is linked to perceptions of African Americans; it also shows that there is no linear relationship between television and its viewers; rather, it is a continuous process among messages and contexts.”
…Meaning that “watching television is unique to the individual because of certain lifestyles and cultural norms. In other words, one television program may make a person cry, but the same program can encourage a person to kill. At the same time, cultivation is based on individuals’ perceptions of realism of television portrayals.”
Ask yourself…do I believe that what I see on TV is indicative of real life? Or, can I not believe everything on TV because it is not indicative of real life? That will help you determine your perception of realism of TV portrayals.
A report titled “The Role of the Media in the Construction of Public Belief and Social Change,” study by Catherine Happer and Greg Philo found, “media also severely limit the information with which audiences understand [social] issues and that alternative solutions to political problems are effectively removed from public debate. We found other evidence of the way in which media coverage can operate to limit understanding of possibilities of social change.”
“In summary, many programs do not display Black people in very positive roles (Greenberg & Brand, 1994). Instead, African American portrayals on tele- vision often focus more on reaffirming negative stereotypes (Rada, 2000). Yet, the media shape and influence public perceptions of African Americans.”
Takeaway: everything we see on TV is formulated to fit an agenda that is rarely rooted in truth, but to get ratings.
If you’ve watched Paris Hilton’s documentary, you see her openly admit to playing a caricature of herself on “reality TV,” and that’s exactly what that enter landscape is: a bunch of different caricatures operating in settings meant to dupe viewers into believing.
Why? Ratings! When you have high ratings you can sell people stuff on a large scale, and even if it’s complete crap, they’ll buy it. That’s the point of going on reality TV to sell people tangible items or ideas.
And outside of reality TV, we naively think that things get better when realistically, even your local news channels operate on a formula, let alone your mainstream news: they prioritize coverage on natural disasters or scandals, any crime that can be sensationalized, and the obscure are prioritized. No where on that list is the aim to inform, so I’ll let you decide what priority that takes. All I can say is, don’t fall for the bait.
A place where policies that worsen wealth disparities are instituted by an administration that touts ‘major economic growth,’ benefitting the top 10%, whilst millions of Americans teeter on the brink of eviction, hunger, or joblessness.
America’s racism is in Supreme Court decisions; the air and the water; and it’s pastimes. And it’s in you too. One thorough vibe check would show us the insincerity of the this-isn’t-who-we-are’s, when all signs strongly point to what America is, and always has been: the home of unabashed racism.
“Even the Nazis did not stoop to selling souvenirs of Auschwitz, but lynching scenes became a burgeoning sub department of the postcard industry. By 1908, the trade had grown so large, and the practice of sending postcards featuring the victims of mob murderers had become so repugnant, that the U.S. Postmaster General banned the cards from the mails.”
Lockdown has pushed me into developing several new interests, some of them, very delicious, and others, seemingly pointless–or, so I thought, initially. Long story short, the Instagram accounts of the least interesting characters of Love Island have helped me to confirm my long-running theory:
White Europeans are blind to Europe’s massive racism problem.
OK? Now, let’s break down how we got here (prepare to pray for me in 3, 2, 1). Sans my Love Island fix, I’m following more former Islanders on Instagram; and because of that, my discover page shows posts from the ones who fell through the cracks. Does that mean something? It didn’t until I started noticing a peculiar pattern. Being?An absence of black squares. Meaning? Absolutely nothing to the untrained eye, and the untrained eye only–but, EYE, am a professional, luv.
After I identified my (aforementioned) hypothesis, I quickly differentiated between my control group, the Islanders who posted nothing, and, my experimental group, the Islanders who posted black squares. And while testing my hypothesis, like the damn good scientist et investigateur that I am, I observed something that unearthed it all: within several captions, the words, I stand with America, or some variation of the sort. WTF does that really tell us though? British people, like so many other Europeans, are failing to call out the racism that exists in their very backyard.
Years of visiting, vacationing, or working in cities like Milan, Paris, London, Amsterdam, all the way down to the island of Ibiza, have revealed to me Europeans’ genuine belief that racism isn’t nearly as bad in Europe as it is in the United States. Some Europeans have fallen so deep into the Kool Aid, that they even believe that racism is nearly non-existent in Europe. If you’re one of them, I need you to understand this;
When Black people hear you say, “Europe doesn’t really have the same race issues that exist in America,” we say the name Phillip Mbuji Johansen,
We think of the racist actions of the UK government that lead to The Grenfell Tower Fire. We think of reports that a dozen cops in Rouen, France, exchanging a series of white supremacist messages in a WhatsApp group in late 2019; and of the StreetPress’ exposé, “uncovering a private Facebook group of eight thousand, French, law enforcement members from across the country, in which police regularly exchanged racist commentary.”
you should know that the history of racism across Europe is well-documented, although, significant erasure has taken place.
Anti-Black, German propaganda
Most Europeans are unaware of the human zoos, or “ethnological exhibitions,” that displayed Black people in cities like Hamberg, Berlin, Paris, Riga, Bern, Bucharest, Warsaw, Antwerp, Barcelona, London, Milan, and more well into the 1960s.
"The World’s Fair, in 1889 was visited by 28 million people, who
lined up to see 400 indigenous people as the major attraction.
The 1900 World’s Fair followed suit, as did the Colonial Exhibitions
in Marseilles (1906 and 1922) and in Paris (1907 and 1931) which
displayed naked or semi-naked humans in cages. Paris saw 34 million
people attend their exhibition in six months alone."
Most Europeans don’t know the name of Ota Benga who was put on display at The Bronx Zoo in 1904.
According to reports, “the card outside the exhibit read: Age, 23 years. Height, 4 feet 11 inches. Weight 103 pound. Brought from the Kasai River, Congo Free State, South Central Africa, By D. Samuel P Verner. Exhibited each afternoon during September.”
"Black soldiers of the American, French, and British Armies were
worked to death on construction projects or died as a result of
mistreatment in concentration or prisoner-of-war camps. Others were
never even incarcerated, but were instead immediately killed by the
SS or Gestapo. Black prisoners received harsher treatment and less
food than white POWs, and whilst most white POWs were imprisoned,
many of the black soldiers either worked until they died or were
Sweeping these atrocities ‘under the rug’ doesn’t make them any less real, heartbreaking, violent, and racist. So, white Europeans, I beg:
stop allowing the horrors, and the Americanness of police brutality to distract you from dismantling the racism that is killing and oppressing the Black people who call Europe home.
In this deeply racist society, it’s simply not enough for you to “not be racist;”
It’s not enough for you to treat me with the respect I deserve;
It’s not enough for you to open your home to me, and your other Black friends;
It’s not enough for you to know what’s happening;
It’s not enough for you to be and to be ‘outraged;’
It’s not enough for you to know the history of racism in this country, or even, of every other country on the face of this Earth;
It’s not enough for you to read Angela Davis;
It’s not enough for you to know Malcolm X;
It’s not enough for you to walk in Black Live Matter protests;
It’s not enough for you to recognize your White Privilege;
It’s not enough for you to know how capitalism is inherently racist;
It’s not enough for you to repent for the sins of Whiteness: multiplying the number of Nat Turner’s, Emmett Till’s, and Henrietta Lack’s;
It’s not enough for you to be actively antiracist;
It’s not enough for you to hold your White counterparts accountable;
It’s not enough for you to unlearn your racism;
None of it is enough when you remain silent about it.
White supremacy doesn’t end by you doing your antiracist work in the shadows. White supremacy doesn’t end by you not making it inherently clear that you are antiracist. Again, and again, and again. Until you’re blue in the face. Anything less than making your antiracist action known to your white friends and white family is violence. Anything less than you normalizing talking about race with your white friends and white family is violence. Anything less than you continuously shouting from the rooftops how white people can unlearn their racism, and how white people can contribute to dismantling white supremacy is violence.
And your violence is no longer acceptable to me.
I’ve endured years of your silence. I’ve seen you consume every inch of Black culture except for the death that comes with it. Through the years, I’ve heard chorus upon chorus of your thoughts on the latest Black dance, win by your favorite majority-Black sports team, Twitter beef between your favorite Black celebrities, or clothing drop from your favorite streetwear brand that routinely coopts trends started by Black people. And throughout the years, I’ve heard your deafening silence when police killed Trayvon Martin, Clifford Glover, Claude Reese, Randy Evans, Yvonne Smallwood, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Jordan Davis, Jonathan Ferrell, Ezell Ford, Darius Pinex, Ramarley Graham, Yvette Smith, Darrien Hunt, Timothy Russell, Malissa Williams, Kendrick McDade, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, Aiyana Jones, John Crawford, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Stephon Watts, Rekia Boyd, Trisha Miller, Dakota Bright, Corey Harris, Larry Jackson Jr., Tarika Wilson, John Crawford, Gary Hatcher, Manuel Loggins Jr., Nicholas Hayward, Kathryn Johnston, Samuel Dubose, Freddie Gray, The Charleston 9, Sandra Bland, Corey Jones, Alton Sterling, Roshad McIntosh, Ronald Madison, Joel Acevedo, Philando Castile, Patrick Dorismond, Jordan Baker, Timothy Stanbury, Terrence Crutcher, Keith Scott, Jordan Edwards, Stephon Clark, Bothem Sean, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd.
I’ve endured your silence all 60+ chances you’ve had to speak out. I’ve endured watching you take zero of those chances, and still resolving to calling yourself my ‘friend.’ “Maybe they’re waiting for the next one?” I used to wonder. But, now I know that your silence means that you don’t see the perpetual violence against Blackness as your problem.
And it’s laughable.
Have you not lived this life in community with so many people? The next time your friend’s family member is sick, will you not console them? Will you not congratulate the next family member of yours who gives birth? Will you not check in on your friend who attended a funeral? Or, console the next one who has their heart broken? …Oh, I’m mistaken? You’ll be there for them? Even though none of those things directly have anything to do with you?
So, then, why the fuck are you not avidly fighting to make Black Lives Matter?