Orange is the New Black and Recidivism: The Need for Accurate Media Representations of the Many Causes of Incarceration

Actor Danielle Brooks as Taystee in Netflix's Orange Is The New Black (Photo credit: Netflix / Orange is the New Black)

By Guest Contributor:Rachel Ko

About 50,000 people a year exit incarceration only to enter immediately into homeless shelters; legal restrictions and discrimination against individuals with criminal records are often to blame. As has been well-documented, the incarceration rate for African Americans is more than six times the incarceration rate for white Americans. African Americans also make up more than 40 percent of the homeless population, despite representing only 13 percent of the general population.

Even though general statistics don’t simultaneously track the effects of race on incarceration and homelessness, anti-Black racial stigma amplifies the measurable social impacts of both. Individuals released from prisons are more likely to be re-arrested for misdemeanor offense they commit in order to survive on the streets, but many scholars have failed to sufficiently connect recidivism, homelessness and incarceration.

A more successful representation of these connections is the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black. Through Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, a compassionate, intelligent, and likeable African American character, Orange is the New Black sheds light on the lack of rehabilitative resources and support systems that cause re-incarceration of individuals suffering from poverty. Taystee’s story shows us that crime is not a single action; rather, it is a series of events and complex social factors.

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Oscars Controversy Reminds That Asians Don’t Matter in Hollywood

oscars-joke

Guest Contributor: Larissa Lam (@larissalam)

For weeks we have endured endless chatter about #OscarsSoWhite and how to better increase diversity in Hollywood. Now that the awards season has officially ended and the Academy Awards have been handed out, I can finally give my two cents about this.

I watched the Oscars knowing that the acting categories were going to be swept by white actors – after all, only white actors had been nominated. Yet, I could tell that the producers of the show, one of whom was Reginald Hudlin, a black film producer and former BET president, were trying to at least showcase diversity among the chosen presenters. I was happy to see Priyanka Chopra, Lee Byung-Hun and Olivia Munn  presenting awards. Diversity was on display in some categories: Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Inarritu won Best Director for The Revenant, Indian-British director Asif Kapadia won for the documentary Amy, Chileans, Gabriel Osorio Vargas and Pato Escala Peirart, won for Best Animated Short, and Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won for Best Documentary Short.

Ok, so the Oscars were not completely white. But, they came pretty close to being so, and that’s because Hollywood is, itself, exclusionary.

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