Maniacs look like Mr. Rogers, not Trayvon Martin: Racial Profiling, Dzokhar Tsarnaev and Privilege

FYI: Terrorists Can Be Hot and Black Men Can Be Innocent

 This month’s Rolling Stones cover has a lot of people in a tizzy. It has incited so much outrage that major stores such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid have refused to sell the issue which features what some call a “glamorized,” cover photo of Boston bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the seemingly innocent, good-looking all-American boy with his tussled brown hair, pale skin and brown eyes, staring inquisitively into the camera. Although, the picture chosen was the photo of choice for most major news networks after the bombing, many are accusing Rolling Stones of deliberately choosing the glamorized selfie in an attempt to make Tsarnaev look more like a rock star.

 Already a social media celebrity on his own, you can find the hastag #Savedzokhartsarnaev or #tsarnaevisinnocent via Twitter and Tumblr as young girls and boys post their weird, sometimes amusing ,but incredibly distorted thoughts about Tsarnaev presumed innocence.

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Tumblr’s Dzokhar Tsarnaev tag features young girls and boys admiration over the Boston bomber whether for his looks, Twitter comments or presumed innocence.

 

 But anyone that is declaring Tsarnaev is innocent simply because of his good looks is just as ignorant as anyone who believes his good looks mean he shouldn’t be on the cover of a magazine. Should Rolling Stones have used a photo-shopped version with blood and fangs attached to his face, and a burning American flag hanging in the background? Too many acts of violence are committed by your average pot-smoking, soccer loving male college student to turn away from the photo of Tsarnaev, and not force yourself to picture your own friend, neighbor or brother.  Tsarnaev contradicts everything we believe about racial profiling at a critical time when Trayvon Martin forced us to examine white privilege.

Unlike Martin’s black skin and hoodie, the Tsanaerv brothers white skin and hoodies allowed them to maneuver during the Boston Marathon without being followed. Even after the explosions, it wasn’t the brothers that were first suspected but a 20-year-old Saudi Arabian man who was “seen running,” after the bombs went off. Well, duh. Police ransacked his apartment with two K-9 units while he was getting treated for his wounds at the hospital. The NY Post listed him as a suspect just two hours after the explosion.

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Police first suspected a 20-year-old Saudi Arabian man for the Boston bombings after he was “seen running,” after the explosion. Oh. 

On Friday, President Obama spoke at the White House press briefing following the Trayvon Martin verdict and discussed America’s racial disparities within the criminal justice system. His most powerful statement came when Obama identified himself with Martin saying, “Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.” Although being the country’s first black president, the President rarely discusses race but he did address Martin’s death last year when he said “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin.” President Obama did an excellent job at putting the trial into the context of what African-Americans experience in a country that continues to rule under racial construction. He forced listeners to view the trial through a set of minority eyes, particularly those of black men who often suffer the most racial inequalities within the criminal justice system.

Why can’t the same dialogue that occurred after Adama Lanza killed 20 children, including his own mother, be made about Tsarnaev?  Reporters, analysts and experts probed and prodded to find the answers as to why such a seemingly small-time , Connecticut boy could commit such acts of violence.

There was no uproar in trying to find out why Lanza gunned down 27 people. In fact, we wanted to know. But that same question doesn’t want to be asked about Tsaernaev. If we did, it would force people to look at Tsaernaev and his brother as individuals rather than as just components of a collective group of raging Islamic terrorists, who all act and think alike. But because of his slightly brown skin and non-American DNA, Tsaernaev is omitted from the white privilege dialogue that is afforded to most whites- the opportunity to see them as individuals.

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News to Justify the Means: Manifest Destiny, War and 9/11

July 12, 2013 1 comment
Painting by artist John Gust. A symbol of America's Manifest Destiny, spreading across the globe.

Painting by artist John Gust. A symbol of America’s Manifest Destiny, spreading across the globe.

As a journalist, I understand the power of words during times of crisis. News- both oral and written- are responsible for invoking strong emotions in readers during global, national and local acts of violence, crime and national disasters. One of the most apparent examples of this was 9/11, when the media’s “war against terror,” deemed Muslims as a threat to U.S security. Taking their religion, culture and teachings out of context, Muslims both here and abroad were and are still vilified as a danger to democracy and peace.

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The U.S Mexican War was considered justifiable under the notion of America’s “manifest destiny,” and racial superiority.

But it was just at the turn of the century when U.S newspapers began using racist and ethnically charged speech to justify other so-called wars against terror. The year was 1845 and President John Tyler recently sent troops to Texas- Mexican land that journalist John O’Sullivan declared our “manifest destiny,” to invade in order to “overspread the continent…for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” Many believed Mexican people were inferior. Poet Walt Whitman considered them an “uncivilized, weaker blood,” thus the U.S Mexican War, fought between 1846-1848 was justified under the guise of America’s “manifest destiny. “

Political and religious editorials on the war justified it by claiming Mexicans needed to be “wiser, humaner, more freely and manly.” An Ohio congressman, while opposed to the war, believed people of a “sad compound  of Spanish, English, Indian and Negro bloods,” produce a slothful ignorant race of beings.” A naval officer who invaded a Spanish settlement in California during the war told its residents:

 “The country you inhabit no longer belongs to Mexico…And if you are faithful to your new rulers… we shall not displace you… but if you are lazy and dissipated, you must, before many years, become extinct.”

 Invoking racially charged speech into news stories can have a dangerous effect on how people view those of a certain group. After 9/11,  journalists inaccurately labeled the hijackers as Muslim, and when many Muslim experts came forward to address this, news stations didn’t openly acknowledge their mistakes. Thus, prejudicial assumptions expounded against Muslims and  as a result, many  suffered daily humiliation and even violence attacks; forcing them to live in fear and uncertainty here in the U.S

Mooz-lum was a 2010 independent film that chronicled the college life of an African-American Muslim man whose world changes post 9-11. A full version is currently up on YouTube.

News stories may or may not contain an agenda. So its important for consumers to be aware that what they read or hear is not an entire event but a version of the event that may or may not be objective and will surely contain bias.

 

Travel Whim: Kobenhavn, Denmark

June 30, 2013 1 comment

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I just came back from my first European excursion to Kobenhavn, Denmark and had an amazing time.  I spent 8 days touring buildings with architecture students, and saw some of the most beautiful designs. The Danish people live in small spaces (hence, Ikea) and take pride in their modern living spaces. Women hold many of the top jobs- thus marriage and having babies don’t top their to-do list. As a result, the birth rate in Copenhagen is considered “dangerously low.”

The country provides social programs such as free medical care and college tuition. Yes, free tuition, housing and a $1000/month stipend! Danish people don’t seem to worry too much about money, which is probably why they are considered the happiest people in the world. They love to shop, eat at cafes and travel. They appear genuine, less intrusive than Southerners (groan away, its the truth!) and were glad to help if one of us needed directions.

Most importantly, even the immigrant neighborhoods appeared suitable for living. Subsidized housing is required in many of the ritzy condos and apartments and  unemployment is only around 1%. Compared to my hometown, Kobenhavn is the Taj Mahal.

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LET’S EAT!

I ate, A LOT. Danish food was better than I expected. Smorrebrod (open sandwiches) are delicious! They are often topped with fresh fish, meat, caviar, greens, eggs and even fruit.  Some of my other obsessions: Belgian waffles, Turborg beer (in the morning) and almond cake.

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Contrary to Ikea’s frozen food section, Scandinavians don’t just eat salty fish and bread. The city has a juxtapose of immigrants from Poland, East Africa, Italy, and China so there were countless dishes to choose from.

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Cycling Superhighway

Nearly 55 percent of people in Copenhagen use biking as their means of transportation. The Danish government is big on clean air and green energy using wind power to produce 50% of the country’s energy as a result of global warming; which they started tackling in the 80s. The government discourages driving with high gas prices. It was somewhere around $8 per gallon during my stay but I was only in a car twice- to and from the airport.

But unlike many American cities that don’t accommodate bikers, here cyclists have their own lanes, which include traffic lights at busy intersections and even designated turning lanes. These are necessary because just like in cars- traffic on the bike lanes occur during the early mornings.

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IF YOU BUILD IT…

If you are a design buff, than Kobehnhavn is the place to go. Many of the tourists were design and/or architecture students, professors and investors. Some of the biggest name in architecture are Danish, including Bjarke Ingels (BIG), whose designs include the 8 House, a three-dimensional housing block that connects by a continuous walking and bike path from the bottom to the 10th floor. Its amazing to see in person.

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View of the 8 House from the top

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“An alley of 150 rowhouses stretches through the entire block and twists all the way from street level to the top and down again. Where social life, the spontaneous encounter and neighbor interaction traditionally is restricted to the ground level, the 8 House allows it to expand all the way to the top,” -Bjarke Ingels of the 8 House

I end with a drunk Danish man (or maybe he was just really, really happy) dancing during the Midsummer Eve Festival. No beer glasses were thrown during the making of this clip, although we were told this is common when Danes get drunk.

Web Whims

Boston marathon victim, Jeff Bauman throws the first pitch at a recent Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

Boston marathon victim, Jeff Bauman throws the first pitch at a recent Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

Coca Cola is reintroduced in Myanmar with an intricate marketing plan.

Forbes contributor Tim Worstall claims Bangledesh is too poor for to enact safe working conditions so we should all go shopping.

Tyler Perry’s new soap opera drama, The Haves and the Have Nots is popcorn worthy.

Boston marathon victim, Jeff Bauman continues to inspire with his first pitches.

Whim Breaker: My 610 Sq Ft. Space

June 7, 2013 1 comment

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Decorating on a budget when you’re already cheap requires lots of time and patience. It took me six months to furnish my apartment, considering my move-in boxes only consisted of books, journals and a few dishes. I was practically starting from scratch, so it was important for my new space to feel like home, and I didn’t want to hurry the process. Size was an important factor in the selection process of furniture and accents so naturally, Ikea was my #1 go-to stop. But Ikea can be so overwhelming so I made sure I searched for items online first- via the catalog, Pininterest or Craigslist. When it was time to visit the actual showrooms, I went during non-busy hours- weekdays during the day or later in the evening to avoid the amateurs milling around. Oh, and always check out the As-Is department first. I’ve purchased everything from an extra sofa cover to coffee cups for more than half-off the original price. How I decorated my 610 sq ft., 1 bedroom/1 bath space after the jump:

 

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Ikea’s Blekinge White Karlstad Sofa was a Craigslist find for $100. I searched for months till I found one in decent condition for under $150. It was originally green so I swapped out the removable cover for a white one, and even found extra pieces on clearance. Perfect for fabric rotation in between washes. Its summer so I’m keeping the colors light with bright yellow pillows imprinted with eclectic, white patterns, and gray trim to bring out the rug (Ikea, $27). 

A vintage, black and white photograph of my parents is the centerpiece, and makes the room dreamy and romantic (Ikea frame, $15). Any photograph will do. Just make sure its big and in black and white. Office Depot did the print for $10.

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It took me three months till I finally purchased a foam mattress. Yes, it had to be foam because well their better and after sleeping on a friend’s rustic couch for two months, I deserved it.

 The ottoman was a recent splurge-(Ross, $100) Yes, Ross has items that cost $100. I know, cray. But it doubles as extra seating and storage unit for winter clothes. 

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Polka-dotted Ralph Lauren sheets (Marshalls, $40) give the room some texture. My minimalist approach to designing makes me shy away from patterns and heavy textures but I take chances when I can. Prior to these, I stuck with all-white, el cheapo sheets, which were incredibly thin and wore out after a single wash. So if you’re going to do better quality on anything in your apartment, let it be the sheets and pillows. A good night’s sleep is priceless.

The Calvin Klein pillows in the back come extra firm, while these jumbo size Cynthia Rowley bean-bag style pillows are used to accent the bedspread (Marshalls, 19.99 each)

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I don’t spend much time in my kitchen except to grab more wine but that doesn’t mean I overlooked it in the decorating process. I’m a regular juicer and raw foodie so glass tupperware, a cutting board and easy access to utensils and a dish rack are essential. Ikea has great hanging dish racks and cup holders (originally a plant rack) that I purchased for under $15. The silverware rack was a Target find for $5. 

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Ah, where all the magic happens. I like a big desk, and the fact that my office is in my living room didn’t stop me from buying one. This one from Ikea ($69) sits pretty in an L-shaped corner of the room where it faces the front door. I’m not a fan of desks facing walls. As a writer, being able to look outside the window for inspiration is essential  Sidenote: my home office is always a bit cluttered, but I never feel compelled to tidy it up. Despite its location, it in no way overpowers the room.

The hanging shelves (Ikea, $10 each) are perfect for small spaces like these. I use them for notebooks and journals. And in case you were wondering, those white things that look like blenders are speakers. Don’t worry, I get that all the time. (Amazon, $69).

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Its typical for the older apartments in my city to have ugly bathrooms, and mine is no exception. The kiwi green tile doesn’t help the situation so I keep everything white besides a large Leonardo Dicaprio poster hanging over the toilet.

The story: my aunt found it in a thrift store bin for $3 and thought it would look great in my male cousin’s bedroom. He of course, disagreed but when I saw it sitting outside her house awaiting trash day, I couldn’t bear to see it go. Heeey Leo!

Total Cost: $1200

Inspiration: apartmenttherapy.com, PinInterest, Vogue Decor

Sources: Ikea, Marshalls, Target, Craigslist and Amazon

 

Seanny Georgie of No Eyes

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Twenty-eight year old musician, Seanny Georgie of the band No Eyes, is black, punk and lovin’ it. via Facebook

I recently sat down with Seanny Georgie of the trans-techno, shoegaze group, No Eyes, to discuss his life growing up black and punk in America. The 28-year-old comic book fiend and bona-fide punk rocker, hails from New York City, where he lived until he moved to Conyers, Ga. when he was 6-years-old. Georgie, whose family is from Trinidad and Tobago has also lived on the small island, which he says “has the most amazing weather,” and really cheap gas.

 “Georgia was actually a culture shock,” he says biting into Cameli’s monster slice pizza. We met at their Little 5 Points location on the rooftop, where the heat was slightly unbearable but Georgie, who was dressed in distressed, skinny jeans didn’t seem to mind. “Obviously, racism exists everywhere you go but when I first moved here it was very obvious.” After moving to Conyers, Georgie recalls him and his brother being the only black kids in school- the norm for many minority youths in suburban towns. Thankfully, he says, he had his family for moral support. “My mom is very open-minded and a huge influence in my life. She was always accepting of what I wanted to do and always encouraged us.“  He adds, “she had to deal with conservative parents who were always like “you have to live this way and everything you do is wrong,” and crap like that. But she was super supportive with us and I am happy for that.”

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Seanny Georgie of the band, No Eyes, describes his sound as a mixture of trans-techno, electronic and dark metal; with artists such as Tupac and Rage Against the Machine being major influences. via Facebook

 After first being introduced to punk music, courtesy of his big brother’s CD’s (“I used to take them and listen to them in my room),” Georgie began listening to a range of music, from death metal to gangster rap and even Rage Against the Machine, which he laughs about now. “I mean, they were pretty mainstream but I heard them back when I was like 12, and at the time they were the few mainstream bands that were questioning society. “ Punk became Georgie’s haven outside of mainstream culture, which he felt, didn’t openly welcome him being black and “different.” “When you’re the black kid that wears tight pants and doesn’t listen to mainstream stuff, pretty much people label you and look at you different. When I moved to Atlanta, I realized that the culture here is extremely different from what [I experienced], in New York. The people [here] seemed more arrogant and stuck in their ways.” Georgie recalls being a huge hip-hop head up North, where it was more vibrant and accessible, but the South was less welcoming.

 It could be why Georgie identifies so much with Todd McFarlane’s, famous comic book superhero, Spawn, who Georgie believes, is the “first and most critically amazing black superhero ever.” Spawn, who is arguably the first mainstream, black superhero, is Al Simmons, a former CIA agent who was murdered and sent to hell where he makes a deal with the creature, Malebolgia, to return to Earth. Over the course of the series, Spawn has superpowers, which he uses to fight evil. “In any other comics you can think of, all the black superheroes were cheesy and had names like “Black Thunder,” but Spawn was just Spawn. “

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“Spawn was just Spawn and he was incredible.” Georgie says of one of the first major African-American comic book superheroes. via Spawn.com

Spawn. A fictional comic book character that was black. Maybe not that big of a deal to some but to a young, African-American, punk rocker attempting to live outside of society’s norms- he was the ultimate and necessary badass. “He was McFarlane’s way of going against racism and [promoting] diversity, and I thought that was incredible.”

So outside of superheroes, punk rock and a really cool mom, how does Seanny Georgie continue to stay true to himself?   “Easiest thing to do? Don’t put up with other people’s crap. And do lots of drugs.”

 He’s kidding.

Followhttps://www.facebook.com/NO3Y3S

Press Play: https://soundcloud.com/no-eyes

Greek Black Panther Party Stands up to Anti-Immigrant Fascist Party

May 31, 2013 3 comments
ichael Chege, who has lived in Greece all his life experiences racist violent attacks on a daily basis. He is part of the anti-racist group, the Black Panther Party which alerts immigrants using social media of danger in the cities throughout Greece.

Michael Chege, who has lived in Greece all his life experiences racist violent attacks on a daily basis. He is part of the anti-racist group, the Black Panther Party which alerts immigrants using social media of danger in cities throughout Greece.

In cities such as Athens Greece, racism against the country’s some 3 million immigrants occur on a daily basis. In response, young people such as Michael Chege, of the anti-racist group, the Black Panthers are starting a movement.

“They can attack you anywhere,” Chege said in a recent interview with Britain’s Channel 4. “and the police supports them 100%.

The group is growing into a major political party that mobilizes its movement through the use of social media- a viable and popular way to spread a cause. Can we forget how social media helped accelerate the uprising in Egypt in 2011?

Golden Dawn, a racist, extremist group in Egypt aims to rid the country of its immigrants as its leader Nikos Michaloliakos continues to spread spread racism about the country’s immigrants. People like Chege are starting to fight back.

Nikolaos Michaloliakos (middle), leader of fascist group, Golden Dawn, aims to rid Greece of its immigrants . Michaloliakos accuses blacks in particular, of cannibalism. But according to him, they boil their victims first.

Nikolaos Michaloliakos, leader of fascist group, Golden Dawn, aims to rid Greece of its immigrants . Michaloliakos accuses blacks in particular, of cannibalism. But according to him, they boil their victims fir               st.

“They want to do what Hitler did.” Chege says. Although, he has lived in Greece since he was 8 months old (originally from Kenya) he says he feels like an outsider, since many white Greeks blame immigrants for the country’s problems. To combat this, he along with members of the Black Panther Party use social media to spread their message of resistance.