institutionalized racism

"Django, In Chains" by Jesse Williams (via by Shanelle Gabriel

If you are an African-American who has seen the movie "Django," you most likely have mixed feelings towards the movie. You may have laughed at the KKK scene where the holes for the eyes in the hood were too small for the members. You may have laughed at the plantation owner who got all discombobulated while telling his slave not to "treat Django like White people but to treat him better than a n***er." While the movie MAY have been entertaining, there was something about it that you just might not have been able to explain that made it uncomfortable (beyond all of the 4 minute musical interludes that I feel added a half hour to a 2 hour movie.) You know this movie got slavery wrong.
Jesse Williams properly elaborates on the movie and Tarantino's errors in  
Jesse Williams
Jesse Williams


(CNN) -- Films such as "Django Unchained" carry with them an uncommonly high concentration of influence and opportunity. Due to the scarcity of diverse and inspiring representations on screen, Quentin Tarantino's latest movie casts a longer shadow than many are willing to acknowledge.

In a recent interview with UK Channel 4, Tarantino stated his goals and interpretation of the Oscar-nominated film's impact: "I've always wanted to explore slavery ... to give black American males a hero ... and revenge. ... I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they have not in 30 years."

He went on, "Violence on slaves hasn't been dealt with to the extent that I've dealt with it."

My personal biracial experience growing up on both sides of segregated hoods, suburbs and backcountry taught me a lot about the coded language and arithmetic of racism. I was often invisible when topics of race arose, the racial adoptee that you spoke honestly in front of.

I grew up hearing the candid dirt from both sides, and I studied it. The conversation was almost always influenced by something people read or saw on a screen. Media portrayals greatly affect, if not entirely construct, how we interpret "otherness." People see what they are shown, and little else. 

It's why my dad forced me to study and value history from an absurdly young age -- to build a foundation solid enough to withstand cultural omissions from the curriculum and distortions from the media. It's what led me to become a teacher of American and African history out of college. There is a glaring difference in outlook between those who have mined the rich, empowering truth about how we've come to be, and those who just accept that there's only one or two people of African descent deemed worthy of entire history books.

If, like Tarantino, you show up with a megaphone and claim to be creating a real solution to a specific problem, I only ask that you not instead, construct something unnecessarily fake and then act like you've done us a favor....

"Django Unchained" is being projected on screens around the world, out of context: A slim percentage of consumers have any real understanding of what took place during slavery, one of history's most prolonged, barbaric and celebrated human rights violations. Sadly, for many Americans, this film is the beginning and the end of that history lesson...

(Read the rest of the article HERE)


I've Been Institutionalized...How About You? (Blog) by Shanelle Gabriel

I spent 1:00am to 2:00am this morning on the phone with a male friend of mine. While some would call these the more 'seductive' or dare I say 'booty call' hours, we were discussing the gender roles in society. He argued that women are "simply more emotional than men are" and that a man that acts 'as a woman' would have trouble being a leader in society. "The first step to success is mastering emotions." Some might call my friend a little chauvinistic in regards to his views. I argued that as children we are born with the same capacity to love, share our feelings, hug our mommies and daddies, as well as cry in front of others...that is until we become pegs in the gender holes that society gives us. Girls play with dolls, hug them, nurture them. Boys have toy guns, army action figures, and wipe off motherly kisses when they are with their boys. I explained that what the world calls THE MALE EGO is just another way to say MALE EMOTION. If a guy reacts emotionally it's because you were messing with his EGO. If a woman reacts emotionally, it can't be her pride being hurt. She's on her cycle, she's hormonal. We debated back and forth about this until I said we should agree to disagree. Under my breath I muttered, "He can't understand my point. He just can't see institutionalized sexism."

The gender lockdown I've been on isn't new to me. I felt it growing up as a tomboy, battling the idea that I HAD to be this dainty creature. However, it's only recently that I knew a name for my jailer and saw how it molded me into thinking I had to be this fragile, dramatic, domestic, sex kitten to fit in with the world. It's even been fostered by church folk who believe due to Eve's [part in] bringing sin into the world, women can only be deaconesses, not elders or ministers. Try as much as you can, it's very hard to explain to a man the true plight of being a woman. An owner of the business of a prison (someone benefiting from the situation of others) can rarely see the prison from the prisoner's point of view.

To add to the discussion in my mind, I awake to a tweet from Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) with a clip to his discussion with Bill O'Reilly on Racism and the NAACP (Posted below). Apparently, the President of the NAACP discussed racism at the NAACP National Convention in Kansas City this week. O'Reilly argued that if the NAACP is going to speak on Whites being racist, then they should address the racism of other Blacks towards Whites. Poor Professor Hill...old conservative Billy wouldn't let him get a sentence out. Another situation where a White person believes that all racism is equal in America. I don't condone racism, but we cannot pretend that the state of Blacks in America is not affected by the history of the way Blacks were treated by Whites in America. The idea that ill-feelings towards Whites is completely unwarranted is closed-minded and is ignorant of human nature. If historically a people are hurt and oppressed by another group of people, naturally there will be some backlash generations to come. To say, "Get over it and let's all love one another" is dismissive of the pain (both present and past) that's been caused.

I can't expect Bill O'Reilly to understand those that speak against the malice in this nation that has been caused by the class in power (which happens to be White, upper class), those that refer to the oppression that was used to build this country, those that illuminate the self-hate fostered by years of being told 'lighter is better' and who endured nose pinching as a child for fear that 'it would spread.' He wouldn't understand because he happens to be White, upper class who benefits from the US caste system which is vastly based on skin color, and growing up, his nose was free to do what it wanted to. I believe while some are prone to sympathizing with others, many wouldn't even see or allow themselves to see themselves as racist anyways because racism = bad, and they're a 'good' person. "Good people aren't racist. It's just survival of the fittest. They're being over dramatic. Look, they got Obama." It's like looking at an old-school 3D picture: unless you're in it, you can't see it.

I don't blame my friend for not understanding how oppressive it is as a female or even Bill O'Reilly for being...well, maybe I do despise his ignorance and expectations for African Americans regarding discrimination. The NAACP is not responsible for speaking or censoring the speech of ALL Blacks in America. They can only promote the downfall of the institution as it relates to the people a part of the organization. Being close-minded to the idea that the world may JUST be biased to someone other than yourself is another way to say IGNORANT, and blacks and women have been trapped inside of this biased box for centuries now by people who didn't even consider that they were holding the key. To all wardens out there, believe the prisoners when they speak of the hard time they've been doing. It's not make-believe, especially when the disparities have been trace and documented for all this time. Believe the ugly truth that there is prejudice embedded in society that isn't easy to target much less begin to chip away at. The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one.

To all my fellow prisoners, it's time to take back your freedom by overcoming one warden at a time.