Disney's black Ariel isn't just about diverse representation. It's also about undoing past wrongs.

It's a predictable scene at this point: Disney makes a character of color. People who value diversity and representation celebrate, while racists freak out about "pandering" and sad little dudes living in their parents' basement toss around the term "social justice warriors" like it's an insult.




But even those of us who celebrate greater representation in children's films may not recognize that Disney creating a black Little Mermaid goes beyond adding more diversity to the princess world.

The issue isn't just that Disney princesses were exclusively white for the first 55 years of its animated film legacy and had no black princesses for 70. It's not just that brown and black kids never got to see themselves in the Disney princess lineup. It's not just that women and girls of color weren't represented in those iconic lead roles.

It's the way black girls were actually were represented in Disney productions—the blatantly racist imagery and messages that audiences consumed for decades—that makes people's arguments against a black mermaid even more ridiculous and adds greater significance to black female protagonists.

In a viral Facebook post, Angelica Sampson explained why merely pointing out that representation is important doesn't paint the full picture, and in fact sanitizes the reality of what black girls have been subjected to in Disney's history.

"Not only did black girls like my mother have to use their imaginations to insert themselves into positive Disney movie narratives," Sampson wrote, "they had to consciously resist being influenced by images like this still from the original Fantasia (1940).

Sunflower was a centaur who existed to serve the white female centaurs

She was small and aside from her brown skin tone, is drawn without fantastical pastel coloring the other female centaurs possessed.

She was a naked child with the lower body of a mule made to serve grown women."

Disney's "Fantasia"/YouTube

"I want to you to fully absorb that she is intentionally drawn without clothing to designate her low social status," Sampson added.

"In an animated fantasy movie for small children, black girls were represented by a pickaninny named Sunflower. She brushes white women's hair and files their nails."

And that wasn't the only example of racist representation of black females in Disney films.

"Black girls sat through the chimney sweep scene from Mary Poppins (1964), where the admiral made a joke that they were being attacked by 'Hottentots,'" Sampson continued.

"It's a line that may go over many of your heads today, but in 1964, it was a hilarious joke.

'Hottentot' is a racial slur used to describe the Khoisan people of South Africa. In the 19th century, Europeans were so fascinated by the high large buttocks and labia of black women from this region that they were routinely kidnapped and paraded around the world to be exhibited at circuses or private fancy parties where the wealthy could even pay for the privilege of touching them.
The most famous of these African women was a girl name Saartjie or Sara Baartman.

She was advertised under the name 'Hottentot Venus' and after her popularity waned, was forced into prostitution.

She died of pneumonia or syphilis at the age of 24.

After her death her body was dissected and her labia and brain were preserved and put on display at a museum in France. This was done in the name of 'racial science.'

They weren't taken down until 1974.

I learned about her when I was 9, because I asked my mommy what a Hottentot was and she told me the truth.

So when you see posts that say black girls have NEVER been acknowledged by Disney, please understand it's not true.

Even in fairytales, white people still imagine black women and girls as beasts of burden.
Even in fantasy, we are degraded.

Even Princess Tiana was the child of a domestic servant. Her happily ever after was securing a loan. 🙃

So excuse us for being excited to see a black child portrayed as a WHIMSICAL MERMAID with GORGEOUS FINS and an ANGELIC voice, and freedom to collect trinkets and sing and have silly boy problems!!"

Sampson also explained the additional significance of having a black mermaid due to the societal assumption that black people don't swim. She pointed out that this is only the case because black people were systematically denied the opportunity to learn to swim for centuries. It started in the slavery era, since a slave who could swim would find it easier to escape. After emancipation, black people were segregated from public pools and housing discrimination prevented them from living in homes or communities with pools—and such segregation was violently enforced by some white people. Even white-centered beauty standards that prompted black women to chemically straighten their hair affected black women learning to swim. Generations of parents were unable to teach their children to swim because they never learned themselves due to racism in America.

"And yet in some circles, even today," Sampson points out, "the tragedy of black Americans avoiding the water is considered hilarious and an indicator of our own inadequacy. And yes, even today, you can read stories about entire black families dying because one child began to drown and one by one, the older children jumped in to save them, resulting in the deaths of a dozen people.

So yes, I'm excited that little black kids are gonna see black Ariel and wanna go swimming. I'm glad a company as influential as Disney is gonna take part in replacing the negative imagery black children have absorbed for the entire history of the US.

I'm so excited about it I'm probably gonna cry several times before this move comes out.
Shit, I'm crying right now. 💕

Let's stop denying black children the luxury of fantasy."

Yes, let's do that. And while we're at it, let's tell insecure white people to stop throwing hissy fits every time Disney does something that disrupts the status quo.

There's a whole lot of historical damage to attempt to undo, and If a black fictional mermaid threatens your existence in any way, shape, or form, you are part of the problem. Take a seat and learn from those who are actually impacted by this character's existence, because their voices are the ones that truly matter here.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

The battle between millennials and older generations isn't exactly a generational war—it's more a case of mistaken generational identity. A decade ago, whining about millennials being young adults unprepared to make their way in the world at least made sense mathematically. But when people bag on millennials now they end up looking rather foolish.

A marketing researcher with a doctorate in social psychology wrote an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune titled "Post-pandemic, some millennials finally decide to start #adulting." And when the Tribune shared it to Twitter, their since-deleted tweet read, "Writer Jennifer Rosner predicts COVID-10 lockdowns will force easy-breezy millennials to grow up."

Hoo boy.

Interestingly, the writer of the op-ed is a millennial herself, but she repeats generalizations about her entire generation that seem like they mainly apply to her own social circle. Read it yourself to decide, but regardless, the tweet of the op-ed itself set off a firestorm of responses from millennials who are tired of being painted as irresponsible young people who don't know how to "adult" instead of what they actually are.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.