Has Class Trumped Race? Part 3.5 – An Aside

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

The blog SavvySugar recently posted about a college grad who did an experiment to prove the American Dream – he voluntarily went into “poverty” to see how quickly he could climb out.

Adam Shepard’s experience has – naturally – netted him a book deal. ABC summarizes:

But Shepard’s descent into poverty in the summer of 2006 was no accident. Shortly after graduating from Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass., he intentionally left his parents’ home to test the vivacity of the American Dream. His goal: to have a furnished apartment, a car, and $2,500 in savings within a year.

To make his quest even more challenging, he decided not to use any of his previous contacts or mention his education.

During his first 70 days in Charleston, Shepard lived in a shelter and received food stamps. He also made new friends, finding work as a day laborer, which led to a steady job with a moving company.

Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family. But by then he had moved into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had saved close to $5,000.

The effort, he says, was inspired after reading “Nickel and Dimed,” in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.

He tells his story in “Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream.” The book, he says, is a testament to what ordinary Americans can achieve.

Fascinating. I mean, everyone loves an American Dream story, don’t they? The interviewer from ABC News was excellent, asking really targeted questions about the validity of the experiment and how Shepard came to the conclusions he outlines in the book. By directly asking about privilege and his upbringing, the interviewer tries to shed some light into the thought process of this young man.

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War on Asians Leads to Diversity Training

by guest contributor Jenn Fang, originally published at Reappropriate

Last week, Colorado University — Boulder found itself at the center of a firestorm from the Asian American community after the campus newspaper, Campus Press published an opinion piece by an editor, Max Karson, entitled “If It’s War the Asians Want…”. In the piece, Karson engages in race-baiting and advocates kidnapping and torturing Asian/Asian American students on the CU campus.

Yesterday, student editors of Campus Press and the faculty advisor met with CU’s dean of journalism, Paul Voakes, to discuss the fall-out from the piece. In addition to covering the criticisms of the piece (something Campus Press seemed reluctant to do), the editors agreed to:

Invite student organizations to meet face-to-face with the editors.

Adopt an “opinions policy,” with standards and procedures for determining the acceptability of opinion columns or reader-generated content.

Schedule a series of diversity-awareness workshops for the entire staff with the CU Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement, with participation of professional journalists of color.

Host a series of workshops for opinion writing and editing, to be presented by experienced professional opinion editors.

The problem with all this is that Max Karson is still absent from all the discussions. Karson didn’t attend the meeting with Voakes, and has refused to comment in detail on his piece, saying only, “I wasn’t trying to create a firestorm per se; I was trying to create a dialogue”.

But, a Wikipedia article has been written on Max Karson outlining his history of racially-insensitive and offensive statements. In a couple of self-published newsletters, Karson spewed racism against African Americans and argued that women were biologically incapable of sexual pleasure. Last year, Karson was briefly suspended for defending Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho in a manner that left some classmates feeling threatened for their own safety.

Throughout Karson’s media-starved cries for attention, the academic institutions he’s been in have protected his hate-speech under Karson’s First Amendment rights. But Karson is not merely waxing philosophical on race in America; he is inciting his readers to violence, be it rape against women or a modern-day lynching against Asian Americans. At what point does the university step in and acknowledge that while speech should be free at an academic institution in Boulder, the university has a responsibility to protect female and minority students from threats of physical violence?

Throughout Karson’s questionable career as a writer, he has hidden behind the veil of “satire”, arguing that he’s actually an extremely progressive person who writes hateful speech in order to mock a culture of discrimination. I find this argument unconvincing: satire is a very traditional genre of writing that uses common literary ploys (and undeniable wit) to tear down an argument it is purported to defend. As such, the intent of the piece as satire is interpreted by the article’s heavy reliance on flawed or exaggerated logical arguments — basically logic gone awry. Satire is a dicey genre to write in; even history’s most famous satirists (Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain to name just two) fell victim to misunderstanding and political backlash.

And Max Karson is no Jonathan Swift. Karson’s pieces offer no twists on logic, no reference to the argument he is trying to satirize, and no literary wittiness. Karson’s writing is little more than racist fantasy, as high-brow as The Man Show.

While I applaud the move by Campus Press staff to undergo diversity training and to open up forums of discussion through their newspaper and online archives on this subject (and CU’s student legislators for condemning Karson and Campus Press), Karson needs to be fired from the paper’s staff and should undergo judicial review by the campus administration. He has a documented history of inflaming racial tensions for personal gain, advocating physical violence against those he perceives as different, and counteracting CU’s mission of fostering an open and welcoming academic environment.

Act Now!

Please write a letter to the Campus Press urging them to remove Max Karson from their staff. This post has a template you can use, along with links to the appropriate contact form.

Meet the man behind “Stuff White People Like”

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

A ton of you have been writing to me about a new blog called Stuff White People Like. It’s a hilarious, satirical Wikipedia-esque guide to exactly what the title says, filled with dead-on observations that make you laugh in surprise and recognition. And when I say recognition, I mean not only that I’ve noticed a lot of the behavior mentioned in white people I know, but also that I recognize myself (hey, I am half white) in a lot of the posts.

One of my favorite posts is “Top Ten Hip Hop Songs White People Love,” especially this part:

I was preparing to write a post about how white people love “old school” hip hop, and take it very seriously. Or perhaps how they love “conscious” hip hop that so vitally addresses the problems of a community that they don’t belong to. Remember, they aren’t dancing or jogging to this music for fun – it’s for a social cause.

I’ve always wondered why it is that most audience members at “conscious” rap concerts are white – a question tackled by Bakari Kitwana a couple years ago in a piece he did for the Village Voice titled “The Cotton Club“. The title is “a reference to the 1920s and ’30s Harlem jazz spot where Black musicians played to whites-only audiences.”

Isn’t there something condescending about non-black people telling black people what kind of hip hop they should listen to when hip hop is arguably a black art form to begin with?

Anyway, I mention all this because from the first time I saw the site, I’ve been wondering who the hell started it all. And now we know, thanks to The Assimilated Negro, who just landed a two-part interview (part 1, part 2) with the man behind the blog. Here are some interesting excerpts:

SWPL: ok. I am white. here is another non surprise. there are pictures of me on the site. I’m the dude recycling. and the guy at dim sum. and the guy holding the iphone. and the bicycle picture is my bicycle.

TAN: ha…. SCOOP!

SWPL: I work here in Los Angeles as a Copywriter/Corporate Communications person.

TAN: do you consider yourself aligned with the white people you profile? You’re white, but are you whom you describe/study?

SWPL: oh yes. this site pokes fun at ME. that’s why I use pictures of myself. those aren’t taken out of irony. this is the shit that I do. I need to call myself out for all of the stupid shit that I take for granted. why do I need $300 bike rims? why is a $10 sandwich considered normal?

TAN: When did you become self-conscious about your “whiteness”? When do you think the white liberal guilt kicks in? Is there an age? a rite of passage? do you need to see some black comedians talk about it? all of the above?

SWPL: Well remember a lot of the white people I’m lampooning (including myself) always can laugh at the comic view stuff because we’re like “yeah, those OTHER white people, they are ridiculous.” I grew up in Chinatown, in Toronto East Chinatown. a neighborhood bordered by a housing project, greektown, and little india. the neighborhood was always safe, but it’s gentrified like crazy in the past ten years. but I would say growing up there made me aware of whiteness right away. I knew most chinese slurs for white people by age 10. but at the same time, I wasn’t isolated. Toronto produces some pretty diverse crews of friends.

TAN: Do you see any difference in response between whites and minorities/ethnics?

SWPL: not really sure. They are all email responses, so people could be lying. For the most part the response is positive from everyone. Most of the white people who write in are the ones being satirized, and they get the joke. The minorities who write in usually love the blog, they are also usually the first to go after white people who say that the blog is racist. The best response I’ve seen so far is someone who said, “there’s a big difference, you haven’t been denied a job because you like Yoga and Expensive Sandwiches.” I think that put things into perspective pretty quickly.

“Pimping” gets you suspended; “Lynching” gets you…

by guest contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Last week I wrote about the furor surrounding Michelle Obama’s comments about being proud of her country. Some folks just don’t understand how one could not be proud of the United States of America. Luckily, Bill O’Reilly, that paragon of journalistic virtue, is reserving his judgement. Here is what Bill-O (TM Keith Olbermann) said on his radio program during a call from a listener who claimed to have inside knowledge that Obama is an “angry” and “militant” woman:

“I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s
evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels.”

Oh, how gracious of you Bill O’Reilly! Now, about that lynching thing. If David Shuster gets an indeterminent suspension for talking about Chelsea Clinton being “pimped out” by the Clinton campaign. How much time will O’Reilly get for talking about “lynching” a black woman, indeed the wife of a candidate for the United States?

Read the full story and hear the audio at Media Matters.

And why don’t we show Fox Noise what angry, militant women sound like. Contact them:


The REALLY real deal

Speaking of Michelle Obama’s comments…why are some folks in the media attempting to hide what she really said. (Even I have it wrong in yesterday’s post and I pulled the quote directly from a news site.)

Let’s compare what Obama is reported to have said and what she really said:

Now, I would stand by Obama if she could not say she felt “proud” of America. (See yesterday’s post.) But that is not even what she said. I mean…REALLY!

I have seen and heard numerous comments from the mainstream about Michelle Obama’s supposed “attitude.” I fear, folks, that this accomplished woman is going to be prey to black woman stereotype number 6,938: The ANGRY black woman. You hear the sentiment from Bill O’Reilly’s wingnut caller above, but I’ve heard from the left, too.


In the immortal words of Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow in “The Wiz”:

“You can’t win chile…
You can’t get even
and you can’t get out of the gaaaaame.”

(Cue singing crows.)

New York Times: Islam is a Last Resort

by Racialicious Special Correspondent, Fatemeh Fakhraie

The New York Times has an article about the frustrations of Egyptian youth.

It opens with a profile on one Mr. Sayyid:

Once, Mr. Sayyid had a decent job and a chance to marry. But his fiancée’s family canceled the engagement because after two years, he could not raise enough money to buy an apartment and furniture.

Mr. Sayyid spun into depression and lost nearly 40 pounds. For months, he sat at home and focused on one thing: reading the Koran.

The NYT piece makes a direct connection between Mr. Sayyid’s loss of a chance to marry (like he’ll never ever get another one) and his interest in the Qu’ran. Enter the idea that Muslims are only Muslim because they’re sexually (or politically or socially) frustrated.

Then we meet Ms. Ashour, a 22-year-old university graduate. She wears the niqab. Why? Because she couldn’t get married, of course!

There was a time she dressed and acted like her friends, covering her head with a scarf but wearing blue jeans and bright shirts […]

She was engaged to Mustafa, whose last name she will not disclose, for more than two years….But Mustafa’s father had no money left after setting up two older sons, and the young man was unable to raise enough money to finish the construction. Ms. Ashour wanted to help, secretly, but she has been unable to find a paying job. When her mother told her to end the engagement, something snapped, and she sought solace in increasingly strict religious practice.

So, according to the NYT, she couldn’t get married, so she went crazy and covered her face!

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Comic Heroine Vixen Gets a White Wash

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Browsing the Seeking Avalon blog, I notice that she’s provided yet another post on the racism (both subtle and overt) that plagues the comics industry.

This edition: The Visual Bait and Switch.

Willow wonders:

Who is that behind Wonder Woman?

Is that Vixen?

The yellow jumpsuit looks like it belongs to Vixen, if slightly the wrong colour. As do the bangles on the wrist and the belt on the waist.

But last I checked, Vixen was not a white woman.


Vixen, Vixen, Vixen, Vixen.

Nope, not a white woman.

And while she obviously uses relaxer on her hair, I’ve never heard of the chemicals automatically bleaching skin. So no plot or reasoning will be coming from that direction.

Seriously, what the hell is up with that? You know there is no way that from writer to printing press Superman could suddenly show up in a series that’s part of current continuity, sporting braids and a darker skin tone.

Because people would call you on that!


Interesting. First, it was just the film industry using (what I assume to be) their discretion to change the Fox’s black roots to fit big budget film draw Angelina Jolie.

However, this was done by DC Comics. Don’t y’all check these things before you go to press? I just find it amazing that an industry that is trying to diversify in order to attract younger demographics (and to keep older fans engaged) would do something as obvious as race change one of their heroines.

It’s not like there’s a glut of black female comic heroes so we can afford to let this one go.

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