Long Links – 4/10/08

by Latoya Peterson

del.icio.us only gives me three short lines to explain an article.

So, here are a few links of interest that I could not condense into a few hundred characters:

NY Times – Bloody Mary is the Girl I Love

“South Pacific” is back. It opened Thursday night at Lincoln Center in its first Broadway revival since its 1949 premiere. Daring then for its treatment of racism and interracial love, it has returned to a nation that is having — or thinks it is having — its most enlightened discussion of race and gender, thanks largely to the presidential campaign.

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Michener paints a stark world of immiscible colors: white, yellow, brown and black. The dramatic collision between Émile de Becque, dashing French planter, and Ensign Nellie Forbush, cockeyed optimist from Arkansas, can be paraphrased this way:

Émile: I have eight daughters, with four women.

Nellie: That’s interesting.

Émile: One woman was Polynesian.

Nellie: One was WHAT?

Or, as Michener put it: “Émile de Becque, not satisfied with Javanese and Tonkinese women, had also lived with a Polynesian! A nigger! To Nellie’s tutored mind any person living or dead who was not white or yellow was a nigger.”

“South Pacific” edits the children to two and the mothers to one. It puts Nellie’s racism front and center, along with an explicit lecture, the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” The authors changed “nigger” to “colored,” then, playing it safer, took out “colored.” Mr. Sher put it back in, and when Nellie says it, it hits the ear like a slap.

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I left the theater thinking that it was wrong to assume that dead white men had nothing useful to say about race. Cringe if you want to at the stereotypes and Orientalism, but the team that gave 1950s America several primers on Asia and the Pacific doesn’t have a lot to apologize for. Not to Juanita Hall, the African-American actress who was the first Bloody Mary, or to Pat Suzuki, Nancy Kwan, Jack Soo, James Shigeta, Miyoshi Umeki and others who found success in “Flower Drum Song” back when Broadway and Hollywood were wastelands for actors of a certain color.

My comments: The reviewer raises an interesting point – was it better for these actors to have played a racist role, than none at all?

(Thanks to Jasmine for the link!)

Globe and Mail – Mixed unions in Canada

The couple represents a small but growing number of Canadians who are involved in interracial unions – a number that many experts predict will jump dramatically in the next few decades.

“The numbers are skyrocketing,” said Minelle Mahtani, a geography and journalism professor at the University of Toronto who studies mixed-race identity.

Nearly 300,000 Canadians were involved in mixed marriages or mixed common-law relationships in 2006, a rise of nearly 30 per cent since 2001, according to the latest census figures released yesterday by Statistics Canada.

In 1991, just 2.6 per cent of couples in Canada were in a mixed-race marriage or

common-law relationship.

Mixed unions still make up a very small percentage – about 4 per cent – of all marriages and common-law relationships in Canada. But interracial unions represent a powerful and growing segment of the country’s increasingly multicultural mosaic.

“We are seeing this trend more and more and it’s becoming a prominent feature in our society, in Canadian society,” said Ayman Al-Yassini, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

About 85 per cent of all mixed unions involve relationships in which one partner is white and the other is not. Nearly 42,000 couples in the country consisted of two people from different visible minority groups.

Canadians of Japanese descent are more likely than any other visible minority to be in a mixed union. There were 29,700 couples involving at least one Japanese-Canadian person in 2006. Of those, nearly 75 per cent involved a partner who was white or from another ethnic group. People of Latin American descent were the second-most likely to be in a mixed union, followed by people who are black.

But as the number of visible minorities in Canada continues to climb, Ms. Mahtani said an increasing number of them will marry outside their ethnic group, and to non-white individuals. “When you think about mixed unions, you think about white and black or white and Japanese. That’s going to change,” she said. “It’s going to be between two visible minority groups.”

(Thanks to reader Jorge!)

Alternet – On Prisons, Borders, Safety, and Privilege: An Open Letter to White Feminists

My intention isn’t to repeat the critiques of feminists of color, but to offer some specific instances in which I, a white, class-privileged feminist who is often privy to your conversations and who can identify with the experiences and perspectives of privilege, have recently seen this playing out. At this particular historical moment, it seems to happen frequently around the disconnect between white feminists’ notions of “safety” as an ideal we should organize around, and, on the other side of the not-so-fun funhouse mirror, organizing by feminists of color around policing/prisons and immigration/borders — issues that expose the fantasy of “safety” as a product of privilege; issues that feminists of color have increasingly centered in their activism while white feminists seem to be struggling to understand whether they are feminist issues at all.

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I thought about calling this an open letter to liberal feminists, or to mainstream feminists, or some other things, but I finally decided on the adjective white — not because race is the only defining difference between the liberal/reformist so-called feminism I’m critiquing and more radical social-change-oriented feminisms, but because I see many of the strains of this argument threading together around whiteness — if by whiteness I can mean not only skin privilege but also straightness,[6] liberalism[7], a sense of entitlement to safety (especially within existing social structures), and other markers of an identity and worldview shaped by assimilation to power. Because, of course, whiteness is no essential fact; it is a construct, a lumping together of different people and practices into a dominant, powerful whole.

I’m using whiteness here to talk broadly about assimilated identities and assimilationist politics, which undermine movements for social change.

[...]

Privilege is a kind of poison — insidious, it obscures, misleads, confuses — and this is part of how power is maintained, as well-meaning privileged people miss the mark, can’t clearly see what’s going on and how we’re implicated, are able to comfortably see ourselves as not responsible. Liberalism and assimilationist politics are safe ways for privileged people to believe they are fighting the good fight; liberalism and assimilation, I think, are privilege’s — power’s — instruments.

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And that I could call that frustration heartbreaking has a whole lot to do with my own whiteness. I’m inclined to give white feminism, white feminists, the benefit of the doubt. I know what it’s like to mean well and yet fuck up, to not get it when the critique means me, to be on the side of power while I intend to challenge it. And after more than a decade in this movement, I know too well why that civil-rights attorney I mentioned up there said, “The road to hell is paved with … “

(Thanks to Nadia, SerenityNow78)