Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the people who criticize black actors do not understand the business… They think we have more control than we have. They think we have access to these scripts that show us as scientific, beautiful, dark-skinned women over the age of 40 having great sex lives… and we choose not to take those scripts.
“If you’re a white man, your drug addiction is romanticized. If you’re a black woman, all you ever contributed to the world is ‘crack whoredom’. White men get to be tortured artists, but black women aren’t even considered artists, cause everybody can do what Whitney did, right? Nothing special about that.” - Jukebox Jones (courtesy of Son of Baldwin)
“Willow Smith, you’re 11 years old. Nobody needs advice about ‘being themselves’ from you. Call us back when you get your period” was tweeted and retweeted hundreds of times last night and Monday morning.
Considering what black children learn about blackness, subtly and openly, in the media and in American culture, don’t we want them to have the strength and resilience to say, “I am not your stereotype, but I am me”? Don’t we want them to feel comfortable in their skin? Don’t we want black children to be as free as other children? Don’t we want to inoculate little girls against the onslaught of shitty messages about black femaleness?Perhaps we don’t.
I can’t help but set reaction to Willow Smith next to the plethora of young male performers who brag about swag and girls and money without raising so much as an eyebrow. But a little black girl sings “your validation is not that important to me,” and all hell breaks loose.
Much reaction to Willow Smith also confirms the way women are expected to perform femininity. One person live tweeting the BET Awards offered that Willow Smith was “turning into a little lesbian,” and that wasn’t the only message speculating on the 11-year-old’s sexuality or questioning her gender. Another tweeter snarked that rapper Tyga and Willow are one in the same.
There would be nothing wrong If Willow were to identify as a lesbian or a boy, but what narrow parameters are we placing on girls and women if simply wearing our hair short, sporting a button down over skinny jeans, and daring to mount a skateboard dictates all anyone needs to know about who we are and who we love?
What’s the problem? If I had a little girl, I would be excited as all get out if she were like Willow Smith. I wish I had been more like Willow at 11. (But then, I don’t have multimillionaire parents, which makes some difference, yes?) We lament the presence of strong role models for our children. They could certainly do a lot worse than idolizing a seemingly smart, engaging, self-assured, quirky black girl. That so many of us don’t recognize that says a lot about our society — none of it good. | The Willow Text: What the Reaction to Willow Smith Says About Us (x)
Also, she’s adorable. My god.
You might be participating in hipster anti-racism if….
- You offer “snaps” or props to the criticisms your PoC friends present of other white folks, but find yourself participating in many of the behaviors being criticized. You enter conversations about race armed with a lot of vocabulary that may make the dialog inaccessible to newcomers.
- You also often find yourself speaking first in these spaces. In all white spaces and events you participate in, you ask the question “why are there no people of color here right now?” instead of “what am I and others doing that might be consistently alienating to people of color?”
- You find yourself often advocating the most “radical” position in the room and are indignant when others propose that this position might be impractical or inaccessible on the basis of race, class, or other factors.
Click the title for the full post!
Recommended reading: “In other words, hipster anti-racism, like much of hipsterdom, is defined by its appropriation and lack of historicity.”
It somehow became an article of faith on the right that Obama is ‘the most extreme President in American history.’ Although when they say that, I think what they really mean is, ‘He’s black.’
I maintain that every civil rights bill in this country was passed for white people, not for black people. For example, I am black. I know that. I also know that while I am black I am a human being. Therefore I have the right to go into any public place. White people don’t know that. Every time I tried to go into a public place they stopped me. So some boys had to write a bill to tell that white man, “He’s a human being; don’t stop him.” That bill was for the white man, not for me. I knew I could vote all the time and that it wasn’t a privilege but my right. Every time I tried I was shot, killed or jailed, beaten or economically deprived. So somebody had to write a bill to tell white people, “When a black man comes to vote, don’t bother him.” That bill was for white people.
This interviewer is a condescending jackass, my god. I want to leap through the screen and shake him.
So the federal government has placed the Attawapiskat community in far northern Ontario under the control of a third-party auditor after it was made loudly public that the government had failed in its duties to provide a social safety net to the residents. This is obviously a shameful failure on the part of our political leadership - but of course, instead of admitting their fault, the government’s response has been to claim that the Attawapiskat First Nations government has been somehow incompetent or corrupt and has failed to adequately disburse the resources granted to them by the government.
However, this is an easy claim to verify, since all of the Attawapiskat First Nations financial records are publicly available online, including independent financial audits. These records are not perfect; the auditors note some concerns with budget compilation and appropriate storage of meeting minutes, among other issues. In terms of financial records, though, auditors have declared the books to be consistent, and declared that “the audit evidence we have obtained is sufficient and appropriate to provide a basis for our audit opinion”. So we can reasonably stipulate that these documents provide a good basis for assessing how the Attawapiskat First Nation has been doing, right? Anyway, here’s how things look.
- Salaries and expenses - One of the most noxious tropes right now is that the First Nations leadership is grossly overpaid, and that the chief is making millions of dollars while everyone else suffers. This is of course ridiculous, since First Nations governments are not endowed with the absolute and autocratic powers that would enable this. In the case of Attawapiskat First Nation, the chief is earning approximately $70,000 per year, and other council members between $20,000 and $30,000. Is this reasonable? Hard to tell, since data on comparable communities is not available - but the chief here is earning far less, and the councillors are earning somewhat less, than small cities in Interior BC. At any rate, these are definitely not lavish pay levels for government officials.
- Service provision - What is the Attawapiskat First Nation actually spending money on? Primarily, education. It’s about half their budget, which makes perfect sense for a community with a high proportion of children. The CMHC (which is a Crown corporation dealing with housing services - among other things, it backs mortgages and subsidizes on-reserve housing) is providing a relatively small housing budget for a community with such a severe housing crisis. Also, the Attawapiskat First Nation owes substantial debts to the CMHC (more on this later).
- Missing funds - Is the money the Attawapiskat First Nation is receiving going towards service provision? Definitely. More than 99% of the funding was fully accounted for. This is a perfectly respectable record for any government, and especially a government that operates on a relatively small scale (with 1800 residents) and has relatively limited in-house accounting capacity. This is definitely not the source of Attawapiskat’s problem whatsoever.
- Debt levels - How much of its budget is the Attawapiskat First Nation spending on interest payments? As it turns out, quite a bit, and this is really important. Among other loans, they owe well over a million dollars to BMO, and hundreds of thousands to TD Canada Trust, Wells Fargo, and Great Northern Life. Many of these loans are charging incredibly high interest rates; for example, the Wells Fargo capital lease (which appears to be on a garbage truck) is at 10.45% interest rate, which is extremely high for a government. At the same time, there are several outstanding loans from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which tend to have more reasonable interest rates but still represent large interest payments through to the 2030s. This totals to well over $700,000 in debt service per year! For comparison, the federal government spent $150,000 on economic development last year. In a community of 1800 with few sources of income, these debt payments are wholly unsustainable.
- Government dependence - The Attawapiskat First Nation government depends on the federal and provincial governments for almost two-thirds of its funding, and those levels of support are not even sufficient for maintaining current conditions. Certainly they are wholly insufficient for developing sufficient economic enterprise in Attawapiskat for the local government not to rely on (largely discretionary) external support to continue to operate as a going concern. This is clearly unreasonable.
So clearly the problem here is not that the Attawapiskat First Nation government has squandered away huge amounts of money. The problem is that they are in dire poverty, and they’ve been making entirely reasonable decisions to try to alleviate that poverty, but their situation is not improving over time and now they’re losing the capacity to provide basic services.
What could the government of Canada be doing to help fix this? Because to be clear, the status quo is totally unsustainable, and the fact that the federal government has known about the situation for years and done nothing about it is unacceptable. Here are some policy alternatives that the government might want to consider in the immediate future:
- Give the CMHC the funding to erase the debt incurred by the Attawapiskat First Nation government, immediately. It’s clear that the Attawapiskat First Nation government totally lacks the resources to meet these debt obligations and at the same time provide livable housing for its constituents, despite its good-faith efforts at service delivery. Does this lead to some moral hazard, where other First Nations governments will let their housing decay to totally unlivable levels in the hopes of loan forgiveness? Absolutely not, because absolutely no one would ever want to live in such conditions under any circumstances. Seriously, erase this debt immediately.
- Assist the Attawapiskat First Nation government in rengotiating their debt payments to BMO, TD Canada Trust, Wells Fargo, and Great West Life, because the interest rates on all these debts are unsustainably high. If necessary, offer guarantees on future debt to reduce interest rates. The total cost of such a guarantee would probably be around 10% of the cost of the G20 gazebos, so this is probably a worthwhile investment.
- Sink some serious cash into developing these remote northern Ontario reserves so that they have income sources beyond government financing. Is this going to be tricky for Attawapiskat? Well, yeah - it’s way out on Hudson Bay far from any other settlement. Is it possible for such a remote town to diversify its economy? Sure, if they can borrow money and technical expertise from the government to develop port facilities or accommodations or electrical generation or any other revenue sources.
- Let First Nations governments access the bond market more easily. Currently, it’s planned for First Nations governments to be able to access the bond market through the First Nations Finance Authority, with the backing of the First Nations Financial Management Board. These are both brand-new institutions, since the enabling legislation was only instituted in October. The FNFA is an excellent First Nations-led effort to lower borrowing costs for First Nations government; however, it has approximately five staff members, and would almost certainly benefit from a federal grant. In particular, it would be optimal if the FNFA had the resources to extend its focus beyond BC.
I’m not even going to pretend this is a comprehensive list of policies the federal government could consider, and obviously none of this addresses the short-term reality that there are people who are forced by economic and institutional deprivation to live in tents in northern Ontario through the winter. Obviously that has to be addressed as well, and addressed with more concrete measures than promises of audits and funding reviews.
Incidentally, click through on the picture above, and then scroll down to the slide show of photos of Attawapiskat, and then be pretty effing ashamed that citizens of one of the richest and most smoothly-run countries in the world are actually living in those conditions.
This is a great post.
YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEVER SEE? NEOCON LEGISLATORS AND HEDGE FUND OPERATORS OPENLY ATTACKING THE TEA PARTY OR FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIANS OR ANY OF THE OTHER RADICAL CONSERVTIVE GROUPS THAT GRAB ALL THE HEADLINES. YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE NOTHING THEY’RE DOING HARMS THE OVERALL AGENDA OF DEREGULATION AND CORPORATE GREED. THEY USE THOSE PEOPLE TO EITHER BOLSTER THEIR NUMBERS OR DISTRACT FROM WHAT THEY’RE DOING AND IN THE END THEY ALWAYS GET WHAT THEY’RE AFTER.
LIBERALS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVISTS SPEND ALMOST ALL OF THEIR TIME INFIGHTING AND BICKERING OVER WHOSE CAUSE IS MORE IMPORTANT OR WHO’S SAYING THINGS THE “RIGHT” WAY AND NOTHING EVER GETS ACCOMPLISHED. THEY ATTACK LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE WHO AREN’T HURTING THEIR CAUSES OR ARE AT LEAST HURTING THEM LESS THAN A MILLION OTHER ACTUAL THREATS BECAUSE ONLY LIKE-MINDED LIBERALS GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THOSE CAUSES AND PEOPLE IN THE FIRST PLACE. TELL THE AVERAGE OBAMA-HATING REDNECK TO CHECK HIS PRIVILEGE SOMETIME AND SEE WHERE IT GETS YOU. TELL THE BOARD AT BANK OF AMERICA THEY DON’T PAY ENOUGH ATTENTION TO PEOPLE OF COLOR WHEN THEY’RE SIPHONING A COUPLE BILLION FROM THE FED. YOU SEE MORE ANTI-O.W.S. LITERATURE FROM SOCIAL JUSTICE MAJORS THAN YOU DO FROM CONSERVATIVE NEWSPAPERS.
THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT ISN’T FIGHTING RACIAL DISCRIMINATION OR THE PATRIARCHY. THEY’RE FIGHTING RICH ASSHOLES WHO HAVE STOLEN MONEY FROM EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY AND THE LAWMAKERS WHO HAVE HELPED THEM DO SO. OF COURSE FEMINIST AND MINORITY CAUSES ARE IMPORTANT, BUT INSTEAD OF LETTING O.W.S. FOCUS ON WHAT IT’S ABOUT, WHICH IS GETTING MONEY OUT OF POLITICS AND ENDING ECONOMIC DISPARITY IN AMERICA, IT’S EATEN FROM WITHIN BY PEOPLE IT WOULD BENEFIT, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER THING “THE LEFT” TRIES TO ACCOMPLISH, BECAUSE “THE LEFT” CAN’T LEARN TO AGREE TO DISAGREE LONG ENOUGH TO ACCOMPLISH ANYTHING WHILE “THE RIGHT” JUST ROLLS ALONG MERRILY, GETTING WHAT IT WANTS IN BITS AND PIECES BY USING THE TOOLS (AKA PEOPLE) IT HAS AT HAND. I MEAN, JESUS, THE TEA PARTY PEOPLE WERE SITTING AROUND, UNINSURED, ARGUING AGAINST SOCIALIZED HEALTH CARE. THAT’S SOME AMAZING PUPPETEERING ON THE PART OF THOSE IN POWER, BUT ALSO SOMETHING WE MIGHT WANT TO THINK ABOUT. CAN THE BILLIONS OF LEFTIST SPLINTER GROUPS GO AGAINST THEIR OWN SELF-INTEREST LONG ENOUGH TO ACCOMPLISH A SINGLE UNIVERSALLY BENEFICIAL GOAL?
ONE STEP AT A TIME. USE THE ANGRY STRAIGHT WHITE PEOPLE TO GET THE MUCH SHITTIER STRAIGHT WHITE PEOPLE OUT OF POWER, THEN GO FROM THERE. IF THE MOVEMENT IS SUCCESSFUL THERE WILL BE LESS MONEY IN POLITICS FROM THE SUPER-RICH, ALLOWING ACTUAL PRODUCTIVE LEGISLATION TO PASS BECAUSE IT WON’T BE BEING INFLUENCED OR COCKBLOCKED BY THE ELITE. SURE, IT’S NOT INSTANT UTOPIA BUT IT’S BETTER THAN THE CURRENT SYSTEM, AND IT WOULD REPLACE PEOPLE WHO WILL NEVER GIVE A SHIT ABOUT THE ISSUES THAT AFFECT MINORITY GROUPS WITH PEOPLE WHO AT LEAST MIGHT.
MAYBE THE ANSWER ISN’T “SMASH THE STATE” BUT “CHIP AWAY AT THE STATE, STEADILY, PIECE BY PIECE, USING THE STATE AGAINST ITSELF, UNTIL WE HAVE A NEW STATE.” THAT’S HOW THEY BUILT IT, AFTER ALL. ONE BRICK AT A TIME.
… OR WE COULD JUST KEEP ARGUING WITH EACH OTHER. THAT SEEMS TO BE WORKING.
Who’s a pretty birdie? You are! Listen to your little chirpies!
I HOPE YOU AND THAT NAPKIN YOU CALL A SHIRT ARE TRAPPED IN A FIRE.
I normally love you, atiac, but no. just no. people of color are not required to support a movement that has explicitly shown that it does not understand or care about our issues just because it someday might. if a movement does not specifically work toward ending racial discrimination, it will inevitably reproduce the same racist hierarchies of dominant society. OWS isn’t about equality or egalitarinism; it’s about preserving white middle-class privilege.
Also, there have ALWAYS been revolutions that let privileged people get to the top only to have them forget about everybody else.
There must be a multiplicity and diversity of priorities in order to really fix the system.
So, basically, the OP was only good for being an example of What Not To Do, filed under the subcategory of Please Shut The Fuck Up And Sit The Fuck Down. A copy of it has been added to the section of Embarrassment in Intersectionality. When the digital databank of White People Are So Much Work (h/t @crossedwires) is fully functional, you may be assured this exemplary piece will be cataloged accordingly.
Thank you for your efficient filing system!
wow ATIAC, this is some serious bullshit. I mean, I agree that the left is always busy in-fighting and never getting shit done and that is a problem. But when the scenario goes:
White People: ARRRR! Angry! Let’s get some shit done, yarrr!!!
POC: Awesome, we are with you! Let’s get shit done and let’s do it in a not-racist way!
White People: ARG look, we can’t be worried about not being racist because the shit we got to do is very important and all consuming! Just wait a little bit and we’ll work on being not racist later. Let’s be a little racist right now. But we’ll definitely, maybe get to not being later when we’ve accomplished the bigger, more important goal!
POC: … nevermind, we’re not down with this racism. Not even a little.
White People: GOD, YOU’RE ALL SUCH HATERS.
The above? Is a problem. Why is it so hard for white people to commit to being not racist while also taking down the evil rich corporations and 1% people? POC are routinely asked to walk and chew gum and spin plates and recite the Declaration of Independence, but white people can’t even seem to chew gum right.
Here’s the bottom line: gender equality and racial equality are not separate from the goals of OWS. They are parallel goals, all intertwined with each other. If your movement cannot manage to not be racist or pursue their goals in a not racist way, then there is something wrong with your movement. It should not be hard to fight against corporate greed and not be a douchebag to people who are your allies, yet many at OWS can’t do it. Think about why that might be.
Awesome commentary is awesome.