“Running is flying*”
*When you walk, one foot is always on the ground. When you run, most of the time you are actually airborne. For example: a...”
Prior to me attending a screening of Alleen Maar Nette Mensen, which translates as Only Decent People, I had already been introduced to both the blatant and subtle white supremacist arrogance of the Dutch. However, nothing I had experienced via cinema or popular culture in my adult life, not even the worst of ignorant Black movies or 2Chainz videos could have adequately prepared me for the hour and half of pain I had to endure during the press screening of Only Decent People, a film based off of Robert Vuijsje’s best-selling book that actually went into dozens of editions of print prior to being made into a commercial film.
There are so many problematic issues with the production of Only Decent People, that it’s hard to condense them into a few statements. However, for the sake of clarity and contextualization, I will do my best to accurately describe the movie. To start, every single negative characterization of the Black woman as a hyper-sexualized being, loathed by all, even herself, was perpetuated. Scene after scene, all of the Black female characters were, for lack of a better word, beasts. They were all dehumanized creatures with the same exaggerated obese body type (with the exception of one who looked anorexic and was about to have a train run on her).
From Shuffering and Shimiling: Race, Degradation and Apathy in the Netherlands by Shantrelle P. Lewis
I should feel more outraged about this, but I’m still trying to get over the first stage of recovery from blatantly racist misogynist nonsense: utter disbelief.
One day I’ll cease to be surprised by this type of thing, but this is just so over the top that I’m shocked anyone saw fit to make it and invite media to screen it without fear of being torn apart. (via stufficareabout)
I’m not expecting to emigrate any time soon, but all those bikes and marriage equality cannot overcome this aspect of Dutch culture. I still might visit, though. ~Erica
Over the next few days, I began to wonder: Do such pieces of advice eliminate personal style–either regarding speaking or dressing? Do they mandate an appearance of ethnic homogeneity? I mean, did Aung Sung Suu Kyyi or Winnie Mandela or Indira Gandhi (all powerful global women leaders and speakers) avoid patterns and jewels? In this rapidly shrinking global world, was it possible for all women to dress alike anyway?
I approach this issue through a particular lens, of course, that of a woman of color, but also a woman whose parents are immigrants. I am also a woman who watched my own mother, who came to this country at the age of 19 and was quite a jeans-and-beads wearing hippie for a number of years, stop wearing Western clothes altogether. It was shortly after the racist ‘dotbuster’ incidents in New Jersey–when a group of thugs who declared themselves to be ‘dotbusters’ were terrorizing people of Indian origin. My mother, determined to show solidarity and pride in her identity, went cold turkey–no more jeans, no more Western clothes. She’s a widely known academic and activist, and often does public lectures and trainings and yet–she’s always dressed in either a salwaar kamesee or sari, with, yes, a bindi on her forehead.
Now, I understand, both my mother, and now I, are academics and there are obviously different expectations regarding dress and public presentation in many professions. Corporate America or television journalism are less forgiving regarding presentation style than a university, or a creative business. Yet, I have an aunt who is an attorney who has developed her own style of professional dressing for the courtroom–a dark colored cotton sari topped by a suit jacket. And obviously, corporate women in India and other countries surely wear different styles of professional dress.
I too am usually found with at least one piece of Indian clothing on my body–a flowing kurta on top of dark pants, topped by a blazer or jacket. It’s my style, my interpretation of professorial dress codes, and I think, like my mother, it also reflects something political: an identification with my roots and origins that I’m not willing to give up.
Might a woman wearing a sari at a podium get a different reception than a woman wearing a dark suit? Perhaps. I guess it depends if the podium is in New York or Topeka, Washington or New Dilli. But isn’t that difference in reception one worth challenging and interrogating?
I guess my point is ethnic dressing, like standing straight, meeting people in the eye when I talk, and not apologizing for my point of view, is actually a form of assertive communication on my part. It’s a personal choice–just as any other woman’s style of professional presentation is her personal choice.
July 7, 2012
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by A.D Song and Mia McKenzie
White people who are confronted with their white privilege and the white supremacist acts they perpetuate have been known to cry, “You’re being a reverse-racist!” That is completely true: people of color have the power and control to create, perpetuate, and maintain brutal systematic reverse-racism that oppresses white people every day. As such, we have created this handy list on how to continue this oppression.
1. Enslave their bodies.
Ship them from Germany, Sweden, and other exotic countries. Force them to build entire cities, roads, bridges. Force them to plant and harvest all the food everyone eats. Let an entire economic system be built on their backs, with their blood and sweat. Later, deny them access to the system they have been used to build, and accuse them of being extremely lazy.
2. Steal their land.
If they were here before you, steal their land. This is essential. Basically, just go in there and take it. If you have to kill some of them to get it…no worries. If you have to kill almost all of them to get it…shit, no worries. After you steal their land, make sure you create laws to keep them from ever returning to it. If they try to return anyway, build fences, and let bands of POC vigilantes patrol the borders with guns. If they somehow get past the borders and into your country, no worries, you can always just deport them.
3. Enslave their minds.
From these systems, build a long lasting institution of reverse-racism until all the violence and microaggressions make many white people into suspicious people with a lot of internalized self-hatred, health problems, and mental illnesses. Then deny them access to adequate mental health care. Or, adequate health care of any kind, while you’re at it. ‘Cause, you know, fuck ‘em.
4. Wipe out and/or appropriate their customs.
Since many of their customs are savage and unworthy of preserving, wipe out their traditions of eating mashed potatoes and meatloaf, playing miniature golf, buying khakis at Banana Republic, and sleeping with thousand-count Egyptian cotton sheets. For the customs you think are kinda cool, culturally appropriate from them. Sometimes wear a beret and lederhosen, because Swedish culture is really exotic even though it’s inferior to ours.
5. Break their espresso machines.
With baseball bats or large hammers. Or, you know, just unplug them all.
6. Call them “cracker”.
As people of color, we have been rightfully accused of being racist to white people, especially when we call them “cracker”. As we all know, calling them “cracker” is egregiously offensive and horribly shocking because of this long, violent, reverse-racist history.
7. Just keep being terrible to them.
Do everything you can think of to make it so that white people make less money; their children are shot by cops; white women are at higher risk for assault and they are exotified until they no longer seem human; white men are beaten and thrown into jails because they look “suspicious” and “threatening”; they are racially profiled everywhere they go.
8. Make sure most representations of them in the media are negative.
They should almost always be portrayed as pasty, stringy-haired, rhythm-less, sexless, uptight, and booooring. Also, there should be very few representations of them and when they’re portrayed at all, they should always only be the comic relief, the silent exotic sex object, the Debbie Downer, or the incompetent sidekick. They are only allowed to be easily forgettable, one-dimensional characters. Sometimes use POC actors in white-face to portray these white people. By presenting this ONE image of them all the time, you will be able to convince the rest of the population that all white people are like this, thus ensuring a widespread belief in their inferiority.
9. Keep telling them how beautiful they are not.
White people know they will never be beautiful with their boring sour cream complexions and blonde hair (that was actually caused because of mutations). Plaster people of color on every magazine, show them in every television show and movie, and praise them as the most beautiful. When white people cry at these injustices, bottle their tears and sell them as health creams for people of color. Nothing like a soothing lotion made from the pain of white folks!
10. Go bananas!
Force them underground and away from the sun to become even whiter, while you laugh manically like the cruel, bloodthirsty, oppressive person of color you are! Take their thousand-count Egyptian cotton sheets to make POC-supremacist flags and hoods and march through the streets, spreading fear and terror. Every time a white person thinks your behavior is unfair or wrong, tell them that they should stop being so sensitive! We live in a post-reverse-racial society now! Jeez.
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A.D Song is an API student activist interested in QTPOC politics and sprinkling glitter everywhere they go. They blog at glitterotti.tumblr.com .
Mia McKenzie is a writer and a smart, scrappy Philadelphian with a deep love of vegan pomegranate ice cream and fake fur collars. She is a black feminist and a freaking queer, facts that are often reflected in her writings, which have won her some awards and grants, such as the Astraea Foundation’s Writers Fund Award and the Leeway Foundation’s Transformation Award. She just finished a novel and has a short story forthcoming in The Kenyon Review. She is a nerd, and the creator of Black Girl Dangerous, a revolutionary blog.
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To get to the heart of the Brazilian stereotype, we need to reach back into the country’s history. Brazil’s surfing boom and subsequent integration into the world surfing economy occurred during the late seventies and early eighties, a time period that coincided with the dying throws of their military dictatorship (which didn’t officially end until 1985). The legacy of the dictatorship, along with various external economic factors like heavy IMF debt coupled with structural-adjustment rograms, left behind an extremely divided society in which the rule of law was weak, violent crime rates were off the charts, the divide between the rich and the poor was among the highest in the world, corruption was prevalent, and drugs and prostitution rampant. Although the last decade has seen a dramatic drop in both violent crime and poverty rates, many of these issues continue to haunt the country as it still has one of the largest income gaps between the rich and the poor in the world.
Although it would be easy to point to these phenomena as formative factors in an aggressive and unfriendly Brazilian national psyche, that would be misguided. Brazil is a multiethnic country of nearly 195 million people who inhabit a land mass bigger than the continental U.S. Some are far wealthier and better educated than most in the First World while some live on less than a dollar a day. Saying that they act a certain way because they are from a place with a high crime rate or a lot of inequality is like saying all Americans are gun-toting crazies because the US has comparatively high incidences of gun crime. Not the case.
What we should, instead, take from the history of Brazilian society is this: when the bright lights of the international surf media first focused on Brazil in the late seventies and eighties, it wasn’t exactly Disneyland. Pro surfers visited the country more for the parties than the waves, according to Matt Warshaw‘s History of Surfing. Those parties could be expected to include plenty of cocaine, willing women and/or prostitutes, and other sleazy elements that accompany drugs, prostitutes, and traveling surfers. So from the very beginning then, we see Brazil established as a dark, semi-dangerous den of hedonism for the white, “civilized” Australian or Californian. This is, of course, is a variation of the way that the First World views all of Latin America–which is, in turn, a view that is highly influenced by the history of colonial exploitation in the region.
This is not prejudice for the sake of prejudice, it’s a common side effect of the power struggles between cultures. Surfing, of course, is not a global cold war, but it is an international competition for limited resources and therefore sometimes functions in similar ways. In this sense, the stereotype is a reaction to the implicit threat posed by a) the rise of a new and somewhat distinct surfing culture and b) the rise of a developing nation whose global economic clout challenges both the economic and ideological status quo. There are historical precedents for this. In the same way that the Americans created an image of the Bolsheviks during the Cold War, surfers have established the “Brazzo” as the Savage Other, which helps to reinforce not only our stereotypes of Latin America as a “dangerous” and “uncivilized” place but also our view of ourselves as leaders of taste, style, and acceptable behavior. The constructs of this system dictate that “we” dictate and abide surfing etiquette, while “they” catch whatever they can. “We” are polite and reserved; they are loud and obnoxious. “We” are humble; “they” claim. “We” resolve our disputes in a civilized way; “they” like to fight. You get the point.
Last week at Racialicious HQ, we were delighted to see the term “hipster racism”—coined by our very own Carmen Van Kerckhove in 2006*—suddenly enter mainstream parlance, thanks to Jezebel’s publication of Lindy West’s “A Guide to Hipster Racism.” In a flash, the words “hipster racism” papered themselves across Facebook and Twitter feeds across the continent (and maybe the world?). Words are wonderful, and when more people have access to language that helps them name the racism of everyday life, we’re happy.
There was only one glitch. While West linked to one Racialicious post (a short piece Carmen wrote in 2007 about white girls and gang signs) she never once name-checks Racialicious or Carmen…or any of our amazing pals and allies who have been writing about this stuff since the main target was Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls (i.e. a long time ago).
On the one hand, no one takes up social-justice work to see their name in lights and, at the end of the day, the point is just to get the message across, no matter who gives it the signal boost. On the other hand, we’re only human. It hurts when work that we, as a collective, have been jackhammering about for seven-plus years gets credited to someone else. (Seven years, y’all! Back to the dawn of skinny jeans! Before Facebook was open to the public, for cripes’ sake.)
And as our friends at Bitch pointed out, it is also distressing, though not in the least surprising, that the words “hipster racism” are more palatable, resonant, and listenable when they come from the mouth of a white blogger. It’s enough to make you get real low and start thinking terrible emo thoughts, like one white blogger is worth more than ten bloggers of colour.
The second perspective that restricts race-talk is the common notion that spirituality, much like life in America, is a personal matter. From prayer, to worship, and even to acts of compassion, American evangelicals find their worldviews thoroughly enculturated in individualism.
One of the hallmarks of individualism is what many racial scholars call “the bootstraps model.” This states that the key factor for an individual’s or groups’ success is their value system. Ethnic minorities achieve via hard work and sacrifice; Christians through effort and growing in the “Fruit of the Spirit.” The former perspective is usually espoused by those who believe America is a land of equal opportunity, where all people, regardless of their racial, gender, or economic backgrounds can attain the American Dream by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.
Asian Americans are held up as the bootstraps’ poster children. Since I will address this more in the next section, I’ll only say this here. Wonder why Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, rose to Time Magazine’s 2011 Top 100 People List? My speculation: to maintain the belief that hard work, sacrifice, and helicopter parenting are the “keys” to success. And Asian Americans, like Chua, have a monopoly on it.1
Please don’t misinterpret me: value systems that include the aforementioned qualities are extremely important to progress. But this argument, when applied to America’s racial dynamics, works by ruling out all other external factors from why certain groups succeed and others don’t. It does not analyze how racial groups are treated differently on account of their race, both historically and presently.2
Michael Emerson, in Divided by Faith, wonderfully demonstrates how this bootstraps argument is one of the main culprits for American evangelicals’ lack of racial concerns. As his research studies white Americans, he shows how they often perceive moral choices (i.e., value systems) as the root cause for why whites and Asian Americans do well while Latinos and African Americans do poorly. They are, thus, never taught to look at other institutional culprits that affect certain racial groups’ opportunities, access, and lives. For example, how Bank of America intentionally charged Blacks and Latinos higher interest rates than whites on home loans; or how research shows “blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rate, yet African Americans are 10 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses.”
Despite American evangelicalism’s individualistic history, it brings me great joy to know that much of the American Church is returning to its roots of biblical justice. In particular, addressing the vast disparity between rich and poor is becoming a priority. Christians’ understandings of the causes of poverty and all its residual effects are becoming more complex than the oversimplification of poor life choices.
If Christians can make the connections between how structures of power shape and (can) determine the outcomes of people’s lives, perhaps they can expand this understanding to American racial politics. Forty Catholic leaders recently released a rebuking open letter to some of the Republican presidential candidates, challenging them to “reject the politics of racial division, refrain from offensive rhetoric, and unite behind an agenda that promotes racial and economic justice.” These Catholics understand how racialized and disparaging comments can perpetuate and reinforce the way race shapes our views, categorizations, and treatment of certain groups.
I deeply apologize for not posting this sooner. ::side-eyes tablet::
However, I am so loving Paul Matsushima’s post on how the tenets of US exceptionalism and The Model Minority Myth isn’t helping conversations about race—and strategizing ways to deal/combat racism—in some Asian American evangelical churches at the R today.(via racialicious)
…while one can dismiss these comments as outliers, as representative of trolls or extremists, or even link these comments to the whiteness of hockey, it is crucial to reflect on the larger context. These comments reflect broader trends online, within contemporary racial discourse, and within American sports culture.
From recent tweets from model/actress Jessica Leandra Dos Santos to those directed at webseries showrunner Issa Rae and those following the release of The Hunger Games, Twitter has become rife with racial epithets, sexism, and other forms of hate speech. The level of vitriol and the ubiquity of epithets and violence language have been well-documented: therefore, the tweets directed at Ward reflect a larger pattern of racism online, as opposed to a hockey-specific manifestation. At one level, racism online reflects the technology and aesthetics that define an online environment.
Whether emboldened by anonymity, or the fact that millions of people now have a platform to disseminate their views, ideologies, and world view, the nature of online racism merely reflects the available technology. A 1993 cartoon in The New Yorker captured the appeal of virtual reality for people to voice and show the worst in themselves and society at large.
As Northwestern University professor Pablo Boczkowski told NewsOne, “We always had people shouting on the street. It was a handful of people, and the sender of the message could be clearly identified. Now the audience is much bigger, it’s more unknown, it’s more diverse potentially, and this has changed the dynamics of the game.”
The existence of avatars, online handles, and twitter accounts that can be deleted in a moment notice fosters a culture where epithets and racist pronouncements are seemingly detached from the real-body giving voice to them. The author is unclear, yet the consequences are daily evident. Brendesha Tines, professor African-American studies and psychology at the University of Illinois, describes an online world rampant with racism. In her study of high school youth, she found that 29 percent of African Americans and 42 percent of those identifying as “other” or mixed race experienced racial epithets or other forms of racism online; some 71% of African Americans and 67% of whites and mixed-race youth “witnessed discrimination experienced by same-race and cross-race peers.” It would be a mistake to look at the tweets directed at Joel Ward as an aberration but rather a visible manifestation of the daily realities of online racism.
It would also be a mistake to particularize these tweets as evidence of the sordid debauchery of online spaces. While reflecting online culture, and the presence of “trolls,” the racism directed at Joel Ward, as with other examples, reveals the nature of racism within contemporary society.
Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.
This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.
John Scalzi, “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is” (via emm-in-sem)
The analogy seems apt. Scalzi makes a good point about the word “privilege” being offputting. I know it’s exciting when you finally learn what exactly privilege is and it’s all you want to talk about because you see it everywhere. But the word “privilege,” while not quite up there with “racist,” does tend to make people tune out, either because they don’t get it at all or they don’t get it in the same context that you do.