history

On the End of Black History Month: Why I Don’t Buy Diversity

by contributing writer Quinlan Mitchell

The problem with diversity as it is largely practiced in American culture today is that the term is more or less shorthand for “smiling-ethnic-people-waving-to-curious-white-onlookers.” Think early twentieth century World’s Fair style. If we’re being real, most talks about diversity, cultural showcases, and So-and-so’s History months are often just exploitative ways for white culture to ease its guilt about continuing oppression. I once went to something called a “Diversity Showcase” which consisted of (mostly people of color) dancing on stage for a large, white audience.

I was floored.

No dialogue, no voice for people of color, no meaningful cultural exchange. Just vaguely “ethnic” peoples dancing around in ‘authentic’ costume. For a lot of people, unfortunately, that showcase is what diversity is all about. People of color were oppressed before the Civil Rights Movement, but now we’re all equal so let’s celebrate—somebody find some ethnic performers to dance! (more…)

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Grandin: What We Owe Slavery

People cringe at the mention of reparations and yet have a very narrow understanding of the immense role slavery played in building the modern empire of the United States. The K-12 version of slavery is sterile at best and leaves one with an all too narrow understanding of the slave industry and its vast economic, geographic and political reaches.

Greg Grandin, a professor of history at NYU, recently wrote a short piece titled: The Bleached Bones of the Dead: What the Modern World Owes Slavery (It’s More Than Back Wages). It deals directly with the fact that slavery was not just about picking cotton in the south, but something much, much larger:

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On White Women as Scarves…

Artist Nate Hill has been showing off his latest fashion piece on the streets of Brooklyn and it’s a doozy!

Just as some ladies love to tote around their Michael Kors bag as a status symbol, quite a few folks are of the belief that some men of color pursue white women for the same reasons. Playing around with the concept, Black artist Nate Hill pinched a few nerves by wearing unclothed white women around his neck — literally!

His photographic project is called “Trophy Scarves,” according to a Vice interview, and the Brooklynite artist has been traveling around town

 draping unclothed white women over his shoulders. Hill wanted to tackle the notion of non-White males using Caucasian women to elevate their own social statuses

White Women as ScarvesThe project has garnered a lot of attention and elicited responses from all corners of the internet. And some have actually criticized Mr. Hill on the grounds that his exhibit perpetuates the same objectification of women he’s in part trying to comment on since these naked women serve as nothing more than props in his display.

I’m not sure I fully buy this line of reasoning however. First, this is an art installation. One imagines that the women being used here were informed of why they’d be draped over Hill’s shoulders.These women are voluntarily and willingly participating in the act in order to bring attention to the issue. They’re playing a role. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s portrayal of a slave doesn’t perpetuate or reinforce slavery. In fact, by participating, he helps to reveal the grotesque nature of our country’s history and forces all of us to confront it. The portrayal of a naked and vulnerable woman draped over the shoulder of a man is similarly offensive, and is meant to force us all to realize how despicable and damaging the objectification of women really is.

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