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raceAhead: When Halloween Gets Racist, Why Shelbyville Matters, How To Be Sad Like Tyrese

It’s that time of year when anyone who writes about race braces for the worst. Of course, I mean Halloween.

There are myriad ways to offend during this festive season, and now that everyone has a video-enhanced publishing platform in their pocket or purse, we all get to see the poor judgment on display.

An Alabama teacher blackened his face and dressed up as Kanye West. A Staples employee in Pleasant Hill, CA greeted shoppers in blackface, then claimed to be “a sharpie.” A man walked into two Omaha, Neb. area malls dressed as a “mass shooter.” An “Anne Frank costume for girls” was whisked from the shelves after a backlash.

Just say no.

Don’t don a sombrero and act like a jerk, implore colleges across the country. Don’t wear an Indian headdress and face paint. (Here is an amazing resource for creators and designers on how to avoid appropriating from indigenous communities.)

GQ also offers a helpful style guide. “You can change your skin color to a shade found in gumballs,” they explain. See also: jolly green giant, yellow minions, and the like. The Daily Show had similar advice.

Also, don’t be the border wall or a sexy border control officer, a Chinese gentleman or sexy Geisha or Eskimo.

Fans of Cleveland baseball or D.C. football are on their own. But if you show up in a Colin Kaepernick jersey, you might as well double down and take a knee if you get sent to human resources.

It’s also the time of year when we discuss, again, why black, brown, and yellow face is always unacceptable. But The Root’s Anne Branigan has a fascinating analysis that adds something new to the conversation. She builds on the complex history of minstrelsy while deconstructing the ‘I just didn’t realize it was so offensive’ defense.

“Nonblack people keep doing blackface because they find it enjoyable,” she says. Boom, there it is. And while they may rank it low on the scale of possible insults, it still comes with significant risks if shared beyond their intended audience. “Why do they insist on doing it even as the consequences for that kind of behavior — suspensions from school, online harassment or permanent expulsions from student organizations — become increasingly clear and well-publicized?”

Branigan says it’s a form of “backstage racism,” a performance that is designed to bind the performer with an audience of like-minded allies. Citing the research of sociologists Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin, “white people — mostly young white men, but not always — take pleasure in these jokes and know that they are offensive. Anti-black racism is a way for them to pass the time, to connect, to feel a cheap sense of rebellion even though there is nothing inherently rebellious about American racism — it has always been the status quo.”

“It’s kind of a white male bonding ritual,” Feagin tells her.

White supremacy as an operating system has always been violent. But it’s become increasingly dangerous in the last year. Even if you consider yourself a member of the “what’s the big deal?” crowd, if you choose to perform an act of stereotype, particularly in skin-altering makeup, you are also sending a menacing message.

Find another way to pass the time than performative racism. But do call it out if you see it at a party or water cooler near you.

And if you must be a different color, be blue, like a smurf. But not the blue dude from Avatar, if you get my drift.

On Point

Why Shelbyville, Tennessee was chosen by the White Lives Matter crowdWhile the planned rallies didn’t take the ugly turn people feared, it’s worth considering why the town of 21,000 was targeted in the first place. The Shelbyville rally was held in front of a residential neighborhood filled with immigrants from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. About 18,000 refugees have arrived in Tennessee over the last 15 years, and the demographics of Shelbyville reflect the change. But not everyone is sure that it’s been a bad thing. “Matter of fact, most of them are all fairly nicer than a lot of the other folks around here,” said a white woman named Connie Price of her Somali neighbors. The couple, who works for local Tyson Foods chicken plant, had invited her to a party for their one-year-old, who lovingly calls Price “Mum.” “I’m not going to have them coming over here starting nothing,” said Price of the white nationalists.Daily News Journal

Most of the Houston Texans kneels during the anthem
Team owner Bob McNair should have seen this coming. In an emotional owners’ meeting on Friday reported by ESPN The Magazine, McNair said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” during a discussion about the player’s right to protest. Although McNair apologized personally to the players the following morning, it was too much, too little, too late for many. “We put our bodies and minds on the line every time we step onto that field, and to use an analogy of inmates in a prison, I’d say that’s disrespectful,” Texans offensive lineman Duane Brown told reporters.
NBC News

Nike’s new sports hijab makes its international runway debut
It was in Dubai, as part of Fashion Forward, a four-day fashion-a-palooza set in the Dubai Design District, now in its tenth season. The hijab was featured in Saudi designer’s Mashael Al Rajhi runway showing. Though it won’t be available until spring 2018, the garment has already generated a lot of excitement. Click through for Al Rahi’s styling, in which the “breathable and stretchy” hijab was paired with “street-smart separates and androgynous silhouettes.”
Emirates Woman

A now annual prize celebrates photographers telling important stories on Instagram
The winners of the third annual Instagram grant were announced yesterday. The contest, sponsored by Getty Images, acknowledges the work of three photographers and their use of Instagram as a platform to share images of underrepresented people around the world. Each series is astonishing in its own way. New Delhi-based photographer Saumya Khandelwal has been following the lives of child brides in Shravasti, India; U.S.-based Nina Robinson lovingly documents everyday life in rural Arkansas, and Isadora Kosofsky makes photos that focus on imprisoned minors and their families in the U.S. and Romania. Each won $10,000 and deserve every penny.
NPR

The Woke Leader

A restaurant review offers an object lesson in cultural critique
Catty restaurant reviews can be entertaining even if you have no intention of visiting the restaurant in question. But this one from Dallas Observer food critic Brian Reinhart is a force of nature. “Hot Joy is a clueless white-dude fantasy in which Asian identity and cuisine are reduced to a string of ironic clichés,” he begins. Long before he talks about the food, he deconstructs the décor by enlisting the aid of experts to help explain how it came to be that “genuine Chinese artifact[s] [now] looks like something from a bigoted grandpa’s yard sale.” He ticks through a list of modified objects that depict cultural taboos. “All of these Asian things are used out of context and truly objectified, in the service of reinforcing the idea that Asian-ness is foreign and ‘other,’” says Andrew Ti, creator of the website and podcast Yo, Is This Racist? Ti then answers Reinhart’s question. It’s all “super racist.”
Dallas Observer

President Lincoln loved this statuette. Do you?
It is a poignant scene, a runaway slave aiding a wounded white Union soldier, cradling his head under his own chin. The sculptor was John Rogers, who had been an early adopter of mass-market casting techniques in an aim to make art affordable for regular folk in the mid-19th century. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a copy of “The Wounded Scout, a Friend in the Swamp” in its permanent collection. It’s undergoing needed restoration now, but the piece has been long praised for its depiction of a courageous slave, presumably running for his life, yet pausing to save the life of another. But others hold a different view and wonder if the blind loyalty depicted in the heroic mini-monument is dim praise of the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” variety, a popular book among abolitionists of the time.
Washington Post

How to be really sad in an R&B video
Sadness is an artform, and nobody performs “crushed” like an R&B superstar in a music video, walking forlornly through their now loveless mansions, spinning in circles, staring into a mirror, gazing at photos of the one they lost, and remembering the good times while singing in the rain. Or a desert. Or near a piano. While alone on the edge of the bed. So much sad. Enjoy this tongue-in-cheek analysis, dressed up as a playlist and supercut of the crooners whose pain we love — nay, need — to feel.
The Ringer

Quote

 My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.