Sunday, November 30, 2008

white weekend links

"Holocaust Denial, American Style" (Tim Wise @ Red Room)

Recently, after a presentation to teachers about racial bias in high school curricula, I got into a tiny spat with an instructor who objected to my using the word "holocaust" to describe the process by which nearly 99% of indigenous Americans perished from the 1400s to the present day. He also objected to the use of the term to describe the experience of Africans, forcibly kidnapped and enslaved throughout the hemisphere. . . .

Open and deliberate calls for mass murder and destruction of entire Indian peoples were common. So, for instance, during the laying of the Northern Pacific Railroad through the Montana territory, the area's chief of Indian affairs noted that if the Sioux (Lakota and Dakota) peoples continued to "molest" the laying of the track and the progress symbolized by it, a military force should be sent to punish them "even to annihilation." In other words, that widespread death of indigenous peoples was the desired (thus intended) outcome of conquest is hard to deny.

"Hate Incidents in U.S. Surge, Election Seen as Factor behind Revival of Klan" (Howard Witt @ Chicago Tribune)

Barely three weeks after Americans elected their first black president amid a wave of interracial good feeling, a spasm of noose hangings, racist graffiti, vandalism and death threats is convulsing dozens of towns across the country as white extremists lash out at the new political order.

More than 200 hate-related incidents, including cross-burnings, assassination betting pools and effigies of President-elect Barack Obama, have been reported so far, according to law-enforcement authorities and the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. Racist Web sites are boasting that their servers are crashing under the weight of exponential increases in page views.

Even more ominously, America's most potent symbol of racial hatred—the Ku Klux Klan—has begun to reassert itself, emerging from decades of disorganization and obscurity in a spate of recent violence.

"What Would Malcolm Say?" (Changeseeker @ Why Am I Not Surprised?)

Though a cadre of disgruntled racists have reared their ugly heads in response to the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, many in this country – Black and White – have touted the election as a symbol of change, as proof positive that, at least in very important ways, race no longer matters here. I would argue, however, that this perspective is not only badly mistaken, but will be used to further entrench and intensify institutionalized oppression against ordinary people of color in the U.S., and most particularly African-Americans. Wholesale denial of the real problems I have discussed in this post will now be masked by a ready appropriation of this one man’s remarkable achievement to mean that, if a Black man can be elected President, then there are no differences between us. Thus racism will morph into yet another incarnation of neo-racism so that, even with a Black President in the White House, we can continue to face the world as a nation marked by its refusal to honor the Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of millions of its citizens.

"Multiracial families see Barack Obama as 'Other' like them" (Don Terry @ Los Angeles Times)

For the parents of multiracial children, Obama's rise has been a vindication of sorts, a presidential rebuttal to a society that has not always been kind to their offspring, labeling them "half-breeds," "tragic mulattoes," "mutts," "mixed nuts," according to Susan Graham, the white mother of two multiracial children and the founder of the California-based Project Race, a 17-year-old nationwide group that advocates for a multiracial classification on all school, employment, census and other forms.

"Our membership has grown since the election," Graham said. "We've been fighting for a long time. This is a great boost for us." . . .

Race, however, continues to be a stubborn puzzle. It wasn't until 2000 that Americans were allowed to check more than one box for race on U.S. census forms. At that time, about 6.83 million people, or 2.4%, checked two or more races on census forms out of a population of about 281 million.

Carolyn Liebler, a sociology professor specializing in family, race and ethnicity at the University of Minnesota, said she expected that the numbers of people identifying as multiracial would be higher in 2010 than they were in 2000 "because the number of mixed-raced marriages are going up" and because of Obama.

"Black Kids in White Houses" (Jen Graves @ The Stranger)

It would be easier for white people if race did not exist. Or if everyone could agree that race did not matter, that is. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "transracial" first appeared publicly in a 1971 Time magazine article. The article introduced transracial adoption, or adoption across racial boundaries—most often white parents adopting children of color—and reported a strange phenomenon. According to a study in Britain, some white parents "tended to 'deny their child's color, or to say he was growing lighter, or that other people thought he was suntanned and did not recognize him as colored. Sometimes the reality was fully accepted [by the parents] only after the very light child had grown noticeably darker after being exposed to bright sunlight on holiday.'"

It's such an outrageous finding that it sounds like a joke. Stephen Colbert's dimwitted white-guy alter ego has a joke like this, when he says on The Colbert Report, always in the most ridiculous of situations: "As you know, I don't see color." The joke is funny because in so many ways it's true. Plenty of white people don't see color. We refuse to look at it, prefer not to see too much difference, because difference almost always makes us feel bad by comparison.

Transracial adoption is awkward to discuss at first, because although it is designed to chart a radically integrated future, on the surface its structure repeats the segregated past. Just look at the basic structure of a family and apply race to the equation. The most crude way to put it: Whites are in charge, children of color are subordinate, and adults of color are out of the picture.

"Carleton cancels Shinerama; says disease only affects 'white people'" (Karen Pinchin @ oncampus)

Carleton University Students’ Association is cancelling Shinerama, the school’s popular fundraiser for cystic fibrosis, after the council said the fatal disease is not “inclusive” enough.

The motion, which passed 17 to 2 at the association’s Nov. 24 meeting, read: “Whereas Cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men…Be it resolved that: CUSA discontinue its support of this campaign.” . . .

Shinerama fundraising takes place during orientation week and has been happening at Carleton University for nearly 25 years. As a result, the school has raised almost $1 million for the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.Only one day after the controversial vote, hundreds of Carleton students have flocked online to protest the cancellation of an event they say is incredibly important to the charitable life of the school.

"The Whitest Kids You Know: Bishop Allen at the Music Hall" (Jamie Peck @ New York Press)

Last Saturday, Bishop Allen filled the Music Hall of Williamsburg with signs of the times. Perhaps due to the band's inclusion on the soundtrack of mainstream indie Michael Cera cute-fest Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the show attracted an unusually large share of regs for the neighborhood; turtlenecks and business casual attire were on full display and guys clutched their brittle girlfriends in anticipation of the passionate night of missionary sex they’d earned with dinner at Sea, followed by an “edgy” indie rock show in the hip, up-and-coming neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I never thought I’d say this about anyone, but Bishop Allen makes Vampire Weekend look like N.W.A.

As the band threw itself into a long set of jangly pop songs, I recalled a review of Juno that posits the film as operatic performance of a certain brand of neo-urban whiteness: Think Never straying from the tonal range of a children’s song, leading man Justin Rice kept a straight face while delivering lyrics like “take another picture with your ca-ca-ca-ca-camera” (if it sounds like a commercial, it’s because it is one) and multiple choruses consisting largely of “da-da-da-da” or “la-la-la-la.” Rice did an awkward sideways hop when he got excited, and when he got really excited, something resembling Irish step dancing. The audience responded by “wooing” and bouncing around without moving their hips one iota.

What do you think?
Aside from the preponderance of white people,
what's "white" about this band,
its music, and/or this video?

"Click, Click, Click, Click"
by Bishop Allen


  1. Thanks for the Carleton University/Shinerama link; it is quite interesting. Where did you find it?

    What do you think of the cancellation? Is it racist? Is it anti-racist?

  2. You are welcome, Restructure.

    I found the article, perhaps unsurprisingly, on the Internet.

    I'm wondering what you think of the cancellation--racist or anti-racist?

  3. The internet is a pretty big place.

    The Shinerama issue is quite complex. However, the argument of those who support keeping Shinerama is basically an Appeal to Tradition, which is invalid. If Carleton University was to start fresh and think of which charities are the most important, those who think cystic fibrosis is more important than other diseases would have to make an argument for it.

    I don't think the cancellation is racist. I guess it may be anti-racist, but actually part of a larger striving towards fairness. Heart disease, infectious diseases and cancer are the world's top killer diseases, so to help the most people, there isn't much of a reason to concentrate on cystic fibrosis specifically.

  4. Regarding the Bishop Allen music...I've never heard of this band. I watched the video and didn't find the music very intersting or inspiring. I just thought, "Meh...more boring hipster crap." Macon, I'm curious about your question regarding this band. What do you think is white about them and their music?

    Also, although Jamie Peck's description of this group's fans made me chuckle a bit..."guys clutched their brittle girlfriends in anticipation of the passionate night of missionary sex they’d earned with dinner at Sea", it did strike me as a bit, well, mysogynistic. I mean, clearly Jamie doesn't like "brittle girlfriends", whatever that means.

  5. Hi oterhog. I don't especially enjoy their music either--yeah, more boring hipster crap. Or maybe, some people TRYING to be like hipsters, in order to sell their crap to hipsters.

    As for what's particularly white about them, I don't know--that's why I asked. I've been thinking lately about the whiteness of hipsters, and I'd like to write a post about that, but I find it hard to put a finger on just WHAT is white about them, aside from the overwhelming numerical preponderance of white folks who seem to fit that label. So far, I think they're often gentrifiers, which is generally a white movement, a kind of reverse "white flight." I also suspect that if you asked the members of Bishop Allen if they themselves are hipsters, they'd say no. And so would most of their fans. I think that in itself reflects a common or especially white tendency, and if I do get a post together on the whiteness of hipsters, I'll try to explain why.

  6. Macon, I've been thinking a lot about the whiteness of hipsters too. I live in a newly gentrified neighborhood full of them!

    My family and I went to a dia de los muertos (Mexican day of the dead)procession the night before Halloween in this neighborhood. We were expecting to see Mexican people participating in the procession, but everyone there was white. I was particularly annoyed by the white people dressed in Afro-Brazilian/Candomble attire who were dancing through the procession. I know the hipsters were thinking they were being cool, worldly and alternative and it made me sick to my stomach. They seemed so proud of themselves. Their procession was the perfect demonstration of how they colonized the neighborhood, which before was mostly inhabited by black and Latino folks. The hipsters have taken over the homes, the stores and the streets and have appropriated parts of the cultures they have driven out. Before we left the procession I muttered, "This is a minstrel act." I hope some of the hipsters heard me say it.

  7. If you think about it, the hipsters are the modern-day Pilgrims.

    The Pilgrims are to the Indians as the Hipsters are to the "old neighbourhood." It goes beyond colour, too. You've got these young, white, middle-class, suburbanites, and often times white male homosexual couples bringing with them the two incomes that white men earn in this society...I've seen it happen in San Francisco, during the dot-com boom, especially. Those "hipsters" displaced a lot of whites who just were not able to afford to stay in their apartments, because the landlords raised the rents so high, so as to get some of the money of those hipsters. It really changed the character of a lot of neighbourhoods in this city.

  8. I overstated: It changed the character of a few neighbourhoods in San Francisco.

  9. i live in Seattle and I read the Stranger, and I picked up a couple of issues of the 'Black Kids in White Houses' issue to give to friends. I am glad to see the article has wider recognition than just Seattlites, even.


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