Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Black Culture 101

I’m cautiously optimistic about the sustained fervor of social media posts in favor of #blacklivesmatter and anti racism.  We’re seeing influencers and companies who historically shy away from politics because they fear isolating a consumer base that does not agree with them post to affirm that black lives matter. Granted, this is the bare f*cking minimum, and I can’t help but wonder what took so long.


But I’m cautiously optimistic that it might actually amount to justice in the form of charges but more importantly, convictions of murder for the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless more unarmed black people killed at the hands of police.

I'm also cautiously optimistic that we can change the collective consciousness about the legacy of slavery in America (by acknowledging that there is one! Again, bare f*cking minimum) and how white supremacy didn’t end with The Civil War in 1865, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or with the election of a black President in 2008.  How black veterans who fought to uphold American values in WWII (my grandparents) were not able to access mortgages from the GI bill in neighborhoods whose property value would exponentially increase, thereby preventing them from accumulating generational wealth. How relying on real estate taxes to fund public education ensures that our country’s low-income, predominantly minority neighborhoods will remain second-class citizens unable to access higher education and climb the socioeconomic ladder to fulfill the American Dream.  How the War on Drugs disproportionately impacted communities of color and disenfranchised scores of black men, who were branded felons and unable to vote and thereby participate in the cornerstone of American democracy.


I’m cautiously optimistic that this history that I’ve always known to be true may be taught across the country and will require non-black American to think deeply about ways in which they have personally benefitted from and perpetuated these systems.
 

But, what concerns me about the content of the social media proliferation is the specificity of the reading lists.  My timeline has heralded White Fragility and How to be Antiracist as the Bible when, at least on the face, they seem like manuals for navigating the discomfort of talking about race.  Which, don’t get me wrong, is an incredible first step.  But in order to look within us or change from within, as many brands are rightfully advocating, I would suggest looking outward.  Seek voices that are not your own.  Read about black stories in order to avoid seeing Black people as a monolith.  See our humanity, that we are individuals as much as you are. We experience love, loss, joy, grief, the full range of human experiences.   

 

Here are a few suggestions for books, movies and art that I’d recommend by or featuring black creators.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please comment with your recommendations!

 

Movies: 

There is nothing that I love more than a rom-com, and the 90's were really unparalleled in prolificness.  But, the best-of lists are overwhelmingly white: When Harry Met Sally, 10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless, Pretty Woman, etc. etc. etc.  Don't get me wrong, these are good movies.  But, there's a wealth of rom-coms featuring black couples that don't get the credit that they deserve.



1.     Two Can Play That Game

2.     Love and Basketball

3.     Guess Who

4.     Brown Sugar

5.     Love Jones

 

Books:

I love reading. This quote by Laurie Helgoe, “Reading is like travel, allowing you to exit your own life for a bit, and to come back with a renewed, even inspired, perspective," couldn't ring truer for me.  So travel...to the minds and experiences of black people via black authors!

  1. Swing Time by Zadie Smith
  2. An American Marriage by Tavari Jones
  3. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  4. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
  5. We're Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

Podcasts:

I don't need to tell you how popular podcasts are. Spotify just inked a deal with Joe Rogan to bring his podcast "The Joe Rogan Experience" exclusively to the platform for $100 million.  I look forward to listening to the below podcasts hosted by black podcasters every single week.  Take a listen!



1.     The Read

2.     Still Processing

3.     Code Switch

4.     Why Won’t You Date Me?

5.     Naked Beauty

 

TV Shows:

We're living in an era of peak TV.  There are so many nuanced, high quality shows to choose from.  So take a pause on Tiger King, and dive into the below.



1.     Insecure on HBO

2.     Atlanta on FX

3.     The Boondocks on Adult Swim/HBO Max

4.     The Shop on HBO

5.     High Fidelity on Hulu

 

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