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Olivia Cole
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Olivia Cole is a poet, author, and activist. Her first book is being launched in 2014.

Entries by Olivia Cole

Six Reasons Women (and Everyone) Should See Advantageous: A Micro-Interview

(0) Comments | Posted August 5, 2015 | 5:33 PM

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Jennifer Phang's haunting science-fiction film, Advantageous, is taking the world by storm. A quick glance at commentary on Twitter will tell you how depressing it is, how watching it will paralyze you with its characters' desperation. But watching it triggers something more potent...

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McKinney, Texas and the Hypervisible Invisibility of Black Children

(295) Comments | Posted June 9, 2015 | 11:45 AM

After seeing the footage of what occurred at a pool party in McKinney, Texas, and after seeing numerous attempts of newscasters and Twitter users alike to excuse the cop in question for his actions because he was "intimidated by the crowd," I tweeted this:

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This Is Why We Still Don't Need #WhiteGirlsRock

(481) Comments | Posted April 3, 2015 | 12:14 PM

In 2013 I published an article here on The Huffington Post called "Why I'm Not Here for #WhiteGirlsRock." In it, I posed a question to my fellow white Americans who were upset about Black Girls Rock!, insisting that a program centering the self-worth and self-love of black girls must...

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Beards and Armpits: The Silly Sexism of 'The Walking Dead'

(190) Comments | Posted February 19, 2015 | 10:54 AM

The Walking Dead, like any show, has its problems. While it is one of the most diverse shows on television, many have criticized its revolving door of people of color: killing one off before adding the next, as if having too many non-white people onscreen at one time would...

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I'm A Bad Feminist, But Not Because I Don't Like Iggy Azalea

(182) Comments | Posted February 17, 2015 | 1:24 PM

Roxane Gay, who is much wiser (and certainly a better writer) than I am, said the following in Bad Feminist:

"I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I'm not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I...
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Joy, Fear, and Twerking: The Glory of Amber Rose

(176) Comments | Posted September 4, 2014 | 3:31 PM

Amber Rose set the Internet on fire over the weekend when she uploaded a video of herself twerking to celebrate her husband Wiz Khalifa's album hitting number one on the Billboard 200. The video was shared on her Instagram account, where she is seen practicing flawless butt cheek isolation and...

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The 10 Kinds of Trolls You Will Encounter When Talking About Mike Brown

(674) Comments | Posted August 19, 2014 | 5:53 PM

If you're paying attention to the events unfolding in Ferguson -- and by God, you better be -- then you probably already know there is a group of people in this country of ours who are determined to change the focus of the conversation about the killing of Mike Brown...

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10 Things White Privilege Has Done for Me in 10 Days

(60) Comments | Posted August 7, 2014 | 10:34 AM

Some of the things I write most about are racism, sexism, misogynoir, and inequality in American media and pop culture, specifically the underrepresentation of women of color in the aforementioned. The reasons why are many and complicated. Almost all of my closest friendships throughout my life have been and continue...

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Lucy: Why I'm Tired of Seeing White People on the Big Screen

(1803) Comments | Posted July 28, 2014 | 3:08 PM

I'm tired of seeing white people on the silver screen.

First, let me note that I am white. I am a white woman who goes to the theater to see probably a dozen films (if not more) in a given year, a white woman who readily consumes TV shows and series and often blogs/tweets about them. I love film. I love what Hollywood could be, but I must say that I don't love what it is, and that is a machine generating story after story in which the audience is asked to root for a white (usually male) hero over and over and over (and over) again. I'm tired. I'm tired of directors pretending that white actors are the default and that people of color are a distraction when it comes to filmmaking. I'm tired of black women in Hollywood being relegated to roles of slaves and "the help" over and over again. I'm tired of films convincing themselves that they are taking on something fresh and new, the likes of which the world has never seen, but in actuality adhering to tired tropes and stereotypes.

One example that comes to mind is Avatar, a "groundbreaking" film about aliens and humanity, which, underneath it all, is the same old White Savior story. But more recently is Lucy, the film starring Scarlett Johansson in which a woman named Lucy evolves and is able to use 100 percent of her brain's capacity after she unwittingly ingests a massive amount of drugs.

Lucy is about what humankind could be -- it's about possibilities. As Lucy's brainpower grows stronger and the volume of knowledge she is able to access increases, she delivers monologues about how little humans understand about death, existence, and the universe, mediating on time and history. The film likes to think of itself as reimagining everything that we think we know about humanity, and presents to us their vision of what the most evolved woman on earth looks like:

A blonde white woman.

See, I just can't get right with that.

You see, I was an anthropology major in high school and by the time I was 16 I'd learned all about Lucy (Australopithecus), the collection of bones found in Hadar and thought to have lived 3.2 million years ago, one of the oldest hominids we know of. Lucy the film doesn't try to hide how cute they thought they were being by naming the supreme evolved being in their film "Lucy" -- they show an ape-like creature crouched by a stream to illustrate just how far human beings have come, and say as much in the opening lines, depicting vast cities built up to show our progress. The original Lucy was not really an ape, though. She had small skull capacity like apes, but her skeleton shows she was bipedal and walked upright like humans. Hadar, by the way, is in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia.

So I guess what's sticking in my craw is the assertion that while human life originated in Africa -- a detail the film neatly skims over, placing the ape-like Lucy that Johansson sees in North America -- somehow the way we imagine the most evolved human being is blonde and white. Even more, when Lucy gets surges of knowledge in the film, her eyes flash brightly blue. Because blue eyes, we all know, are the universal symbol of superiority, right?

How is it that in a film whose premise rests on the idea of reimagining the past, present and future, we still end up with a blonde white woman with flashing blue eyes as the stand-in for what personifies evolution and supremely fulfilled human potential? At one point the Ape-like Lucy and Evolved Lucy meet face-to-face as Evolved Lucy does a bit of time-traveling. Their fingers touch, and we see them deliberately posed to mimic the famous Creation of Adam painting, and in that moment I saw what I suppose we were supposed to see: humanity at its beginning, and then humanity at its end, at its most perfect. Blonde, white and blue-eyed.

I can't accept that. I can't accept that there was only one black woman in the entire film, who delivered one line and who we never saw again. I can't accept that the bad guys were Asian and that although in Taiwan, Lucy's roommate says, "I mean, who speaks Chinese? I don't speak Chinese!" I can't accept that in Hercules, which I also saw this weekend, there were no people of color except for Dwayne Johnson himself and his mixed-race wife, whose skin was almost alabaster. I can't accept that she got maybe two lines and was then murdered. I can't accept that the "primitive tribe" in Hercules consisted of dark-haired men painted heavily, blackish green, to give their skin (head-to-toe) a darker appearance, so the audience could easily differentiate between good and bad guys by the white vs. dark skin. I can't accept that during the previews, Exodus: Gods and Kings, a story about Moses leading the Israelite slaves out of Egypt, where not a single person of color is represented, casts Sigourney Weaver and Joel Edgerton to play Egyptians. I can't accept that in the preview for Kingsman: The Secret Service, which takes place in London, features a cast of white boys and not a single person of Indian descent, which make up the largest non-white ethnic group in London. I can't accept that in stories about the end of the world and the apocalypse, that somehow only white people survive. I can't accept that while my daily life is filled with black and brown women, they are completely absent, erased, when I look at a TV or movie screen.

I can't accept that. And I can't accept that when we think about the potential of humankind and what our brains are capable of doing and thinking and feeling, that people of color would be absent from that imagining. I can't accept that. And I won't. I'm tired of seeing people that look like me crowding screens both big and small: I am not what the world looks like. Hollywood, stop whitewashing characters. Give us more films like this year's Annie. I'm no Lucy -- like everyone else I'm only using a tiny amount of my brain's capacity. But you don't need to be a superhuman logic-machine to see that Hollywood has a major problem with depicting people of color, and it's time to actually reimagine what the world can and should be.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Lucy was filmed in China and has since been updated with the correct location of Taiwan.

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Olivia Cole writes a blog at oliviaacole.wordpress.com and published her novel, Panther in the Hive, in 2014.

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5 Reasons People With Brains Shouldn't See Transformers: Age of Extinction

(37) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 2:53 PM

If you're one of the people I refer to in the title of this blog -- that is, people with brains -- then you are probably already aware of the things that make Michael Bay one of the most vile and overrated directors in Hollywood. Explosions substituting for character development....

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Why Is the Villain in Dragon 2 the Only Non-White Character?

(53) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 11:24 AM

I'll keep this short.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 could have been great. It could have been an exciting, funny tale of a boy overcoming both a life-altering injury and his close-minded society to become a hero to his people once again. But one detail holds it back from...

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Chicago Filmmakers Choose Substance Over Stereotypes

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2014 | 3:22 PM

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When it comes to documenting the lives and stories of people of color, Hollywood is notorious for being more interested in the perpetuation of stereotypes than meaningful portrayals of marginalized communities with value and humanity. And often when those films are made...

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Dear Forbes: This Is Why Iggy Azalea Doesn't 'Run' Hip-Hop

(133) Comments | Posted May 21, 2014 | 6:18 PM

The Internet is currently on fire following a piece on Forbes that was initially titled "Hip Hop Is Run By A White, Blonde, Australian Woman" but was changed after the backlash forced Forbes to realize what an absurd claim they were making. The new title is "Hip Hop's...

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5 Ways Chicago Transit Authority Shows It Hates Chicagoans

(18) Comments | Posted May 15, 2014 | 12:52 PM

If you live here, you have felt it. Perhaps you've thought, "I have been standing on this platform/bus stop for half of my life. Why? Someone must hate me." The answer is... someone does hate you. It's Chicago Transit Authority. If you live in Chicago and have felt the keen...

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Belle: A Lesson in the Timelessness of Racism and Misogyny Against Black Women

(1) Comments | Posted May 13, 2014 | 7:23 PM

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It's not often that audiences are exposed to a portrayal of racism that is viewed through the lens of black women. Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed-race woman in 1700s England, was the daughter of an admiral and an enslaved African woman. The film...

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Why Steve Harvey Needs to Have a Seat

(200) Comments | Posted April 17, 2014 | 4:17 PM

As Mimi Faust and Nikko Smith's sex tape makes the rounds on the Internet, I knew it was only a matter of time before the policing began. Sure enough, yesterday, a friend posted a recording of Steve Harvey on the radio, in which he earnestly advised "young women"...

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People of Color Do Survive the Apocalypse: 5 Books You Should Read

(31) Comments | Posted April 10, 2014 | 5:28 PM

It's been written about before: the problem with mainstream post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction and its absence of people of color. In the imaginations of so many writers of these genres, people of color don't ever seem to survive the apocalypse, or somehow the series of events that led to the...

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FUBU, Daymond John and White People Who Mock Black Culture

(15) Comments | Posted April 4, 2014 | 11:21 AM

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Photo: Daymond John


Yesterday I attended an event hosted by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, at which the CEO of FUBU, and star of the ABC television show Shark Tank, Daymond John, would be speaking, telling the story of...

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Dismantling Geek Stigma: Chicago Startups Nurture Tech Talent

(0) Comments | Posted March 18, 2014 | 4:18 PM

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When it comes to Chicago's technology and startup scene, the Windy City has often been called the next Silicon Valley, a breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship where new businesses thrive and the "next big things" take shape. Companies like Groupon, Orbitz, Grubhub,...

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Single Moms Club: Tyler Perry Still Has a Problem With (Black) Women

(27) Comments | Posted March 17, 2014 | 10:50 AM

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Firstly: there are spoilers below. I won't apologize for them. I'm trying to save you from seeing this film, after all, so yes, there are spoilers.

Secondly: I wish Tyler Perry would stop making movies about women.

This morning I saw...

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