Apple (Yawn) Launched a New iPhone and a Watch Yesterday

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I find it difficult to get excited about new consumer technology these days. It may be a sign that I’m getting older or cheaper, or perhaps a bit more jaded about how much easier things need to be. I already blame my iPhone for my waning ability to remember things, and I hold Netflix responsible for how much time I spend sitting in one place on weekends: Binge sessions of House of Cards have become a priority in my home.

I also find it difficult to get excited about big Apple releases (like yesterday’s) because I’m not quite sure that Apple is at the forefront anymore.

When I heard about the iPhone 6 release, I wasn’t all that excited. In truth, I haven’t really been excited about Apple since Steve Jobs died in 2011. I’ve had the 4s for as long as its been out and it suits me just fine. I watched the release announcement yesterday, not because I wanted the phone, but because everyone else was — I thought perhaps I missed something.

What was missed yesterday was an opportunity, at least from a branding perspective.

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Have We Entered the Era of Crowdsourced Hate-Funding?

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Lynching rose to prominence in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most notably in the Deep South during the dawn of Reconstruction. Lynching was extra-judicial, vigilante action used to intimidate African Americans — and sometimes sympathetic whites — to enforce racist Jim Crow law. Individuals who participated in lynch mobs were seldom convicted in a court of law, even if properly identified, meaning perpetrators were safe, generally anonymous, and rarely held accountable for their actions.

Perhaps more disgustingly, lynching was a public spectacle, often treated as a family-friendly community event. It was not uncommon for children to be brought to the sight of lynchings, as a victim’s body hung lifelessly from a tree. So agreeable were whites to the racial violence of lynching, many took photos gathered around the victim, united as one for the cause of a dead black man.

While lynching has occurred less frequently since the Civil Rights Movement, its legacy remains present in the modern era; the noose remains symbolic, and makes regular appearances at many universities. The mob mentality persists as well, now in the form of the digital campaign, where individual donors unite as one.

In the wake of the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and allegations of first-degree rape and sexual battery of eight black women, lucrative crowdsourcing fundraisers were established for George Zimmerman, officer Darren Wilson and officer Daniel Holtzclaw, respectively.

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Brigitte Daniel’s Got a Plan to Get Young Women of Color Into Technology

Photo | Twitter

Brigitte Daniel |  photo via  Twitter

Like the Trayvon Martin story before it, what happened in Ferguson two weeks ago has had a continued news presence in part because of social media. In the moments that followed the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Mike Brown, users took to Twitter to report on and discuss what happened. They have started and maintained a nationwide online conversation.

Much has been written about the democratizing power of Twitter and the influential power of so-called Black Twitter; according to a Pew study, 22 percent of African Americans who are online are on Twitter despite representing a dismal 2 percent of its workforce, as indicated by a diversity report released by Twitter last month.

This imbalance does not go unnoticed by those in the field.

“If we are the highest consumers [of these technologies], why aren’t we creating them?” asks Brigitte Daniel, executive vice president of Fort Washington-based Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc., a minority-owned, family-based cable operator serving the greater Philadelphia area for over 30 years.

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10 Ferguson Twitter Accounts You Need to Follow

People protest Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo. As night fell Sunday in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police attempted to push them back by firing tear gas and shouting over a bullhorn that the protest was no longer peaceful.

People protest Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo. As night fell Sunday in Ferguson, another peaceful protest quickly deteriorated after marchers pushed toward one end of a street. Police attempted to push them back by firing tear gas and shouting over a bullhorn that the protest was no longer peaceful.

Since the death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown last Saturday, residents of Ferguson, Missouri, have taken to the streets to protest. Long before major media were on the ground, Twitter provided to-the-minute updates of events, and continues to be the most reliable reporting resource. Below is a list of 10 individuals you should follow on Twitter if you want to know what’s really happening on the streets of Ferguson, because the likes of CNN can’t be trusted to even report what’s happening outside of its own doors:

1. Antonio French (@AntonioFrench), St. Louis Alderman of the 21st Ward.

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Black Girls Are Magic: Why We’re Fascinated With Mo’Ne Davis

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The saying, as it goes in some circles, is that “Black girls are magic.” And there is an ever more prevalent movement to celebrate The Carefree Black Girl, a new archetype and representation of the fullness of black women and girls and their interests and their happiness. Enter Mo’Nae Davis, 13, the breakout star of her Taney Youth Baseball Association of Philadelphia little league team, the Anderson Monarchs.

With long braids that dance on her back, what makes Davis a star is her talent as a pitcher — she has a 70 mph fastball — and, as described by her coach in interviews, her role as a leader on her all-boys team. What makes Davis a source of media intrigue, though, is her gender, and perhaps even her race.

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Ginsburg: As Gay Rights Gain Traction, SCOTUS Record on Women Worsens

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From 2006 to 2009, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 81, was the sole woman on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nominated in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, she now presides alongside Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Earlier this month, in speaking to a law school, Justice Ginsburg noted the court’s increasing embrace of gay rights.

This is not to say that gay and lesbians have secured equal protections in the eyes of the law. But comparatively, Justice Ginsburg said that the court still wrestles with “the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be.”

Though history is never made as linearly as we learn it in the classroom, it sometimes seems like social justice movements happen one at a time instead of concurrently. Despite this, each group’s push toward equality carries the same fundamental objective: To expand the idea of what it means to be “American.”

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Why Stephen A. Smith Hasn’t Been Fired for His Domestic Abuse Victim-Blaming

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Update: Smith has been suspended by ESPN for his comments.

Stephen A. Smith (or “Screamin’ A,” as one of my Twitter followers calls him) gave a corporate apology at the top of ESPN’s First Take yesterday for his ridiculous domestic violence victim-blaming in relation to Ray Rice’s controversial two-game suspension resulting from an ugly incident earlier this year at Revel. It was the type of apology that we’ve all come to expect during a dust-up when a public figure who gains prominence for vocalizing a controversial opinion wants to sweep the furor under the rug. In that way, it was entirely uneventful.

It took 72 hours (he should be thanking God for small favors in the form of the weekend news cycle drag), but with a smidge less heat surrounding him, Smith delivered his contrition with standard applications of feigned revelation and self-interest. There are debates about whether or not Smith should be allowed to keep his job; those debates are not without merit, though as of this writing Smith has announced (well-timed!) plans to leave the network and head over to more irreverent pastures at SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio.

That the same hand of mercy covers Smith and Ray Rice in equal measure.

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Should You Feel Guilty About Privilege?

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On Monday, I lead three rotational sessions about journalism and black feminism at the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Justice Research Institute. The classroom is made up of notably progressive 15- and 16-year-olds who have words like cisgendered already in their lexicon. At the top of the sessions as a means of introduction, I asked each aspiring social justice practitioner to say their name, their age, and to identify at least one way that they were privileged.

It was an impressive mix of students, some of whom are from far-off places such as Greece or China. Each of them could identify the clear privilege that they’d had in common — an opportunity to spend the summer studying at one of the nation’s foremost Ivies — but as individuals there was some variation in the things they said. Gender privilege. Sexual orientation privilege. Economic privilege. The privilege that comes from having a supportive family. And of course, race.

“Do you feel guilty about it?” I asked one student whose face was turning red as words stumbled out of her mouth, trying to find the right way to land.

“About?”

“Being white,” I said, curious. Read more »

Congrats, 42-Year-Old Women: Esquire Now Deems You Attractive

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Sofia Vergara, who is now 42. Photo | Shutterstock.com

Did you see? Esquire magazine praised the 42-year-old woman, saying that the age is “not what it used to be.”

“Let’s face it: There used to be something tragic about even the most beautiful forty-two-year-old woman,” the opener reads. “With half her life still ahead of her, she was deemed to be at the end of something — namely, everything society valued in her, other than her success as a mother. If she remained sexual, she was either predatory or desperate; if she remained beautiful, what gave her beauty force was the fact of its fading. And if she remained alone … well, then God help her.”

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The President and the “N-Word”

The headline, as it appeared on the newspaper's website.

The headline, as it appeared on the newspaper’s website.

Last week, The West View News, a small monthly paper with circulation in the West Village neighborhood of New York City, ran a story about President Obama with a headline that read “The Nigger in the White House.” The article, written by James Lincoln Collier, a white man, defended the president and accused the far-right of racism.

“Nigger” is a piece of language so loaded, it’s not one that anyone stumbles upon lightly, or happens to use in place of something else. It’s not synonymous with anything; it’s a word of intention. A word of consequence. A word with a lot of history attached to it.

Of course, the newspaper headline sparked debate about the use of the word, and whether its use (however ironically) has a place in journalism—or any other decent public space, for that matter. It’s an editorial decision, for sure, a move that’s the print equivalent of click-bait, which has spawned coverage and think pieces about what the word means.

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