By Guest Contributor Lindsey Yoo: originally published at Filthy Freedom
Disclaimer: The discussion of inclusivity and solidarity is relevant to many constituencies in different ways; this is my unique take as an Asian, female-identified individual.
I’ve come to a curious, heightened recognition these past few weeks: My ethnicity is something to laugh at. When an Asian woman is denigrated and exoticized by a group of white men in an offensive video entitled “Asian Girlz”, I am told I shouldn’t be so upset because the woman clearly enjoyed it and the video was clearly just a joke. When the lone Asian character in the critically acclaimed Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” perpetuates negative racial tropes through easy, cheap humor that capitalizes on her awkward silences and accented, broken English, I’m supposed to double back in laughter, shake my head, and say “Well, at least they have Laverne Cox!” When I express my anger at careless, racist reporting of an Asiana Airlines crash that killed two teenage girls–KTVU fired a producer after the network broadcast the pilots’ names as “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow”–the immediate reaction I get is a giggle and a laugh.
#SolidarityisforWhiteWomen was a worldwide trending hashtag originally created to expose the tendency of feminism to exclude the experiences and narratives of women of color. The hashtag led to robust and much-needed discussions that unmasked the tendency of all progressive circles to work in silos instead of calling for true solidarity across multiple race and gender identities. Filthy Freedom founder Bea Hinton and I both participated in the discussions and watched as they yielded hashtags such as #blackpowerisforblackmen, which highlighted the privileging of black male voices in discussions on black empowerment, and #fuckcispeople, which called out the tendency of all social justice narratives to focus solely on cisgender struggles. Through the steady stream of well-formulated tweets (and angry trolls), I kept wondering: Is my voice, as an Asian, female-identified individual, relevant at all?In Matthew Salesses’ “How the Rules of Racism are Different for Asian Americans,” Matthew recounts how he came to realize that Asians seem to have no place in discussions about racial hierarchies:
For my day job, I organize a seminar at Harvard on the topic of Inequality. I attend these talks both out of responsibility and out of interest. But after two and a half years, I can only remember Asians being mentioned twice, once in direct response to a question by an Asian student. I remember sitting beside another Asian American student and listening to a lecture earlier this year. He said something like, “Nobody ever talks about Asians,” and I said, “Asians don’t exist in Sociology.” We both laughed. It was a joke, but it stung with a certain truth.
I also learned that Asian-Americans occupy a very limited niche in conversations about social justice. In my sophomore year in college, after I learned of Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama’s role in the civil rights movement and asked a sociology professor why none of our classroom discussions included any mention of her role, she told me that “bringing an Asian into the discussion on civil rights would just confuse people.” When I pointed out to another sociology professor that the statistics we were studying that day, on the parenting styles of black and Hispanic parents versus white parents, did not take into account the unique perspective of Asians, she told me bluntly that “the Asian perspective can be found in the stats on white people.” Continue reading →
Is Robin Thicke the next great soul singer or a pretender to the throne? Michael A. Gonzales holds forth:
WPB-Radio disc jockey and soul music aficionado Jammer Daniels explains, “Historically, when you look at early pop history and see how much Elvis Presley stole from Little Richard or Pat Boone from Chuck Berry, of course people are suspect whenever White artists start tinkering with ‘our’ music. Whether it’s Eminem in with rap or David Sanborn in jazz, it is easy see why Black people sometimes don’t want to share our culture. Because we’re afraid people might steal it.”
While the less said about corny Pat Boone the better, the myth that Elvis Presl
ey stole the soul from Black musicians has been publicized by critics and other recording artists (Public Enemy, Living Colour) for decades. But did he really? Does it maybe make more sense that Elvis, himself a Memphis boy attuned to ways of country culture, was simply inspired by the same gutbucket blues and screeching gospel as his Black contemporaries?
According to New York Times writer Mel Watkins, who penned the late Black cultural critic Albert Murray’s obituary this week in the New York Times, Murray was adamant that “the currents of the Black experience—expressed in language and music and rooted in slavery—run through American culture, blending with European and American Indian traditions and helping to give the nation’s culture its very shape and sound.” Read more…
This New York Magazine feature about the Big Brother-esque eye on the NYC Muslim community reminds us that Stop And Frisk isn’t all that’s wrong with the NYPD:
The Demographics Unit began simply enough, with a copy of the 2000 U.S. Census. The information was public, and the police used the data the way any sociologist could. They mapped, looking for 28 “ancestries of interest.” Nearly all were Muslim. There were Middle Eastern and South Asian countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Egypt. Former Soviet states like Uzbekistan and Chechnya were included because of their large Muslim populations. The last “ancestry” on the list was “American Black Muslim.”
At the NYPD, Cohen enjoyed an advantage he’d never had as a CIA analyst: a pool of recruits drawn from New York’s own neighborhoods. The FBI and CIA struggled to recruit native Arabic speakers, in part because it was prohibitively difficult for applicants with strong overseas ties to get security clearances. The NYPD didn’t have that problem. The police force had long been a stepping-stone to the middle class for immigrants. One in five Academy graduates was born overseas. So when Cohen went searching for officers who could blend in to Muslim neighborhoods, he didn’t have to look far. He recruited young Middle Eastern officers who spoke Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They would be the ones raking the coals, looking for hot spots, and they became known as “rakers.”
Every day, the rakers set out from the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where the Demographics Unit was based, and visited businesses in teams of two. Their job was to look like any other young men stepping in off the street.
The routine was almost always the same, whether they were visiting a restaurant, deli, barbershop, or travel agency. The two rakers would enter and casually chat with the owner. The first order of business was to determine his ethnicity and that of the patrons. This would determine which file the business would go into. A report on Pakistani locations, for instance, or one on Moroccans. Next, they’d do what the NYPD called “gauging sentiment.” Were the patrons observant Muslims? Did they wear traditionally ethnic clothes, likeshalwar kameez? Were the women wearing hijabs?
If the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera was playing on the TV, the police would note it and observe how people were acting. Were they laughing, smiling, or cheering at reports of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they talk Middle Eastern politics? If the business sold extremist literature or CDs, the officers would buy one or two. Was the owner selling fake I.D.’s or untaxed cigarettes? Police would note it. If customers could rent time on a computer, police might pay for a session and look at the computer’s search history. Were people viewing jihadist videos or searching for bomb-making instructions? Who was speaking Urdu? Read More
I spent eight hours today amongst thousands at the March on Washington, and the people present were some of the most remarkable, resilient people I have ever had the privilege to be around. The number-one face on T-shirts, placards, and even homemade drawings was not President Obama or even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was Trayvon Martin. I also witnessed homemade signs calling for jobs programs, speaking out against the school closures and in solidarity with those overseas victimized by US militarism. The people at this march are the face of resistance to what Dr. King called the “evil triplets of militarism, materialism and racism.”
The main speakers at the march, however, did not match the politics and urgency of those who gathered in the Saturday heat. Even more frustrating is that few tried. I expect to get all kinds of hate mail for what I’m about to write, but not to write it would be an act of duplicity based on what I saw and what I heard. I saw the great Julian Bond get only two minutes to say his piece before being shuttled from the stage. I saw Reverend Jesse Jackson, who has done remarkable work in recent years against the banks and predatory lending, also get less time than a pop song. I saw Reverend Lennox Yearwood, who is doing some of the most important work in the country connecting climate change to racism, get ninety seconds before being cut off. There was one speaker at the 8 am pre-rally who said the word “drones,” and that was it for any discussion of US foreign policy.
Based upon the speeches during the main portion of today’s events there can be little doubt that the Dr. King who was murdered in Memphis in 1968 would not have been allowed to speak at this fiftieth-anniversary commemoration of his life. There was no discussion of the “evil triplets.” Instead, we had far too many speakers pay homage to the narrowest possible liberal agenda in broad abstractions with none of the searing material truths that make Dr. King’s speeches so bracing even today.
Just got this last-minute invite to a really great event going on in Harlem, if you’re in town later today.
Picture The Homeless (PTH), a grassroots social-justice organization founded and led by homeless people advocating around the issues of housing, police violence, and the shelter system, reveals their new mural based on those themes today at 4pm at 138t Street and Adam Clayton Powell. The mural is on the side of Epiphany Bar. (More details here.
According to Shaun Lin, one of PTH’s community organizers, the mural was a 6-month collaborative effort of people of all ages living in the community.
“This mural itself is actually the conclusion of a 6-month collaborative process between Picture The Homeless, Peoples Justice, and artist Sophia Dawson. We started with a few study sessions–of “Broken Windows” theory, “quality-of-life” policing, and resistance/organizing around these policing practices–which guided a collective visioning process in which particular images drawn directly from study and conversation. And finally concluded in the painting of the mural, which included 2 community painting days and over 80 volunteers [sic]. The mural itself is beautiful in itself, but the process of creating and painting the mural has been one of the most engaging, collaborative, and community-oriented projects I’ve personally worked on.”
Indeed, at a post-verdict press conference last week, the mayor became angry and agitated when asked about the pending legislation. The mayor’s message is clear: any extra departmental oversight will prohibit officers from doing their jobs and innocent civilians and officers will die.
“It’s disappointing the amount of fear-mongering that I’ve seen among the mayor and [Police Commissioner Ray Kelly],” says Williams. “ ’The sky is going to fall. Everything bad is going to happen.’ What they’re saying is that we have to profile in order to continue to do police work, and that’s just not acceptable. Otherwise, why are you worried about a profiling bill that just says you can’t profile?”
At around 3 pm on a Thursday afternoon in February 2012, 18-year-old Ramarley Graham was leaving a Bronx bodega with his friends, when he was followed by members of the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit of the 47th Precinct of the New York Police Department. Footage from his home’s surveillance camera shows that Ramarley approached the door of his house, in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, unlocked it and walked inside. An officer then ran to the door, followed by another, gun drawn, and tried to kick it in without success. Multiple officers swarmed the house, entering through the back without a warrant and letting others in through the front.
Officers at the bodega radioed their suspicion that Ramarley was armed. Rather than moving with caution and calling for backup, NYPD officers broke through a series of doors, following Ramarley upstairs and into his bathroom. According to Officer Richard Haste, he yelled “Show me your hands!” before Ramarley reached for his belt. Shouting “Gun! Gun!” Haste then shot Ramarley in the chest, killing him. No weapon was found, only a small bag of marijuana which investigators hypothesized Ramarley had been attempting to flush down the toilet.
If you haven’t heard of Scott Lively yet, you will. The pastor is hardly unique in his views about the evils of homosexuality, from repurposing the old canard that to be gay is to be a pedophile, to his original and truly deranged claim that it was homosexuals who caused the Holocaust. Lively’s got a predictably loyal following of haters and snarlers. It’s just that unlike his brethren who stop at preaching religious hatred on cable television and AM radio, Lively has taken his virulent hate speech on the road, consulting in many other countries, specifically Uganda and Russia, to persuade foreign governments to pass brutally repressive anti-gay legislation.
Indeed Lively played a key role at an anti-gay conference in 2009 that eventually led to the drafting of Uganda’s so-called Kill the Gays bill, a bill that’s been kicking around its Parliament ever since, that would impose the death penalty for the “offense of homosexuality” under certain circumstances. And Lively has also been involved in efforts to criminalize gay advocacy in various foreign countries—resulting in not just rising abuse and reprisals, but in a gutting of the very legal protections with which gay advocates might defend themselves.
“Orange Is the New Black defenders repeatedly tell me that Kerman is invested in prison reform. She very well might be. But the problem here lies in the fact that her investment in the issue has been repaid through a very different kind of investment in her by book publishers and budding media empires like Netflix. I don’t necessarily doubt that Kerman wants to see a change in the criminal justice system—just like I don’t doubt that she’s made a cottage industry for herself doing so. This started about a decade ago, when Kerman began selling “Free Piper” T-shirts through Paypal. As a bestselling author who’s sold the rights to stories of women that aren’t even hers, she’s profited from the criminalization of black and brown women who are disproportionately targeted for prison cages.
But most often, Orange Is the New Black fans tell me I need to give the series a real chance. If I can just get through the first two episodes, I’ll be content by episode three. And so I watched and cringed through six whole episodes, called it quits and hope to never again see another one in my entire life. With very little exception, I saw wildly racist tropes: black women who, aside from fanaticizing about fried chicken, are called monkeys and Crazy Eyes; a Boricua mother who connives with her daughter for the sexual attentions of a white prison guard; an Asian woman who never speaks; and a crazy Latina woman who tucks away in a bathroom stall to photograph her vagina (the pornographic image is indiscriminately paraded throughout an entire episode).”