All posts by Racialicious Team

Quoted: On Colonial America’s Relationship With Islam

Third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. Image via history.com.

At a time when most Americans were uninformed, misinformed, or simply afraid of Islam, Thomas Jefferson imagined Muslims as future citizens of his new nation. His engagement with the faith began with the purchase of a Qur’an eleven years before he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson’s Qur’an survives still in the Library of Congress, serving as a symbol of his and early America’s complex relationship with Islam and its adherents. That relationship remains of signal importance to this day.That he owned a Qur’an reveals Jefferson’s interest in the Islamic religion, but it does not explain his support for the rights of Muslims. Jefferson first read about Muslim “civil rights” in the work of one of his intellectual heroes: the seventeenth-century English philosopher John Locke. Locke had advocated the toleration of Muslims—and Jews—following in the footsteps of a few others in Europe who had considered the matter for more than a century before him. Jefferson’s ideas about Muslim rights must be understood within this older context, a complex set of transatlantic ideas that would continue to evolve most markedly from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries.

Amid the interdenominational Christian violence in Europe, some Christians, beginning in the sixteenth century, chose Muslims as the test case for the demarcation of the theoretical boundaries of their toleration for all believers. Because of these European precedents, Muslims also became a part of American debates about religion and the limits of citizenship.
- From “Our Founding Fathers included Islam,” adapted from a book by Denise Spellberg

The Racialicious Links Roundup 10.3.13: Love for Scandal, A Love Letter to Chicago, and Herman Wallace

Kerry Washington returns as Olivia Pope tonight on ABC’s “Scandal.”

    • Herman Wallace: Surviving 40 years in solitary (BBC News)

      Some prisoners are placed in solitary confinement because they have assaulted or killed another inmate or a guard. Others are held there because they are gang members – and are considered dangerous.

      Prisoners in solitary confinement are held in their cells on “average 23 hours a day”, according to Craig Haney, a University of California professor who testified at the June 2012 hearing.

      “Prisoners go for years – in some cases for decades – never touching another human being with affection,” he said. “The emptiness and idleness that pervade most solitary confinement units are profound and enveloping.”

      Some prisoners in solitary confinement commit suicide. Others hurt themselves. One man in New Mexico, said Haney, “used a makeshift needle and thread from his pillowcase to sew his mouth completely shut”.

      Last summer 30,000 California prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest against solitary confinement. State lawmakers said they would examine the issue – and the strike was cancelled. Years ago, inmates at the Angola prison were disturbed at the way that Wallace and others were treated in their isolated cells.

 

    • Presumed Incompetent (Inside Higher Ed)

      The 30 essays in “Presumed Incompetent” expose a nasty truth about Academia: it is not above the realities of everyday American life. It, in fact, reproduces and reinforces society’s inequalities, stereotypes, and hierarchies within its own walls.

      That academic women, especially academic women of color, are often presumed incompetent, is probably not surprising to most. The virtue of this book is that it enables the reader to see that these experiences are not individual experiences nor are they the result of individual flaws. Keeping this insight in mind, these essays become more than just “stories” or anecdotes. They point to the larger structural and cultural forces within Academia that make the experience of being presumed incompetent for women of color far too common.

      The book is a collection of various types of essays: scholarly literature reviews of the experiences of women of color, personal narratives, and interviews. The content is divided into five parts: “General Campus Climate”, “Faculty/Student Relationships”, “Networks of Allies”, “Social Class in Academia” and “Tenure and Promotion”. As one can tell readily from the themes, the book isn’t directed at students, nor is it meant primarily for use in a classroom (although there are several chapters that would be a good fit in courses that cover race, class, gender and sexuality issues). The book’s primary audience is faculty and administrators. It not only highlights the cultural and structural obstacles facing women of color in Academia, but proposes strategies and recommendations aimed at faculty and administrators. Several essays do this effectively, but Niemann’s concluding essay provides a particularly valuable summary of strategies and advice.

 

    • Men Who Love “Scandal” (The Root)

      Thursday night is date night at my apartment.

      Nothing special, just drinks — a glass of water for me, red wine for her. We have not seen each other in months, and I’m excited to be reunited.

      Her name is Olivia Pope.

      We will meet in my living room, where she has shown up promptly at 10 p.m. on and off for the last 18 months. I will be on my couch. She will be in my television set.

      She is not real, but my love for her, as she is played by Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington on the hit political drama “Scandal,” is very real.

      Olivia and I will pick up where we last left off tonight with the season 3 premiere, and I will remain devoted to her week in and week out. I will tweet about Scandal incessantly while it airs. I will cut off any real dates with real women on Thursday nights by 9, and I will start every conversation on Friday with, “Did you watch ‘Scandal’ last night?”

 

    • A Love Letter To the Hood (The Toast)

      I’ve been trying to write about Chicago violence for a good two months now. The facts are easy to obtain from any major news source, though the way in which those facts are presented leaves a lot to be desired. Context matters, though, and it appears to be completely missing from most discussions concerning my city. If you were to take a map of Chicago marked with the neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence, and overlay it with a map of school closures, you might begin to see a pattern. Add in yet another map of cuts to public transit–including the decisions to shut down train lines for repairs for months or years at a time–and a picture emerges of neighborhoods that have been systematically isolated.

      Experts on Chicago (who often are neither from Chicago or remotely educated about Chicago politics or Chicago history), often disparage the people in the community. And no, I’m not making excuses for gang violence. But when we talk about violence in the communities where gangs are most common, we have to talk about the economics of crime. We have to talk about the impact of poverty, of police brutality, of school closures, of services being cut over and over again to these neighborhoods. We have to talk about the impact of racism on wealth building in communities of color. We have to talk about politicians who think the solution to crime is to throw civil liberties out the window. We have to talk about why the institutional reaction to white-on-white violence was settlement houses, while the institutional reaction to violence in predominantly Black and Latino communities is to bring in the National Guard.

      It’s easy to forget that the people living in those neighborhoods are more complex than a sound bite, when those sound bites are often all that make it into the mainstream media. There’s this idea that the community is responsible for fixing itself, as though these things are happening because the people living there have dozens of choices and they choose the ones that leads to violence.

 

    • I Wasn’t Invited to the Talk-About-Race Deal. Good. I Didn’t Want to Be. So There! (Dallas Observer)

      The basic model of a racially monochrome neighborhood does not come from anything good. It is not a legacy of pride. It is a legacy of racial segregation. And segregation is always bad in the long run.

      Here’s what I found from my years of taking part in talk-about-race deals. They don’t do any good. Something about race simply eludes verbal exposition. Race isn’t a philosophy. It’s mental astigmatism, a distortion of the glorious reality that is our sameness, our absolute and fundamental equality as human beings.

      I don’t know why, but you just can’t talk your way out of racism. You have to live your way out of it by working together, refereeing your kids’ fights and sleep-overs, hugging through your shared heartaches and victories, touching, seeing, feeling each other’s shared humanity. You have to live next door to each other, not across the river.

      That’s not the story of “Raisin in the Sun.” If there is a white person alive who still goes to see “Raisin” in order to get black people, he needs to give up, go home and, every little chance he gets, stay quiet.

Quoted: Malcolm Harris on Race In Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston as Walter White. Image via Green Bay Press Gazette.

Demographically, the viewers AMC wants are more likely to do a lot of pills than unscrew a light bulb to smoke some ice, even if the substances are chemically similar. There are plenty of expert scientists making tons of money cooking up and selling amphetamines, but they’re not robbing trains or toting guns. Big Pharma brings in a $250 billion annually in the U.S. alone, much of it from the same chemical compounds in White’s lab. When it’s 89 percent pure, it’s illegal meth; when it’s 99 percent pure, methamphetamine is sold by Lundbeck Inc. under the trademark name Desoxyn, for “the short-term management of exogenous obesity.” Walter isn’t making crank; he is manufacturing black-market pharmaceuticals.

A “Breaking Bad” in which the street dealers were diluting the product would have had Walter and his partner Jesse Pinkman competing with every local operation, struggling to set up a larger distribution network without costly middlemen and, well, interacting with meth users a lot. But “The Wire on Ice” isn’t sexy enough to sell a Dodge, and a teacher slanging to his fucked-up former students would turn stomachs, not open wallets. Suffice to say it would be a darker show.

Which brings us to the other thing that sets White and Pinkman apart from their competitors: color. And I don’t mean blue.

The white guy who enters a world supposedly beneath him where he doesn’t belong yet nonetheless triumphs over the inhabitants is older than talkies. TV Tropes calls it “Mighty Whitey,” and examples range from Tom Cruise as Samurai and Daniel Day Lewis as Mohican to the slightly less far-fetched Julia Stiles as ghetto-fabulous. But whether it’s a 3-D Marine playing alien in “Avatar” or Bruce Wayne slumming in a Bhutanese prison, the story is still good for a few hundred million bucks. The story changes a bit from telling to telling, but the meaning is consistent: a white person is (and by extension, white people are) best at everything.

- From “Walter White Supremacy,” in The New Inquiry

[h/t Rania Khalek]

The Racialicious Links Roundup 9.26.13

    • For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico (The New York Times)

      Some Mexicans and foreigners say Europeans are given special treatment because they are perceived to be of a higher class, a legacy of colonialism when lighter skin led to greater privileges. But like many other entrepreneurs from foreign lands, Mr. Pace and his partners are both benefiting from and helping to shape how Mexico works. Mr. Rodríguez, the former Interior Ministry official, Cuban by birth, said that foreigners had helped make Mexico City more socially liberal.

      And with so many Mexicans working in the informal economy, foreigners have little trouble starting new ventures. Many immigrants say Mexico is attractive because it feels disorderly, like a work in progress, with the blueprints of success, hierarchy and legality still being drawn. “Not everyone follows the rules here, so if you really want to make something happen you can make it happen,” said Ms. Téllez, 34, whose food business served more than 500 visitors last year. “No one is going to fault you for not following all the rules.”

      Mr. Lee said that compared with South Korea, where career options were limited by test scores and universities attended, Mexico allowed for more rapid advancement. As an intern at the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency here, he said he learned up close how Samsung and other Korean exporters worked. “Here,” he said, “the doors are more open for all Koreans.” He added that among his friends back home, learning Spanish was now second only to learning English.

      The results of that interest are becoming increasingly clear. There were 10 times as many Koreans living in Mexico in 2010 as in 2000. Officials at a newly opened Korean cultural center here say at least 12,000 Koreans now call Mexico home, and young Mexicans in particular are welcoming them with open arms: there are now 70 fan clubs for Korean pop music in Mexico, with at least 60,000 members.

 

    • Brad Paisley and the Politics of Offense and Offense-Taking (The Atlantic)

      If you accept that the Confederacy fought to preserve and expand slavery, then you might begin to understand how the descendants of the enslaved might regard symbols of that era. And you might also begin to understand that “offense” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Reading Penthouse while having Christmas dinner with your grandmother is offensive. Donning the symbols of those who fought for right to sell Henry Brown’s wife and child is immoral.

      It is important to speak this way. Nothing is changed by banishing the Confederate Flag out of a desire to be polite or inoffensive. The Confederate Flag should not die because black people have come to feel a certain way about their country, it should die when white people come to feel a certain way about themselves. It can’t be for me. It has to be for you.

 

    • Census data mask poverty suffered by some Asian American groups (The Los Angeles Times)

      “There’s always been a recession in our community,” said Lian Cheun, executive director of the nonprofit Khmer Girls in Action. “The pain has always been there. It’s just not well known.”

      Tongan Americans have even more stunning poverty rates, the report found, with more than half estimated to be living under the poverty line countywide between 2006 and 2010. Because the community is so small, the estimates are rough and the actual poverty rate might be somewhat lower — but still far above the county average.

      The new report seeks to uncover such problems, using U.S. Census Bureau and other government data to poke holes in the “model minority” stereotype and illustrate the changes sweeping such communities.

      Asian Americans have become the fastest-growing group in Los Angeles County, which now has not only the biggest Chinese and Korean communities in the country, but also the largest number of people of Thai, Indonesian, Sri Lankan, Filipino, Cambodian, Burmese and Taiwanese descent, the report found.

      As the recession barreled down, their growing numbers also meant more people in need. In Los Angeles County, the number of Asian Americans who were jobless jumped 89% after the downturn, according to the report. Among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, the number more than doubled.

 

    • Burning The Bridge (Grantland)

      The writers of “The Bridge,” parked out in California, don’t know Juárez well enough to realize this. The show’s pilot opens with one upper and one lower torso dumped on the Cordova Bridge. One of the torsos, female, belongs to the conservative judge from El Paso. The other torso, as the cliché demands, is half of a pretty young girl from Juárez. According to a message relayed by the shadowy killer, the Juárez victim, Cristina Fuentes, “died 14 months ago. Nobody investigated. Nobody cared. Just another dead girl.”

      But now that the El Paso police are involved, somebody finally cares. Specifically a beautiful, blonde detective with Asperger’s syndrome named Sonya Cross. (She’s played by Diane Kruger.) Her cohort from the Chihuahua State Police, Marco Ruiz (Demián Bichir) has to explain to her why Fuentes’s disappearance wasn’t looked into. She was “only one of 250 girls who disappeared last year. They go missing from buses, factories, always 15 to 20 years old. Dark hair, beautiful.”

      “So you have a serial killer?” asks Cross.

      “Nobody knows,” Ruiz responds. “There’s just too many. The chiefs, they really don’t want us to investigate. Easier that way.”

      Not mentioned: More men and boys disappear every year in Juárez than do women and girls. And, crucially, if this really were Juárez, on the day Fuentes’s body was discovered the remains of as many as nine men and boys might have been found, too. And nobody would have investigated the deaths of those male victims, either. Gender has nothing to do with this police failure. To ignore this context is to grotesquely misrepresent what’s happening in the city.

 

    • Playing ‘Indian’ and Color-Blind Racism (Indian Country Today Media Network)

      Natives do experience the covertness of color-blind racism that limits life opportunities. Under the logic of colorblind racism, if I don’t make as much money as a white woman who does the same job, it’s because I’m not as experienced or competent. If Natives, on average, have less college attainment, it’s has nothing to do with the 500+ years of internal colonization and genocide or the eras of removal, relocation, reservation internment, and forced boarding school attendance. It’s because Indians are lazy drunks. No thought is given to historical context or constrained opportunities. Race scholars admit that marginalized groups still experience inequality, but argue that racism is expressed increasingly without direct racist terminology.

      But this certainly does not hold true for Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. We also routinely experience overt racism in the form of racial epithets like redskin, injun or squaw and horribly distorted depictions of Natives as mascots, reminiscent of the propaganda used against black, Irish and Jewish people in the 19th and 20th centuries. And this overt racism is not confined to hate groups, but is visible in everyday communication and throughout the media.

      We still live under the prevalence of Native misrepresentations in the media, archaic notions of Indianness, and the federal government’s appropriation of Indian names and words as code for military purposes. Racist informal statements are common expressions—statements like being an “Indian-giver,” sitting “Indian-style,” learning to count through the “one little, two little, three little Indians” song, or getting together to “pow wow” over a business idea.

Table For Two: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D

By Kendra James & Arturo R. García

Mike Peterson (J. August Richards) is under the gun(n) in the premiere of “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

So after what felt like two years’ worth of hype, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D finally debuted Tuesday night, offering up a potentially interesting new platform through which to explore the Marvel Movieverse, as well as a show featuring women of color in both the primary ensemble (Chloe Bennet and Ming-Na Wen) and the creative team (executive producer Maurissa Tancharoen). And that’s without counting the welcome return of Firefly‘s Ron Glass and Angel‘s J. August Richards to Whedonville.

As promised, the show doesn’t skimp on digging deep for its connections to the Marvel movie universe, referencing not just Avengers, but Iron Man 3 and Captain America in major ways. But how did our roving reviewers feel about it? They traded some thoughts after the premiere.

Continue reading

Quoted: Scot Nakagawa on The Backlash Against Miss America

But now, the white-makes-right faction of American society is making a comeback. Pissed over the fact that the racial demographics of the U.S. are turning against them, the white right of America is in full backlash mode. You may remember this viral video of an uprising at a Town Hall meeting hosted by Delaware Representative Mike Castle.

The birthers in this video are the kissing cousins of tweeters labeling our new Miss America a terrorist. In fact, angry birthers and racist tweeters complaining about the rockin’ brown blush on the cheeks of our new Miss America are just the foam on the crest of a wave of white resentment that is rising, and quickly, over the fear that white Americans are losing control of American culture, including cultural symbols like Miss America and the standard of beauty, femininity, and American accomplishment she represents.

Make no mistake, this Miss America scuffle is just one small battle in a much larger war over the meaning of “American” in a country whose future depends on the full inclusion of people of color, but whose history and contemporary political fights are all too often about limiting citizenship rights and genuine American cultural identity to white males.

- From “Yellow Is Not the New White: The New South Asian Miss America Gets Blasted on Twitter”

Quoted: Comedian Dean Obeidallah On Right-Wing Islamophobia

And then there’s The Washington Times. They whine that the movie is just a parade of liberals mocking conservatives. To be honest, they are correct. We do have some great progressive voices in the film including The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Russell Simmons, Rep. Keith Ellison [D-MN], and comedians like Lewis Black, David Cross, Janeane Garofalo, etc.

But here’s the thing The Washington Times didn’t include in their article, because they didn’t contact us for a comment: We invited numerous conservatives to be in the film. To be specific, we asked Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Judge Napolitano, and Pat Robertson through their representatives. We even invited some of the most notorious Muslim haters. (I won’t list their names because they don’t merit the attention.)

One guess how they all responded? They, of course, said no. Why? You have to ask them but it’s clear that many on the right don’t want to be challenged when selling their rancid bill of goods to the public about Muslims.

But here’s the truth that some on the right will hate to hear: We will prevail. And when I say “we,” I don’t mean Muslims. I mean American values. How can I say that? Our nation’s history makes it clear how this will end for the Muslim bashers.
- From The Daily Beast