Month: February 2009

February 25, 2009 / / class

by Guest Contributor Minh-ha, originally published at Threadbared


In New York magazine’s Spring Fashion issue, there are six feature stories on clothes, designers, and models including a story on a group of tenderfoot but fresh-faced white male models (“Fashion Week’s handsome rookies”), an interview with style icon Kate Moss on her clothing line at the much-anticipated and much delayed opening of TopShop in downtown Manhattan (recent reports have doors opening in April 2009), and a recession-minded article with an increasingly familiar theme, “Everything Here is Under $100”). In addition, there is the usual array of designer label advertisements and celebrity spokesmodels: Posh and Becks for Emporio Armani, Katie Holmes for Miu Miu, Gwyneth Paltrow for Tod’s, as well as an anonymous sea of puerile, well-heeled, ivory-faced Gothamites slinging everything from Marc Jacobs handbags to cocktails to lifestyles.

Jessica Lustig’s article, “The Fashion Thief,” was the only feature story or advertisement in the Fashion Issue that featured a person of color, any color. Lustig follows Kevahn Thorpe, an African American young man from Queensbridge Houses project in Queens, New York, as he is arrested and rearrested for shoplifting from high-end Manhattan shops like Prada, Bergdorf, Barneys, and Saks.

There’s a lot about this article that’s unsettling. Read the Post Policing Fashion in New York

February 25, 2009 / / asian
February 24, 2009 / / activism

by Latoya Peterson

Regular reader Elton Joe recently sent around a Facebook message around a spate of comments over at Digg, about a New York Times opinion piece inspired by Eric Holder’s comments about being “a nation of cowards.”

After reading through the normal comments accompanying a piece about race – blacks are the real racists, an instance of bad behavior by one member of a certain racial group is equated to an entire history of discrimination and subjugation, the insistence that slavery was so long ago that nothing else is happening, accusations of “playing the race card” and the ever interesting “if whites are a nation of cowards, are blacks a nation of bitches?” question (with 41 diggs) – Elton had enough. He wrote:

I propose we make a cheat sheet with the most common arguments about racism followed by summary counterarguments. I’m not saying that answers to racism are short and easy, but I keep seeing and hearing the same inane, clichéd statements over and over and over again, on the Internet, in daily conversation, on TV, in movies, and in print, especially from deniers of racism who misunderstand what racism even is.

For dialogue on racism to even get off the ground, we must require people who don’t know shit about racism, who have never experienced it, who, indeed, benefit from it, to SHUT UP FOR ONCE and let people who have something to say say something instead of having our voices
eternally stifled and marginalized. That censorship is at the core of the systematized oppression that is racism. Read the Post Open Thread: Racism 101, Beyond Bingo Cards

February 24, 2009 / / media

by Guest Contributor Average Bro, originally published at Average Bro

This post’s title is a rhetorical question. Of course poor whites exist, but not that you’d know so if you’re informed by the mainstream media. While Ronald Reagan was successful in painting urban black women as “welfare queens”, whites receive nearly 2/3 of all welfare benefits administered by the federal government. Still, Shaniqua Jackson, not Samantha McMullen, is the face of American poverty.

Last Friday’s edition of ABC’s 20/20 tried to shed some light on the woes of dirt poor rural white Americans, a group of folks so routinely (and IMHO, intentionally) ignored they’re damn near considered invisible. And while A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains is a fairly nuanced portrait of life in the hills of Kentucky, it both informs and pisses off at the same time.

The promo trailer:

A young girl discusses her Mom’s drug problem.

Read the Post Do Poor Whites Even Exist?

February 23, 2009 / / links

Restructure turns an eye to “What PoC Do: Restrain Ourselves“:

The people who say these things appear to think that racism occurs rarely, and that when a non-white person complains about allegedly “trivial” instances of racism, it means that she is like a young child who hasn’t yet learned that not everyone in the world is obligated to be nice to her. In reality, however, I have experienced racial microaggressions since childhood, and I am well aware that the world is not a safe space for people of colour with respect to race. I point out racism not because I’m noticing it for the first time, but because I want to bring it to the attention of others who have grown up shielded from the daily realities that people of colour have to endure. I point out racism because I want to point out injustice, not because I am some selfish oversensitive child who wants the world to revolve around me and my feelings.

Instead of “I’m offended!”, I tend to say, “That’s racist!” However, this method has its own problems, because although you are not calling someone a racist, the accused perceives it that way, that you are personally attacking their character. Calling someone racist, they argue, is an ad hominem and therefore not a valid argument. They say that you are characterizing them as a bad person so that anything they say is characterized as illegitimate. They make it all about them instead of about the action being criticized. They claim that they are being silenced if I use the word “racist”, so that I even considered using the terms “racialist” or “racial discrimination” instead to make the criticism more acceptable. Sometimes I did this, until I realized that even if you use a less offensive word, they still became defensive because they could not accept the idea that racism isn’t over, or that they could be racist (adjective, which is a different concept than being a racist, noun). I also realized that I was bending over backwards as to not hurt their feelings, instead of the other way around, the latter being the illusion that they maintain through repetition.

Lisa Zhu attended an open casting call for Avatar:

[C]asting director Deedee Rickets advised prospective extras in Friday’s Daily Pennsylvanian article “to dress in traditional cultural ethnic attire. … If you’re Korean, wear a kimono. If you’re from Belgium, wear lederhosen.” Unlike the original series, which features almost exclusively Asian cultural influences, Shyamalan’s version will depict the four worlds as “ethnically and culturally” different, according to Rickets.

Alas, my Korean ancestors failed to leave me any kimonos – or saris for that matter – and my authentic Belgian lederhosen happened to be in the wash at the time. So, clad only in a mundane sweatshirt and pair of jeans, I looked around the room. There were about 50 to 60 people in this particular group (more aspiring actors were waiting in line outside), and they were all listening intently to Rickets.

“We’re trying to create these four different nations so we’re looking for different skin tones, and features, and bone structures,” she said. As she spoke, I counted about a dozen small children – as well as two grown men – who were wearing karate outfits. Another handful of prospective extras wore traditional Nigerian outfits (most at this particular casting call were African American), but the vast majority thankfully had on boring, contemporary Western clothing.

One middle-aged black woman, clad in a denim jacket and black slacks, raised her hand. “Are you at a disadvantage if you didn’t wear a costume?” she asked, evidently concerned about her “non-ethnic” outfit.

“Absolutely not!” Rickets reassured her. “It doesn’t mean you’re at a disadvantage if you didn’t come in a big African thing. But guys, even if you came with a scarf today, put it over your head so you’ll look like a Ukrainian villager or whatever.”

Read the Post Links – 2009-02-23

February 23, 2009 / / The Brazil Files

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

Before I utter any statements of depth in this piece, I have to present a bias. Though not meant to offend those who believe in proselytizing, I find myself firmly standing on the side of those against it. If you feel that religion and/or a faith tradition of some sort is your source of hope, guidance for life, and possibly even your ticket to eternal salvation, so be it. I respect that, and I fully honor the right we each have to practice some form of the aforementioned. However, the second you start telling me or someone else which form is best (read: which version will prevent me from burning in hell for the rest of eternity), we’ve got beef.

With that said, I want to go ahead and put it out there that I take issue with the bulk of missionary work (past and present), especially that which takes place in developing nations. It is a reminder of the power of nations who sit firmly and comfortably in their G8 seats, spectators in a game of international tennis. Only in the case of missionary work, the victory comes at a higher price, one that can mean not only renouncing one’s culture, but also one’s religion (or at least denouncing it in public) as a means of attaining vital resources. This is not to say that missionaries have not done good work. There are countless records of missionaries who have helped others in excellent ways, minus all the religious rhetoric. However, even if the message of faith lies in no more than an utterance or the simple presence of the mission’s name, missionary work nevertheless boils down to a political campaign in the name of God.

In light of my objection to this line of work, I find myself dealing with a mental conflict almost every day of my present job. My campaign has nothing to do with God, but in terms of international influence, the English language and American culture come pretty darn close. Though I have been teaching English in Brazil since July of 2008, there are still a few things about my current profession that rub me the wrong way. The source of my discomfort in teaching my mother tongue lies in implications more so than tangible, empirical evidence, thus making my inner turmoil all-the-more “inner.” Much like a mosquito bite on the sole of your foot, my conflict has been an itch I can’t quite scratch.

Before enrolling in the program in which I am involved, I already knew I wanted to live in Brazil for a few months to a year to have more exposure to Brazilian culture, particularly an aspect of it that involved more of the quotidian variety. I was looking to go beyond the favela-riddled, bikini-clad, beach bathing, rainforested Brazil with which we are presented on our television screens and in our Netflix queues. I wanted to be forced to speak Portuguese on a regular basis and pushed a bit beyond my comfort zone. I was not looking for a spoiled, privileged, escapist ex-pat experience of the Eat Pray Love genre.

The easiest way to achieve my goal was to teach English here, but I knew in the back of my mind, I would be presented with interesting challenges that I may not have faced if I had chosen another route to secure a job in Brazil. For one, I would have to be a de facto representative of American Culture TM. My language and my country would be placed center stage during class, but what Americans do, eat, buy, and think would be the main topic of conversation at all other times as well. I would be reduced to a living, breathing souvenir. Yet in actuality, I find myself to be a bit of a disappointment to my students and the Brazilian English teachers, not for lack of teaching skills, but for lack of conforming to their ideas of Americans and American life. Read the Post The Brazil Files: Conflict of Interest

February 23, 2009 / / Uncategorized

by guest contributor Karen Wang, originally published at Scarlett Cinema

It is a strange feeling to walk down the streets of New York these days. Though the hustle and bustle of commerce may still swarm all about you, it is noticeably quieter than usual. And though the sub-zero wind chills may easily explain why only the tourists and Broadway musical super-fanatics can be lured out to play, I would argue: it is more than that.

I’ve watched, listened, and noticed for quite some time now how things seem to be shaping up; and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are few other places in the country where the carnage and fallout from this blighted recession are more evident than in New York City. The Big Apple has been hit especially hard.

Condos and co-ops sit empty as their selling prices in the New York Times continue to plummet. Five or six businesses on my block alone– establishments that had thrived for years– all closed their doors forever within recent months. A cross-town bus ride or walk down 23rd Street will reveal more darkened storefronts. And perhaps most eerie of all: the empty trains.

Like most people in New York who either have a hand in filmmaking or write about films on the internet, I have a day job. For the last two and a half years, I have worked at a financial firm located somewhere between Times Square and Rockefeller Center. It is this part of town that has, in a way, become the new Wall Street. In fact, the Wall Street of times yore no longer exists– at least, not in the sense of it being the end-all-be-all site of where all the major money makers are housed. Most firms such as Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley now have office space and trading floors as well as run their businesses in buildings all over Manhattan. Dozens of media corporations such as NBC Universal, Viacom, Time Warner, and Conde Nast are also based in the area of town in which I work. Consequently, up until the Dow began its terrifying descent last summer, it was a matter of routine, a normal sight, to wedge one’s way onto packed subway trains full of daily commuters headed towards the Great White Way. These days, however, in the wake of massive layoffs, my wait at the local halal food cart is practically non-existent; I no longer have to dodge and weave between as many brief cases and overcoats walking through Times Square; and most unsettling of all: as I look around during my morning and evening commutes, the subway cars are conspicuously roomier.

Why am I bringing all this up on a feminist-inspired blog about cinema and the media? Because last month, in the New York Times, there appeared an article written by Hannah Seligson about the recent mass exodus of bankers and Wall Street types from the financial industry as they look to the arts and entertainment industry for their future career paths. In other words, they are turning to their “creative plan Bs.” Read the Post Seismic Shift on Wall Street = “Artists”???

February 20, 2009 / / Uncategorized