I just saw a meme that I was going to reblog as is, but then I thought, wait a minute. Anyway, here’s how it read:
Why is it easier to believe that 150,000,000 Americans are being lazy rather than 400 Americans are being greedy?
The short answer? Capitalism thrives on this. So does American exceptionalism. And the myth of meritocracy. And standard victim blaming that often occurs vertically, but also horizontally when the oppressed side with aggressors and the oppressor. Americans like unicorns, not horses. But let’s not pretend that 150,000,000 people are sharing oppression or even experiences in the same way in America. The perception of “lazy” itself is not even uniform among the 150,000,000. Classism is shaped by racism. That 1% that people occupy wouldn’t exist without capitalism. Capitalism wouldn’t exist without slavery.
The base income amount of entry into the 1% is about $368,000 annually. That number is beyond laughable and unreachable to me. I do not personally know a single individual or family who earns that. I don’t know any who exceed $150,000 annually, and even those I know close to this latter figure are few and far between. The city I grew up in is 68% Black and has an average family income of $26,800. The poverty line threshold in America for a family of 4 is $23,550.
But even the base amount of entry for the 1% does not reveal the real picture. It’s the 0.1% and 0.01% that show the real picture of income inequality. These are the base amounts of entry:
Top 1% = $368,238
Top 0.5% = $558,726
Top 0.1% = $1,695,136
Top 0.01% = $9,141,190
The 400 richest Americans are worth 2 trillion dollars. This is a 300 billion dollar increase from last year. The average member is worth 5 billion dollars (only because some are worth a few billion and others are worth 30 billion+, so it averages out) and entry into this elite group is 1.3 billion dollars. Their worth is larger than the GDP of Canada, Mexico or Italy. Even outside of the 1%, the top 10% of earners in the United States take home half of all income.
Now about those 400 richest Americans? A list almost completely comprised of White men. So no, it is not Oprah (2.9B) and Jay-Z (0.5B) repeated 200 times each. This disdain that people have for this tiny sliver of Black wealth (and not even generational wealth; most rich Black people are the first generation of their family to escape poverty or move up from middle class; generational wealth for Black people includes a tiny group that rarely exceeds 2-3 generations) while ignoring the struggling small Black middle class and large working class and impoverished Black people in America is another facet of racism. Because of White supremacy, this occurs in a binary where Black people are blamed and shamed for either poverty or wealth, and face racism either way, though its manifestation is still shaped by class. Besides, even the top 10 wealthiest people on this 400 list, which includes past NYC mayor and stop and frisk lover Michael Bloomberg are White and the only women included are White ones in the Walton family (owns Wal*Mart).
When generic language of “laziness” is used for half of the country, as if half of the country are regularly referred to as “lazy,” “shiftless,” welfare queens,” “welfare cheats,” “thugs” and told that their poverty is a “culture” and the like, it eschews the ways in which race shapes classism and class shapes racism. These are intrinsically tied, and ignoring this nuance for the sake of “unity” against the 1% simply centers White experiences and thoughts (as usual) and silences Black experiences. I don’t recall a time (except for Mitt Romney’s 47% comment) where Whites were alluded to as being lazy and ever included with such language. This does not mean that Whites are not also poor; a great deal of them are. But their poverty is always shaped as either working hard while “lazy” Black people “steal” from them or them being “down on their luck.” Black poverty is always shaped as pathology, not as the old trope of the “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” that many Whites, especially Conservatives buy into. This trope is marketed by wealthy Whites and keeps poor Whites interested in it via White supremacy.
It is most certainly possible to stand up against greed and income inequality without pretending that the 99% have the same uniform experiences. There’s no way I could do that anyway since differences in unemployment, income and wealth are so stark between Black and White people in the 99%. (Stats below are listed in gender binary; I don’t have information that’s more nuanced; apologies.)
Black: BW: 11.5%; BM: 13% | White: WW: 5.5%; WM: 6.2%
Black: BW: 69¢ BM: 74.5¢ | White: WW: 80¢; WM: $1.00
Black: BW: $31,824; BM: $37,496 | White: WW: $38,533; WM: $51,405
Black: $4,955 | White $110,729
The picture further complicates for Black people who raise children alone (i.e. Black women have a median wealth of only $5), Black people who have been incarcerated (i.e. up to 60% unemployed after incarceration in NYC) and Black people in the LGBTQ community. Black trans people are hit the hardest with 34% of them earning below $10,000 a year, which is twice the rate of all trans people and four times the rate of cis Black people.
Most Black people do not see that upper echelon of the 99% that crosses well over $300,000 a year, as I mentioned above. When a homeless Black person, a Black person working as a receptionist for $25,000 a year and a White executive who earns $350,000 a year are supposed to pretend that their experiences are the same because Wall Street tycoons gobble up billions of dollars for themselves, those two people at the bottom are still facing poverty and racism that the executive will never understand. And this idea that it is “divisive” to discuss differences among the 99% is White supremacy. It is meant to obscure the racism and classism from Whites within the 99% to focus on the classism (and most certainly imperialist White supremacist capitalist patriarchy) of the 1%. So many Black people that I know were actively silenced when they attended Occupy events. I was cursed out online before by Whites for mentioning how race impacts class. One of the Whites involved was an attorney. Another was a millionaire. I don’t know how I am going to pay some things next week but I have to get lessons on class from Whites? While I too want the 1% and the corrosive false meritocracy held accountable and income inequality addressed, I will not do that at the price of ignoring the oppression that exists among the 99%. Oppression is not linear.
Two things always occur whenever I mention social stratification among the 99%. The first is that Whites outside of America try the “othering” of privilege. They assert that Black Americans aren’t really “poor” because in X country X U.S. dollars is wealthy. This ignores the fact that not all Black people are middle class or celebrities. More are not than are. By comparing a Black American to someone Black in another place, they seek absolve their own White (and often class) privilege and benefits of White supremacy and pretend that the Black American has become the sole oppressor of that Black person in another place. This also eschews the cost of living and the experiences of Black people in America. Suggesting that X amount of U.S. dollars in X country is “rich” means nothing for Black people who cannot even leave the U.S., or the ones extrajudicially murdered every 28 hours, or the incarcerated ones, or the ones fighting to get basic food stamps and WIC or the ones who simply have to live here and adjust to what are “costs” and “poverty” here. The Black experience in America is not the White experience in America, and no amount of theories on Western privilege (which often are written from a class privileged White male or man of colour’s point of view, not one that is actually intersectional for the race/gender/class oppression triad) will parallel these experiences. (Privilege is always nuanced; a Black man’s male privilege is not a White man’s male privilege, though both exist.) America being a powerful and rich nation speaks to capitalism built on the backs of slaves, most of whose descendants are still struggling to today.
The second thing that occurs is that some White progressives insist that class does not involve race. No amount of facts, history or truth matters to many of them. They “colourblind” their way through Marx and keep on truckin’. Or worse, they expect me to ignore the nuances of such stratification and keep Jamie Dimon on my mind, not the White male employer in the 99% who paid a past White female boss $75,000 more than me. We were the same age, had the same experience level, I had more skills and more education. I should ignore the White feminists in the 99% who speak ill of me around corners so that I am blackballed out of new employment now. I should ignore the fact that I did not get my 69¢ on a White man’s dollar at some jobs for doing the same work. I got 50¢ actually. Literally. I saw the HR spreadsheets. And this does not mean that the Koch brothers and people like Dimon or the Waltons are magically off of the hook. But I will not ignore the everyday racism/sexism/classism oppression that I face from people who refuse accountability as they simultaneously demand accountability from the 1%.
This is a quote from her essay Naked Screaming Oprah Dress Treats Black Women’s Bodies As Placeholders on Salon. Worth a read in entirety. I am fucking disgusted by yet another loathsome White woman using Black women’s bodies to garner attention and controversy and as way to distract from her own utter mediocrity and irrelevance. The lack of compassion that White women have for Black women is palpable. The hatred is visible. Well…it always has been.
All of these “Mistress Epps.” All of these…
Beyond the obvious history of Black women’s bodies and lives being exploited for White women’s amusement, profit and Schadenfreude is the current issue of the way that White women cannot think up a thing unless it harms Black women. They cannot feel empowered unless we are harmed.
Also, let’s review a few things. Oprah was sexually abused as a child. Oprah has had body issues that has caused her a great deal of pain in her life and pain that contrary to popular belief cannot be erased just because she is wealthy. So her specifically being chosen for this dress is beyond White supremacy, racism, misogynoir and hatred. It is abuse specifically for Oprah.
I am fucking disgusted by this artist, anyone like her and White supremacy itself. Instead of these White women perpetuating misogynoir and then asking "why are you offended," why not ask "why do I have daily stunts and attacks against Black women just to make my utter uselessness as a human being relevant?"
And no “unique” White woman; as I mentioned on the ignorant ass Lily Allen video, I don’t give a fuck if you are “different.” You STILL benefit from White supremacy and the repercussions for being held accountable for it and being considered “all like that” is NOTHING compared to what Black people face when being considered “all like that.”
Really beautiful words from Maya Angelou’s son about his mother; mentioned during an episode of Super Soul Sunday on OWN. ❤
(Source: The Huffington Post)
This is my 49th Read This Week feature. Below are some of my recent good reads from other writers with critical perspectives:
Tyler Perry Hates Black Women: 5 Thoughts on The Haves and Have Nots on Crunk Feminist Collective is a good read that honestly explains what many Black people know and have known since the emergence of Perry. The arguments of "it’s just entertainment" or "stop hating on Perry" are simplistic arguments for the willfully ignorant. This post is an important read on his latest show and how Oprah continues to cosign this anti-Black entertainment. I adore her work on education; conversely, I cannot support most of her media outside of Master Class and Next Chapter.
Are All of Your Education Disruptors White? by @tressiemcphd is a GREAT READ. She writes: "The individual me is thrilled by the promise of controlling my own data, shaping my curricula, designing my own intellectual tradition, rising and falling in the choppy waters of labor market competition based on merit and grit. I mean, that would be nothing short of the gotdamn American Dream. And I am an American, after all. How could I not want that? But the other me, that dual inner self so beautifully captured by WEB DuBois, that side of me can never forget what many who have never engaged systemic, institutional marginalization do not always realize: that this is no meritocracy." Must read.
A Long Post Where I Vent and Explain Why Black People Hate White People As Well As The Race-Spam by xjeremyjohnsonx on Tumblr is a good read. It’s a passionate post that illuminates how the CURRENT (not even discussing slavery/Jim Crow etc.) way that Whites engage in an empathy-less approach to Blacks contributes to existing oppression. I mean…there’s actual research that reveals how Whites cannot feel empathy for Black people in the way they do for Whites, so…
On the concept of oppression as just equal and “reversible” hatred that “goes both ways?” Um. NOPE. Here’s some great posts that illustrate this:
Why We Must Stop Speaking of Oppression as “Hate” by Robert Reese of Still Furious and Still Brave. Important read! You must also read bankuei’s response to a constantly shared fake photo of Black people saving a Klansman, and how this contributes to The Kumbaya Myth where if Black people just show compassion to racists, racism will end! Utterly fucking ridiculous. Anyway, his comment is truly illuminating.
Stay tuned for next week’s suggestions!
Forbes annually releases a list of influential women in business, politics, media and more. This year’s list did have quite a few women of colour mentioned. (View all 100.)
Here are the Black women that were included:
- #04 Michelle Obama (First Lady of the United States)
- #13 Oprah Winfrey (Media Mogul, Philanthropist)
- #14 Ursula Burns (Chairman and CEO, Xerox)
- #17 Beyoncé (Entrepreneur, Artist)
- #44 Rosalind Brewer (President and CEO, Sam’s Club)
- #47 Joyce Banda (President of Malawi)
- #49 Ertharin Cousin (Executive Director, World Food Programme, United Nations)
- #68 Helene Gayle (President and CEO, CARE)
- #83 Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Minister of Finance, Nigeria)
- #84 Risa Lavizzo-Mourey (President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
- #87 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (President of Liberia)
Some of these women also made the Time 100 List.
I finally got a chance to view Life Is But A Dream, Beyoncé’s documentary about her life and career, which originally premiered on Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 9:00pm on HBO. I also watched the episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter that featured them chatting about the documentary.
Oprah’s Next Chapter
Just watching this interview was incredible—two incredibly beautiful, talented and successful Black women, of different generations, with some overlap in values, but different outcomes. I don’t think either is less or more feminist than the other; one chose marriage and motherhood. The other chose romantic connection without marriage and motherhood-by proxy, to her brilliant girls at her academy, OWLAG (whom she calls her daughters).
I like that Oprah mentioned that her girls stated that they felt that Beyoncé is just like them. While Oprah and Beyoncé specifically mentioned their class privilege differences, and specifically acknowledged this, the emotional experiences that they share as women and as Black women are obviously ones that Oprah’s girls could relate to.
I like that Beyoncé discussed how meaningful motherhood is to her during this interview. Here is another thing that Black women are often shamed for—loving the concept of mothering their OWN children. (I’ve written bout this before, in relation to such shaming being hoisted at Michelle Obama.) The fact that she feels fully connected to herself because of motherhood and Oprah feels that same way without being a biological mother seems like the epitome of a feminist choice (for heterosexual women). What is feminism without choices and the agency to make them?
"You balance being the fierce, independent woman with obviously a woman who adores and loves her man." - Oprah
"I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man." - Beyoncé
I find no problem with either of their quotes, because for a heterosexual woman, rejecting romantic love is not automatically indicative of empowerment. For some women, it has an important place in their lives, makes them feel good and makes them strong, not weak. All forms of genuine love does this. I am not interested in a feminism where love (and all forms, not solely romantic) is not welcome. It’s the building block for everything.
Life Is But A Dream
I deeply enjoyed this film. I shared some pre-thoughts about the film, before I saw it, and I mentioned if it wasn’t revealing that I would feel somewhat disappointed, as to me, that is the point of such a film. In those pre-thoughts, I also mentioned an article where the author did not like the film, but I didn’t feel that the person not liking the film put them in anti-stan or misery category per se.
However, after seeing the film, I think that author is just way off. I felt NOTHING “diva” or “cog” about the film. It felt so genuinely honest, emotional, reflective, introspective and personal. I saw a Black woman exposing her true self and this is very dangerous to do, rich/famous or not, in a world where we are the least loved. I think the film was brave. She didn’t have to make it.
I didn’t view the film as a long extended career promo as some people have suggested. It makes sense that in a film about an artist, their music is a part of the film. It REALLY made sense, more than ever, since each song shared seemed to deeply connect to her life, and music for her, is a way to work through those issues and express those emotions, in addition to it being a product for public consumption. I am a visual artist and I can relate to this dichotomy.
I especially felt emotional watching the parts where she discussed the difficult relationship with her father. I don’t think it is a coincidence that her love seemed to deepen for Jay-Z during the time the relationship with her father fell apart. I think having a positive male energy in her life matters to her—this doesn’t necessarily make her weak or patriarchal.
I love how much she spoke about women and dealing with unfairness, empowerment and friendship. While Beyoncé, like many women, straddles the fence at times regarding portraying feminist ideals, challenging patriarchy at some turns yet affirming it at others, she seems to have a genuine love for women that can be seen in her relationships with her mother/Solange/Kelly/Michelle, when she speaks of memories of her grandmother, the women she works with, and her amazing band. While some "feminist heroes" are being worshiped for having all-White television shows, Beyoncé had one of the most powerful odes to women, Black/women of colour and White, on that Super Bowl stage.
I love that she said this:
"I love my husband, but it’s nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you. I grow so much from those conversations. I need my sisters." - Beyoncé
I know that’s right! While I have been single for some years now, even back when I was in relationships—very good ones, I HAD to call up my best friend to talk. I had to spend time with my 5 sisters. Honestly, when she said this, she made me think of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker:
“The loneliest woman in the world is the woman without a close woman friend.” - Toni Morrison
“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister.” - Alice Walker
My favorite parts of the film were the ones with her nephew Julez, when she and Jay-Z were singing to each other (I got choked up…though I like them as a couple, this was the first time that they evoked that from me), the home video of her, Kelly and Michelle playing around and singing Kyle Minogue’s song and the adorable moments with Blue Ivy. I really loved the ending of the film with her family members around the table. Though the story is a focus on her life, it’s also a portrait of a Black American family.
Beyoncé is a really beautiful person. I leave this film with a greater impression of who she is and liking her more than I already did.
She’s brilliant. And, I am deeply jealous of anyone who lives in a major city up north or in Cali who got to see Middle of Nowhere. It doesn’t play anywhere in Florida. *pouts*
I am dying to see this film!
In case you weren’t aware, she is the first Black woman to win The U.S. Directing Award: Dramatic (like Best Director) at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, for this same film.
I’ve seen nothing but excellent reviews from people who are fortunate enough to live somewhere where they could see the film. (Like most indie films, it isn’t distributed everywhere.) Everyone from every Black blogger that I follow on Tumblr and Twitter to Oprah has had great words for this film. This is great! I am so happy for DuVernay, and for us.
Oh…and I hear some White critics felt that she tried too hard to dispel stereotypes in her film. I guess the Black characters are too nuanced….like actual humans. Ah…White privilege. One could argue that White filmmakers (and some Black ones) try too hard to include stereotypes in their films. Blah blah blah.
Congrats to Ava!