The Racialicious Links Roundup 10.31.13: The Debate Around Malala Continues, Zwarte Piet, A Scam Targeting Native Americans and more

Young activist Malala Yousafzai. Image via ABC News.

Does Baig realize he is identifying every brown man with the Taliban? At the UN, Malala demanded the strongest leaders in the world “…to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity,” as she averred the urgency to protect the rights of women and children. Since being attacked, she has not hesitated a single day in speaking out against the Taliban. In her meeting with President Obama, Malala reiterated the concerns back home about drone attacks. One wonders, if a Muslim man had made such a fearless litany of demands to both world leaders and terrorists alike would Baig have referred to him as a “tool for the West”? or celebrated him as a hero?

Remnants of Baig’s distrust eerily reminded me the rambling letter Taliban Commander Adnan Rashid wrote to Malala explaining that every perceived Western good must have within it a sinister plot, a suspicion so deep and twisted that he justifies the killing of polio workers and education activists. He offered Malala a safe return to Pakistan only if she agreed to study the Quran at a Madrassa and reject a western education. He too, accused Malala of being easily swayed and “using her tongue at the behest of others” depriving her of her own agency and ideas.

Similarly, Baig’s argument seeks to confine Malala and place restrictions lest she become tainted with Western exposure, sympathy, or indoctrination. Though it was the Pakistani military who cleared Swat from the hands of the Taliban and the Pakistani military doctors who removed the bullet from Malala’s head, Baig continues in making even her medical treatment in England a means of shame for the native brown man. Such divisive attitudes will only succeed to perpetuate a cycle of hate, cynicism, and distrust. There seems to be no room in such a world-view for reconciliation, redemption, or working together with “the white man” for common goals.

The advertisement is sponsored by Consumers for Choices, a new group whipping up right-wing anger at the Obama administration for supposedly using his “Reckless, Elitist, Overzealous Regulators” to destroy “small-dollar” and tribal lenders. Visitors to the Consumers for Choices website, which is being advertised on conservative news portals like Townhall, are encouraged to contact their local representatives to send an angry pre-written letter. Consumers for Choices says their supporters will be automatically entered into a weekly raffle, with a grand prize $500 Visa gift card.

The advocacy website repeatedly references Western Sky Financial, an online installment loan company that recently suspended lending after being sent cease-and-desist letters from government agencies. Left unsaid on the Consumers for Choices site are the types of loans offered by the company, which feature interest rates of 355 percent.

A single $5,075 loan from Western Sky cost $40,872.72 to pay back—more than eight times the original amount.

‘The police are expected to work more proactively and ethnic minorities are more likely to be seen as a risk or suspect,’ Amnesty Nederland director Eduard Nazarski said in a statement. ‘This means they are more likely to be checked or searched.’

‘This does not always need to be discriminatory, but it is if there is no objective justification for it,’ Nazarski said.

But if people feel they are being checked simply on the grounds of the colour of their skin or ethnicity, this damages the relationship between minorities and the police and will ultimately make it more difficult to solve crimes,’ he said.

I have written extensively about the character of Zwarte Piet. I have been interviewed, quoted, dissected and even threatened for writing about this topic. In fact, it was my writing about Zwarte Piet that originated my friendship (and many working collaborations) with Quinsy Gario, the young man that was arrested, a couple of years ago, for wearing a t-shirt stating that “Zwarte Piet is racism”. It was Quinsy who originally presented the Zwarte Piet related documentation to the UN Commissioner last year. It was also Quinsy who, a bit over two weeks ago, had a hearing at Amsterdam’s City Council to request that the city wide festivities do not include this racist character. So, when we had lunch earlier this week, I was not shocked to hear the latest development: he is getting death threats and threats of unspeakable violence from a great number of white Dutch people who are incensed because he dared speak up about the racist history of this character. Dutch tabloid media is mocking him, tv and radio commentators refer to his work in the condescending tone reserved for those that are not to be acknowledged as intellectual equals, those that are to be treated like a nuisance. The very same racist tropes that created the character of Zwarte Piet are now being unleashed over the Black man protesting them.

Yesterday, in response to the UN Commissioner’s statements, two white, Dutch publicists, Kevin van Boeckholtz and Bas Vreugde started a Facebook petition to “Save Zwarte Piet” (link to news in Dutch). In the Facebook page they state they want public support to keep the character in its current incarnation: a Blackface, racist, colonial depiction of Sinterklaas’ enslaved helper. At the time of this writing, more than 1.9 million Dutch people have “Liked” this page and signed the petition. In a country of a bit over 16 million people, more than 10% of the population has publicly stated that they refuse to consider any changes to their tradition. The message is loud and clear: a significant number of Dutch people would rather cling to their racism than consider any other perspective for change.

There’s a myth that being progressive in some of your politics is proof against racism, sexism, or classism. The problems with that myth are becoming increasingly well documented. What isn’t being discussed is how often other harmful human behaviors are present in progressive spaces. All too often, so-called “safe spaces” can also harbor abusers.

It’s nice to think that the bad people who are there to hurt others are wearing a sign that warns potential victims away. However, that idea ignores pretty much every thing we know about abusive people. A charming friendly person who never has a cross word for someone in power–someone who says all the right things in front of the right people–could be a great ally. To some people. And, all too often, that’s enough to excuse the fact that they use more vulnerable people as emotional or actual punching bags. When allegations are made, or, in some cases, even in the face of direct evidence that there is a problem, there is a tendency to make excuses. To ignore everything written about bullying, violence, and abuse in favor of blaming the victims.

The exhibition is made up of a multifaceted melange of objects that symbolize both the camaraderie among women workers and the harassment, threats, and sexual violence many experience on the job. The space is layered with glitter and ribbons, splashed with neons and pastels, then juxtaposed with raw industrial materials such as plywood and power tools. It’s a busy space, peppered with poetry and quotes from public hearings, but made harmonious by a reflective, somber space to commemorate women who’ve passed away.

There are multiple jarring moments in the relatively small renovated classroom gallery at Clemente Soto Vélez, among them a life-sized model of a construction site bathroom, scrawled with vulgar drawings of genitalia and phrases such as “f-cking lesbian electrician bitch.”

And in the center of the gallery space is “Stella,” a sculpture of a tradeswomen with fabric dreadlocks, a diamond hardhat, and Eisenberg’s own Carhartt coveralls from her days as an electrician. “Stella” stands at the top of a ladder holding up electrical chords, adorned with dozens of small white gift tags that have words or phrases women have heard on the job, including “job stealer,” “incompetent” and “nice buns.” Eisenberg says Stella is meant to represent every woman, but that women of color have particularly had it rough.

“There has always been more violence for women of color than white women,” Eisenberg says.

  • http://kingderella.tumblr.com/ kingderella

    Living as an expat in the Netherlands, it’s truly jawdropping what goes on year after year in December. And when it comes to the discussion surrounding the phenomenon, it’s equally jawdropping how seemingly decent, intelligent, sane people suddenly unravel and become stupid and defensive.