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I wrote down this speech that I had no time to practice so this will be the practicing session. Thank you Alfre, for such an amazing, amazing introduction and celebration of my work. And thank you very much for inviting me to be a part of such an extraordinary community. I am surrounded by people who have inspired me, women in particular whose presence on screen made me feel a little more seen and heard and understood. That it is ESSENCE that holds this event celebrating our professional gains of the year is significant, a beauty magazine that recognizes the beauty that we not just possess but also produce.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about beauty, Black beauty, dark beauty. I received a letter from a girl and I’d like to share just a small part of it with you: ‘Dear Lupita,’ it reads, ‘I think you’re really lucky to be this Black but yet this successful in Hollywood overnight. I was just about to buy Dencia’s Whitenicious cream to lighten my skin when you appeared on the world map and saved me.’

My heart bled a little when I read those words, I could never have guessed that my first job out of school would be so powerful in and of itself and that it would propel me to be such an image of hope in the same way that the women of The Color Purple were to me.

I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful. I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin. And my one prayer to God, the miracle worker, was that I would wake up lighter-skinned. The morning would come and I would be so excited about seeing my new skin that I would refuse to look down at myself until I was in front of a mirror because I wanted to see my fair face first. And every day I experienced the same disappointment of being just as dark as I was the day before. I tried to negotiate with God, I told him I would stop stealing sugar cubes at night if he gave me what I wanted, I would listen to my mother’s every word and never lose my school sweater again if he just made me a little lighter. But I guess God was unimpressed with my bargaining chips because He never listened.

And when I was a teenager my self-hate grew worse, as you can imagine happens with adolescence. My mother reminded me often that she thought that I was beautiful but that was no conservation, she’s my mother, of course she’s supposed to think I am beautiful. And then…Alek Wek. A celebrated model, she was dark as night, she was on all of the runways and in every magazine and everyone was talking about how beautiful she was. Even Oprah called her beautiful and that made it a fact. I couldn’t believe that people were embracing a woman who looked so much like me, as beautiful. My complexion had always been an obstacle to overcome and all of a sudden Oprah was telling me it wasn’t. It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy. But a flower couldn’t help but bloom inside of me, when I saw Alek I inadvertently saw a reflection of myself that I could not deny. Now, I had a spring in my step because I felt more seen, more appreciated by the far away gatekeepers of beauty. But around me the preference for my skin prevailed, to the courters that I thought mattered I was still unbeautiful. And my mother again would say to me you can’t eat beauty, it doesn’t feed you and these words plagued and bothered me; I didn’t really understand them until finally I realized that beauty was not a thing that I could acquire or consume, it was something that I just had to be.

And what my mother meant when she said you can’t eat beauty was that you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is what got Patsey in so much trouble with her master, but it is also what has kept her story alive to this day. We remember the beauty of her spirit even after the beauty of her body has faded away.

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.

There is no shame in Black beauty.

Lupita Nyong’o

Her remarkable speech from Essence Magazine’s 7th Annual Black Women In Hollywood luncheon where she won the Best Breakthrough Performance Award. Remarkable. Just…remarkable. *tears*

Media is not arbitrary, random, neutral nor apolitical. 

(via gradientlair)

The Silent Racism of ‘Post Racial’ Canada

intersectionalfeminism:

“Thanks bitch. You really further your stereotype.”

This was the note I found pinned under my windshield wiper recently; and it said more about Toronto and multiculturalism than all the official pieties put together.

To backtrack: A Wednesday mid-afternoon, on Bloor St. just west of St. George. I pull into a (rare) parking space, get out of my car, and notice that I’m in the middle of a space big enough for two vehicles. I hate people who do that, so I get back in, and pull up closer to the car in front, nevertheless leaving ample room for that car to exit. Another thing I hate is to be wedged into a parking spot.

As I’m walking away, a woman — well-dressed, middle-aged, white — accosts me on the sidewalk. “If you move back a bit, it’ll be easier for me to get out,” she says.

“Oh,” I respond, “I just wanted to leave enough space for someone else to park.” I glance at the distance between our cars and also at the space ahead of her car; she hasn’t been squeezed in on either side. “You can get out easily,” I add, and hurry off.

When I return to my car some time later, her little love-note is waiting on my windscreen.

I’m black — well, honey-coloured to be precise, but Canadian society doesn’t allow for such nuances — middle-aged and not particularly dangerous-looking. No drugs, no guns. I was therefore surprised to learn that I embodied a stereotype — one, moreover, that had to do with parking! Who knew? I suppose, as stereotypes go, it’s better than some of the alternatives.

Levity aside, this minor incident is deeply revealing. It shows up Toronto’s multicultural rhetoric for the skin-deep illusion that it is. My antagonist may just have been an unpleasant individual; but had I been white, her note would have been different. Probably still offensive, but without the racist default.

What interests me is how easily she slid into this mode of insult. It is an indication of how close below the surface lies the resentment of the “mainstream” population towards the “others” — a reality which the “others” are perfectly aware of, though no-one talks about it (except the activists). In this woman’s eyes, I am not just uncooperative, or too busy to stop. I am black, unobliging and therefore a “stereotype.” Today a parking spot, tomorrow the world.

Toronto likes to pretend to itself that this sort of encounter doesn’t happen — particularly among the genteel middle classes. Crass racism is assumed to be the territory of Alabama rednecks; here, we intellectual elites value multiculturalism and diversity. Blah, blah. I have no doubt that, had we met in a social situation, this woman would have been all gracious smiles and cordial conversation, the most liberal, open-minded person in the world.

But, anonymous she felt safe to vent. Her note wasn’t about a parking space; it was about the silent, secret resentment that “native-born” Canadians have been forced to suppress ever since political correctness took the place of truth. The same venom can be found in the pseudonymous online responses to newspaper reports that have anything to do with multiculturalism. And Quebec, of course, is the current flag-bearer for such sentiments.

In a way, vile comments aside, I sympathize with these “traditional Canadians.” For the last 30 years, all attention has been turned toward the newcomers: their needs, their fears, their success or failure. At the other end of the time spectrum, the indigenous people also demand attention. Who speaks for those caught in the middle, neither new enough nor “old” enough nor poor enough to merit sympathy and social programs?

In the old days, these people didn’t have to pretend to like the multicultural onslaught; today, they do. The threat of the Human Rights Commission, not to mention social ostracism, hangs heavy in the air. A word out of place can bring ominous consequences.

And so they seethe in silence, with periodic anonymous eruptions. It can’t possibly be healthy — for them, for the newcomers or for the society at large.

Perhaps, rather than all the politically correct lip-service, we should seek out truth. Let people speak, let people answer. Educate rather than punish. Let communication take the place of hypocrisy. I’m sure we would all feel better for it. And maybe we would even start liking each other a little bit more.

#canada is not perfect#canada is not a wonderland#canada is not cute#canada is not harmless (glockgal)

You know, I like Shame [2011] as much as 12 Years a Slave, but Hollywood likes the idea of a black director directing 12 Years a Slave more than it likes the idea of a black director directing Shame.

MCQUEEN: I actually remember when I first came to have meetings in L.A. after I did Hunger [2008] and people thought I was white. I think often people try to ghettoize others because they have an idea about who they think you are rather than who you are.

Does your boyfriend or brother spend a lot of money on skin and hair care products? Does your dad spend much time at the hairdresser or beautician?

In your city’s daily paper do most of the political news items feature women? Are most of the stories in the business section written by and about women? Is there a special ‘Men’s Section’ filled with celebrity gossip, fashion and beauty tips?

When you watch a big sporting event on TV, are the athletes usually women? When you watch female sporting teams are there hot guys in tiny outfits cheering for them on the sidelines?

Do girls you know talk openly about getting off while watching porn? Do they boast about their sexual conquests?

When you’re at the food court, do your female friends happily gobble down a large burger and fries combo while your male friends pick at a salad and sip diet coke?

Do the majority of the fathers you know spend most of their time at home washing, cleaning, cooking and taking care of their kids? Do you often hear mothers refer to looking after their own kids as ‘babysitting’? Have you heard women talk about earning brownie points for cleaning their own house and washing their own clothes? Are you sick of men going on about how hard it is to balance work and parenthood?

Are your male friends afraid to walk on their own at night? Do they avoid drinking too much in case they get raped? Do they dress to protect themselves from attack and always carry their keys poking through their knuckles? When they complain about all this do your female friends shrug and tell them that’s just how the world is?

If the answer to all of these questions was yes, wouldn’t that mean something was wrong? Is that still true if the genders are reversed? Does it matter?

Opening from Emily Maguire’s ‘Your Skirt’s Too Short: Sex, Power, Choice’   (via seulray)

(Source: gothipslikecinderella)

The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.

Scott Wood (X)

(via luvyourselfsomeesteem)

My father says that in our part of the world this idea of jihad was very much encouraged by the CIA. Children in the refugee camps were even given school textbooks produced by an American university which taught basic arithmetic through fighting.

They had examples like, ‘If out of 10 Russian infidels, 5 are killed by one Muslim, 5 would be left’ or ‘15 bullets - 10 bullets = 5 bullets’.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousufzai

(via molotovriot)

I feel like the preoccupation with transition and with surgery objectifies trans people, and then we don’t really get the lived experiences and reality of trans people’s lives. So often we’re the targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average — if you’re a person of color, it’s four times the national average. The homicide rate in the LGBT community is highest among trans women and when we focus on transition, we don’t actually get to talk about those things.
Laverne Cox in response to Katie Couric’s predictable, poisonous bullshit (via conradtao)
We need more Mary Sues. We need more unapologetically powerful female characters, on a wish-fulfilment level of awesome. We need them to be gods and superheroes and billionaire playboy philanthropists and science experiments gone wrong and normal kids bitten by spiders who now save the world. Why should female characters have to be realistic, while male characters have all the fun? Why shouldn’t a female hero appear alongside Iron Man and Thor, in a way where she can truly hold her own?
A white man and an elderly Native man became pretty good friends, so the white guy decided to ask him: “What do you think about Indian mascots?” The Native elder responded, “Here’s what you’ve got to understand. When you look at black people, you see ghosts of all the slavery and the rapes and the hangings and the chains. When you look at Jews, you see ghosts of all those bodies piled up in death camps. And those ghosts keep you trying to do the right thing. “But when you look at us you don’t see the ghosts of the little babies with their heads smashed in by rifle butts at the Big Hole, or the old folks dying by the side of the trail on the way to Oklahoma while their families cried and tried to make them comfortable, or the dead mothers at Wounded Knee or the little kids at Sand Creek who were shot for target practice. You don’t see any ghosts at all. “Instead you see casinos and drunks and junk cars and shacks. “Well, we see those ghosts. And they make our hearts sad and they hurt our little children. And when we try to say something, you tell us, ‘Get over it. This is America. Look at the American dream.’ But as long as you’re calling us Redskins and doing tomahawk chops, we can’t look at the American dream, because those things remind us that we are not real human beings to you. And when people aren’t humans, you can turn them into slaves or kill six million of them or shoot them down with Hotchkiss guns and throw them into mass graves at Wounded Knee. “No, we’re not looking at the American dream. And why should we? We still haven’t woken up from the American nightmare.”
These days, before we talk about misogyny, women are increasingly being asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings. Don’t say, “Men oppress women” – that’s sexism, as bad as any sexism women ever have to handle, possibly worse. Instead, say, “Some men oppress women.” Whatever you do, don’t generalise. That’s something men do. Not all men – just some men.

This type of semantic squabbling is a very effective way of getting women to shut up. After all, most of us grew up learning that being a good girl was all about putting other people’s feelings ahead of our own. We aren’t supposed to say what we think if there’s a chance it might upset somebody else or, worse, make them angry. So we stifle our speech with apologies, caveats and soothing sounds. We reassure our friends and loved ones that “you’re not one of those men who hate women”.

What we don’t say is: of course not all men hate women. But culture hates women, so men who grow up in a sexist culture have a tendency to do and say sexist things, often without meaning to. We aren’t judging you for who you are but that doesn’t mean we’re not asking you to change your behaviour. What you feel about women in your heart is of less immediate importance than how you treat them on a daily basis.

You can be the gentlest, sweetest man in the world yet still benefit from sexism. That’s how oppression works.
We need to stop pitting girls against each other. We need to stop giving validation to novels and films that fetishize girls who say they “aren’t like other girls” as if there’s something inherently wrong with being a girl. We need to stop perpetuating the fallacy of the mythical “other girls” who all fit some made up stereotype that we teach our girls to be afraid of because “the right guys” don’t actually like “that kind of girl”. “That kind of girl” doesn’t exist, because girls are people and not objects that come in bulk.
Megan Emanuel  (via benjenstark)

(Source: maytheodds)