Aoki: a documentary on the life of richard aoki

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

Aoki, by Ben Wang and Mike Cheng, is a new feature documentary chronicling the life of the late Richard Aoki, a third generation Japanese American who became one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party in 1966. Here’s the film’s official description:

Aoki is a documentary film chronicling the life of Richard Aoki (1938-2009), a third-generation Japanese American who became one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party. Filmed over the last five years of Richard’s life, this documentary features extensive footage with Richard and exclusive interviews with his comrades, friends, and former students. Viewers will learn about Richard’s childhood in a WWII Japanese American concentration camp, growing up in West Oakland, and serving eight years in the U.S. military. The film explores previously unknown facts about the formation of the Black Panther Party such as how Richard became intimately involved in its founding and contributed the first two firearms to the Party. Aoki highlights how Richard’s leadership also made a significant impact on individuals and groups in the contemporary Asian American Movement. Richard’s contributions to the groundbreaking organization Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) and its involvement in the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) student strike led to the formation of ethnic studies at U.C. Berkeley. Above all else, Aoki is a film that demonstrates the incredible dedication to justice that one man’s life has had and how the lessons of solidarity, commitment, and discipline can carry on from one generation to the next.

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Dear Old Morehouse

by Guest Contributor Dumi Lewis, originally published at Uptown Notes

Dear Old Morehouse,

I’ve been trying to avoid writing this for some time now. As an alumnus of the institution, it’s hard for me to see you in such condition. Many of my fellow alumni complained of your disrepair and your besmirched image when they heard about students being beaten for their sexuality, shooters graduating, and cross-dressing, but I have bigger concerns. While all these things mattered to me, they did not disturb me because of what was being done to the image of our institution; they disturbed me because they demonstrated that Dear Old Morehouse was terribly unequipped to deal with the realities and lives that Black men in America live now. In fact, it is the Old Morehouse that is more dangerous to me than any student with a gun, sagged pants, or high heels would ever be. Let me explain.

When I visited Morehouse for the first time, it was about 1994, I remember seeing hanging banners and brochures that talked about the development of leaders, community servants, and caring connected brothers. The culmination of these developments was to be the Morehouse Man. I remember reading about the crown that Morehouse held up for its students so that one day they too would embody the Morehouse Mystique. I was sold. I was ready to be in that number. I was ready to be at the only institution of higher education dedicated fully to the education of men of African descent in the United States. But like most things, I soon found out all that glittered was not gold. Continue reading

Special Presentation: Wesley Du’s If I Was Like You

by Latoya Peterson

Wesley Du, creator of the film I wrote about here, has agreed to host to the film on YouTube so that everyone can have a chance to see it. (Thanks Wes!)

Here is the film, parts one and two.

As you formulate your responses, I’d like you to keep a couple things in mind:

1. How much does your race influence how you perceive this film?

2. How does this film factor into the conversations we attempt to have about the Things We Do To Each Other? As in, discussions of interracial tension that occurs between nonwhite groups?

ETA: This movie is going to dredge up some complicated feelings. It is ok to voice these, just like it is ok to be unsure how to feel. But what I am looking for in responses is engagement with the material – why do you feel the way you do? I already received a comment that is a disappointment (that will not be approved), so I want to make this clear – you can feel however you want about this film. However, I want people to articulate why they feel that way(if you are unsure, articulate that too) and what feelings this film brought to the surface. – LDP

Civil rights, but just for me

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

I was going to begin this post be talking about Mohandas Gandhi. I was going to chastise Bernice King, daughter of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and new leader of the civil rights organization Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), for her hateful pronouncement, recounted in The Guardian: “I know down in my sanctified soul that [MLK] did not take a bullet for samesex unions.”

I was going to point out that Gandhi, who is said to have inspired MLK, did not take a bullet for black Americans. His cause was the oppressed people of India. But the universal truth of his message–resistance to tyranny, nonviolence and the fundamental equality of all people–was as applicable on the North American continent as the Asian one. Bernice King’s father realized that. How small and hateful and contrary to the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi it would have been if, during the height of the U.S. Civil Rights movement, a surviving family member had proclaimed that “down in their souls” they were certain that Gandhi didn’t take a bullet for Negroes to ride on the front of the bus.

To my surprise, while doing a little research on the martyr known as “The Great One,” I discovered that, though time has cemented Gandhi in the public consciousness as a loving but determined champion for world equality. He may well not have supported civil rights for all marginalized people. Continue reading

Cheerleader Blackface: The Cultural Function of Pretend Shock

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Colourface fatigue, I haz it.  Who here is tired of reading about blackface? Because I sure am tired of writing about it. And at this point I don’t know what more there is to say.

Well, come to think of it, there was never much to say in the first place.  Because here we tend to deal more in the subtle nuances of racism; when something is as out and out wrong as painting yourself black for a lark, you don’t need us to deconstruct it for you.

But I ask this: why is a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who colourfaced it up as Lil Wayne for Halloween causing so much of a ruckus? It might just be because I live in Texas, but all day Monday I heard reports about white cheerleader Whitney Isleib and her poor choice of costume.  The team even received a request from a Texas media outlet for an interview.

News, by definition is (among other things): a person, thing, or event considered as a choice subject for journalistic treatment; newsworthy material. This is pretty elementary: there has to be something spectacular about your behaviour for it to make headlines.  Simply behaving badly or cluelessly – which Isleib most certainly was – is not enough to get you in the news.  You have to behave badly in some kind of unusual way.

But colourface is not unusual. It is reprehensible and grotesque, but it’s not unusual. Who here was out and about on Halloween, and saw some colourface? *raises hand*

So. Why the attention for Isleib’s dressup? Yes, Isleib is sort of a public figure. But that’s just it: she’s only sort of a public figure. I can’t imagine her getting this much attention for anything else.  Isleib’s situation is markedly different from biracial colourface on ANTM, Vogue painting white supermodel Lara Stone black, and Harry Connick Jr putting his foot down at Australian blackface.  These are all examples of public performances of blackface.  Isleib on the other hand was at a private party. Why is this news? Why is it even local Texas news?

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Addicted to Race 124: Anti-Asian bias, Top Model colorface, large black women, hair hatred

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:

Since the implementation of affirmative action in the college admissions process, opponents of the policy have alleged that the changes reduce the chances of White and Asian high school students applying to elite colleges. Is that really true? Tyra Banks often tackles race on her talk show, so why did she get race oh-so-wrong in last week’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, in which contestants wore colorface to mimic different ethnic mixtures? Fat black women are often the butt of the joke in low-brow comedy films. But when a smart comedy like “Parks & Recreation” dabbles in it, what does that say about our biases against race and size? Newsweek writer Allison Samuels sparked furor around the ‘Net recently with an article taking Angelina Jolie to task for her daughter Zahara’s allegedly uncared for tresses. Does Samuels ultimately uphold Eurocentric beauty standards? Carmen Van Kerckhove and Tami Winfrey Harris 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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Open Thread: Cornel West on Stephen Colbert – Respect or Mockery?

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

The Colbert Report is pretty hit and miss.  But most of the time I enjoy it.  Potentially that’s because Stephen Colbert’s satire is so impenetrable that I have little idea as to what his real politics are…which means I can just project my own politics onto him.  Jon Stewart on the other hand is less of a blank space. We get a much clearer sense of what he truly believes, making it (well, at least to this grump) easier to dislike him.

When Cornel West guested on the Colbert Report last week, my sleuthing skills went on overdrive.  What does Colbert really think of West? Does he agree with West, or does he think West’s a joke?

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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Is Colbert mocking West’s manner of speaking, or borrowing it? When Colbert references Jim Morrison, is he poking fun at West’s knowledge base, or is he merely “tangoing”? When West makes a great counterargument to the logic of Post Racialism, Colbert responds by saying “I feel like a muppet.” Does that undermine West – and is that Colbert’s intention?

I have to say that no matter what Colbert is doing, I really love this interview. I couldn’t stop smiling through it – not only because Cornel West’s enthusiasm and exuberance is infectious, but also because I don’t think I have ever seen someone steamroll Colbert so effectively. And I love that it was an anti-racist black man – expounding such truthiness! – that managed the Colbert takedown.

It can be very difficult for women and people of colour to wrest control of a conversation in a white mainstream space, especially when that conversation veers into hateful territory. Feeling voiceless or ignored in a white or male conversational space seems like almost a weekly happening for me. Watching this video, I felt like West was striking one for any POC (or WOC) who’s ever felt silenced by the cacophony of racism around them.

Interestingly a Colbert fan site reports that Colbert appears to genuinely like West, stating that this is what Colbert did after taping the interview:

In person I got the impression that Colbert actually really liked Cornel West. After the interview Stephen immediately walked around the desk and gave him a hug. Then West smiled and waved at the audience and we gave him a standing ovation.

So what do you think? Is Colbert an ally or is he just using West to make white folks laugh?

Racism as a Backhanded Compliment

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

In a post called “Penny-Pinching Jews and South Carolina Republicans,” Jeff Goldberg points to an editorial by two South Carolina Republicans defending Sen. Jim DeMint’s opposition to opening the federal spigot for his state.

Recently your newspaper published a letter from state Rep. Bakari Sellers attacking U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and his opposition to congressional earmarks.

There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies and trying to preserve our country’s wealth and our economy’s viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.

To which one of Goldberg’s readers responded:

Perhaps I’m seeing something that isn’t there, but I inferred from the title of this post a suggestion of anti-Semitic bigotry on the part of the two county Republican chairmen.

First, I think there is a difference between stereotypes to be disparaged and stereotypes to be emulated. The chairmen were guilty of the latter. Second, I’ve lived 2/3 of my life in the South/Southwest and the rest in the Northeast. I’ve the noticed that the attitudes about Jews in either place to be remarkably different. In New York, a Jew is some jerk who is dating his sister or a weirdly dressed guy who’s probably hoarding diamonds. In the S/SW and probably in most of the Midwest, a Jew is David or Solomon or Daniel or Jesus or James or Paul.

Ah, yes! Those good stereotypes that we should emulate! They’re always tossed into the bin of “bad” and “racist,” which just isn’t right. Unlike “bad stereotypes,” the good ones are dehumanizing and condescending, but in a well-intentioned sort of way!

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