links for 2010-01-31

  • "After he performed “Down” and “Do you remember , Williams exclaimed to her guest, “You are, STUNNING!” She followed up with “You’re exotic and spicy, what is your background??”. Mr. Jhooti let her know that his “heritage” was Indian and immediately clarified that he did not, in fact, live in a “wigwam”, i.e. that he wasn’t THAT kind of Indian."
  • "Japan’s big three beef bowl restaurant chains, the country’s answer to hamburger giants like McDonald’s, are in a price war. It is a sign, many people say, of the dire state of Japan’s economy that even dirt-cheap beef bowl restaurants must slash their already low prices to keep customers. The battle has also come to epitomize a destructive pattern repeated across Japan’s economy. By cutting prices hastily and aggressively to attract consumers, critics say, restaurants decimate profits, squeeze workers’ pay and drive the weak out of business — a deflationary cycle that threatens the nation’s economy. "
  • "One way to give aid to Haiti immediately is to stop slandering and shaming its peoples in the international media. Another is to incorporate the perspectives of Haitians themselves into current news coverage. Let everyday Haitians, not just Wyclef, tell their stories, which are searingly different from Jean’s own. Black stories rarely get told on the evening news because the tellers are not white, educated, color or class privileged enough to influence decisions made by producers and editors. We do, however, hear the opinions of the Pat Robertsons of the world […]"
  • "In fact, watching some of these films, you might wonder how, in a nation where some are more equal than others, Obama ever even got elected. Could it be that he triumphed because he is himself an embodiment of one of these stereotypes — what some film scholars refer to as the "black saint," or in Spike Lee's blunter term, the "magical negro"? The actor Sidney Poitier typified this figure, playing characters who, as described by Donald Bogle, one of America's leading black cultural critics and author of Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks, is "the perfect dream for white liberals anxious to have a colored man in for lunch or dinner."
  • "To do that, Congress must hold food retailers accountable. "Retail redlining," national supermarket chains' practice of avoiding low-income African American and Hispanic areas, forces millions of Americans to rely on convenience stores, liquor stores and corner groceries that push junk food — often at inflated prices. The system is fueled by junk-food makers who pay retailers "slotting fees" to guarantee shelf space, pushing fresh produce and other healthy foods off shelves."
  • "The FBI is investigating a threat scrawled last week on a bathroom wall warning that black students would be killed Feb. 2. It bore the trademarks of just another casual – though chilling – threat of violence on a college campus, but students here aren't taking any chances. At least one subsequent note reading "kill the n——" was (also) reported."

Quoted: Adoptees of Colour Statement on Haiti

By Thea Lim

The following is from the blog Adoptees of Colour Roundtable:

This statement reflects the position of an international community of adoptees of color who wish to pose a critical intervention in the discourse and actions affecting the child victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti. We are domestic and international adoptees with many years of research and both personal and professional experience in adoption studies and activism. We are a community of scholars, activists, professors, artists, lawyers, social workers and health care workers who speak with the knowledge that North Americans and Europeans are lining up to adopt the “orphaned children” of the Haitian earthquake, and who feel compelled to voice our opinion about what it means to be “saved” or “rescued” through adoption.

We understand that in a time of crisis there is a tendency to want to act quickly to support those considered the most vulnerable and directly affected, including children. However, we urge caution in determining how best to help. We have arrived at a time when the licenses of adoption agencies in various countries are being reviewed for the widespread practice of misrepresenting the social histories of children. There is evidence of the production of documents stating that a child is “available for adoption” based on a legal “paper” and not literal orphaning as seen in recent cases of intercountry adoption of children from Malawi, Guatemala, South Korea and China. We bear testimony to the ways in which the intercountry adoption industry has profited from and reinforced neo-liberal structural adjustment policies, aid dependency, population control policies, unsustainable development, corruption, and child trafficking….
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From Paris With Love…and some hilarious racism!

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Is it a new trend in trailers to highlight comic genius and audacity, by showing just a little bit of racism? First we had the Up in the Air trailer, and now this:

From Paris With Love stars John Travolta (apparently in a reprise of his Face/Off role, plus a keffiyeh) as Charlie Wax, and the adorable little fellow from Bend it Like Beckham as his sidekick. Midway through the trailer, our two leads find themselves in a classic Chinatown fight scene. I blanch at the sight of Charlie Wax using the East Asian waiter’s “oriental” uniform to choke him, and some other shots of things emblazoned with dragons and a Ming vase…

But it’s nothing to write about. That bad feeling in the pit of my stomach is just your regular, knee-jerk (and hey, maybe not-so-justifiable) response to seeing one of my own get pulped by a member of the dominant culture.

And then my most paranoid suspicions are confirmed at 1:05, when Wax’s sidekick asks him in the middle of the Chinatown fight scene

How many more of them do you think there are?

referring to the malevolent employees of the Chinese restaurant.

Wax shrugs, there’s a cut to a women in a cheongsam, and then Wax says

My sense is…about a billion?


The Root’s Confab and Random Thoughts About Talking About Race

by Latoya Peterson

After I hit up the AAA conference on race, I had to dash over to the Root’s offices to make a 4 PM podcast.  Natalie Hopkinson had kindly invited me to join them on The Confab, The Root’s Podcast.  Here’s the description:

This week on The Confab: Why is Haiti so unlucky? How has new media impacted earthquake relief efforts? And, will someone tell Pat Robertson to please shut up? Plus, the ever-evolving state of race? How possible is it to have a productive discussion. Join The Root‘s media and culture critic Natalie Hopkinson as she talks with managing editor Joel Dreyfuss, Jesse Washington of the Associated Press, Natalie Y. Moore from Chicago Public Radio and Racialicious’ Latoya Peterson.

You can listen to the Confab here.  Regular readers and listeners to ATR will notice that I start to get a bit frustrated midway through.  While I enjoy Natalie Hopkinson’s work, and found Jesse Washington a nice and funny guy, it can be challenging – particularly in a radio/television format – to break down complex ideas about race in a few seconds without getting cut off.

Sometimes, this is just the medium.  I was asked by Jesse Washington who are white professional anti-racists outside of Tim Wise, and I couldn’t think of any off the top of my head. I referred to Nezua, the Unapologetic Mexican as someone who had more experience dealing with white anti-racists, but it came out wrong.  It sounded like I was saying “Nez knows all the white people” when really, I was thinking about this video that he made for News with Nezua (transcript here):

News With Nezua | The White Professional Anti-Racist from nezua on Vimeo.

(Also, see what happens on Nez’s site when he posts this video, and the reaction from a “White Professional Anti-Racist”.)

So there’s that.  But Washington also asked me if I was an “anti racist activist” which actually gave me some pause. Continue reading

The Game “Supports” Korean Pop Group

by Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

This is the situation, as I understand it. For the past couple of days, fans of the Korean pop group 2PM were tweeting “#RT기 다릴게 박재범 기다릴게 2PM” (never mind what it means) to show love the group’s ousted Korean American leader Jaebum, who had been kicked out by his company for anti-Korean comments he made on his MySpace page a while back (which is a whole different drama, and not really relevant for this story).

Fans managed to make the 2PM tweet a pretty popular trending topic, which got a lot of people curious about what the hell the Korean phrase meant. Others, like rapper The Game, simply saw something foreign and “Oriental” and decided to mock it with an ignorant-ass tweet like this:

“#RT 기 다릴게 박재범 기다릴게 2PM dont kno what dis trendin topic is or means but I like shrimp fried rice alot & smokin makes my eyes tight so I RT’d it”

For some people, the sight of a weird Asian language will always simply equal Chinese takeout and chinky eyes. Thanks for showing the love, Game — for both shrimp fried rice and 2PM. Your blind idiot re-tweet just supported a South Korean pop group in a time of great distress for their fans. That’s real gangsta, and they thank you. (Thanks, Jisun.)

Independent Bookstore Restricts Spanish Speaking Outside of “Dishwasher Area”

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

As if independent bookstores don’t already have enough to worry about, Fidel Martinez at Guanabee writes about a language controversy at Atticus Bookstore in New Haven:

Atticus Book Store and Cafe, located in New Haven, Connecticut, has caused a controversy over a recent policy decision to require all Hispanic employees to only speak English within a customer’s earshot.

The staff is allowed to speak Spanish, but only in restricted areas.

A document from the bookstore states:

Spanish is allowed in the prep area, the dishwasher area and the lower level. Let’s make our customers feel welcome and comfortable.

“Let’s make our customers feel welcome and comfortable”? Yeeeeouch. (And yes that stuff about “the dishwasher area” is plain unfortunate.)

I’m sure I’m not the only one on this site who feels happy, or even relieved, when I hear multiple languages being spoken in a space – even though I’m a filthy monolinguist myself.   Places where people are welcome to bring their culture with them, are places where I feel comfortable.  So you have to wonder just who Atticus is referring to, when they imagine customers who feel uncomfortable when they hear Spanish.

And despite when I might’ve been led to believe by The Great Gatsby, it doesn’t sound like New Haven is some enclave of pearl-grabbing ethnocultural anglo purists.  Martinez goes on to report:

This new directive has pissed off members of Yale University (Atticus is located next to Yale’s British Arts Center) and the New Haven Workers Association. The latter sent out an email to local community groups like the New Haven Labor Council and Unidad Latino En Accion protesting what they deem to be racism in the workplace.

Apparently though, Atticus is within their legal rights to demand its employees speak English.
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links for 2010-01-28

  • "I became curious about the dark side – racial images used in food advertising – and it seems I'm not the only one.  But what's more amazing is that all three of these icons are still found on packaging today.

    "It's just in the larger historical context – slavery, lynchings, beat-downs in Birmingham – that the enduring trend seems, uh, tasteless. "

  • "The Avatar influence was evident in the models' plaited hair. Set to mariachi music, the show opened with a denim jacket, moved into dark suits, then exploded into a couture rain forest of clothes. Models that didn't wear amazing, intricately crafted couture sombreros had palm fronds sticking out of their heads. With Gaultier's typical sass, a few models strode onto the runway with cigars in hand."
  • "That claim was impossible to verify. When asked, police in the area shrugged and said they knew nothing. "It's not like it's easy keeping track of bodies," said one sergeant. Osam insisted his daughter was no looter, that she set out with $70 (£43) – the family's entire cash reserve – to buy chairs, having estimated she could sell them for $75. The framed pictures must have been a spontaneous purchase. If so she would have been a lone shopper amid a tumult of scavengers."
    (tags: haiti news)
  • "Particular attention is paid to art dealer Axelle Liautaud, who has made it her mission to try to salvage bits of Haitian culture from the rubble (she is working with UNESCO). At the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, Liautaud sifted through wreckage in the hopes that the church’s murals, executed in the 1950s by some of Haiti’s best artists, might be pieced back together. The lost works include a famous crucifixion of a mulatto Christ and a Last Supper by Philomé Obin, a piece by Castera Bazile depicting Christ’s ascension over a field of soccer-playing youth, as well as murals by Haitian artists Wilson Bigaud, Rigaud Benoit and others. "
    (tags: haiti art culture)
  • "The reason is simple: being expensive is part of the point. A Macbook Pro is just as much of a status marker as a Louis Vuitton purse or a BMW. Being more expensive than another product of similar capability isn't a bug, it's a feature. But unlike that purse or that car, Apple products come with a kind of built-in deniability about the fact that they are purchased in part because of their class signals. Look, people love to demonstrate wealth; it is one of our culture's more singular obsessions. But a lot of people, for reasons of politics and decorum (and this extends to conservatives and liberals alike), feel guilty about flashing their class. So while they look down at, say, black urban youth for wearing expensive jewelry, they make sure you know where they went to college. Both are signaling, and both have everything to do with money, but one allows you to deny that you are so signaling."

The State of OUR Union

By Guest Contributor Tammy Johnson, originally published at Colorlines


January 27, 2010

Brothers, sisters and all of those in transition,

I come to you today not as your elected leader, but simply as a Black woman striving for justice, a single voice delivering a few words of caution and hope about the state of our union.

Some of you may think that we should reserve this moment for our duly elected President. The Constitution does suggest that from time to time the President should “recommend measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” And there should be an acute sense of urgency when it comes to our situation. With poverty and unemployment rising as quickly as wealth is falling in communities of color, it is critical that we hear President Obama’s plan and vision for our future.

But I say that the weight of this moment is too substantial to leave to one man, or to the gum-flapping of partisan spin doctors and Madison Avenue desk jockeys. The state of our union deserves a broader, more grounded assessment that includes the role we have played in nation building.

Let’s be honest. As a movement, we have engaged in a great deal of in-fighting between those propelled by the hope of the 2008 election and those deflated by the realities of the 2009 administration. Some trumpeted the signing of SCHIP while others raged at the lack of care for immigrants and women in the health insurance bill. The push and pull among us has gone far beyond a healthy dialectic that nurtures our work.

Many seem to have forgotten that what is most important is not the man, but the mission.
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