Month: July 2011

July 28, 2011 / / everyday racism

Newsweek DSK Maid CoverI haven’t had much time to write this week, but I wanted to quickly take a look at the unfolding DSK sexual assault case.

The framing of cases is so important, as it shifts judgements in the court of public opinion. Since Diallo has chosen to step forward as the accuser (perhaps in response to the media backlash around her life and reputation), news outlets have clamored to get the scoop. Newsweek published an exclusive interview a few days ago, with some telling language:

“Nafi” Diallo is not glamorous. Her light-brown skin is pitted with what look like faint acne scars, and her dark hair is hennaed, straightened, and worn flat to her head, but she has a womanly, statuesque figure. When her face is in repose, there is an opaque melancholy to it. Working at the Sofitel for the last three years, with its security and stability, was clearly the best job she’d ever hoped to have, after years braiding hair and working in a friend’s store in the Bronx as a newcomer from Guinea in 2003.

Only in cases involving rape or assault is how the victim appears a subject for commentary. This is part of rape culture, the idea that we have to evaluate the attractiveness of a person alleging assault along with the other facts in the case. Melissa McEwan so succinctly put it, rape is not a compliment. Neither is sexual assault. Yet time and time again, we see people accused of sexual assault, abuse, or rape try to weasel out of it by saying that they weren’t attracted to the person in the first place. (We see you, Albert Haynesworth.) It’s disturbing to see reporters play into the same idea. This is why feminists continually stress that rape is a crime of power, not desire. Rape is not related to the attractiveness of the victim. Rape occurs because one party does not consent to a sexual encounter, but they are forced into it anyway.

Also, that first discussion of “clearly the best job she’d ever hoped to have?” It sets the stage for more prejudical plays on class, race, and immigration status later in the piece. Read the Post Nafissatou Diallo, Dominique Strauss Kahn, Race, Immigration, and Power

July 27, 2011 / / Uncategorized
July 27, 2011 / / college

by Guest Contributor Alana M. Mohamed

Experiencing Racism CoverMaybe I’m naïve, but when I stepped on the campus of my New England public university, I was dumbstruck by the whiteness of it all. I was literally the only person of color in a sea of white people. This had never happened to me before. I grew up in New York City and had never been to a school that was predominantly white. As such, I was partial to the color-blind politics of the day. This is not to say that I never experienced racism, but I was lucky enough to discount the few times I had encountered racism as the statistical outliers of my life. However, I was surprised to learn that my peers at university had rarely come in contact with people of color and often times lacked any sort of tact when dealing with people of color. After revealing that my last name is Mohamed, the questions and comments that followed without fail went something like: A) “You don’t look Muslim! Are you religious?” B) “Is your family…y’know, religious?” C) (A look of relief when I revealed that, no, they aren’t that religious) “Oh! Good, cause I know how crazy they can be.” My friends at other universities felt the same alienation and we started to really pay attention to the racism surrounding us.

Most of my class and dorm mates were white, middle class kids who lived in small, predominantly white towns. As a light skinned Guyanese-American woman, they found me hard to peg and I was privy to my share of racist “jokes.” Once, during Black History Month, our dining hall happened to be serving fried chicken and watermelon, in addition to numerous other options. A girl on my floor dim wittedly cracked, “What a way to celebrate Black History Month!” Half the room shared an uneasy silence, while the other erupted into laughter. I was shocked into silence and, looking back, I wish I could have said something. Since then, I’ve found that dealing with racist jokes is best handled by playing dumb. A simple, “I don’t get it,” and a couple of leading questions will encourage them to try and explain their joke and help them realize that relying on tired and racist stereotypes isn’t funny or clever in the least.

I’ve also encountered a very common situation: People saying racist things, but not realizing, or refusing to acknowledge that they’re racist. The most bizarre example of this occurred as a group of friends and I were walking back from a party. Shortly after chastising someone for using the word “Jiggaboo” to describe his black friends back home, my roommate and another girl began to discuss the physical differences between white people and black people. A snippet of the conversation? “And why does their hair do that? Like, why is it like that? It’s like they’re a whole different species! They kind of,” here she lowered her voice, “look like animals a little.” I shared a look with another friend and simply said, “Whoa, I’m not even gonna participate in this conversation.” However, my roommate and the girl she was talking to still didn’t understand why what they said was offensive. Read the Post Racism 101: Race and the College Freshman

Back when Tionna Smalls had a column  in Gawker, she warned one  foolish women away from the wrong man by asking “Is that all you want out of your life—hard dick and bubblegum?” Swap bubble gum for vampire bites, and that is Sookie. I need to ask Arturo about the moment that he knew Heroes was going down the drain.  Part of me feels like the vaguely orchestral swell when Eric and Sookie defy all logic and kiss is the beginning of the end.  Moreover, Alan Ball is exhibiting some disturbingly Tim Kring-like statements about future plot arcs…and saying Jason’s gang rape was his favorite part of the season.  While we are over here in a state of fanguish hoping True Blood hasn’t jumped the shark, Kendra Pettis, Alea Adigweme, Joseph Lamour, Amber Jones and Jordan St. John join me to solve the biggest mystery of the season: What the fuck is Sookie smoking?

Random

Sookie Highlights

Latoya: Sookie’s hair is nicer this season.  I just noticed that
Jordan: Yeah… i think everyone took a trip to the beauty shop – Laffy and Tara both have new dos
Amber: Yep, it seems everyone got a makeover this season. Arlene set up an appointment too and got that hair color refreshed and deepened.
Joe: And Crystal’s hair last week looked fanTASTIC. Two snaps TB hairdressers.

Tommy & Sam, for Better or Worse

Tommy and Sam

Jordan: Uh-oh…Guess that violent streak runs in the family
Alea: Damn.  Violence definitely seems to be a frequent occurrence in that family, but Tommy was acting in self-defense for a good part of it.
Jordan: What is it with them and trying to/killing family members…
Amber: Yeaaah. To be so stuck on “loyalty” they seriously have no qualms about fear and punishment. It’s sad that poor Tommy felt like he had no other choice. Joe Lee’s death = freedom (and crazy mama had to get in the way…). It’s so similar to Hotshot. Disobedience = (violent) punishment and freedom means someone has to die.
Alea: That’s a keen reading, Amber.  The “freedom = someone else’s death meme” seems very specific to the familial situations of those marked as more “southern white trash” than the rest of Bon Temps.
Latoya: Yeah, there’s an assimilation narrative to be unpacked there, but I’m trying to dredge up some sorrow…or something.
Alea: Yeah…..no.
Kendra: Hah.
Amber: Yeah…I got nothing.
Alea: Though I do feel bad for his mother, and I don’t really blame Tommy for her death.  She wouldn’t have gotten in the way if she hadn’t been brainwashed by an abusive partner.
Latoya: Be cool if Tommy became the season 5 big bad. I’m calling it early.
Kendra: (I never realised how many above the title/regulars this show has. Gosh) Read the Post The Devil in Sookie Stackhouse: True Blood Roundtable S4, E5

July 27, 2011 / / WTF?
July 26, 2011 / / Uncategorized

by Guest Contributor Kirti Kamboj, originally published at Hyphen

Outsourced promo

Mother Jones recently published “My Summer at an Indian Call Center,” which looked at the other side of the “these people are stealing our jobs!” outsourcing scenario. It was written by Andrew Marantz, an American who spent a summer in India and took a training course for call center agents, and focused on his experiences during this training and his views of the industry. Some parts were interesting, such as the strange and amusing anecdotes from his cultural training bootcamp, and it provided a much needed counter to the idea that the current system of globalization brings greater happiness and prosperity to everyone.

Points like this were particularly insightful:

Call-center employees gain their financial independence at the risk of an identity crisis. A BPO salary is contingent on the worker’s ability to de-Indianize [16]: to adopt a Western name and accent and, to some extent, attitude. Aping Western culture has long been fashionable; in the call-center classroom, it’s company policy. Agents know that their jobs only exist because of the low value the world market ascribes to Indian labor. The more they embrace the logic of global capitalism, the more they must confront the notion that they are worth less.

But its critique was ultimately limited, full of over-generalizations, and at times contradictory. Below are four reasons I found it so, and why I would hesitate to recommend this article.

(1) Near the beginning of the piece, Marantz quotes a 2003 Guardian article which states: “The most marketable skill in India today is the ability to abandon your identity and slip into someone else’s.” It’s factually correct that this is a marketable skill, but by labeling it the most marketable skill the article is overreaching. It also fails to make a distinction that few Indians overlook. Namely, that there’s very little money that a middle class urban Indian can earn by slipping into the identity of, say, a villager in Orissa, or a farmer in rural Nigeria. The marketable skill is the ability to slip into an affluent Westerner’s identity.

By itself, this is a small omission and overgeneralization, but there are similar ones throughout this article, forming a pattern indicative of a lack of awareness or concern for the underlying hierarchies that govern many aspects of a call center employee’s life, as well as a lack of nuance.

(2) The most interesting, as well as most questionable, parts of the article were those which talked about the cultural training call center agents are required to undergo. In this training, Marantz says,

trainees memorize colloquialisms and state capitals, study clips of Seinfeld and photos of Walmarts, and eat in cafeterias serving paneer burgers and pizza topped with lamb pepperoni. Trainers aim to impart something they call “international culture” — which is, of course, no culture at all, but a garbled hybrid of Indian and Western signifiers designed to be recognizable to everyone and familiar to no one.

While in this instance learning “international culture” is obviously corporate doublespeak for “If you sound too Indian, you’ll be fired,” to claim that there’s no international culture seems similar to the claim that white people have no culture, especially in its glossing over of underlying hierarchies. The point of this culture training, it must not be forgotten, is to give the Indians at these call centers names, accents, mannerisms, and cultural signifiers that help them to pass for Westerners, to circumvent the “protectionism” instincts of the callers. This isn’t a melding of two cultures into something no one is familiar with; it’s the attempted erasure of one to avoid instigating the anger and scorn of those from the other. Read the Post Mother Jones Falls Short with ‘My Summer at an Indian Call Center