Beyond Black & White » Living http://www.beyondblackwhite.com Chronicles, Musings and Debates about Interracial & Intercultural Relationships Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:52:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2 Why Is Ben Affleck Scared for the Public to Know His Ancestors Owned Slaves? http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/why-is-ben-affleck-scared-for-the-public-to-know-his-ancestors-owned-slaves/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/why-is-ben-affleck-scared-for-the-public-to-know-his-ancestors-owned-slaves/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:41:52 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36953 The Sony leaks are the embarrassing gift that keeps on giving. The most recent what-the-cuss was news that actor Ben Affleck lobbied to have the show, Finding Your Roots, omit their discovery that his family owned slaves. Asking such a thing is apparently against PBS editorial standards, but hey! It’s Ben Affleck!! Gawker acquired a […]

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The Sony leaks are the embarrassing gift that keeps on giving. The most recent what-the-cuss was news that actor Ben Affleck lobbied to have the show, Finding Your Roots, omit their discovery that his family owned slaves. Asking such a thing is apparently against PBS editorial standards, but hey! It’s Ben Affleck!!

Gawker acquired a script of the ditched segment, though. Don’t you just love electronic footprints? Take a look:

AT THE SAME TIME THAT ALMON WAS TRYING TO OFFER THE BEREAVED SOLACE… ANOTHER OF BEN’S ANCESTORS WAS LIVING 800 MILES DUE SOUTH. WE LEARNED THAT HIS LIFE HAD ALSO BEEN FUNDAMENTALLY AFFECTED BY THE CIVIL WAR—BUT FOR VERY DIFFERENT REASONS.

THIS MAN WAS BEN’S THIRD GREAT GRANDFATHER, BENJAMIN COLE, AND HE WAS LIVING IN SAVANNAH, GEORGIA AT THE TIME. 

COLE WAS ONE OF SAVANNAH’S MOST PROMINENT CITIZENS—A WEATLHY LAND OWNER AND THE SHERIFF OF THE ENTIRE COUNTY.

AFFLECK: That’s amazing. I got a…we have a house in Savannah.

GATES: Really?

AFFLECK: Yeah.

GATES: Did it ever occur to you that you had deep roots there?

AFFLECK: No, it didn’t. It didn’t at all. I had no idea I had any southern roots at all, so this is remarkable.

COLE OWNED A LARGE FARM IN GEORGIA AT A TIME WHEN SLAVE LABOR HAD MADE THE STATE THE CENTER OF THE SOUTH’S COTTON KINGDOM. 

WE WANTED TO SEE IF WE COULD LEARN HOW BEN’S ANCESTOR FELT ABOUT THIS PECULIAR INSTITUTION. 

AND FOR THAT, WE STARTED WITH THE 1850 CENSUS.

GATES: This is the slave schedule of the 1850 Census. In 1850, they would list the owner of slaves in a separate Census.

AFFLECK: There’s Benjamin Cole, owned 25 slaves.

GATES: Your third great-grandfather owned 25 slaves. He was a slave owner.

THESE HOLDINGS PUT BENJAMIN COLE AMONG THE SOUTHERN ELITE.

ONLY ABOUT 10% OF ALL SLAVE HOLDERS OWNED 20 SLAVES OR MORE.

AFFLECK: God. It gives me kind of a sagging feeling to see, uh, a biological relationship to that. But, you know, there it is, part of our history.

GATES: But consider the irony, uh, in your family line. Your mom went back fighting for the rights of black people in Mississippi, 100 years later. That’s amazing.

AFFLECK: That’s pretty cool.

GATES: That’s pretty cool.

AFFLECK: Yeah, it is. One of the things that’s interesting about it is like we tend to separate ourselves from these things by going like, you know, oh, well, it’s just dry history, and it’s all over now, and this shows us that there’s still a living aspect to history, like a personal connection.

By the same token, I think it’s important to recognize that, um, in looking at these histories, how much work has been done by people in this country, of all kinds, to make it a better place.

GATES: People like your mother.

AFFLECK: Indeed, people like my mother and many others who have made a much better America than the one that they were handed.

The segment, in which Gates is careful to end on Affleck’s mother—a civil-rights worker—comes across as mild and non-confrontational, and Affleck comports himself well.

———

This is a really silly case of white guilt if you ask me. Like, why are you embarrassed that a man you never knew owned slaves? It’s not like you made your millions off the legacy of the land your great great great grandfather had–you’re an actor, producer and director for cripe’s sake!!

But I can’t totally blame Ben for being hesitant to have America learn this news, because we folks around these parts are well aware of how some will use the slave master argument for their reasons to oppose black women from dating and marrying white men. And while Ben’s grandpa had 25 slaves, know that most Southerners did not own slaves. Only the richest people did, so the argument that every white person in America has some connection to slavery is just absurd.

Don’t worry, Ben. We’ll still watch your movies. Go and sin no more.

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Aaron Hernandez Gets Life, and What a Freaking Fail. http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/aaron-hernandez-gets-life-and-what-a-freaking-fail/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/aaron-hernandez-gets-life-and-what-a-freaking-fail/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:24:44 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36865 As I read the accounts of today’s conviction of Aaron Hernandez, former New England Patriots tight end-come newly appointed felon, I can’t help but think how big a dumb ass this man was. Hernandez was convicted of several counts of first degree murder for shooting Odia Lloyd. He and two goons lured Lloyd out to […]

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ahernfiancee

As I read the accounts of today’s conviction of Aaron Hernandez, former New England Patriots tight end-come newly appointed felon, I can’t help but think how big a dumb ass this man was. Hernandez was convicted of several counts of first degree murder for shooting Odia Lloyd. He and two goons lured Lloyd out to a remote area and killed him, possibly to avenge a perceived slight against his girlfriend’s sister.

From CNN:

Prosecutors say Lloyd was seen June 17, 2013, around 2:30 a.m. with Hernandez and Hernandez’s friends, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, in a rented silver Nissan Altima. Later that day, a jogger found his body riddled with gunshots.

The prosecution portrayed Hernandez as cold, calculating and insecure — a man who believed others should be grateful for his attention, one capable of murder for merely disrespecting him in the presence of others.

Prosecutor William McCauley asked jurors: What was Hernandez talking about a day after Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was found at a Massachusetts industrial park? “‘My endorsements are gone,'” Hernandez said, according to McCauley. “He’s not talking about Odin.”

Unbelievable. The next day Hernandez was chilling by the pool while his girl made smoothies for him and his boys. She later dumped a box which most likely contained the never-discovered murder weapon and his behest.

This man had just landed a $40 million contract by the Patriots, had a girlfriend and baby who adored him, and he threw it all away so he could behave like a complete and utter thug. And you know what? This was planned a premeditated, not something out of passion, which leads me to wonder if this man has done similar crimes but just never got caught. This man is capable of KILLING someone because of some perceived slight or disrespect. What is that? A dual at high noon at the O.K. Corral would have been more honorable–at least it would have given the other guy a fighting chance.

Look at what this man gave up…

new-england-patriots-tight-end-aaron-hernandez

 

So sad that no matter how much money you have, you can’t fix stupid.

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Recent Incident in Maine a Sober Reminder That Interracial Couples are Still a Target http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/recent-incident-in-maine-a-sober-reminder-that-interracial-couples-are-still-a-target/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/recent-incident-in-maine-a-sober-reminder-that-interracial-couples-are-still-a-target/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 18:22:49 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36850 An event occurred earlier this month that garnered national news. On a lovely spring day in Portland, Maine, an interracially married couple wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and 60-degree weather by visiting downtown for some gelato. The family composition is as follows: Jeff is white, 47. Shay is black, 42. Shay has a son, […]

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An event occurred earlier this month that garnered national news. On a lovely spring day in Portland, Maine, an interracially married couple wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and 60-degree weather by visiting downtown for some gelato. The family composition is as follows: Jeff is white, 47. Shay is black, 42. Shay has a son, 23, from a previous relationship; the couple share a nine-year-old child. Shay was excited to have her son join them for a visit, and little sister was love her big bro.

Can’t you just imagine it? After such a long, freezing and snowy winter, the locals  go out to enjoy the emerging leaves on the trees and early spring flowers. I picture this family walking along, licking at their gelato, and perhaps Shay’s son is engaging in some harmless teasing of his little sibling.

Then out of nowhere, a vehicle full of hateful white men drive by and yell “NIGGERS!!”

I can first imagine how all of them might have been struck dumb at first, unbelieving. And then I see in my mind Shay’s outraged and fool hearty son race after the men in the truck and she watches in horror. I can almost hear the cries of his little sister, begging him to please come back. Then I see Shay’s husband Jeff, analyzing and assessing the situation and working out how best to protect his family.

In an instant, that beautiful day is shattered. And like a proverbial scratched record, all of the surrounding citizens stop and gape. Nearly all of them will say nothing, and do nothing. Only one lone Mainelander will face the family and ask is all are well.

Shay becomes frantic, looking and fearing for her son and finds him. Luckily he wasn’t able to catch up with the hooligans who ruined his family’s day. Amongst the crowd of people pretending to ignore this family’s crisis was a local news anchor for WCSH-TVby the name of Jackie Ward. She even wrote about it on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.45.45 AM

 

Pay close attention to the last sentence: “It’s happening everywhere, every day. Yes, even in Maine. Do something about it and don’t add to this evil.”

Except…Jackie herself was amongst the mute onlookers who did nothing.

Evil prevails when good men (or women) do nothing.

This event is especially interesting to me because I know Shay. We’re blog buddies going way back to 2010. In addition to heading a nonprofit organization to overcome racism, so runs BlackGirlInMaine. Lucky for me I was able to pick up the phone and call her to get a first-hand account. I asked how she felt about her fellow Mainelanders virtually ignoring her, she said she almost felt doubly victimized. “Stand up and say something!  It really hurts. You’ve already been brutalized by that word, and then when no one says anything it takes away your humanity.”

I also wondered if the fact that she remained stoic as her son raced after the men as her daughter was screaming might have lent others to feel as if she didn’t need their assistance. “Black lady tears are not valued like white lady tears,” she told me.

The other issue I raised with her was how violated she must have felt and angry that she would have to halt what was supposed to be a beautifully mundane family excursion to talk to her children about racism.

Since the story made international news and Maine is populated with about 1.5 million people, everyone knows. People have come up to her apologizing. The old ladies in her yoga class are gushing. The mayor has called. Many are concerned that this event will make their state, heavily dependent on tourism dollars, “look bad.”

Well it certainly makes me think twice. I’ve been a Stephen King fanatic for years and I’ve always wanted to visit the state that inspired so many stories from him. I wanted to take my family. Maybe get a gelato in downtown Portland.

Now?

Maybe not.

 

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Kenyan Short Film, “Yellow Fever” Show How Pervasive, and Absurd the Quest for Skin Lightening Has Become Globally http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/kenyan-short-film-yellow-fever-show-how-pervasive-and-absurd-the-quest-for-skin-lightening-has-become-globally/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/kenyan-short-film-yellow-fever-show-how-pervasive-and-absurd-the-quest-for-skin-lightening-has-become-globally/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 03:58:38 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36738 When I first heard of this short film by Kenyan filmmaker Ng’endo Mukii, I thought…WOW! What a unique use of illustration, animation and videography to transmit the epidemic of skin lightening throughout the African continent. Then as I was watching, I saw the hairdresser with the yellow face and hands– the only body parts she […]

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When I first heard of this short film by Kenyan filmmaker Ng’endo Mukii, I thought…WOW! What a unique use of illustration, animation and videography to transmit the epidemic of skin lightening throughout the African continent.

Then as I was watching, I saw the hairdresser with the yellow face and hands– the only body parts she was able to afford to bleach–I couldn’t help but think how absurd it all is. I mean…yellow hands and face and a dark brown body?! That’s disgusting! What’s even more sad is that this woman probably thinks it’s an improvement over her uniformly brown, smooth skin.

I was talking to a friend about this issue–who is white and British–and his reply was that of regret that women with such gorgeous brown skin would want to obliterate it. “They should love themselves, and if they can’t find men who won’t filter based on hue, then they should move on with men that will.”

That’s easier said than done, especially if the women are essentially “land locked” away from men who are less color struck. I mean, if the yellow-tail-chasing-men are your only option, you do that whole, “When in Rome…” thing, right?

As colorist as the black folks in America are, I have to admit I am completely puzzled at the lengths in which African and Caribbean people are going to acquire the look of a zombie-cadaver. Like…psychological issues out of it, IT’S UGLY AS PHUCK!!!

Somebody please help me understand this.

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Leona’s Love Quest : In Defense of Television http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/leonas-love-quest-in-defense-of-television/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/leonas-love-quest-in-defense-of-television/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 03:31:41 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36735 This is a little weird for me, but I’m stepping away from my Love Quest this month to speak about another topic that is near and dear to my heart: television. Alright, maybe not television so much as the art and craft of storytelling and the representation of black people working in the field of […]

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Vintage Television

This is a little weird for me, but I’m stepping away from my Love Quest this month to speak about another topic that is near and dear to my heart: television. Alright, maybe not television so much as the art and craft of storytelling and the representation of black people working in the field of entertainment. I actually don’t watch very much TV; I would guess no more than probably 1-3 hours a week at most. I curse the Comcast conglomerate every day with the white hot heat of a thousand suns for the monopoly they created to charge customers for the excessive amount of channels nobody watches and their subpar customer service. Nonetheless, since I don’t have time to binge watch several seasons of series on Netflix and Comcast charges nearly the same amount just to install internet without the bundle, for now at least I continue to pay them. I’ll try to explain why.

I began my career as a costume designer in Washington, DC at Arena Stage when I was accepted into the Allen Lee Hughes fellowship program created for minorities wishing to pursue careers in theater design. Allen Lee Hughes is a Tony nominated African-American lighting designer who still often works at that theater and whose career now spans over 40 years. After my fellowship ended I quickly became a primary go-to costume designer for any and all shows about the black experience. I was for a few years the resident costume designer for the African Continuum Theater, the only theater in DC dedicated solely to promoting black theater artists and their work. I learned from this experience that we are not a happy people. In all fairness, the world hasn’t given us a lot of reasons to tell too many happy stories. With the notable exception of A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, (widely regarded as one of the best plays ever written by anyone of any color) most of our stories are full of death, tragedy, and a general sense of hopelessness. After years of scavenging vintage clothing from the 1950s and 60s or distressing drab cotton dresses and work clothes for plays set in the post-slavery era, I was more than ready to get out. I was begging to work on a musical that required bright colors, tap shoes, and sequins.

However, I learned a lot about the art of storytelling and gained a healthy respect for the playwrights, actors, directors and designers who worked hard to bring these plays to life with the kind of excellence they rightly deserved. When placed in the right hands, I believe our stories can be just as powerfully and emotionally moving than those belonging to any other race, if not more so. Indeed, the best stories are always the ones that can transcend color by tapping in a universal connection with the human experience.  (If you haven’t seen the movie Whiplash yet, I beg you to. I don’t regularly listen to jazz and I have no idea what it’s like to be white, male college student who plays the drums, but I guarantee you it’s one of the best stories you’ve probably seen in years.)

I agree, there is a problem with the images of black people we seen on TV, but the programming is systemic of a much larger problem we can’t solve by trying to shame it’s viewers or refusing to watch. The problem is there are too few black directors and producers that manage to break their way into the Hollywood machine. According to 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report despite the fact that films and television with relatively diverse casts maintain the highest return on investment, “the gatekeepers and decision-makers, who are typically white men . . . want to keep their jobs. They want to succeed. And they feel that their best chance for success is by surrounding themselves with other white males, basically.”

As you can see from this shameful article posted on Deadline.com , as soon as we start to see a little color in TV and films, there’s going to be a backlash. You see it’s perfectly OK to pass over actors of color for roles even when they have little relevance in terms of race, but when it starts happening to white actors, there’s going to be a problem.

There are shows that I refuse to watch, not only on principle, but because of a general lack of interest. The typical ratchet reality shows do nothing for me in terms of entertainment or good storytelling. They simply find someone who is willing to exploit the worst representation of our race for money. I won’t condemn anyone for watching them, but I think it’s a waste of money and energy that could be put towards supporting trained actors and balancing the representation of negative stereotypes on TV.  I don’t particularly enjoy most of Tyler Perry’s work either, but I have to admire his business acumen and his recognition of an audience that was sick and tired of the usual “oh Lawsy, being black is so hard” material. I do watch Suits on the USA network, an excellent drama which is being largely ignored by critics. Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson is killing it on that show (in some serious designer apparel, no less) as the head of her law firm. One of the lead characters, Mike Ross, just got engaged asked his biracial girlfriend to marry him. I’m of mixed opinion about Empire, but at least it’s making an attempt to tackle relevant topics like homophobia, mental illness, and interracial marriage in an unaccepting black community, if not always delivering with the grace and dignity it deserves. There is, however, a marked difference between creating a melodrama that uses exaggerated, fictional characters and situations to create tension and suspense and Reality TV which exploits “real” people and their supposedly “real” situations when most of it is actually scripted or devised. I celebrate when this nonsense gets nipped in the bud before it even reaches the screen.

I agree that if the stories on TV don’t appeal to you for any reason, there is no reason you should watch them. But when you say you don’t support our more successful directors and producers like Shondra Rhimes, Lee Daniels, and Ava DuVernay don’t expect our representation in TV and films to get any better. The only thing that will happen is that black people will continue to disappear from film and TV outside from menial roles because the people in charge will feel twice as justified in refusing to change the demographic. Those men in their leadership positions will only be happy to claim a hesitancy to promote diverse programming because we’re all too quick to get offended even when the shows succeed. It’s not that I abide by the “it’s just entertainment” excuse either, but we can’t expect excellence as long as we don’t have proper representation.

So yes, I am supporting TV and movies back by the actors, directors, and producers whose training and talent deserve to be recognized. I support them because I believe they are capable opening the way to better programming once they get their foot in the very small opening of a very large and influential door. I support them when I enjoy the storytelling.

The entire Comcast Corporation, however, they can go straight to hell.

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Frankie and Alice: Mental Illness, an Unhelpful Family and Interracial Love in the 50s http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/frankie-alice-mental-illness-unhelpful-family-interracial-love-50s/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/frankie-alice-mental-illness-unhelpful-family-interracial-love-50s/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 09:46:16 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36724 In light of recent tragedies involving black mothers who were likely suffering from mental illness, I decided to check out Frankie and Alice, a film starring Halle Berry (who also served as executive producer) about a black woman suffering from what we now know as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Berry was nominated for a Golden […]

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frankie alice

In light of recent tragedies involving black mothers who were likely suffering from mental illness, I decided to check out Frankie and Alice, a film starring Halle Berry (who also served as executive producer) about a black woman suffering from what we now know as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Berry was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance (possibly one of her best, ever) way back in 2011; however the film was not released until last year and only recently began streaming on Netflix. You can read about the film’s long, curious path to distribution here, as well as an interview with Berry on the film’s struggles despite her Oscar win a few years ago.

The film has an excellent supporting cast in Stellan Skarsgard, Phylicia Rashad and Chandra Wilson, and opens with Berry as Frankie, who is charming, likable and well-intentioned. However, we quickly see the trouble she gets into when she experiences “blackouts” and her alternate personalities (called “alters”) surface. The film follows Frankie’s struggle to determine the root of her illness so that she can obtain the proper treatment for a healthy, cohesive life. However, Frankie’s road to health is disrupted by the incessant denial of her mother (portrayed by Phylicia Rashad) who stubbornly refuses to acknowledge her contribution to her daughter’s adolescent trauma (hint: the road for interracial couples in the 1950s was a bumpy one).

Frankie and Alice has received mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it. It’s essentially A Beautiful Mind, but with a black woman at the center of the story and no spy business. This was my first somewhat clinical introduction to DID; I’d only read about it on the deep, dark places of the internet where conspiracy theories lurk on mind controlled slaves, Project MK-Ultra and Manchurian candidates. I really appreciate Halle Berry’s persistence in making sure this movie got out; she is just one of several black celebrities determined to use art to explore mental illness among African-Americans.

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