Mixed Messages: On Bi-Racial Siblings

by Special Correspondent Fatemah Fakhraie

My brother likes to push my buttons. When I bring up women’s issues, he tells me to get back to the kitchen. When I bring up Iranian culture, he cracks jokes in a fakey Middle Eastern accent.

I love him anyway.

We’re pretty close. We look alike, family members often confuse our voices on the phone, and we crack jokes to keep each other entertained when things get tense or boring. I feel very blessed to have him, and to have the relationship that we do.

Since high school, I have been striving to reconnect with my Iranian and Muslim identities; he hasn’t shown the same inclination. This isn’t to say that he’s remained the same person since high school: he and his interests have developed and evolved, but they have not done so in a direction that seeks to connect with this half of his ethnic identity. He is just as Iranian as I am in his biological makeup, but his identification doesn’t mirror mine.

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Hair’s To Freedom

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger, originally published at Neesha Meminger

This weekend, I was interviewed for a magazine article. Nothing to do with my book, or even writing, for that matter. The topic of the hour was body image. This is a topic I could go on and on and ON about (and have, on several occasions), but I’ll refrain just this once.

Before the interview, all sorts of thoughts went through my head about what I might talk about — will I do the usual issue of weight and body size/shape? Would I go to the more familiar topic of areas of my body I’ve waged war with? Or would I go into the skin shade territory? So many areas to cover (no pun intended), not enough interview time . . .

So, when the lovely interviewer called me, we had a fantastic, lively, friendly discussion. It was fun and hilarious. We were about forty-five minutes through when I realized all I’d talked about was my hair. My hair. Not the usual trilogy: butt, boobs, belly. Not flab, sag, and lumps. Hair. And not body hair, either.

I had no idea what a huge issue hair has been all through my life. But as I talked to Ms. Lovely Interviewer, I realized that as a Sikh girl-child, then young woman, so many battles over control and power in my house were fought around the territory of my hair. I was not allowed to cut it, there were certain hairstyles I could not wear, and there was just so much IMPORTANCE placed on what I did or did not do with my hair. Continue reading

Preview of ATR Premium 13: Rosalind S. Chou

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Addicted to Race Premium is the premium version of New Demographic’s podcast about America’s obsession with race.

Since this is the public RSS feed, you will receive just a 15-minute preview of the interview.

Why are Asian-Americans seen as a model minority, and why is it problematic to be associated with a so-called “positive” stereotype? How does the type of racial discrimination and prejudice faced by Asian-Americans compare or contrast with that of other people of color? What are the real-world impacts of racism on Asian-Americans, ranging from mental health to romantic relationships? Rosalind S. Chou is co-author of The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism.

Got feedback for us? Call 917-720-6348 or email info@addictedtorace.com.

Rosalind S. Chou is co-author of The Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism. She spent six years working at a nonprofit camp for at-risk girls before moving to Texas in 2005 for graduate studies in sociology at Texas A&M University and to play rugby for the Austin Valkyries.

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Gran Torino and Hmong Gangs in the Midwest

by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng

In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood plays a bitter old man who’s basically the only white person left in a run-down neighborhood somewhere in the Midwest. He (reluctantly, at first) gets to know his Hmong neighbors, and ends up getting intricately involved in their lives, as they deal with issues caused by a local Hmong gang that some of their relatives are a part of.

There are plenty of things about the movie that might make for great posts on Racialicious:

1. Like most Hollywood movies that are about a community of people of color, Gran Torino features a white protagonist who not only saves the day, but also has the most layers of complexity to his personality.

2. As the first major Hollywood film about Hmong Americans, how did it do at depicting this community? Does the exposure of Hmong culture and the opportunity for Hmong actors outweigh the possible inaccuracies and negative representations? (See some of the commentary about this on AsianWeek.)

3. Clint Eastwood’s character’s constant racist remarks serve as a running joke in the movie. Just because he uses outdated and blatantly un-P.C. language with an “equal-opportunity discrimination” approach, is it OK to use this deeply offensive language as comic relief?

But I don’t really want to write about those things. I want to write about another reaction I had. Continue reading

Assimilated Beauty

by Guest Contributor Lisa Leong, originally published on the AZN Television blog

“That’s colonialism all over your face!”

The quote is from one of my favorite Asian American Studies professors on eyelid surgery, nose bridge implants, and any other kind of cosmetic surgery that transforms Asians physical features into more Caucasian ones. She meant that there is one standard of beauty—the Western one—that gets imprinted on our faces, our bodies, and our senses of self.

It’s easy to see that the Western ideal of blond-haired, blue-eyed, All-American (or Ayran, if you’re more sinister) beauty is the dominant standard. Look no further than the all-present world of popular media. Advertisements, TV, and movies glorify beautiful faces, but these beautiful faces don’t look anything like me—or you, probably. Every billboard says, “This is Beauty, and you are not quite it. Envy my bag, my hair, my look and my, uh, eyelids.”

Racialized plastic surgery is a popular topic on talk shows like Tyra and Montel. They raise the question: does eyelid surgery erase or enhance race? The audience nods along in agreement that eyelid surgery is a way for Asians to conform to white prettiness. The plastic surgeon and his patients say that they are just enhancing Asian looks. I may not have big, round eyes, but I can see perfectly well what’s going on here. Continue reading

Erasing the Mexicans

by Guest Contributor Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, originally published at Write.Live.Repeat

This photo shows my mother on her wedding day. That’s her, in the middle. Her sister “Sis” is on the left, her sister Janis on the right.

Notice how the sisters exchange a strange look across my nervous, uncertain mom (who was 24 at the time). Knowing my aunts, and the family narrative, I have a feeling I know what that smirk was about. It was a smirk of superiority, for my mother had chosen to marry a short Cuban man who spoke little English – while the sisters themselves had both already married conservative white men.

At holiday gatherings, my mother’s family – which self-identified as “anglo” – often made derogatory comments about “Mexicans,” that being the only group they could readily find to lump my father (and his children) into.

When I was in my teens, my mother’s paternal aunt Gladys researched the Conant family tree (my mother’s maiden name is Conant) and discovered, among other things, that my mom’s father’s grandmother’s maiden name was Marquez, and that she hailed from Anton Chico, New Mexico. Her family, Gladys assured us all, could trace its roots directly to Spain in the 1500s, with a land-grant from the King. She was, in other words, royalty. “She was from the Northern part of Spain,” I often heard my grandmother (who married into the Conant family) say, following up with “they’re blonde-headed up that way.”

Well, this week I began researching our family tree myself, for a memoir I’m working on. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Barbarita Marquez (listed as “Marcus” on her death certificate in California, ha!) was not exactly as Spanish as the Conants have wanted us all to believe. Continue reading

Shameless Promotion and Links – 2008-12-18

Shameless Promotion

This is a big month, readers.

First off, Nadra Kareem and I are in this month’s issue of Bitch Magazine (the Noir Issue #42).

Nadra wrote “Am I [Para]normal?” about the heroines in Lois Duncan’s novels and the relationship between teen coming of age stories and the supernatural. It’s an excellent piece, particularly in light of this conversation we had about Twilight and Harry Potter.

And my interview with Tricia Rose is there, titled “Turning the Tables.” Now that it’s finally out, I can start posting the overflow, so you’ll see some starting tomorrow. And once again, I would like to thank LM, fireeyedgirl, exhausted, cat m., PureGracefulTree, Jane, Jen*, Dolly, T.M.A., and everyone else who helped to spread the word and donate. Thank you so much for supporting indie media, and thank you all so much for indirectly supporting me, Nadra, Fatemeh, and other names you may know like Deesha Philyaw and Jessica Hoffman – we have to eat too!

Also hitting a bookstore near you is Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape. Now, some intrepid readers might remember all the drama swirling around this book from inception to printing. And I have to admit, I was less than pleased at the circumstances surrounding a project I committed to. But I got my contributor copy in the mail yesterday, and after reading the book, I have to say I am proud of this project. There are so many amazing women on these pages speaking the truth about our lives and our sexuality that I was just sitting there astounded. My essay is titled “The Not Rape Epidemic” and it was tough to write that down and put that out there on the page. But I am glad I did it. I am donating one of my copies to my local Planned Parenthood there – I may buy a few more for them to stick in the waiting room for the teens that are there for counseling.

There are DC, NY, and Boston promotional dates scheduled. I’ll post more on that in a few days. If you can, please consider buying the book. If you don’t have the money, please help by requesting that your local library or youth center purchase a copy. I worked in the library system for three years, and highly requested books do get purchased.

Also, as a side note, I should mention the version in YMY is not the original piece I submitted. Jacyln and I worked on a broader ranging piece for the book which weaves parts of my personal story in with some other events that happened and recommendations on how to help. We agreed that I would eventually post the full version of the original here. I think I will also post that over the weekend – however, the subject matter is extremely heavy. That’s why I’m posting it off hours.

More info and links after the jump. Continue reading