Marvel’s new addition to its superhero line-up: Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl living in Jersey City who takes the name Ms. Marvel.
I’m not really part of the comic book world; I saw Avengers and that’s pretty much it. But I find the push (and inevitable pushback) in the comic book industry to successfully incorporate women and non-white characters into their superhero line-ups very interesting. Sana Amanat, one of the co-creators of Kamala Khan, has some worthwhile things to say about creating the character and how she thinks she will be received by audiences, some of whom have so far had a little bit of difficulty accommodating the idea of change within the genre. 
[New York Times]


Marvel’s new addition to its superhero line-up: Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl living in Jersey City who takes the name Ms. Marvel.

I’m not really part of the comic book world; I saw Avengers and that’s pretty much it. But I find the push (and inevitable pushback) in the comic book industry to successfully incorporate women and non-white characters into their superhero line-ups very interesting. Sana Amanat, one of the co-creators of Kamala Khan, has some worthwhile things to say about creating the character and how she thinks she will be received by audiences, some of whom have so far had a little bit of difficulty accommodating the idea of change within the genre. 

[New York Times]



wetravelfast00: recently asked SNL cast member Kenan Thompson some pointed questions about the show’s lack of women of color. Kenan asserted he would no longer be playing black women characters for the show. Though that decision is a heartening one, his comments on why there remains a gap in the representation of black women in comedic spaces were less than progressive. Kenan said, “It’s just a tough part of the business,” he tells TV Guide. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”

A group of funny black women decided to take on Kenan’s challenge. In this video, filled with vignettes and impressions showing off their talent. The end result is undeniable. Black women are ready for any stage.


OMG, this is so great!  Please watch


(via zuleykaaaa)

The Young Turks video from 2011, Crazy Facts On Income Inequality, links to an article from Travis Waldron, published in Think Progress. Waldron writes:

The 99 Percent Movement effectively changed the American political debate from debt and deficits to income inequality, highlighting the fact that income inequality has increased so much in the U.S. that it is now more unequal than countries like Ivory Coast and Pakistan. While those numbers are startling, a study from two historians suggests that American wealth inequality may actually be worse than it was in Ancient Rome — a society built on slave labour, a defined class structure, and centuries of warfare and conquest.

Waldron is referring to the study by historians Walter Schiedel and Steven Friesen, summarised by Tim De Chant in his blog Per Square Mile. De Chant provides detail on how Schiedel and Friesen estimated the distribution of wealth in the Roman Empire, 150 C.E. De Chant  writes that the study finds:

the top 1 percent of Roman society controlled 16 percent of the wealth, less than half of what America’s top 1 percent control… In total, Schiedel and Friesen figure the elite orders and other wealthy made up about 1.5 percent of the 70 million inhabitants the empire claimed at its peak. Together, they controlled around 20 percent of the wealth…

These numbers paint a picture of two Romes, one of respectable, if not fabulous, wealth and the other of meager wages, enough to survive day-to-day but not enough to prosper. The wealthy were also largely concentrated in the cities. It’s not unlike the U.S. today.

Using data which estimates the gini coefficients of various nations (a statistical estimation of income inequality), De Chant writes that imperial Rome was ‘slightly more equal than the U.S.’:

In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and labourers, traces of whom have all but vanished. It’s as though Rome’s 99 percent never existed. Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?

De Chant cites the inequality of ancient Rome as partly based on the exploitation of poor workers and slaves. The USA has a long history of slave exploitation, as do many other countries. Moreover, the USA also has a monumental problem with modern day slavery, as do many other nations. The USA also has problems with the exploitation and poor treatment of migrant workers. Again, as do many other advanced nations.

What De Chant, Scheidel and Friesen’s work highlights is that the impact of income inequality and social stratification in the United States is embedded in historical practices that are not unique to the USA, nor to Ancient Greece. The Occupy Wall Street movement has indeed opened up a useful debate about the upper class elites in American society (the 1%) versus the general population (the 99%). This movement, has mobilised a narrative that is about how everyday citizens are being exploited by big business and bankers. The movement has not specifically located the struggles of modern day slaves and undocumented migrants who are even more marginalised, given that they do not have, by definition, citizenship rights.

I find De Chant’s summary of Scheidel and Friesen’s paper fascinating not specifically for the point these authors make - that average Americans in modern day USA are not much better off than ‘the majority of plebeians’ in Ancient Greece. Instead, it highlights that income inequality, slavery and exploitation of vulnerable workers today has not progressed far enough in comparison to America’s own early history. The Occupy movement keeps evolving. It has not yet focused on the exploitation of the ‘invisible’ sub-groups within the ‘99%’, such as slaves and undocumented workers. Hopefully this movement can continue to expand its narrative of class inequality even further to give voice to these groups.

Sources: De Chant (2011) ‘Income inequality in the Roman Empire’, Per Square Mile, 16 Dec.

Via Waldron, Think Progress 19th of December, and The Young Turks

Scheidel, W., & Friesen, S. (2010). The Size of the Economy and the Distribution of Income in the Roman Empire Journal of Roman Studies 99.

How To Know If You Are White


October 9, 2012

by Mia McKenzie

Lately, the question of who is white and who isn’t keeps coming up in my life. I have had many talks with friends in recent months about what it means to be POC, and about who is claiming that identity and why. At a recent reading I did at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, someone asked me if I thought race was defined by skin color. Today someone pulled the “I’m white but I’m Armenian, so, historically…” and I felt compelled to take a deep breath and sort out some of my thoughts around the term “white”.

When I talk about “white people” I am talking about people who exist in bodies that give them access to white privilege. Some people exist in these bodies and get these privileges but don’t ID as white. The thing about whiteness, though, is that you don’t have to claim it to have it. You may not want to be white, for whatever reasons, but you don’t choose whiteness. Whiteness chooses you. And when it does, it gives you—whether you want or acknowledge them or not—a whole slew of privileges that non-white folks don’t get. Even if you are poor. Even if you are a woman. Even if you are queer and/or trans. Even if you are elderly. Even if you are a person with a disability. All of these things will, of course, affect your life in enormous ways and affect your access to any number of things. But they don’t erase whiteness.

So, if you’re confused about whether or not whiteness has chosen you, here’s a few questions to help you sort it out.

How to Know If You Are White:

1. Do you look white? If this seems in any way like a complicated question, it can be easily discerned by walking into a fancy store (in clean, neat clothing) and seeing how the people who work there treat you. Do you get dirty looks upon entering? Do the shopkeepers glance at each other with worry? Do you notice people following you around to make sure you’re not stealing anything? If not, you may be white.

2. Have you ever been pulled over by a cop? If so, were you extracted from your vehicle and made to lie on the ground? Were you degraded in any way? Were you beaten? Were guns pointed at you? Did you feel in fear for your life? If not, you may be white.

3. When you are walking down the street and a cop car rolls by, do you feel safer because the police are around? Because they are there to protect you should something go wrong? If so, you may be white.

4. Do people ask you where you’re from, and when you answer, “I’m from here,” do they ask, “No, like, where are you from from?” If not, you may be white.

5. Are people visibly surprised when you are smart and articulate? If not, you may be white.

6. Have you ever been mistaken for a valet while wearing a suit? If not, you may be white.

7. Does the idea of driving through Mississippi fill you with apprehension? If not, you may be white.

8. Do people reach out and touch your hair/body without your permission and then accuse you of being too sensitive or of overreacting when you don’t like it? If not, you may be white.

9. Do you regularly experience racism (note: racism is a system in which people are given less access to employment, education, safe and adequate housing, legal representation, etc. based on their race; racism is not people “not liking you” because of your race). If not, you may be white.

10. Do you see a lot of people who are the same color as you in movies, on TV, in magazines, etc. who are not portraying stereotypes or caricatures? If so, you may be white.

11. When you stand up for yourself, do people accuse you of being too angry? If not, you may be white.

12. Do people assume, without knowing you or ever speaking to you, that you are unintelligent, a criminal, good with computers, a terrorist, lazy, that you don’t speak English, or that you are poor? If not, you may be white.

Hope this helps!



Mia McKenzie is a writer and a smart, scrappy Philadelphian with a deep love of vegan pomegranate ice cream and fake fur collars. She is a black feminist and a freaking queer, facts that are often reflected in her writings, which have won her some awards and grants, such as the Astraea Foundation’s Writers Fund Award and the Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award. She has a novel debuting in the fall and has a short story forthcoming in The Kenyon Review. Her work has been published at, and recommended by The Root, Colorlines, Feministing, Angry Asian Man, and Crunk Feminist Collective. She is a nerd, and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous, a revolutionary blog.

Philadelphians! Register for the Black Girl Dangerous Writing Workshop! And come to Mia’s reading in Philly on October 23rd!

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Take a facet of crime, and then look at television shows/movies that feature those criminals as protagonists.

White mobs.


White pirates.


White serial killers.


White political corruption


White drug dealers


I mostly want to talk about this as a TV phenomenon, but pick a crime, any crime, and Western media has probably made a movie/TV series/play/etc. with a white person that romanticizes the criminal activity. No matter what, a white person can do whatever terrible crimes and still have a TV/movie fanbase that loves them.

When you see black or brown people committing crimes on screen, you are to see them thugs and criminal masterminds and people to be beat down.

When you see white people committing crimes on screen, you see a three-dimensional portrait of why someone might commit that crime, how criminals are people too, and how you should even love them for the crimes that they commit because they’re just providing for their families or they’ve wronged or they’re just people and not perfect. This is particularly a luxury given to white male characters, since there few white female criminals as protagonists.

If and of the above shows were about black or brown folks, there would be a backlash of (white) people claiming that TV and movies are romanticizing criminals and are treating them too much like heroes and that it will affect viewers and encourage violence and “thuggish” behavior. And yet fictional white criminals get to have a deep fanbase who loves these white criminals, receive accolades and awards, get called amazing television that portray the complexities of human nature. Viewers of these characters see past the atrocious crimes and into their humanity, a luxury that white characters always have while characters of color rarely do. The closest that mainstream TV has come to showing black criminals as main characters is probably The Wire, and even then, the criminals share equal screen time and equal status as main characters as the police trying to stop them.

The idea that crime can be so heavily romanticized and glorified to such a degree is undoubtedly a privilege given to white characters. The next time you hear someone talk about Dexter Morgan or Walter White in a positive way, it may be an opportunity to rethink how white people can always able to be seen as people no matter what they do, while everyone else can be boiled down to nothing but a criminal.

Source: iamabutchsolo (via reclusiveessence)

(via marvelous-merbutler)

I AM A GIRL is a documentary featuring stories of young women from Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Cameroon, Afghanistan, USA and Australia. This looks like an excellent film to discuss intersections of identity and experience from the sociology of race, culture, gender, class, nationality and sexuality. It’s screening in Australia from today in Brisbane, and then moves to Adelaide, and Canberra. Finally arrives in Melbourne, from 26th September. Can’t wait to see it and I’ll tell you more about it when I do.

This new webseries Ask A Slave provides a highly amusing critique of racist ignorance. It draws on the experiences of actress Azie Mira Dungey (who plays the main character Lizzie Mae). Dungey worked as a living history character at an American historical re-enactment site. The comedy centres on the ridiculous questions posed by members of the public whilst Dungey portrayed an 18th Century slave.

Historian Emmanuel Dabney also worked as a living history character, similarly playing a slave. Like Dungey, Dabney also received many preposterous questions about the lives of slaves. On his blog, he gives a careful critique of Ask A Slave, arguing that his tact was to educate, rather than to succumb to flippant or sarcastic remarks. 

He provides a useful list of intelligent questions that “always need an answer.” This includes: “Why did the former slaves on this plantation/in this urban dwelling stay here after the Civil War? Can you tell me about your family? When the slaves here got angry, how did they show their unhappiness?”

The entire webseries is worth a watch (three episodes so far), but a really great sociological discussion is better served by carefully going through Dabney’s post.

Public education is always hard. When it is clever, satire has subversive power to make people think. Social science has greater capacity to disrupt taken for granted assumptions as well as to dispel ignorance. Our challenge is to be both educational, critical and entertaining if we are going to reach mass audiences. Dabney’s post provides a terrific starting point.

Credits: Link to Dabney’s post via Nick Sacco.

The Fugees - Fu-gee-la (by stillgotza)

Lauryn Hill is going to jail for tax evasion plus she will pay a $60,000 fine. A true shame for this tremendously talented woman. CNN quotes Hill, who said:

"This wasn’t a life of jet-setting glamour… This was a life of sacrifice with very little time for myself and my children."

She is apparently still working on a new album. 

Hill’s lawyer also that the law is uneven in the way it sentences celebrities for tax fraud. He cites Willie Nelson as one example. 

No doubt, Hill did the wrong thing, as she does not contest the charges. Celebrities shouldn’t get special treatment, period. The undertone of Hill’s lawyer’s comments, however, is that race might influence the leniency showed to some high profile performers over others.

Debt Amongst American Youth: Mixed Economic Outcomes

The Pew Research Centre reports that the proportion young people who own homes went down to 34% in 2011 compared to 40% in 2001. Also in 2011, only 66% of people aged 25 years or younger owned or leased a car compared to 73% of young people in 2001.

Good news is that credit card debt is down to 39% in 2010, in comparison to 50% of youth who had credit debt in 2001. Bad news is that student loan debt rose from 34% in 2007 to 40% in 2010. Then again, debt trends are mixed, as the median debt for young people is now $14,102, which is around $1,000 less than in 2007. These patterns reflect a shift in economic priorities after the recession as well as broader changes in society that include delayed marriage, which impacts on household formation and spending. 


Erika Andiola’s mother and brother were taken from her Arizona home in a raid last night. She recorded this video shortly after.

Maria Arreola, and her brother, Heriberto Andiola Arreola, were taken into immigration custody, and while Andiola’s brother was released, her mother faced imminent deportation. But Andiola herself is not just any young Latina. She’s a well-known undocumented immigrant activist from Arizona who has fought against SB 1070 and anti-immigrant state laws, and advocated for the DREAM Act and humane immigration policy. She is a co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and served on the board of United We Dream, a national network of immigrant youth organizations who have successfully defended undocumented immigrants from deportation with public campaigns.

(via racialicious)

The thing that sucks about Girls and Seinfeld and Sex and the City and every other TV show like them isn’t that they don’t include strong characters focusing on the problems facing blacks and Latinos in America today. The thing that sucks about those shows is that millions of black people look at them and can relate on so many levels to Hannah Horvath and Charlotte York and George Costanza, and yet those characters never look like us. The guys begging for money look like us. The mad black chicks telling white ladies to stay away from their families look like us. Always a gangster, never a rich kid whose parents are both college professors. After a while, the disparity between our affinity for these shows and their lack of affinity towards us puts reality into stark relief: When we look at Lena Dunham and Jerry Seinfeld, we see people with whom we have a lot in common. When they look at us, they see strangers.

Hipster Racism Runoff And The Search for The Black Costanza by Cord Jefferson @ Gawker

When they look at us, they see strangers.

(via darkdarkgirlvashti)

I was trying to find this quote recently. I don’t think most white people understand how it feels to be thought of as only as a dehumanized stereotype or a token. Never as someone like you who can be relatable and have things in common with you. It’s always a surprise to people online and offline when people find out that I like things that they do, too ; that I’m not just some angry activism-obsessed woman. When people like Lena Dunham  say they don’t know how to write Black people, it’s pretty much saying that she doesn’t think that Black people are also fully complex human beings like her. Sure, there are cultural considerations to be made, but it’s ignoring the fact that people of color are diverse and not a monolith, so it’s not like the only girls who are like her are white.

(via wretchedoftheearth)

(via racialicious)

“Black sexuality is a taboo subject in American principally because it is a form of black power over which whites have little control — yet its visible manifestations evoke the most visceral of white responses, be it one of seductive obsession or downright disgust. On the one hand, black sexuality among blacks simply does not include whites, nor does it make them a central point of reference. It proceeds as if whites do not exist, as if whites are invisible and simply don’t matter. This form of black sexuality puts black agency center stage with no white presence at all. This can be uncomfortable for white people accustomed to being the custodians of power. On the other hand, black sexuality between blacks and whites proceeds based on underground desires that Americans deny or ignore in public and over which laws have no effective control. In fact, the dominant sexual myths of black women and men portray whites as being “out of control” — seduced, tempted, overcome, over-powered by black bodies. This form of black sexuality makes white passivity the norm — hardly and acceptable self-image for a white-run society”

Cornel West

excerpt from “Black Sexuality: The Taboo Subject” in Race Matters,

Second Vintage Books Edition. Boston: Beacon Press (1993): p. 119-131.

Excerpt from p. 125-126

via sociolab (via getaneducation)