Late Degradation

by MSC Student Life Intern, Lewis

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In February, Kanye West went on The Breakfast Club and publicly slut-shamed his former partner of almost 2 years, Amber Rose. Amber Rose was a stripper. His current partner and wife, Kim Kardashian, has been considered, by some, to be a porn actress. Kanye West has loved both of these women. And yet somehow Amber Rose is considered the dirty, shameless, jealous ex-partner, bent on destroying the happy family utopia that is the West’s. My point here is that though both women have well documented sexual pasts, only Rose is demonized for her sexuality. This has to do with (perceived) Blackness.

Rose, who self-identifies as biracial, does not benefit from the same white privilege that has kept Kim in the good graces of the public and the media (and Yeezy) despite a seemingly similar sexual history. Because of this white privilege, Kim is allowed to express her sexuality while Amber Rose is condemned for it, and now Ye has joined in on that condemnation.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog Beyond Black and White‘s post on Kanye’s interview,

Then he says this: “It’s very hard for a woman to want to be with someone who was with Amber Rose. She wasn’t sending nothing. I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim. Don’t ask me no more [laughs] I just want to be respectful.” TRANSLATION: Amber is a “dirty” black(ish) broad who’s not virginal. Kim is a “dirty” white broad who’s not virginal. But we all know when black women aren’t virginal they’re THOTS…” 

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This is a surprising oversight from the same artist who spent the better half of the last decade preaching strong political messages in support of Black culture. The same artist who wrote songs like, “New Slaves” and “Golddigger.” The same artist who has repeatedly claimed he is stonewalled from the fashion industry because of his Blackness.


Honestly, what it sounded like to me is that Kanye’s personal insecurities began to poke through, and like so many men, he remedied this by bashing women. He was uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable being confronted about his once love for a woman that the media has so eagerly degraded, and thus outpoured a string of excuses straight from chapter 1 of “Sexism for Dummies (read: Insecure cis-gender men).” He was uncomfortable talking about his ex-partner’s sexuality. The same sexuality that he once found so attractive, he now sees as threatening. As a cis-gender man, I have been around these same conversations myself – i.e. Bob’s ex-girlfriend has hooked up with someone new and confronted with the news Bob responds by calling his ex-partner a slut, a whore, and essentially reducing any and all feelings they shared for each other to the uglier side of his own insecurities.

I am disappointed (but not surprised) in Kanye. I am disappointed in Kim for allowing her husband to publically slut-shame another woman. I am disappointed.

Do better, Yeezus.

Black Girls in Education

MSC Student Life Intern, Cheyenne

From the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative to increased discourse about the criminalization of Black boys it is safe to say that conversations about African-American males in the school system have been abundantly abuzz. However, the unique challenges that Black girls face in America’s school system are often subsumed by those of their male counterparts, leaving their needs unattended to. Although it is assumed that girls generally fare better than boys in school, much of the data that supports this fact fails to dis-aggregate data by race, which would reveal that African-American females are actually doing worse than the national average for girls on almost every scale of scholastic achievement.


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In response to the persistent underachievement of African-American girls, groups such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Women’s Law Center, and the African-American Policy Forum have released reports that comprehensively demonstrate how the gendered racism, combined with poor school resources cause Black girls to experience higher disciplinary, suspension and expulsion rates than any of their other female counterparts. The release of such data has shed light on how America’s educational system has historically underserved Black girls and has emphasized the importance of policymakers, educators, and school administrators paying attention to girls of color.


Stereotypes and Discipline

Similar to Black boys, Black girls have also suffered the burden of negative stereotypes that cast them as aggressive, angry, promiscuous, and hyper-sexualized. Despite statistics that show that African-American girls tend to have higher self-esteems than their White counterparts, the racialized and gendered perceptions that their teachers may use to analyze and understand their behavior in the classroom can negatively impact their educational experiences and cause them to feel less committed to continuing their academic journeys in the future. Oftentimes disciplined for behavior that does not conform to white middle-class norms of femininity, the dispositions and attitudes of Black girls that may demonstrate academic engagement and excitement are instead coded as “disruptive” behavior, thus showing how the educational potential of Black girls is often limited due to their failure to conform to the norms of the dominant culture. Thus, Black girls face a “Catch 22” situation in which in they are either unnecessarily disciplined for being “too assertive” or forced to conform to Eurocentric standards of girlhood that encourage passivity and quietness and therefore deprive themselves of educational opportunities.

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Black Girls and Leadership

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Despite the fact Black girls are more likely to consider themselves leaders, express a desire to be leaders, and already have leadership experience in comparison to their White counterparts, America’s public school system seems to present scarce opportunities for Black girls to hone their leadership skills, with only 12% of 12th grade African-American girls reporting “considerable” or “significant” participation in student government according to the report created by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and National Women’s Law Center.

Although Black women and girls have been on the forefront of movements to fight against racial inequality in public schools, organizations and initiatives designed to foster the leadership and self-confidence of Black girls are scarce in America’s public schools and may further reinforce the academic struggles of African-American girls along with long-held stereotypes.

Black Girls and Educational Disparity

Untitled1 Despite the groundbreaking ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education that deemed the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional in the racial segregation of schools, African-American students are still enrolled in schools lacking adequate resources, qualified teachers, college-prep classes, and diverse extra-curricular activities at higher rates then their white counterparts. Data shows that the access and retainment of these resources are key to student success and although statistics on the impact of school disparities on students is not dis-aggregated by gender, school resources (or the lack of) serves as an important factor in considering the status of Black girls in education. In comparison to their peers from other racial and ethic groups, both African-American boys and girls are more likely to attend racially-isolated, high-poverty schools which are socioeconomically isolated and have a lower proportion of highly-qualified teachers. These disparities begin as early as pre-school, thus showing how the academic inequalities Black students face to be cumulative.


Although Black students may share some similar challenges in education, recent data and statistics clearly demonstrate that African-American females face very unique situations in public schools distinctly separate from their male counterparts. If policymakers and educators are serious about increasing the academic achievement of Black students, they must be willing to challenge and take into account societal norms that marginalize the life opportunities of Black females in order to truly increase the effectiveness of public school education.

On This World AIDS Day

Take a moment to enjoy some poems, meditations, and prayers compiled by the Huffington Post.

“May these prayers and meditations offer hope to those living with HIV and AIDS, strength to all of those who continue to care for those people living with AIDS, wisdom to those who search for a cure, and courage to those who fight for a world where people living with HIV/AIDS are given respect and dignity.”

Read More…

If you are in the UW-Madison area, Crossroads is hosting World AIDS Day at the the Red Gym. Harlan Pruden, Two-Spirit activist and educator, will be speaking tonight in the On Wisconsin Room. Be sure to join us on this World AIDS Day!

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Click the Photo for the Facebook Event Page

UW Staff Spotlight: Rain Wilson

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Rain Wilson, playwright, spoken word poet, and educator, was hired as the Creative and Academic Advisor for the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Initiative at the beginning of the Fall 2013 semester.  Her artistic and educational work revolves around empowering African Americans, women, and other marginalized groups of people.  Within her short time here at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, she has already brought her play, “Jungle Kings,” to life on campus in the 1st annual Multi-Cultural Theater Festival.  Currently she is leaping forward with First Wave students to ignite an impactful women’s history month event at the end of March, working on launching a program with First Wave to do writing and performance workshops within the women’s prison in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and preparing for her one woman show, “Ink Never Dries,” which will be performed later in the year.

Wilson was attracted to the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Initiative scholarship program because she admired the opportunity that First Wave students have to connect with the art of spoken word as cohorts within an academic setting where they do not have to feel isolated like she often did when she was in college.  She also valued the element of activism within the artistry that she saw from various students in the program.  First Wave was something that she just knew that she had to be a part of.  As the Creative and Academic Advisor of First Wave, her goal is to utilize the experience that she has gained as an artist in order to inform and mentor students who possess a similar passion for theatrical performance and poetry. “I would like to facilitate the exploration of collaborating with one another as a collective to reach a common goal.” Continue reading

The Bathroom Problem

by Communications Intern: Hiwot Adilow

When I’m in a public space and find myself needing to use the facilities, the most thinking I have to do is about which left to take and around what corner. Once I find the restrooms, I walk into the one marked “Women’s” without hesitation. And because I do not defy what society deems “woman” I am not approached with glares or rude remarks by other bathroom patrons. Using public restrooms should not have to be an emotional choice. For me it isn’t but my trans* identified friends live in a different reality.

When faced with the need to use the bathroom, for trans*folk, it isn’t a simple question of directions. They have to deeply consider their safety which calls for a lot of thinking. They are often forced to consider the comfort of total strangers who may be offended by their presence. In an open letter entitled “Dear Lady in the Women’s Washroom,” Ivan Coyote writes, “I am hyper aware of which bathroom I am in…[If] I have chosen to enter a public washroom in spite of my long and arduous history with them, I have taken the time to note which door I am about to walk into, and I am confident I have chosen the lesser of two evils. For many in the trans* community, this long and arduous history includes sexual and physical assault. Sometimes choosing between the “Men” and “Women’s” restrooms is a choice is between an uncomfortable look and a fight.

Sign courtesy of MyDoorSign.com

Some arguments against all gender bathrooms in public spaces include the notion that women who have been sexually assaulted will be uncomfortable. The issue of sexual assault is not a light one, but according to Izzy Rode of Slate.com, “conceding the fight for neutralization ignores the fact that sexual assault can—and more importantly does—occur among members of every gender.”

The presence of unisex, gender neutral, and single stall restrooms in public spaces is a step towards the right direction. By providing these options, people who do not fall into the binary are not forced to compromise their identities or their safety.

Our campus has a number of single stall and non-gendered bathrooms. The LGBT Campus Center has a map of these locations and a spreadsheet with descriptions on its website.