Tag Archives: racism

What Was the Tulsa Race Riot and Black Wall Street from Watchmen?

Tulsa Race Riot

HBO‘s Watchmen debuted with an unexpected, and somewhat shocking, real-world event the Tulsa Race Riot. The use of the despicable and little known moment in American history grounded the show in many ways and rooted it in the systemic racism that permeates today.

But what was the Tulsa Race Riot and Black Wall Street?

The Tulsa Race Riot is also known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, Greenwood Massacre, and Black Wall Street Massacre. The event took place on May 31 and June 1 in 1921 when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses in the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s considered the single worst incident of racial violence in American history. More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals, 36 were “officially” recorded as dead though that number was revised to between 100 and 300 in 2001. It also saw 6,000 black residents arrested and detained for several days.

The attack took place on the ground and by air destroying 35 square blocks in what was at the time the wealthiest black community in the United States, “Black Wall Street.”

Greenwood was a district that was organized in 1906 when segregation was common and enforced. Local black residents created their own thriving and prosperous community.

The riot began when 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, a 17-year-old white girl. Rowland needed to use a local restroom and used the elevator Page was operating as the restroom was on the top floor which was restricted to black people. A clerk heard Page scream and saw a black man run from the building. The police were called thinking that Page was “assaulted.” At the time that word was often used to describe rape. No account or statement by Page as to what happened has been found. But, it’s accepted the police determined that what really happened wasn’t assault and Page didn’t want to press charges.

Rowland was arrested the day after the incident and while initially taken to one jail, he was transferred when a telephone call threatening his life was received by the police.

The Tulsa Tribune covered the story in their afternoon edition and ran an editorial warning of a potential lynching of Rowland. All of the original copies of the paper have since been destroyed and the microfilm of that issue is missing the relevant page concerning the column about lynching.

Several hundred white residents had assembled by the evening and the police feared the worst. And later, three white men entered the courthouse demanding Rowland be turned over.

The mob alarmed the black community though how to proceed divided them. A group of local black residents then arrived at the courthouse armed to support the sheriff. There’s conflicting reports as to whether the sheriff requested the help. This resulted in some of the white mob getting guns of their own. Tensions rose with shots being exchanged either by accident or intentionally. Ten white and two black individuals killed.

Mob violence was the rule as thousands of white residents attacked the black neighborhood on June 1st killing men and women, burning and looting stores and homes. Fires were set and bullets were fired into businesses and residences. There are conflicting reports that the mob fired upon firefighters when they arrived to put out the fires.

Watchmen depicted attacks from the air. White assailants were said to have dropped firebombs on buildings and fired guns from privately owned aircraft. Evidence though is flimsy when it comes to that and a commission later concluded it wasn’t reliable.

Martial law was declared and the National Guard was called in to restore order.

10,000 black residents were left homeless and property damage is estimated at $32 million in 2019 dollars. Many survivors left Tulsa.

No prosecution of any whites for actions committed during the riot took place.

The event was largely not mentioned in history books and classrooms and it wasn’t until 1996 that a bipartisan group was formed to investigate the events, interview survivors, and hear testimony from the public with the goal of preparing a report. That final report was published in 2001 and concluded that the city had conspired with the white mob to attack black citizens. It recommended reparations to survivors and descendants. Legislation was passed to establish scholarships for descendants of survivors, encourage the economic development of Greenwood, and the development of a memorial park to honor the victims.

ABC Cancels Roseanne After Racist Tweet

After delivering a season that made it the number one scripted show on television and getting a season renewal, ABC has cancelled Roseanne after a racist Tweet from star Roseanne Barr.

In the Tweet, Roseanne said that former President Obama staffer Valerie Jarrett was not only a member of the Muslim Brotherhood but also called her an “ape,” a common racist term for Black individuals.

Roseanne apologized and said she was deleting her Twitter account but it was still live as of this report. She did delete the Tweet about Jarrett.

Barr was condemned by Sara Gilbert who returned to the show along with the original cast and Wanda Sykes, a producer on the show, quit. Beyond Sykes, it’s unknown if any other cast members or staff quit or threatened to.

Roseanne has embraced alt-right/Trump politics in recent years and has run for President. She regularly Tweets conspiracy theories and very questionable statements. The Roseanne revival embraced the right-wing turn with the Conners revealed to be Trump supporters. The show’s return often dove into questionable statements and stories skirting the line in taste with many socio-political topics. The original, while dealing with similar topics, was not as overtly political in who the Conners supported and focused on the day to day of their living in white collar America.

Channing Dungey, president, ABC Entertainment said in a statement:

Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.

While ABC had no issue with Roseanne‘s dealing with hot button political issues while the channel also reportedly refused to air an episode of Black-ish where kneeling in protest was discussed.

Why Does Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Dip Into Racist Asian Stereotypes?

Nickelodeon‘s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has come under criticism for numerous reasons; changes to the dynamic of the Turtles, the stylized look of the series, and drastic difference in the Turtles’ depictions. I have no opinion, no really care about all of that. Beyond all of that, the thing that stood out to me about the brand new trailer is the use of the Fu Manchu/Yellow Peril stereotype in the character of Splinter.

In the first official teaser released Friday, we get a look at what we can expect from the series and a better idea of the characters. We also get a look at Splinter who with his “slanted/slit” eyes, buck teeth, and delivery of lines, is hard to not see a racist Asian stereotype. There’s even a top knot!

This ethnic stereotype (which has no place in a kids show let alone modern society) has its roots in “Yellow Peril,” Western imperialism, racism, and led to exclusionary laws enacted against immigrants here in the United States. In entertainment it’s common and popularized in characters such as Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan both of which tread in stereotypical looks that persist to today. One scratches their head why the creators of this show thought it’s appropriate in 2018.

While there’s movements and individuals fighting for better representation of Asians in entertainment, to see a kids’ animated show perpetuate this hurtful imagery for a new generation is not only misguided it’s downright regressive and has no place on television let alone Nickelodeon which has had a history of excellent children’s programming.

You can watch the video below and see the problematic speech patterns at the 44 second mark and 53 second mark.

BOOM!’s Unfortunately Named Series Curb Stomp

We previously ran the below when the series Curb Stomp was announced. With this week’s release we revisit why the name of this new series is so troubling. Obviously some statements are outdated, since the comic hits shelves this Wednesday. – The Management

2014 BOOM! LogoWe love BOOM! Studios, having named them the publisher of the year multiple times. They’re beyond progressive, not only giving a voice to many talented individuals who are the next generation of stars, but also launching series that are underrepresented in the comic market, and what exactly we need more of. That’s why their new series that was announced this morning on four sites gave us pause. Not because of its subject, but just due to its title, Curb Stomp.

The series is a “violent, bloody story” which focuses on an all-female gang called The Fever who are trying to protect their turf. The writer is Ryan Ferrier, the creator of D4VE by Monkeybrain, and art by Debaki Neogi, who gave us amazing visuals in Mumbai Confidential. The series will be out in February.

What none of those sites questioned, or even touched upon, was the series title. For those that don’t know a curb stomp is when you place someone’s mouth on a cement curb and then stomp on the back of their head. It’ll cause severe injuries, and some times death. What gives me pause isn’t the act, which is horrendous, but the history of the curb stomp.

The curb stomp is mostly associated with Nazis, who would use the tactic to murder Jews, using this tactic to save on bullets. It was also deployed by the Gestapo in the Ghettos to also murder Jews. In the 1940s and 50s, the same violent act was used by the KKK in their attacks on African-Americans.

Today’s neo-Nazis use the term “curbing” or “curb job” and is so prevalent the Southern Poverty Law Center has it as part of their list of terms used by today’s Skinheads. It’s an act associated with the most vile of vile out there, and to this day is used in numerous hate crimes. Two quick examples:

  • In 2003, Tacoma, Washington resident Randall Townsend was killed by two white power skinheads in a curb-stomping incident that has been described as a hate crime.
  • On August 26, 2011, Dane Hall was curb stomped in a homophobic attack outside a gay bar in Salt Lake City, Utah. He lost six teeth and suffered a broken jaw in multiple places as a result of the attack

Though the act is horrendous, it has been depicted in pop-culture numerous times with lack of sensitivity to its origins. In video games Gears of War, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, and Resident Evil 5, players could all perform the act. The attack has been seen on the television shows Family Guy, and The Sopranos. But, the most well-known depiction is the movie American History X, which focuses on a neo-Nazi Skinhead played by Edward Norton, who curb stomps a would be African-American robber. The scene was so controversial, it has been pulled from some versions of the film.

You can watch the scene from American History X below, but a warning that it’s graphic.

While the comic series itself sounds like a modern-day version of The Warriors (a film itself with history of real world violence), hopefully BOOM! and the creators rethink the title before it hits shelves in a few months. We’ve reached out to BOOM! about the issue. (UPDATE: We’ve heard back from BOOM! and they weren’t aware of the historical context of the term, just the moves from video games).

Below are the four teaser images released:

 

Comic Pros Ponder Comic Con Safety After Online Threats

Since the decision at Ferguson, tensions and emotions have rode high, especially on social networks where the power to posts one’s thoughts with just the tapping of a few keys has allowed everyone to vent. One of those is Bill in San diego @BillntwrkBill (identified as Bill Purcell by Bleeding Cool) who has since gone off on threatening and misogynistic rants geared towards individuals and society at large. Bill describes himself as:

U. S . Navy Vet. Comic Con Regular Committee member. Married to wonderful woman. My tweets are my own. Go to CCI official website for factual information.

 

The Comic Con in question is San Diego Comic-Con, the mecha of geek conventions that brings hundreds of thousands to San Diego each year and generates millions of dollars. Bill is a volunteer at the convention who numerous times tweeted his connections to the show, even hinting at working as security and offering access to the show for favors.

Why this matters isn’t that Bill is racist or a misogynist, lots of assholes volunteer or attend conventions. Why this matters, and we’re covering it, is Bill aimed threats at numerous creators who attend the show (and in general shows a penchant for violence), in fact Bill showed anger towards Hollywood as a whole (and makes me wonder why someone who hates Hollywood attends a convention like this).

Here’s some of his tweets including some of the threats (just check his Twitter feed for more, there’s only so much we can stomach):

The abuse and threats hurled by Bill by those in the industry got enough folks talking that they felt in danger if Bill attended the convention in 2015, and calls to ban Bill from the show have risen over the days.

We reached out to Comic-Con for a statement, and one was released to other sites:

There is no excuse for offensive or threatening behavior. The fact that it comes from a purported member of our committee is clearly upsetting. Even though we cannot control what an individual says, we can address issues that have a direct effect on our organization or persons affiliated with our organization. We would also like to mention this individual no longer holds a volunteer position with our association. We encourage any individual who feels threatened by these comments or others to seek assistance from law enforcement.

 

While we agree the convention can’t control what individuals say, they do control who can volunteer and attend the show. With so many feeling unsafe, and especially in the light of two high profile incidents last year, the convention needs to go a step further and outright ban Bill from this coming year’s and future conventions

BOOM! Announces Unfortunately Named Series Curb Stomp

2014 BOOM! LogoWe love BOOM! Studios, having named them the publisher of the year multiple times. They’re beyond progressive, not only giving a voice to many talented individuals who are the next generation of stars, but also launching series that are underrepresented in the comic market, and what exactly we need more of. That’s why their new series that was announced this morning on four sites gave us pause. Not because of its subject, but just due to its title, Curb Stomp.

The series is a “violent, bloody story” which focuses on an all-female gang called The Fever who are trying to protect their turf. The writer is Ryan Ferrier, the creator of D4VE by Monkeybrain, and art by Debaki Neogi, who gave us amazing visuals in Mumbai Confidential. The series will be out in February.

What none of those sites questioned, or even touched upon, was the series title. For those that don’t know a curb stomp is when you place someone’s mouth on a cement curb and then stomp on the back of their head. It’ll cause severe injuries, and some times death. What gives me pause isn’t the act, which is horrendous, but the history of the curb stomp.

The curb stomp is mostly associated with Nazis, who would use the tactic to murder Jews, using this tactic to save on bullets. It was also deployed by the Gestapo in the Ghettos to also murder Jews. In the 1940s and 50s, the same violent act was used by the KKK in their attacks on African-Americans.

Today’s neo-Nazis use the term “curbing” or “curb job” and is so prevalent the Southern Poverty Law Center has it as part of their list of terms used by today’s Skinheads. It’s an act associated with the most vile of vile out there, and to this day is used in numerous hate crimes. Two quick examples:

  • n 2003, Tacoma, Washington resident Randall Townsend was killed by two white power skinheads in a curb-stomping incident that has been described as a hate crime.
  • On August 26, 2011, Dane Hall was curb stomped in a homophobic attack outside a gay bar in Salt Lake City, Utah. He lost six teeth and suffered a broken jaw in multiple places as a result of the attack

Though the act is horrendous, it has been depicted in pop-culture numerous times with lack of sensitivity to its origins. In video games Gears of War, Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, and Resident Evil 5, players could all perform the act. The attack has been seen on the television shows Family Guy, and The Sopranos. But, the most well-known depiction is the movie American History X, which focuses on a neo-Nazi Skinhead played by Edward Norton, who curb stomps a would be African-American robber. The scene was so controversial, it has been pulled from some versions of the film.

You can watch the scene from American History X below, but a warning that it’s graphic.

While the comic series itself sounds like a modern-day version of The Warriors (a film itself with history of real world violence), hopefully BOOM! and the creators rethink the title before it hits shelves in a few months. We’ve reached out to BOOM! about the issue. (UPDATE: We’ve heard back from BOOM! and they weren’t aware of the historical context of the term, just the moves from video games).

Below are the four teaser images released:

 

Star Trek Boldly Goes to Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, and Rape

roddenberry diversityA Change.org petition has been launched urging CBS and StarTrek.com to clean up their act and moderate their official Facebook page for Star Trek. With close to 3.4 million the page is rife with racist, homophobic, and sexist comments, and those who speak out against them are often bullied with harassment, and even threatened by trolls.

The petition calls upon CBS and StarTrek.com to work together to implement a comments policy that:

  • Clearly bans hate speech, rape jokes, and referring to women as a group by derogatory terms (e.g. “sluts”). As well, the policy should ban comments referring to groups of people by racial, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist slurs;
  • Disallows personal attacks against other commenters; and
  • Bans aggressive negative commenting on the personal appearance of other commenters and the posts’ subjects.

If you want to see the examples that have been collected of the comments, you can do so at this site and here. There is a trigger warning though, so be careful.

What’s truly sad is that Star Trek was about inclusion (one just needs to look at its diverse cast as evidence), and broke ground in the civil rights movement (Kirk and Uhuru’s kiss is one example). The show itself portrayed a better world of peace and acceptance. Numerous episodes have been commentary on civil and social rights, championing them. The universe was and is a truly forward looking progressive one.

Looking at these comments though, creator Gene Roddenberry would be disappointed and ashamed.

Diversity in Comics? Rethinking Green Lantern #0

This is an adapted version of an article published on Reading with Pictures.

GL_Cv0_dsIn September 2011 DC Comics attempted to create their first major Arab Muslim American superhero, a new rendition of the Green Lantern, a staple character in the DC lineup dating to 1940. This new superhero, Simon Baz, made his appearance in Green Lantern #0, written by Geoff Johns with art by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy, and added a spark of diversity to the publisher’s largely white cast.

Unfortunately, they did so with a deeply troubling origin story in which Simon Baz stole a van that, unbeknownst to him, had a bomb in it. He was quickly arrested, taken to Guantanamo Bay and tortured. He was saved by the Green Lantern ring, which chose him as the world’s next protector. The ring allowed him to escape, whereafter he was pursued as a dangerous terrorist by the Justice League. All of this was published under the guise of authentically narrating the experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans.

Newspapers as respected as The New York Times reported on the Arab Muslim addition to the DC comic book universe, and interviews with writer Geoff Johns revealed his Lebanese ancestry — this, it was made to seem, gave him the credibility to write about Arab and Muslim American experiences.

Indeed, while it is critical that the experiences of racial prejudice, harassment, suspicion, and violence perpetrated almost daily against Arab and Muslim Americans be represented, there remains the damming potential for such representations to be the only way in which media consumers come to know Arab and Muslim characters. By default, these representations become the lens through which they come to view not only fictional people, but real lives.

The problem is one of character design: how the characters are created to be. This is a problem for all media, though it is particularly crucial for comics, since the industry is currently undergoing a push from fans and new creators to be more representative.

What this often means, as Green Lantern #0 shows, is checking off identities on a list of non-white/non-male categories, with the aim to please by name and number. Companies like Marvel Comics can now say, “Yep, we’ve got an Afro-Puerto Rican Spider-Man” and DC can say, “Yep, we’ve got an Arab Muslim.” But DC’s 2011 attempt at diversification also shows that diversity is limited, often to aggrandized stereotypical stories that, say, frame Arabs and Muslims as terrorists (even if by accident). So how about a little background on this issue.

To say that life has not been easy for Arab and Muslim Americans after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in September 2001 would be farce. As literary critic and self-identified Arab American Stephen Salaita pointed out in his fantastic study of Arab American literature, Arab American Literary Fictions, the concept of Arab or Muslim Americans as a unified, racially distinct segment of the population emerged in response to fears of foreign Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, and the need to control potential threats at home.

Even before 9/11, Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism — that brand of racial ideology that fetishizes the Arab world, the East as a whole, and its cultural products as an exotic, mysterious, and must-have Other (i.e. “not us”) — had long structured America’s view of Arab and Muslim immigrants to the U.S. In the 1950s-1970s they were regarded as a model minority alongside Indians and Eastern Asians. Regardless, they were not considered a distinct group with identifiable and discernible characteristics.

In other words, unlike Blacks and Latina/os, Arabs and Muslims didn’t bother white middle-class suburbia. You know, those gl0so-called “average Americans.” Arab and Muslim Americans were not disruptive enough to white society to need designating as a specific racial group.  This is in part because before 9/11 “The Arab” and “The Muslim” were doofy Ottoman costumery, children’s parodies (Aladdin), and occasional bad guys (Indiana Jones).

In the wake of 9/11, violence against Arabs and Muslims, whether American or not, increased exponentially and was governmentally sanctioned via the stripping of Constitutional rights for the purpose of national security. Arabs and Muslims were widely depicted in film and on television as the enemy. Scholarship on the issue of Arab and Muslim representation has finally reached a headway, a result of the growth of Arab American Studies as a discipline emerging out of the long-established field of American Studies, and is best exemplified in Evelyn Alsultany’s Arabs and Muslims in the Media (NYU, 2012).

The violence, in many cases, is often spurred by the inability to read beyond media representations and to think critically about the plurality of Arab and Muslim lived experiences. Sikhs, non-Muslim Arabs, non-Arab Muslims, Muslim Arabs, and sometimes Jews are conflated with the identity of the singular, Otherized muslimarab-arabmuslim, a seemingly insoluble identity that is, according to government policy and popular belief, potentially engaged in fundamentalist Islamic activity or at least aware of such activity.

Not all Arabs are Muslim, not all Muslims are Arab. The United States hosts some 3.5 million Arab Americans, whose group identity is based largely in shared cultural and linguistic traditions which hail largely from the twenty-two members states of the Arab League.

Some are Christian, Jewish, atheist, Baha’i, etc. Muslims, on the other hand, number roughly 2.6 million, only 26% of which are of Arab descent. Many are from South(east) Asia, are black Muslims, white, or Hispanic, according to the 2006 American Community Survey, and in 2009 and 2011 they made up the largest percentage of immigrants to the U.S.

So where does this information, a context which we can use to critically read Green Lantern #0, leave us? Ultimately, it reminds us as readers who have market influence in comics more so than in almost any other format of Nerd media, that we need to demand more than stereotypes. I have not read Ultimate Spider-Man, but I have heard many fans attest to the sincerity with which Bendis writes Miles Morales. Gail Simone, likewise, writes female characters with an eye to their long history of being sexualized, fetishized, and abused by creators and fans.

We have to demand more than a story that, by all means, breaks boundaries but which simultaneously places other barriers to diversification. When “terrorist” and “Arab” or “hijab” and “Muslim (woman)” are binaries used to define an entire population of radically diverse lived experiences, we have to be willing to call bullshit. We have to be willing to exert the same kind of buying and petitioning power as when we got Orson Scott Card kicked off Adventures of Superman.

If anything good came out of Green Lantern #0, it’s the possibility to learn from a company’s mistakes and do “diversity” better. We’ll see how Marvel does with Ms. Marvel, and hope a lesson was learned.

Is it Racist? Marvel Edition.

Marvel is planning variant covers featuring Deadpool in a banana costume. Unfortunately that falls during the release of Mighty Avengers #1, an “all-black” super hero team.

The team is actually made up of a mix of individuals. Luke Cage (African-American), Monica Rambeau has roots in New Orleans, Power Man is African-American and Dominican, and White Tiger is Puerto Rican. So having a banana and maracas isn’t the brightest idea.

Is it racist? My answer is yes, though unintentionally. Insensitive at a minimum (hopefully we can all agree on at least that).

Mighty-Avengers-1-Party-Variant

I await the “Marvel Apes” 2nd printing variant cover.

Update: David Brothers has a great take on this.

Update 2: And another great article as to why there’s issues with this.

(via Bleeding Cool)

SDCC 2013: White People Fake Arrest for Fun!

Out of all of the things I saw at San Diego Comic-Con, this one stood out the most. Along the Gaslamp District, the San Diego Police Department was attempting some public relations. But, that was by showing off various techniques to subdue individuals, faking arrest and showing off their tasers.

At first I thought nothing about it, but it was pointed out to me to look at the crowd around these demonstrations, it was all rather pale when it came to skin color. It wasn’t just me, when it came to this one, later in the evening when I saw the same cops doing the same things, another passerby also made the same comment to his friend.

The fact that no one with skin color darker than white found this amusing enough to stop says everything.

« Older Entries