Links – 2009-03-23

Compiled by Latoya Peterson

The Daily Beast – Obama’s ‘Third Culture’ Team

John Quincy Adams lived in France, and young Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Europe often enough to master French and German, but Barack Obama is the first modern American president to have spent some of his formative years outside the United States. It is a trait he shares with several appointees to the new administration: White House advisor Valerie Jarrett was a child in Tehran and London, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was raised in east Africa, India, Thailand, China and Japan as the son of a Ford Foundation executive, and National Security Advisor James L. Jones was raised in Paris. (Also, Bill Richardson, tipped as Secretary of Commerce, grew up in Mexico City.) [...]

This is more than a trivial coincidence. So-called “Third Culture Kids”—and the adults they become”—share certain emotional and psychological traits that may exert great influence in the new administration. According to a body of sociological literature devoted to children who spend a portion of their developmental years outside their “passport country,” the classic profile of a “TCK” is someone with a global perspective who is socially adaptable and intellectually flexible. He or she is quick to think outside the box and can appreciate and reconcile different points of view. Beyond whatever diversity in background or appearance a TCK may bring to the party, there is a diversity of thought as well.

The F-word.org – New Study Refutes Bulimia as “Rich, White Girl’s Disease”

Eating disorders are often thought to be a “rich white girl’s disease,” but a new study shows that black girls and girls from low-income families are more likely to develop bulimia than their wealthier white counterparts. The study is based on information from a government database of 2,300 girls from schools in California, Ohio and Washington D.C. The girls were surveyed annually about their eating habits and body image between the ages of 9 and 20. The study included an equal number of blacks and whites.

About 2.6 percent of black girls were found to be bulimic, compared to 1.7 percent of whites. Bulimia affected 3.3 percent of girls whose parents had a high school education, compared to 1.5 percent of girls in households where at least one parent had a college degree. In other words, black girls are 50 percent more likely than whites to develop bulimia, while girls in low income brackets are 153 percent more likely to develop bulimia than girls in the highest income bracket.


Real Media Ethics – The Usage Panel: “Illegal Immigrant”

“Illegal aliens” and “illegals” are two answers that can be dispensed with pretty easily. When used in journalism, the legal term “aliens” suggests an exaggerated sense of strangeness, and the connotation with martians is unavoidable. Although it’s relatively rare to find uses of “illegal aliens” in major news organizations (cable news, as always, excepted), except in quotes, a quick Google news search found numerous examples from local news organizations. “Illegals” dehumanizes, defining a diverse group of people by one (negative) characteristic by employing the reductive practice of noun-ifying an adjective. In a 2006 press release addressing immigration terminology, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists states that “using ["illegals"] in this way is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed.” “Illegals” is increasingly unusual even in headlines (where more accurate and ethical, but longer, phrases are sometimes eschewed for space considerations), though the AP seems to have few scruples about using the word, in headlines, the body of a story, or both. I don’t know how much control publications that use AP stories have over style issues like that, but it would be interesting to know to what extent they are allowed to impose their own style guildelines.

The interesting question for me is whether “illegal immigrant” is an ethical/accurate way to refer to people who enter or reside in the country illegally.



Politico – Oh, the snark bites

Then we get to the part where they blow the whistle and order everyone out of the snark-infested waters:

“What should be avoided in all [blogs] is any hint of racist, sexist or religious bias, or any suggestion of nasty, snide, sarcastic, or condescending tone — “snark.”

A suggestion to the author: Toss a period between the no-racism-bigotry-or-sexism section and the anti-nastiness decree. This would have avoided the impression that the Times places a racial rant on the same ethical plane as, say, a cheeky story on Kirsten Gillibrand.

Enough – On Downward Mobility

A couple weeks ago I was having a talk with somebody at a coffee shop in my neighborhood, and I noticed some graffiti on the bathroom wall that said: “Downward mobility is not radical.” Incidentally, the talk I was having that day was with a young white class-privileged person who was struggling with what to do with some inherited money, and we were talking about wealth and social justice and giving away inheritance and all of these things, and the whole time I kept pondering the graffiti and thinking that actually, downward mobility is radical. Wouldn’t it be very radical if all wealthy people gave away their money and spent only what they needed to live?

[I'm talking here about the kind of downward mobility that's chosen and intentional, not the job-loss/cuts-to-social-services/increasing-wealth-disparity kind.]

But I know what the graffiti means – it means that the writer is sick of people who act like they don’t have money when actually they do. Personally, I lived this problematic phenomenon for several years after high school, which I spent hitchhiking, trainhopping, and dumpster diving my way around the country in the company of other freewheeling punk youth who (like me) often lacked a particularly tight race and class analysis. I have a multifaceted critique of this time in my life – on one hand, it was defined by the bad type of ”downward mobility” that rightfully gets a lot of criticism. Many of us had access to wealthy parents, private educations, and all the other safety nets common to privileged young people, which we generally never talked about. Does anyone else remember that Crimethinc book that said something like, “Poverty, homelessness, unemployment: If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right”? That attitude characterized a lot of the worst manifestations of punk traveler culture: privileged white kids temporarily rejecting middle- and upper-class lifestyles without much real critique about poverty and white supremacy, and then getting really self righteous about our subcultural choices. In retrospect, I feel so regretful about the arrogant glorification of poverty that was common in that scene, and how it contributed to invisibilizing the struggles of poor people and the real violence of poverty.

Moscow Through Brown Eyes – Race, Gender, and More Violence in Moscow

SOVA reports:

    On 27 January 2009, a twenty-four year old Nigerian was beaten at a bus stop near Metro Station Aviamotornaia.

    As the Nigerian was talking with his Russian girlfriend, a young man approached him and asked what was going on. Then the man called out to two of his friends and, with cries of “Russia, Russia!” they started to beat the Nigerian.

    The attacked man incurred minor wounds to his face. He is certain that the attack was racially motivated.*

Serious question: does this type of virulent nationalism ever NOT come in a package deal with sexist ideas about the protection of women?

Living in Barbados – Race to Where?

Within the world of race and racial issues, Barbados can often seem peculiar–not unique. The country is predominantly black (of African origin), and for centuries was run by whites (Britons of various origins). Over time, economic and political power resided in the hands of whites. From its independence in 1966, political power was transferred from whites to black as the British withdrew as colonial masters and handed this over to elected representatives who were mainly from the black majority. Economic power in Barbados, however, tended to remain concentrated in the hands of a few white families. In recent years, that has changed to some degree as one of Barbados’ neighbours, Trinidad, gained economic power and looked to expand and diversify its economy: Trinidadian-owned companies have been buying into the Barbadian economy. While that has changed the colour of some economic power in Barbados, it has also introduced a different racial element, which is illuminating because it shows that racism is not first and foremost about colour.

In Barbados, one sees very little public animosity between the races. But you see very little public mixing in large groups.


Marlon James – The Bigots on My Bookshelf

It’s an old argument but not a tired one. What should a black reader do if he finds out that one of his favourite authors was racist? I made that question specific, because it’s too easy to weaken the idea by broadening it with something like, “what if an author/poet/artist/ musician turned out to have done something or believe in something that was anti you? What if he hated Jews? Indians? What if he used to hit women? Do we forget the artist and look at the art? After all, isn’t the reverse just another way that we read writers and not books? These questions are all valid, but who feels it knows it and it’s easy to dismiss a writer’s bigotry (alleged or no) when you’re not the one being bigoted against. It’s easy to look past a homophobic genius like Dylan Thomas if you’re not a homosexual. [...]

The problem with this of course is that if you start exhuming the dead and brilliant for their grievous character flaws, you’re going to find yourself neck deep in a lot of bones. Should I stop wearing Allure Homme because Coco Chanel was a Nazi Collaborator? It’s not long before you become appointed judge and jury of all, even if the court is in your own mind. We also end up cheating art. Once an artist, or writer or even dancer creates something it’s not really theirs anymore.

(Thanks to GlobalistGirl and MattBastard for the tips!)