Welcome to Black History Month!
Heritage Months have their bad sides and good sides, but we’re starting out this week’s linkup with one of the good things to come out of Black History Month: The Brown Bookshelf‘s Twenty-Eight Days Later project, highlighting a Black children’s book author or illustrator every day in February. Check their blog for great contributors to the field. Today they’re talking with one of our own authors, Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. Shadra Strickalnd, Tony Medina, and Christine Taylor-Butler will be featured later in the month.
It’s bitterly cold outside (at least here in New York), so stay inside and read! Here’s this week’s selection of articles and essays.
Last month we shared an Indian ad for White Beauty, a skin-lightening cream. Now, a study is highlighting the dangers of these types of products, many of which contain steroids or mercury. A NYTimes Op-Ed looks beyond the products and into the roots of their popularity with an exploration of colorism, the tendency to be biased towards people with lighter skin, even within one’s own racial or ethnic group.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Haiti, and those with family or friends there. Remember when giving to relief efforts that only nonprofits who already have operations in Haiti are situated to give immediate assistance. Aid Watch brings an explanation of why this is the case and suggestions for how to respond, and the U.S. State department is offering a super-easy way to donate: “text ‘HAITI’ to ‘90999’ and a donation of $10 will be given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts, charged to your cell phone bill.” Via Ta-Nahisi Coates, Haitian American Evan Narcisse writes about what Haiti means to him, and about its role as the first black republic and fusion of art forms that makes it an amazing place.
Welcome back! We’re still getting used to writing “2010” instead of “2009,” but it’s time for the year’s inaugural issue of This Week in Diversity.
Harlem and its demographic shifts have been the talk of the town lately, starting with a NYTimes piece, “No Longer Majority Black, Harlem Is in Transition,” looking at Harlem’s history from 1910 through recent changes. That’s followed by “#gentrification,” in which a former urban planner for Manhattan Community Board 10—Harlem, basically—talks about Harlem in the ’90s, the difference between the neighborhood of Harlem and the idea of Harlem, and the good side of gentrification. Ta-Nahisi Coates agrees, and goes on to discuss African Americans deciding how and where to live.
We get a lot of bookish news and links from librarian Betsy Bird’s blog, A Fuse #8 Production, and its Fusenews collections of literary links. This week, she brought us a couple stories of covers that we’re happy to pass along. First, we have the cover to PW’s Trends in African-American Publishing issue causing a bit of controversy. Frolab looks at the arguments and asks us to Pick Fros Not Fights!. Second, she leads us to Stacked, where they’re taking a look at a different sort of diversity—or lack thereof— on covers: Where have all the fat girls gone? “Think about all of the covers you see: they’re ALL thin. Every. Last. One. Of. Them. Even if the book doesn’t talk about the weight or shape of a character, the cover makes him/her thin.” Well, not every cover, but she’s got a point.
Welcome to winter! I know, according to the calendar winter doesn’t start for another week and a half, but the weather says it’s winter. So let’s curl up by the fire, roast some chestnuts, and talk diversity.
There’s been a lot of back-and-forth on some new films depicting African Americans. We start out with Precious: is it a harsh but realistic portrayal of issues too-often found in poor black communities, or is it a racist depiction of black Americans, relying on stale clichés and taking advantage of the people and situations it pretends to help? David Schmader explains why he likes it and then highlights the arguments of those who don’t.
I hope everyone had as good a Thanksgiving as I did! Now, we’re back with another batch of diversity-related links.
Last month’s job report was an improvement, but the recession is still keeping employment just a dream for many. Also keeping dreams of employment from becoming reality? Race, even now. The New York Times brings us an exploration of the difficulties faced by even college educated African Americans. Postbourgie responds with some points on the issues faced by college educated professional black women, and the unfortunate tendency to assume that black men’s experiences are representative of all black people.
This week is Thanksgiving! There’s lots to love about this holiday, and some of it doesn’t even have to do with food (although…pies! stuffing! MORE PIES!).
Thanksgiving is also a great opportunity for teaching and discussion. I know sometimes people have an adverse reaction to that–something like “Stop trying to make my holiday traditions politically correct!”–but so much of the Thanksgiving story is still relevant today. I like thinking about Thanksgiving as a celebration of a history that is still being written, a history that we can take an active part in.
On that note, Fourth World Journal points to a new teaching resource for Thanksgiving developed by a teacher and historian whose ancestors happen to be Quebeque French, Metis, Ojibwa, and Iroquois. He suggests that it’s time to move past some of the myths surrounding Thanksgiving towards historical accuracy, and insists that this will make the holiday more, not less, meaningful. I especially like some of the discussion questions, like this one:
I know, I know, salad isn’t a food we usually associate with Thanksgiving. (Stuffing is not salad. Nor is green bean casserole.) But in my reading this week, I came across a quote disagreeing with the concept of America as a melting pot. Instead, “Everyone keeps their different shapes and forms but still contributes something to the salad.” I like that; it’s both more accurate and a better ideal.
I’m still not going to eat salad on Thanksgiving, but we can give thanks for the great Salad Bowl of America, imperfect though it is.
And whence comes that great quote, you ask? From this great City Room post on a unique new college education program in a Connecticut prison. Selected for their essays and academic potential, these incarcerated students take classes from Wesleyan University professors, using the same syllabi and the same standards of grading as are used on Wesleyan’s campus. The classes are the same, but the students bring a much different perspective: a view from inside a justice system with, among other things, much higher rates of incarceration for Blacks and Latinos than for whites.
Friday afternoon: time to read up on diversity around the web! This week we have a rather miscellaneous batch of links for you, so dig in.
Ah, Hollywood, will you never stop provoking discussion on race in casting? Not this week, certainly. Racialicious looks at the Screen Actor’s Guild’s annual diversity research and explains why the state of minorities in major acting roles is worse than the numbers suggest.