One of the most common hassles that mixed-folks have to deal with is a sense of “hybrid-vigor,” an idea that breeding across difference, as in the case with dogs, creates a stronger, and more attractive breed. Mules are said to have the strength of a horse with the intelligence of a donkey, inheriting each parent’s best characteristics. Even “America’s Next Top Model” tries to recruit models from “diverse backgrounds,” because of this idea of hybrid vigor and mixed-beauty.
Now, I understand that folks of color tend to be unwilling to identify with animals because of the intertwined legacies of racism and specieism in this world. I’ve spent some time thinking about what an anti-specieist analysis of the use of animal-derived terms to refer to mixed-folks would look like. I’m no biologist, but my conclusion has come to this:
Horses and donkeys are different species. Hell, dogs breeds are even called “species.” In the case of mules, their parents are different enough that together they can’t create a functional reproductive system; mules can’t bare offspring. Mixed-breed dogs might be able to reproduce, but a Chihuahua giving birth to a Great Dane’s offspring might not be so functional, if even possible. Humans, however, are Homo sapiens. Using animal names referring to mixed-SPECIES animals to refer to mixed-”race” people just becomes another example of the ways in which white supremacy functions to perpetuate a white-washed notion of worth and value. It’s you’re not human, you’re not valuable. If you’re not white, you’re not quite as human.
Just another instance of how specieism and racism operate in tandum, I suppose.
Month: July 2008
by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem
As the U.S. launched its specious war on terrorism, George Bush wrangled away another presidential election, a stunned nation took in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and miraculously a biracial senator from Illinois rose to prominence, the absence of one of the music scene’s most influential voices has been sorely missed. Nasal but vitriolic, guttural but lucid, that voice taught me that “anger is a gift” and to cry to the powers that be, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.”
If you’re still in the dark about the voice in question, it belongs to former Rage Against the Machine front man Zack de la Rocha.
The group, a rap-rock hybrid with socially conscious lyrics, split in 2000 over musical and personal differences. Guitarist Tom Morello, whose life parallels Barack Obama’s in a way that’s uncanny,* wanted to take the group in a more rock-oriented direction, while de la Rocha sought to explore hip-hop, electronica and other music styles. For fans of de la Rocha, the past eight years have left a tremendous void.
The remaining members of Rage Against the Machine went on to form Audioslave with former Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, but, with the exception of a single called “March of Death,” we’ve heard little from de la Rocha. There were rumors that he’d recorded hundreds of tracks, but perfectionism kept him from releasing them. Other rumors indicated that de la Rocha had become a recluse or—gasp!—had been fatally gunned down. When Rage Against the Machine reunited at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California last year, the second bunch of rumors were obviously put to bed. But, because none of the dozens of tracks de la Rocha had supposedly recorded on his own were being released, questions lingered about his solo project. Was it ever to be released? Was there really a solo project at all? Read the Post The Debut of One Day as a Lion
by Latoya Peterson It is with great pleasure that I am able to introduce you…
by Guest Contributor Mimi, originally published at Threadbared
While the Gossip isn’t in my regular rotation (there’s always something about the production value of their albums that throws me), Beth Ditto’s ascension as a fearlessly fat and femme style icon is on my radar for sure. There’s much to be said about Beth Ditto, fat and fashion, but the above photograph from Ditto’s eight-page editorial in NYLON’s recent music issue is about none of these things for me.
It’s about the woman who may or may not be a real housekeeper at the motel at which this editorial was photographed, sitting on the edge of the bed with a handful of cards and gazing at Ditto with a weary but guarded expression. In the story that coalesces for me, studying this photograph, she has just been forced to play cards with a guest — not because she wants to, but because she could lose her job if she doesn’t. Nor does the game even feel like a break from her domestic labor; this sort of affective labor is no less taxing. In her mind (in the story I imagine about this editorial), she calculates how much longer she’ll have to stay and clean in order to meet her day’s quota.
But none of this is supposed to be visible (or even viable) in the photograph. We are not meant to consider her story. (And I’m made uncomfortable by my own attempt to “give” her an interior life.) Instead, the woman of color in her drab housekeeper’s uniform is simply another part of the furnishing in this bland motel room. She is banished as mere and muted background, the better to illuminate Ditto’s extraordinary excess of shine and glamor. For that reason, this editorial photograph both angers and saddens me.
Much has been written about the uses of people of color as part of the landscape in fashion editorials. (See, for just a small sample, Make Fetch Happen‘s disgust for colonial chic, Racialicious’ archive on fashion, or bell hooks’ canonical essay “Eating the Other”). This cliché includes “exotic” locales and touristic images of the “natives,” who wear clothes and other adornment that are imagined as traditional and time-bound. (In Viet Nam, a frequent setting, these might be so-called pajamas and conical hats; in the often-undifferentiated Africa, also a regular landscape, loincloths and face paint). The deliberate contrast between these figures (native and model) is arranged along a spectrum of race, but also time and space. The Vietnamese, the African, the Peruvian, are imagined to live at a temporal and geographic distance from the modern, and implicitly Western, woman who might wear these fashionable clothes. The compulsion to return to this scene, through which the natives in their deindividuating garb serve to highlight the cosmopolitanism, the expressive and unique sense of self, of the woman who wears (or at least covets) Prada, reveals much about the continuing investments of fashionable discourses to an inheritance of colonial regimes of power and knowledge. It is a fantasy, yes, but no less powerful for being so.
What is happening here is no less committed to this uneven distribution. Read the Post Background Color
by Guest Contributor Jessica Yee, originally published at The Shameless Blog
This story actually made me cry.
Five year old Adriel Arocha is being blocked from attending school in a Houston-area school district.
As an Apache, he has long hair that he has been growing in his Native cultural tradition that “violates” this school’s dress code rules.
The kicker though is that the school board is willing to make exceptions on religious or other “proven” moral grounds, but doesn’t think that being Native American cuts it. Read the Post Denied kindergarten for being Native?