All posts by Jen Chau

Is “Classalicious” in our future?

by Jen Chau
Have you wondered why our society doesn’t address class with nearly the same frequency as it does race? I have, but I quickly answer myself — clearly, issues of race and diversity have been done so much (not necessarily done right, though) that it’s easier for people to talk about race than it is for them to talk about class. No one wants to really think about those issues. In the same way that perhaps it used to be taboo for you to mention that (god forbid!) you had a parent of color, the modern day passing might just be about class (as in passing as someone who has more than $100 in savings. :|). I had a recent conversation with a friend where we were talking about this — and how it’s an unspoken thing, that you can’t necessarily tell who is who, that the distinctions of social class are much more invisible. And that’s another reason why race is so easy for us to talk about. It’s seemingly more obvious to us. Or so people think. :)

Slate gives a scathing review of Walter Benn Michaels’ new book, The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality. Michaels argues that we need to talk about class and get off the race tip. But apparently, he doesn’t really make his case.

Here are some examples of Michaels’ rhetorical excess. Cultural differences, including those involving race, are “lovable,” whereas class differences “are not so obviously appealing.” Affirmative action is therefore “a kind of collective bribe rich people pay themselves for ignoring economic inequality.” It is absurd to focus so much on affirmative action because “there are no people of different races.” It makes more sense to talk about concrete things, such as paying African-Americans reparations for slavery, than it does to engage in symbolic politics in which nothing really is at stake: “No issue of social justice hangs on appreciating hair color diversity; no issue of social justice hangs on appreciating racial or cultural diversity.”

Michaels, as these examples illustrates, belongs to the “shock and awe” school of political argument. First, you say something wildly implausible in the hopes that its dramatic counterintuitiveness will make it seem brilliant. Yet in the United States in which I live, race is an obvious fact of life, conversations about it remain awkward and uncomfortable, and both supporters and opponents of affirmative action are sincere in their convictions. It is true that saying such things would make for a very unoriginal book. But at least it would be an accurate one.

Boo-yah.

All that said, I do agree that we need to discuss class a much more than we are. But unless someone otherwise convinces me, I don’t think we can necessarily forget about race in that conversation about class. Race and class are inextricably linked (at this time).

Wait, not the Sean Jean, now?!

by Jen Chau
get outta here with that gear!Have you ever worried about not being let into a club because of the way you were dressed? You know, your clothing wasn’t quite dressy enough, or you were wearing sneakers? (god, you really should have known better! what were you thinking?!). Well, apparently, a spot in Nashville has taken all of this so seriously that they have gotten very specific about the gear that is unacceptable. Thanks to my bro for the heads-up on this. ;)

A Nashville Nightclub has introduced Brand Specific Dress Codes.  The sign outside the club displays a list of unacceptable brands, including: Southpole, ECKO, ENYCE, Sean Jean, Phat Farm, FUBU, etc.  The brand specific dress code is creating controversy both because it discriminates against style and because the brands chosen suggest racial profiling.  One shop keeper described, “You see black people wearing more of these type of clothes. I have it on now. I think he pointed his finger toward black people (talking about) the grills and the Sean Jean. I think he’s talking about more black people.”

I agree. The grills and the Sean Jean needs to stop. :) Seriously, this brings up a lot of questions. I honestly don’t think this situation is as much about race here as it is about the club’s assumptions about “the kind of people” who wear these brands…although it probably does go back to race for the club. They are probably thinking Phat Farm = hip hop, hip hop = thugs, thugs = trouble. And of course hip hop is synonomous with black, so…. :| I mean, let’s be honest — what were they thinking? Probably that the people who wear Ecko and FUBU are thugs up to no good who will only do damage to their place. Or maybe the management just doesn’t think this crowd is “refined” enough to be partying at their establishment. Clearly, this situation reeks of assumptions and stereotypes…and possibly even some classism. I can see how all of this is being pinned on racial discrimination, though, because again, the assumption at play here is that only black individuals wear these brands.

Well, I don’t know how it is in Nashville, but if it’s anything like the big apple, good luck. I mean, when you are trying to get into these places, you’re at the bouncer’s mercy. I think that it’s a club’s prerogative to let people in based on their arbitrary/random rules and whether they feel generous on any given night. It’s all so silly and superficial, but that’s the way it goes in the land of drinking/dancing/seeing and being seen. This is why I stay home. :| :)

But clearly this club hasn’t done its research. If it had, it wouldn’t blindly ban Sean Jean. I mean, have they caught sight of the Sean Jean “2 Button Grey Sharkskin Jacket!?” ;) Suave!

I think that if folks want to boycott, they should definitely show up to the club in this, this, or any of these. :)

Forcing the look

by Jen Chau
This ad campaign for international telecommunications company, Telefonica, seems to try to cash in on the mixed look. A little forced if you ask me.

Fascination with “mixed looks” is definitely something I am over. :) But it carries on. Can’t wait until everyone catches up and people realize that there are lots of people who look like this out there. There is something creepy about headshots like this. Are we supposed to be mystified by the way they look? (stare and wonder, “how did they get to be like this?”) There’s almost something anthropological about them. I mean, who needs to study anyone’s face like this?

You may have heard me complain about headshots of mixed people in the past. :) Yes, I think visibility is important, and I agree that there are still a lot of folks out there who objectify and get so curious because they aren’t yet comfortable with the idea that mixed people exist…. but I am still not convinced that face-front headshots is the way to do it. Aren’t we just encouraging objectification instead of moving towards a more realistic, complex understanding?