Another fashion mag fail

Elle Magazine (I’m not going to call you dear); I’m shaking my head at you. In what you say is your well-meaning attempt to battle PeopleMagazine’s biased taste in men, you have compiled a list of gorgeous men of color.  But, as with Allure’s lame attempt at celebrating natural Black hairstyles with their article, “You (yes you) can have an Afro,” your writing leaves a lot to be desired.  Your headline alone, “30 of the Sexiest Men Alive Who Aren’t White” was cringe worthy and insulting in and of itself.

I was so taken aback by your headline I reposted it on Facebook. My post opened with “What in fresh hell kind of headline is this?” My friends had reactions similar to mine.

The headline gets the side-eye for real!
 Because heaven forbid we have a list of the 30 Sexiest Men without another requirement. That would take away white men’s spots!
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs
 I think they’re trying to make a point.
Like · Reply · 23 hrs
 Its cultural ignorance….so men of color can’t be white. Rubbish!!!
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs
 They still would have gotten the side-eye, but why not just label the headlong, “30 of the Sexiest Men of Color.” Simple as that!
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 23 hrs
Like · Reply · 23 hrs
 I think they’re pointing out that the world’s sexiest man has mostly been white.
Like · Reply · 1 · 22 hrs
I don’t know the intent here, but yeah, there’s better ways to make the point that sexy comes in all sorts of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Why is race even called out?
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 22 hrs
 The only problem I have is that they didn’t put me on that list.
Unlike · Reply · 3 · 20 hrs
Now I love me some beautiful men. Harry Shum Jr. and John Cho have both been called my husband over the years. 

Mario Lopez has been fine since 1989. 
I can’t wait to see Michael B. Jordan in Creed.

 Idris Elba is my James Bond. 

Jesse Williams is not only a handsome man but a deep thinker with tweets worth reading and retweeting. 

Boris Kodjoe: I’m speechless.

 Elle, the problem isn’t the gentlemen chosen. It’s the implication that they are an alternative, an also-ran. Your poor choice of words, presented as the hook for the audience, rendered them the second choice. Why not simply refer to them as men?  

I suppose you will argue that your title was your way of countering People’s lily-white choices over the years. But sexy is sexy.  Mentioning race was unnecessary.  Y’all need tougher editors and more thoughtful writers.  If you want to tackle the challenge of media bias, you will need to step up your game. 

Prayer for hope

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.
Some shall be pardoned, and some punished…” William Shakespeare, Act 5 of Romeo and Juliet
“America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.” Allen Ginsberg
The morning after a tragedy is quiet on many levels.  There is the usual quiet of mornings.  Also there is the lull of reflection.  Of course, there is the silence associated with various emotions: the numbness that accompanies grief, the tense muteness preceding or following rage, the stillness of shock. So often we are at a loss after a tragedy, however close we may have been to those involved.  I didn’t know Trayvon Martin and yet I, along with millions of others this morning, feel the weight of his loss and the failure of the court system in freeing the man responsible for his death. 
When I first wrote about this case over a year ago (Media misrepresentation in Trayvon Martin case), I pondered how my distance from the events led to my misunderstanding and confusion about the events as news. I also pointed out how the many layers of my life experiences impacted my thoughts.  At that time, I knew Trayvon Martin would impact us as a nation.  This morning, I realize Trayvon Martin has impacted me as a person. 

As a mother, as a woman of color, as an educator of at-risk youth, and as a proud American, the verdict delivered  in the trial of George Zimmerman exacerbates the fear, worry, and heartache I have about race relations in my country.  I live in a country where children can be attacked simply because how they look. 
Talented Sebastien De La Cruz, aka El Charro de Oro, came under fire for paying homage to his Mexican culture as he performed his National Anthem. 

Brand-name cereal Cheerios shut down online comments on their YouTube video feed after their charming commercial featuring a biracial family inspired racist reactions. 

I live in a country in which a TV show featuring several Latinas as sexy maids reaps high ratings and positive buzz despite the stereotypes perpetuated. 

So while we battle these issues in the media and the social networking worlds, I trust that our legal system will not be affected by racist images and misconceptions.  I am crushed when I am disappointed. 

Somehow, I carry and hold up hope.   As an artist, I choose to embrace all people as we come together creatively to build community. 

 As a mother and girlfriend, I choose to stay in my community because it offers an opportunity for my daughter to grow up in a different America, one where all people can live together. 
I choose hope. 

This morning, I offer a prayer for hope, the hope that Trayvon Martin’s death was not in vain, that as a nation we recover from this tragedy in the spirit of reconciliation, and that the families most affected by this loss find peace.  

Mixed messages

Images are powerful.  We base our first impressions on appearances.  And unlike the Dramatics song, what we see is not always what we get or, to be clear, what we ultimately understand.  Sadly, it is easier to have impressions over understanding. In the case of Trayvon Martin’s death, that problem is made worse by the mixed messages the media has put forward. 
I have responded to this case in a number of ways. As a parent. As an educator for over a decade and former assistant principal.  As a woman of color well-aware of racial tensions/conflicts in 2012 America.  This is not an easy case and I’m savvy enough to know that the media plays a role in what impressions and information I have about the case. I initially didn’t want to write about the case simply because there was too many ways I could reflect on it.  Recent findings have complicated my feelings yet motivated me to weigh in on those mixed messages and feelings.  
I admit when I heard about a security guard shooting an unarmed young black man, I immediately thought racist in a Southern state takes advantage of a poorly written law to shoot without good reason.  Then when my brother sent me an early morning text last week, “Zimmerman is half Peruvian,” my heart sank.
I told my parents and they immediately began a debate on the complexities of Peruvian race relations. I found the linked Suzanne Gamboa article but it only added to the conflicting thoughts I have. article about Zimmerman’s ethnic identity

This morning, I have seen the more recent pictures of both Zimmerman and Martin.   I feel bamboozled, fooled, naive.  Like millions of people every day, I have accepted what is presented in the news as fact.  But as my own class discussed, fact is not always truth.  Now I have a less menacing yet fuller picture of the real George Zimmerman, not the boogeyman the court of public opinion would have me dismiss.

As for Trayvon Martin, I no longer only see the memory of a baby-faced child but a more honest picture of a real teenager. Unlike Geraldo Rivera(why does he have to be Latino? somebody take him back), I am not quick to judge Trayvon. Wifebeaters, grills, and tattoos have no bearing on this case.  A young man is dead, another man has lost his reputation and safety, possibly his life, and two communities stand to lose common ground over this case.

On a more personal level, I can’t help but wonder how many people will ponder this case in depth.  I am saddened and moved by this case to be more analytical and reflective. I can’t let the media or even my own first impressions be my guide.

In defense of Rihanna

All weekend long, I have held my tongue. It’s my own fault, really, choosing to be Facebook friends with folks young enough to be my children(they were my children in a sense, before I became a biological parent); I should have known that their opinions and feelings are a generation apart from mine. Still, it has been jarring having to read and therefore “listen” to the voices of the strong, intelligent, articulate young people who feel that Chris Brown has been wronged. Chris Brown?!?

Count me in with Oprah and Nikki from my radio morning show and all us old school feminists. I don’t feel sorry for Chris Brown. He wasn’t on the receiving end of a beating. He can apologize and pick up garbage in Backwater, Southern state until my daughter can vote and he won’t get any sympathy from me. True, he’s lost his endorsement by a chewing gum company and cute white couples are less likely to dance into the church on their wedding day to one of his songs. But he’ll be gracing the cover of the resurrected Vibe magazine next month and is currently getting lots of media attention now that Rihanna is making the talk show circuit. And plenty of smart young people of color are defending him on Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and in conversations across high school and college campuses everywhere. That makes me sad.

“She must have gotten him mad.” “She shouldn’t have been going through his phone.” “He was stressed.” It’s amazing how insidious abusers are. They get into our heads, convince us that the victim is at fault, that they deserved that slap, that slashing, that gunshot. Rihanna has owned her part in the tragedy, admitting it was unhealthy and obsessive on both sides. But that does not make it her fault. No one’s daughter/sister/mother/friend deserves to be abused.

Perhaps Rihanna would be wise to avoid the limelight, to express her pain through writing a memoir or creating an autobiographical song/video, rather than going on national TV. But she is young and healing from deep wounds. She won’t even truly realize what she has survived for several years. Right now, she is trying to do what is right for other young women, even as some of them turn on her.

Coming undone in a fishbowl

A lot has been made of Britney’s recent breakdowns. Everyone from E! to Dr. Phil to the average Joe or Maria has something to say about the latest casualty of kid fame. But I knew Ms. Spears was on the verge when she donned a sweatsuit to marry Federline. I hadn’t yet learned the term borderline or recognized it in myself but I was alarmed by Brit’s under-the-influence YouTube rant and her pattern of impulsive behavior. The girl needed help, not publicity. Now a possible 5150, Ms. Spears has truly lost control.

Mental illness isn’t fun or glamorous. It is ugly and tragic. I feel for her. Losing your mind is painful without the addded stress of constant flash of camera bulbs and microphones being thrust in your face for soundbites. The woman has lost her children and dignity yet the media blitz doesn’t seem to be letting up. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dr. Phil and his ilk helped push Brit to the edge of the edge.

I hope she heads home to Louisiana. She doesn’t need the luxury cars or the Hollywood home or her paparazzo boyfriend or her manager/producer. She needs time and love, real love, not the fish food America has been feeding her since her “Oh Baby, Baby” days.