I couldn’t watch the George Zimmerman trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin for more than 10 minutes at a time. The pain was too acute. The trial was such a mockery of everything that we are told to believe the “justice” system is supposed to be. I couldn’t bear to listen to the “balanced” coverage discuss how it’s about race and also not about race.
To see exactly how the system is rigged was simply too much.
And yet, there was a split second last night right between the time the judge asked the jury if they had a verdict and the moment that the verdict was read that I thought that George Zimmerman would be convicted of murdering Trayvon Martin.
Quvenzhané Wallis was the butt of a deeply sexist, racist inappropriate joke by whoever is tweeting for The Onion last night (which I will not link to or describe because it’s ugly).
And what upsets me so much about it is that this beautiful little nine-year-old black girl had to get a lesson in just what it means to be a black girl in a white supremacist patriarchal country at the exact time that she’s being honored for her artistry. In fact “upsets” is too bland a word for what I feel. It’s anger. A profound sadness.
But the sad, maddening truth of this moment is that it is not surprising. Black people, girls and women especially, are never safe from the random omnipotence of anti-black sentiment that infects this nation, but I had hoped that maybe this poised, thoughtful, remarkably self-possessed beautiful little girl would have this one night.
But she didn’t. The Onion tweeter took that from her. Violently. Cruelly. Unconsciously, it seems.
I certainly hope this show, Skin Deep The Series, gets produced…
…because there could be real power in a show that forthrightly addresses issues of race, sexuality, and masculinity in a way that forces us to rethink our assumptions and become aware of the contexts in which we live in the United States.
But this promotional video does give me pause because so much of the interaction between the characters is provocative in a way that doesn’t seem to reveal anything beyond the superficial. Obviously, it’s hard to tell anything from a 10-minute promotional video, but with dialogue like “take it” and “wrong color” and (apparently) cliche situations like bashings and thug fetishes this could be terribly exploitative, rather than progressive. There’s an illusion of depth here that suggests that the producers haven’t seriously considered who each of these men are.
Similarly, the additional promotional materials suggest that this show will be set in Atlanta, GA, but this presentation lacks a sense of place. This could be Any Diverse Coastal Town USA. The key then would be for the makers of this show to open up the world of these characters so we can understand where they come from and who they are. Right now – these are just archetypes.
For Skin Deep The Series to truly do what it seems to be setting out to do, it will have to really take seriously the realities and unique circumstances that produced each of these individuals. And that means being really honest rather than just provocative.
But in comparing Charlie Sheen and Ochocinco, Alyssa makes the wrong conclusion:
Johnson is hardly a money machine like Charlie Sheen, so the decision to drop him isn’t as painful to the network as it would be for the networks of the world to collectively and permanently turn their backs on that particular member of the Estevez clan. But still, it costs money to shoot a show and then shelve it. I’m glad that for now, VH1 isn’t interested in peddling that fantasy, and is willing to take the hit on the show.
I get that Alyssa is trying to make what she probably thinks is a larger point about VH1’s willingness to take a financial hit. But she fails to actually interrogate why it will take that hit — race — and in doing so, gives VH1 more credit than it deserves.
Nope, what is most striking to me is how Campbell equivocates throughout the entire piece and then ends with:
I don’t think talking about racism in fashion will change anything. Even if fashion changes, it’s not going to change the world. I’d rather just have a positive attitude. If I were feeling discriminated against, I might go into a casting thinking I’m not going to get this job. It’s negativity that will disadvantage me.
Well, what's the point of writing this open letter if not to "talk about racism"? Lawd!
It's interesting to watch the millennial generation – Campbell is 19 – tie themselves in knots trying to talk about race in a world where they have been told that it is not something that we need to talk about anymore. Clearly they want to. Clearly Campbell wants to talk about what it is really like to be a black model, but she knows she can't just call the entire industry racist — even though the primary goal of the fashion industry is to reinscribe whiteness and white beauty standards around the world, i.e. racist.
If anything, despite her prostestations, Campbell's letter makes the need to address racism in the fashion industry more critical than ever.