Links – 2008-11-24

Ennis of Sepia Mutiny opines on What Obama’s Victory Means:

What does this mean for desis? Well, not much in some ways. We’re still a small group, and we’re not going to get singled out for ponies and party favors.

But I think, for the first time, we’ve been truly seen and recognized. Obama knows both South Asia and South Asians. We aren’t just some weird American fringe ethnic group to him. He has called himself desi, cooked dal, and travelled in the desh.

His campaign drew upon desis not just for topics to do with South Asia, but for every day campaign issues. The director of my local Obama campaign office was actually a Ugandan Desi ABD whose father was born in Jinja. One of the core staff members in the office was a desi female, one of the Patels from Kentucky.

I am hopeful that under an Obama administration our background will not be seen as a liability or as something intrinsically un-American. And that, to me, is change that we sorely need.

Queenemily has a wonderful piece on Questioning Transphobia titled “How to Mourn:

Today most of all, we remember those who were killed. Because we die violently, unmemorialised, and are mocked after our deaths.

Because the world sees us disposable, less than human (and who can mourn that?). Many of the dead lost their lives because they were trans women of colour, doubly disposable. Racism is killing our sisters every bit as much as trans misogyny is.

Who would mourn a thing, a that, an it?

Few will respect our lives as they were, and few will mourn them, and they must be mourned. Their lives were meaningful, their names and genders were real and important, and they lost their lives from hate.

Alternet posts a fascinating tale of reproduction and rights currently unfolding in India:

Across India, the tale of baby Manhji has made headlines and gripped the nation’s attention. Born to a Japanese father and surrogate Indian mother, the two month old is caught in legal limbo. In a way, she has three mothers but none who will raise her, and she cannot return to Japan with her father due to complications of Indian law.

The saga began when Japanese citizens Dr. Ikufumi and Yuki Yamada were unable to conceive a child of their own. They obtained an egg from an anonymous donor and then travelled to India to locate a surrogate mother. In November 2007, the fertilized embryo was implanted into Pritiben of Ahmedabad, and the Yamadas began the nine month wait for their child.

The couple’s dream of completing their happy family was dashed when Ikufumi and Yuki divorced just one month before Manjhi’s birth. Apparently wanting a complete separation from her old life, Yuki took the additional step of disowning the newborn.

Quite simply, Indian laws have not kept pace with the recent trend of reproductive tourism. The law traditionally favors the mother over the father in a custody battle; in Manjhi’s case, the courts have been unable to make a clear statement on who is to be deemed the baby’s mother. The biological mother who donated her eggs remains anonymous, the intended mother has severed ties, and the surrogate mother’s responsibility ended at childbirth.

The second obstacle is that Indian law requires Ikufumi to adopt his own child because of the circumstances under which she was born, yet because he is a single father, the law has also rendered him ineligible. Without re-marrying, he cannot claim the child that he intended to raise with his former wife.

To complicate matters even further, a Rajasthan-based NGO has stepped into the picture, claiming that Manjhi’s status is that of an “abandoned child.” Due to the child’s uncertain legal status, and because the father is unable to become her lawful guardian, Ikufumi’s efforts to take the baby to Tokyo fit the Indian profile of child trafficking.

Bitch points us toward an IFC Media project covering how the news actually gets made, featuring the nerdilicious Gideon Yago. There’s also a related NY Times article:

Mr. Yago, 29, may seem too young to be disillusioned about journalism, but his seven years spent at MTV News and his contributions to CBS News would suggest otherwise. In an interview last week, he said he had watched “news stories that were super-relevant get the kibosh because Purina had bought the first hour of the morning show and they wanted to do a profile on fat cats.” He added, though, that the practices examined on the program are not only ones he has witnessed personally.

Asked if he has become a journalistic cynic, he responded, “That, my friend, is the understatement of the year.” He then quoted a line from the 1987 film “Broadcast News”: “You’re lucky if you can get out while you could still cry.“

Open Thread: Uncle Toms and House Negroes

by Latoya Peterson

Okay, so first, it was Nader talking about how Obama “might” act like an “Uncle Tom.”

Now, Al-Qaeda’s called him a house negro.

What did Eric D. say in the comments? Stop the world, I want to get off? I concurr. I need a damn nap, so there isn’t much intelligent commentary from me on this one. I think all I can muster is a spew of profanity.

Luckily, Dr. Melissa Harris Lacewell & Dr. Yolanda Pierce over at The Kitchen Table have us covered.

First, there was Melissa’s response to the “house negro” incident:

I didn’t start a revolution at The Kitchen Table while you were in class, but Al-Qaeda was clearly tripping while I was teaching. After my long seminar yesterday I came back to my office to a phone call from a Saudi newspaper. They wanted to talk with me about the fact that Ayman al-Zawahri accused Obama of being a “House Negro.”

When I first heard the message I thought one of my friends was teasing me. A Saudi newspaper is reporting on Al-Qaeda calling Barack a House Negro? Doesn’t that sound like some kind of twisted practical joke that my overly intellectual friends would perpetrate? But the story is true and I find this latest Al-Qaeda video truly fascinating. Continue reading

Happy Hour Recap/Behind the Scenes at Racialicious.com

by Latoya Peterson

Thanks so much to everyone who came out to the Racialicious/Feministing Happy Hour on Tuesday. It was a pleasure to meet you all. Regular commenters Lunanoire and LisaJ made an appearance. And it was great to meet everyone else – all you fabulous lurkers who don’t comment. I appreciated your insights.

Ann, Miriam, and Adam Serwer (aka dnA of the Too Sense blog) were also there helping me hold it down.

I must say, I had to smile when I looked at the scattered table or two of Racialicious fans – y’all looked exactly like I thought you would. Multi-racial and multi-ethnic. I feel like next time, we should have a more intimate gathering, so we could all actually talk. (Most of the Racialicious readers grabbed a drink and then tried to find a quiet place to chat – makes me think we were all in search of conversation.)

At any rate, I got asked some interesting questions while I was there, and wanted to share them with the blog. Think of this as an FAQ.

Q: So, Racialicious is a full time thing for you guys now, right?

Ha! We wish. Most of us have day jobs. I remember reading the Jezebels talk about how their normal days go (basically chained to the computer until the evening) and going “hmm…that sounds nice.” Normally my day is spent working, sneaking peeks at the blog while doing something else, then going home at night and writing and editing posts.

Q: What’s Carmen been doing?

She’s grinding hard on New Demographic, planning some updates and a super big relaunch. She’s blogging over at CarmenVanKerckhove.com. We discuss this blog, but she doesn’t get involved unless I need her to step in when I’m sick or something.

Q: How do you find the time to blog?

Ha. I make time. Some weeks, I do a good job and have everything all scheduled and perfect with the ideal fifteen posts all set. And some weeks, it’s total chaos and I’m hiding in the copy room trying to bang out a post to put up late and deal with the comments later. Depends.

Q: How do you deal with negative comments?

Not well. Though, I’m apparently in good company. I can’t really complain about Racialicious. It’s about 90% active and engaged commenters, 5% people who like to hear themselves talk, and 5% racists/misogynists who get banned at some point. Some days it gets exhausting and feels kind of thankless, but then I get over it.


Q: Why is there so much Heroes coverage?

This one really made me laugh. I actually have never watched Heroes, but I vaguely remembered it being a thing on Racialicious where someone would do recaps. So, I’m off in my editrix bubble when my mailbox was suddenly deluged with requests before Season 3 started. After the sixth or seventh email, I was like “Whoa…this must be important.” After a little go round with past contribs and people who wanted to do it, the task basically fell to Arturo who provides two insightful updates a week. When he provides them, I post – simple as that. A lot of the content here is published as it is made available, so if something isn’t being covered, it is probably because it is not available to me.

(Example: A lot of y’all asked for racial analysis on Firefly – but no one on staff watched that show. I like Whedon’s stuff, so I’ll probably get it on DVD eventually…but looking at my Netflix queue, it could literally be a year before I watch it and post on it.)

So that’s it. West coasters, I heard your pleas, so I will work something out. And yes, I plan to schedule another DC meet up soon.

Waking Up in “Post-Racial” America

by Latoya Peterson

The night Barack Obama won the election, I was pissed off about losing my wallet.

Having accepted a last minute invite to an election night party down in Dupont Circle, I hastily threw hat, umbrella, wallet, gloves, and Ipod into a large bag, dressed in layers, and headed out into the evening drizzle to hang with friends as the ballots were counted. My homegirl Spiff and I entered the scene, bypassing a frustrated Republican looking for a red celebration and a guy playing both the guitar and a harmonica, trying to rhyme words in his improvised song with Obama, McCain and Palin.

The room was electric, supercharged by the palpable excitement in the air at the possibility of an Obama win. Though there were two different drink specials offered for party goers, four out of five drinks were of the “Blue Victory” variety. Unfortunately, so many people and so much energy, combined with so many azure colored concoctions would have eventually spelled disaster for my winter white coat. I crammed it into my bag and kept partying, until the open bar closed and I realized I was out of money. And metro fare home. And an ID with which to buy more drinks.

I checked the screen and saw that John McCain had an electoral college lead over Obama. Open bar closed early, the free food had run out, so we decided to head down to Kramer’s to grab some food and drink, and perhaps the next part of the election cycle on CNN. Luckily for me, some old friends were on duty, so discounted drinks and apps were on the menu.

We sat in the bar, sipping on Obama-tinis, hanging with my friend Abby who brought maps of the United States with her. She also held blue and red colored pencils, so she could color in the correct states in real time. While Abby is the most cynical person I know, she seemed strangely upbeat. She was unshakeable in her faith that Obama would win – her reasoning was that all other alternatives were too grim. We ordered another round.

The night wore on, the electoral college count started creeping toward Obama, and more friends dropped by to drink to with us. Abby was still shading in the electoral college votes. Little snatches of excited conversation rippled through the bar, debating ideas and policy changes. Then, suddenly, Obama pulled ahead. 270 was close, then in reach, then surpassed.

The whole bar broke out in an uproar, screaming and shouting at the television. I looked over at Abby, surprised to note that tears were streaming down her face. Her eyes refused to move from the screen, but she was still clutching the colored pencils.

“We did it?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, I guess we did,” I replied, equally shocked.

For a few moments, we all just watched the screen, waiting for someone to come and take it back. To say that the projections were off or something. I can’t speak for anyone else in the bar that night, but I know my shock was genuine. I had never thought Obama would lose – the other offerings were just too grim to consider. But, somehow, it had never entered my mind that he would win, either. I personally was expecting another Supreme Court battle. I figured we’d have a President somewhere around December, give or take vote challenges and other shenanigans.

But Obama won.

When we got over the shock, popped some champagne, and settled into listen to McCain’s concession speech.

After that, we headed home. Weaving through the happy hornblowers downtown, we crept back into the suburbs around one. I texted my boss and told her I was pre-emptively calling in drunk. I turned off talk radio because it was bothering me, listening to the pundits shift to talking about all the problems Obama had to face when he was literally thirty minutes into the President Elect role. I came home, listened halfway to Obama’s speech, and fell into bed.

The next day I woke up feeling like shit.

Continue reading

No, I’m Not Crazy

by guest contributor Paula, originally published at Heart, Mind and Seoul

Last week my husband and I were shopping at a store which I have frequented a few times times before on my own. The same sales woman who has assisted me in the past happened to be working the night my husband and I were there. Though this woman has never outright refused to help me, I have noticed how much more friendly and how much more time she is willing to spend with other customers – customers who just happen to be white. I honestly wasn’t even thinking about my previous interactions with her when I walked into the store. But as soon as I did, I couldn’t help but notice how different she was. Like how much quicker (read: instantly) we as a couple were acknowledged by her than I have been on previous occasions when in the store by myself or with my son (read: never). And how interested she was in helping us and answering all of our questions. How cordial and downright hospitable she was toward us, taking all the time in the world to ensure we were taken care of. Could it have been that she was just in an extraordinarily good mood that night? Perhaps she had just had a review with her manager and was encouraged to greet customers in a more timely and friendly manner. Maybe she had plans after the store was closed that she was really looking forward to and as a result, had a little extra pep in her step. Perhaps she had downed too many energy drinks from the nearby convenience store and she just couldn’t contain her enthusiasm to eagerly help the next customers that walked through the door.

I acknowledge all those scenarios are possible. I can’t say for sure. But I do know this: Her behavior was different. It was unquestionably different toward me this week when accompanied by my white husband than it had been on any number of the previous visits when I’ve been alone or with my Korean-American son in tow.

Situations like this recent incident are not new or sadly all that infrequent. It happened to me as a little girl when all of a sudden I would become visible and noticeable when the person in charge eventually realized that the white couple a few paces behind were actually with me. And it still happens now in certain situations when it’s obvious that I’m part of a group that includes my husband, my parents, my brothers (who are white) or my white friends.

And though I’m not terribly surprised when it does happen, I’m still very much caught off guard on how to fully process it, articulate it and more importantly – how to unapologetically validate it to myself – without second guessing what I feel and believe to have taken place.

“You know, you really have to stop looking for these things, Paula. You’re just seeing what you want to see”, is something I have been told before when I’ve shared these experiences. That along with, “The person could have been just having a bad day” and “I highly doubt it was even about you at all; I’m sure she’s rude and miserable towards everyone”, and the one that seems to convince the person saying it that there must be absolutely no racism or personal prejudices at play: “Just let it go already. It’s not like the person called you a name or something!” Continue reading

Busta’s Busted: “Arab Money”

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

I know, I know. If you’re looking for socially conscious rap or hip hop, you don’t go to Busta Rhymes. But this still surprises me:

Maytha from KABOBfest has highlighted Rhyme’s song “Arab Money,” which has some disgustingly racist lyrics. Maytha brings up some great points about this video, namely, that it is a blatant example of the acceptability of anti-Arab racism.

Let me highlight some of Busta’s rhymes:

Women walkin around while security on camelback

Club on fire now — dunno how to act

Sittin in casino’s while im gamblin with Arafat

Money so long watch me purchase pieces of the Almanac

Ya already know i got the streets bust

While i make ya bow down makes salaat like a muslim

Camelback?! Gambling with a dead PLO leader?! Elsewhere, there are references to growing beards and Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family known for his success in business (his…uh…bread).

Busta Rhymes’ song (and its fakey Arabic chorus–shudder) is just one more instance of hip hop’s cultural appropriation of Middle Eastern music (producer Timbaland has been “sampling” Arabic songs for years: remember Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin”? That is Egyptian artist Hossam Ramzy’s “Khusara Khusara” that you hear).

Rhyme’s references to Yasser Arafat and Saudi princes create the illusion of ownership: not only are we expected to think that he and Browz understand/speak Arabic and understand Middle Eastern politics and geography, but we’re also supposed to think that he rolls with said Arabs.

When I first heard the song, I didn’t know whether to be angrier about the sexism (Rhymes makes reference to “Middle East women and Middle East bread”—things), the racism, or the casual name dropping in what Maytha calls “baseless stereotypes masquerading as knowledge.” Continue reading

Obama and Myths of Racial Democracy

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America)

Political pundits have celebrated president-elect Barack Obama’s sweeping and historic victory as evidence that the United States has taken an initial step toward a “post-racial” or “colorblind” society.

In a recent Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, Shelby Steele provocatively asked, “Doesn’t a black in the Oval Office put the lie to both black inferiority and white racism? Doesn’t it imply a ‘post-racial’ America?” Analysts on both sides of the political spectrum have answered yes. Phillip Morris of the Cleveland Plains Dealer declared, “America has completed its evolution into a racial meritocracy.” While Jonathan Kay of Canada’s National Post wrote, “Electing a black president won’t instantly cure ‘the ugly racial wound left by America’s history’ (as The Economist put it in its Obama endorsement). But it will at least prove that America has finally become a fundamentally post-racial society—a place where tribal loyalties are based on ideology, not skin color.” Meanwhile, another conservative columnist, Laura Hollis of Townhall.com, flatly claimed, “Racism is dead.”

Most interesting, and perhaps troubling, is the way Latin America is being used by observers to symbolize what a “post-racial” future will look like for the United States. In a syndicated report for McClatchy Newspapers, Tyler Bridges remarked, “This year’s election presents intriguing story lines for Latin Americans. Race is a less important issue here than it is the United States, but many dark-skinned Latin Americans are quietly cheering for Obama.”

U.S. commentators most often point to the concept of mestizaje as an example of Latin America’s seamless racial integration. Mestizaje, or racial mixing, is often seen as diametrically different to historical U.S. legal sanctions against miscegenation—the so-called “one-drop” rule. Mestizaje is cited as a prime example of how Latin Americans have been able to move beyond race. Although mestizaje has different historical roots and trajectories within different Latin American countries, there has been a rhetorical emphasis across the board on a kind harmonious racial exceptionalism at work in Latin America.

The everyday practices and lived experiences of many Latin Americans, however, paint a different picture. Continue reading

Links – 2008-11-18

Reminder: Happy Hour in DC tonight at the Chi-Cha Lounge. Fun starts around 5:30.

Women’s eNews talks about the Global Gender Gap:

The economic, political and educational gender gaps have shrunk globally, with equality between women and men improving in more than two-thirds of 130 countries analyzed in the annual Global Gender Gap Index. The Nov. 12 index was released by the World Economic Forum, a Geneva-based development think tank.

Worldwide, women’s health and life expectancy, however, keep worsening.

Alternet asks “Is the Turban Effect the new Bradley Effect?”

The first is “The Turban Effect,” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by a team from the University of New South Wales in Sydney. It suggests that simply noticing someone is a Muslim increases aggressive tendencies on the part of non-Muslim Westerners.

The Pushback Blog comments on Andrew Sullivan’s take on Prop 8:

On the first point, the logic is absurd; if the voting preferences of African-Americans in one state can be used as a proxy for the voting preferences of African-Americans in all states, then, by Sullivan’s reasoning, we can also safely say that Prop 8 revealed the seething homophobia in a huge swath of the population: the over-65 community (61 percent voted “yes”), Latinos (53 percent voted “yes”), and middle-class voters (54 percent voted “yes”). Indeed, by Sullivan’s reasoning, most communities in the United States are brimming with “seething” homophobia.

Afrobella’s got another great discussion going on Prop 8, in her Love not H8 post. The comments are an interesting volley between those for and against gay marriage.

Shygirlj sends in this link from CNN:

A jury awarded $2.5 million in damages on Friday to a Kentucky teenager who was severely beaten by members of a Ku Klux Klan group because the Klansmen mistakenly thought he was an illegal Latino immigrant, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.
Jordan Gruver, then 16, was targeted and beaten by Klan members, his lawsuit alleged.

The jury found that the Imperial Klans of America and its founder wrongfully targeted 16-year-old Jordan Gruver, an American citizen of Panamanian and Native-American descent.

Rob Schmidt sends in this interesting tidbit buried in a Slate article (emphasis mine):

A report from the pro-gay National Black Justice Coalition attributes President Bush’s 2004 reelection in part to the near-doubling of his percentage of the black vote in Ohio, which he achieved “by appealing to Black churchgoers on the issue of marriage equality.” This year, blacks in California were targeted the same way.

The NBJC report paints a stark picture of the resistance. It cites surveys showing that “65% of African-Americans are opposed to marriage equality compared to 53% of Whites” and that blacks are “less than half as likely to support marriage equality and legal recognition of same-sex civil unions as Whites.” It concludes: “African-Americans are virtually the only constituency in the country that has not become more supportive over the last dozen years, falling from a high of 65% support for gay rights in 1996 to only 40% in 2004.” Nor is the problem dying out: “Among African-American youth, 55% believed that homosexuality is always wrong, compared to 36% of Latino youth and 35% of White youth.”

Jasmine sends in an article on Danny Hoch, who has apparently declared war on gentrifiers:

Although the characters in “Taking Over” range from a real estate developer to a young man whose family is being kicked out of its apartment, the pro-gentrification characters (who are, not coincidentally, white) are inevitably less sympathetic than those being pushed out by the neighborhood’s transformation.

During earlier workshop runs, Mr. Hoch said, many upper-middle-class audience members told him they felt excluded or alienated while watching the show, particularly when the more hostile characters were onstage. “And my response to that is: That is a good thing, embrace that, because that is what all of my characters who are getting displaced are feeling.”