Apparently, I’m white!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I spotted this item in one of my ego feeds, and was fascinated to find that this blogger named Heloise has decided for me what my race is. Ah, it’s fun to be mixed isn’t it? Everybody’s opinion about your race matters, except your own.

#15 — May 28, 2007 @ 15:28PM — Heloise [URL]

Here’s her site. She is white and Chinese. But that makes her white, since she is not half black.

#27 — May 28, 2007 @ 19:20PM — Alec [URL]

RE: She is white and Chinese. But that makes her white, since she is not half black.

You’re joking here, right? I mean no one could seriously say that a person with Chinese ancestry is white. Is this some comical inversion of the old “one drop rule?”…

#29 — May 28, 2007 @ 22:13PM — Heloise [URL]

Who called them biracial? I did not. Biracial I thought always referred to black and white only.

A Eurasian is certainly white. Northern Indians or those whose language is traceable to European languages, can’t think of it now, are also “caucasian.” But the Brits are quick to call Indians the N-word.

…Northern Japanese are considered white. China is the root race for Caucasians, AmerIndians, Mexicans and Indians, DNA-wise. So it is a case of the root returning to the the progeny. She is certainly NOT black and that makes her white. That is the box she should check.

I have a sister who’s black, married a biracial man and their kids all have blonde hair and blue eyes and married whites. But they are black, and not biracial. Race is so complex, more than people know. The role of the biracial is that a person cannot change from one race to another when they reincarnate without going through a mixed race life first. That’s my conclusion.

But I found that Anglo Saxons think that anyone who is not strictly Anglo is not white. So where does that leave Mediterraneans? I go by the Anthropological definitions of race.

Heloise

What do you get if you google the word interracial?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Well, the #1 search result is not safe for work, that’s for sure.

So the question is: why are people so fascinated by interracial sex?

Let me tell you a quick story.

I was at a conference a couple of years ago and during one of the breaks, a man came up to me and started chatting.

“What are you speaking about today?” he asked, since my nametag identified me as one of the featured speakers at the conference.

“Interracial relationships,” I replied.

As soon as the words came out of my mouth, his whole manner changed. Instead of being polite and respectful, he started leering and smirking.

“Is this based on personal experience?” he asked in a low, suggestive tone.

Actually my workshop was all about debunking myths and ripping apart stereotypes. But the minute he heard me say the word “interracial,” all he could think about was sex.

Why are people so fascinated by interracial sex?

I answer this question and many others in my audio seminar, “Not Just Fetishists and Race Traitors: Challenging the Ways We View Interracial Relationships.

Order it today:
http://www.newdemographic.com/IR.htm

If you decide the seminar didn’t provide you with the insight you were looking for, you can contact me within 56 days and I’d be happy to refund you 100% of the cost.

Warmly,

Carmen

PS: Don’t worry, the audio seminar costs less than your weekly Starbucks habit. :)

PPS: If you prefer text to audio, you can order the e-book instead. It’s a PDF file that you can either read on the screen or print out and take with you.

ANTM: The Drinking Game*

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

I was originally going to write a full article about all the patronizing, classist, and racist things Tyra & the Gang (T&tG) said on the most recently aired America’s Next Top Model Cycle 8, but our friend Malena Amusa over at Race Wire beat me to it :- )

So I thought I’d made a fun little game for those of you who have TiVo-d all the episodes or pre-ordered the Cycle 8 box set (no judgment—we all have our guilty pleasures). I mean, Tyra did say that ANTM “is not just about a pretty picture . . . it’s about more than that,” so here’s your opportunity to prove her right.

Please be warned, if you decide to use alcohol for this game (highly un-recommended considering the frequency of T&tG’s slip-ups), be sure to keep a cell phone pre-programmed with “9-1-1” close by. My suggestion, however, is to use water. You’ll be sure to get in your daily recommended dose of 2 liters.

Take a shot for each time anyone from T&tG (including, but not limited to Tyra Banks, Jay Manuel, Miss Jay, Nigel Barker, Twiggy, the contestants, and the special guest judges):

  1. makes a reference to a track, weave, and/or wig when speaking to a contestant of color
  2. says someone “looks foreign”
  3. questions Natasha (the Russian contestant)’s ability to understand English
  4. switches into an accent when speaking a person whose first language is not English
  5. refers to Jaslene, the Puerto Rican contestant, as “spicy” or “fiery”
  6. says the word “fierce”
  7. questions Jael (the half black/half white contestant)’s “realness,” “blackness,” national origin, and/or racial identity
  8. uses the term “ghetto” as a surrogate term for trashy, cheap, poorly made, and/or uneducated
  9. attempts to speak for his or her entire ethnic/racial group, sexual orientation, and/or place of origin
  10. asserts her “American-ness,” gratitude to America, and/or tells a sob story about her native country or old neighborhood
  11. praises/thanks Tyra
  12. asks a contestant to say something in her native language
  13. uses subtitles
  14. expects the contestants to behave in a stereotypical way, then questions their effort and commitment to the competition if they do not do so
  15. uses the term “cha cha”
  16. compares modeling to “acting like a ho”
  17. treats his/her moment on television as a public service announcement on otherness
  18. makes a sweeping statement about lesbians or gays
  19. supplies Latin music as an aural backdrop to appearances made by Jaslene
  20. supplies hip hop as background music during appearance made by Jael in order to remind us she is half black even though she “doesn’t look it”

*Please note, this game also doubles as a youtube scavenger hunt!

links for 2007-05-31

Michelle Obama, feminism and the strong black woman

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I’ve been following the media’s handling of race in its coverage of Barack Obama’s presidential bid very closely over the last few months. But right now I’m particularly riveted by the media coverage of his wife, Michelle Obama. Race, gender, and feminism are intersecting in fascinating ways. Here are some highlights.

As my fellow BlogHer Contributing Editor Laina Dawes wrote a few weeks back, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has criticized Michelle Obama’s light-hearted comments about her husband being “just a man” and not knowing how to put his socks in the laundry. Dowd felt that these remarks were “emasculating”:

Many people I talked to afterward found Michelle wondrous. But others worried that her chiding was emasculating, casting her husband – under fire for lacking experience – as an undisciplined child.

Just a few days ago, Michelle Obama resigned from her high-powered job as vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals to focus on her husband’s presidential campaign.

Debra Dickerson, writing for Salon, declared that she is “in a feminist fury” about it:

Just as we watch curvy, healthy-looking singers and actresses like Lindsay Lohan become anorexic too-blonde hoochies before our very eyes, so we’re now in danger of having to watch the political version of that process: Any day now, Michelle Obama’s handlers will have her glued into one of those Sunday-go-to-meeting Baptist grandma crown hats while smiling vapidly for hours at a time. When, of course, she’s not staring moonstruck, à la Nancy Reagan, at her moon doggie god-husband who’s not one bit smarter than she is.

In response to Dickerson’s article, the new Gawker Media blog Jezebel (worst name ever, by the way) declared that Michelle’s “weird passive-aggressive comments” can only be explained by one thing: Barack obviously cheated on her:

…when Michelle Obama says stuff like “someday maybe he’ll deserve all the attention” or “he’s just a man” or calls him “the brother” even when she knows it makes the white folks uneasy is pretty simple: “The brother” fucked up! It wasn’t Gennifer or even Monica; it was probably just some one-night fling…

Mrs J, writing at Our Kind of Parenting, points out the Jezebel bloggers’ embarrassing cluelessness when it comes to African-American vernacular:

For the record, even if it makes white people uncomfortable, calling someone “the brother” (even if it is one’s husband) is not a diss. Especially when, in context, it is to say “The brother is smart”, as Mrs.O actually did recently (to an all black crowd)… This is a serious presidential candidate we’re talking about, ladies, not you’re effing ex-boyfriend. Save the cheap shots for someone else.

The Coup Magazine blog analyzes reactions to Michelle Obama in relation to the “Strong Black Woman (SBW) syndrome” and points out that Michelle is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t:

She can’t be funny. She probably shouldn’t work. After all, if she wants to counter the SBW stereotype and make her husband appear to be in charge, she cannot have a career. But when she quits her job, her motivation and commitment are called into question, and she risks losing credibility in the eyes of feminists. She can never have a hair out of place, appear aggressive, or ever be shown working out (one of her favorite activities), lest she characterized by someone as a “nappy headed ho.” In light of this constant and very public criticism, Michelle Obama can never quite be herself without being stereotyped as the aforementioned SBWa categorization that could potentially destroy her husband’s presidential campaign.

And finally, Malena Amusa, writing for Racewire, suggests that Michelle is integral to Barack Obama’s racial authenticity:

Her presentation is a well-engineered counter to Barack’s Black masculinity that has been attacked for being diluted. Michelle proves Barack’s Black authenticity by her being so home-grown, down-home, and straight-up on the issues. Further, if Barack had said some of the things Michelle has, he’d be lumped under the Black nationalist umbrella held up by Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton, and so many white people probably wouldn’t like him as much.

links for 2007-05-30

Are eyelids the no. 1 beauty concern in the Asian community?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Did any of you catch Friday’s episode of the Oprah show? It was titled “Children Ashamed of the Way They Look” and included interviews with:

  • Kiri Davis, the young filmmaker who created the phenomenal short film A Girl Like Me
  • Grey’s Anatomy star Chandra Wilson about her own views on beauty growing up and how she’s raising her daughters
  • A black woman who prayed that her son wouldn’t come out as dark-skinned as her. The son, not surprisingly, has developed quite a complex about colorism.
  • Korean-American MTV host SuChin Pak, about beauty ideals in the Asian and Asian-American communities.

I’m not going to summarize the whole episode in this post, but you can watch clips of it on the Oprah web site.

As usual, I was a bit annoyed by the treatment of the eyelid issue. Anytime the mainstream media covers this story, it always makes the same few assumptions.

First, it never mentions the fact that there are many, many Asians who do have eyelid folds. I’ve never seen any statistics, but it seems to me that there are at least as many eyelid-having Asians as non-eyelid-having Asians. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if the eyelid-having Asians are in the majority. (Excuse my crude terminology here – just trying to keep the language simple.)

Second, it equates getting eyelid surgery with wanting to look white. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. As I wrote in this comment on Reappropriate awhile back, there are many Asians with eyelids. Often they are considered to be more attractive, and yes, that is because of the omnipresent Western beauty ideal. But people who want to get eyelid surgery are doing it so they look more like those Asians with the big eyelids. Not so they look like Caucasians. White supremacist ideals may be informing the desire indirectly, but it’s not such a direct link of wanting to be white.

And finally, I was a little taken aback by Pak’s assertion that eyelids are the no. 1 beauty issue in the Asian and Asian-American community.

In my experience, the no. 1 beauty/looks-ism issue by far among Asians and Asian-Americans is weight. The standards of thinness among Asian women are far more punishing than those among white women. Growing up in Hong Kong, it seemed as if pretty much anyone over 105 lbs was considered a fat-ass.

And then in my opinion, the no. 2 issue would be skintone. No surprises here: fair is good, tanned and darker skintones are undesirable.

Eyelids do come up, but in my experience it trails far behind weight and skintone. But of course, that’s just my experience.

What do you all think?

A Daycare Called Cuba: Iberia Ad More Than “Sexist”

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse, originally published at The Coup Magazine

“It was completely trivial” said a spokeswoman for Iberia Airlines’ new ad. I suppose that should be expected, but it never ceases to amaze me that some people consider the degradation of historically oppressed groups as “trivial,” “fun,” or “just a joke.” Maybe that’s because our society has a history of accepting stereotypes as truths, so veiling them in humor is its feeble attempt to disguise the simple fact that it can’t distinguish between one or the other. It may also be a result of the belief some hold that we are all equals and treated fairly. If this condition of equality is a given, then debasing one group or another is not expected to cause harm, embarrassment, or any real long-term affects. Maybe Spain’s national airline felt that they were engaging in harmless fun, simply teasing their colonial little brother Cuba, but not everyone shared Iberia’s interpretation. Ruben Sanchez, a spokesperson for Facua, a Spanish consumer rights group, found the commercial to be sexist and generally offensive to Cubans. Facua called for the advertisement, which is part of a set of commercials for Iberia’s website, to be pulled. Iberia complied. They apologized, stating that the ad was not meant to offend anyone, and removed it from television on May 16th. But considering that someone had thought up the commercial and allowed it to air in the first place, the damage had already been done.

When I saw the ad for the first time, I thought beyond sexism. Before me was a representation of women of African descent that has somehow lasted for more than three centuries. I saw an animated articulation of the remnants of European colonial dominance over a Caribbean nation and its women. There was so much to take in from such a short clip that I wanted to slow down and think about it in parts. I watched the video again, this time in silence. After muting the volume, I began to mentally catalogue the images I saw. Before the clip commenced, a tableau appeared of a fair-skinned baby in a rocking chair surrounded by two brown-skinned, dark haired, large lipped women frozen mid-dance, holding maracas and wearing bikini tops with Daisy Duke cutoff shorts. Once the video unfolded, it seemed. . . fairly harmless, but three things stood out to me:

1. The color contrast between the baby and his adult playmates.
Both women featured in the commercial have brown skin, one a shade slightly darker than the other, and the men who provide musical accompaniment for the commercial are also varying shades of brown, from light to dark. This contrast is common in tourism advertisements, particularly those in Europe and the United States (with the exception of the recent Bahamas vacation ads). The tourist is almost always white and the “natives” are always brown, black, or yellow. Last time I checked, people of color also go on vacation, but maybe advertising executives don’t want to confuse the consumer audience by featuring them as tourists alongside people who look just like them. Funny enough, this never seems to be a problem in white-on-white ads encouraging people to go to European countries. Continue reading