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Yo, Is That Colorist?: Australian Newscaster Praises Light Skin Twin

Hello Meltingpot Readers,

Lucy and Maria, more than just colors.

Lucy and Maria, more than just colors.

I think you all know I’m working on a book called Same Family, Different Colors where I’m looking at skin color variations in nuclear families and how those skin color differences affect family dynamics. Often times I’m hearing stories about minute variations between brown and browner, but every now and again there are extreme skin color differences that are impossible to ignore, both inside and outside the home.

Recently, a set of twins in the UK have made headlines because one twin has brown skin, brown curly hair and for all intents and purposes presents as Black. Her twin sister, on the other hand, is very pale with red hair and presents as White. While it is never okay to make anyone feel like a circus side show, it would be naive to suggest that the way the DNA was at play in these two girls is anything less than amazing. And as such, they’ve been in the news a lot lately, not to mention all over Facebook and other forms of social media.

Most recently however, they appeared on an Australian news program and the host made what seemed to be a remark that implied that the lighter twin was the lucky one. You can watch the video clip here and read more about the ensuing outrage.

What do you think dear readers? Was news host Samantha Armytage out of line? Was she being racist or colorist? Maybe she’s just stupid and insensitive? Or perhaps all of the above? Will we ever know? Do we even care? What I care about is that sisters, Maria and Lucy, get out of the spotlight and go on and live their lives in peace. Of course, I’d also like to talk to their parents for my book. I’m sure they have many stories to tell. But of course, I’ll be good and leave them alone. Funny thing is, the UK is chock full of Black/White twins so there’s probably somebody who’d like to talk to me. And more than likely, another set of twins will be born there soon enough supplanting Maria and Lucy’s fame, allowing them to happily become yesterday’s news.

Peace!

black•ish is okay•ish: It’s No Cosby Show but I’ll Stick Around to Watch

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Not quite the Cosby Show.

Not quite the Cosby Show.

Thanks to our robust Jewish community in Philadelphia, my kids’ school was closed today, so I allowed them to stay up to watch the premier episode of ABC’s black•ish last night. I have to admit, I too was really excited by all of the promos and advanced praise about the show. I mean really, it sounds like my life story…sort of. At least the part about a Black parent wanting his kids to feel connected to their Black roots, even though he’s raising them in a mostly White world. Honestly, what person of color can’t relate to that fear these days?

Meanwhile, my kids were just excited because finally there’s a sitcom with a family that kind of looks like ours. You know, they want their own Cosby Show. I want them to have one too. But, let’s begin with the fact that it’s airing at 9:30pm on Wednesday nights. Too late ABC for a family show. Can we fix that? And while all of the characters are super cute and nicely dressed and the funny race jokes were funny, it all felt a little too rushed and too silly. I want to laugh, but you gotta give me something to sink my teeth into besides one-liners. My kids felt the same way, and they’re only 10 and 13.

I’m going to keep watching because, like my kids, I’m ready to have a Cosby Show for the 21st century. I want my kids to see their lives reflected on the small screen. But if the writing doesn’t get a little smarter, I’m going to have to turn it off.

Did anybody else watch? What did you think? I’m so listening.

Peace!

“Love the Skin You’re In,” Says Elmo and Lupita

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

After Monday’s depressing post about skin whitening soap, today I bring you better news on the same topic courtesy of Elmo and my new girl crush, Lupita Nygong’o. They have a simple message: Love the skin you’re in. Way to go Sesame Street for offering this tiny tidbit of self-love empowerment in a world where white skin is held up as pure and perfect, dark skin is demonized and skin lightening products can be found on grocery store shelves. I hope some little brown girls are watching this, some big brown girls too. Enjoy!

Do you love the skin you’re in? Do you even think about your skin color on a daily basis? I’m so listening.

Peace!

Arise Media: News for the World

The show you should be watching on AriseTV

The show you should be watching on AriseTV

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Earlier this week, my co-author and I had the privilege of appearing on Arise360 to talk about Hair Story. What? You’ve never heard of Arise360? Well, then you heard it here first but don’t think it will be the last time. Arise360 is a daily entertainment and culture show on the new Arise Network which launched in early 2013. In Europe and Africa, the channel is available on cable. Here in the United States, you have to watch online. Yes, people, an entire new network was launched and sadly not a lot of people are aware of it. But I’ve been told by a little birdie that that’s about to change.

So, let me give you the 411 so you can be in the know, before the rest of the world. So, Arise is the brainchild of Nigerian media mogul, Nduka Obaigbena. He believed the world was more than ready for a media outlet that covered the world and not just the White and powerful. His products are gorgeous, informative, smart and multi-ethnic. The TV network is just the latest of many initiatives. Every time I page through Arise magazine or watch Arise TV, I am so thrilled that Mr. Obaigbena had the balls, brains and initiative to bring the world what it needs when it comes to fresh voices and colorful perspectives in the public sphere. We need that diversity in our news today more than ever.

Wouldn’t you agree? So, how many of you have heard of Arise? What do you think so far?

I’m listening.

Peace!

Black Girl Hair Is Still “Unacceptable”

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Clearly you know I keep watch on all things Black hair related for all of my research for my book, Hair Story. But even if I wasn’t a certified hairstorian, I’d still be completely engrossed in all of the Black hair news being made this week.

First of all, one of the Black co-hosts on The Talk, Sheryl Underwood -who is also a comedian – thought she was being funny (I think) when she derided Heidi Klum for keeping her kid’s Afro hair as a keepsake. Not only did she say that Afro hair was nasty, she suggested that if a White person kept their children’s hair, that would be okay because White hair is silky and nice. What?!?! Poor Sheryl was called all kinds of names and publicly shamed all over social media for saying these things and taking the race backwards some 200 years. Here’s the clip:

Sigh.Clearly, I don’t know Sheryl Underwood and haven’t spent too much time watching The Talk, but the little bit of time I have seen her and based on her comments, the emotion I’m feeling right now is a deep sense of pity. Here’s a woman who wears a wig every day and clearly felt okay saying on national television that White hair is better than Black hair. What kind of person says that except one who has a deep sense of racial and personal inferiority? I don’t want to psychoanalyze someone I don’t know, but from where I’m sitting, her comments point to a little Black girl who never felt pretty and who internalized whatever negative comments she heard as a child. It’s just sad all around.

And speaking of sad, the attacks on Black hair just kept coming this week. Yesterday I read about a little seven-year-old girl in Tulsa, Oklahoma who was sent home from her charter school – a charter school run by Black people – because dreadlocks, Afros and Mohawks and other ‘faddish styles’ are unacceptable for a positive learning environment.   First of all, Afros and dreadlocks are not ‘faddish,’ they’re historic, culturally relevant styles, thank you very much. And second of all, what makes dreadlocks or Afros antithetical to a serious learning environment? Maybe if this was a dress code for White kids, because seriously, White people with dreadlocks always makes me do a double take, I’d see their point, but that’s not it. Once again, you have Black people so out of touch with their own history and culture that they want to demonize that which is our own and prize the imitation of European beauty/grooming standards. Dear Lord, how much damage was done during those 400 years?

So, I’m not saying this because I wrote the book, but will somebody please send Sheryl Underwood and the administrators at the charter school in Tulsa a copy of Hair Story:Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America? Education, it’s a good place to start.

That is all.

Peace!

Wednesday Round Up: Pelo Malo Means Bad Hair in Venezuela, FYI Miley Cyrus isn’t Black and Remember the March on Washington

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

It’s Wednesday. Time to see what the world wide web is offering up for those of us who like our news both colorful and tasty. Here’s what I have for you:

pelomalo1. You know I’m obsessed with Black hair, but I’m sooo not the only one. There’s a new movie, screening at the Toronto International Film Fest called Pelo Malo (translation: bad hair) about a cute little boy  in Venezuela who believes straightening his curly hair will change his life. It’s a movie about identity and family by Venezuelan director, Mariana Rondón. Check the trailer and tell me what you think.

2. I don’t have time to watch TV these days, but I still heard all about Miley Cyrus’ controversial performance on the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night. Apparently Cyrus decided to completely shed her child star status and reinvent herself as a sex-crazed maniac. Some people interpreted her new attitude and style as being “Black.” I watched her bizarre and distasteful performance and could do nothing more than shake my head and feel sorry for her parents. Thankfully, author and advice columnist Demetria Lucas was able to analyze Cyrus’s act with insight and clarity on The Root and made some really good points that I agree with 100 percent. Check it out here.

3. And finally,  I think everybody is aware that we are celebrating the anniversary of the legendary March on Washington. To some, that march feels like ancient history, but many of the people who took part in that historic moment are still alive and can truly put the progress or lack thereof of American race relations and civil rights in perspective. The Huffington Post actually spoke to some of those people – the ones who actually marched – and compiled their memories in a nice video.

What are you reading about these days, dear readers? If it’s nice and tasty, please share.

Peace!

What Do You Know About Louis C.K.?

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Louis CK coverWhat do you know about Louis C.K.? I admit I didn’t and still don’t know much except that he is a comedian, he has his own show on cable, and that even though he looks like a White American, he’s actually Mexican. I’ve read a few things about him here and there and always meant to look him up, but I haven’t. Until now.

To be honest, I didn’t really look him up, my friend just sent me a link to a story about him in Colorlines. That story is actually just a heads up that C.K. will soon be gracing the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and in that story he talks a lot about his Mexican roots. But the Colorlines piece also includes a clip of the comedian on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He had some really funny, yet incredibly insightful things to say about race in America. Check it out and then tell me if you’re a Louis C.K. fan and if you think I should be. I’m listening.

Borrowing the Black Experience for Oscar

Hi Meltingpot Readers,

Did you watch the Oscars last night? I didn’t. I wasn’t boycotting or anything, I just didn’t have any particular reason to watch. I’m not a fan of Seth MacFarlane. In fact, before the Oscars, I had never even heard of him. And of all of the Oscar nominated films, I’ve only seen two, Argo and Django Unchained. And, quiet as it’s kept, I don’t really care what Hollywood’s rich and richer wear to the ceremony. Even when I worked at Entertainment Weekly and covered Oscar fashion, I never understood why people care so much about the dresses on the red carpet. But that’s just me.

Some people thought the Oscar’s were devoid of color this year, meaning the Black experience, Black actors and Black filmmakers just weren’t visible enough in this year’s Oscar round-up. And those same people either silently or vocally boycotted the show. Not me, I just watched a movie and folded laundry like any other Sunday night. My dissatisfaction wasn’t public. But when I stopped to think about it, this year’s collection of Oscar contenders owes so much to the Black experience. I mean without Black people, would Lincoln be anything more than a film about a president who ruled during a time of war? Lincoln’s story is so compelling because of the Black people whose lives he forever changed by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln would just be the dude with the hat if he hadn’t (unwillingly) freed the slaves. It is their lives and their struggle that brings meaning and depth to Lincoln’s presidency and thus to the film.

And of course Django Unchained, like it or hate it, only exists because of the horror of slavery that Black people endured for over four hundred years in this country. Quentin Tarantino would have had to mine some other ethnic horror story for the plot of his latest revenge fantasy film if he didn’t have the Black experience for fodder. Make no mistake, I don’t hold it against him that he chose to tell Django Unchained. I liked the movie. I’m just saying, without the Black American experience, Tarantino would have written just another cowboy flick.

And then there is the adorable Quvenzhané Wallis. By being the youngest Best Actress Academy Award nominee, she gave everybody their feel good Oscar story for the season. She made magazine covers, visited talk shows and even scored a new movie deal.  Sure, the same could have happened with a little White kid, but she’s not White, and that matters because her experience has been different. And the role she played in Beasts of the Southern Wild, was no Disneyfied experience. A little White kid couldn’t have been Hushpuppy.

Now, I am totally not trying to start something –except maybe a conversation– but I think this borrowing from the Black experience trend should be examined. This is nothing new of course, non Black people telling Black stories, but it sure is wearisome in some kind of cultural appropriation/ ancestral stealing kind of way. Or maybe it’s not the borrowing of Black life that feels like betrayal, but rather the lack of opportunity for Black people to tell their own stories and be heard and celebrated by the rest of the world. I don’t know for sure.

All I do know is that I’d like to watch the Oscars next year and be excited by the diversity on the big screen and behind the scenes. And, not for nothing, I’d like to see that diversity extend beyond the Black experience and consider the Latino, Asian, and Native American experience as well. I mean our history in this country is nothing if not filled with amazing and colorful stories.

What do you think dear readers? Did you watch the Oscars last night? Why or why not? I’m listening with both ears.

Peace!