Chimamanda Adichie and Single Stories

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

A writer friend of mine working on a novel about his Indian experience has lamented to me about a particular response he keeps getting to his work in progress. His non-Asian peers tell him that he can’t write his particular story, because it’s already been told by say, Rohinton Mistry, or Arundhati Roy.

I also get hopping mad when I hear about this. What about the 5 gazillion stories of middle class white family struggle that dominate libraries and schools across this country?

Centers of power who feel political pressure to include the Other in their ranks rarely make room for more than one Other. TV shows like 30 Rock and the Daily Show don’t have room for more than one or two black characters (and they are all men.) Once a publishing press has released one book by a Latin@, they won’t release another one – they’ve already done the Latin thing. And often this kind of dynamic sets up vicious competition between members of marginalised groups vying for the single position allotted to their entire demographic – and people who should be allies become opponents.

Because of all this, I love this talk by novelist Chimamanda Adichie. Adichie talks about the real consequences of only allowing one voice to represent thousands, and makes a very beautiful argument on how the single story impoverishes our lives.

PS For those who can’t access the audio, hit the subtitles button!

Anti-Asian Bias in College Admissions?: Part 1 – An improper comparison

by Guest Contributor Jenn, originally published at Reappropriate

This post is broken into two parts for the sake of length:

Since the implementation of affirmative action in the college admissions process, opponents of the policy have alleged anti-White and anti-Asian bias that reduces the chances of White and Asian high school students applying to elite colleges. Recently, a study conducted by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade (published in the book No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life) presented data that appear to support this notion.

First of all, I should point out that the primary data Espenshade analyzed were collected in 1997. But, it’s likely that the trends that Espenshade report remain in effect, since there have been no major changes to the college admissions process nationwide since then, nor have we seen significant changes in student demographics.

The “Scary Graph”: what does it mean?

Espenshade shows that middle class Asian students have a reduced probability of being accepted into private universities compared to students of other races (I re-created the graph below from page 7 of this presentation of Espenshade’s data, eliminating upper- and lower- class students, but the trends are roughly the same).

This graph looks pretty alarming until you consider the following applicant demographics, compared to national demographic information:

What this graph is showing you is that while Asian Americans are roughly 4% of the U.S. population, we represent nearly a quarter of all applicants to the institutions studied by Espenshade. For some universities, this can reach as high as 1/3 — and many of these applicants boast high SAT scores and high school GPAs. Many of these students also come from higher-income families compared to Black and Latino applicants, and therefore have access to better educational opportunities to help improve their scores. In addition, Espenshade’s data show that, compared to other races, Asian American applicants appear to preferentially apply to private institutions, which causes an even more dramatic increase in our applicant number.
Continue reading

Et tu, Amy Poehler? What’s so funny about desiring a big, black woman?

By Guest Contributor Tami, originally posted at What Tami Said

Fat, black woman. Big, black chick. Those descriptors are lazy comedy shorthand in a racist, sexist and sizist society. Want to bring on the cheap laughs? Then trot out an over-sized, brown-skinned lady. Even better, despite her fatness and blackness, give her a more than healthy opnion of herself. See, that makes it doubly funny, see, cause even though everyone knows neither black women or fat women are hot, this character doesn’t seem to know this and actually behaves as if she is attractive and worthy of amorous attention.

See how it works? I’ve come to expect black women, especially plus-sized ones, to be the butt of the joke in low-brow comedy films–the sort of flicks commonly associated with Eddie Murphy, Rob Scheider or Tyler Perry. But usually your benign, weekday sitcoms eschew hateful comedy. I’ve been watching NBC’s Amy Poehler vehicle “Parks & Recreation” off and on this season. I want to like it. I’m a fan of “The Office” and generally find Poehler charming. Each time I tune in to the show I hope it will be better. But last night, “Parks & Recreation” lost me for good. Because I can’t relax and laugh in the face of the dehumanization of women.

Continue reading

Addicted to Race 123: Latino in America, Halloween, Chinese adoptees, racist kid

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Addicted to Race is our weekly talk show podcast about all things race. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll find in this episode:

Did CNN’s documentary series “Latino in America” break new ground? Or did it simply reaffirm existing stereotypes? Why do so many people use Halloween as an opportunity to dress up as someone of a different race or ethnicity? Are the so-called “homeland tours” — in which countries like China and Korea invite adoptees to visit their birthplaces — simply public relations exercises for those countries? We all have ways of responding when someone makes racist comments. But what do you do when that person is your partner’s child? Carmen Van Kerckhove, Tami Winfrey Harris, and Arturo Garcia discuss.

Addicted to Race is broadcast live every Sunday afternoon at 12 pm Eastern. You can listen live on our BlogTalkRadio page and call in by dialing 347-996-3958.

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Quoted: Rob Fields on “BlackRoc”

How can you call something “BlakRoc” when the black folks on the project only rap and the rockers are all white?

BlakRoc is the name of Damon Dash’s upcoming project, a collaboration between white rockers The Black Keys and rappers such as Mos Def, Q-Tip, Ludacris, and Raekwon, to name a few.  Ordinarily, I could care less what Damon Dash does.  But in choosing this name for the project, he crossed a line: You can’t match black rappers and white rockers and call it “BlakRoc.”

No, BlakRoc has nothing to do with black rock, something I’ve spent nearly the last three years championing on my blog.  The conflation of the two is offensive. There’s too much history there. It’s like he’s acknowledging the existence of black rock with his middle finger.

“BlakRoc” is a slap in the face to those of us who have been working to develop audiences for black artists who don’t fit neatly into pre-conceived categories. It’s an affront to those of us who still face apathy and dismissiveness when it comes to the place of blacks in beyond hip hop and R&B.

It’s galling, too, coming on the heels of Dash’s former partner, Jay-Z, saying bands like Grizzly Bear were going to push hip hop.  Some hipsters are going to save hip hop?  Great.  Statements like this ignore all of the black artists who are embracing live music, forming bands, telling more substantive stories, and the audiences who are supporting black alternative music in growing numbers.  That’s going to force hip hop to evolve.

— “Dash’s BlakRoc Disses Black Rock,” Rob Fields, black rock evangelist and blog owner of BoldAsLove.us

Latoya’s Note: I’m a big fan of the work Fields does at BoldAsLove, and just found out they released a free compilation called “Fire in the Dark: Songs from the New Black Imagination.”  You can download it on Amazon.  I like “Freedom is Over,” “Everybody,” “On Planet Earth,” “Icon,” “The Last Time We’re Here,” and “The Ballad of Fletcher Reede,” but they are all worth a listen. – LDP

Secret Identities Superhero Contest Winner: Hush

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

I apologize that this took so long… At long last, here’s the final winner from our Secret Identities Superhero Contest, where readers were asked to submit their own original idea for an Asian American superhero. We would have posted this sooner, but understandably, superstar comic book artist Bernard Chang is a busy man. So without further ado, here is Hush by Juli Martin, as rendered above by Bernard Chang.

EDITORS’ NOTES

We apologize for the long delay, but we were set on having Bernard Chang, the superstar artist behind Greg Pak’s THE CITIZEN in SECRET IDENTITIES, bring this last winning hero to life–in part because he also happens to be the artist for DC’s WONDER WOMAN, making him the perfect guy to visualize this powerful female hero. Unfortunately, as you might guess, Bernard’s a busy guy!

As for why we picked Hush as a winner in our contest: We loved the uniqueness of Hush’s background–how many other lesbian, transracially adopted superheroines are there in comics? Not enough!–and the rich emotions at play in her characterization. We did end up editing aspects of her power and origin, however, both to make her code name make sense and to bring her power away from that of other characters.

We also liked the notion of turning a vulnerability into a power: In this edit, Jane goes from self-imposed isolation and emotional repression to becoming superhumanly empathic; we thought that it was really interesting that such an ability would turn her into a formidable opponent. Think about it: If you could instantly read a person’s emotions and responses, and react with exactly the right physical or verbal cue, you’d be both a killer hand-to-hand combat artist and a devastating manipulator, wouldn’t you?

All in all, a great character, like the other three we discovered through this contest. With any luck, this won’t be the last we’ve heard of any of them!

HERO DESCRIPTION

Abandoned as a newborn, Jane was adopted from Korea by a wealthy white couple at four months. After unexpectedly having two biological children, Jane’s adoptive parents feel they have no use for her, and when she comes out as bisexual at age 13, they kick her out. She is shuffled through the foster care system until aging out, at which point she moves to The Center, a cooperative home for homeless LGBTQ youth. Abandoned so many times, she now calls herself “Jane Doe.”

Jane is a queer femme woman, slim build, 20. Her black hair is cut choppy and asymmetrical, streaked with electric blue. Her style is edgy and futuristic, in black, gray and blue. Continue reading

President Obama Signs Executive Order on AAPIs

by Guest Contributor Jenn, originally published at Reappropriate

[October 14th] was a very big day for America’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In conjunction with a Diwali celebration, President Obama signed an executive order that reestablished an advisory committee and a White House initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders. The advisory committee was first established by President Clinton ten years ago, but was eliminated by President Bush in favour of a committee housed under the Department of Commerce that focused primarily on economic issues within the APIA community, ignoring other issues like healthcare, language and education.

Here is video of President Obama’s speech and the signing of the Executive Order:

What I really loved about the speech that President Obama gave was that it discussed the issues facing the Asian American community in language that really suggested familiarity with ongoing concerns. President Obama referenced the “model minority myth” and talked about high prevalence of specific diseases. These are problems that the APIA community has been dealing with for years, and I feel as if for the first time in a long time, they are finally receiving the national attention that our people merit.

Our AAPI communities have roots that span the globe, but they embody a rich diversity, and a story of striving and success that are uniquely American.

But focusing on all of these achievements doesn’t tell the whole story, and that’s part of why we’re here. It’s tempting, given the strengths of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, for us to buy into the myth of the “model minority,” and to overlook the very real challenges that certain Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are facing: from health disparities like higher rates of diabetes and Hepatitis B; to educational disparities that still exist in some communities — high dropout rates, low college enrollment rates; to economic disparities — higher rates of poverty in some communities, and barriers to employment and workplace advancement in others. Continue reading

Quoted: Adelina Anthony on Comedy as Resistance


Making queer Chicana experience comedic affirms our pains and glories – hijole, just the fact that we exist and thrive. If I flip the dynamic around and poke fun at whiteness or heterosexuality, that’s the work of resistance, because I’ve inverted the paradigm and I’m using comedy to laugh at those structures that work to make us invisible. Since I’m writing with a queer Chicana audience in mind, it’s meant for us. We recognize the stereotype[s] – even how we sometimes play into them ourselves. If I pole fun at lesbians of color (with a progressive agenda, of course), then it’s the work of healing – and that’s the best effect of laughing in a group setting. The roar of the audience on some jokes points to that collectivity of experience and culture.

—Adelina Anthony, Bitch Magazine “Sit Down Comedy” Fall 2009 issue.