Month: October 2009

October 30, 2009 / / poverty

By Guest Contributor gwen, originally published at Sociological Images

In the early 1980s the Reagan Administration engaged in an active campaign to demonize welfare and welfare recipients. Those who received public assistance were depicted as lazy free-loaders who burdened good, hard-working taxpayers. Race and gender played major parts in this framing of public assistance: the image of the “welfare queen” depicted those on welfare as lazy, promiscuous women who used their reproductive ability to have more children and thus get more welfare. This woman was implicitly African American, such as the woman in an anecdote Reagan told during his 1976 campaign (and repeated frequently) of a “welfare queen” on the South Side of Chicago who supposedly drove to the welfare office to get her check in an expensive Cadillac (whether he had actually encountered any such woman, as he claimed, was of course irrelevant).

The campaign was incredibly successful: once welfare recipients were depicted as lazy, promiscuous Black women sponging off of (White) taxpayers, public support for welfare programs declined. The negative attitude toward both welfare and its recipients lasted after Reagan left office; the debate about welfare reform in the mid-1990s echoed much of the discourse from the 1980s. Receiving public assistance was shameful; being a recipient was stigmatized.

Abby K. recently found an old Sesame Street segment called “I Am Somebody.” Jesse Jackson leads a group of children in an affirmation that they are “somebody,” and specifically includes the lines “I may be poor” and “I may be on welfare”.

Read the Post Sesame Street “I Am Somebody” Segment with Jesse Jackson

October 30, 2009 / / Uncategorized

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

These notes are taken from complimentary screenings courtesy of the San Diego Asian Film Festival, which concluded Thursday night.

For those of us who only remember Jack Soo from watching Barney Miller with our parents, the documentary You Don’t Know Jack is aptly named, as it reveals a pleasant set of surprises.

Directed by Jeff Adachi, Jack is concise (it clocks in at just under an hour) but not rushed, covering its subject with a relaxed cool that, as we soon learn, fed not only the onstage persona he developed as a singer, nightclub host and comedian, but made him an asset to Japanese-American families interned in California during World War II, as he organized talent revues and shows to lift spirits at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. He even managed to arrange permission and transportation for off-site shows. Soo’s singing ability is shown off about halfway through the movie, when you hear his rendition of “For Once In My Life,” made popular by Stevie Wonder.
Read the Post Festival Picks: ‘You Don’t Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story,’ ‘Arusi: Persian Wedding’ & ‘Shades Of Ray’

October 29, 2009 / / WTF?

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

I suppose it is a good sign that we can still be shocked speechless by the racism in pop culture, right? Because it means that we aren’t totally cynical and embittered. Right?

This morning we received a tip from reader Cassandra, letting us know about last night’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, where contestants flew to Maui to do a photo shoot where they were supposed to be biracial.


We don’t usually quote directly from tipsters, but I am too stunned to paraphrase right now. Cassandra reports:

Each girl was given two ethnicities: Tibetan/Egyptian, Greek/Mexican, Moroccan/Russian, Native American/East Indian, Botswanan/Polynesian, Malagasy/Japanese. Five girls are white, one is Asian, and a few are donned in black face and all in “ethnic” outfits (a combination of an aspect of each culture, evident in the photos), which Tyra explains, “Every outfit is not necessarily what people of that culture are wearing now, it might not even be a necessary exact of what they’ve worn in the past, it’s a fashion interpretation of it.” Nicole, assigned to look Malagasy/Japanese, remarks how she’s always wondered what she looked like as a different race and that she felt she looked “exotic.” The girls had to somehow embody what people of those ethnicities were like i.e. Tyra saying, “Think Egyptian, think [insert ethnicity], think of what those people were like, etc.”


Read the Post Colourface Epidemic Infects ANTM

October 29, 2009 / / diversity

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García


Two weeks without Heroes and yours truly still feels great. But as the Roundtable will explain, watching “Gimme Some Truth,” it’s becoming more apparent that Flash Forward is beating Heroes at some of its’ own strengths – even if Mark Bedford there looks like a bit of a weenie in the pic above. Still, in a show made of WIN, as the kidz say, one moment shone above the rest:

John Cho doing Karaoke: Awesome or REALLY Awesome?

Diana: REALLY AWESOME. I forget what ’80s song he was singing, but it was tugging at my nostalgia heartstrings. I’m even more in love. [sigh]

Andrea: Neither. John Cho sings harmonizes better than the angels; he shoots like a gunslinger; he shut down some kyriarchal shenanigans with a single snap; he helped counter the balderdash regarding Black women’s hair; he gives good glow. Naw, Cho’s not Awesome or REALLY Awesome—he’s Ultimate. So Ultimate there’s a mini-movement to make Cho the patron hottie of Racialicious, right?
Read the Post The Racialicious Roundtable For Flash Forward 1.5

October 29, 2009 / / celebrities

by Latoya Peterson, published at

On Monday, Madonna broke ground on a new school project in Malawi; today, she takes to the Huffington Post to ask for donations. Her megawatt star power helped engage media attention – but are high profile celebrities actually hurting progress?

In the new issue of Arise, reporter Hannah Pool examines the idea that “all Africa ha[s] to offer the world was begging bowl.” The article, titled “Good Will Hunting” starts off with a bang:

“When high profile celebrities get shown visiting disadvantaged areas in Africa and those images get beamed out to the rest of the world, I believe they almost do more damage than good,” says Moky Makura, Nigerian-born, Johannesburg-based author, M-Net presenter and founder of the Africa our Africa blog. “We don’t want to keep reinforcing the image of a helpless continent. We will only eradicate our problems when we build economies based on commerce, not charity. To do this, Africa needs to be seen as an investment destination or trading partner, not as a charity case.

Pool then delves into the conundrum that faces many activists on the African continent – if many people are embracing the idea of “trade not aid” as a way to push forward development, who benefits from this “charitainment?” Pool elaborates:

The merging of charity and entertainment – or, as Time magazine called it, charitainment – has led to some damaging consequences. Celebrities (and their agents) have realised that being seen to care about Africa brings instant cool. About 25 years after Live Aid, A-list celebrities are forever falling out of the pages of magazines such as Hello! or OK!, tearfully waxing lyrical about how spending five minutes in an African orphanage changed their whole view on life. And thanks to Madonna and Angelina Jolie, some Western media appear to be under the impression that the best way to empty Africa’s orphanages is not the eradication of poverty but mass adoption by wealthy pop stars. Read the Post White (Wo)Man’s Burden: Madonna, Malawi, & Celebrity Activism [Original Cut]

October 29, 2009 / / language

Compiled by Thea Lim, with Andrea Plaid and Wendi Muse

My day job takes me into some pretty non-anti-oppressive environments. Generally I try to steer clear of conversations that deal with any parameter of power in depth (race, class, gender, sexuality, ability…) because in my environment, I find these conversations excruciating. It’s not that folks necessarily say blatantly hateful things. It’s rather that we can’t even agree on the basis for conversation. Or to put it more bluntly, my interlocutors have no concept of – or respect for – certain Racism 101 concepts.

I think what is particularly frustrating is the way that critical race theory – if I can use that term to describe the basic tenets that we and many of our buddy blogs operate off of – is treated as if it’s a loose collection of unverified opinions. It is not recognised as an actual body of thought that people of colour and allies have been writing and thinking about since Sojourner Truth gave her Ain’t I A Woman speech in 18freakin51.

If a medieval scholar engaged me in a discussion on representations of the clergy in the Lancelot-Grail cycle, I wouldn’t talk over them and contest every single point they made just because I had seen Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. Yet white folks who have absolutely no concept of the fact that there is a whole body of books, blogs, speakers, academic departments and workshops devoted to a common understanding of systemic racism, feel free to talk over my observations, as if the things I am saying are just random observations I’ve made.

So I welcome Richard Thompson Ford’s assertion that we need some kind of commonly held notion of what racism is, in his Slate article, “A primer on the word racism”.

Ford breaks down five different commonly cited examples of racism – institutional, cultural, unconscious, environmental and reverse – providing definitions for them and then evaluating whether or not they really are racism.

But. It’s clear that racism gets in the way of us defining racism. I don’t think Rush Limbaugh would be down with Racialicious’ definition of racism. But is Racialicious’ down with Ford’s definition of racism? Our correspondents weigh in.

Thea Lim

My first issue with Ford’s article is that it is confusing. It would be easier to understand if Ford started out with a clear definition of what racism entails. Because it took me a few minutes to glean from this article that Ford thinks anyone can be racist – a claim that I flat-out reject.

Ford seems to conflate racial prejudice with racism: roughly, if you treat someone according to their race, you are being racist. Meanwhile, I think that it is only racial prejudice + power that = racism. So if I yell “cracker” at a white man walking down the street (which btw I wouldn’t do and also don’t condone), my action has far less impact than if a white man yelled “chink” at me while I was walking down the street. The first scenario is an example of racial prejudice and being a jerk. The second scenario is racism and a hate crime. This is sort of 101 stuff, but there you have it.

Because Ford and I diverge on this basic tenet, I have multiple problems with certain conclusions that wobble out of his analysis.

Read the Post Racialicious on Richard Thompson Ford’s “A Primer on Racism”

October 28, 2009 / / activism
October 28, 2009 / / academia

By Guest Contributor Jenn, originally published at Reappropriate

This post is broken into two parts for the sake of length:
Anti-Asian Bias in College Admissions?: Part 1 – An improper comparison
Anti-Asian Bias in College Admissions?: Part 2 – In support of affirmative action

Searching for “anti-Asian bias”: evidence of its existence

Espenshade presents data showing that acceptance rates to public and private institutions are universally lower for Asian American applicants compared to White applicants. I have graphed the appropriate data from Table 3.3 of Espenshade’s study below:


These data are striking. Neither Whites nor Asians benefit from affirmative action, and Whites and Asians share similar class distributions. Yet, Asian applicants are roughly 10% less likely to be accepted to private colleges, and nearly 15% less likely to be accepted to public institutions, compared to their White counterparts. The decreased acceptance rate holds true despite the fact that Asians are far less likely than applicants of other races to apply to public institutions — yet, unlike with the Black and Latino populations where reduced applicant rates explains, at least in part, high acceptance rates, the same is not true for Asian/Asian American applicants.

By all rights, since neither White nor Asian applicants benefit from affirmative action, our acceptance rates should be about the same.

All else being equal the reduced applicant rates could be due to one or a combination of the following explanations:

  1. Asian applicants, on the whole, have poor “breadth” qualifications that reduce the quality of their applications, e.g. music, art, a second language, etc.
  2. Asian applicants tend to be first and second generation, whereas White and Black applicants tend to be third, fourth or higher generation Americans (see Table 3.6 on page 7), making Asian applicants less likely to benefit from high acceptance rates for legacy students (Table 3.1 on page 2).
  3. Asian applicants are more likely to be international, and do not benefit from higher ”in-state” or “domestic” acceptance rates.
  4. There is a currently unaddressed anti-Asian bias in the admissions process.

Most of these possibilities are not addressed (or debunked) by Espenshade’s study. Thus, at this time, it’s possible to conclude that there is anti-Asian bias in the admissions process, but it’s not the kind of anti-Asian bias that has been used to launch attacks against affirmative action. Instead, Espenshade’s data suggests that there Asian/Asian American applicants might face unequal treatment, compared to White applicants, when applying for institutions of higher education.
Read the Post Anti-Asian Bias in College Admissions?: Part 2 – In support of affirmative action