Best reads week 8.11.2012

A new goal for this blog is to direct you to some of the best pieces available online about issues pertaining to black women or women of color. When I’m so moved, I’ll share my reactions and insights, too, if I think they’re unique enough.

Funny that this article on includes Lolo Jones among the Black female athletes being treated unfairly by the ubiquitous “media,” and this article on Clutch blasts the media for giving Jones so much good press that her racially ambiguous-looking sellable features and virginity eclipsed even the mention of athletes who look 100 percent black. While I think Danielle Belton at Clutch is right about the media problem in general, I think she’s wrong to apply it to this particular situation. My first reaction was, “Somebody woke up a bitter black woman this morning.” I almost mistook the piece for another BBW/ABW piece and skipped the read all together. Glad I didn’t. T.F. Charlton’s analysis is thorough and on point.

This piece by Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post ruffled some feathers. The comments I saw on Twitter that led me to the piece were similar to those that came after the “If I were poor black child,” post on a Forbes blog some months ago, essentially: How dare Jenkins be so condescending and unaware of her wealthy white person privilege as to think she could advise this young black child on how to handle fame and questions about race when Jenkins has never been black girl? My thing is, it’s almost like Gabby Douglas hasn’t been, either. When I saw her interview on the Today Show after her second gold medal, the question that was something like, “How does it feel to be the first African American woman to win the women’s best all around title?” was the only one she stumbled over. Everything else was sound bite perfect. That answer was full of “ums.” It was clear that the racial “first” really never occurred to her, and no one had prepped her for it.

As with most controversial issues, I’m ambivalent on this one. Kudos to Gabby for being “colorblind,” that is, for being shocked that her color would matter. I love that innocence. When I attended a workshop a few months ago on race, class and power, every attendee shared a moment when they went from seeing people—usually children—with a different skin color as people they’d like to play with to seeing them as a color, always because someone—usually an adult—had the courtesy to point the differences out for them. Innocence lost. I was sad when that moment came for Gabby.

On the other hand, Gabby’s parents are old enough to have known that moment was coming. No one could have predicted the (fictional?) debacle over her hair, but someone should have pulled her to the side after that second gold and before the morning talk shows to school her on being “the first.” Even if her answer was, “I think you’re petty for bringing that up,” at least she would have been prepared. And to know that being the first black woman to take the women’s all around title is important because it is inspiring for little black girls to see other black girls as shining examples of fitness, power, grace, humility, determination and courage to counteract all the mess they usually see, might have given Gabby the focus she needed to take home two more gold medals.

And in other news, Louisiana has returned to The Scarlett Letter era, The New York Times sheds light on stop-and-frisk’s effects on women and a great read about “race, guns and madness.”

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