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Harambe Isn’t The Perfect Meme—It’s A Racist One

The internet joke capitalizes on a history of using gorillas as avatars for black people

Last week, The Atlantic ran a piece titled, “How Harambe Became the Perfect Meme.” The subtitle read: “The slain gorilla signifies nothing — except maybe our increasingly weird post-everything world.” But it doesn’t take much reflection to realize that what the gorilla and the jokes surrounding his death signify is much pernicious. Nowhere in The Atlantic article is race even invoked to explain the meme’s staying power.

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To Support Women, I’m Boycotting “Birth Of A Nation”

The rush to protect beleaguered Nate Parker is appalling

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Not that long ago, I was extraordinarily pumped about Birth Of A Nation.

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Dreaming of Walter Scott

…And Eric Harris, and Freddie Gray, whose videotaped deaths are feeding the nightmares of black Americans.

Technology has made it difficult for me not to be made aware of yet another black life snuffed out by a police officer who felt “threatened.” The endless timelines of social media forge impressions on my memory far more quickly and objectively than corporate media’s delayed and often biased take. When Michael Brown was killed, tweets from and about Ferguson’s peacefully protesting citizens facing an asymmetrical response from law enforcement served as counter-programming to CNN’s endless loop of the alleged Swisher Sweets heist that may have set his murder in motion. Over the last several months, I have had encounters with individuals for whom such “causes” justified such fatal, undignified “effects” for too many unarmed, black citizens. And in dealing with that insensitivity, my anger seems to render words inadequate.

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Men: Get Your Shit Together.

We need to change the definition of masculinity so that it has nothing to do with harming anyone, least of all women.

Attention men: Women don’t owe us shit. Not attention, not praise, not a smile, and certainly not sex. In fact, as women are the life-givers of the species, it would seem that it’s us men who are forever indebted. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we need, as men, to be discussing our complicity in the sexist, patriarchal mode of our present society, and not for the sake of winning an argument on the internet or the favor of potential sex partners. We need to do this because the current definition of what it means to be a man simply is not working.

In high school, I had a football coach who would tell us that what makes a man isn’t his ZIP code or his car or how many women he’d slept with, but how he loves his fellow woman and man and how many people he helps. At 15 and 16 years old, my teammates and I thought that his “building men for others” mantra of love and respect was corny as hell. Yet, having come up in the Age Of Schwarzenegger, being twice that age now, I’m still trying to understand the real meaning of masculinity.

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The Problem with Black History Month

There’s a few good reasons to suspect the month hinders, rather than helps, understanding and celebrating black contributions to civilization.

Every year, I experience a sense of frustration ahead of the barrage of ads (Coca-Cola, Nike, AT&T, or Wal-Mart, as the case may be) that use black actors and are exclusively targeted towards Black History Month. Yes, these corporate titans care very much about the black experience, past, present, and future—these good-natured advertisements are our proof. But don’t check for that cute little girl in afro puffs asking her Idris Elba-doppelganger daddy why the all-new-for-2015 Chevy Impala is like Harriet Tubman (I-95 being the Underground Railroad, naturally) come April. By then it’ll be back to business as usual, and most of the faces on the flat screen will once again be white.

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Black Pete Survives Another Holiday Season

You’re damn right the traditional Dutch Christmas character is racist

Van Sinterklaas en Pieterbaas by S. Abramz, J. G. Kesler, illus. 3rd edition 1926. Via St.nicholascenter.org

Growing up, though we were infrequent churchgoers, Christmas was a huge deal in my family. Even during those years when my parents couldn’t afford the shiniest, most heavily advertised toys for my sister and I, they made up for it with a loving atmosphere, boatloads of decorations, and the kind of Christmas cheer that seems cheesy to my adult mind now, but meant the world to me on those early December mornings.

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