“Black Like Me” a social justice beach read

Title: Black Like Me
Genre: Nonfiction; Sociology
Author: John Howard Griffin
Publisher: Sepia Magazine
Publication Date:
Price: Library Rental

To the journalist or the activist who is engaged with racial inequality, it is not uncommon to take a book pertaining to social justice on holiday with them to read when they’re not doing research.

The good thing about “Black Like Me” is that the research is practically already done for the reader. Author John Howard Griffin, a white man from Texas, physically inserts himself into various Black communities in the South and Deep South, by medically and artificially darkening his skin. He uses UV sun lamps and an oral treatment often used in helping the pigment of people who suffer from vitiligo.

Griffin was from Texas and born in 1920. He graduated from the University of Poitiers in France. According to The Telegraph, he became a part of the French Resistance and helped Jewish children escape from World War II to England.

Before talking to various people and doctors, he admits in one of his beginning journal entries that even though he specializes in race issues, he did not fully understand the real struggle of the Negro. So, in a journalistic context, he feels that since he does not know what he calls the “Negro’s real problem,” he feels it is his duty as a journalist has to investigate this matter on his own and see for himself what it is really like.

Before reading this, I was incredibly skeptical of what the content of the book was going to be like. As a woman of color, I have faced racism both inside and outside the home. Here, I thought prior to reading the book, was a white man who medically and physically painted on blackface to put himself in a society he was never in to start with.

However, I was surprised when I started reading the book.

For starters, he went out of his way to talk to multiple people about whether or not it would be a good idea to invest in such a project. Then, he dedicated himself to the cause further by consulting with a dermatologist and getting a medication that would darken his skin. While he only participated in this social experiment for a month, the medication would not darken his skin completely, so he finished it off using a stain and giving him a “pure brown” skin tone. This would come in handy after he creates a system of going between himself as white and himself as a black man.

I was not sure how he was going to interject himself into society as a black man, but it helped he decided to travel for his experience. He portrayed himself as a black man traveling for work, which I thought was a clever but ambiguous identity for him to have when encountering strangers.

I found the book to be an easy read. Griffin writes clearly and easily about his experiences. Even for parts that could seem particularly uncomfortable to the white reader, his points are easy to understand.

I understand Griffin’s desire to want to know exactly the problems the Negro faced in the South and Deep South, it’s hard to ignore the privilege he had not only have the option to try and investigate this as journalism story. But also, he had the privilege to also “zigzag” between being black and white, before permanently returning to white society. While he was able to darken his skin to “see” what the struggles of Black people were like, actual Negros do not have the same luxury or privilege.

But John Griffin gains something from his experience that racist individuals are not capable of having for marginalized people is empathy. That’s the important thing to keep in mind while reading this brief book—only 176 pages. So it makes for an easy read for even a four-day weekend.


Report shows strives made in diversity on TV

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released their annual “Where We Are on TV” report on Tuesday. GLAAD counted a total of 881 series this year.

The report is released every fall and analyzes the overall diversity of fictional primetime television show characters on both broadcast and cable television networks.

For the first time in their report, GLAAD counted the number of LGBT characters that appeared on original series shows that stream on sites Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. On the 23 streaming series, 43 regular characters and 16 recurring were LGBT.

Broadcast primetime had no characters that identified as transgender and cable only had three, but streamed series had the highest percentage of their characters identifying as trans*. Of the total transgender characters, only one of them was a trans man. This is frankly a terrible and gross lack of representation for an entire community of people. Hopefully, shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent,” which feature strong, well written and complex transgender characters (and are notably both on online streaming services rather than traditional cable or broadcast) will inspire showrunners to include more trans men and women in upcoming series.

Bisexual representation is also on the rise, but many of these characters perpetuate harmful bisexual stereotypes, according to the report. Although, I do feel some shows, notably “The 100,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Arrow” treat their bi female characters with respect and care. Bisexual men on television are unfortunately almost nonexistent, which is a huge shame.

While black characters are at the highest percentage since they started gathering racial data, regular characters living with disabled characters has dropped. Between both broadcast and cable however, only one recurring character is depicted as having HIV.

When you break the broadcast networks down by gender, almost half (48 percent) of FOX’s characters are female. NBC has the most characters are people of color with 41 percent.

While broadcast and cable have been doing an excellent job in raising diversity in people of color, they’re definitely lacking in adding LGBT representation. Although characters on television they have more intersectionality with having characters who are not only people of color, but also LGBT.

Streaming services definitely cater to a brand new audience and it’s reflected in this report. They have the highest number of LGBT characters out of all three television outlets.

The success of these original shows caters to an newer generation of viewers—a generation of viewers where their favorite shows can be watched in the palm of their hands, no matter how busy or not-so busy their lives are.

The ability to be able to watch your favorite television shows is more crucial now in a more fast-paced American working society than ever before, since watching an episode of your favorite show is most often a way people relieve stress.

Television is also a reflection on American society as a whole, which should now be calling for more POC and LGBT characters.

But slowly and surely diversity in both these departments is on the climb. Shows like “Black-ish” and “Empire,” which are led by an African American cast, are critical and fan favorites, and Viola Davis, who plays a queer woman of color on “How To Get Away With Murder,” made history with her recent Emmy win.

What does concern me most as an avid television watcher is the decline in disability representation.

I have to confess, I think the original spike in disabled characters last year could be attributed to the success and casting of “American Horror Story: Freak Show” since a range of characters on the show were disabled in real life.

Also, I would like to ask the question of what exactly GLAAD is defining as a disability? Is it one you can see or is it something requires medical attention and possibly discussion in mainstream society? Are mental illness and spectrums of autism in this category as well or is it only just counting physical disabilities?

These are just some question I think GLAAD should keep in mind next fall when they release this report.

Representation has come a long way in the last 10 and 20 years, but I think, like everything else, there is always room for improvement.

This articles was originally published on Oct. 28, 2015 by independent student newspaper, The BG News, which can be found here.

Unique debut album

Unlike Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, Melanie Martinez continues to prove herself to be a rarity in the business of singing competitions.

After going on “The Voice” in 2012, Martinez has been busy making her own name.

She competed on the third season and was on Team Adam. She was eliminated on week five with fellow team member Amanda Brown.

After “The Voice,” Martinez started working independently and announced she signed to Atlantic Records in April 2014.

A few months after signing with Atlantic, Martinez released her debut single “Dollhouse.” Then in the fall, she released the single “Carousel,” which was used in one of the premieres for the hit FX miniseries “American Horror Story: Freak Show.”

This past July, she released two new singles, “Pity Party” and “Soap,” in anticipation of her debut album.

On August 14th, 2015, Martinez’s album “Cry Baby” made its debut in stores, digitally and on vinyl. The CD versions even come with storybooks.

On the surface, the record is a concept album that is narrated by Martinez’s persona “Cry Baby,” a little girl character inspired by her childhood.

The best phrase I can think of when it comes to describing this album is an R-rated children’s book.

As she makes use of childhood concepts (the title tracks are objects often associated with childhood, such as carousels, doll houses, stuffed animals) and mature themes (drugs, suicide, sex, dating).

Along with these themes, some of the songs also touch on alcoholism, mental illness, self-esteem and body image.

I remember hearing “Dollhouse” while on spring break last semester and the music of the song alone was hypnotizing enough to get stuck in my head after listening once. The sound is electronically childlike, but extremely catchy.

I recommend her music to anyone who’s a fan of electronic artists such as Kat Dahlia and Tove Lo. “Cry Baby” has Kat Dahlia’s catchy rhythms and beats, but Martinez has a wider vocal range than either of the two artists, . She also follows Tove Lo’s “fall-in-love,” “fall-out-of-love,” “I’m an independent woman” story line, except with a dark twist and childhood metaphors. Martinez is a rare singing competition commodity just by being signed to a major record without winning said singing competition. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

This article was originally published on Sept. 3, 2015 by independent student run newspaper, The BG News, which can be found here.

SeaWorld should own up to its maltreatment of animals, create educational environment instead

To say I’m disgustingly impressed with SeaWorld’s efforts to debunk all the things being said and done about them since the release of “Blackfish” is an understatement.

Because I’m not impressed. Just disgusted.

Earlier this week, former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove released his novel, “Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld and the Truth Beyond Blackfish.”

He started working with SeaWorld San Antonio in 1993 and left the industry for the first time in 2001.

In 2003, he worked in France with the animal exhibition park Marinel before returning to SeaWorld San Antonio in 2008, until he left the industry for the final time in 2012.

A week after leaving SeaWorld for the last time, Hargrove was interviewed for “Blackfish,” a 2013 documentary about SeaWorld’s mistreatment to their orca whales.

The release of Hargrove’s book comes almost two weeks after Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus announced that they will be eliminating their elephant act and sending the elephants to a conservation in Florida by the year 2018.

But don’t let this new information about the circus empire fool you.

In the 90s, they suffered business declination when someone tipped to PETA that they mistreated two of their elephants.

After a 14-year legal case, animal rights groups had to pay Feld Entertainment [the company that owns Ringling Bros.] a $16 million settlement for not being able to prove the mistreatment happened.

And yet, even though Feld Entertainment fought to keep their elephants, I honestly think the decision to let them go was in part because of all the negative attention building against SeaWorld.

I think Ringling Bros. took a step back, saw SeaWorld’s numbers after the release of “Blackfish” and decided to bow out of using their elephants before the same thing could happen with their business.

Which is what I think SeaWorld should have done in the first place after the release of “Blackfish” and I think this is exactly what they should do now, with the release of John Hargrove’s novel.

At this point, I believe SeaWorld is fighting an unwinnable battle.

In the last two years, SeaWorld’s attendance numbers and share prices have dropped and, despite their declining numbers, they’ve launched new advertising campaigns about their animals and their care for them.

But I don’t think their truth campaigns are going to be enough to save them, especially with John Hargrove’s novel only being a few days old.

They have been refuting every allegation that has been thrown at them, but it is only going to hurt them more when more people start talking and more truth about their orca treatment starts coming to light.

More people are starting to open their eyes to how inhumane it is to use animals as entertainment and more people are starting to realize that these shows, where these wild animals are being exploited, aren’t fun to watch anymore—they’re uncomfortable and sad.

Animal shows are definitely becoming a thing of the past and I think it’s time to look to the future.

SeaWorld needs to give up trying to fight to keep their shows and turn these negative allegations into something positive.

They should eliminate the shows, rehabilitate the orcas while educating the public on them and the negative effects of living in captivity. And then let them loose.

Once SeaWorld starts owning up to their mistakes and starts correcting them, they will not only improve the state of orcas in the wild, but they will also improve the current state of their corporation.

This column was published by independent student newspaper on March 26, 2015, which you can find here.

Be safe with sex experimentation, don’t recklessly imitate what you see in movies

It is no secret Valentine’s Day is two weekends away.

It is also no secret that in two weekends, millions of couples will be heading to the theaters to see the film adaptation of the bestselling novel, “Fifty Shades

of Grey.”

To be perfectly honest, my valentine [should I find one in the next eight days] and I will not be seeing this movie. To be perfectly honest, I wish this movie and the book it comes from did not exist.

I have gone on rants lasting for days about how this book is just an overrated “Twilight” fan fiction. I could tell you all the ways this glorifies abusive relationships and how it is the worst possible portrayal of the BDSM community any person who calls themselves an author

could create.

But that is not what this column is about.

However, I do want to talk a little about BDSM.

BDSM is an acronym for Bondage, Discipline [or Dominance], Sadism [or Submission] and Masochism.

Wikipedia calls it “a variety of [erotic] practices involving dominance and submission, roleplaying, restraint and other interpersonal dynamics.”

There are communities and subcultures dedicated to this, since interests can range from one-time experimentation or a lifestyle choice.

The community and the subculture rely on both self-identifying and shared experience, which makes communication crucial between the parties involved in the BDSM and the community/subculture as a whole.

The wide range of practices and practitioners give couples the option of whether or not to put themselves in the

BDSM community.

So, given the wide pool of people who could want to try a little blindfolding or tying up, it makes perfect sense for people who have never tried it or have thought about trying it might want to finally do so after watching “Fifty Shades.”

While I do understand that what happens between two people behind a closed bedroom door is not someone else’s business, I encourage you to be safe when imitating anything you see in “Fifty Shades.”

While hundreds of people are fighting for different causes pertaining to “Fifty Shades,” the one topic I think that needs be talked about more is the safety aspects of it.

Plenty of bloggers on Tumblr have discussed the impending doom which will come in the form of the number of hospitalizations that might happen from incorrectly tied knots after this movie is released.

While this is definitely a problem I can see happening, I want to do the best I can to make sure it doesn’t.

It is totally OK if you see something in “Fifty Shades” you might want to try. But before you actually try it, I encourage you to do a

little research.

I encourage you to look up an easy-to-tie/untie knot instead of tying a knot incorrectly. I encourage you to look up the importance of safe words and communication within BDSM-type parameters.

If anything, I hope you take away from this movie that BDSM can be fun to experiment with and fun to do if done both correctly and safely.

This column was originally published on Feb. 6, 2015 by independent student newspaper, The BG News, which can be read here.