Saturday, December 20, 2008

white weekend links

"Katrina's Hidden Race War" (A.C. Thompson @ The Nation)

Over the course of an eighteen-month investigation, I tracked down figures on all sides of the gunfire, speaking with the shooters of Algiers Point, gunshot survivors and those who witnessed the bloodshed. I interviewed police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and studied more than 800 autopsies and piles of state death records. What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed. . . . at least eleven people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white.

The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs--Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that "hundreds of gang members" were marauding through the Superdome. Now it's clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males. So far, their crimes have gone unpunished.

"The Sounds of the Sixties: How Dick Dale, the Doors, and Dylan Swayed to Arab Music" (Jonathan Curiel @ Alternet)

Listen to the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black," which bolted to the top of the U.S. charts in 1966, and you hear echoes of Arab music's quarter tones and minor keys. Listen to the 1967 Jefferson Airplane hit "White Rabbit" -- especially its intro, which climbs a scale of dissonant notes, and its lyrics, which mention a hookah -- and you hear Arabic music fused with psychedelic sensibilities. And listen to The Doors' "The End" or "Light My Fire," both from the group's self-titled 1967 debut album, and you hear the influence of Arabic music. Ray Manzarek, The Doors' keyboardist, tells me that his group's connection to Arabic music is no accident. The Doors' guitarist, Robby Krieger, was a flamenco guitarist before joining the band, and flamenco is based on centuries of Arab music, which infused Spain's culture during Muslim rule over the country. Also, says Manzarek, all four members of The Doors -- he, Krieger, Jim Morrison, and drummer John Densmore -- were interested in Latin music, which (like flamenco) has been touched by Arabic music.

Referring to Arab music, Manzarek says one of his regrets is that "I wish we had gotten in more of it [into The Doors' music]. You can't do everything. You just don't have time to do everything you want to do, dammit." . . . Later on in our conversation, he tells me I was the only observer in his 40 years of playing to ask him about The Doors' connection to Arab music.

(from Dan Piraro's BizarroBlog)

"Nazis in the military: 'I'm so proud of my kills" (David Neiwart @ Crooks and Liars)

Two years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center ran a devastating report describing the infiltration of neo-Nazis into the ranks of the American military. The Pentagon's official response was steadfast denial of the problem.

The SPLC's David Holthouse just published a follow-up report, and found, predictably, that the problem is getting worse as the conflict in Iraq drags on:

A new FBI report confirms that white supremacists are infiltrating the military for several reasons. According to the unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11," [PDF] which was released to law enforcement agencies nationwide: "Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as 'ghost skins,' in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement."

The source of the problem, as the report explained, was the extreme pressure military recruiters were under to fill their recruitment quotas. "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces," said Barfield, "and commanders don’t remove them . . . even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members."

"Structural racism and the Obama presidency" (John Powell @ Pamzuka News)

As we travel further into the 21st century, we are likely to see another kind of racialisation that will be informed by a different understanding of society and people.

So what does racialisation in the United States look like today? First, we are talking about a process that is too unsettled to define with exactitude, but one in which some contours are clear. We as a society are more socially conscious and racially egalitarian than at any time in our short history. However, this improvement in the societal position on race is not reflected in either our conscious attitudes or our inter-institutional practices and policies. Recognising this gap, scholars have pointed to a phenomenon called implicit bias. There is a growing body of work that documents that Americans have implicit, unconscious biases which can be tested. These attitudes can shift to be more salient in some situations rather than others. One cannot identify implicit racial bias by simply asking an interviewee, because the individual will not be aware of it. In spite of this, implicit attitudes can impact behaviour and choices. It is interesting to note that implicit bias is a social phenomenon reflecting the collective social culture. This means that even non-whites are likely to carry some level of implicit bias, but generally not to the same extent as whites.

"Black College Students Get Better Grades with White Roommate" (Ohio State University Research News)

A new study of college freshman suggests that African Americans may obtain higher grades if they live with a white roommate. A detailed study of students at a large, predominantly-white university revealed that while living with a white roommate may be more challenging than living with someone of the same race, many Black students appear to benefit from the experience.

For African American students, this could translate into as much as 0.30-point increase in their GPA in their first quarter of college. White students, on the other hand, were affected more by the academic ability of their roommate than by their race. . . .

The findings suggest that the interaction between a white and an African American student may help orient these minority students to a predominantly white university, Shook said. By living with their white counterparts, the African American students are finding someone with whom they can study and learn from in ways other African American students cannot offer.

"Certificate of Whiteness" (profacero @ Professor Zero)

The son of a doctor employed on a sugar plantation, nineteenth century Cuban writer Cirilo Villaverde had to present a “certificate of whiteness” to enroll in school. These certificates were ostensibly proofs of lineage and purity of blood. They could also be obtained, as José Piedra reminds us, through a demonstration of literacy in Latin and Spanish, and of cultural allegiance to the Western world.

Now Barack Obama, for whom people did not want to vote because he was Black, has won the election--and people are saying he is not Black. They are even saying he is white. It appears to me they are awarding him a certificate of whiteness. . . .

Since the 1920s at least, people have been saying that mixture will create a bridge between the races and ultimately eliminate racism. I think the underlying assumption here is that race is a biological category. People appear to believe difference must be abolished so that racist attitudes can be abolished. Thus racism is naturalized. People think it is caused by the fact that people look different from one another and not by ideological factors.

"Coming Clean in the Inner City" (Christoper Hawthorne @ Los Angeles Times)

"In this neighborhood the most radical thing you could do was make a white building," architect Michael Maltzan told me on a recent afternoon as we toured the campus of Inner-City Arts, where his firm completed an $8.5-million expansion earlier this fall.

The ICA complex -- which indeed has the surprising brightness of a soap-opera actor's teeth seen up close, or the pages deep inside a newspaper that has yellowed on top -- offers classes in the arts to students bused in from a number of public-school campuses. Its 1-acre site, at 7th and Kohler streets near the edge of downtown's skid row, is surrounded by seafood and produce wholesalers, social service agencies, single-room-occupancy hotels and auto-parts shops. Bunker Hill's gleaming, mirrored-glass towers loom quite visibly to the northwest, but at ground level these blocks are dominated by roll-down security doors and loops of razor wire.

In that context, ICA's decision to paint its entire campus white is part provocation, part stubborn declaration of hope. The color is also an expression of commitment to several varieties of upkeep, a choice that says to the neighborhood: The buildings may get scuffed, or attract graffiti, but we will be here to keep them clean, and that cleanliness will suggest the steadfastness of what is going on inside. Whiteness equals constancy, and the brighter the better.

And finally, further encouragement for white people trying to get out of their socially constructed shells of corporeal inhibition. Don't just dance--sing!


  1. I'm not dealing well with the Katrina story. It hurts. To the core.

  2. "By living with their white counterparts, the African American students are finding someone with whom they can study and learn from in ways other African American students cannot offer."

    This is a dressed up way for the author of that article to say "Black people are dumber." Plus there is no evidence for this offered in that article.

    I can think of a bunch of reasons why this is probably the least likely explanation for that perceived positive relationship between GPA/roommate race.


Please see the "commenting guidelines" before submitting a comment.

hit counter code