Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a new series on Netflix, and is critically acclaimed. It has an all-star cast, with characters from both The Office and 30 Rock. The show even has Tina Fey as one of its main writers. But even with all of those accolades, it has a serious problem: a race issue. The show is a comedy with an interestingly weird plot, amazing and relatable characters, and a lot of freedom to do whatever with, but still finds an excuse to use lazy, poorly executed racism as humor. I decided to write about this to analyze the use of blatant racism, the acknowledgement of white privilege, and racist stereotypes and why there is absolutely a race problem deeply rooted in the new series.
21 November 2015
IDIS 400 Section 1
The Racialization of Property
In class, we have compared a number of articles analyzing riots and their origin, purpose, and the common themes seen throughout. What I have always pondered is the reasoning behind the destruction of property during riots. When discussing the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore that always seems to be a highlight, the overall confusion surrounding the topic of destruction in one’s own city or town, with an argument of how it seemed backwards and unhelpful, when in reality, the destruction of property can be understood through a context of the historical racialization of property. In Baltimore, after the riots that took place this past May, destruction was estimated at $9 million, with about 285 businesses damaged, with officials saying that this is only a fraction of what the total will be for the damage and economic impact (Wenger).
So why does this happen? According to the article we read in class titled “Black Riot: by Raven Rakia, nothing gets the attention of the elite like taking away or destroying what they value above all else: property (Rakia). Property has always been seen as racial in the United States, stating that for 300 years, the very ideas of a black person’s freedom was a direct threat to white men’s property. Rakia gives the example of George Zimmerman being found not guilty for killing Trayvon Martin, in fear that Martin was breaking into homes in Zimmerman’s gated, white neighborhood. “When the same system that refuses to protect black children comes out to protect windows, what is valued over black people in America becomes very clear” (Rakia). Rakia compares the riots in America to riots in Sudan, where gas prices have become so high the average person cannot afford to go to work or eat a basic meal, who then destroy gas stations and signs of wealth in a symbolic rebuttal.
Now, in Chicago, authorities are preparing for protests over an unreleased video of a fatal shooting of a black 17-year-old boy by a white police officer. The video has been described as “graphic”, “violent”, and “difficult to watch” (Smith). Leaders in Chicago have organized urgent private talks with community activists in fear of what the response to the video may bring and how best to prepare police forces. The video apparently shows Laquan McDonald being struck by 16 bullets, some hitting him after he had fallen to the ground. The lawyer handling the officer’s case, says the shooting was justified because the officer feared for the safety of himself and his colleagues. Abu-Lughod writes that “so long as minorities remain disproportionately poor, underserved at best, harshly disciplined at worst, it is not unlikely that “ghetto uprisings” and “police riots” may recur in Chicago (Abu-Lughod 117).
Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake explained that during the riots, she wanted to “give those who wished to destroy, space to do that” sparking controversy throughout the city. Rakia quotes Assata Shakur in her article saying “nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them” (Rakia). Many see these tactics as moving backwards, but in a world where African American resistance is referred to as “riots” and white resistance is referred to as “protests” it is clear why the destruction of property is a common theme.
Abu-Lughod, Janet L. Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles.
IDIS 400: Section 1
In an article posted on Buzzfeed News titled “How A Brutal Beating Became The Symbol Of Oakland’s Gentrification Struggle” author Joel Anderson explores the connection between the opening of a Whole Foods grocery store and the police brutality faced by African Americans in Oakland, California. It began as a dispute between an employee and a customer at the Whole Foods in Oakland, and led to a violent misunderstanding. The security guard working swung at the customer and put him in a headlock, leaving him sprawled on the pavement outside the store, unconscious and bleeding from his head and face.
Resource mobilization, unlike breakdown theory, has a goal in mind, and is not just sudden acts of resistance and rebellion. Activists through resource mobilization believe that “collective action flows not from breakdown but from groups vying for political position and advantages” (216). In this area of Oakland there have been two police-involved shooting deaths of black men since this past June. Through a vigil, protestors in this area demanded answers about the death of a 30-year-old man who was passed out in his car before allegedly reaching for a gun in his passenger seat. Because of this, the police in Oakland have begun to crack down on residents gathering in this are for cookouts that involved drinking by issuing warnings.
Quickly after what happened at Whole Foods dozens of protestors stormed into the store and blocked check stands for about an hour, making the grocery store close early for the day. Police brutality is not a new occurrence in Oakland, and citizens of Oakland believe that this has started due to the fact that “people of color are being pushed out”, residents who once lived in a “black neighborhood” now feel as if they live in a “white neighborhood with black folks in it.” It is not just police brutality making African American Oakland residents feel unwelcomed. When a group of drummers were banned from performing at the Lake Merrit amphitheater in Oakland, 200 people organized together and showed up to join their support for the artists. The residents of “ Old Oakland” feel like they are losing their city to gentrification and heavily regulated police supervision.
Just last year, while the protests in Ferguson were going on, 92 people rioted in Oakland, smashing windows, spraying graffiti, and looted along Telegraph Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Oakland. These random acts of violence and rebellion connect to breakdown theory, the sociological explanation of “contentious forms of collective action such as riots, rebellion, and civil violence” (215). 43 people were arrested during this riot, on suspicion of crimes including assaulting officers, burglary, resisting arrest, and vandalism. What had started out as a peaceful demonstration to protest the grand jury’s refusal to indict Darren Wilson, turned into “pandemonium”, resulting in fires in the streets and vandalism between 40th and 51st streets along Telegraph Avenue.
It is understandable that the communities of Oakland would rise up and rebel and organization protests due to the gentrification of their hometown and the police brutality following it. Breakdown theory is “not an ‘intellectual weapon’ concocted to ‘discredit mass movements of which one is critical’ (235). Rather, it is “a recognition of the complexity and diversity of social life” (235). Both breakdown theory and resource mobilization are ways to react towards what is happening in Oakland and all over the country. Both are different theories that explain what can happen when a group of people is pushed over their limit.
When you think about the homeless population what comes to mind? For most people, homeless people are tied to a negative stereotype. Many people believe that the homeless are homeless because they are unmotivated, have a substance problem, or have an aversion to work. In my literature review I identify the stigmas homeless people are labeled with and explain why so through Iris Young’s “Five Faces of Oppression”. These faces include exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. Through literature analyzing the homelessness epidemic, I analyze why these stigmas exist, how the community treats or sees the homeless population, and why these five faces of oppression have left the homeless helpless.
29 September 2015
Reaction Paper #1
Affordable Housing and Community Gardens
Throughout the past couple of weeks we have discussed community and the desperate need for affordable housing. When watching “Brooklyn Matters” in class we learned that giant projects like Atlantic Yards and the influence the government and big corporations have on them is a common occurrence. When studying the green development zone and looking at the work PUSH (People United for Affordable Housing) did in Buffalo, it became clear the differences between the two community projects. Bruce Ratner, a private developer worked with businesses and the state to create a gigantic space full of retail outlets, residential spaces, and offices, he used eminent domain to remove people occupying this space and made empty promises of jobs to help the economic structure of Brooklyn. The new development promised accessible green spaces, but it became aware that these spaces were enclosed, shadowed, or deep down, not accessible to the public. The fight for green spaces and community gardens continues in cities, where residents feel like they need these small green oasis’s, and these residents know that community gardens provide numerous benefits to the community involved.
NYC Foodscape, a blog dedicated to emerging food and farming enterprises and development wrote about the death of Adam Purple the “godfather” of New York City’s urban garden movement. Purple peaked New York City’s interest in the combination of community gardens and affordable housing, and with his death, New Yorkers continue to advocate for the preservation of their cities gardens. New projects for affordable housing have been brought up by New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which consequently include areas occupied by community gardens. The development plan would provide 60-75 units of affordable housing, and the area would be built on a popular community garden in the area, one of the very few remaining.
Elizabeth Street Garden, a heavily-used and popular green space is being fought over in terms of protection and utilization. The community fighting to protect the space has written letters to the Department of Housing Preservation and is working towards finding shared housing and park alternatives. They provided a list explaining the many positives of community gardens, including the fact that they make cities greener, more livable, and healthier overall. Community gardens are an essential component of a healthy urban food system, they teach children about food, gardening, and the environment, and they give the community a green oasis in a busy city lifestyle.
NYC Foodscape explained that affordable housing must focus on “creating housing that minimizes the environmental impact of housing, improves air and water quality, preserves and even creates open space and community gardens and improves the overall quality of life and health of residents.” PUSH (People United for Affordable Housing) practices just that. PUSH’s Green Development Zone “combines green affordable housing construction, housing weatherization, green jobs training, and urban agriculture toward the goal of creating pathways to employment for neighborhood residents” (Bartley 10). The idea of the Green Development Zone addresses social, environmental, and economic injustice.
Bartley, the author of “Building a ‘Community Growth Machine’ The Green Development as a Model for a New Neighborhood Economy argues for promoting “triple bottom line” (Bartley 13) the fight for environment, equity, and economy, the principles of sustainability throughout communities and their planning processes. PUSH partnered with the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) a nonprofit promoting food security and food justice by managing urban farms, developing sustainable fish production systems, and supporting community gardens (Bartley 15). PUSH celebrates the community growth machine, a member-led community organization, fighting for infrastructure and employment needs of low-income communities.
Local residents are fighting hard to maintain Elizabeth Street Garden, while local seniors wanted affordable housing to take up the area. During a public hearing last week, it was made apparent that the Elizabeth Street Garden had strong community support, while seniors argued that the land needed affordable housing. There is a blurry line between having affordable housing, as well as green space, and PUSH worked hard in Buffalo to make this possible. The Elizabeth Street Garden debate is under review, and while things are different in New York City due to the higher rent and limited space, in a dream scenario, there would be a way to implement social, economic, and environmental justice through a development project all could be on board with. When comparing the two development projects and advocacy, it is clear that PUSH worked well in Buffalo and fought for equity, and the community surrounding Elizabeth Street Garden want to keep what little they have left.
Bartley, A. (2011). Building a “Community Growth Machine”. Social Policy, pp. 9-15.
Tcholakian, D. “Local Seniors Want Affordable Housing Over Elizabeth Street Garden.” DNAinfo New York. 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.
“Affordable Housing and Community Gardens: Can They Co-Exist? Three Events Tonight Address The Future of Each.” NYC Foodscape. 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.