Monthly Archives: October 2013

“Roll Tide!”: A Tale of Accidental Communities

By Aimee Thorne-Thomsen

Alabama Crimson Tide Sweatshirt

“Roll Tide,” said the young man standing next to me on the corner of North Capitol and F Streets. He’d been looking at me sideways for a couple of minutes, but I didn’t know why, nor did I care. I was on my way to help my colleagues set up for our annual youth conference, the Urban Retreat, dressed in jeans, sneakers and my Alabama sweatshirt. Not the costume I usually wear to work, but one I am much more comfortable in. We had crossed North Capitol alongside each other and were waiting for the light to change when he uttered the famous rally chant. He must have been gauging whether I really was a fan of the Alabama football team before he said it, though I am not sure how he measured that by looking at me sideways as we crossed the street. After my own delayed reaction, I replied, “Roll Tide,” with a smile.

I’m a lifelong sports fan, going to Yankees games as a child and jumping for joy when the Knicks drafted Patrick Ewing. Baseball, basketball, football, tennis, cycling, volleyball, swimming, track and field, etc we watched all of them when I was growing up. I can survive on a steady diet of ESPN and little else. Despite this, I was still surprised at how differently the college football universe is, especially if you cheer for Alabama. I mean when I walk around the streets of New York, I don’t acknowledge every Yankee fan I encounter. (Part of that is because as New Yorker, you don’t really acknowledge anyone, and the other part is there are so damn many Yankee fans that I would never have time to breathe if I acknowledged each and every one I encountered.) I know what you’re thinking: How does a girl from the Bronx become a fan of ‘Bama? I have no relationship to the University of Alabama, my family has no roots in Alabama, hell,  I’ve never even been to Alabama. What gives?  How I came to yell “Roll Tide!” is a story of accidental communities.

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An Ode to Grown and Sexy Music

Customarily, we publish something a little heavier on a Monday morning. But this weekend, I stumbled on to an Anita Baker Spotify radio station that slayed me and gave me life again. It made me yearn for the 80s/90s era of R&B music, “quiet storm” radio, Crown Royal on ice, Southside Chicago lounges, smooth jazz–grown folks doing grown folks things. It was a time and genre that, but for Luther Vandross (RIP), black women owned. And it was the last gasp of seduction, before hip hop’s form of aggressive masculinity completely changed the game of love.


Anita Baker, “Body and Soul”


Stephanie Mills, “I Feel Good All Over”/”Feel the Fire”


Sade, “Smooth Operator”


Patti LaBelle, “Love, Need and Want You”


Toni Braxton, “Love Shoulda Brought You Home”


Whitney Houston, “Exhale”

Sirius XM: Does That Umbrella Come With A Pink Slip For Babchik?

By Guest Contributor Alison Roh Park; originally published at Race Files

“I want to buy an umbrella [that comes] with an Asian girl…In my experience, girls who stand next to me longer than 20 seconds get a creampie.” Mike Babchik, Host of “Man Banter” on SiriusXM to an Asian American woman at Comic Con, October 2013

Mike Babchik. Image via 18 Million Rising.

Mike Babchik. Image via 18 Million Rising.

You may have heard about the racist misogynist Mike Babchik who sexually harassed at least one Asian American attendee at Comic Con this month, right here in my hometown of New York City. Mike Babchik is a creep. But we’re all familiar with creeps like him. All you have to do is walk outside or Google “Asian women” and these kinds of messages about Asian women’s servility, hypersexuality and availability to White men (and really all men for that matter) abound.

Here in NYC, I’ve experienced racist sexual harassment from [insert any expletive you want] like Babchik since I was 11 years old. And with 20 years of experience under my belt, I can tell you it isn’t about “free speech” or “irreverent humor” or any of the whitewashing terms that his corporate guardians at Siruis XM might throw at the public who is demanding Babchik’s termination—if they would even respond. How many APIAs and allies will it take for Sirius XM to even acknowledge the nearly 1,500 people who have demanded action?

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An Ode To—And A Complaint About–“White Boy Realness”

By Andrea Plaid

Charlie Hunnam, Actor/Underwear Whisperer

Charlie Hunnam, Actor/Underwear Whisperer

Latest report from my Interracial Mating/Dating Outpost: I’m catching up on my Sons of Anarchy watching—I’m near the end of Season 5–which was interrupted by my Superstorm Sandy displacement. Holding the center of this biker Hamlet production is Charlie Hunnam’s Jax (left), swaggering through this pile-on of a drama in his more convoluted and murderous attempts to aright the legacy of his father, the late John Teller, who wanted to get the Sons of Anarchy bike club out of the darkness of their lucrative illegal trades and into the marvelous light of some utopian, perhaps off-the-grid community.

Yeah, Sons is what that the critics say—great drama and all that. But I’m still looking at Jax’s swagger and some of the responses to it from Black women on Twitter.

Some of these sistahs—some of whom I admire for their brilliant takes on race, gender, class, and pop culture—I would consider “race women”: they love Black folks hard and sturdy, even as they lovingly critique The Community. And they profess to love the brothas hard, as comrades in the struggle and as companions, whether for the night or a lifetime of them. But when Jax saunters across the screen, those same sistas giddily tweet that their panties fly off.

And it’s not just Jax that “does it to them.” He’s the latest—albeit fictional—manifestation of “White Boy Realness (WBR).”

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Policing Latin@ Identities (a.k.a Who Is The Most Latin@?)

By Aimee Thorne-Thomsen

Puerto Rican Women's History

I’m a little brown gurl from New York. I’ve always been comfortable in that identity; it fits me like a skin. Part of that comfort comes from knowing who I am. And part of that comfort comes from knowing that other people know me, too. I don’t mean that other people know me well, or even deeply. What I mean is that when I walk down the streets of Washington Heights or Kingsbridge or Greenwich Village, people recognize me. They see a brown gurl, probably Puerto Rican or Dominican, maybe mixed…but definitely Latina, a woman of color. To be seen for who and what I am–and have that reflected back to me–was critical in shaping my identity as a Latin@.

I didn’t realize the power in that until college when I first encountered the policing of identity, specifically Latin@ identity.

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The Disturbing Sexist Ageism of American Horror Story

It is hard to choose just one thing that is problematic about FX’s American Horror Story. It is the guiltiest of pleasures. The first two seasons of the mini-series were captivating, cringe-inducing, camp celebrations of the art of horror storytelling, complete with cribbed soundtracks from films like The Exorcist and featuring an immensely talented cast: Denis O’Hare, Zachary Quinto, and Jessica Lange(!), gnawing scenery like starved theater mice. American Horror Story also heavily exploited racism, sexism, violence against women, sexual violence, homophobia and ableism.

The show’s latest incarnation, American Horror Story: Coven, is no different. It is set in a secret New Orleans school for young witches, run by a headmistress who wants to help her charges harness their powers for good, in opposition to her more powerful nemesis (and mother), who just wants to wreck shit. It’s like X-Men with Spanish moss, crawfish, and three of Hollywood’s best actresses who no longer get roles because they are older than the internet. In addition to Lange, the show includes Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett in key roles.

Perhaps you are expecting, since the history of witch hunts in America is intertwined with the history of women’s oppression or since Coven showrunners clearly recognize the value of three great under-used actresses of a certain age, that this season of American Horror Story would present a tale about women that is less reductive and trite than the usual. You might think, like a person in the clip above, that it would celebrate women.

You clearly don’t know Ryan Murphy (showrunner; see also: Glee and Nip/Tuck).

What would make an all-powerful witch dig up the zombified body of a 19th-century serial killer? What would make a wealthy woman set up an attic torture chamber to perform horrific experiments and concoct a special pancreas-based elixir? If said witch or woman is of middle age, then it must be a desire for the sweet beauty and desirability of youth. American Horror Story: Coven offers up the all-too-typical message that a young woman is always more desirable than an older one and that the saddest and most disturbed of hags can’t deal with the fact that their looks and sexual currency are necessarily fading.

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Too Old For The Freelance Economy Fairy Tale

By Andrea Plaid

Image via

Image via

I’m tapping out of the full-time freelancing writing life. I don’t have the constitution for it.

Or maybe there isn’t a constitution—a binding structure or a shape—to sustain this life for me…and others who leave the profession.

Of course, we’re warned that the full-on freelance writing life would be very hard, to be prepared for “feast or famine” cycles by having so much money to cushion you, to buy things in bulk during the flush times in order to survive the fasting ones when our pitches for blog posts/magazine articles/ news stories aren’t accepted or the check doesn’t arrive on time, if at all.

But what these warnings don’t tell you about is, to really maintain a certain quality of freelancing writing life over time—to be able to pay for a mortgage or rent, food, transportation, clothing, utilities (including phone and some sort of internet access), and some “pocket money” in order to attend those networking events to buy drinks—one also needs to what I call an “invisible income structure.” SBF homie Deanna Zandt touches on this at Forbes, but what this entails is having a financial safety net in place that bolsters the freelancer’s income, such as a steady-paying gig, having roommates, having a partner who works a steady-income job, living on public assistance (from unemployment to food stamps), living off parental support or an inheritance (be it money, property, etc.), student loans, living in a geographically inexpensive place, and/or some other break with expenses or monetary supplement.

Without that structure, how many freelancers are really “making it”—meaning that they’re able to not only pay for the basics, including the aforementioned “pocket money”, but are able to live a comfortable  middle-class or upper middle-class life strictly on their earnings, when the market is demanding more from writers for less (and by less, I mean “free”) or, at least, six bottles of wine? Especially in a metropolitan place like New York City, which still is seen as the literary/artistic nexus of the US and still the most expensive city in the nation?

And this life isn’t relegated to New York writers, the usually middle-class US-educated–though so many are still, monetarily speaking, the working poor–creative class and the working-class day laborers, some of whom are undocumented immigrants. In fact, this freelancing life is the reality of US working life. What actors and writers and fine artists have been told (and frankly, we tell each other) is our lot—under the romantic myth of The Starving Artist for —has now metastasized. The economic uncertainty that undergirds the Starving Artist Myth crept into corporate and non-profit “office culture,” with the rise (and rising acceptance) of the temp worker. It also inhabits academia, with the increasing dependence on adjunct faculty. Unlike adjunct professors and artists, the temp jobs held at one point held out the promise of full-time work, if not a 40-hour work week for a certain period of time—which some companies took advantage of—then going from a “temp-to-perm” position in a company, complete with medical and other benefits for one’s self and one’s family (depending on the structure of the family) when hired. With that acquired full-time job—as so many others presumably have in the company—one could build a life, like a home.

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