Link Love: The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival

Compiled by Latoya Peterson and Fatemeh Fakhraie


Rolling Ruminations has hosted a blog carnival on White Privilege and the Muslim Ummah. As regular readers know, it gets kind of heavy around here when we start discussing the intersection of race and religion. True to form, the carnival featured a range of opinions. Our favorites are below.

Ginny – Hesitant Thoughts On White Privilege

As a blind white Muslim, I just plain give up in trying to understand how I’m supposed to navigate the complex world of race, disability and religion, because no matter what I do or say, it’s always going to be viewed through the fact that I’m white, and thus everything else is seemingly minimized and seen as an attempt by me to gain some kinda street cred with POC, because “hey I’ve been discriminated just like you”, when that wasn’t even my intention, and I wouldn’t even try to say as much! Because the fact that I had to testify in a court of law to being sexually assaulted, or the fact that I had to give a detailed deposition regarding employment discrimination, or the fact that there are certain websites that are not accessible to me has nothing to do with race, and is a completely different type of discrimination altogether. Yes, I experience white privilege, and I’m sure I do so in ways I don’t realize. However, I don’t think other forms of discrimination should be passed off as nothing, though at the same time, I don’t think that they should be held up as ways that whites “understand” people of color. I’d not go so far as to say that. Because I’ll tell you right now that sighted people will never understand what it’s like to be blind. So as a white person, I can’t tell you what it’s like to be black, or anything else for that matter. All I can tell you is what it’s like to be a blind white Muslim who benefits from white privilege but doesn’t always understand how. And I’m struggling with that. This whole race thing is hard for me to understand, I’m white but I don’t know what that means, only what society tells me it means. I’m supposed to have some kinda privilege, I’m supposed to be on the upper echelons of my society but I don’t feel like it most of the time. Most of the time I feel less than, second best, not as good as. I’m made to feel that I have to work twice as hard, go twice as far, do twice as much. But oh, I’m white, so I’m supposed to have some kind of privilege. And maybe I do, it’s just hard for me to realize what or where that privilege lies.

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Notes from AFF’s Diversity On Screen panel

by Guest Contributor jbrotherlove, originally published at jbrotherlove

I haven’t been a very good cinephile lately. And by “not very good” I mean I haven’t attended any films in this year’s Atlanta Film Festival. In addition to being very busy at work in the past few weeks, I attribute the oversight to a combination of procrastination, lack of Atlanta friends who are passionate about independent film (Boo!), and confusion over my AFF membership status (holla at a brother, Charles).

However, I did manage to get over to the newish Starbucks in Midtown Promenade (off Piedmont Park) to attend the festival’s Diversity On Screen panel, part of their Coffeehouse Conversations series. The panel was moderated by journalist and author Gil Robertson. Author Ronda Racha Penrice, Felicia Feaster (The Atlantan), Ryan Lee (Southern Voice), and Will Hong (TurnerAsia) rounded out the panel.

In general, the panel agreed that the state of diversity in film (race, sexual orientation, gender, age, etc.) is improving. But film lags far behind television and digital/internet in terms of portraying characters and stories with complexity (Hong). Continue reading

If Hello Kitty Had A Mouth She’d Be Screaming By Now

by Guest Contributor Czerina Salud, originally published at the Huffington Post

Alec Baldwin’s apology over his Filipina-mail-order-bride comment hit the web this past Wednesday. While there were over 400 comments posted to his blog, a strikingly relevant voice was missing from this discussion. Sadly, the discussion was missing (what seems to me, a Filipina-American woman) an essential voice in this public dialogue — that of a Filipina woman.

So I’m throwing my two cents in because it pains me to see this voice under-represented in this discussion. It feels like you are that troubled kid in the room everyone is talking about but no one is talking to.

Nowhere is the invisibility of the Filipina woman in this dialogue more evident than in the endless comments to Mr. Baldwin’s post that unbelievably condone his behavior from both sides of the Pacific:

“Regarding Alec Baldwin’s comments on ‘mail-order brides’ — it was a joke!” — weber1633

“As someone from the Philippines, the apology was a nice gesture, but there was no need.” — Biboy Hernandez

“Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous that you even had to apologize; I don’t personally know anyone, including any Filipinos, who found that offensive.” — lz1982

Oh really?

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Boxed In: the UC system’s ethnicity representation

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

When I went to college at the University of Utah, there was no box for me to check. There was no “Middle Eastern” and there was definitely no “bi- or multi-racial.” I’d like to think that the U of U has since updated their ethnicity data, but I can’t be sure.

When I applied to graduate school, I practically wet my pants when I saw “Middle Eastern” on the online application. I was overjoyed to think that my regional ethnicity was included. I happily checked “Middle Eastern”, ignoring the line for “Other,” where I could have specified “bi-racial.”

Currently, if you fill out an application on the Oregon State University’s website, there is a drop-down box of ethnicities, with an almost exhaustive list. They divided “Middle Eastern” and “North African” to make sure all ethnicities within these groups were covered, and the lists were fairly inclusive. Hazaras, Maronites, Baluchis, and other under-represented Middle Easterners were under “Middle Eastern.”

However, there is still no option for multi- or bi-racial.

Last March, several Middle Eastern UCLA student groups began a lobby to expand the University of California application ethnicity check boxes to include ethnicities such as Arab, Persian, Afghan, etc. It’s mind-boggling that the UC system would still not have up-to-date ethnicity representation on its applications, especially since California has high concentrations of West Asian diasporas in California (they don’t call it “Tehrangeles” for nothing).

The University of California system updated its ethnicity check boxes in 2007, when the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) started the “Count Me In!” campaign, intended to break down the different groups pushed together under the category “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The campaign successfully put 23 new ethnicities on the application, including Samoan, Pakistani, and Hmong, and aims to improve census and research data on these specific groups’ college attendance patterns, financial aid packages, and student representation.

The first thing I thought when I read about the previous campaign was, “Lots of West Asian ethnicities are technically Asian because regionally they are on Asian continent. Why weren’t any of them included in this campaign?” Erin Pangilinan, a member of the APC  campaign, stated that the campaign’s ethnicity representations were based off California Assembly Bill 295 (which included a call for “state entities that currently collect demographic data regarding the ancestry or ethnic origin of Californians to also make a separate category and tabulation for specified Asian and Chamorro, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Tongan”) and the 2000 U.S. Census, which stated that the aforementioned specific ethnicities have the largest populations in the United States. She stated that the campaign “was not intended to be exclusive, instead it is starting point to have a more inclusive and comprehensive admissions policy.”

The second issue that arose was that many of the “ethnicities” on the list were not actually ethnicities, but nationalities (Pakistani, Taiwanese, etc). Pangilinan explained that the campaign focused on ethnicities provided by the Census, which brings up more questions about ethnic representation in governmental processes. Constructing nationalities as synonymous with ethnicities creates troubling deficiencies in ethnic representation within nations, erringly homogenizing the ethnic populace.

This led me to question the inclusivity and strategy of the current campaign. I spoke with Faisal Attrache from UCLA’s United Arab Society. He said that the campaign is not aiming for a “Middle Eastern” designation: “We are attempting to gain representation of Middle Eastern minorities, but we do not want it to be under the heading of ‘Middle Eastern’ for many reasons.  It is a term with an unclear meaning and sometimes excludes several groups that we would like to include in the campaign. Ideally, we would like all the categories to standalone and not be grouped under ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Near Eastern’, because after all, the region we represent stretches from Central Asia to Western Africa.”

The campaign’s aim at a designation other than “Middle Eastern” is a relief: “Middle Eastern” is a term that’s left over from the colonial period, and is fairly misleading ethnically. “West Asian” includes much of the Middle East, including Arabs, but leaves out North Africa, a region which is heavily ethnically Arab. But I do have a fair skepticism at the stand-alone designations: if every other group has overarching categories, these ethnicities will most likely have one, too.

While I’m overjoyed that we (meaning underrepresented West Asian groups) might finally be included on the applications, I still worry about all those who aren’t being represented, and won’t be unless they lobby (or someone lobbies for them). Attrache mentioned that student groups at UCLA representing these ethnicities coordinate the campaign, and so Arab, Persian, Afghan, Armenian, and Assyrian students will be included. But no conclusive list has been agreed upon at this time, and so it’s difficult to say whether ethnicities that don’t have a large student presence on campus will be represented accurately or at all, especially if they are a significant minority in their home region. Because of the numerous and varied ethnicities in these regions, it’s almost certain that someone will get left out, which feels wrong in the current “We’re here, we’re [insert ethnicity], get used to us!” climate.

There’s also the fact that the box system itself is flawed, not just because of any possible lacks in representation, but because it historically leaves out bi- and multi-racial individuals. While the bi- or multi-racial designation could appear with a line for clarification, universities that use a drop-down box format have no way of collecting data about bi- or multi-racial students because the students cannot specify their racial makeup.

A blank line would illustrate better how people define themselves through their ethnicities and would be less likely to pigeonhole respondents into a group they don’t feel they identify with. It would also be welcoming for bi- or multi-racial students (much better than check all that apply).

The difficult logistics aside, this is an important campaign, just like it was two years ago. Not only will it give university statisticians and financial aid operators a better idea of the population indicators, but it can help the community at large gauge where it is on the local university scale in terms of representation, participation, and inclusion. It may also lead to an overall overhaul of the ethnicity system, recognizing differences among ethnicities under other categories previously bunched together (“Hispanic”, anyone?) and inaccurately represented.

Trinity: The Black Reality

by Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn, originally published at Digital Femme

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

“Baby, you can fall down in the mud, but you don’t have to wallow in it.”

“I’m tellin’ you. It ain’t easy.”

Two sayings. Two grandmothers. Both mine. Both true.

One more saying. This one’s true too.

“This won’t kill me. I won’t die here.”

Martha Washington. The Black Reality.

Like my grandmothers, Martha Washington grew up in a hostile environment–America. More specifically for Martha, she was raised in an alternate version of the Cabrini Green Housing Development, which existed as a cordoned off area of Chicago intended to house those that the government deemed to be undesirable. The Green was relegated to those who were black and those who were poor. As a child, Martha received substandard housing and substandard healthcare. She attended school in a decrepit building outfitted with exposed pipes and outdated school supplies.

But what did Martha need with a decent education? To her country and to her government, she was simply fuel for a brick and mortar Ouroboros. Like her father before her, she was raised to live and die in the Green. Nothing more than a lump of coal to keep society’s dirty engine running.

Funny things happen to lumps of coal when you apply enough pressure. They get hard, durable and sharp enough to cut anything.

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30 Under 30: Mia Mingus

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

miamingus

Mia Mingus
Age: 28
Co-Executive Director, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now

Why she’s influential: Because she’s an agent of real-world change in the reproductive justice movement. Mia Mingus is a queer, physically disabled Korean American transracial/ transnational adoptee, living and organizing in the Southeast. She currently serves as one of the Co-Directors of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now in Atlanta and believes that reproductive justice is crucial in the struggle for social change and the fight to end oppression.

Mia is an activist, organizer, thinker, writer, artist and speaker who’s not only in the middle of it all, but connecting it all together. Through her work on disability, race, gender, reproductive justice, sexuality, transracial and transnational adoption, and intersectional identities/politics, she recognizes the urgency and barriers for oppressed communities to work together and build alliances for liberation.

If you’re at all involved with the queer, API, and/or disability social justice movements, you know that Mia is a transformative figure. Maybe you saw her speak at the US Social Forum Plenary on Gender and Sexuality or attended her workshop on Reproductive Justice at NAASCON 08. Perhaps you heard her speak as the keynote of the Western Regional Queer Conference 09 or receiving the Creating Change Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Though her activism changes and evolves, her roots remain firmly planted in ending sexual violence. On top of all that, everyone I spoke to about Mia describes her as a warm, thoughtful, accessible, and incredibly nice.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Steph Lee, one of several people who nominated Mia: “The fierce leadership of a young, queer, disabled, transracially/ transnationally adopted Korean woman should be recognized so that we can continue to more lovingly and effectively connect, break shit down, and keep building shit up.”

See the rest of the 30 Most Influential Asian Americans Under 30 here.

Race and the Full Court Press

By Guest Contributor G.D., originally posted at PostBourgie

girls

Malcolm Gladwell has caught a lot of flak for his piece last week on how underdogs win, and perhaps rightly so. His central point, though — that the outgunned can have a fighting chance at success if they ditch convention and play to their strengths — is one worth considering, and given the resilience and tactics of the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, is a topical one, too.

But in making his point, he goes to some weird places. The framing device for this story is a not-particularly-talented eighth grade girl’s basketball team at Redwood City in the Silicon Valley. There are only two decent players on the squad, and their coach is a TIBCO software executive named Vivek Ranadivé, an Indian emigré who had never seen or played basketball before he arrived in the States. The upshot of that background is that he didn’t have any preconceived notions about the right way to play basketball. So instead of having his players run back on defense after a score or an opponent’s rebound and wait to be picked apart by more skilled players, he instituted the full-court press. His team proceeded to beat up on and frustrate teams with better players, and found themselves in the national championship game. Obviously, the press can make up big gaps in talent.*

But one of the things that raised the eyebrow of my blogmate and fellow sports junkie blackink was the problematic way the Redwood City Girls were described, versus the way their ‘talented’ opponents were characterized.

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