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I'll take Latino for 800, Alex

Posted by Francie Latour September 18, 2012 06:10 PM

These days, if you are running for the office of President of the United States, it is a real drag to be white.

So says Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who has taken on the distinct color of freefall following the release of a secretly recorded video showing him communing with his high-net-worth kindred at a private fundraiser in Florida.


Racism Dead; Hub Woman Rejoices

Posted by Francie Latour June 28, 2012 10:49 AM

One morning last week, as per usual, I woke up to read my hometown Boston Globe online. As I scanned the updates on Queen Elizabeth's handshake and Rielle Hunter's breakup, my eyes landed on a headline proclaiming what might be the most historic, transformational news of my lifetime. No, not the upholding of Obama's health care law. This headline was much, much bigger: Stain of Racism Is Finally Fading in America.


Out Of The (Immigration) Closet

Posted by Francie Latour June 15, 2012 08:58 PM

In announcing a dramatic policy shift that would halt the deportation of undocumented immigrants brought here as children, President Obama underlined an issue at the heart of the debate over a generation of immigrants who have known no other home but the US: What does it mean to be American?


The Myth of Native American Blood

Posted by Francie Latour June 1, 2012 04:15 PM
The African-American grandmother of a friend of mine once summed up the laws that govern black identity in this country. "If you ever want to know if someone's black or not," she would say, "go ask their white neighbor." FULL ENTRY

Jay-Z In the Range

Posted by Francie Latour May 15, 2012 07:25 PM

I can remember the day I decided to stop being a homophobe. It was the same day I realized I was one. I was in the 10th grade; it was 1986. The day before, in my high school locker room, I had sat in silence as classmates  gossiped about another girl being a lesbian. That night, at the dinner table at home, my father was reading a newspaper story about something called the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which had started that year. He put the paper down, looked at my brother and me and said, "If either of you ever come home and tell me you're gay, you will no longer be my children." Then he reached for the casserole.


Denouncing Hate: It's Called Bruins

Posted by Francie Latour April 27, 2012 10:05 PM

I know absolutely nothing about the game of ice hockey, and even less about the National Hockey League. But I learned two important things about this sport in the past week: I want to be more like Joel Ward, and America needs to be more like the Boston Bruins.


Girls In White

Posted by Francie Latour April 13, 2012 11:31 AM

Since no one else seems to be saying it or feeling it, I guess I'll just come out and say it, because I feel it: I have a problem with Lena Dunham.

Dunham, you may have heard, is the 25-year-old New York filmmaker, producer and actress behind the much-hyped HBO comedy Girls, which premieres this Sunday. The series chronicles the slackerish adventures, awkward hook-ups and studied self-deprecation of four 20-something friends in New York City, and as many a glowing review has pointed out, these are not women strutting Manhattan sidewalks in Manolos or battling to earn $2-a-word at Vogue. These are the anti-Sex and the City girls, perpetually and almost professionally adrift, their characters drawn with the same wry humor and specificity that made Dunham's first feature film, Tiny Furniture, a huge success.


Take A Bite Out of Crime (Not the Life Out of a Boy)

Posted by Francie Latour March 27, 2012 11:59 PM

And now here comes the grainy, only-here-and-next-at-11 security camera footage of George Zimmerman, neighborhood watch captain and admitted killer of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. We all know no American justice drama is complete without surveillance videotape. And the images released yesterday were like racial accelerant in a legal and media landscape already on fire, showing Zimmerman in custody and apparently uninjured shortly following the shooting -- despite statements from his supporters that he was seriously hurt in a "fight to the death" instigated by Martin.


A More Perfect Union for Trayvon

Posted by Francie Latour March 23, 2012 03:36 PM
“We can tackle race only as spectacle,” the candidate and then-Senator Barack Obama said exactly four years ago this week, riveting the nation from a Philadelphia podium as he delivered a historic, campaign-saving speech on race. “[We can tackle it] in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina. Or as fodder for the nightly news.”

Distant memories, indeed, those days when Obama would stand before a microphone and confront the raw complexities of race head on. In 2008, having stitched his loving, bigoted white grandmother and his loving, bigoted black pastor together in a single American tapestry, he was outlining the reflexes – spasms, really – that often result when matters of race explode onto the national scene. And he was offering another option. FULL ENTRY

You Will Never Be A Fireman

Posted by Francie Latour February 28, 2012 10:21 PM
I absolutely, positively swear this is the last time I write in any significant way about the blockbuster movie-slash-race relations Rorschach test "The Help." It has been both pilloried and praised to death. "The Help" must be exhausted, so to speak.

How Not To Cover Jeremy Lin

Posted by Francie Latour February 22, 2012 10:24 PM

The name of the episode was "Archie Gives Blood," from All in the Family circa 1971. You could probably write the script in your head right now: Archie and Mike stand in line at blood bank. Asian-American male walks by. The grousing bigot shakes his head and says, "Oh, no no no, he ain't gonna give no blood here. He's Oriental -- that's a yellow race." The exasperated son-in-law shakes his head and says, "And of course he has yellow blood. Look, there's an Irishman with green blood."


The Loving Story

Posted by Francie Latour February 14, 2012 11:28 AM

On this Valentines Day of overpriced bouquets, aphrodisiac-inspired bistro fare and all manner of tacky heart-shaped jewelry, I am thinking about Richard and Mildred Loving of Caroline County, Va. -- a couple who married in June 1958 and whose love was met by an arrest warrant weeks later, with sheriff's deputies bursting through their door at 2 a.m. A couple terrorized by and banished from their home state because they did not share the same skin color. A couple who, with no wedding planner, came to have one of the most original and unique nuptials in US history: They were ultimately pronounced man and wife by the US Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia.


Let Us Now Praise Brief Remarks

Posted by Francie Latour February 10, 2012 07:42 AM

At a time when Republican presidential candidates build speeches around the virtues of children working as janitors and reach for lofty metaphors about safety nets and trampolines, it's worth taking a minute to remember the brief remarks of a Republican president that spoke so powerfully to the idea of America that they have been memorized by generations of schoolchildren.


King's Legacy Touches Golden Globes

Posted by Francie Latour January 16, 2012 11:40 AM

It's one thing to be a Hollywood heavy-hitter and launch into a political tirade at an awards show (Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Marlon Brando in absentia -- I could go on), or to be a professional provocateur and do the same (as filmmaker Michael Moore did famously in 2003). It's quite another thing to be a modestly successful, until-recently struggling black actress -- with a supporting role as a 1960s Southern maid in one of the most racially polarizing films since "Driving Miss Daisy" -- and deliver an acceptance speech that confronts the scathing critics, invokes the silent dignity of domestic workers everywhere, and quotes Martin Luther King, Jr., on the eve of the national holiday commemorating his life. All while managing to look good in a lilac dress and uplifting everyone around you on live television.


Ready. Set. Race.

Posted by Francie Latour December 9, 2011 06:37 PM
George Clooney, we're told in recent Hollywood headlines, stars in Oscar hopeful "The Descendants" as a neglectful father and wealthy heir descended from a Hawaiian princess and a Caucasian land baron.

Now, by "Caucasian" the critics don't mean hailing from the North Caucasus, where rebels continue to defy Russia, or from the South Caucasus, where recently a 75-year-old, um, Caucasian woman accidentally sliced an underground cable and cut off Internet access to all of Armenia. What the L.A. Times and Forbes and Hawaii magazine actually mean, to state the obvious, is "white." Ditto for the critics who have wondered aloud how a film shot in Hawaii, one of the most ethnically diverse states in the nation, could have “Caucasians” filling nearly every frame and barely an Asian in sight. FULL ENTRY

Ethnic Nannies For Every Age

Posted by Francie Latour November 15, 2011 09:11 PM
In the mid-1990s and early 2000's, Cameron MacDonald spent a lot of time combing the playgrounds of Metrowest enclaves from Brookline to Weston to Sudbury. A sociology professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, MacDonald was looking for nannies and the typically high-earning mothers for whom they worked. Not surprisingly, she found them in droves. But she also found them in almost every conceivable cultural combination -- white CEOs with undocumented immigrants, black doctors with white mid-Western au pairs, Latina professionals with nannies carefully selected from some Spanish-speaking countries, but not others, to make sure their kids didn't pick up an undesirable Spanish accent.

When I Say Hip Hop, You Say Hatchback

Posted by Francie Latour November 14, 2011 11:05 AM
Memo to the makers of the Toyota Prius: Somebody over there might want to pick up their iPhone, call Kanye West and get him an eco-dope ride to go with his limited-edition Mercedes McLaren.

Her Name Is Jahessye Shockley.

Posted by Francie Latour November 3, 2011 10:15 AM

She is 5 years old, she is from Glendale, Ariz., she was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans, and pink flip-flops, and she is black.

The last characteristic matters, and not only because Jahessye Shockley's family needs the public's help to find their little girl alive. It matters because according to the Justice Department, children of color make up 65 percent of all missing children cases; 42 percent of those are African-American, 23 percent Latino.

It matters that Jahessye is black because despite those statistics, of which she has now become a part, the face of the missing child in America has long been, and continues to be, a white face. Six years ago, it was Baby Jessica. Right now, it's Baby Lisa.


Awkward! (and black)

Posted by Francie Latour October 11, 2011 10:15 AM

It was worse than Jim Crow! It was better than Cats! Now that we've said everything that could possibly be said about blockbuster movie The Help, can we turn our attention to another representation of black female life in America? I'm going to go out on a limb here and vote for a portrayal of a black woman in this century, who is not Beyoncé, not Precious, not a video vixen draped over the side of a yacht, and not a sitcom sidekick whose primary role is to act "sassy." I'm voting for The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.


The Latino List

Posted by Francie Latour September 26, 2011 10:15 AM

The backdrops are gray and monochrome. But the stories, told one by one before a single camera, are deeply personal. Together, they form a living portrait of success and survival, complexions and complex identity that could only be one story. That's the American story.


Slavery for Gamers?

Posted by Francie Latour September 7, 2011 11:05 PM

Last month on the black online magazine The Root, media critic Nsenga Burton wrote a piece called "It's A Great Time To Be A Racist." She opened it with a line that many a person of color who follows politics has probably found themselves thinking lately: "Racists have officially lost their minds."


I Am Race. My Tweets Go Back Centuries.

Posted by Francie Latour August 21, 2011 01:12 PM

The weirdest thing happened the other day: After 40 years living in this skin, with good chunks of that time spent thinking about race, I finally met him. Race, that is. He started following me on Twitter.

It's not every day you meet somebody who has profoundly affected your life while also remaining invisible. But there he was with his self-evident handle, @iamrace. The guy sounded like he had a chip on his shoulder; he kept putting his name in quotes, like he wasn't sure he existed, either.


For King, A Statue and A Circus

Posted by Francie Latour August 15, 2011 11:35 AM

He was still warm in the grave when the people started clamoring: We want a memorial. A way to honor a lion of history, a hero of black America, a martyr shot on a balcony.

Congress didn't quite see it that way: Five different bills establishing a memorial commission for Abraham Lincoln died swift deaths on Capitol Hill. The sixth bill was the charm, in 1911, but that didn't keep politics and egos from dragging the thing on another decade. A Greek temple? the critics cried. You don't commemorate a son of Kentucky with a flashy Greek temple. What America needs along the Potomac is a nice, down-home log cabin. (We can thank our lucky stars Michele Bachmann wasn't a man living in 1911 with any sway in this debate.)


About the author

Francie Latour writes about race, gender, ethnicity, and cultural identity. She’s written about everything from working-mom guilt to black Barbies as a contributor to The Boston Globe, where she worked for 11 years as an investigative reporter and features writer. More »

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