'Scandal' updates image of black women on network television
Actress Kerry Washington, left, plays a character based on Judy Smith, right, on ABC's 'Scandal'.
May 25th, 2012
07:48 PM ET

'Scandal' updates image of black women on network television

By Sarah Springer, CNN

(CNN) - Olivia Pope is smart, runs a successful business and is the center of attention when she enters a room.

She’s the kind of woman who magazines say every woman can be, and the type that others love to hate.

There’s just one thing: She is also black.

After a successful first season, viewers know that Pope, the lead character on ABC’s “Scandal,” is African-American.

But they might not realize the significance of her race. FULL POST

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Filed under: Black in America • How we look • Women
May 22nd, 2012
08:31 AM ET

'Grey's Anatomy' creator, actress discuss media diversity

Editor’s Note: Shonda Rhimes, the creator, screenwriter and executive producer of "Grey’s Anatomy", "Private Practice" and "Scandal", spoke to CNN about identity, and diversity in television. This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

By Sarah Springer, CNN

Shonda Rhimes on the diversity on her shows:

I think it’s fascinating to me that we still live in a world in which people truly believe that because someone is a different color than them, that they couldn’t relate to them or have a similar experience. That’s the most bizarre thing to me.

As a black girl on television, 90% of the women on television are not the same color as you. You’re relating to the experience of people who are not the same color as you. So why wouldn’t that work in then reverse for white people? I find it fascinating that we think that the world doesn’t work that way.

For me, “Grey’s” was about me making a statement. I was making a television show that I wanted to watch and part of that was putting people of all colors in it so that you saw people like you on television.

So  people suggesting that just because you’re a certain color that you couldn’t write something or be relatable to different characters is sort of horrifying to me at this point.

 It’s 2012: why are we still having this conversation?


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Filed under: Black in America • Race • What we think • Women
What does your name say about who you are?
Jessica Simpson recently named her daughter Maxwell Drew -- names traditionally given to boys.
May 2nd, 2012
12:04 PM ET

What does your name say about who you are?

Editor's note: What does your name say about you? Tell us on iReport how you think people see you based on your name and upload a photo of yourself. The best responses could be featured on CNN.com.

By Sarah Springer, CNN

(CNN) - Francine Rosemarie Davis comes from a family filled with traditional names. Her grandparents, Richard and Evelyn, named her mother Jill, who later named her children James and Francine. Her father? Charles.

But for years, she got strange looks from kids and adults when she was introduced. She went to school with girls named Star, Diamond and Magnificent – “perfectly acceptable names for black children,” in a way Francine or even Emily and Sarah weren’t, said Davis, who is black. When Davis moved to suburban Cleveland school, the comments kept coming.

“‘That’s an old lady’s name!’” she remembers her peers and their parents saying. “‘The only people left with that name are older ladies.’"

Perceptions about her based on her name followed her into adulthood, too - she’s  30, but people often assume she's older, and maybe white, she said.

“Now that we’re older and looking to get a career, you’ll send out a resume and when you walk through the door you’ll get a strange look because you’re not the person they expected to see,” said Davis, who works as a chemical engineer.

Researchers say our names have long affected how people perceive us, but trends and traditions around names - and what they say about our gender, age, race and ethnicity - are changing.

Jessica Simpson announced yesterday the birth of her new little one, Maxwell Drew – a 9 pound 13 ounce girl. She’s not the first to grab headlines with a nontraditional name: Tom Cruise and Kate Holmes have a daughter, Suri, Jay Z and Beyonce have their Blue Ivy bundle of joy and there’s no forgetting Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter, Apple. Celeb chef Jamie Oliver has four little ones: Poppy Honey Rosie, Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow and Buddy Bear Maurice.


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Filed under: Family • Gender • History • Race • Who we are
Engage: Thousands gather in celebration of Native American heritage
‘Gathering of Nations’ is said to be the world's largest annual meeting of indigenous and Native American people.
April 30th, 2012
01:12 PM ET

Engage: Thousands gather in celebration of Native American heritage

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Native American powwow draws thousands to New Mexico - Chicago Tribune

Henry Louis Gates helps actor Samuel L. Jackson find his roots - The Huffington Post

More children identify as biracial, but what does that mean? - The Washington Post 

New wave of African-American networks aim to relate to large black audience  - Variety

Engage: Pitcher on anti-gay kiss cam practice: 'Enough with this stupid trend'
Pitcher Brandon McCarthy spoke against homophobic responses that commonly arise when two men are shown on kiss cams.
April 27th, 2012
02:40 PM ET

Engage: Pitcher on anti-gay kiss cam practice: 'Enough with this stupid trend'

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Oakland A's pitcher calls Kiss Cam stunt 'homophobic' - The Advocate

George Zimmerman: Before the shots were fired - Reuters

Study shows discrimination towards blacks in North Carolina restaurants  - The New York Daily News

The L.A. Riots through the eyes of Korean-Americans – KoreAm Magazine

April 25th, 2012
11:23 AM ET

Engage: 'A Streetcar Named Desire' Broadway revival features first multiracial cast

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker star in 'Streetcar' show that opened this week - The Root

From Utah, a black, conservative, Mormon House candidate emerges - Yahoo! News

Doctors explore why Latinos survive longer after some cancer diagnoses, despite fewer resources - Los Angeles Times

Tennessee student prohibited from entering prom because of Confederate flag dress - The Tennessean

ICE to suspend more than 16,000 deportations - Fox News Latino

April 24th, 2012
02:01 PM ET

'Awkward Black Girl' creator Issa Rae responds to racism

By Sarah Springer and Sarah Edwards, CNN

(CNN) –After “The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl," won the Shorty Award for best webshow last month, creator Issa Rae saw racist comments and the N-word lobbed at her via social media.  The show hadn't won the popular vote, but the judges selected it to win; some commenters said media attention around the death of Trayvon Martin was at the root of the win.

“The backlash was pretty intense,” Rae said about the comments made by fellow competitors. “I’m glad they didn’t win, they didn’t deserve to, by any means."

Although negative comments are nothing new for the 27-year-old actress, Rae said, what others had to say never bothered her until now, especially with the recent social media furor over some of “The Hunger Games” characters being black.

“Everything is so clear right now, after ‘The Hunger Games,’ I started taking it more seriously," she said. "In a sense that’s what they wanted, for me to be all beat up by it, but I refuse.”

Knowing this issue was much bigger than her alone; Rae said she was compelled to say something about it. So, a few of weeks ago she took her thoughts to xojane.com where she wrote about the influx of racism floating around the webisphere.

“Users hide comfortably behind their computer screens and type the most obnoxiously offensive things they can think of and thirstily WAIT for an angry response; a validation of their modest efforts," she wrote.


Opinion: My life as a boomeranger
A good education stopped being the finish line, says Cassie Owens.
April 16th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Opinion: My life as a boomeranger

Editor's note: Cassie Owens is a music writer from Philadelphia.

By Cassie Owens, Special to CNN

(CNN) - When I moved back home, I knew what I was in for. My mother tends to nag me. She can't help it. Fussing is in her nature, and her recent battles with fibromyalgia and a spinal injury have not been easy on her nerves. She is uncompromisingly neat, a characteristic that I have not inherited. My room is what she fusses about most. My junk reminds her that my return wasn't something we planned.

I graduated from college in 2009. After traveling for a year on a Fulbright scholarship, I came home to my mother without a clear vision of my career path, let alone prospects afoot.

According to a recent Pew poll, 39% of 18- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents or have moved back in with their parents temporarily because of the sluggish economy. Sixty-three percent of 18- to 34-year-olds know someone who has moved back home. These numbers don't surprise me.

Read Cassie Owen's full column

April 13th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Rare photos of Jackie Robinson, 65 years after his major league debut

This weekend marks the 65th anniversary of baseball legend Jackie Robinson's major league debut.  It was 1947, and he was the first black player in the major leagues - the man who broke the color barrier in America's favorite pastime. In celebration of the mark he left on history, LIFE magazine collected rare photos - some unpublished - that appeared in the magazine during the 1950s.

LIFE's Ralph Morse shot some of the images when he covered the 1955 World Series for the magazine.

“I didn’t know anything about shooting baseball. I planted myself between photographers for the New York Times and the Daily News, and when they pointed their cameras at something, I pointed mine, too," Morse recently told LIFE.


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Filed under: Black in America • History • How we live • Sports
Engage: Federal government to pay $1 billion settlement to American Indian tribes
Attorney General Eric Holder today announced the settlement with 41 tribes today.
April 12th, 2012
03:30 PM ET

Engage: Federal government to pay $1 billion settlement to American Indian tribes

Engage with news and opinions from around the web about under-reported stories from undercovered communities.

U.S. government and tribes settled on mismanagement lawsuit  - NPR

Texas A&M to get first African-American Corps of Cadets commander - The Washington Post

Michelle Obama discusses veterans on 'The Colbert Report' - Los Angeles Times

Muslim businesses see success thanks to growing number of American Muslim consumers - The Huffington Post

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