New Words for Mixed Race People of Colour – With or Without White Ancestry

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

Earlier this week, while writing about my affinity for Mariah Carey based on the fact that we are both mixed race, I forgot to mention something important. I forgot to clarify that, while me and Mariah are part white and part POC, there are a lot of people who are mixed race but have no white family members, or have all white family members.

willeva It seems like an obvious point, yah? It seems obvious that a person is mixed race if their family is composed of more than one race. But you don’t need me to tell you that for many of us, the term mixed race is synonymous with being half-white. In other words, when we say mixed race, the assumption is that we are referring to people who have one white parent and one parent of colour. Or even one white parent and one black parent.

We assume mixed race people always have one white parent. We forget that children of part-white ancestry don’t have a lock on mixed raceness; you’re still mixed race if you have two parents of colour from different ethnic backgrounds. And (this one’s a shocker), technically you’re mixed race if you have two white parents from different ethnic backgrounds.

This is problematic in and of itself because we are erasing the experience of mixed race people who don’t have white ancestry. But further, it’s simply another way in which we center white experiences in our culture. We don’t note the experiences of mixed race people without white ancestry because their combo leaves white folks out of the picture; a mix without whiteness is not considered worthy of comment. As a culture we continue to fail at conversations involving issues that have nothing to do with white people. Embracing and recognising our mixed race non-white brethren is yet another way that we can break the The Wheel of Tyranny.*

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The Brazil Files: Busy Being Foreign

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

Since I’ve been living in Brazil, I have suffered from memory loss. On occasion, I simply forget that I am black.

Let me explain . . .

I was born in the United States, in the South to be exact, during the early 1980s, to a mother with very fair skin who, along with her seven sisters and brothers, had witnessed and undergone Jim Crow segregation. My great grandmother and grandfather, a teacher and farmer, respectively, who both had dark skin, had given birth to a light-skinned child, my grandmother, who would then go on to marry a man of equally light skin who was raised to distrust black people who looked like his in-laws. My father, on the other hand, came from a family where the emphasis on high cheekbones and dark wavy hair was made more frequently than that of slightly flattened noses. We have Native blood, they’d say.

You see, colorism was alive and well in my family.

And yet years later, when I still feel compelled to remind my mother that her coarse, nappy hair is beautiful or that there is no need to insert the words “but” or “despite” as my family refers to model Alek Wek’s ebony-skinned beauty, I know that the remnants remain. At the end of the day, we are all of African descent, and in our slavemasters’, old legislators’, and white domestic terrorists’ eyes, we were all black. Yet within that category, we found various ways of re-categorizing ourselves to fit our own neat little model of racism. We created a home-kit, if you will, of silly divisions of what was acceptable and what was not in terms of appearance and behavior.

My maternal grandfather warned his daughters of the dangers of the villainous, malicious dark blacks. Of course, there were exceptions, my dark-skinned aunt and uncle being visible reminders of our inescapable heritage, and the only dark people my grandfather ever truly accepted beyond a superficial level (his race track buddies do not count). But for the most part, darker blacks were to be avoided, despite my family’s shared plight with them in a segregated south.

My mother, though quite young during the segregation period, still bears irrevocable memories. She has recounted stories of slapping a young white girl who had stared at her in a hospital bathroom because she had “never seen a Negro girl up-close before,” of thinking that “colored only” fountains would one day magically transform into a spring of rainbow-infused water, and of remembering her confusion as to why her older sister spent so much time “marching” in the street when she was not wearing her majorette uniform. And presently, in her work as a geriatric social worker, she is reminded of the divisions the period and the long-lasting subsequent effects they have had on the black community when her older, darker-skinned black patients assume she is “stuck up” or cannot be trusted because of her light skin.

Having grown up in a family like this, race inevitably became a daily topic of discussion.

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Kinatay

by Guest Contributor Tanglad, originally published at Tanglad

Let me get this out of the way first. This is not a movie review. It is a review of movie reviews about Brillante Mendoza’s Kinatay. Spoilers follow, though the title pretty much tells you what you’re gonna get.

Last weekend, Filipino director Brillante Mendoza won the best director award at the Cannes Festival for the movie Kinatay (”Slaughtered“). Mendoza’s win was a surprise, considering how Kinatay is probably, as Prometheus Brown puts it, the most hated film at Cannes.

Exerpts from Maggie Lee’s synopsis and review at The Hollywood Reporter:

Newly married Peping, who attends the police academy, receives an offer via text message to make a fast buck with a shady friend. By nightfall, he is in a van with a group of vicious gangsters who have kidnapped a bar hostess to demand a loan repayment under orders from an elusive general…

The real time pacing, feels like being stuck in a traffic jam, but the dramatic thrust is relentless as one hears through the muffled darkness, the woman being gagged and beaten mercilessly. The horror escalates to rape, murder and dismemberment. None of this is left to the imagination, with the men’s verbal sexism being equally distasteful.

That was a positive review. (See here to view Kinatay excerpts, and here for a round-up of reviews and more background on the film.)

Roger Ebert’s review, charmingly titled “What were they thinking of?”, is typical of how critics who hated Kinatay approached the movie. There is hardly any discussion of the merits of the movie itself, and instead a whole lot of indignation over the unpleasantness that viewers were subjected to:

It is Mendoza’s conceit that it his Idea will make a statement, or evoke a sensation, or demonstrate something–if only he makes the rest of the film as unpleasant to the eyes, the ears, the mind and the story itself as possible…

No drama is developed. No story purpose is revealed…

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links for 2009-06-02

  • "In a 1992 reminiscence, Justice O’Connor wrote that Justice Marshall was “constantly pushing and prodding us to respond not only to the persuasiveness of legal argument but also to the power of moral truth.” She recalled the moving stories Justice Marshall would tell to support his view that racism played a pernicious role in the administration of capital punishment.

    It is not clear, though, that any of those stories caused Justice O’Connor to change her vote. “Justice O’Connor was not nearly as sympathetic to racial civil rights claims as she was to gender claims,” said Lawrence Baum, a political science professor at Ohio State."

  • "[Sergio] Garcia, 18, spent most of his years at Fairfax openly gay and wanted to be part of the Los Angeles school's prom court — but not as prom king. He felt that vying for prom queen would better suit his personality, so he decided to seek that crown, running against a handful of female classmates."
  • "The best teachers tend to leave when their schools experience an influx of African-American students, according to a study of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., school district published today.

    C. Kirabo Jackson, an associate professor of labor economics at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., studied patterns of teacher movement in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools between 2002 and 2003, which was when the 137,000-student district ended its long-running policy of busing students to keep schools racially integrated. His results, published in the Journal of Labor Economics, show that, at all levels of schooling, high-quality teachers—both black and white—were more likely to switch schools as the policy change began to take effect and student populations shifted."

  • "I just finished Paula Hyman's fantastic Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History. Although this was technically orals-lists reading, it ended up having more immediate relevance: helping to understand why all three of the sample Jewish jokes in a NYMag feature on the End of Jewish humor are less about Jewish self-deprecation than about hatred of Jewish women."
  • "Now, the 46-year-old actor is considering offers to play Tonto as a shrewd man behind the legend in a remake of the "The Lone Ranger."

    Tonto needs to be in charge," says Depp, who is part Cherokee Indian. "The Lone Ranger should be a fool, a loveable one, but a fool nonetheless."

Of Thin Blue Lines, Race, and Stereotypes

by Latoya Peterson

On Friday, I was in transit when I saw the message pop up on Thea’s twitterfeed:

White NYC cop fatally shoots black NYC cop, mistaking him for an armed criminal: http://bit.ly/QXgtq Aiyeee. (thanks @sunnykins)11:23 AM May 29th from web

Damn, really?

The New York Times has the scoop:

A New York City police officer who had just gotten off duty was fatally shot late Thursday in East Harlem by a fellow officer who mistook him for an armed criminal, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.

The officer who was killed, Omar J. Edwards, 25, a two-year veteran who was assigned to patrol housing projects and was wearing plain clothes, was shot in the arm and chest after a team of three other plainclothes officers in a car came upon him chasing a man on East 125th Street between First and Second Avenues with his gun drawn, Mr. Kelly said.

The team’s members, assigned to the anticrime unit in the 25th Precinct, got out of their vehicle and confronted Officer Edwards. The police were investigating whether the officers had identified themselves or demanded that Officer Edwards drop his weapon before one of them opened fire.

The shooting officer is white. The deceased officer is black. All kinds of racial inferences can be drawn from this description of the scenario. But is that the whole story? Continue reading

Blood: The Last Vampire U.S Trailer

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

I know I’ve previously mentioned the live-action Blood: The Last Vampire adaptation before, but I’ve neglected to mention the trailer, which has been making the rounds for a while. The movie, based on Hiroyuki Kitakubo 2000 cult hit anime of the same name, marks South Korean actress Jeon Ji-Hyun’s English-language debut.

Jeon, who has apparently changed her name to Gianna Jun for the leap over the Hollywood, stars as Saya, a half-human, half-vampire samurai who is part of a covert government agency that hunts and destroys demons. In post-WWII Japan, she is inserted in an American military school to discover which one of her classmates is a demon in disguise.

Yay, for demon-hunting half-vampires. While I was a fan of the original animated movie, and enjoy vampire asskicking as much as the next guy, I am skeptical about whether this can stand out amongst the Buffy/Blade/Underworld narratives out there. And can Ms. Jun prove her chops as an English-speaking star? I guess we’re going to find out. The movie is set to open in theaters sometime this summer.

On Media Reform and Hate Speech

by Guest Contributor Hannah Miller

The media reform movement is an offshoot and part of the civil rights movement. It was born in 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King and Rev. Everett Parker of the United Church of Christ initiated a lawsuit against white-owned TV stations in the South for consistently portraying African Americans in a racist manner, while refusing to show any coverage of the civil rights movement.

Because of their pressure, the FCC shut down a Mississippi TV station, stating that the power and influence that media companies have gives them the responsibility to operate with the broader public interest at heart – with special consideration given to oppressed minorities.

Since then, political pressure has been brought to bear against the FCC and Congress on a wide variety of issues: female and minority ownership of stations and publications, the dangers of consolidation of the media, the need to build public communications infrastructure like cable access stations or city-owned Internet networks, and the need for everyone to have broadband access.

The percentage of our time that the American public spends with media has been steadily climbing for 40 years, and with that, its influence over our lives. The media is our environment, and the battle I am engaged in is over the nature of this environment: whether it is an environment in which ordinary people have a voice – or whether we are to passively absorb content controlled by a small number of people and corporations. Whether the media is democratic, and reflects a variety of voices.

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links for 2009-06-01