Which Images Represent India?

By Guest Contributor Gwen, originally published at Sociological Images

On her blog, Deepa D. posted about what she calls the “Slumdog Shooting technique,” using this video from Greenpeace about climate change:

Deepa says,

Ishan Tankha, photographer…sitting in casually imperial isolation on one of the many historical monuments peppering Delhi…

Meanwhile every other shot? The gaudy, public, and exotically poor street life of Delhi. At most we get some middle class women shopping, some Metro commuters, and Ishan riding his bike in front of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

But even as he is saying climate change spans all classes, there are no other young, upper class people like him, no rich people, no half-naked out of fashion rather than poverty women, no fat cat industrialists or cavalcade-riding politicians, no indication that there are any of the Westernised English speaking people on the streets, even though Ishan has been chosen spokesperson.

I’m calling this the Slumdog Shooting technique – use English because you don’t want to alienate your Western audience with subtitles, but keep the local colour full of attractive yet needy children, crowds that look struggling, and picturesque poverty.

Also check out our posts on “starving African kids,” juxtaposing wealth and poverty, the white woman’s burden, the “we are all African” campaign, making charity recipients look gross, tourism in Brazil, us and them, Burger King’s Whopper Virgin campaign, India needs western technology, and de-racializing the modern/traditional binary.

No One “Hijacked” Islam

By Guest Contributor Jehanzeb, originally posted at Muslim Reverie

Last Thursday, I attended an event hosted by the Muslim Student Association as part of their peace and coexistence week.  The event was about raising awareness and appreciation for the various cultures within the Muslim community.  Muslims read their poems, played music, sang, and gave presentations on Sufism/Islamic spirituality.  There were many non-Muslims in attendance and it was great to hear how previous events during the week had excellent turnouts as well.  As I drove home, I felt like all of us made a huge difference.

When I checked my e-mail that night, a news report about a man opening fire at a military base appeared on the Yahoo homepage.  I prayed, as many Muslim-Americans did, that the shooter wasn’t a Muslim.  The last thing we needed the media to get hyped up about was a Muslim-American murdering fellow Americans in the armed forces.  When the man’s Muslim affiliation was revealed, I was devastated.

My thoughts and prayers went out to the victims and their friends and families.  Simultaneously, as details slowly unfolded and as CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) released immediate condemnations of the incident, I felt like we took one step forward, but then two steps backward.  I am still worried about a backlash on the Muslim community.  Muslim-Americans have been suffering from hate crimes, discriminatory acts, prejudice, and media stereotyping/propaganda since the atrocity on 9/11, and although many Muslim-Americans have been speaking out, polls and surveys have found that negative attitudes and perceptions of Islam and Muslims have been on the increase.

I am not surprised by the Islamophobia that has resulted from this.  It has been going on since September of 2001; what else is new?  In typical Islamophobic fashion, Senator Joe Lieberman called the incident an “act of Islamist extremism.” Despite warnings not to jump to conclusions from Army officials and the President himself, Lieberman concluded:   “There are very, very strong warning signs here that Dr. Hasan had become an Islamist extremist and, therefore, that this was a terrorist act,” Lieberman.

In other words, “terrorism” is a term reserved only for Muslims.  Yeah, we’ve been through this lesson before (see my post, “‘Terrorist’ Means ‘Muslim’”).

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Crack and Hip Hop Politically Underdeveloped Young People

by Guest Contributor M.Dot, originally published at Model Minority

On a fluke a few of weeks ago, I picked up a dvd about the Black Panthers and the student and employee strike at SF State that created the first Black Studies department in the country.

It was in watching this video that realized that both crack and hip hop politically underdeveloped young people. Much of this statement comes out of my reading two or three books a week along with five or six articles last month, while simultaneously watching the fall out from Sasha Frere Jones’s post about the end of hip hop and a post about rap critics. Blog posts, long blog posts take a lot of work. At least coherent ones do.

Reading and writing is labor and I am thinking about to which ends, those of us who are in our twenties and thirties, are reading and writing.

While watching the responses percolate, I wondered what would happen if we invested the same time in rap blogs in making politics to address our lives?

What is our investment in a music that has made it clear that it doesn’t give a fuck out us in a time where we live in an unsustainable world?

For the folks who say that hip hop is related to a political project, I would say, place a link in the comment section. By political I mean a group of people organizing to serve a communally determined group agenda. This doesn’t mean that it hasn’t served as a conscious raising tool, in the past, but Post Chronic or even Post Blueprint, the music has ceased being for itself and currently exists for Black respect and White dollars.

Given that this is the case, what does this mean for Black people and what does it mean for Black music? Continue reading

Running With the Wolves – A Racialicious Reading of the Twilight Saga

by Latoya Peterson

***SPOILERS***

I would have missed the Twilight phenomenon completely had it not been for my boyfriend’s younger sisters. As the tale of Bella and Edward swept bookstores, ravaged Hot Topic, and launched a thousand live journal wars, I was blissfully unaware. It wasn’t until the book Eclipse popped up on two adolescent wish lists that I decided to take a closer look into the much debated saga.

Back in 2008, we published a piece from Alyssa Valdes-Rodriguez on the Politics of Wizards and Vampires, though this mentioned race only lightly. Most of what people view problematic with the books is based in gender. While I am certainly in no position to judge anyone else’s particular brand of paranormal escapism, I have to admit that the Twilight books don’t hold much appeal for me. The reason? Bella, herself. I can’t really deal with bland protagonists, especially women who seem to have nothing else to do but wait around to be saved.* I also have an issue reading long, drawn out virginity narratives – I’ve already had sex, so I’ve lost my patience for that kind of thing. Still, something in the second book piqued my interest: Jacob Black.

Maerhys writes about all the reasons to love Jacob Black:

I came into the books interested in the Edward/Bella romance but was happily surprised to see that Jacob Black was a prominent character, in purpose and/or dialogue, through out the entire series. I liked that these were modern Indians, the pre-werewolf Jacob seemed real enough, or common enough, a good kid interested in auto-mechanics, strong relationship with his father and friends. He had a sense of humor that made me laugh out loud often. I applauded when Meyer was clever enough to make Charlie and Billy best friends so that Jacob taking Bella on as a friend so quickly made sense to me. Of all the scenes at La Push, the time in the garage building the bikes, the Spaghetti Party with the Blacks and Clearwaters, and Breakfast Muffins with Emily felt the most authentic to me. I didn’t mind the muffins over frybread because it was morning and it would have seemed heavy-handed to me to use frybread.

Which is true. Jacob and his family live on a reservation, but they are not perpetually in a time warp. Jacob is a prominent character – he is an established presence in New Moon, is a major part of the plot in Eclipse, and even assumes some of the narrative in Breaking Dawn. However, while there was much to love about the inclusion of Jacob, Meyer’s portrayal of Jacob and the other Quileutes raised quite a few eyebrows.

Marhys explains:

Conversely, I wondered how every single Quileute was russet-colored (and if I never ever read “russet-colored” again it won’t be a moment too soon). I live in the Southeast and in my family alone we range from every shade of brown to quite pale (like me) to Black like many of my cousins and other extended family. I would be lying if I did not think we’re a good lookin’ bunch of folks but we’re not all insanely gorgeous like all of Meyer’s Indians, aside from Kim. The exotification of was heavy-handed, most likely in Meyer’s attempt to show that she thinks Indians are beautiful, strong, and we all but walk on water, *lol*, but, instead, it shoved me out of the story and reminded me that this was a non-Native writing Indian characters. [...]

My largest issues with the characterization of the Quileute Peoples in the novels are two-fold. The first is the complete acceptance of Bella in every aspect of Indian life and that no one had a problem with a red/white relationship between them. Fed/state recognized Nations have to deal with enrollment and most enrollment processes say something about blood quantum, that sort of thing is thought about where I am from, and Alexie has mentioned it more than once in his writings so I think Washington Indians think about it too, even if their dads are best buddies. I found it maddening that no one ever said anything about it, and even with first-person narration through Bella, I doubt that she would not have thought of it, overheard something or had conversation about it. It would not be beyond the pale sine Charlie and Billy were best friends, but to have never mentioned it? And there are no other interracial relationships mentioned? Maddening, I tell you. *lol* And, while, I could buy that Bella would be well-known in La Push and possibly accepted due to the Charlie/Billy connection, I cannot believe that she would be invited to the storytelling event or be taken to so quickly by Emily, and eventually, the rest of the pack. The second, possibly more annoying than the aforementioned, is rez-born and bred Jacob not understanding the role of Billy as an elder and not having a clue as to his clan or that he is the true Alpha. Again, if he had known but chosen to tell Bella something different in order not to reveal to much, to play stupid, I would find that conceivable, but true ignorance? I was dumbfounded and completely thrown from the story.

Indians as werewolves or otherworldly is old meme, but through out the first two novels and most of the third, I found the characters compelling enough to forgive the recapitulation of myth. I enjoyed the development of Jacob’s psyche and the friendship between Bella and Jacob. However, when Meyer went there — the continuous over-bearing game-playing by Jacob for Bella’s affections and, finally, culminating in the forced kiss and then the “suicide mission” manipulation in Eclipse, I felt like Meyer wanted me to hate Jacob and I admit that I did. [Bella as well, for all the Christian morality infused in these tales, the engaged woman seeking another man's kiss didn't do a whole lot for me.] I understand Jacob’s motivations but the execution was beyond flawed. Possibly even older meme than Indians as werewolves is the Indian man so hot for the white girl that he manipulates her and finally forces her sexually. My estimation for the saga as a whole plummeted with these machinations to character and plot, possibly even more so when Bella decides that she is in love with Jacob as well as Edward. Perhaps it is my utter disbelief that so many men find Bella irresistible? If Jacob had imprinted on Bella, perhaps, I could suspend my disbelief, but he did not and he still fights for her, while simultaneously aware that he could imprint on another woman and that Bella is essentially addicted to Edward. Why does he go to all of the trouble? Further, I found it irritating that Jacob and Bella’s relationship was used as a prop to illustrate that Bella had other choices but still chooses Edward, and conceivably, immortality.

Indeed. I read Marhys’ summary before I read all the books, so at the time it didn’t make much sense to me. However, I completed the full series over the weekend, and noticed a lot more than Marhys had time to cover. Continue reading

Disney, Twilight and Bollywood: Reinforcing the Purity Myth or Fantasy of Safe Sexual Exploration for Young Girls (and Their Mothers)?

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

The other day, I was surfing aimlessly online and happened upon Jessica Valenti’s most recent book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity is Hurting Young Women. Ms. Valenti is the founder and Executive Editor of Feministing.com.

Here is the first paragraph:

There is a moral panic in America over young women’s sexuality–and it’s entirely misplaced. Girls ‘going wild’ aren’t damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. The lie of virginity–the idea that such a thing even exists–is ensuring that young women’s perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. It’s time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they’re sexually active.

And then this:

More than 1,400 purity balls, where young girls pledge their virginity to their fathers at a promlike event, were held in 2006 (the balls are federally funded) [Emphasis mine]. Facebook is peppered with purity groups that exist to support girls trying to ‘save it.’…So while young girls are subject to overt sexual messages every day, they’re simultaneously being taught — by the people who are supposed to care for their personal and moral development, no less–that their only real worth is their virginity and ability to remain “pure.”

I thought about these quotes for days after reading them. For one, the fact that purity balls are federally funded, if indeed they are, blew me away (so that–and new sports stadiums–is where all the education and health care money is!). Valenti’s premise kind of made sense when I thought about Bollywood films and the “no kissing” rule — how some of the most successful Bollywood romances are all about sexual longing and tension within the context of safe, non-sexual relationships. And how the concept of safeguarded virginity seems to be a giant moral marker for young girls around the globe. I can’t remember how often I saw a Bollywood film about the men in a family viciously guarding a young woman’s virginity because the honour and reputation of the entire family rested on the moral purity of that young woman. And if, as in some films, she happened to be raped, the only honourable thing left was for her to take her own life.

I compared this to a DVD I recently succumbed to watching–despite my best intentions. I had tried twice to push through the novel, but did not get past the first 30 pages each time. I know that Twilight has been examined and analyzed on this site and others in terms of its racial content, but that was not the reason I was so disturbed by the film. I was prepared for the racial issues since I read various blog entries on that particular topic. What I was not prepared for was how thoroughly the film capitalized on young female sexuality and the concept of innocence, or as Ms. Valenti might refer to it, purity. Continue reading

links for 2009-11-26

New Moon: Old Story?

new moonby Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

Most people talk about the fans. They are typically teenage girls screaming, crying, fainting at the sight of the pallid Robert Pattinson (who plays the Byronic hero Edward Cullen, a vampire who strives to avoid his bloodthirsty desires for the sake of preserving humanity). Now with the post-pubescent buffing up of another of the film’s protagonists, Jacob Black, a werewolf of indigenous heritage whose newfound strengths provide him with the ability to preserve a treaty to quell violence between the werewolves and vampires (played by Taylor Lautner), there’s a new boy on the block for inducing total fan chaos. But with the onslaught of abs and a new love interest for Bella Swan (the pathetic protagonist and central female love interest played by Kristen Stewart), there is a recycling of roles for actors of color that are far from new.

If anything, the title itself adds an ironic twist to a tale that spirals into a stereotypical narrative to which we are all well-conditioned by now, both in films and other more readily-available media in our every day lives. Have you ever heard something along the lines of “dating someone who is [insert ethnic/racial group] ok, but you’d better not marry one!” or “Native Americans are so in touch with nature!”? Have you ever seen a film or tv show that relegated the person of color as the trusty sidekick, loyal friend, or temporary romantic plaything, only then to have the white hero enter in medias res and get all the praise and attention? Have you ever seen a piece from an ad campaign or historical policy discussions in which non-white people are portrayed as animalistic, in both their behavior, thought processes, and athletic ability? Have you, as a person of color, or if you are not, any of your POC friends, ever complained of feeling that their societal value was reduced to their physical appearance or a specific body part?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you have already seen New Moon. Continue reading

The Racialicious Roundtable For ‘Flash Forward’ 1.9

Hosted by Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

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By now, dear reader(s), you’ve probably heard that ABC has given the turkeys at Flash Forward an extra-long Turkey Day hiatus in order to give the writing a punch-up. Of course, if you read this space, you know we could solve the problem for the creative staff in four words: MORE CHO, LESS FIENNES. And it’s not just us who are off the Bedford bandwagon. As AfterEllen notes:

But honestly, Joseph Fiennes gets annoying after awhile, with his one-note performance (the one note being angst) as Mark Benford. How can someone be as grim as he with a wife like this?

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Still, perhaps we’ve all been too hard on Captain Non-Charisma; as the Roundtable’s own Andrea points out, one of the men behind the scenes of Flash Forward is Brannon Braga, who helmed Voyager and Enterprise, the two Star Trek properties that don’t, ah, get mentioned as much as their sister series.

Ok, back on a regular sched now. Hope everybody’s doing well and avoided the Twi-hordes
Mahsino: I just watched the original Twilight a couple weeks ago. To put it in perspective, it’s somewhere between Heroes and Dollhouse: bad, but entertaining enough that you can’t bring yourself look away. It’s a decent clean-the-house and fold laundry movie.
Diana: I was sucked in, but survived. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a theater with so many women, even compared to when Sex and The City came out. But for hangin’ with my girls, I probably would have waited to see it on Netflix.
jen*: Successfully avoided. I’m more of an Angel fan.
Andrea: Here’s me, not giving a f-ck about Twilight and the latest vampire trend in general. I work in a commercial building that containing a shopping mall; I’m more worried about the Black Friday/Christmas hordes.

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