by Sara Ahmed I am responding as one of the two ‘brown academics’ referred to in the article published here yesterday ‘Black – Political vs Ethnic’. I welcome the opportunity to discuss […]
by Karl Sharro Yesterday a report was published by the National Academy of Sciences warning that even major wars and catastrophes won’t curb population growth. Good news, you might think, we are […]
by Nathan E Richards Next month Goldsmiths University is to host an event on black feminism, with two guests from the institution to speak on this important topic – the event is […]
The landmark Brown vs Board of Education decision in 1954 prohibited racial segregation of public schools in the USA concluding that ‘in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.’ So began the formal process of educational desegregation that would eventually lead to the broader Civil Rights Acts in the mid-1960s outlawing segregation and discrimination across a range of spheres. These victories were won not only in the courts, but also on the streets.
You’re not to know this about me, but I hate Halloween. I always have done. Even when I participated in ‘trick or treat’ on a couple of occasions when I was a child, I was secretly wishing I was back home controlling the adventures of Super Mario on my old NES.
But my problems with Halloween go beyond any individual dislike of crowds of people and dressing up. While many look forward to this time of year – some of my friends among them – this is often a frustrating and enraging time for people of colour.
A new ideology has reared its head in our “post racial” century and we have labelled it colour blind. The doctrine rests on the idea that we no longer see colour, just people. We no longer “see” race but may choose to characterise a person by their gender, perhaps even the colour of their hair or eyes but never race. The doctrine’s appeal is that it supposedly counteracts racism. I would contest that opinion. If colourblindness developed out of the desire to be more politically correct then I would say we have in fact become the complete opposite. If colour blindness developed out of a desire to suppress racism then I would say it does nothing but fuel it.
TV Channel Globo, one of the largest television networks in Brazil, is broadcasting a series called “Sexo e as Nega”. The series is an adaptation of Sex and the City, but this time with four Black actresses. The series has been written by the famous White actor, writer and producer Miguel Fallabella.
The very title of the series is itself hugely problematic, not only because race is the primary signifier of the women, but also because the terms are full of racist and gendered connotations, such as the venacular Brazilian expression “I’m not your niggaz “. In racist discourses, Black women are those who work for sex, while the white woman is the woman who is worthy of romantic love, kindness and respect.
While the statistics may suggest otherwise, my own personal experience is that the creative industry has always been a relatively level playing field – where ‘race’ is overtaken by ‘revenue’ every time. If you have the creative talent and commercially exploitable skills, then colour doesn’t come into it.
However, the problem is getting your foot in the door to showcase your skills in the first place. In a world where ‘who you know’ can make a world of difference, that’s not so easy if you don’t know anyone in the industry. And this is where the issue of ‘under-representation’ is a major problem.
It is easy to wonder why those who are not white cannot connect as readily with white characters if it is your identity that has systematically monopolised standard templates for fiction and more: White, the go-to-guy. Perhaps this was Mathew Klickstein’s problem when his interview with Flavorwire took a turn for the absolute worst. Promoting Night of Nickelodeon Nostalgic Nonsense! for which he was event moderator, the resentment for a pitiful handful of TV characters who were not white, took grip and dominated a horrendous read. “That show is awkward,” he said of Sanjay and Craig, “because there’s actually no reason for that character to be Indian.”
While schools may mark Black History Month, it is important to remember that we cannot rely on them to teach us about black history.
There are other avenues, resources and people that can provide us with an abundance of knowledge, particularly during this month.
One example is Filmmaker and founder of Visionnary Arts, Troy James Aidoo who to mark Black History Month has created a short film series titled More Than Melanin.