Historian debunks the Confederate Flag debate: it’s not racism vs. heritage, but racist heritage

28 Jun
The South Carolina and American flags fly at half mast as the Confederate flag unfurls below at the Confederate Monument June 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina (AFP Photo/Sean Rayford)

The South Carolina and American flags fly at half mast as the Confederate flag unfurls below at the Confederate Monument June 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina (AFP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Early Saturday filmmaker and activist Bree Newsome scaled the poll in front of the South Carolina Statehouse and took down the Confederate Flag that continues to fly. But don’t worry guys: within the hour, the Flag had been replaced, just in time for an 11AM White Supremacist rally, and Newsome was arrested.

The flag continues to fly despite the calls for its removal, in light of the Charleston shooting, from Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and a group of the state’s top lawmakers.  But the the move requires approval by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the South Carolina Legislature.

In a statement Newsome said, “It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”

And yet, the idea that the Confederate Flag represents anything but racism persists. Historian Claire Potter, a professor at the New School, joined me on my new radio show and she spoke about the false dichotomy, which presents the flag as a symbol of (A) racism or (B) heritage. She referred to a New York Times article which read,

… many say it is a symbol of the South’s heritage, culture and military pride and can be displayed without any sense of racism.

Does displaying the flag show historic appreciation, or is it a symbol of a reviled era, that breeds racism and should not be officially approved?

Continue Reading…

Today in History: the KKK murder of three Civil Rights workers and the targeting of Black Churches

23 Jun
image via fbi

image via FBI

Sunday’s anniversary of the disappearance and murder of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman in Philadelphia, Mississippi, has been made that much more relevant by the murders Wednesday of  Cynthia Hurd, Suzy Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson in Charleston, South Carolina.

I learned about Schwerner, 24,  Chaney, 21, and Goodman, 20, when I was eleven and attended Camp Kinderland for the first time. Not only is there a bunk named after the three slain Civil Rights workers, but the late Carolyn Goodman, Andrew Goodman’s mother, visited the camp and spoke to campers and counselors. I remember her explaining that the two young Jewish men from New York City, Goodman and Schwerner, and the young Black man from Meridian, Mississippi, Chaney, had been beaten and killed by the KKK for participating in Freedom Summer, the 1964 campaign that engaged 700 young people from around the nation to join with local students and organizers to register Black voters.

It wasn’t until this week, though, when a white supremacist fatally shot nine Black members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, that I realized that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were killed while trying to investigate an attack on another Black church. On June 16, approximately 30 KKK members waited until all but ten people had left the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Neshoba County, Mississippi, beat them, and doused the church with ten gallons of gasoline, burning it to the ground.

At the time of the attack, Schwerner and Chaney, both organizers for CORE (Council on Racial Equality), were attending a training in Ohio, which was preparing volunteers for Freedom Summer.  One of the people being trained there was Andrew Goodman.  Learning of the attack, the three returned to Mississippi and, on June 21, inspected the charred remains of the church and spoke to the witnesses.

Continue Reading…

Laugh Lines – Katie Halper interviews Margaret Cho

16 Jun

The comedian on her radical education, the importance of safe spaces in the “hostile and dangerous world of comedy,” and when bad taste makes for good jokes.


Photograph by Mary Taylor.

Originally published on Guernica

Many comedians claim to challenge the status quo, question norms, push the limits, and speak (funny) truth to power. But few do it as consistently, as powerfully, and as hilariously as Margaret Cho. Whether describing her first colonic, singing about her love of receiving oral sex, or taking the ALS ice water challenge in a different direction (in enema form, to be precise), Cho makes it her business to offend, and often enrage, polite society.

Though her comedy rejects judgmental moralism, it does contain an undeniably moral and ethical code sewn from Cho’s personal experience and her sense of empathy and justice. As mainstream comedy continues to promote fat-shaming, rape jokes, and homophobia, Cho uses her work to create a safe space ­for the very people who find themselves the butts of other comedians’ humor. She punches up, not down, taking aim at the powerful rather than the disenfranchised.

Cho was born into a time of rebellion and transgression in 1968, to parents who had emigrated from Seoul to San Francisco four years earlier. She was bullied and unhappy at school, but found refuge and friendship among the men who frequented the gay bookstore her parents owned. Her other refuge was comedy, which she began writing at fourteen and performing at sixteen.

Cho’s very identity challenges the status quo—she is a queer, Asian-American, female comedian—but she also actively confronts injustice. After Robin Williams died, Cho decided to turn her grief into action: she began to busk on her days off to raise money for the homeless, and started a #BeRobin campaign calling on others to take up the cause of homelessness around which Williams had organized.

But while Cho is often political, she is not PC. At the Golden Globes this past January, she caused controversy by appearing as Cho Yung Ja, a North Korean army general, new member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and contributor to the fictional Movies Wow! Magazine. People accused Cho of coonery and minstrelsy. Instead of rolling over, she took to Twitter, writing: “I’m not playing the race card. I’m playing the rice card.”

Cho spoke to me over the phone from her house in LA, in the midst of preparing for her psyCHO stand-up tour, elucidating the crucial difference between comedy that offends without challenging, and comedy like hers, which offends to disrupt.

Katie Halper for Guernica Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: 13 Times we’re pretty sure Rick Perry was high as a kite on drugs

12 Jun
image via youtube

image via youtube

Originally posted on RawStory

Ah, Ricky Perry. It’s so nice to have him in the race! Perry is probably the most entertaining of all the terrible people fighting for the nomination, though it’s hard to keep track because there are so many and odds are another person will have signed up by the time I’ve published this post.

But here are some moments when Perry’s statements or affect were so off, it was hard to believe he wasn’t on drugs. And, this isn’t just hyperbole. One 2011 speech in particular provoked speculation that the Texas governor was taking pain medication, since he had undergone back surgery. As The San Francisco Chronicle reported, one clip captured on video,

described by some as bizarre and incoherent, shows Perry mugging, joking and playing with the audience as he describes New Hampshire’s motto, “Live Free or Die” as “cool” and appears to collapse in giggles over a gift of maple syrup.

Perry shrugged off the criticism and appeared flummoxed by the attention to the address.

“I’ve probably given 1,000 speeches. There are some that have been probably boring, some that have been animated, some that have been in between,” he said.

Responding to the suggestions by some political observers that the animated Perry may have been on pain medication for his past back surgery, the governor said: “No. I was just giving a speech.”

And he wasn’t drunk either!

“Asked about “The Daily Show” comedian Jon Stewart‘s suggestion that Perry looked like he had been drinking, the governor said, “It wasn’t that either.”

“It’s not that I wouldn’t love to sit down with Jon and have a glass of wine,” he said with a laugh, adding “if he’ll buy.”

I’m sure Jon would be down.

Without further ado, here  is Rick Perry high as a kite on drugs, getting the voting age wrong, thinking Woodrow Wilson was alive ten years ago, and seemingly impersonating an effeminate gay man.

WATCH: Gay valedictorian gives the banned speech his principal outed him over — and it’s awesome

3 Jun
image via Facebook

image via Facebook

Like every other valedictorian, Evan Young was planning to deliver a speech at his high school graduation ceremony on May 16th. Young was going to announce that he was gay to talk about the importance of mutual respect and tolerance, but BJ Buchmann, the principal of Twin Peaks Charter Academy High School in Longmont, Colorado demanded he remove that part of the speech. When Young refused, Buchmann did what any great pedagogue would do under the circumstances: outed Young to his parents, banned him from addressing his class and refused to recognize him as valedictorian at its graduation ceremony.

But on Sunday Young was finally able to deliver his speech at an event organized by the LGBT advocacy organization Out Boulder. And he got to do it in a cape!

Continue reading and see the video…

Finally! The Mad Max-Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt mashup

1 Jun
Image via Youtube

Image via Youtube

Originally posted on Feministing

Wednesday, Alexandra presented the Feminist Mad Max Tumblr. Today, we bring you this Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-Mad Max mash-up.

The mash-up creator Albert Lopez had the following to say in the his Youtube description of his UNBREAKABLE FURIOSA video: “All the haters who are pissed off that there’s a strong female lead in the new Mad Max film need to realize something… FEMALES ARE STRONG AS HELL!!!!!! Behold… the UNBREAKABLE FURIOSA!!!!”

Caption Contest: Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala Walk out of a train Station — what are they saying

31 May


Most of us are familiar with the face of pundit Tucker Carlson, the bow-tied, editor of the Daily Caller who refuses to stop wearing his boarding school uniform. But not everyone gets to see  his surprisingly tan visage up-close and personal. But I did. Yesterday. On the mean streets of New York City. Where he must have felt very uncomfortable and threatened.

It was just outside Penn Station. And I almost bumped into him. I was surprised to see him in my neck of the woods and even more surprised to see that he was with Paul Begala, the political consultant and commentator from the other side of the aisle, who sometimes e-mails me #NBD. But then again, so does President Barack Obama. Sometimes. Also, #NBD.

Continue Reading…

‘I can’t breathe! I’m choking on my blood': Disturbing video of a Black soldier left to die in a Texas jail

21 May
image via youtube

image via youtube

James Brown served two tours in Iraq and was diagnosed with PTSD. In exchange for his service and sacrifice, the 26-year-old father of two died in a Texas jail, where prison guards in riot gear stormed his cell and ignored his cries that he was choking on his own blood and unable to breathe.

James Brown, who reported to an El Paso jail where he was supposed to serve a two-day sentence for driving while intoxicated, died in 2012. While his family suspected foul play, only recently was the local news station KFOX14 able to obtain video recorded by one of the prison guards. The footage, which is extremely disturbing and painful to watch, shows that Brown has started bleeding for unknown reasons. When he doesn’t respond to the prison guard, as many as five guards dressed in riot gear storm Brown’s cell, forcing him to the ground. At no point does Brown appear to be resisting the guards. He does, however, state repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and, “I’m choking on my blood.”  He’s then taken to the infirmary, where he has a mask placed over his face and is given an injection. He continues to state he can’t breathe and, as evident in this exchange, is denied all requests to change his position or have the mask removed:

Continue reading…

Letty Cottin Pogrebin: Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate

19 May

Letty-Clickthru-1_1Here is a great interview with Letty Cottin Pogrebin on her novel Jewish Single Male Seeking Soul Mate, published by the Feminist Press. Make sure you catch Letty live at one of these upcoming events. Tune in to WBAI’s Morning Show on 99.5 FM or online to hear the rest of the interview this Thursday during the 7:00 hour, probably around 7:20 or later.

Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate is the story of “Zach Levy, the left-leaning son of Holocaust survivors who promises his mother that he’ll marry within the tribe. But when Zach falls for Cleo, an African American activist grappling with her own inherited trauma, he must reconcile the family he loves with the woman who might be his soul mate. A New York love story complicated by the legacies and modern tension of Jewish American and African American history, Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate explores what happens when the heart runs into the reality of politics, history, and the weight of family promises.”

Watch young filmmakers take on domestic violence, sexuality, and courage

19 May
image via Scenarios Facebook

image via Scenarios Facebook


Three engaging and exciting  movies by young filmmakers premiered at New York City’s legendary Angelika Theater Tuesday night. I was thrilled to be there and see the films on the big screen. Luckily, even if you couldn’t be there, you can still watch the films online.

Since its founding in 1999, Scenarios USA has worked to empower young people from traditionally underserved communities. Students submit their writing to a contest and the winners are paired up with established directors with whom they create short films.

This year’s winners, all of whom who in attendance, included New York City high schooler Lani Pringle. Her film Aleahdirected by Laurie Collyer, explored domestic violence, slut-shaming, abortion, and gang violence in a story of a young pregnant woman thrown out of her house. Pringle turned to her own biography and  family history for inspiration, choosing to shoot the film  in the very Brooklyn projects where her own father was killed before her first birthday: “The story was very influenced by what I knew of my mother’s life… I intended to write a very realistic, heartbreaking story that would keep people interested,” Pringle said in an interview with Scenarios USA. You can rent the film here (explicit) or here (edited for language).

House not Home, written by Skyler Edge, 16, from Cleveland, Ohio, and directed Joshua Butler, tells the story of Terran, a gender fluid teenager who faces bullying but is also part of a supportive community. During the Q and A session, the 16-year-old writer, who is trans and white,  explained that the casting call didn’t specify any racial or ethnic background. It was only after giving the lead role of Terran to Cyle Black, who is African-American, that Edge realized how much he had to learn about the experiences of people of color. This provoked an enthusiastic applause from the audience. Watch the film here. 

Veracity, which you can watch here, examined the shared struggles and solidarity between two African American lesbian teenagers. The film, written by Janaya Greene, a 17-year-old from the South Side of Chicago, and directed by Seith Mann, displayed a subtlety, realism and understatement rarely found in college and graduate student films, let alone in student films written by high-school students. Greene, now a student at Ohio State, was inspired to write the film after a debate over marriage equality in her high school English class senior year: She was baffled that it was even an open question.

The films were reason enough to attend the screening, but adding to the excitement were the “Scenarios Influencers,” invited by Scenarios USA’s Rebecca Carroll, which included Issa Rae, who hosted the screening. Other “influencers” included Luvvie Ajayi, Thomas Page McBee, Elizabeth Plank, Alexander Chee, Franchesca Ramsey, Trymaine Lee, Bevy Smith, and Aparna Nancherla, who graced us with a hilarious standup set. Michaela Angela Davis introduced the screening with powerful words: “To the young people: You are the movement, you are the inspiration and you are the revolution.”

Support the revolution and watch all three films.

Originally posted on Feministing


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