But race and class seemed to be central to the celebrity of all these people. They were poor. They were black. Their hair was kind of a mess. And they were unashamed. That’s still weird and chuckle-worthy.

On the face of it, the memes, the autotune remixes and the laughing seem purely celebratory. But what feels like celebration can also carry with it the undertone of condescension. Amidst the hood backdrop — the gnarled teeth, the dirty white teeth, the slang, the shout-out to McDonald’s — we miss the fact that Charles Ramsey is perfectly lucid and intelligent.

This articles! YES! I’ve been struggling with this issue for a while – our society taking any black person who isn’t speaking Standard American English (in other words, speaking AAVE) and having a nice laugh. Whenever I hear someone say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I cringe. “But it’s funny!” “Don’t be so serious.” “I’m not laughing AT him/her.” “It’s just a meme.” Easy to say when you hold the power and privilege. Besides, AAVE is often misconstrued as “poor grammar” or the result of poor education or stupidity – not the dialect that it is. So we laugh because these poor looking black people are squawking in their terrible, low-class English, and we think they are a riot. Ha. I’m not laughing. (If you disagree, please give me one articulate reason why it’s okay to laugh and make memes out of these people’s interviews over anyone else’s interviews? What makes these different and worthy of meme-dom?)

One more thought on this situation and these articles – have you watched the interview video? Charles Ramsey says something VERY IMPORTANT. Very poignant. He says, “I knew something was wrong when a pretty little white girl ran into a black man’s arms.” And the reporter immediately shied away and started to end the interview. Nobody wants to hear that. Nobody wants to think about that or talk about that. By nobody, I obviously mean white people. The majority. Those with privilege. There is a conversation here, one that Ramsey, as a black man in America, recognizes and speaks plainly about, but one that the interviewer tried to shut down. I want to talk about THAT.

    Ashlynn claims she was told to leave the room, and called her mother, and that “while Ashlynn was hysterical, speaking with her mother and walking down the hall, Officer Christopher Bryan [sic], who was behind her, made aggressive contact against her by slapping her backpack.”
The complaint continues: “Ashlynn, not knowing who was behind her, said ‘Leave me alone’.
“While still on the phone with her mother, Officer Bryant proceeded to shove Ashlynn face first into a file cabinet and handcuff her.
“Ashlynn was taken to the police station.

Speaking of race in America…

The sexualization of women is only appealing if it’s nonconsensual. Otherwise it’s “sluttiness,” and sluttiness is agency and agency is threatening and so, therefore, sluttiness must equal disposability.

Our culture deliberately socializes women to be taken in. We condition girls (explicitly! Not even covertly!) to believe that if they’re not sexually attractive, they’re nothing. They’re garbage. They might as well not exist. We reinforce, over and over, that their attractiveness has an expiration date, so the only thing they can do is desperately leverage that attractiveness while they can. If they resist that conditioning, we sexualize them against their will, and if they give in to that conditioning—or worse, if they are raped by a predator—we reveal the trap: Now you’re a slut, and it’s your fault. Now you’re tainted. Now you’re worse than nothing. Now you might as well not even cry out when your rapist takes you to the gas station in a wig and sunglasses.

THIS! THIS! THIS! You know, I grew up guarding my virginity as if it would be my inheritance. Do I regret that? Nope, not really. It worked for me, and it definitely kept me from getting pregnant. BUT I did judge others who didn’t do things the way I was doing them. And I acted like I was better than that/them. That’s wrong. Even when I grew up more and started to question whether virginity (religiously-mandated or otherwise) was special or worthy of something,  I realized that it only is if YOU want it to be. But why should someone want that? That’s a loaded question. I have some serious issues with the idea that anyone should know if you are a virgin or have an opinion about what that says about you. Maybe someone is a virgin because they haven’t found someone they care about enough, and maybe they are a virgin but they don’t want to be. Maybe someone isn’t a virgin because they wanted to have sex, and maybe they aren’t a virgin because they were never told to believe that virginity is a mystical treasure. In all of these cases, maybe if we stopped putting so much value on a woman based on whether she still has her “purity” in tact, we could start seeing her value as a human, a person, as someone who contributes to community or has career ambitions or wants to be a mother or doesn’t. You know, things that actually matter.

Since the disaster, many have urged large retail corporations to upgrade the working conditions in the factories from which they source their products. Three hundred large companies had previously refused to sign a pledge to do so before the collapse, citing costs. The need for low prices and fast production is driven in large part by American demand for cheap clothing. So how much would clothing prices rise for the average consumer if all of the costs of upgrading Bangladesh factories were passed on to them?

According to an estimate provided by the Worker Rights Consortium, it could be as little as 10 cents per article of clothing. The group comes to this figure by estimating that building renovation, safety equipment installation, and other related costs would come to about $3 billion, which is says is a high estimate that assumes virtually all factory buildings need major renovations, as some may not. Spreading that cost over five years, it comes to $600 million each year, and tacking 10 cents on to each of the roughly 7 billion garments exported from the country each year would easily cover that cost. After the initial investment in renovations, the group says the costs of maintenance will drop significantly.

I’m sick to death of people saying that they can’t afford things from stores other than Wal-Mart. To be fair, one of my favorite retailers, Mango, was using this factory for cheap labor (guess who isn’t shopping from Mango until they change things? Guess what else – considering Mango’s prices, there’s no reason they can’t afford to pay people better to make their garments). Don’t buy crap, and don’t pay retailers who won’t consider the humans who make their products. The owners of Mango, Wal-Mart, WHEREVER are millionaires – there is no reason they should get away with forcing people who need work to work in shitty conditions, and there is no reason they can’t be given decent wages. But you know what? Until consumers start using their so-called morals and ethics, we can’t expect the owners of companies to do anything differently, either. HAVE A CONSCIENCE. HAVE A HEART. Stop pretending you don’t know what’s going on or that you aren’t connected to the money you use to pay for things you don’t need.

Unlike the attorneys and accountants you know, your trajectory isn’t neatly outlined in an employee handbook. Instead, you’ll have to create your own roadmap. You’ll draw on all of your resources, employ a bit of trial and error, doubt yourself (then learn to trust yourself), and do it all while the people around you tell you, “you can’t.”

If you’re taking a non-traditional career path, you’ll probably hear from friends, family, colleagues, and maybe even your own head that you’ll never make money or find a job. But, take it from me: It’s all worth it to make your crazy dream a reality. I know, because I, too, chose to climb this bruising yet beautiful trail.

If she can do it, I’ll be fine for a month or two back home with no direction…

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