Addicted to Race 83: The New Yellow Peril

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

addicted to raceA brand-new episode (No. 83) of Addicted to Race is out! Addicted to Race is New Demographic’s weekly podcast about America’s obsession with race.

Carmen and Jeff discuss the new yellow peril. Between the lead paint toy scare, the tainted pet food scare, and the general rise of China’s economic and military might, all the anti-Chinese sentiments we’ve been hearing lately sound awfully similar to the anti-Chinese sentiments at the turn of the century.

This episode features the song “Give Me Love” by Grayskul, courtesy of Spectre Entertainment.

Carmen is joined by Jeff Yang in this episode. Yang is the Asian Pop columnist for SFGate, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, and founded and published the pioneering Asian American periodical aMagazine for over a dozen years. He has written for a wide range of publications, and authored three books—”Eastern Standard Time” (Houghton Mifflin); “I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action” (Ballantine, the action icon’s official autobiography); and “Once Upon a Time in China” (Atria/Pocket Books). His fourth book, a graphic novel anthology of Asian American superhero tales titled “Secret Identities,” is due out from The New Press in Fall 2008.

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On HBO tonight: Little Rock Central High: 50 Years Later

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Just a quick post to draw your attention to this documentary that premieres tonight on HBO. Here’s the description:

Desegregation ripped through the American South in 1957 when Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered National Guard troops to prevent nine black teenagers (dubbed the “Little Rock Nine”) from entering Little Rock’s Central High School while President Dwight Eisenhower sent military troops to guard them from an angry mob of whites outside the school. Today, Little Rock Central High, though 60% black and 40% white, still struggles with educational equity.

Natives of Little Rock, filmmakers Brent and Craig Renaud explore the mark of the 50th anniversary of the famous “Integration Crisis of 1957,” in Little Rock Central High: 50 Years Later premiering Tuesday, September 25 at 8 p.m. by following present-day Central High students and faculty both in and out of school, along with community leaders and one of the original “Little Rock Nine,” who reflects on how much – and how little – has evolved since she courageously crossed the school’s steps nearly half a century ago.

Muslim women: access denied?

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslima Media Watch

This article talks about a new movie, Coffee & Allah. It tells the story of a Muslim refugee “who feels isolated in her new country until someone reaches out to her through a spontaneous game of badminton.”

Directed by Dr. Shuchi Kothari and nominated for the best short film at the Venice Film Festival, the film casts Zahara Abbawajji, an Ethiopian from Auckland, New Zealand, as the lead female role. Dr. Kothari and the director cast Ms. Abbawajji after advertising to Auckland’s Ethiopian community. “Casting is not easy…You have to make in-roads into the community and do it on their terms, otherwise you can’t moan that these stories aren’t being told,” says Dr. Kothari.

Dr. Kothari herself is not Muslim, which intrigued me. How can a non-Muslim woman make a movie about a Muslim refugee?

Here’s the thing: she didn’t make a movie about Muslim women. She made a movie with Muslim women. You can’t make movies about us; you need to include us in the process for a very important reason: to portray us accurately, checking in with us on certain aspects of the story so you don’t alienate us later. Movies that portray Muslims and Muslim women negatively (even if they mean well) alienate and anger the community, which in the end really just widens the divide instead of bridging it. I still hate Sally Field because she starred in Not Without My Daughter. They showed it in my middle school, and everyone wanted to know if I was “Iraqi or whatever.” Damn you, Sally Field and Alfred Molina!

Dr. Kothari comments that, “These [Muslim] women become quite visible on one level, but on another level they’re quite invisible because no one has any access to them.”

What is access? This got me thinking, because it struck me. How do you “gain access” to these women? I think a lot of times, especially for women who wear hejab, we are seen as Fort Knox, or some other type of stronghold that can’t be “penetrated” to those who don’t have “access.” And who has access? Does access mean that you can interact with these women? Or does access mean that you can see these women’s hair or know about their personal lives? Does “access” mean the same thing for Western, non-Muslim women as it would for Muslim women?

I think the idea of access is really just an Orientalist relic, no matter which meaning you assign it. By thinking that you need access or are being denied access to Muslim women, you’re relegating Muslim women to things. You don’t need access to people, you need access to buildings or safety deposit boxes or passwords. Similarly, I know people who refer to women who wear niqabs and chadors as “tanks” or “ninjas.” This implies that these women are not only inaccessible, but also fortified against attacks of some kind (and stealthy).

The issue of access doesn’t even come up when you think of Western, non-Muslim women, especially if you add the sexual dimension of access. We’re all caught up this silly double cliché of “Muslim women = no sexual access EVER” and “Western, non-Muslim women = sexy time!” This implies that all Western, non-Muslim women are okay with having sex any time with anyone, while all Muslim women are either never okay with sex with anyone, or only okay with sex after marriage with someone they were arranged to marry if they have to have sex. And this dichotomy really leaves out any mention of bisexual and lesbian women from both camps.

Anyway, this movie, Coffee & Allah, looks incredibly interesting, and it seems like a positive step forward. I know I’ll be watching for it on Netflix.

Calling Asian-Americans in Boston!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

If you’re in the Boston are and are interested in Asian-American issues, you should definitely check out BASIC, which stands for Boston Asian Students Intercollegiate Conference. It’s happening on Saturday, October 13 and is being hosted at Harvard this year.

Not only will you catch me presenting the workshop Cute but Confused: Myths and Realities of Mixed Race Identity, but you’ll also be able to see Becky Lee from Survivor: Race Wars (as we like to call it here on Racialicious) as she’s the keynote speaker. It should be interesting to hear what she has to say about the experience.

There are lots of great workshop topics, covering everything from gender and sexuality to wealth disparities, from sexism to art, from gentrification to domestic violence, from social justice activism to pop culture. And the registration will only set you back 20 bucks! :)

Hope to see you there!

Black male hurt

by guest contributor Philip Arthur Moore, originally published at Finding My Legend

It is human to hurt, and one of the most beautiful truths in pain and suffering is that it knows no color. We are all born with tear ducts, the capacity to feel insecure, and the fear of abandonment. At one point or another, we have all experienced loneliness, and we have all experienced grief.

For the last nine months of my life I have felt a great deal of unsatisfactoriness. My post-collegiate life has at times seemed more aimless than it has ever been, I’m coming away from a brutal three year relationship, and I work from home, in a void of social interaction or human touch. Most of the worst daily hurt has gone away, but sometimes it visits me at the wrong moments.

I bring this up not with a despondent tone or an attitude of self-pity, but from a genuine curiosity towards the nature of black male hurt. Where do black males go to cry? To whom do we go for respite from our daily worries? How do black males love, and will we ever be able to show another man that we care for him without having our sexuality drawn into question by the notion of black masculinity?

So much of black male pain is directed outward. We suffer through states of social oppression, receive poor educational opportunities vis-a-vis our white counterparts, and stay both honored and vilified through popular culture. We’ve gained an acumen for handling the outside world with our voices and actions.

But what of the inside us?

Who teaches black males how to handle heartbreak, insecurities, loneliness, or depression? Surely not our fathers – I have seen mine cry twice in my entire life, once at his mother’s funeral; once after his divorce with my mother. My father never taught me how to handle weakness, and if he did, it only involved ‘sucking it up’ and pushing forward. Crying out the pain and moving on was never involved.

Do black mothers teach black males how to hurt? I don’t know; my mother is not black. And what of black males in fraternities or other extended black social networks? Do they take time to teach one another self-reflection or self-therapy? I cannot say; I’ve never had that circle of comrades.

I ask about black male pain because we have it, but I don’t know what we are allowed to do with it within the illusion of black masculinity.

Black men are supposed to be strong, outspoken, never weak, and if all else fails, simply dismissive of our inner children. But we can’t ignore our feelings, and we cannot alleviate our demons with avoidance.

So how do we hurt? How do we learn how to cry or how to feel weak or how to fall down or how to seek intimacy or guidance from other black men without having to say “no homo” every time we want to express our love for one another?

It would be nice to know the answers to these questions, if only to know how to equip my unborn black children with the capacity to self-heal when life’s pains become nearly unbearable.

links for 2007-09-22