Shady Santa and the Hate Crime That Wasn’t

“Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains” is a scripture I believe in. Sadly, it doesn’t apply to journalists working to move copy from edit to print. I have been there — that dark space when you publish a story that could have used just one more source. Even with little means and the news cycle’s brutal turnover rate, we still have to do better.

The Muslim college student who claimed that she was harassed has been charged with filing a false police report. Soon after the story went viral Yasmin Seweid disappeared. She popped back up after going missing to admit that she made it all up.

Surveillance cameras failed to catch her hijab being tugged on by three men shouting “Donald Trump!,” and none of the supposed witnesses who “sat around and did nothing” came forward. (Sigh)

The Santa we collectively boohooed over might have embellished his heartbreaking tale involving a terminally ill child. Now, Kris Kringle will have to make room for himself on the naughty list. (Double Sigh)

The craziest part of all this is that there is actual fake news floating through people’s newsfeeds that should be immediately reported as spam. One report (I hope and pray to God is legitimate) shows that there are writers being hired in foreign countries to produce incendiary headlines to get our blood pressures up and stomachs in knots. It worked throughout the whole election.

It’s deeply disturbing and slightly depressing when an occupation that is just as serious as being a doctor or a lawyer (even more so in some instances) becomes the laughing stock of the culture.

Here’s my advice: 1. Make it clear in the headline when something is an unconfirmed report. 2. Make it clear in the body of the story that something is an unconfirmed report, BUT that your staff is working swiftly to do so, or that you have reached out and will update the story accordingly. 3. If the story is coming from an outlet you never heard of before, tread lightly. Very lightly.

I have faith in us. We can do this.

The Hollywood Reporter squandered an opportunity to talk to actresses of color, but what else is new

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[Note: This was written a long while ago, but I somehow forgot to hit publish. 🙂 ]

The Hollywood Reporter squandered a critical opportunity to champion for inclusion when assembling stars for its annual “Round Table” feature story.

Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Carey Mulligan, Jane Fonda, Brie Larson, Helen Mirren and Charlotte Rampling, all white women, were selected to partake in discussion and to pose for the accompanying fashion spread.

The talking points ranged from being an outspoken voice in Hollywood to the slim probability of landing leading roles after a certain age.

Now to the magazine’s credit, invitations to this sisterhood circle are extended to those whose films have garnered the most critical praise from insiders.

Still, the visual of eight white actresses in a secret meeting where they essentially lamented about everything didn’t sit well with the majority of its readers.

In fact, almost all of Twitter jumped in on the fight for diversity the second the teaser was blasted out.

Perhaps the publication had a minor lapse in accounting the breadth of its audience; maybe the writers simply didn’t expect for its Hollywood bubble to be infiltrated, or maybe it all boils down to pure laziness.

Editor Stephen Galloway penned an apologetic explanation for why they didn’t invite any Black, Asian, or Latina actresses to the tea party, which can be summarized in one line: “Zero actresses of color were in the Oscar conversation,” he wrote.

While that may be true, the conversation should be driven by critics who have the opportunity to preview and then review a plethora of films and not just ones with huge names attached.

Viola Davis, who no doubt should have been included, addressed this issue when she won her Best Actress Emmy. It appears that her speech has gone in one ear and out of the other.

It is up to journalists and the media to delve deeply into the broad spectrum of creative works that exist. Entertainment outlets like People, Us Weekly and THR ignore black celebrities until they are involved in some unbelievable scandal or they die and it really shouldn’t be that way.

Instead offering up a lousy, defensive explanation, THR should have left us all with a promise to do better next time.

Happy Veterans Day! Now About #ConcernedStudent1950

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Is anyone else feeling particularly melancholy on this Veterans Day? I know that Memorial Day — which is in May, not November — is the holiday reserved for honoring fallen servicemen and women with expressions of gratitude for the sacrifices they’ve made for the safety of American citizens around the world. But this November 11 coincides with the arrest of a white man who issued a terroristic threat promising to shoot and kill black students on the campus of the University of Missouri. The threat is a blatant response to the activism against the racially aggressive environment that has plagued that college campus since its inception. In this millennium, students have had to deal with swastikas drawn on the walls with feces and racial epithets hurled every which way.

While the two events are totally unrelated, I can’t help but to feel sadness at our nation’s preoccupation with protecting its citizens from outside forces (see: yesterday’s GOP debate), yet many of us who live here are constantly threatened, attacked or killed by our supposed brothers and sisters who pledge allegiance to the same unionized flag.

It is not 1950 when black and white children were barred from attending the same schools; it is 2015. It is not 1963 where people marched for equal rights; it is 2015. We are regressing and something must be done.

The presence of #ConcernedStudent1950, the group responsible for the successful ouster of the university’s incompetent President Tim Wolfe and his chancellor, is an uncomfortably nostalgic one. They modeled themselves after a campus group who fought for the same respect and protection over half a century ago.

Back in 1962 on a campus not too far away, James H. Meredith, who was a black Air Force Veteran, tried to register for classes at “Ole Miss” several times without success. Tensions were so bad coming from white students who wanted him out, President John F. Kennedy sent federal troops to the campus. In the midst of all the violent riots two people died. With the help of the National Guard, Meredith was able to attend classes and segregation ended on the campus.

While I respect and honor our veterans who bring a sense of safety and peace, I just wish the leaders of our government exacted the same passion with the citizens of this country. What if that level of manpower was used to bring committers of hate crimes to the fullest extent of the law?

I wonder.

Vanity Fair Celebrates White Men Because White Men Need More Praise

Vanity-Fair-Late-Night-Hosts-White-MenIf you thought Vanity Fair’s ode to the current lineup of late night hosts was jarring — shocking in its erasure of all things diverse — then congratulations, you’ve just gotten a whiff of how it feels to be a black woman. Welcome to the dark side, an alternate universe where talent is minimized if not ignored, underappreciated, and where black women are made to feel lucky for any chance of advancement.

Feels weird, doesn’t it? Vanity Fair was just doing its due diligence as the stuffy entertainment publication of note, in sharing with the world that most of the choices for late night TV this fall are nearly identical: white, male, and inadvertently white-washed black male, as the Los Angeles Times put it. All of which reminds me why I always go to bed promptly at 11pm (nothing new to see here folks.)

However, when Vanity Fair led with the headline, “Why Late-Night Television Is Better Than Ever,” in the accompanying article, they seem to agree with shutting the door on talented men and women of different races and cultures.

It is hard being a black woman. We’re automatically characterized as the video vixen or the basketball wife, or the angry single mother. Meanwhile, most of us in the real world are breaking those stereotypical holds by furthering our education, starting businesses, and fiercely climbing the corporate ladder.

Just the other night, Matt Damon had the gall to tell a celebrated black director what she knows about diversity during the 4th season premiere of his show “Project Greenlight.” Effie Brown, who is the mastermind behind “Dear White People,” made a futile attempt to bring forth the racial undertones that exists with having a black prostitute as a sole character to represent diversity in a big budget film.

Damon’s argument? “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show,” he says to undermine her God-given ability as a diverse producer.

This is the problem with society and why Vanity Fair only has mostly white men to celebrate in its magazine. If black women speak up we’re combative, but if we’re quiet we keep our jobs.

We live in a society where we have to pretend that we like Jimmy Kimmel, the same white man who shed actual tears for a lion in Zimbabwe in lieu of the poor Americans who die in the streets daily.

It’s exhausting to continue to try to beat down a locked door. White men tend to become defensive when you bring up their disregard for inclusion and diversity.

My hope is that the Steven Spielbergs and the Martin Scorseses of the world would take a moment to walk in our shoes.

Black culture is dope as fuck.

We continue to see artists like Iggy Azalea and Justin Bieber nibble at it, but I open the door for any white executive to fully embrace our culture. Just let us guide you. Allow us to tell our stories — without getting defensive or feeling anxious about the editing process (cough, Ben Affleck).

How many times have you made an illegal turn? #SandraBland

Sandra-Bland-SuicideAround this time last year I made an illegal turn. It was about 2 a.m. in the morning; bleary-eyed and not paying attention, I just wanted to get home and take my shoes off. I accidentally turned out from the left lane and went over two lanes to the right. Since I was driving slow, I tried to swerve my car back into my lane before the officer hiding in the gas station noticed me, but it was too late.

I was pulled over 5 seconds later, not even a block away from my house. I apologized to the officer and told them that I was coming home from work. I told the officer my occupation and how I had a long night. None of it mattered. The incident left me with a fine and a few points on my license, but I was able to sleep in my own bed that night.

Lucky me, I landed the cop desperate to meet a quota, instead of one who rather a proud sister laying cuffed and bloodied on the street.

Sandra Bland was supposed start a new position at her Alma mater soon, but she was pulled over, arrested, and died in jail.

The dash-cam video displayed a strong, knowledgeable, and alert woman, unafraid to stand up for herself. The officer yanked and yelled, but like a modern day freedom fighter, Bland refused to be moved or discouraged. The medical examiner has already ruled her death a suicide by hanging, but all those who have marched on the front lines, and even those who’ve cheered from the side lines, know that Bland died a hero.

As the investigation process on what really happened in that small cell gets underway, it is crucial that the work of the Black Lives Matter movement be elevated. While not reducing the progress made behind previous incidents including Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and others; all hands must be on deck if we truly want equality and justice to be universal.

A photo posted by Brad Walrond (@bradwalrond) on

She went to an HBCU; I went to an HBCU. She was a member of a black greek lettered organization (Sigma Gamma Rho), and so am I (Delta Sigma Theta). Bland and all the other victims of police brutality deserve more. Over the last year I have changed jobs twice, flown out of the country three times, and moved into a new place — but had I suffered the same fate as Bland, none of what I accomplished would be possible. As the older sister of two black men, I’ve always been partial to their struggles, often overlooking my own. They’ve both successfully made it out that “danger zone” of adolescence and young adulthood, and I’ll admit; I got comfortable. With the unfortunate reminder that these events can happen to educated women, who are literally on their way to accept an offer for a new job, it’s an eye-opening event that hits close to home.

The last Facebook profile picture that Bland will ever upload was a meme that plainly reads, “Now legalize being black in America.”

So, when will we?