Happy Friday!: This Week’s Links

October 28th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Happy Friday ya’ll! Need some help getting through this final day before the weekend? Never fear! We’ve got some links that we found particularly interesting this week. Enjoy! And share with us what you’ve been reading!

Start with a laugh and a little bit of a WTF. Have you seen Herman Cain’s latest ad? It’s worth the randomness at the end.

Check out Jill Scott’s latest music video!

Jay Smooth breaks down what he thinks the success of the Occupy Wall Street movement is really all about.

Melissa Harris-Perry never fails to lay it out there. Check out what she has to say post-Cornel West “feud.”

Remember some of our posts on feminism? Check out (the greatest title ever) “My Feminism will be Intersectional or it will be Bullshit!

Thinking of dressing up for Halloween? First check out these students’ campaign against problematic costumes.

Take a look at the trailer for Albert Norris. It took me a second to recognize a certain someone.

NOLA activist shares some of his experience and compassion after being shot in the head.

Safety First: The Racialization of Danger on Chicago’s South Side

October 16th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


Here’s a story for you…

It’s approximately 8:30pm and I’m a half a block away from my on-campus apartment waiting for the University Shuttle and talking to my friend on the phone. A Chicago Police car (NOT University police) pulls up and rolls the window down…

Cop: Is everything OK?
Me: Yep, I’m fine.
Cop: What are you doing here?
Me: I’m just waiting on the shuttle.
Cop: OK, well don’t be out here too long by yourself.
Me: OK.
Cop: And you shouldn’t be on your cell phone because you can’t hear if someone is coming up behind you. You should get an ear piece.
Me: OK.
Cop: And make sure you’re always aware of your surroundings and looking around ‘cause you know…we’re still in the ‘hood (smiles at me like I’m in on an inside joke).
Me: * blank stare * OK.
Cop: Alright now, be safe.
Me: OK. Thanks.

*He drives off*

Me: * raised eyebrow *

For a moment after he left, I stood there thinking about the interaction. This had never happened to me before. I’ve had a few run ins with cops over the course of my life but I’ve never had one express direct concern about my safety. Why did this cop feel the need to pull over and talk to me?  Was he just really concerned about my safety? What was it about me that made him feel the need to check in? If he hadn’t assumed that I was a student would he have still pulled over? If so, would he have given me the same message? What if I was a man of color–would we have had the same interaction?

I’ve been in Chicago a little over a month now and there have been several things I’ve noticed about this city that have really gotten me thinking and have kept my eyebrows raised. The most obvious is just how segregated the city really is. I had heard that Chicago was one of the most segregated cities in the country, but after living, working, and going to school here for more than a month, I no longer doubt that. I live on the southern part of U of C’s campus and if I walk 3 blocks South the white faces that are very present on campus disappear and suddenly, for miles, I am surrounded by people who look like me–and in some parts of town, only people who look like me.

I definitely understand your frustration in dealing with white students and individuals who come to Chicago from out of town and immediately assume that the South Side is dangerous. I have been frustrated with the same on some level as well. In Chicago especially, because this city is so segregated along racial and class lines, the “threat” of danger is very often racialized. People who have little experience working with or living in lower income communities (or just interacting with people of color in general, let’s be real) are often quick to stereotype these communities as “ghetto” read: Black, violent, poor people who want to hurt and/or steal from me. It is frustrating that people move into the “sanctuary” of Hyde Park or the University of Chicago and don’t think to question their own assumptions of what poverty and danger look like nor when worrying about their own safety stop to think about the safety of those who live and work in these surrounding “dangerous” communities everyday.

But, these images and ideals aren’t just perpetuated by the media. As you mentioned University officials and even Chicago police go out of their way to make sure that students don’t wander into “dangerous” areas. In my own orientation they were very clear to emphasize “dangerous” public transit lines (green and red) and let us know that we may as well not travel south of campus if we can help it and that traveling on campus after twilight is just a huge no no–call “Safe Ride” (an on-campus door to door shuttle).

Some of the stories and perceptions of certain neighborhoods (and the individuals who live in those neighborhoods) that I’ve heard from some of my new friends and colleagues have often made me feel uncomfortable, but I must admit that as a Chi-town newbie, even my own perceptions of Chicago have been influenced by what I’ve heard from others. It has really gotten me thinking about the privilege of safety and the racialization of danger.

For some reason, the cops I mentioned above (a black man and his white partner) felt the need to warn me, a black female student, of the dangers of waiting for the on-campus bus after dark. It led me to wonder, however, if I had been dressed differently or if they didn’t assume I was a student if they would have had the same reaction to me. If I had been a few blocks farther south of campus would they have thought to pull over–would they have even noticed me? If I had been a man of color on the same block, would they have expressed the same amount of concern? Would they even have assumed that I was a student before thinking that I didn’t belong?

Why is my safety privileged over the safety of others in this same community? And furthermore, how are interactions like the one between me and this cop that are seemingly intended to promote safety and awareness also perpetuating fear, misinformation, and further marginalization of others living, working, breathing, and eating in this same space. Can we really even call it “community” if the cops and university administration are working so hard to keep “us” in and keep “them” out?

I wholeheartedly agree with you that we need to question our own fears and the socializations that we are all a part of that inform those fears. But, we also need to question how these fears are affirmed, encouraged, and perpetuated everyday by our own actions or lack thereof. The Chicago Police force and the University of Chicago Police force are doing all they can to keep the streets of the University and Hyde Park safe, but what does safety look like in South Shore, Woodlawn, or Inglewood? Why don’t they show the same commitment to maintaining safety in these communities? And why are we, as residents of Chicago, so apathetic about the safety of others? We assume that safety is a right, but it is situations like the one I described above that remind me that safety is, in fact, a privilege and one that too many of us take for granted. Asking these questions is the first step toward recognizing the many ways that privilege affords one access to basic rights and denies a countless number of others the same. It is also the first step toward challenging these assumptions and the perpetuation of marginalization that happens on this campus and all over this city everyday.

WTF Files: Girl with a Dragon Tattoo Revisited

October 12th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

So Amber,

Remember when I recommended The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo last year? Well, not that I’m taking it back, but I feel like I need to air out some thoughts. While reading it, I was completely wrapped up in the mystery, but even with a good story a little something nagged at me. And when I started the sequel, that little something grew and I quit 20 pages in.

The sequel starts with a scene of violence against a young girl – “she lay on her back fastened by leather straps to a narrow bed with a steel frame.” Reading those first words, I knew what I disliked in the first book. As much as Dragon Tattoo smacks of “female empowerment,” underneath is this running current of exploitation – a sort of titillating tale of sexual violence against women. The book works hard to mask it as somehow unveiling this underworld (scattering statistics throughout the chapters) or leading with a “strong” female character (is she really though?), but that’s all it is – a mask.

I never returned to the sequel, although sometimes I contemplate reading it. I’ve even been wondering if I’d watch the Hollywood version coming out soon.** But all my discomfort and irritation came roaring back with the release of this movie poster.

WTF. A fully clothed older male and a topless young woman, all to sell entertainment – can we say problematic? There’s also a version out there without the date obscuring what little is covered. It seems the movie will reflect the book very well. It all just kinda feels like a sexist fantasy played out by the author.

Anybody else read the book? Seen the Swedish movie version? What’s your thoughts? Is it just me?



** Okay, yeah, I probably kinda wanna see it because of Daniel Craig. ;)

Chi-town Blues: Who’s Afraid of the South Side?

October 6th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


Let me recall an exchange I once had:

White college student: Where do you live?
Me: South Shore [an African-American neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago].
WCS: Oh. *Eyes Big* Wow. I drove down Stony Island [a four lane very busy street] and was so nervous. Is it scary?
Me: No. *Blank stare*
*Uncomfortable silence.*

You may think I was being mean (well maybe not you, Amber, but others might), but this was me actually being nice. I’d only just met her, so I was not going to go in on her, but neither was I going to give her any encouragement. I had no intention of making her feel better about being scared. So there was just uncomfortable silence.

In my head, I was screaming, “WTF do you mean, is it scary?! You’re in a car! With four lanes of traffic!”

Another time, I had someone ask me, “The south side of Chicago? Isn’t that a ghetto area?” To which I sputtered and haltered and didn’t know how to respond. What exactly do you mean by “ghetto,” sir?

During orientation at my seminary, a school in the neighborhood Hyde Park, the head of security told us to never take the Red line (an el train on the South Side). Just never do it. Ever. An eye roll was my response. How is it that a school that claims to have an urban emphasis (and urban ministry) warns its students away from the places where people around them frequent every day?

It’s all very frustrating. I understand that some people come to Chicago and have never lived in a city. City life is different and if you’re navigating it for the first time, you’re unsure what you’re doing. I also know that whether from a city or not, people unfamiliar to the South Side of Chicago are responding to everything they’ve heard about the South Side. If all you’ve heard is that it’s dangerous, you will be scared. If you’re told not to take a certain train, you will likely not want to take it.

But what I’m constantly frustrated with is that these responses go unchallenged. If you enter a new area and feel scared, why exactly are you scared? Just because you feel it, doesn’t make it valid. When that white college student told me she was scared going down a street with four lanes of traffic in each direction and businesses on either side, I knew that she wasn’t just scared because she’d heard something about the South Side, but because the only people she was seeing were African-American. And she had ideas about what that meant. Media and politics all train our imagination. When a white man asks me if an area is “ghetto,” I know that he isn’t imagining poor white people. And I know that in both these cases, they felt comfortable asking me these questions because I’m white – I’d understand, right? They could feel “safe.”

Because so many of these fears are racialized. And about economics. But a poor neighborhood doesn’t automatically mean a dangerous one. And a black neighborhood doesn’t automatically mean a poor one. And just because someone (oh us white liberals) believes they’re enlightened, doesn’t mean the news reports, the movies, the politicians, the social myths don’t affect their vision. You may think you see something scary, but what is actually informing your fear?

If someone feels afraid, they feel afraid. I can’t change that. But, ask why. If people live and work and play on the South Side of Chicago, can I not also? If people take the Red Line every day, can I not also?

And then when we’re done with that – you know, realizing you’re not entering a war zone when you come to the South Side – let’s talk about what we can do about the whys – why there’s fear, why there’s violence, why there’s poverty, why Chicago is so segregated, why, why, why.


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