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Racism: Can We Ever Move Past It?
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29 Jan 2012 12:29 PM EST

-by Drew Kolar, Editor-in-Chief; Image: French ELLE’s article, ‘Black Fashion Power,’ featuring a photo of Janelle Monáe (Image Source: French ELLE)

Racism seems to be a hot topic in the news this week. Whether it’s the GOP debates, the East Haven police scandal or the French ELLE comment about fashion the Obamas, race has been on our minds, barely two weeks after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

What is wrong with the world?

As mentioned previously in the “Equality” editorial for MLK Day, we have a long way to go before everybody is truly equal. Small battles have been won, but the war on discrimination still exists.

In East Haven, Conn., the FBI arrested four cops—one sergeant and three police officers—for discriminatory practices against Hispanics in the area. When asked for his thoughts on the civil rights violations by Fox Connecticut News, Mayor Joe Maturo sided with the cops, sparking a major controversy.

Maturo said the situation was “very unfortunate for our police department and our community. My heart goes out to those four officers.”

If that wasn’t enough, later in the day, when asked how he would help support the East Haven Latino community, Maturo made an even more outlandish comment: I might have tacos.”


People did not take this remark lightly, and Reform Immigration for America even took their response a step further, deciding that for every text they received, they would deliver a taco to Maturo in protest.

According to our own Jennifer Monteagudo, on Thursday morning, RIA said on Twitter that they would be “delivering 500 tacos to Mayor Maturo’s office today at 1 p.m.” The group, however, had received over 2,000 texts.

Meanwhile, according to the Daily Mail, French ELLE caused its own uproar on Thursday due to blogger Nathalie Dolvio’s piece, “Black Fashion Power.”

Dolivo claims that “the Obamas are the catalyst for a ‘black fashion renaissance,’” in a sense saying that African-Americans had no fashion sense before the Obamas—or at least, that’s how the translation looked.

“For the first time, the chic has become a plausible option for a community so far pegged [only] to its street wear codes,” she wrote, according to a translation on Yahoo! News.

So before the Obamas, all blacks wore street clothes?

“Michelle Obama sets the tone, focusing on cutting-edge brands ... revisiting the wardrobe of Jackie O in a jazzy way,” the Mail quoted her as saying, adding that she believes “2012 comprises a ‘black-geoisie,’ a formula of fashion-forward black dressing that mixes ‘white codes’—whatever they may be—with touches of African heritage, such as shells and ‘boubous’ (West African robes).”

“There is always a classic twist, with a bourgeois ethnic reference (a batik-printed turban/robe, a shell necklace, a créole de rappeur) that recalls the roots,” the Daily News translated Dolivo as saying.

The blatant stereotyping of the article was also accompanied by a photo of Janelle Monáe (pictured above), who has become known for her proclivity for black and white tuxedos.

Some automatically pegged Dolvio a racist, inciting an outrage much like the one caused by Dutch magazine Jackie in December when an article labeled Rihanna a “niggabitch.” (Translated by Parlour magazine: “She has street cred, she has a ghetto a-- and she has a golden throat. Rihanna, the good girl gone bad, is the ultimate niggabitch and displays that gladly, and for her that means: what’s on can come off. If that means she’ll be on stage half naked, then so be it.”)

So now, not only are mayors allowed to be racist, but so are fashion magazines?

Alright, so they aren’t “allowed” to be, but think about it—how did these ignorant statements get published? Sure, Jackie issued an apology, but perhaps that isn’t enough if a similar generalization can simply appear literally almost one month later in another widely read publication. And then, how can the mayor of a town simply cast off a huge portion of his citizens as though it’s OK that they are being treated unfairly?

Add this onto the plethora of racist and homophobic things that the GOP candidates have been saying, and it’s clear that the “equality” message really isn’t getting thorugh to a lot of people. What more do we have to say or do?

Unfortunately, the answer is not clear, though speaking up is at least a good start. As with RIA’s taco strategy or with the plethora of bloggers responding to ELLE’s uncouth article, letting people know what we think does get us somewhere—if anything, to at least have a different side to the story to counter the ignorance of the original.

The next time somebody says something rude or uncalled-for in regards to race, sexuality or any other aspect of your our individuality, it’s okay—even encouraged—to say that you were offended. The worst that could happen is they ignore you—but perhaps you’ll at least put the thought in their mind that what they said is wrong. And maybe they’ll even start to realize that all our differences aren’t so horrible after all.

To lighten the mood, we leave you today with an image that has been circulating around Facebook, featuring our old friends Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, which pretty much sums up the GOP debates—at least to most liberals:


Whoever made this may just have a point... (Image Source: Facebook)

[Note: The views in this editorial do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the AllMediaNY staff.]

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