Category: Comin’ Straight Outta Your Monolith

This post was written by Winona Caesar for this month’s series “Comin Straight Outta Your Monolith”. Normal Black Witch postings resume in April.

The recent controversy of The Hunger Games(2012) casting of black characters in roles of sympathy and importance, reminds everyone how much representations of African Americans have been questioned due to narrow outlooks from select audience members/readers. (Here is the original article about Hunger Games controversy) These questions have prevented positive representations of African Americans. Yes, African Americans have been seen in small numbers, as a token characters. However, most have not been a lead character in big box-office successes that crosses all demographics. When they do break out, it is considered a fluke or better yet, expected, as in the case of Will Smith. Overall, Hollywood and popular media see no lasting potential to provide powerful roles to actors that are considered threatening. And this threatening behavior is mostly fabricated through various stereotypes projected on a whole group of people. Nowadays, African American actors are usually relegated to “Black Films” that star all black casts. These films are profitable as in the case of Tyler Perry films, but usually do not have vast crossover appeal and are relegated to the comedy and drama genre. On top of that, they are pushed into independent productions.

The portrayals of African Americans have been lacking truth since the beginning of film. Although film is a fictional medium, the distinction between fiction and reality is often blurred. The representations of African Americans in the early years of film were of white men in black face, in mostly degrading situations. The pinnacle of this negative portrayal was in epic three hour film, The Birth of a Nation (1915). Directed by D. W. Griffith the film blighted African American identity for years afterward. Even with some positive images from various directors including Oscar Michaeux, Hollywood still relegated the few African American actors and actresses to maids, musical numbers, and comedic foils.  Blackface (or Yellowface, Brownface, etc) is still practiced today, although there are various explanations on why the actor had to. The obvious one that pops into my mind is the parody film Tropic Thunder (2008). I was not offended that Robert Downey Jr. did that, because it was actually addressing something that Hollywood does on a regular basis, which is cast white actors as characters who are white “with a tan” such as in The Last Airbender  (2010) and The Hunger Games (2012). Spike Lee tried to point this attraction to minstrel shows in his satirical film, Bamboozled (2000). The film addresses a modern day minstrel show with black actors in blackface, and the militant actions that occurred after it became successful. Like most Spike Lee films, the box office numbers was extremely low. Maybe that’s saying something, but it is not anything new.

Moreover, Blaxploitation started as a positive filmic movement of black empowerment in the early 1970s that quickly became corrupted when Hollywood found that there could be profits made. According to Susan Hayward from the book Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts, Blaxploitation films were “Hollywood films during 1971-6 that sought to capitalize on the initial success of Shaft and Superfly. These films starring Black actors—but produced by whites and mostly directed by whites—deliberately targeted Black audiences” (Hayward 52). As the studios pumped out numerous films during the five years, they basically ran the movement into the ground, maybe consciously trying to discredit African American films. Even today with breakout African American actors who can crossover, they usually have to leave something behind. So many times the characters are de-sexualized. As in the case of Whoopi Goldberg, her talent is comedy, that even when she is in a relationship with a character, she normally would not be seen in any sexualized way.

On top of just being an African American, or better yet, Black, skin color and black coding plays a huge role within film, and within the African American community. The lighter the skin color dictates the roles that are given, and those of fairer skin are able to be more welcoming to the audience. However, there are times when the rule is broken, and stereotypes crosses over any character type. Skin color doesn’t even need to be involved as in the case of the Michael Bay directed Transformers (2007). “Black” coding as a culture practice, can also spread to voice acting. Having an African American actor voice the character and give him exaggerated hip-hop speak plays into the codes and signals of ‘what is black’ in society. It goes into what is White (good, pure etc) to what is Black (bad, dirty) and when I am accused of being “White” why should I take offense? Is that a good thing? This is the same with film as the coding of films dictate what people’s perception will be. Because “Blackness” is coded with all sorts of negatives.

Right now, I am writing my thesis on Tyler Perry’s representation of African American women within his use of comedy in four of his films. “Blackness” is complicated, as different perspectives changes the meanings.

Some suggested reading:

Tom, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films by Donald Bogle
Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film by Ed Guerrero

This post is part of the BW series “Comin’ Straight Outta Your Monolith”. Normal BW postings resume in April.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a post on Madame Noire that talked about “Black Privilege”. Granted the post was very tongue-in-cheek, it simply was to look at Black stereotypes in a happy, positive way. Such as getting athletic scholarship (nothing too wrong with that buuut I prefer my race to have more braniacs and less pole vaulting) or getting the pass to fly off the handle.

The one entry that bugged me though was number 4: “We wish a [insert expletive here] would, but they don’t”. It reads:

“Decades of Cops and other shows that perpetuate violent stereotypes associated with blackness have instilled a level of fear into a good amount of people in society. And despite the fact that over 90 percent of crime is intra-racial, that fear makes others hesitant to jump into conflict with a sista (or a brotha).”

Yep. That violent stereotype that makes other races “back off us” is responsible for a dead 17 year old right now. I don’t think it’s privilege when the only thing it graces you with is an early grave. At least White privilege allows you to murder a harmless 17 year old and even the police will cover for you despite all the condemning evidence and still folks will say you’re innocent…despite stalking and gunning down someone with a pack of skittles and some iced tea for a weapon.

Thing is, stereotypes can be taken in jest but as far as Black stereotypes goes, we don’t really have much to celebrate. Not everyone likes to feel like they’re in the one race depicted to be evil incarnate. And when that belief is applied, it can be fatal.

Violence is one of the biggest stereotypes that our race has and can create a bevy of reactions. It can create a fear response from other races where they assume we’re going to pop off at any given moment so they steer out the way of us and get concerned when we start to get into their hobbies or fandoms (ask Weeaboo Stories). It also can create suspicion that we are likely to turn violent at any given moment and that in itself can create a fight response in the other race.

As many of you are aware, Trayvon Martin was killed in February when he was returning home from the store bearing only skittles and iced tea when he was tracked and gunned down by George Zimmerman because of the stereotypical assumption that Trayvon was up to no good and would be likely to fight if confronted so he opted to hunt Trayvon and shoot him as he, Trayvon, plead for his life. Still Zimmerman walks free. Though I personally believe if Zimmerman does not get arrested, he’s pretty much a dead man walking, I think that this shows how terrible “harmless” stereotypes are. Post-racial America? Yeah, right.

So this column is going to be mega short. Instead, please sign this petition to have psychopath Zimmerman behind bars because justice must be served and it’s beyond time for this to change. A teenager was killed for simply Walking while Black because of these stereotypes.

This is tiring and this has to stop.

If you have Twitter and would like to give Trayvon Martin’s mother some condolences, here is her twitter. (Thanks Ms. Lilypads)

And oh, look, a dox on Zimmerman (Thanks internets)

Soooo, I couldn’t wrangle a column out of the guest writer for this week so that mean you all shall watch videos.

Here is Terrence Brown (Janelle Monae’s keyboardist) in his side project All Cows Eat Grass. The song is “We All Win” and I find it cute in a derpy/kitten.gif kinda way. And the project name reminds me of my high school and middle school music classes. Aniwae –

The next performer is Nikki Lynette. She’s really cool to talk to and with great personality. I do hope she’ll be at the Afro-Punk Festival someday.

One of my favorites is “Live and Let Die” (Beware, sound lag)

Annnnnnd cuz this column was ever so late, impromtu Black Witch Ustream chat at 10:30 PM EST tonight! Where I shall derp like I have never derped before!

This post is written by Amanda Tea for the BW “Comin’ Straight Outta Your Monolith” series. Normal BW posts resume in April.

If there is one thing that I’m proud of, it’s having found music and fashion that I really enjoy and that really sparks my interest and my creativity. I wouldn’t change anything about who I am or who I’ve become. Being a part of the gothic/alternative and lolita sub-cultures (however you want to label it) has made a huge impact on my life, it is my life. I guess I can start this article off writing a bit about myself and my background. My name is Amanda, I’m an only child and grew up on the north side of Chicago. I went to a catholic grade-school and was constantly teased and made fun of. People always ask why so I’ll tell you. It was for all sorts of reasons: for having big glasses, being too skinny, having big hair etc. So maybe it just made things easier for me because when I started being teased or called weird for looking goth/punk it never fazed me, it didn’t even hurt my feelings because I was really proud to be that way. I was around thirteen or fourteen when I actually started mingling with others who were part of the punk community in Chicago. I didn’t get out much but a few friends of mine took me out to an open mic night once in awhile. The internet wasn’t as…accessible for me as it is now obviously but I remember thinking to myself, why don’t I see other Black kids here? There was no way for me to know if there were other Blacks in the area that were punk or goth unless I actually saw them in person. I was kind of in a plastic bubble, there definitely weren’t any at school and when I got into high-school my freshman and sophomore year were spent at a catholic all girl high-school (enough said Here is a pretty old picture of me as a freshman.. just so you have proof! Pink hair whooo.

 I really hated the catholic all girl school and ended up being transferred into a public high-school for my last two years. This opened up my world a lot more. It was like going from a fish in a pond to a fish in the ocean. I still was the only Black female who dressed the way I did but there were a lot of Hispanics there that were into metal, goth, punk, etc. there and I hadn’t really seen a whole lot of them either at that point.. There were also quite a few Black males at the school who were not the, um, how shall we say, baggy jeans and baggie shirt type.

Jumping back to the time of when I was a kid, I recall every summer I was put into camps and programs with other inner-city kids. My mom worked a lot and there was no one I could stay with so I went to these places during the summer. Only other Black kids were in these programs didn’t speak proper English, none of them appeared to be into any other types of music besides rap or hip-hop and I could not understand why. Of course, I stuck out like a sore thumb and was picked on to no end. People actually made me feel like a bad person because I could never make a friend or someone who I could relate to there. I’ve even been yelled at before because I didn’t know everything there was to know about Tupac. Somehow, I was a betrayal to my own race because of that. I still get pissed off at people thinking just because I’m Black that somehow gives me the job of being a walking encyclopedia about other Black music artists. If I run into their music and like it then great but otherwise, sorry, I don’t give a s***.

One word to put the blame on things is exposure, I was exposed to a lot of different things growing up as I feel everyone else should be, but it was never only all about rap/r&b and hip hop. I guess I have my hippie mom and her friends to thank but I was also just very curious about other types of music out there. I don’t see how other Black kids could be any different than how I was. I’m not going to deny though that in grade-school, I listened to the same things all the other kids listened to, it was practically spoon fed to us but it’s part of growing up to branch out and make your own choices. I would not be who I am also if it wasn’t for the people around me sharing knowledge and different ideas. I picked up a Lush cassette (a shoe-gazing band) when I was 10 years old at a library book sale completely by accident but fell in love with it. I kind of wish that schools gave kids a library of music so that maybe they can find something they wouldn’t normally find, but I guess today there is the internet, and all of these things I’m talking about don’t seem to be as big of a deal once I got online. I found more Blacks that were just like me and that helped me to not feel as alone. Once I found that there were lots of Black Goths, punks, etc., out there over time I also noticed them more in the media. I even saw a Black goth on a court television show and on Tyra, a Black dominatrix. All of a sudden, we were really getting out there it seemed. I think as time progresses, different races and the sub-cultures will be more infused. As long as kids are being exposed to different things no matter what neighborhoods or schools they’re in they’ll still be able to find a certain style music or activity they like.

I can’t speak for other races and how they perceive Blacks who are into alternative sub-culture, but I can talk about how some of them have made me feel. Most make me feel like they haven’t seen Blacks in the sub-culture at all before or when they do see us we’re doing it wrong or doing it the wrong way or something. Three years ago I was at a gothic event I normally frequent and a lady who I was somewhat acquainted with said to me, “You know, I’m really glad to see Black people are finally embracing the goth scene”. What she said was meant to be nice, I think she was honestly happy to see more Blacks but I also had to ask myself, what have we been hiding for the past 20 years then? Probably not, maybe Black goths were just more private or maybe felt like they would be bothered d if they showed themselves at the events/concerts etc, maybe there were others that weren’t “glad” to see us. This topic probably opens up discussion for a different article that can’t be written by myself, lol, but obviously racism is no joke and the scene is known to have a lot of white supremacists in it.

My first time walking into a place like that not knowing anyone or having any friends there was kind of scary. I do have to admit that dressing a certain way and really trying to getting involved with the scene, socializing with people is something that I’m really not up for at times, plus I never know if someone has something against me because I’m Black and embracing the goth-scene. Maybe that sounds ridiculous but to this day I’m actually not much of a social butterfly and feel a bit ostracized when I go out. I usually won’t talk to anyone unless they’ve come up to me first.

 I could understand why there would be a lot of people out there who could be “hiding” or wouldn’t want to dress like a goth in public to avoid the heat and attention they’ll get. People are so rude sometimes they come up to you and ask really stupid questions, call you a devil-worshiper and all the above. It’s really sad that you can’t be yourself more often. Me becoming fascinated with elegant gothic lolita & the Victorian-fashion style is especially what made a huge impact on my life. I know it is surprising to think that a style of clothing can make all this difference but when I look back to when I first became interested in the fashion and then now it caused a chain reaction to start and has been quite a journey for me. 2003-2004 was when it all started. I was an obsessed J-rock fanatic at the time so I saw the lolita fashion and other gothic styles on Mana, Kana and a few other Japanese rockstars. I eventually got my hands on a Gothic & Lolita Bible after visiting a Japanese mall looking for cds. When I first started wearing Lolita, which took a long time for me to come up with the money for any kind of wardrobe, it wasn’t till after I got out of high-school and had a job that I started buying the clothing. I really wanted to wear it, I mean, there were tons of pretty things I wanted to wear I just didn’t have the money for it.

When I went to my first lolita meetup I definitely felt rejected. I remember one girl telling me not to get into it as a warning. Later, another girl told me to stop wearing it all together, that I looked bad and I could never be a Lolita. Plus my natural hair has been in a mohawk for many years now, it’s much easier for me to take care of since my hair texture is extremely coarse, frizzy and poofy, plus I like it regardless of when I wear Lolita. I also have the option of wearing wigs when I want to, to switch things up. I couldn’t help feeling like the reason why I was attacked was because I was black and didn’t have enough money. I’m sure if I was the same person just white and born with silky hair I would not be dealing with the same problems. One thing about Lolita that did surprise me thought was the number of other Black girls who were in the community and wearing the fashion. It was almost as if Lolita was more inviting to other races then the goth and punk scenes were. I find it funny how we are obviously spending tons of money at these stores and places here in the states, but yet they refuse to use Blacks as models. It took Hot Topic years before they featured any blacks on their website and I’m sure there are other places who we could dig up that still haven’t.

Around spring 2008 I met a photographer at my job and he really liked my synthetic dreadlocked hair and asked to do a photoshoot, by that time I had been making synthetic dreadlocks for myself and other people for a couple of years. I had always wanted to take more photos being an artist myself so of course I was happy to volunteer and be a model. My shaved head and my dreadlocks were supposed to be the main focus but I decided to wear my favorite dress at the time and that’s how the red dress series of photos were created. I remember the photographer bringing a copy of Gothic Beauty to my job and said he had picked it up for inspiration. He said “we should try to put you in this magazine” of course I thought he was joking and didn’t think he was serious. The magazine like others had never featured any African Americans in any of their spreads. I bought the magazine a lot for the articles and stuff and I did think it was a bit sad that none of us were never in it or on the cover etc.  

I posted some photos we had taken with the red dress to my deviantart page and I got comments like this: “I don’t think I’ve seen many Black people in outfits like that… Looks good!” It made me a bit upset that a black person dressing this way was so shocking to people. It kept bothering me more and more as I looked at photo collections people have made of goths or the Victorian look and never saw any people of color. People had apparently not seen many Black goths before. After I had been modeling for over a year or two and was looking for a new job I decided to send Gothic Beauty magazine a letter stating how I felt it was important more Blacks be featured in their publication because obviously people weren’t seeing us and with their magazine being the most popular, it was the one place I could think of! I was shocked and didn’t expect them to respond but I guess they felt I was right. So they asked if they could feature some of my photos. I wasn’t happy about the photos they featured ‘cause I thought I looked terrible in them but I was glad to get the message across and that yes, I’m black and this is how I like to dress and this is what I do. I think that on its own was important. That was three years ago and as I get online more and more often today I’m really happy to be seeing a lot of guys and girls showing all of the alt communities that we’re here we’ve been here and not going anywhere. I think the goal we have is not only for Blacks but for other dark skinned races as well to be considered as much a part of these scenes as Caucasians are. Maybe we still have a bit of ways to go but we’re a huge step closer.


(Visit Amanda and see her works on her website,

Blackness is an important subject and the holding line to all Black media from blogs to magazines to television channels. Though it is more familiar as an African-American perspective, it stretches across the various stripes of the African Diaspora. It shows itself when Blacks, such as myself, refer to our race as “our own”. Blackness, to be brief, is a mindset.

When executed properly, Blackness is mainly expressed in a form of self-awareness, comfort within their own skin, knowledge of their own heritage and how it plays in their lives and being happy with it. When executed poorly, it becomes a stereotype checklist and creates an insular, myopic culture which stews in its own faults and the only perspective and knowledge of their heritage is deeply fragmented and distorted.

Another name of Blackness is the “Black card”, as in, even despite your skin and bloodline, Black is more of a culture than simply a race – which isn’t entirely wrong since different races breed different cultures. For example, look at Asian American and Latino American culture. The issue with the Black card is that it serves more of a stereotypical checklist and is so flimsy, it can be lost at any given moment it seems. The most particular problem is that it, unlike true Blackness, operates under a very, very narrow scope of what the Black identity is and is very paranoid about it. Step one toe out of line of what that “Black” is supposed to be and be ready to be deemed White.

A lot of how the Black card operates kind of works in embracing anything that isn’t stereotypically White as a way to fight off the Whitewashed culture most Blacks live in but instead of creating a mental resilience, it creates, as aforementioned, a stereotypical person that lives a life as defined by White culture. For example, I have been called “White”, an “oreo” (Black on the outside, White on the inside) and other names relating to being a race traitor by countless people and especially since I was growing up in the hood simply because I didn’t like hip hop, I liked learning, reading, I abhorred gangster culture and anyone who participates in it, didn’t dress “Black”, didn’t talk “Black”, walk “Black”, etc etc etc. It definitely gave me confusion because it pretty much implied to be Blacker than Black, you had to be stupid as a rock, highly illiterate, with a rap sheet longer than the state of California, consistently violent, dress in clothes that don’t fit, only interested in making it in either the sports or entertainment industry and other stereotypes that has plagued my race since we pretty much got here. A good defining moment is when I was very interested in astronomy (still am – I have Google Sky Map on my Android) and on PBS, I would see this short show directed by Neil deGrasse Tyson and he would talk about what planets were visible that night and when I was getting ready to go out and stand on my steps to go watch, my sister would tell me, “What Black person does astronomy?” and my mom responded, “Benjamin Banneker.” Apparently, Blackness is supposed to be a willing ignorance, despite our history showcasing the opposite time and time again but a knowledge of history or simply a desire to learn is a sign of Whiteness.

Then there’s the very myopic view that the stereotypical Black card carries, that racism is only done to Blacks and Blacks can do no harm. Of course, as simply living on this earth can teach you, douchebaggery is infectious. Does this mean that Whites can wail in grief of all the racism they have(n’t) felt? Not really, best hold off the kleenex. Does this mean that Blacks have just as much potential to be a dick to someone based solely on their race just like anyone else? Yep. Look at South Philadelphia High where Asian students were being beaten by Black student clearly due to their race and the whole administration turned an eye and said that nothing was race motivated – despite the motivations, slurs and everything else that justifies the beatings as forms of hate crime. And look at what Floyd Mayweather tweeted and how Jenny Hyun responded. Yah, that’s racism for you. I remember when I was once told, “Blacks can’t be racist,” I remembered back when I was about 14 and I attended the MLK parade and there was a Tae Kwon Do school that was in the parade, mostly Korean kids and how did the mostly (if not all) Black crowd respond? With chicken box and half and half jokes. I think Dr. King was rolling in his grave strong enough to be a generator for the cemetery he resided in. And I just looked at Black/Asian relations (you can probably glimpse at that just by looking at the phenomena that is Jeremy Lin). This is a big problem because while my race is definitely not out of the woods as far as racism is concerned, we sometimes tout it like it’s a cross to bear and that no one else has seen the troubles that we’ve seen despite the fact that there are those in our race that can be just as bad.

This confused and lopsided Blackness, however, is the monolithic Blackness that is the most touted. It is hood, it is Southern, it is Christian, it has outdated gender perceptions and it doesn’t even know itself. This monolith is dangerous for everyone because it is a culture imploding, its scope is growing narrower and narrower and covering less and less Blacks. The monolith is scared of its own shadow and does not truly want to learn the past, just tout it about whenever convenient. Racism holds us back but so does internalized racism, which is what this monolith mostly is.

This Black card, just like normal and well-settled Blackness, wants to protect its culture from the culture swagger jackers and from it getting putrefied from White culture but kind of in the same way that Homeland Security was put in place and the PATRIOT ACT was signed to protect Americans, it hurts more than help.

It’s tough trying to define by this scale of Blackness – there are folks who have even mentioned to me that Black Witch isn’t Black despite having “Black” in the title, written by a Black person, has been nominated for a Black Weblog Award and most of my readership is Black because the blog is Pagan, a religion that has a face Whiter than all award shows and television shows combined. So this month-long series has been developed to show that Blackness doesn’t have to mean giving into the stereotypes. That you can still be Black and not a walking caricature of your race. Blackness carries many different faces, feelings, ideas and perspectives.

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