TIME sexuality

Dear Black Women: White Gays Are Your Allies, So Don’t Push Us Away

We, too, know what it's like to be ostracized and pushed down.

In the earliest months of our relationship, my now-husband wanted me to understand something fundamental about his tastes, so he took me to a concert with acts I’d only vaguely heard of. I knew Queen Latifah, obviously, and was somewhat aware of Erykah Badu, but the rest of the lineup at the 2005 Sugar Water Festival, a short-lived summer showcase for black songstresses, were new to me.

Also new to me as a child of an upscale, white Long Island suburb: the composition of the audience. There were an overwhelming number of black women filling the vast Mandalay Bay Convention Center, which was unusual enough for a show on the Las Vegas Strip. But these women were accompanied, to my surprise, by more than a smattering of white men. Gay white men, that is. Very gay white men.

Those relationships fascinated me — and made a certain sense. It’s easy, once you start to imagine it, to see the natural connection between the two ostracized groups, both of which have translated that marginalization into defiant, self-affirming subcultures. My then new beau came of age in the urban nightclubs of Washington D.C., New York, and Tampa, all places where many white gay men found acceptance and common cultural cause with their oppressed black sisters who, in turn, flooded the scene, seeking places to revel away from so many predatory, demeaning straight men of all races.

Last week, that alliance came under attack by misguided University of Mississippi senior Sierra Mannie, who believed she was defending black women from cultural theft by launching an assault on white gays who, to her mind, behave too black. She zinged, “You are not a black woman, and you do not get to claim either blackness or womanhood. It is not yours. It is not for you.”

Others have already burned the piece down to its homo-ignorant nub, noting that Mannie writes cluelessly and obscenely about the nature and challenges of being gay. Her fire is fueled by some undeniably racist interactions, a supposed epidemic of white gay men who actually wish to be called by stereotypically black names and anoint themselves “strong black women.” It’s difficult to dispute that such behavior is weird and offensive, but it’s illogical to suggest all gay white men are “thieves” on that anecdotal basis alone.

Yet here’s what else Mannie overlooks in her full-frontal assault: White gay men as a group could be the truest friends black women can have in American society. No alliance is perfect, but this one has the potential, if nurtured properly, to reconfigure the stories of race and gender. White gay men — once intensely vilified but now able to harness our white male privilege for good, having learned what being on the outside is like — are a conduit through which black women can work against both countervailing forces that push them down.

Gay white men, in fact, pioneered a prototype for this. Not long ago, the biggest barrier for social acceptance for gays was heterosexual men. Then we co-opted them. At first, those old enough may recall, straight men refused even to speak to us, lest others perceive them as less than fully virile, if not gay themselves. Even those who deigned to be friendly did so at an arm’s length, claiming to be discomfited by irrepressible images of us — with them? — in sexual positions. Over time, this eroded. They liked our music. Straight women liked our clothes, our hair and our manscaping, and straight men will do just about anything to appeal to straight women. We were house-proud, fashion-forward, smart and funny, versed in both high and low culture. By the early 1990s, straight, urban men even accepted a hybrid moniker: the metrosexual.

Once those lines were blurred, once straight men not only accepted gay men but sought out our advice — remember “Queer Eye For the Straight Guy”? — men of all sexual orientations could see their similarities far outweighed their differences. Familiarity bred affinity, and affinity forced straight men to realize they had little to lose — and perhaps the admiration of straight women as a fringe benefit — by supporting full equality for gay people.

Our willingness to share our culture facilitated this detente. But “willingness” may be a strong word because it would have happened whether we were happy or angry about it. Mannie can bark at the gay white universe to lay off, but an appealing means of expression and art are the ultimate in open-source culture.

There is no question white gays have intrinsic advantages over black women in American society. Sure, we’ve taken our lumps, but black women certainly win the sweepstakes of oppression by a landslide. It is, in fact, this basic difference — race — that has enabled us to blitz through our civil rights movement in head-spinning fashion, while black women continue to face painful economic and political hurdles. Why did gay rights go from fantasy to entitlement in a blink of the historical eye, even as other oppressed minorities fend off efforts to deny them the ability to vote or obtain a decent education? Because so many of the gay men (and women) who came out were white and, thus, already embedded in the nation’s most powerful institutions.

But we’re here now, and we’re natural allies. The mutual fondness between so many black women and white gay men arises both from similar, if not shared, experience, but also a strikingly similar approach to coping with it. Some tropes emerged from black female culture and some from the gay world, but how or why is the stuff not of pundits or essayists, but of doctoral dissertations by social anthropologists. We aren’t going to get to the bottom of that on Twitter.

Still, cultural alliances like this are rare and should be treasured, not chastised. Black men didn’t have one. Neither did Jews or Native Americans. Arab Americans sure don’t. But through some fluke of cosmic association, black women have kindred spirits in white gay men. Don’t push us away.

Friess is an Ann Arbor, Mich.–based freelance writer and former senior writer covering technology for Politico, who teaches journalism at Michigan State University. You can follow him on Twitter @stevefriess.


Study: Little Progress for African-American Men on Racial Equality Since 1970

Rates of incarceration and unemployment remain high

In recent years, the U.S. has celebrated the 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Act and a number of other landmark accomplishments considered pivotal in making the U.S. a better place for African Americans.

But despite a deep reverence for those accomplishments, a new study suggests that African-American men today face such high levels of unemployment and incarceration that they are in little better position when compared with white men than a half-century ago.

The working paper, by University of Chicago researchers Derek Neal and Armin Rick, is based on preliminary findings and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

“The growth of incarceration rates among black men in recent decades combined with the sharp drop in black employment rates during the Great Recession have left most black men in a position relative to white men that is really no better than the position they occupied only a few years after the Civil Rights Act,” the study reads.

The study uses census data to show that more than 10% of black men in their 30s will be incarcerated at some point during a calendar year. This number was around 2% for white males of the same age group.

The study attributes the corrosive impact of incarceration on the African-American community, at least in part, to the institution of more punitive criminal-justice policies.

African-American men also appear to face a more difficult employment situation. More than a third of African-American men between the ages of 25 and 49 lacked employment in 2010.

“The Great Recession period of 2008–2010 was quite bleak for black men,” the study reads. “Recent levels of labor market inequality between black and white prime-age men are likely not materially different than those observed in 1970.”



Lawmakers Honor Martin Luther King Jr. to Commemorate Civil Rights Act Anniversary

John Lewis
Democratic Representative John Lewis of Georgia stands in front of a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. as he speaks during the 50th anniversary ceremony for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 2014 Susan Walsh—AP

Nearly 50 years ago, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, marking a major step toward ending legal discrimination based on race in America

Martin Luther King Jr. received a posthumous award from Congress on Tuesday as lawmakers gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The slain civil rights leader and his wife Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006, were given the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony to honor the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Lyndon Johnson signed the act on July 2, 1964.

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 while in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers.

The deceased couple’s children, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King and Bernice A. King, said in a statement that the family is honored their parents are being recognized for their “tireless and sacrificial leadership to advance freedom and justice,” the Associated Press reports.

Watch TIME’s One Dream video about Martin Luther King Jr. here:


TIME Crime

How a 4-Year-Old Girl Foiled Her Babysitter’s Robbery Plot

Yellow police tape Getty Images

Definitely not Babysitter's Club material

A babysitter’s ill-planned burglary plot was foiled by a very wise 4-year-old named Abby.

Wednesday, or what Abby described to a Detroit Fox affiliate as “the worst day in my life,” two teenage men invaded the parent-free home. Among other goods, “The bad guys stole my kitty bank, they stole my iPod,” Abby said.

While the 17-year-old babysitter said that the thieves were two armed black males — one of whom suspiciously looked like the next door neighbor — her story fell apart when Abby “described the suspects as having peach-colored skin as opposed to having dark colored skin,” Sheriff Bill Elfo told ABC News. The babysitter almost immediately confessed that her boyfriend and a cohort had, in fact, been the ones who actually committed the crime.

All three involved were arrested. The innocent neighbor was handcuffed and questioned for hours, but was later released.


TIME technology

Yahoo Is More Diverse Than Google, but Not by Much

Slight difference here


Following a demographics disclosure trend in tech firms these days, Yahoo released data Tuesday about the diversity of its workforce.

According to self-reported data collected by the company, its workers are 37% female and 67% male, with 1% “undisclosed.” This hinges very closely to statistics released by Google last month, which revealed a labor pool similarly dominated by men (70% in Google’s case).

When it comes to race, Yahoo appears to be not quite as overwhelmingly white as Google (which was 61% white in its May disclosure). Yahoo’s data puts its workforce at 50% white and 39% Asian. However, the diversity still seems to suffer, as Hispanics represent just 4% of the labor force; black people, people of two or more races or those who did not disclose their race each encompass 2% of Yahoo employees.

“Here at Yahoo we are committed to attracting, developing and retaining a diverse workforce,” the company said. “We’re in the business of building products for hundreds of millions of users worldwide and that starts with having the best possible talent — a Yahoo team that understands and reflects our diverse user base.”

TIME Pop Culture

Chuck D, the N-word and the Problem With Trolling

Chuck D
Rapper Chuck D attends the Record Store Day LA press conference 2014 held at Amoeba Music on March 20, 2014 in Hollywood, Calif. Tommaso Boddi / WireImage

A Twitter debate about a radio station makes a point about the power of language

Fighting the power is nothing new for Chuck D, the rapper best known as a part of Public Enemy. Recently, however, he’s been waging a new kind of war, largely online.

It started at Hot 97′s Summer Jam, the annual concert thrown by the New York hip-hop radio behemoth. The Summer Jam has been the site of controversy in the past — in 2012, it was the site of Nicki Minaj’s cancelling a show when a D.J. accused her of a lack of realness — and this year’s, which took place on June 1, was no exception. Following the concert, which Chuck D did not attend, the rapper tweeted that the event constituted “cultural crime”:

Though the initial accusation was somewhat vague, it soon became clear that his problem was with the way that the radio station represented the genre and, in particular, the casual use of racial slurs at the event. Hot 97 told Billboard that his criticisms of the programming on the station didn’t make sense in terms of the role of radio today, to which the artist responded that if there were a festival allowed its hosts and guests to use slurs about any group other than African-Americans, the result would be very different.

Hip-hop aficionados are likely to focus on the question of the proper function of a radio station and use of the n-word in pop culture, but there’s another aspect to the debate that affects pretty much everyone involved in online conversations. (So, pretty much anyone who’s ever been on the Internet.) That’s the question of whether Chuck D was trolling Hot 97, something that prominent on-air personality Peter Rosenberg brought up during a segment about the rapper’s tweets. “If all you’re doing is trolling on Twitter, you ain’t doing that much,” he said.

Part of the problem is the variety of meanings the one word can carry. According to a rather exhaustive “brief history of trolls” at The Daily Dot, the term is a relatively new turn of phrase for annoying provocation of several different stripes. There’s patent trolling, the practice of holding onto broad patents with the intent of suing companies that use similar technology rather than actually making the product yourself. There’s full-on bullying, and then the less cruel meme-based 4chan subculture of deliberate mischief, like Rick Rolling.

And there is, as in this case, disruption for the sake of attention, an attention-grabbing burst of negativity. More and more, that’s the definition that matters.

Late last year, Daniel D’Addario at Salon asked whether the Internet had reached “peak troll” as a wider swath of consumers became aware that lots of online content was being created with the express purpose of making them angry and thus engaged. If we’re onto the trick, the idea went, trolling will stop working. While few would argue that a decline in purposeful agitation would be nice, perhaps there’s such a thing as overawareness.

A March Deadspin article about the parallel term “clickbait” — used to refer to overblown headlines that encourage readers to click on the story — made the point that there a logical problem with saying that wanting people to read what you wrote makes that thing bad; some people who want attention for their ideas want that attention because they care about their ideas. And, by extension, argued that piece, using “clickbait” as a criticism doesn’t do justice to the critic either, as “[a] universe of concerns, each one as specific and unique as what it’s addressing, is entirely subsumed into a single meaningless word that functions as nothing more than the expression of an attitude of superiority. I’m too smart for that to work on me.

In this situation, though Rosenberg and Chuck D have also participated in a somewhat more nuanced conversation about the radio station, the idea that the latter is “trolling” a popular station in order to get attention just dismisses the concerns wholesale without granting them the legitimacy of real ideas. In some ways, it’s another side of a conversation about privilege that has been going on for far longer: though the two sides in this particular debate come from different positions of power within rap and hip-hop, the ability to push aside someone’s criticism as mere trolling is a privileged one. A respected pioneer of hip-hop analyzing the intersection of music and race may deserve attention from one of the genre’s most listened-to outlets — whether or not his beliefs about a radio station’s job reflect the realities of broadcast media — but the online mantra of “don’t feed the trolls” says to do exactly the opposite. Call something trolling and you’re free to ignore it.

Based on a tweet from yesterday, it seems clear that Chuck D understands why that matters:

There’s no way to know for sure the degree to which drumming up attention played into the rapper’s original statements, and he did not respond to requests to further discuss the subtleties of trolling — but, even for people who have no opinion about what kind of music Hot 97 should play, his point about language is worth remembering. Clickbait and trolling do exist; that’s obvious to anyone who spends any time online. But not everyone who makes you mad is trolling you. And, as Hot 97 is learning, sometimes not feeding the “troll” just feeds more anger.


Study: Hard Times Can Make People More Racist

When the going gets tough, the tough get... prejudiced

People perceive race differently during an economic downturn, a recent study suggests, and become subconsciously more prejudiced against dark-skinned people when times are tight.

Researchers at New York University discovered that people with lighter skin were more likely to perceive Afrocentric features as more pronounced or “darker” during an economic downturn.

That kind of perception is likely to increase discrimination against people of color, the researchers found.

“Our research reveals that perceived scarcity influences people’s visual representations of race in a way that may promote discrimination,” the authors note, in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America journal.

In a series of four studies, participants were asked to identify whether select images depicted black people or white people, while researchers manipulated select economic conditions.

In one study, participants were first asked to express agreement or disagreement with “zero-sum” beliefs like “When blacks make economic gains, whites lose out economically,” and then asked to identify the race of the people featured in 110 images—people whose skin color varied greatly.

The study’s results showed that those with stronger “zero sum” beliefs were more likely to consider the images of mixed-face subjects as “blacker” than they actually were.

New York University researchers Amy Krosch, a doctoral student, and psychology professor David Amodio found similar results when participants were asked to identify whether someone was black or white after being shown words related to scarcity like “limited” and “resource.”

The remaining studies threw economics into the mix—asking subjects how they would divide $15 between people represented by two images— and not only were images of darker-skinned people deemed “blacker” than they actually were relative to the average skin color, they were allocated fewer funds.

Economic scarcity, the researchers note, has been proven to influence how people treat those outside of their own social groups in previous studies. But with the economy still recovering from the detrimental recession of 2008-9—which had a more adverse effect on blacks than whites—the findings suggest that institutional inequality may not be the only culprit, but also individual prejudices toward racial minorities.

TIME celebrities

Here’s Another Video of Justin Bieber Being Racist

amfAR Gala - 67th Cannes Film Festival
Canadian singer Justin Bieber attends the Cinema Against AIDS amfAR gala 2014 held at the Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc in Cap d'Antibes, France, 22 May 2014. Hubert Boesl—dpa/AP

The singer replaces "girl" with the n-word.

A video emerged Wednesday showing a young Justin Bieber singing a racist parody of his popular song “One Less Lonely Girl,” the second time in the last week the pop star has been depicted making racist comments.

The video, published by TMZ, shows a 14-year-old Bieber sitting in a chair and giggling as he croons the tune while replacing the word “girl” with the n-word.

“One less lonely n—-r,” Bieber sings. “If I kill you, I’d be a part of the KKK, and there’s gonna be one less lonely n—-r.”

Bieber was reportedly singing a parody of his song he had seen on YouTube. Bieber apologized last Sunday after a video emerged that showed him telling a racist joke. He said that at the time of the video’s creation, he “thought it was OK to repeat hurtful and jokes.”

“I didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t funny and that in fact my actions were continuing the ignorance,” he said in a statement to the Associated Press.

“I’m very sorry,” Bieber said. “I take all my friendships with people of all cultures very seriously and I apologize for offending or hurting anyone with my childish and inexcusable behavior.”

TMZ reports that Bieber and his representatives wanted the video released so he can take responsibility for his actions.

TIME Sports

A Woman Who Says She Is Donald Sterling’s Ex Is Suing Him for Racial and Sexual Abuse

Donald Sterling, V. Stiviano
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, right, and V. Stiviano, left, watch the Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers during an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles on Monday, Dec. 19, 2011. Danny Moloshok—AP

The disgraced L.A. Clippers owner is alleged to have told her that black people do nothing but "sit at home and smoke dope"

A woman claiming to be the ex-lover of Donald Sterling, the disgraced basketball-team owner who was recently barred from the NBA for life after making racist comments, launched a suit against the 80-year-old on Monday for alleged racial discrimination and sexual harassment.

Maiko Maya King says she faced a “steady stream of racially and sexually offensive comments” both during their claimed relationship from 2005 to 2011 and after, when she was employed by Sterling as a personal assistant and caretaker.

The lawsuit asserts that Sterling made comments about King’s African-American husband, like, “Why would you bring black people into the world?” and “I want to take you out of the black world and put you into the white world.” The former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers also allegedly said, “Black people do not take care of their children. All they do is sit at home and smoke dope.”

King further claims that Sterling “dangled money only if she would have sex with him” and that he would give her bonuses if she could “help him to perform sexually.” When she protested against the harassment on May 7, 2014, he fired her.

The complaint seeks compensatory damages for continued pain, mental suffering and extreme mental anguish.


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