Goodbye To All (that don’t want to be here); We don’t like you, either.

One of these ridiculous essays (usually written by transplants, yuppies, sometimes suburbanites etc. who’ve moved at some point to Manhattan or western BK) about the “love-hate” relationships they have with New York enters my social media universe about once a month. More than a few liken the city to an abusive boyfriend (people, that metaphor is no longer original). I usually skim and discard, or avoid clicking on the links altogether. But I figured, why not be angry about something frivolous today? Elitedaily never seems to let me down on that front.

I need not explain anything, I’ll let the drivel (titled, “Goodbye To All That: 5 Reasons Why I’m Leaving New York”) speak for itself. Aside from rattling off some of what she thinks are NYC’s highlights (“the world-renowned restaurants, Soul Cycle classes and amazing outfits from Intermix”) this writer says:

“I often take pride in my New York edge when it surfaces internally, remembering with conceit, ‘That’s right, I’m from New York.’ But, then, I take a step back and wonder why I’m sneering at my barista for using the wrong kind of milk and snapping at the airport security guard for making me throw out my Chanel No. 5 because I’m the idiot trying to carry on a liquid over 3.4 ounces.”

All I gotta say to this chick is umm, being rude doesn’t give you “New York edge,” it just makes you rude. New Yorkers of all stripes may come off as a bit aggressive, because putting millions of people in one place creates a competitive environment and forces you to be more direct, and waste less time–this is all true. But New Yorkers are no more rude or less humane than people from any other city. And like in any city, if you’re nice to people they will reciprocate. So if people are rude to you, consider that it may be because you act like a ***** and no one has the time to pretend to like you.

The funny thing in all of this is, that airport security guard you snapped at is probably one of the few actual New Yorkers (outside of your handful of friends from the Upper East Side or Park Slope) that you’ve had a conversation with in your lifetime.

Let me tell you a little something about New Yorkers. Nice New Yorkers understand the grind and do our best not to take petty ish out on others (like baristas or airport security). In fact, some Nice New Yorker probably took a few seconds out of their day after you walked away from Starbucks barista you sneered at, to roll their eyes or talk some shit about you and make the barista feel better about being mistreated (yea, we do that.). Most of us don’t treat people like incompetent help because we been there, dealing with people just like you. Nice New Yorkers stop to conscientiously give tourists directions, even if they annoy us. Nice New Yorkers help old ladies across the street. On 9/11, many, many New Yorkers threw caution to the wind and risked their lives toiling for days on end in the rubble and gore to save other New Yorkers.

But yea, if you come at us the wrong way, any New Yorker, nice or mean, won’t hesitate to let you know what’s what.

I don’t hate transplants, or people who experience my city differently than I do–NYC is, after all, a large and multifaceted city with people of all classes and backgrounds. It‘s when people like the woman who wrote this essay think they speak for all when they barely even know any New Yorkers, or who have barely explored 30% of the city, without seeing the irony and their own hypocrisy when they talk about rising prices and gentrification squeezing them out. It’s like New York’s actual work force and lifeblood, and the diversity that made it into the “edgy” place they think they love, is totally invisible to them.

To this author, the many who came before and the many who follow with similar gripes: Goodbye, and good riddance. And stop telling people how “New York” you are, you’re giving us all a bad name.

To love and to hate Serial the podcast

*Spoiler Alert* There’s a lot of debate over Serial now that it’s over, mostly between people who love it and people who hate it. The debate isn’t dissimilar to the way Americans either love or hate soccer–you sit down for a 90-minute game that you hope could be the most satisfying goal-fest of your life, but in the end could turn out to be 0-0. Was the emotional roller-coaster worth it, or do you have a right to be mad?

Of course, Serial is more serious because it involves a homicide and many people who are emotionally connected to the victim and defendant, not to mention the alleged murderer himself, who continues to insist upon his innocence and started this process hoping that this investigative reporter would somehow help him prove it.

I could dissect the evidence presented or talk for ages about whether or not I was convinced by his side of these story, as presented in the podcast, but Sarah Koenig already did that, and here’s the thing: IT DOESN’T MATTER. And that’s what pisses me off the most about this non-conclusive exercise in investigative journalism. It was meaningless!

As soon as Koenig realized early on in the process that the police seemed to have done all their due diligence, and that the defense attorney seemed to have tried her best, it became a pure-entertainment story that was either going to free a possibly-innocent man, or not. If it DID, that would have been amazing. But since it didn’t, well … we basically just wasted 12 hours of our lives listening to this reporter chase her tail, and countless more hours discussing something unresolvable. Some people might think that’s fun, but ain’t none of the rest of us got time fo dat shit!

She seems aware of this, because she tries to explain it a bit in the first episode when she tells us that the only reason why she picked this case was because it fell into her lap, that someone contacted her about it. But while I buy that this case could have been the inspiration for Serial, a podcast following the blow-by-blow of a journalist’s investigation, that doesn’t mean that it had to be followed through once she realized it wasn’t a very worthy case. I know this because I have worked in the media and I’ve worked very hard in the pursuit of stories I wanted badly to be huge which in the end weren’t stories at all. It’s frustrating, but it’s reality. We can either sit around and cry about lost time, or accept that it’s part of the job and hunt down the next lead.

I need to say here that depending on the correlation of her timing in the investigation to the actual airing of the podcast, Koenig may not have had a choice. I mean, she may have realized halfway into broadcasting that she was on a fool’s errand, at which point she was already committed to many many listeners and it was too late. But that didn’t seem like the case–the podcast was 12 weeks long and her investigation was over a year in the making, which means that she should have known early on that the significance of her investigation was shaky to non-existent, and yet she chose to continue investigating this particular case anyway.

Anyway–I don’t actually hate her for that, because this is, after all, a new format and it would have been impossible to get it perfect the first time. She also deserves props for this format, and for being able to deliver the podcasts in such a way that got people actually interested in the process of investigative journalism. Kudos to her.

But I think this raises a very traditional question in journalism that should be used to determine the topic for the next season of Serial, a question that comes up very, very often in practice: what is the point? Every news organization and individual reporter has finite resources to investigate something, be it time or money. As such, it is always necessary before embarking on a major investigative project to ask ourselves WHY we are doing it, and whether it’s worth it.

The best investigative journalism isn’t just told in a great narrative, it aims to have meaning. And if a story DOESN’T have significance outside of the story itself, it had better be a really f*cking entertaining one. Adnan’s case had the makings of an entertaining story, but no significance … and in the end, also failed to be entertaining. Why? Because it was building to a non-existent climax, and every good story needs a climax. Meanwhile, it wasn’t even poetic in its lack of conclusion–there are entire navel-gazing episodes where Koenig goes on and on about the tug of war in her own head which seem to serve no purpose other than tormenting everyone involved.

Without significance, a climax or a conclusion, and since Adnan’s story is a real-life story, what we’re left with at the end of the first season of Serial is a year-long mental torture of a man who’s already in prison, and of his family and friends, followed by the 12-week emotional torture of Hae Min Lee’s family, who had to relive the case again, for nothing. That doesn’t seem worth it at all. It even seems cruel. I hope that with the next Serial, or for any other investigative journalist or news organization who decided to explore this format, that they ask the same questions they would ask themselves about a traditionally-presented piece of investigated journalism. Keeping in mind that, when starting out, it’s possible that it will be inconclusive–and if it is, would it still have been a worthwhile story to tell, or at least to pursue?

Personally my suggestion would be for Koenig to look just two steps beyond the subject matter she has already immersed herself in, and talk to the lawyers she met through this case about other cases that are more emblematic; cases in which people may or may not be innocent, but which give their listeners some insight into our highly problematic justice system. There are organizations that work on this everyday, like the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, which are gold mines of resources for her in terms of cases that could use the publicity. Some could be just as compelling as Adnan’s case, if not more, because they expose broad, persistent problems in America that need to be fixed. With more attention than ever being paid to the justice system today, a widening wealth gap and deteriorating race relations, this seems like great timing for exploration.

Or if not this specific topic of interest, any other topic would be fine–so long as there is an answer to that one simple question of why does this matter? In print journalism, we call that a nut graf.

Many non-journalists will criticize me for suggesting this, and say that entertainment need not be significant. But I’m giving this recommendation as a person who knows that the desire for impact is a driving force behind great, detail-oriented, smart and innovative journalists like Koenig. At the end of the day, she isn’t a movie director, but a reporter who has stumbled on a new format with amazing potential. And most of us reporters–the good ones, anyway–want our work to mean something. I hope Koenig’s next effort on Serial does.

So my conclusions (oh yes, I have some): 1. There was clearly reasonable doubt in Adnan’s case, whether he actually committed the murder or not. This much, Koenig seems right about. 2. The success of this format in and of itself made Serial a worthwhile endeavor, no matter HOW unsettled we feel about the ending. And 3. There seems to be at least some productive journalism that has resulted from the whole exercise, i.e. calling attention to Global Tel-Link, one of the many private companies that profit from mass incarceration in the U.S.: Serial’s $2,500 Phone Bill and the Prison-Calling Racket I sincerely hope that this continues.

People ignoring domestic abuse

A very interesting project to document modern day behavior took on the issue of domestic abuse, and surprisingly only one person out of 53 reacted when they witnessed clear verbal and physical abuse less than a few feet away from them.

This is sad, and surprising; I feel like anecdotally I’ve seen a higher ratio of people step in, especially when a woman is the victim. Could part of it be something to do with Swedish society? The woman who did finally react spoke English, but it’s hard to say–also, as we all know, these kinds of experiments are fascinating but at the end of the day not scientific nor statistically relevant.

In defense of Kim Kardashian

So some of my very intelligent friends, most of whom are better people than I with less free time on their hands to watch and read trash, like to hate on Kim Kardashian. It’s like in some circles, hating on Kim K and writing her off as a frivolous selfie robot should be naturally ingrained the way scientists might scoff at religious fanatics and astrology believers. Now following her nude spread in Paper Magazine, another round of hate has started.

But being the trash connoisseur that I am, I would never judge a reality star on the criticisms of intellectuals. So I actually watched the show between TV seasons this year, and have concluded that Kim K is kinda cool.

The show reveals some really OMG-are-they-really-that-ignorant moments, like when Khloe (one of my favs) can’t name any U.S. presidents before Obama or when Kim goes to Jamaica Ave. dressed like a cross between Barbie and a misguided hood rat. But there were far fewer of these moments than I expected.

Instead, she and most of her family are all kind of charming as a group. (Emphasis on group because anyone in that family, especially Kim, is significantly more boring on their own.) The only exceptions for me are her mother and Scott Disick; despite some redeeming moments in which they seem to truly love their families, Scott is a genuine asshole (he shoved a hundred dollar bill down a waiter’s throat once), and Kris is vain, controlling and selfish.

Even so, it’s adorable to watch the beautiful but mostly vapid Kim come to life when defending her mother, whom she very obviously has a special, close relationship with. It’s not for appearances, she’s the only one in the family who consistently reminds everyone to respect Kris and how hard she’s worked for them all. As much as I dislike Kris, most of the rest of her kids do (like most kids) seem to take her for granted.

Bruce Jenner, meanwhile, is kind of a grumpy, emasculated but beloved patriarch who does awesome things like take his kids to homeless shelters as a rite of passage, to teach them how spoiled they are (and oh yes–they are). This is something many parents probably vow to show their kids–you should see how the other half lives!–but most never do. Rob Kardashian argues with his sisters very similarly to the way my own younger brother argues with me (but about things worth a lot more money), which I find endlessly entertaining.

Meanwhile Kim and her sisters’ dedication to not hiding anything, even their most humiliating and private moments, from cameras is admirable even for people who are being paid for it. Individually, they are all just a bunch of brats from California; together they are a weird mix of big and very different personalities that truthfully are, as Kim says, “obsessed with each other.” Did I mention their kids are all adorable?

I might be biased because I have a weird fascination with watching how people in other social demographics see the world, but even aside from that I’ve decided I think the Kardashians have more personality and more connection to each other than most families seem to have. Hate them all you want, but they get something about unconditional love and the importance of family that I have long cherished in my own family and that I know not all family units are blessed with. It’s probably those values that are probably the only thing that helps them survive inevitable conflicts that arise when you live under the spotlight “literally” 24/7. Even if many of their gatherings are clearly staged, their bond seems very real … they’d need a hell of a lot of stamina to keep a charade like that up for 10 seasons.

Lastly I will say this: people may hate Kim K for being good at stupid ish like selfies, and saying “literally” too much, but we can’t front, she works longer hours and is under more career pressure than most people, celebrities included. And by her willingness to bare her ups and downs, her superficiality and also her idiotic moments, for all to see, she is more genuine than many of the intellectuals who criticize her fame.

I can’t believe I just wrote this much about the Kardashians. Don’t judge me. Lol

A plea to the 2-3 companies that own our online lives

So today, I was finally forced to log in to my Chrome browser. I’d been holding out, but couldn’t anymore because Google will no longer be supporting the gchat desktop app. As I’m logging in, Google tries to convince me this is a good thing: “One Google account for everything Google.”

This pisses me off, even more so than the parallel effort to make one Facebook account for every social network. At least, if I ever choose to, I can stop using social media. It will be much more difficult to divorce myself from Web browsing and e-mail.

It’s bad enough that 2-3 companies own and have access to all my information, now they are forcing me to consolidate every aspect of my online life under one umbrella, for what–to make it easier for marketers to reduce me to a broad statistic (which I would argue is meaningless, because people are multi-faceted and so you can better capture their attention if you target their various identities separately than as one), or to make it easier for anyone who hacks into ONE part of my online life to find and link me to every other part of my online life?

Forget hackers, why would I want my bookmarks to be linked on every single device that I own, creating more access points to my information for people who were never supposed to see it? This should be an optional service for those weird people who don’t care if other people play with their phones/tablets/computers and go searching through their browsing history or bookmarks. For most of us, that feels extremely violating, the digital equivalent to looking up our skirts.

The more physical access points exist, the higher the chances are they will be used by someone other than yourself. So do I really want to start self-censoring my own Google searches? Every time I want to research something, or chat with someone, should I have to think to myself: wait, would I be upset if someone else accidentally saw this? With the Internet, this is always a possibility. But with all of your Internet accounts linked together, it’s a very LIKELY possibility.

Has it ever occurred to these companies that their users want to use their services in separate capacities? I can’t be the only person in the world who wants to keep my private and public life separate, hence the reason why efforts like Google Wave failed–e-mail is private. Browsing is private. Social media is public. Private, public. Church and state. Private and public naturally do not want to be mixed.

And even when it comes to their public lives, people can have multiple public images, i.e. a professional one and a social one. There are a multitude of reasons why people do not want to mix those images up, something I realized very early on working at Community Connect when they tried to simultaneously incorporate a dating microsite and a job search microsite into Asian Avenue and Black Planet.

It was the early days of social networking, so kudos to them for the experimentation. But at this point it’s obvious to me there is no logic to such efforts, outside the building where a bunch of geeks are writing the code for it and thought, gee–wouldn’t it be easier if our audience followed us rather than the other way around? What those geeks failed to see was that no one with any sense wants to look for a hookup and the next step in their career in the same place, much less under a name they use to post song lyrics and Hello Kitty gifs.

I really am not one of “those” people. I love technology and enjoy the innovations these companies have provided us. I do NOT want to have to switch to Linux and indie freeware web browsers one day, or to disconnect from all social media. But I hate that using popular technology means I have to relinquish what little ability I have to decide how I want to compartmentalize my life, or that I have to use any product at all in the way that I am instructed to. I’m not rejecting the technology, or even the rise of companies that are getting a lot of things right–I’m against service ultimatums.

Hollaback: good intentions, but classist and racist

Hollaback, an organization with some good intentions, stepped up its game with this video of a woman walking around New York to record men cat-calling her. The video was shot, edited and marketed to go viral, and it did, with at least tens of millions of views:

But while I am against sexual harassment, I am once again dismayed about people who hysterically lump all kinds of cat calls in with harassment. I’m also really f*cking angry at the increasingly apparent element of racism and classism involved in these reactions (read more about it in my earlier post here).

First, I will repeat that I HAVE been a victim of sexual harassment and assault on the streets and elsewhere, though I would characterize my personal experiences as mild and–unfortunately–very common. And having experienced it, and sympathizing with women who’ve been through much, much worse, it is disrespectful to victims of actual harassment and assault to say every single whistle and compliment and greeting and attempt to get your attention is harassment.

Want an example? The guy shouting good morning in the Hollaback video was harmless. The guy who followed the actress for 5 minutes? That was threatening, and creepy as hell.

Now moving on to my main point, about the racist and classist elements of this increasingly popular topic of conversation, even among women of color, who should know better: If some dude dressed in J.Crew walked up to the actress in this video in Starbucks and tried to strike up a conversation with her, you can bet it would not have been included in this video or considered harassment. In fact, all the white men were cut out of the video, of which the vast majority of shots ended up coming from Harlem despite the actual 10-hour walk supposedly having covered many other neighborhoods.

Basically, some things are being called harassment these days simply because of who’s saying them–it’s harassment if a greeting or compliment comes from a working class man or a man of color dressed in “urban” looking clothing on the street; but if some random stranger comes up to a woman inside a commercial building, a coffee shop or something, dressed like a white collar professional, it’s acceptable. This is not cool.

What is happening here, partially, is that more people who didn’t grow up with this social ritual are moving to places and mixing with people who did. (I say partially because a number of the people who are most hysterical over this issue are also New Yorkers of color.) But like the aggressive and seemingly-offensive way that New Yorkers of a certain class background talk sarcastically, crack biting jokes, or even play basketball, there is an etiquette to the a back and forth and even rules of engagement for what is acceptable and what isn’t.

The reality is that most guys are not hostile or dangerous, they’re usually friendly and good natured about it whether you talk shit back, or just smile and wave. This is not understood by those for whom this ritual is foreign. Another common misconception is that men are the only ones who holla, which isn’t true–it’s just far more common, especially as we get older.

Within the ritual, it’s pretty obvious when it’s harmless, or when someone crosses the line and is an actual threat (i.e. guys who touch you, follow you, don’t take no for an answer, etc.). It’s fair to argue that men do not realize the physical vulnerability that women feel, and should–that’s is a real gender difference that people are not sensitive enough to. But it’s still important to recognize that those men who cross the line are entirely different kinds of men from the ones who just holler in passing without being rude/offensive/threatening/in your personal space.

Meanwhile, there is another reality about the men who cross the line that needs to be recognized: even if the Hollaback movement wins one day, and we live in a world where the normal, harmless guys never holla again, there will still be those psychos who stalk, threaten, harass, abuse or do worse to women. Some of the advocates against street harassment seem to be pushing an idea that women should not have to be on guard because men are acting up–but I would argue that even if men DIDN’T act this way women and people in general should always be on guard, it’s just common sense.

Lastly, there are some women out there who are arguing against any sort of approach by men to women on the street because it’s gender specific and therefore sexist. I am an advocate of women’s rights, but this argument is as ridiculous as the argument for color-blindness as the antidote to racism. Women deserve equal protection under the law, they deserve equal rights and equal opportunities. But women and men are NOT THE SAME. At the end of the day, a holla is based on physical attraction.

Arguing that it’s wrong because it’s initiated by men toward women is first of all false, because gay men holla at men, too, while gay women also holla at women. It’s also ridiculous because under the same principle, any expression of sexual interest would be a sexist attempt at domination. In that case, no man should ever approach any woman to express sexual interest in a public setting unless she has already consented, which would A) make meeting people impossible and B) be against the laws of nature.

For further reading, if you have any interest in the objective truth, please check out this analysis of why the Hollaback video was, at best, a very unscientific and biased marketing ploy: https://medium.com/message/that-catcalling-video-and-why-research-methods-is-such-an-exciting-topic-really-32223ac9c9e8

What Jennifer Lawrence’s Nude Photos Teach Us About…Everything

I have problems on many levels with the way this whole so-called scandal over Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos has played out. (Even made a video on the subject.) The issue has resurfaced in her cover story in Vanity Fair, in which she calls this a sex crime and talks about her quest to bring the perpetrators to justice.

First of all, this needs to be said: I feel for her, I really do, because privacy breaches are always mortifying. I wouldn’t want it to happen to me, or to any of my loved ones, and I do not think she deserves it because she is a celebrity and in the public eye. I understand why she’s upset.

But, there is a but. Several, actually.

1. There is fundamental ignorance about what the Internet is. Jennifer Lawrence is devoting so much of her rage to the fact that her privacy was violated, but who’s fault is that, really? Any personal information that you have on a machine connected to the great many servers that make up the World Wide Web is ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB. Yes, companies that host your e-mail, your chats (or whatever service you’re using to send or store your photos online) build their products with the intent to keep private information private. But that does not change the fact that your information is physically in a server that is connected to the rest of the world.

Basically, that means that allowing your naked photos to be copied onto any of these servers is like standing naked in the middle of Times Square with a barrier around you. That barrier can be really strong, or just a thin curtain–but either way, YOUR ARE NAKED IN TIMES SQUARE. And there is always a chance someone can find a way to peak into your personal space within that barrier, or to knock that barrier down. And they can do so even if it’s not nice, fair or legal.

The person who knocks that barrier down is probably an asshole, and in the case of the hacked celebrity photos, should be prosecuted for all his/her/their crimes. But the world is full of assholes and criminals, and that doesn’t change the fact that YOU are the asshole who chose to stand naked in the middle of Times Square. Consider this, too: if some asshole knocks down your barrier, can you REALLY be mad at all the people walking by for looking at you?

IMO, if they haven’t added this very basic information to elementary text books already, they should. People need to understand what is actually happening to their information whenever they e-mail, Snapchat, Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, etc. to someone. People need to know both their legal rights AND the inherent risk of Internet leaks regardless of whether legal rights exist.

2. What is the big deal here, really? Some photos that were meant to be shown only to one person were shown to the whole world. That sucks. But it’s not like we caught her torturing baby seals or found out that she’s dating a married man. Why is it such big news that a girl sent some nude photos to her long-distance boyfriend?

News should be new, surprising, enlightening, or informative. Jennifer Lawrence’s nudity was none of those things, unless you’re a 13-year-old boy. She isn’t the first, and won’t be the last person to snap sexy photos of themselves. It’s 2014, people, everyone does it. If they say they don’t, they’re lying.

What this really shows is that, as a society, we really need to question our priorities. Why are we still acting like our prudish Puritan ancestors and going nuts over the sight of a naked body? Is it really shocking in this day and age that a young, beautiful single woman is sexually active? Why would a simple biological fact like that be shameful for anyone?

3. The information age may be the age of forced transparency. Before the Internet, it was a lot easier for anyone to keep separate lives–work vs. personal, this group of friends vs. that group of friends, spouse vs. side piece, you name it. But with more information about us accessible on the Web, it is harder to keep those different personas going simultaneously.

This translates to people having to be more genuine. You can’t easily get away with being two-faced anymore. Are you an icy, put-together professional by day and a binge-drinking frat boy by night? Are you a sincere, caring friend one minute and a gossip monger the next? It’s not that easy to pull that double life off anymore, which may be bad news to some people.

Personally, I’ve struggled with balancing work vs. personal, but at the end of the day I’ve had to adjust to a more transparent lifestyle and I think it’s made me a better person. Whenever I do something now, I think it through first–I may intend for something to be private, but if someone ever found out about it, could I stand by my own actions? If the answer is no, then I probably should rethink what I’m doing and whether it is worth it.

4. The good news for consumers is, forced transparency applies to brands, too. If its harder for regular people like you and I to misrepresent ourselves, it’s even harder for brands, including famous people.

Though it’s more personal, the fact is that celebrities are their own brands. And what the Internet has shown us over the past couple of decades is that everything we thought celebrities were was a constructed image, much like the image of Nike, Toyota or Fisher Price. A faster flow of information=more gossip=less control over branding, which results in things like the exposure of Tom Cruise being nothing like any of us thought he was for most of his career. And, thanks to social media, we now know how dumb some of our favorite celebrities are. And don’t get me started on the train wreck that is Justin Bieber. We have a front-row seat to the truth.

Jennifer Lawrence is no exception. Her brand value doesn’t come only from her role as the star of Hunger Games, it also comes from a persona her publicists and managers have built around her.

I’m not arguing that she asked to be in the public eye and therefore deserves to have her goodies out in the open. I’ve said it already and I’ll say it again–on a personal level, that just sucks. But in respect to the shame or worry she feels that her career will be affected because people have discovered that she is that kind of girl, she gets no sympathy from me. If she is THAT kind of girl, but wants her father and everyone else to believe she is an angelic virgin who would never do something like that (a.k.a. lie), that’s not really our problem.

Moral of the story for Jennifer Lawrence and everyone else: Be real, people. Go into everything you do with both eyes open, it’ll make for fewer unpleasant surprises. If you sincerely love who you are and feel you have a right to be doing what you’re doing, never feel like you need to apologize or be ashamed of it, even if the wrong person/people hear about it.

Three Transitional Fall Looks

Early fall is every fashionista’s favorite season for good reason. Which look would you wear?

Look 1

Ready for fall look

 

 

Look 2

Stripes on stripes Saturday early fall look

 

 

Look 3

Crop top transition

Is there racism in Brazil?

Is there racism in Brazil?

It depends on who you ask.

This girl has become one of the most recognizable faces in Brazil, and not for a good reason: she was caught on video yelling a racist slur at a black player of an opposing soccer team. (video is in Portuguese)

First, some background: Brazil shares some parallels with the U.S. but race relations have developed differently here. It imported the most of all slaves brought to the Americas in the transatlantic slave trade, and was the last country in the region to fully abolish slavery. (Most Brazilians don’t know that.)

It didn’t abolish slavery in the context of civil war we we did, and didn’t undergo the kind of violent segregation we went through in the U.S. It also didn’t have our civil rights movement, our landmark lawsuits, etc. But like in the U.S., slaves were freed with no resources, and so many became part of an underserved and marginalized lower class which still exists today, and is actually more exaggerated than in America–the upper classes of Brazil are almost exclusively white.

Meanwhile, Brazil has barely acknowledged its history with slavery and racial inequality until very recently. (They have not required black history to be part of education until several years ago.)

So if you’ve met a Brazilian, especially if the Brazilian you met was white and wealthy enough to travel outside of Brazil, you may have been told that Brazil is a country where the races mix and everyone is happy in a raceless-paradise. That’s a common myth among Brazil’s mostly white elite, and used to be widely propagated among black Brazilians as well, and it’s half true–while the U.S. and other countries tried to separate the races, the Brazilian government encouraged interracial marriage.

But it wasn’t always with happy intentions–Brazil’s miscegenation policies were developed with white supremacist principles. In 1911, they sent a representative to a race conference in London to present a paper on how “sexual selection” was going to eliminate the black race in Brazil and turn it into a superpower within 100 years. Yup. Most Brazilians don’t know that either. (Link is in English.)

So anyway, I’m writing today about this girl because she is a sign that things are changing. She is not the first, and probably won’t be the last, to shout “Monkey!” at a black soccer player. But what’s different is that now, people are increasingly calling racism out in Brazil. People are recognizing and speaking out about obvious inequalities in education, economics, politics, and media. And it’s about time.

This chick has become a national pariah, to the point where she felt compelled to go on TV and “apologize,” begging tearfully for forgiveness. You almost want to feel sorry for her watching it, until you listen to what she’s saying, which is that she is NOT a racist. She gives the classic “Sorry if I offended you apology” which, for those of us who follow race issues in America and who are anti-racism, is not an apology at all, it’s a cop out. Like, ‘Oh, did I hurt your feelings? That’s not my fault, so stop picking on me!’

Check out this exerpt from a Q&A she gave in which she says even more eye-rolling things:

Você se considera racista?
Não. Eu sei que não sou racista. Já fiquei com um cara negro. Eu estava levando muito em conta o fanatismo pelo Grêmio, só que nunca fui de ofender. A torcida do Grêmio não é racista, não é.
Translation:
Do you consider yourself a racist?
No. I know that I’m not racist. I’ve been with a black guy. I was taking into consideration the fanaticism for Gremio (her soccer team), I never meant to offend. The fans of Gremio are not racist, they’re not.

 

I have two things to say about this. First, for those of you who are new to this topic, this needs to be said: if someone ever calls you a racist, get over the fact that you’re being called a racist and consider what you actually think, said or did. You could be the nicest person in the world with 100 friends from all colors of the rainbow who never means to offend anyone, and guess what? NONE of that is relevant to the question of whether or not something you did was racist. You yelled a racial slur at someone, so you are a racist. So stop whining and start thinking about what are you going to do about it.

Second, as ridiculous as she sounds, and though I’m glad people are actually reacting to and speaking up about racism in this country, I really do not think that bashing her mercilessly and torching her house (oh yes, someone did that) are going to make Brazil a less racist place. People like this woman need to be educated–after this whole thing blew up, someone needed to sit her down and explain to her why what she said was not ok, even if she was just expressing passion for her team, and even if she’s “been with a black guy.” (still SMH at that comment.) Though I understand the anger, and feel anger myself, her thinking is not uncommon and I think the problem starts with elementary education and the tendency of some demographics of Brazilians to act like racism does not exist in their country, when it clearly does.

This whole incident is part of a learning process, though. And the first step is acknowledging that there is a problem.