Thursday, January 29, 2009

white quotation of the week (bell hooks)

(click for larger image)

Attending a recent conference on cultural studies, I was reminded of the way in which the discourse of race is increasingly divorced from any recognition of the politics of racism.

I was there because I was confident that I would be in the company of like-minded, progressive, "aware" intellectuals; instead, I was disturbed when the usual arrangements of white supremacist hierarchy were mirrored in terms of who was speaking, of how bodies were arranged on stage, of who was in the audience, of what voices were deemed worthy to speak and be heard. As the conference progressed I began to feel afraid.

If progressive people, most of whom were white, could so blindly reproduce a version of the status quo and not "see" it, the thought of how racial politics would be played "outside" this arena was horrifying. That feeling of terror that I had known so intimately in my childhood surfaced.

Without ever considering whether the audience was able to shift from the prevailing standpoint and hear another perspective, I talked openly about that sense of terror. Later, I heard stories of white women joking about how ludicrous it was for me (in their eyes I suppose I represent the "bad" tough black woman) to say I felt terrorized. Their inability to conceive that my terror is a response to the legacy of white domination and the contemporary expression of white supremacy is an indication of how little this culture really understands the profound psychological impact of white racist domination.

At this same conference I bonded with a progressive black woman and white man who, like me, were troubled by the extent to which folks chose to ignore the way white supremacy was informing the structure of the conference. Talking with the black woman, I asked her: "What do you do, when you are tired of confronting white racism, tired of the actual day-to-day incidental acts of racial terrorism? I mean, how do you deal with coming home to a white person?"

Laughing, she said, "Oh, you mean when I am suffering from White People Fatigue syndrome. He gets that more than I do."

After we finished our laughter, we talked about the way white people who shift locations, as her companion had done, begin to see the world differently. Understanding how racism works, he can see the way in which whiteness acts to terrorize without seeing himself as bad, or all white people as bad, and black people as good. Repudiating "us and them" dichotomies does not mean that we should never speak of the ways observing the world from the standpoint of "whiteness" may indeed distort perception, and impede understanding of the way racism works both in the larger world as well as the world of intimate relations.

Calling for a shift in locations . . . Gayatri Spivak clarifies the radical possibilities that surface when positionality is problematized, explaining that "what we are asking for is that the hegemonic discourses, the holders of hegemonic discourse should de-hegemonize their positions and themselves learn how to occupy the subject position of the other."

Generally, the process of repositioning has the power to deconstruct practices of racism and make possible the disassociation of whiteness with terror in the black imagination. A critical intervention, it allows for the recognition that progressive white people who are antiracist might be able to understand the way in which their cultural practices reinscribes white supremacy without promoting paralyzing guilt or denial.

--bell hooks, "Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination"

bell hooks, a widely published cultural critic, educational theorist and professor of English, is renowned for her work on the interlocking, hierarchical dynamics of race, class, gender, and culture. She has taught at the University of Southern California, Oberlin College, Yale University and as Distinguished Professor of English at The City College of New York. hooks has said that her pseudonym is in lower case because "it is the substance of my books, not who is writing them, that is important." bell hooks has published over thirty books, including Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism (1981), Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (1994), Reel to Real: Race, Sex, and Class at the Movies (1996), Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics (2000) and Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope (2003), and Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem (2004).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

think that racism is okay if you're being ironic about it

[cross-posted, with a fascinating comments thread, at Racialicious]

Do you remember Pauly Shore? I don't find him especially worth remembering, but I think his new project, a movie called Adopted, deserves attention. Critical attention.

It seems to me that in the trailer below, Shore enacts a common white tendency: acting racist in a way that's supposed to signal that you know you're acting racist. And thinking as you do so that because you're being ironic, you don't really mean to be racist, so the racism you're enacting is okay. And kinda cool and funny too.

The film's official site describes it the following way, with, presumably, a heavy dose of irony. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, as people used to say:

For hundreds of years, Africa has existed in a state of despair. Famine, civil wars and rampant disease have left the continent without hope, but for the efforts of Western do-gooders. At first, they arrived with food, bibles and the magic of penicillin; more recently they have hosted rock concerts and sent plane loads of grain. And in the last decade of the 20th century they arrived and took babies home with them. First there was Angelina, then Madonna, and now...Pauly Shore!

The film builds its comedy foundation on the international interest in Celebrity Adoptions, and the debate that surrounds these transactions on both sides of the Atlantic. Sometimes politically incorrect and never scared to tread on manicured toes.

So only those with manicured pedicured toes would feel tread upon by this approach? Really?

It might be fairly easy for some white folks to see where Shore goes wrong here, but I wonder if that would stop many of them from doing similar things. I see this same kind of ironic racism in, for instance, some of those college parties where people put on blackface and tape forties to their hands, or gorge themselves with tacos and tequila while wearing sombreros and fake mustaches.

When these party-goers get called out on their racism, they sometimes respond that of course they know that a lot of what they did could seem racist, but they didn't really mean for it to be racist, and that makes it all okay. A further defense they often add (one which the producers of Shore's film also trot out) is that the people who object to their ironic racism are being too sensitive, and too "politically correct."

Here's one such partier, Jeremy Pelz, defending his actions in these terms, after being called out for such a gathering at Tarleton University. This was a Martin Luther King Jr. Day party, and it "featured attendees wearing gang apparel and Afro wigs, carrying malt liquor, handguns, and fried chicken, and even one woman dressed as Aunt Jemima":

Pelz noted that the [annual] party was started a few years earlier "because one of [his] best friends is black or African American, whichever you deem politically correct, to be his day not to dishonor him." He added, "So I do apologize if you felt any disrespect because none was intended."

How's that for a sincere apology? Come to think of it, it might even be an ironic apology.

Have you encountered other instances of this phenomenon, that is, clearly racist actions that are supposed to be okay because the person committing them didn't mean to be racist? And where it's all your fault if you think their actions are wrong, because you're supposedly overlooking what really, really matters more than anything else, which is the supposedly non-racist intentions behind their actions, rather than the racist effects?

[h/t for the video: Angry Black-White Girl]

Sunday, January 25, 2009

white weekend links

"Being “colour blind” is NOT a solution" (Uppity Brown Woman)

The way to do away with the existence of race is to ignore it - no specialized groups, programs, or services directed towards anything that may take race into consideration. In short, to get rid of race is to not pay attention to it. To solve racism and make race as relevant as the shape of your bellybutton is to be colour blind. That’s the proposed solution I hear quite a bit from white people who think they are doing anti-racist work. . . .

Colour blindness is not a solution, it’s an endpoint. It’s a destination we must arrive at.

Colour blindness would mean to ignore the current perceptions of races, and racism stemming from those perceptions. It will not undo all of the years of learning that we have all undertaken. We will not unlearn that Europe was simply going abroad and settling in the “New World”, and all of knowledge was created by Europeans (well, the important ones, anyway). We will not unlearn that if the race of a murder victim is not specified (or divulged through name) in a news story, it must be a white person. We will not unlearn that Natives are supposedly ‘all’ alcoholics, drug users, and criminals, not because of colonialism and racism, but because that is just how Aboriginals are. We will not unlearn that young black men are only ever out to rob, stab, shoot, or sell drugs to you, and any time there is a young black man doing anything but robbing, stabbing, shooting, or selling drugs, he must be exceptional. We will not unlearn that businesses, media, politics, and other major institutions are inhabited by a majority white because they did it on their own.

Something's Moving
(the legacy of American Indian boarding schools)

"Obama, King and Kennedy: Empire and the 'End' of Racism" (Andrea Luchetta's interview with Juan Santos @ Black Agenda Report)

Luchetta: Don't you think that, if compared with the situation of the Civil Rights Movement era, a lot of progress has been made on the racial question?

Santos: Again, the old folk saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

My answer? Sure, if you count a new Black middle class, on one hand, combined with the mass incarceration of peoples of color on the other, and a day to day war in our neighborhoods called the “War on Drugs” - which is really a “War on Us” - if you want to count that as “progress” . . . then yes, there’s been “progress.” But anyone who actually believes that that is “progress” is lying to themselves.

At the systemic level, there’s been no qualitative, fundamental “change” at all, really. But at the cultural level, yes, there’s been change, and that change - with all of its dramatic difference and all of its dramatic limits, is what Barack Obama represents at his best - as a cultural symbol, not as a champion of the People.

But, yes there has been a limited but very welcome change in people’s attitudes, ethics and their emotional and cultural open-ness. That much has changed. The system, though, hasn’t changed at all.

"Dear White People" (Renee @ Womanist Musings)

My impressions of whiteness are far from antiquated, rather they are based upon by daily confrontations with it. Unlike you, I do not have the choice as whether or not I will engage with people who do not look like me; whiteness permeates every moment of my existence. It is like an invading force blocking, burning, and pillaging, all in its path. Often times it is presented in a paternalistic form to make it seem benign, but to those of us that must negotiate it, the false constructs work to severely hamper our life's chances. Blackness exists primarily as a spoiled identity to ensure the perception of whiteness as good.

I find it interesting that you would take the time to lecture me on all of the ways in which I am wrong, as though what I have lived is somehow less genuine than your life. Of course, I am not meant to view your paternalistic attitude towards race as ultimately racist. White people cannot resist the urge to tell POC, about our lives as though they have a modicum of understanding of what it is to exist as an "othered"body in this society. You cannot know our truth, and therefore the desire to tell us that we are reading a situation incorrectly stems from a deep felt belief that whiteness owns truth.

"Will Obama have to be better because he's black?" (John Blake @ CNN)

Just days before he was sworn in, President Obama was giving his daughters a tour of the Lincoln Memorial when one of them pointed to a copy of Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address carved into the wall.

Obama's 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, told her father that Lincoln's speech was really long. Would he have to give a speech as long? Obama's answer was completed by his older daughter, 10-year-old Malia.

"I said, 'Actually, that one is pretty short. Mine may even be a little longer,' " Obama told CNN recently. "At which point, Malia turns to me and says, 'First African-American president, better be good.'"

The story is light-hearted, but it touches on a delicate question: Will people hold Obama to a different standard because he is the first African-American president?

Uprising Radio: Special Inauguration Edition
Obama’s Historic Inauguration Speech
New Speech by Tim Wise: Between Barack and a Hard Place

"Suspect in Brockton slayings intent on carnage, police say" (Jessica Fargen @ Boston Herald)

Had Brockton police not stopped an “evil plan of mass murder,” dozens of innocent people could have been massacred by a 22-year-old computer geek intent on stopping the “extinction” of the white race, police said.

“It really could have been a disaster,” said Joshua Cohen, rabbi of Temple Beth Emunah, where accused double-murderer Keith Luke told police he planned to end his hate-fueled rampage by spraying a bingo night crowd of hundreds with bullets. “Only through the good work of Brockton police were we able to avert a huge disaster and tragedy.”

He later told cops he was “fighting extinction” of the white race.

Luke was arraigned yesterday in Brockton District Court on murder, assault and rape charges, and civil rights violations. The 320-pound, 6-foot-tall defendant was ordered held without bail.

Killed in the attack were Arlindo Goncalves, 72, a homeless man who was blasted in the face and back as he pushed a carriage of cans, and Selma Goncalves, who was shot in the back as she fled her blood-splashed apartment, where Luke allegedly shot and raped her sister.

"Danny Hoch and 'Taking Over': He's a stranger in a strange land"(Los Angeles Times)

As Danny Hoch ambles through Echo Park, a familiar sight catches his eye. Although he's far from his home in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, Hoch instantly recognizes the telltale signs of approaching urban Armageddon: pasty-faced guys in porkpie hats, prowling for overpriced espressos; pierced and tattooed young women pushing strollers; a vintage clothing store rubbing elbows with a Salvadoran pupusería.

The spray-painted handwriting is on the wall: Here come the trendies, there goes the neighborhood.

"OK, here's a good example," says Hoch, the Obie Award-winning solo performance artist whose latest one-man show, "Taking Over," about the dark side of gentrification, opens Friday at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. "Here we have our little hipster couple," Hoch continues, nodding toward a bohemian pair perambulating west on Sunset Boulevard. "They're not bad people, but they're certainly in their costumes. . . ."

In recounting how once-unfashionable, mixed-ethnic Williamsburg has been colonized in recent years by invading hordes of up-market developers and the bright-eyed young Midwestern transplants they attract, Hoch's characters pull no punches and spare few expletives. One of them, the semi-autobiographical "Robert," lambastes "yuppie alternative-rocker, post-punk white people -- and black people too" who've jacked up rents and run roughshod over local historical memory in their pursuit of an "authentic" urban experience.

Hoch, 38, refers to them as "the missionaries, the do-gooders, us white, progressive folks," a category in which, tellingly, he places himself. Some send Hoch angry, self-justifying letters, which he reads at the end of his 90-minute, intermission-less show. They tell him that they do give back to their community, that they teach in Harlem, that they spend their money at local stores, that they had to leave Michigan or Oklahoma to make it as an actor in the Big Apple. Their common refrain, he says, is, "Well, then what am I supposed to do?"

Stephen Colbert gets emotional
with blackness

Saturday, January 24, 2009

make racist food for "fun"

It's not just corporate food processors who continue to make racist food. Individuals still do it too. Check out this guy's "Drunken Negro Head" cookies:

That's Lafayette French Pastry, 26 Greenwich Ave, NYC, (212) 242-7580. According to a commenter at one site, "Ted likes to answer his own phone."

I wonder if Ted sells Obama Waffles too?

Every president's image gets commodified, but with Barack Obama's image, race enters the picture. I can't think of a product with Bush's image on it that had anything to do with his whiteness. Can you? It's almost as if the previous white presidents didn't have a race.

Obama Waffles and Drunken Negro Head cookies are presented by their makers as harmless humor or satire, but they're clearly racist to others, including me. Is it possible to make food with Obama's image that isn't racist? What about, for instance, "choc-O-bama," which is described by its makers as "change you can sink your teeth into"?

The writing on the box: “After many months of hard work towards CHANGE, the time has finally arrived. We all HOPE the future tastes as smooth as this fine choc-O-bama. If you do not believe that one person or one piece of chocolate could make a difference, stop and think again. “YES WE CAN!”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

hold up the obama family as an example to other black families?

The title of this post is a question, because I don't know yet whether enough white Americans will do this--hold up the Obama family as an example to other African-American families--to say that doing so is a common white tendency. That statement is, then, my prediction, and it arose while talking to a reporter, Josh Richman. He got in touch to ask if I think that constantly having the Obamas under the spotlight, and then in the White House, is going to change common ideas about black families. The article that he published on the topic in the Oakland Tribune appears below.

What do you think? Clearly discernible, largely negative stereotypes about black families definitely circulate in American society and culture at large. Is the Obama family going to change such perceptions?

Obama presidency could redefine world's image of African-American families

By Josh Richman
Oakland Tribune

For decades, it seems, African-American family stereotypes seemed to be set mostly by pop culture. In the 1970s, America was "movin' on up" with "The Jeffersons" and "keepin' our heads above water, making a wave when we can" with the Evans family's "Good Times." In the 1980s, critics noted how Cliff and Claire Huxtable of "The Cosby Show" embodied a more upper-middle-class view. In the 1990s, Will Smith bridged those previous stereotypes with his fish-out-of-water "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." And in this decade, Bernie Mac riffed on parenting and household issues on his namesake show.

Yet none of those families really existed. They were fictional creations not even close to the real-life, day-to-day lives of most African-Americans. And many in the media, sadly, all too often have portrayed African-American families in one-dimensional situations of strife and struggle — crime, poverty, welfare and the like — without much depth or nuance.

African-American families know there's more truth, more depth than this. And it's not as if the Obamas are a "typical" or "ordinary" African-American family any more than any white first family has typified the white American family experience. (Did all of white America identify closely with the Reagans? The Bushes? The Clintons?) Neither the president-elect nor his wife come from money, but they're Ivy League-schooled lawyers who have lived their recent lives in an around-the-clock international spotlight. Nor, of course, can any one family ever accurately represent an entire ethnic community, or an entire nation.

But perhaps no other African-American political figure, athlete, entertainer or celebrity has ever had his or her family right there with him or her in the international spotlight to the extent that Obama now does. As far as perceptions go, it could be a whole new ballgame.

"I think that's absolutely true, that they will project a strong image of African-Americans and African-American families, of course representing a particular segment of the community," said Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at the Judge Baker Children's Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston and a renowned expert on American race relations. "And I think the Obamas, besides just projecting the African-American family and being solid and intelligent and so on also project the leadership that black people have given to America."

Many people tend to generalize, and sometimes those generalizations lead to prejudices, Poussaint said. "But sometimes they can lead to other outcomes," he said, and a successful Obama presidency coupled with a positive view of the Obama family's life in the White House could have "a positive effect on the image of African-Americans in general and possibly a newfound kind of respect," not only in America but in other nations where issues of race and immigration are prominent.

"They knew Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. . . . but also now they hear about Obama, who's going to be president of the United States, and for an oppressed minority in America that's quite an accomplishment," Poussaint said. "I think all African-American people here somehow share in that success."

Macon D, the proprietor of the "Stuff White People Do" blog who takes his screen name from the race-conflicted protagonist of Berkeley author Adam Mansbach's novel "Angry Black White Boy," said he's "not as optimistic."

In his blog, he said, he tries "to understand how a general white perspective sees the world and how it does things because of that perception . . . and that collective general white mindset I'm talking about has a way of being very obstinate about new changes like this that come along."

"Even though the Obamas are a real family, I think there's a way in which they're not really any more real than the Huxtables were, because they seem so distant," Macon D said, adding that he believes the only way for non-African-American families to gain perspective is to have direct, live contact with African-American families.

Like Poussaint, he cited the tendency to generalize; unlike Poussaint, he believes the Obamas won't be able to change white perceptions. "I think the Obamas will just be seen as an exception and held up to other black people as 'something they should strive for.'"

Bill Cosby — who'll be performing at Oakland's Paramount Theatre next month — said he's interested in what Barack Obama's presidency will mean for public perceptions of mixed-race people.

"Part of this thing of 'black' is a Rorschach test for the United States of America," said the comedian, actor and author, who with Poussaint co-authored "Come On, People" in 2007 on the state of black America.

Obama's high-profile discussion of his black African father and white mother, and his trips to visit grandparents in Kenya and Hawaii, is bringing a long-hushed truth to the fore, he said: Most African-Americans have some white ancestry as well.

"We really have to understand that if you look at your mayor, Ron Dellums, how did he get that way? It wasn't a bath. It wasn't eight glasses of milk with every meal. There's white blood in there that does not want to be counted, but it's there," Cosby said.

Yet in politics — from Thomas Jefferson to Jesse Helms — and even in pop culture, there has been little recognition of the bridges between the races, he said; Americans are quick to pigeonhole and be done with it. But pigeonholing Obama might not be so easy.

Obama represents "change and change: change in the concept, the percept of race and color, and change in the country, the United States of America. Now it's out there, man. This great ideological race thing, Thomas Jefferson, Jesse Helms and all the others, George Washington — all these Washingtons, all these Jeffersons, all these Adamses, quietly going around but in light skin," he said. "How did Lena Horne get that color? How did (Harry) Belafonte get that light? So here we go, it's out and it's talking about leading the country, not it 'he' but 'it,' this change."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

at last

Monday, January 19, 2009

mourn the loss of martin luther king, jr.

On April 4, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy broke the news of Martin Luther King's death to a largely African American crowd in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a campaign stop during Kennedy's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Kennedy himself was killed two months later:

Ladies and Gentlemen - I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because. . . I have some - some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.

For those of you who are black - considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible - you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization - black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote:

Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King - yeah that's true - but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love - a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.

Of course, in so many ways, MLK lives on . . .

Jay Smooth (at Ill Doctrine)
"Ten OTHER Things Martin Luther King Said"

Friday, January 16, 2009

white weekend links

"Detroit's Top Lawyer Resigns Over 'Ghetto' Remarks" (Zachary Gorchow and David Ashenfelter @ Detroit Free Press)

The City of Detroit’s top lawyer resigned Thursday, a day after she allegedly said the city’s predominantly black 36th District Court was “acting like a ghetto court.”

Deputy Mayor Saul Green accepted her resignation Thursday, the same day that 36th District Court Chief Judge Marylin Atkins sent a letter to Kathleen Leavey and other city officials protesting her alleged remarks.

Leavey said in an interview this morning that her remarks were taken out of context.

Leavey, who is white, said she got into a heated discussion Wednesday with a court administrator about the court’s handling of a lawsuit against the court in which it asked the city to pay the judgment of $400,000 against it without warning.

“I told her people regard this as a ghetto court because of the way they treat people,” Leavey said.

Leavey said she was referring to long lines and slow service at the court – not it’s predominately African-American group of judges and rejected Atkins’ labeling of her as a racist. The administrator contacted Atkins, who contacted Deputy Mayor Saul Green, Leavey said.

“In her mind it was racist, and the mayor and deputy mayor also felt it was racist and felt I had to resign,” she said.

"From Mississippi to Gaza: Killing Children With Impunity" (Henry A. Giroux @ Counterpunch)

Is any military strategy justified when it results in the killing of over 300 defenseless children? And what does it mean when the issue of military disproportionality is simply treated by the media as an obvious fact and not understood as part of the equation used to define state terrorism, particularly when the most sophisticated military weapons are used unchallenged against densely crowded civilian populations that have no comparable military technology? Why are the shocking images of Emmet Till or the bloated bodies of Katrina victims any more moving or a cause for outrage and collective action among Americans than the image of a two year-old child hit by an Israeli shell while running for safety? One such image was described by an aid worker in the following terms: "It was like charcoal. ... Also without any limbs, because some of the animals ate some of his limbs." Is it conceivable that Palestinians are now viewed as a population so disposable and without any redeeming value that even images of Palestinian children being blown apart by rockets and gunfire no longer elicit a need for moral outrage and rigorous political criticism?

What is it that connects the death of Emmett Till, the abandonment of largely poor African-Americans in New Orleans, and the deaths of innocent children in Gaza? All three are tied together by the racialized logic of disappearance and disposability implemented under the practices of a modern state. . . .

All three embody the ideology of a racial state in which it is assumed that in the absence of African-Americans and Palestinians, including children, there would be no police violence, threats, insecurity, checkpoints, blockades, economic problems, immigrants—just a racially cleansed society no longer at war with itself and others. What unites all three events is the shame of racist violence and the practices of state terrorism . . .

"Agent Orange Devastates Generations of Vietnamese" (worldfocusonline @ YouTube)

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped millions of gallons of Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant, on Vietnam in an attempt to remove the jungle used for cover by communist forces.

Decades later, civilians still suffer the consequences. Dioxin still lurks in Vietnams soil, causing deformities which are passed on from generation to generation. Worldfocus correspondent Mark Litke and producer Ara Ayer travel to Vietnam and witness the devastating effects the toxin has left behind. For more information on efforts to aid the victims of Agent Orange, visit the Vietnam Friendship Village

"Ending racism: should children be taken away from racist parents?" (Aisha Ali @ Detroit)

In a state intolerable of child abuse, children are removed from their abusive parents’ home, ultimately becoming wards of the state. There have been instances where children have been removed from their parents' home due to mental or emotional harm. When concerning racism and its effects, many forms of abuse are directed toward children of color. Children of color have been and continue to be harassed, beaten, and/or killed by racists. People who commit such crimes are obviously abusing children, but has anyone ever considered the racist parent who also indoctrinates his/her child with prejudiced cult- or clan-like ideology? Should this be considered child abuse? If so, should children be removed from their parents’ home and placed under state supervision?

(Rock-On's Weblog)

"Adolf Hitler Campbell Mystery: Why Did Authorities Take Him And His Sisters?" (Huffington Post)

It has been a few days since little Adolf Hitler Campbell and his sisters were taken from their parents by New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services. The mystery remains over why they were taken. Fox News reports on the possibility that their infamous names are to blame:

"A state official was adamant Friday that a child would never be removed from his parents based solely on his name. But a First Amendment expert said that the boy's name might have had something to do with it...

"Although privacy laws prevent authorities from discussing specifics of the case, DYFS spokeswoman Kate Bernyk reiterated Friday that the agency 'would never remove a child simply based on that child's name.'

"But a name like Adolf Hitler could have contributed to their removal, said Rod Smolla, dean of the Washington and Lee Law School."

"German Minorities Still Fight To Be Seen, Heard" (Sylvia Poggioli @ NPR)

In a small theater club in Berlin's Neukoelln district, author Sharon Otoo stands on a small stage and, in front of a young, mixed-race audience, reads a work about the lives of black Germans.

The daughter of Ghanaian parents, Otoo is angered that German society labels her and the estimated half-million Afro-Germans as foreigners — or treats them as nonexistent.

"When you take white as the norm, and everything else is deviant from that, and your advertising is always targeted at white people, or when you write school books and they're targeted at white children, this is, for me, a racist experience," she says.

"White Firefighters' Race Case Headed to U.S. Supreme Court" (Chicago Tribune)

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that could strike down laws that give special protections to minorities in the workplace. The case, Ricci vs. Destefano, is an appeal brought by a group of white firefighters in New Haven, Conn. Here’s the background: The white firefighters had earned the best scores on a civil service test, but didn’t get the promotions they believed they deserved. New Haven later threw out the civil service test and promoted three African Americans to supervisory jobs in the city’s fire department.

The white firefighters sued and a federal judge and the U.S. appeals court ruled for the city, saying federal civil rights law prohibits the use of tests that have a “disproportionate racial impact” on minorities.

But the firefighters took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, accusing the city of playing “race politics.” The firefighters want the high court to rule that the city must follow an equal treatment standard, without regard to race in testing or promotion policies.

"Racial Profiling Charged after Texas Man Shot in Own Driveway" (CNN @ YouTube, January 8, 2009)

The family of a young black Texas man who was shot in his own driveway by a white police officer believes that racial profiling was the cause and are asking for criminal charges to be filed against the officer.

According to family members, Robbie Tolan and his cousin were returning to Tolan's home in the mostly white Houston suburb of Bellaire in the early hours of December 31, when they were approached by officers who suspected the SUV they had just gotten out of was stolen.

Tolan's parents, who own the SUV, came out of the house to explain the situation. An altercation ensued and Tolan's mother was thrown against the garage door by an officer. According to Tolan's uncle, "Her son was on his back at the time, and he raised up and asked, 'What are you doing to my mom?' and the officer shot him -- while he was on the ground."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

think they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps

As I understand it, white folks are notorious in certain circles, or from certain perspectives, for thinking they got wherever they are all by themselves. For thinking that if they got somewhere special, they made it there by pulling off the feat of pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps (a feat which is, when you think about it, physically impossible--which makes it an appropriately messed-up metaphor). For thinking they hit a triple when they were born on first base. For failing to see their invisible racial knapsack, full of unearned maps, tools, and provisions.

Some white folks, though, they do get their hustle on. More have to these days, given the declining state of things. And in certain situations, for certain younger white folks, maybe it helps to talk or write with a borrowed vocabulary and flow while they're doing that. Or maybe they just think that helps. If so, they know which side of the racial street to borrow it from. Or take it from.

Watch, for instance, how this young white guy is reaching for the sky. His instructional viddie about how to find some bootstraps makes me wonder--how does the fact that he's white factor into the ways that he's making it? Wouldn't his ingenuity and hard work be harder in some ways if he were something other than white? If so, what's up with his way of talking, like he is something other than white?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

white weekend links

"Family wants police charged in New Orleans killing" (CNN)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana -- As fireworks exploded over the Big Easy on New Year's Eve, 22-year-old Adolph Grimes III pulled up to his grandmother's home near the French Quarter after a five-hour drive from Houston, Texas.

Grimes, who relocated to Texas with his fiancée, Shae Whitfield, after Hurricane Katrina, couldn't wait to get home with their 17-month-old son, Chris, and ring in the new year with friends and family.

"He made it at 12 o'clock exact, with a second to spare," said his father, Adolph Grimes Jr.

Three hours later, Grimes lay dying on the sidewalk half a block from his grandmother's front door, with fireworks giving way to the hue of flashing police lights.

The Orleans Parish coroner said Grimes was shot 14 times, including 12 times in the back.

"Media Plays ‘Make-Up Artist’ for Officer Johannes Mehserle (Oscar Grant’s Killer)" (Tolu Olorunda @ Dissident Voices; h/t: redcatbiker)

Only in a failed media state is an innocent peace-maker, with a knee to his head and palms pressed upon his back, deemed the perpetrator of his own death in an execution. This is the story of Oscar Grant III – the murdered 21-yr-old Oakland father. In a rush to reverse the graphic images, caught on tape, the mainstream media, and its companions, have sought to diminish the credibility of Mr. Grant, and exonerate, before legal trial, Officer Johannes Mehserle of all wrongdoing in the death of Oscar Grant.

Borrowing predictable moves from the old playbook, CNN, MSNBC and FOX News (and their many affiliated siblings) have all reported that Oscar Grant supposedly had a (police) record, and thus, somehow – logic be damned! – culpable in his own death. Those who payed keen attention during the Sean Bell fiasco are well aware of this trend. As Sean Bell’s precious body was riddled by the 50 bullets of four New York police officers on duty that November night (the eve of his wedding), and the inexcusable homicide of Bell was sentenced justly in the court of public opinion, mainstream media channels, with unseemly haste, were swift in reminding viewers that Sean Bell, and his counterparts, possessed a criminal record. It’s a rehashed move to lessen the humanity of the unjustifiably murdered, and diminish the extent of criminality – how logical.

"New study challenges black support for Proposition 8" (Capitol Alert; PDF of new study here)

A new study of voting patterns on Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that would outlaw same-sex marriage, concludes that African American support, reported by exit pollsters at 70 percent, was at least 10 percentage points lower.

The high reported support levels among black and Latino voters for the measure, which won voter approval but is now being challenged in court, led to post-election controversy and conclusions that non-white voters provided the margin of victory for Proposition 8.

The new study, commissioned by the San Francisco-based Evelyn and Walter Hass Jr. Fund and released by a consortium of gay rights groups, was conducted by two New York college researchers. It concludes that party affiliation, political ideology, frequency of attending church and age "were the driving forces behind the measure's passage" rather than ethnicity.

When voting results were adjusted for those factors, the researchers concluded, "support for Proposition 8 among African Americanss and Latinos was not significantly different than other groups." They put overall black support for Proposition 8 at "no more than 59 percent" rather than the 70 percent found in exist polls of voters.

"Mispredicting Affective and Behavioral Responses to Racism" (Kerry Kawakami, et al. @ Science)

Abstract (full PDF article here): Contemporary race relations are marked by an apparent paradox: Overt prejudice is strongly condemned, yet acts of blatant racism still frequently occur. We propose that one reason for this inconsistency is that people misunderstand how they would feel and behave after witnessing racism. The present research demonstrates that although people predicted that they would be very upset by a racist act, when people actually experienced this event they showed relatively little emotional distress. Furthermore, people overestimated the degree to which a racist comment would provoke social rejection of the racist. These findings suggest that racism may persevere in part because people who anticipate feeling upset and believe that they will take action may actually respond with indifference when faced with an act of racism.

Seven-minute interview with the leader of this study,
Kerry Kawakami

"Taking Anti-racist Action: Why Rare for Whites?" (Joe Feagin @ Racism Review)

Even white researchers working on racism issues like this seem to be unaware or unreflective about how fundamental and widespread the white racial framing of North America really is. A great many whites react this way because they in fact do think in blatantly racist terms about black people (but may reserve openly racist comments for white backstage areas) or because they do not find the racist actions of others to be “serious,” especially serious enough for them to intervene in and risk losing a friend or acquaintance.

Leslie Picca and I found this reaction to be commonplace. Nowhere in our 9,000 diary accounts of racial events from 626 white college students at 28 colleges and universities is there even one account of whites, including the student diarists, assertively protesting a case of racial discrimination by white actors and authorities in a frontstage setting. . . .

Our research also suggests that anti-racist action can be (modestly) socially costly even for privileged whites, such as losing friends, which is one likely reason it is rare even for whites who know racism is quite wrong.

"Highly Evolved He-Man Schools World About Sluts" (Anna N. @ Jezebelh/t: Suddy)

Roissy is a proponent of PUA (pickup artistry) or "game," and his raison d'etre is helping hapless men "bang" more chicks while spending less money, thus developing into "alpha males." Since the whole point of his blog is to treat women like prey and men like animals whose worth increases in proportion to their savagery, we're not exactly surprised that his list of "tramp tells" (used to distinguish "wife and mother of your children material" from "stopwatch material. You wonder how fast you can get her from 'Hi' to 'Spread your ass cheeks, I’m going in'") is misogynistic. Still, we thought you "wind-up Jezebel lezbots" would enjoy a few selections:

She suggests kinky sex acts.

Cosmo agrees with this one. Somehow we're not shocked by the similarity.

She *really* seems to know what she’s doing in bed.

All those man-pleasing tips aside, you'd better lie back and think of England lest he assume you're some kind of whore. . . .

And, finally, combining several types of bigotry into one fetid package:

She’s black.

"Britain's Prince Harry apologizes for offensive language" (CNN)

Videos purportedly shot by Britain's Prince Harry and including offensive language prompted an official apology Saturday from the prince and the royal family.

According to the British-based News of the World, which released the videos on its Web site, the videos show British soldiers while a voice presumed to be Harry's calls one solider a "Paki," and in another clip tells soldier wearing a cloth on his head that he looks "like a raghead."

A spokesman for Prince Harry apologized in a statement released by St. James's Palace Saturday after the videos surfaced online. The spokesman said the prince--who is third in line to the British throne--"understands how offensive this term can be, and is extremely sorry for any offense his words might cause."

It is not first apology for offensive behavior by Prince Harry. In 2005, he was photographed wearing a Nazi uniform to a party, for which he said he was sorry.

T.I., Big Kuntry King, MC Serch, and Rucka Rucka Ali
"I Can Do Whatever, I'm White!"

Friday, January 9, 2009

allow their children to absorb racist entertainment

The following clip, from the film Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power, reveals some of the sexism and racism that are woven throughout the long history of Disney productions. These productions permeate American childhood, influencing how children learn to perceive and react to other people around them.

Of course, it's not just Disney; most entertainment products for children are presented within a white racial frame. Can we let our children enjoy this stuff, but be critical of it at the same time? Or should we just refuse to let them watch it?

Do you remember watching Dumbo when you were a kid? If so, do you remember anyone explaining to you what's wrong with the following scene? If you have kids, or plan to, how would you handle such scenes with them?

To its minimal credit, the Disney corporation has made some concessions in this regard. Some of the racist caricatures were excised from "The Pastoral Symphony" sequence of the 1940 film Fantasia (though not until 1969--here's the uncut version), and Arab stereotypes were edited from a song in Aladdin (1992).

Personally, I do have some better childhood memories, from other entertainment outlets--Sesame Street, for instance:

But have more recent films and TV shows really been any less objectionable? And again, since children generally absorb so much of this stuff, how do we watch it with children, if at all?

[h/t for Mickey Mouse Monopoly clip to Lisa @ Sociological Images]

Thursday, January 8, 2009

claim that racism is over because we have a black president

My life has been very busy lately, with little time to spare for my regular kinds of posts. I plan to get back to them soon.

This post is sort of an open thread. If something in particular is on your mind, do tell, but I have a specific question to ask:

A lot of pundits and so on are claiming that the fact of a black president is proof that racism in America is over. Are you also encountering people who make such claims in your daily life? If so, or if you anticipate encountering them, how are you dealing with them?

Are those of us who know how strong and pervasive racism and white supremacy still are going to answer people who hold up President Obama as supposed evidence that they're not?

As a new study suggests, we need to practice our responses to anticipated racist situations, especially if we're white. According to a study of racist attitudes and behavior reported on by CNN, even people who consider themselves "tolerant and egalitarian" are "willing to tolerate racism and not stand up against it."

In other words, we may like to think that we would stand up against racism when we encounter it, but chances are, we won't. Surely then, practice can help, including prepared responses and reactions to those who play the "racism is over" card.

I thought again about this new problem for those committed to anti-racism yesterday, when someone arrived at this blog by entering this question into Google:

"How can people bitch about racism when there is going to be a black president???"

Where do we start with such folks if we meet them in person?

I'm also wondering about one other thing--while race and racism haven't suddenly dissipated because Obama got elected, they are going to change. But, how?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

white quotation of the week (Hua Hsu)

Excerpted from Hua Hsu's recent Atlantic Monthly article, "The End of White America?"

The Election of Barack Obama is just the most startling manifestation of a larger trend: the gradual erosion of “whiteness” as the touchstone of what it means to be American. If the end of white America is a cultural and demographic inevitability, what will the new mainstream look like—and how will white Americans fit into it? What will it mean to be white when whiteness is no longer the norm? And will a post-white America be less racially divided—or more so?

[If] white America is indeed “losing control,” and if the future will belong to people who can successfully navigate a post-racial, multicultural landscape—then it’s no surprise that many white Americans are eager to divest themselves of their whiteness entirely.

For some, this renunciation can take a radical form. In 1994, a young graffiti artist and activist named William “Upski” Wimsatt, the son of a university professor, published Bomb the Suburbs, the spiritual heir to Norman Mailer’s celebratory 1957 essay, “The White Negro.” Wimsatt was deeply committed to hip-hop’s transformative powers, going so far as to embrace the status of the lowly “wigger,” a pejorative term popularized in the early 1990s to describe white kids who steep themselves in black culture. Wimsatt viewed the wigger’s immersion in two cultures as an engine for change. “If channeled in the right way,” he wrote, “the wigger can go a long way toward repairing the sickness of race in America.”

Wimsatt’s painfully earnest attempts to put his own relationship with whiteness under the microscope coincided with the emergence of an academic discipline known as “whiteness studies.” In colleges and universities across the country, scholars began examining the history of “whiteness” and unpacking its contradictions. Why, for example, had the Irish and the Italians fallen beyond the pale at different moments in our history? Were Jewish Americans white? And, as the historian Matthew Frye Jacobson asked, “Why is it that in the United States, a white woman can have black children but a black woman cannot have white children?”

Much like Wimsatt, the whiteness-studies academics—figures such as Jacobson, David Roediger, Eric Lott, and Noel Ignatiev—were attempting to come to terms with their own relationships with whiteness, in its past and present forms. In the early 1990s, Ignatiev, a former labor activist and the author of How the Irish Became White, set out to “abolish” the idea of the white race by starting the New Abolitionist Movement and founding a journal titled Race Traitor. “There is nothing positive about white identity,” he wrote in 1998. “As James Baldwin said, ‘As long as you think you’re white, there’s no hope for you.’”

Although most white Americans haven’t read Bomb the Suburbs or Race Traitor, this view of whiteness as something to be interrogated, if not shrugged off completely, has migrated to less academic spheres. The perspective of the whiteness-studies academics is commonplace now, even if the language used to express it is different.

“I get it: as a straight white male, I’m the worst thing on Earth,” Christian Lander says. Lander is a Canadian-born, Los Angeles–based satirist who in January 2008 started a blog called Stuff White People Like (, which pokes fun at the manners and mores of a specific species of young, hip, upwardly mobile whites. (He has written more than 100 entries about whites’ passion for things like bottled water, “the idea of soccer,” and “being the only white person around.”) At its best, Lander’s site—which formed the basis for a recently published book of the same name (reviewed in the October 2008 Atlantic)—is a cunningly precise distillation of the identity crisis plaguing well-meaning, well-off white kids in a post-white world.

“Like, I’m aware of all the horrible crimes that my demographic has done in the world,” Lander says. “And there’s a bunch of white people who are desperate—desperate—to say, ‘You know what? My skin’s white, but I’m not one of the white people who’s destroying the world.’”

For Lander, whiteness has become a vacuum. The “white identity” he limns on his blog is predicated on the quest for authenticity—usually other people’s authenticity. “As a white person, you’re just desperate to find something else to grab onto. You’re jealous! Pretty much every white person I grew up with wished they’d grown up in, you know, an ethnic home that gave them a second language. White culture is Family Ties and Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses—like, this is white culture. This is all we have.”

Lander’s “white people” are products of a very specific historical moment, raised by well-meaning Baby Boomers to reject the old ideal of white American gentility and to embrace diversity and fluidity instead. (“It’s strange that we are the kids of Baby Boomers, right? How the hell do you rebel against that? Like, your parents will march against the World Trade Organization next to you. They’ll have bigger white dreadlocks than you. What do you do?”) But his lighthearted anthropology suggests that the multicultural harmony they were raised to worship has bred a kind of self-denial.

Matt Wray, a sociologist at Temple University who is a fan of Lander’s humor, has observed that many of his white students are plagued by a racial-identity crisis: “They don’t care about socioeconomics; they care about culture. And to be white is to be culturally broke. The classic thing white students say when you ask them to talk about who they are is, ‘I don’t have a culture.’ They might be privileged, they might be loaded socioeconomically, but they feel bankrupt when it comes to culture … They feel disadvantaged, and they feel marginalized. They don’t have a culture that’s cool or oppositional.” Wray says that this feeling of being culturally bereft often prevents students from recognizing what it means to be a child of privilege—a strange irony that the first wave of whiteness-studies scholars, in the 1990s, failed to anticipate.

Of course, the obvious material advantages that come with being born white—lower infant-mortality rates and easier-to-acquire bank loans, for example—tend to undercut any sympathy that this sense of marginalization might generate. And in the right context, cultural-identity crises can turn well-meaning whites into instant punch lines. Consider ego trip’s The (White) Rapper Show, a brilliant and critically acclaimed reality show that VH1 debuted in 2007. It depicted 10 (mostly hapless) white rappers living together in a dilapidated house—dubbed “Tha White House”—in the South Bronx. Despite the contestants’ best intentions, each one seemed like a profoundly confused caricature, whether it was the solemn graduate student committed to fighting racism or the ghetto-obsessed suburbanite who had, seemingly by accident, named himself after the abolitionist John Brown.

Similarly, Smirnoff struck marketing gold in 2006 with a viral music video titled “Tea Partay,” featuring a trio of strikingly bad, V-neck-sweater-clad white rappers called the Prep Unit. “Haters like to clown our Ivy League educations / But they’re just jealous ’cause our families run the nation,” the trio brayed, as a pair of bottle-blond women in spiffy tennis whites shimmied behind them. There was no nonironic way to enjoy the video; its entire appeal was in its self-aware lampooning of WASP culture: verdant country clubs, “old money,” croquet, popped collars, and the like.

“The best defense is to be constantly pulling the rug out from underneath yourself,” Wray remarks, describing the way self-aware whites contend with their complicated identity. “Beat people to the punch. You’re forced as a white person into a sense of ironic detachment. Irony is what fuels a lot of white subcultures. You also see things like Burning Man, when a lot of white people are going into the desert and trying to invent something that is entirely new and not a form of racial mimicry. That’s its own kind of flight from whiteness. We’re going through a period where whites are really trying to figure out: Who are we?”

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

white weekend links

"Web Site Uses MLK Name to Attack Him" (Ty Tagami @ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Type the name “Martin Luther King” into the popular Google Internet search engine, and find a surprise: among the expected university and newspaper links, one site—-the third highest ranked link—-stands out.

It attacks the personal life of the slain civil rights leader and, by extension, the movement of nonviolence he championed. It rehashes allegations of plagiarism and adultery and accuses King of fraud, claiming he was not a “legitimate reverend” or “bonafide Ph.D.” It also invites visitors to learn about civil rights by reading the work of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

The site,, is run by a white supremacist group called Stormfront, described by one watchdog organization as the largest “hate group” online. It has used King’s name for its Web address since 1999. . . .

The site continues to rank high on Google —- even ahead of the King Center’s own Web site (

"Dakota 38 Riders Gallop through Flandreau" (Moody County Enterprise)
Jim Miller, a 60–year–old Vietnam veteran, Lakota Spiritual Leader and a descendant of the Dakota Sioux Tribe, said he dreamt of himself on a horse, traveling east. . . .

Miller, who lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Porcupine, S.D., had his dream in 2005. In the dream, he traveled 330 miles on horseback, eventually coming to a riverbank in Minnesota where he saw 38 of his own ancestors hanged. Miller then realized that he had dreamed of an event that took place in 1862.

It was the Dakota Sioux Uprising, which ended in the largest mass execution ever recorded in U.S. history. On Dec. 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were hanged in what is now Mankato, Minn. Also, a federal policy and a newly formed state resulted in the removal of Dakota people from their lands, scattering them from Saskatchewan to Nebraska.

Miller stepped forward with his vision in December of 2005, and riders from several tribes rode over from the Lower Sioux Indian Community near Morton, Minn., to the site of the execution in Mankato. The purpose of the ride was to commemorate the men, women and children who were forced to march across the cold winter prairies to the hanging at a large concentration camp at Fort Snelling, Minn. The event became known as the Dakota 38 Reconciliation Ride. . . .

“We are doing this so our kids don’t lose their culture and their customs,” he said. “We will keep going, not only to honor the dream, but to show that our people were marched first, out of Minnesota in the wintertime. It’s been a humbling experience for me.”

In addition to preserving culture, Miller explains that the rituals at the end of the ride are about forgiveness and forgiving.

In the final stretch through Mankato, the riders gather around a buffalo monument, where they pray for their ancestors. A rider-less horse carries four offerings of sacred food, which Miller said is meant to discourage negativity.

“The negativity then goes to that horse,” he said. “It creates brotherhood and unity, linking a new relationship with white people. It shows we are the first ones to forgive, to apologize. We want to be forgiven too, to be able to live out our lives in harmony.”

"My Triumph Over Kwanzaa!" (Ann Coulter @ Human Events; Adware Popup Alert, in some browsers, though not in my version of Mozilla Firefox--thanks for the alert, Restructure!)
This is a holiday for white liberals -- the kind of holiday Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn probably celebrate. Meanwhile, most blacks celebrate Christmas.

Kwanzaa liberates no one; Christianity liberates everyone, proclaiming that we are all equal before God. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Not surprisingly, it was practitioners of that faith who were at the forefront of the abolitionist and civil rights movements.

Next year this time, we'll find out if our new "Halfrican" president is really black or just another white liberal. If he's black enough to say the "brothers should pull up their pants," surely Obama can just say no to Kwanzaa.

"Which Race Has the Most Beautiful Women?" (Renee @ Womanist Musings)
I was reading topix when I came across a questionnaire. Today's question was which race has the most beautiful women.

Surprise, surprise look who made the top of the list. Even in an anonymous poll black and indigenous women end up finishing last with white women on top. We're colour blind and post-racial right? Is it any wonder that top models featured in magazines are largely white unless there is some sort of ethnic feature (think Italian Vogue)?

"Influx of Black Renters Raises Tensions in Bay Area" (Paul Elias @ Associated Press)
As more and more black renters began moving into this mostly white San Francisco Bay Area suburb a few years ago, neighbors started complaining about loud parties, mean pit bulls, blaring car radios, prostitution, drug dealing and muggings of schoolchildren.

In 2006, as the influx reached its peak, the police department formed a special crime-fighting unit to deal with the complaints, and authorities began cracking down on tenants in federally subsidized housing.

Now that police unit is the focus of lawsuits by black families who allege the city of 100,000 is orchestrating a campaign to drive them out.

"A lot of people are moving out here looking for a better place to live," said Karen Coleman, a mother of three who came here five years ago from a blighted neighborhood in nearby Pittsburg. "We are trying to raise our kids like everyone else. But they don't want us here."

"Isn't It Cute When Kids Sound Racist?" (Gwen @ Sociological Images)

[In this video,] the parents clearly think it’s funny that when their toddler daughter says “sparkling wiggles,” it sounds like she’s saying something very different . . .

What struck me, though, is the parents egging her on to repeat it, and to say things like “Get a job, sparkling wiggles!” To them, the fact that when she says “sparkling wiggles” it comes out sounding like a racial epithet is funny and endearing, enough so that it’s worth getting her to repeat sentences with the phrase in it.

This is an example of what I think of as casual racism. By casual, I don’t mean unimportant or harmless. What I mean by that is the type of prejudiced behavior and language that doesn’t necessarily reflect a deep-seated hatred or extremely bitter attitude, but rather is a taken-for-granted way of acting or speaking about non-Whites.

"What I've Learned from Being Called a Racist" (tupelo lights @ Beyond White Guilt/Debunking White)
Someone once said that calling a white person a racist is the only word guaranteed to make them as angry as calling a POC by a racial slur. While I don't like the way that comparison calls up a lot of so-called "reversed racism" ideas, I do appreciate that statement for the way it highlights two aspects of white privilege:

1. That we have the power (among other things) to hurt POC with racist language.
2. That we would rather die than admit we have such racist power.

During a week of anti-racist action on my campus last year there was an event called Speak-up/Speak-out, an open forum where POC and some white allies spoke out about issues of racism on campus. One white friend got up and said that, having gone through 12-step programs for substance abuse, he then started using the same language for talking about privilege. Into a microphone on the main lawn of our campus he said: "Hi, my name is Steve, and I'm a racist."

"Twincredibles" (The Sun)
Black and white twins Hayleigh and Lauren Durrant proudly hold their new sisters Leah and Miya — who incredibly are ALSO twins with different coloured skin.

Their mixed-race parents Dean Durrant and Alison Spooner repeated the two-tone miracle after a seven-year gap.

Friday, January 2, 2009

fail to understand when non-white people distrust the police

As I've said before, when white Americans are in certain kinds of trouble, they rarely hesitate to call the police. That's because most of them trust the police. They rarely realize the significance during encounters with the police of their own protective "white" skin.

Many white folks also have trouble understanding the deep distrust of the police in other racialized communities. That's because they fail to realize how quick many police officers are to harass non-white people, and how much less they tend to value non-white lives.

White Americans should listen, with sincerity and respect, to the reported experiences of others with the entrenched racist attitudes among the police, and the rampant abuse such attitudes inspire. They should also listen to the corrosive effects on non-white communities of the relative impunity with which police repeatedly harass, and murder, non-white people.

In the following short film, Stacey Muhammad's "I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak," black Americans effectively explain their reasoned fear, distrust, and dismay regarding the police. I think that for starters, this film is perfect discussion material for all American classrooms. And any other gatherings that include white eyes and ears.

"I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak," by Stacey Muhammad, on Vimeo:

On November 25, 2006, undercover NYPD officers fired at least 50 rounds of bullets into a car carrying three UNARMED men of African American and Latino decent; killing one, SEAN BELL and seriously wounding two others. Bell age 23 was scheduled to be married on that fateful day.

Three of the five detectives involved in the shooting went to trial on charges ranging from manslaughter to reckless endangerment. All were found not guilty.

The incident has sparked fierce criticism of the NYPD as the city faces yet another murder of an unarmed African American man at the hands of those expected to protect and serve.

“I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak” is a short form documentary from Wildseed Films that highlights the voices of young black boys between the ages of 11 and 13 years old growing up in New York City.

They speak openly and honestly about their reaction to the Sean Bell tragedy as well as their fears and hopes as they approach manhood in a city where the lives of young black men are often cut short, too often, and too soon.

About the filmmaker:

Stacey Muhammad is an award winning independent filmmaker and activist committed to using the power of media to educate, enlighten and empower humanity.

Her first film, “A Glimpse of Heaven, The Legacy of the Million Man March”, screened at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, MD in 2005 and received rave reviews.

Since that time, the New Orleans, LA native has relocated to Brooklyn, NY and begun the work of documenting and preserving Hip Hop culture through film and digital media. Her projects include several short form documentaries including, "I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak" as well as "Self Construction: Recording session in honor of a movement".

Stacey is currently working with other artists, filmmakers and activists whose mission it is to document our history, preserve our culture and tell our own stories.

Her latest film, "Out of Our Right Minds, The Rise of Mental Illness amongst Black Women", is slated to be released in April 2009.

[h/t: Kai @ Zuky]

Thursday, January 1, 2009

shop with a lack of racial self-awareness

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.

--Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies"

Dave Chappelle
"Def Poetry Jam"

hit counter code