Category Archives: academia

Cheering for the Chicago Blackhawks: A Tradition of Racial Play

By Guest Contributor Charles Fruehling Springwood

Members of the Chicago Blackhawk celebrate winning the Stanley Cup in a June 28 parade. Image by tanveer.i.ali via Flickr creative commons.

As a white youth growing up playing ice hockey in the 1960s, in a Chicago suburb, I fell in love with the Chicago Blackhawks. I watched Hawks games on T.V., and during the intermissions between the periods, I retired to the kitchen (and its smooth, slick tile floor) to shoot my plastic puck at the cabinets. For the kitchen shootouts, I channeled my all-time favorite, the always-helmeted Stan Mikita, or on occasion, Bobby Hull. Born just after the team’s 1961 Stanley Cup championship, I anticipated – without too much patience – the next championship, and suffered through the team’s two failed Stanley Cup appearances in the early seventies.

But between those years and the team’s next championships in 2010 and now 2013, my Native American friends encouraged me to reflect more deeply on the way symbols like the team’s own “Chief Black Hawk” distorted their identities, particularly in the imaginations of white Americans. Ultimately, in graduate school at the University of Illinois-Champaign, I critiqued my school’s infamous mascot, Chief Illiniwek, and my friend Richard King and I went on to edit Team Spirits: The Native American Mascot Controversy, a 2001 collection of essays giving voice to how Native Americans feel about many of these manifestations of the power of non-Indian, mostly white institutions and people to (re)represent, (re)name, and (re)contextualize Native peoples for white purposes.

In his foreword for the book, renowned scholar Vine Deloria Jr. of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation wrote:

With diehard refusal to change the names and logos of sports teams we always hear the justification that the name is being used to ‘honor’ us. This tortured reasoning makes its proponents look absurd. Obviously if garish costumes, demeaning cheers, and crude logos are the essence of honor, then the various sports halls of fame need to perform drastic surgery on the busts and plaques of their honorees. The excuse, being lame, must conceal something more profound, which cannot or will not be articulated by those people ‘honoring’ us.

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Late Update: Catch Kendra James On Al-Jazeera Today!

Just wanted to give everybody a heads-up: Our own Kendra James will be appearing on Al-Jazeera’s The Stream at 3:25 p.m. EST to discuss affirmative action policies in the U.S. in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to send Fisher v. University of Texas back to an appeals court. She’ll be joined in the panel discussion by Ari Berman from The Nation, Jerome Hudson from the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, Michigan Daily‘s Yash Bhutada and libertarian blogger Kristin Tate.

Added benefit for online viewers: Not only do you get 5 extra minutes at the start, but you can participate in an additional 10 minute post-show. Congrats, Kendra!

Some Doctor Who Fans Like Their Racism Bigger On The Outside

By Arturo R. García

Promotional poster for “Doctor Who.” Image via crimsontear.com

Calling this past season of Doctor Who uneven might be doing it a favor. Presented as two separate seasons marked by a change in companions for the Eleventh Doctor and capped by the prelude to the show’s 50th anniversary special in November, critiques of the show under Steven Moffat’s watch got louder than ever. That discussion, we hope, will only get louder when Doctor Who and Race is released in August.

Edited by Dr. Lindy Orthia — who has published several academic works dealing with the shows including one on Who’s “inability to acknowledge the material realities of an inequitable postcolonial world shaped by exploitative trade practices, diasporic trauma and racist discrimination” — the anthology will feature more than 20 essays explicitly tackling several aspects of the show’s presentation (and, one presumes, lack thereof) regarding issues regarding racial issues.

Naturally, some people are out to silence her efforts before the book’s even released. Warning: Misogynist language just under the cut.
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Quoted: 100 Questions Toward Cultural Competency

100 Questions About Indian Americans

Last summer at age 83, my mother downsized from a four-bedroom home to a two-bedroom apartment. She loves that her eight-unit cluster includes black, Indian, Middle Eastern and Jewish neighbors.

One day, she noted that someone — she thought it was the Indian couple upstairs — had bought a new car, and that someone had vandalized it. There was a swastika on it, she told me on the phone. She wanted to show her support or call security. She felt uncomfortable that creeps might be hanging around the complex.

When I visited her that Sunday, she showed me the car. Sure enough, there was the swastika, smack in the middle of the hood. I leaned in close and saw grains of rice in the symbol.

I stood up and used my phone to look up “Hindu, blessing, car.”

“Mom,” I told her, “when you see your neighbors, tell them that you see they have a new car and that you see that it has been blessed.”

I had heard about the Hindu blessing ceremony, or puja, at a temple as part of the work by my Michigan State University journalism class on a new guide titled “100 Questions & Answers About Indian Americans.”

The guide is the first in an MSU School of Journalism series on cultural competence. The class is called “Bias Busters.”

The idea is that, if we can answer 100 very simple questions about a culture, religion or ethnicity, we have taken the first small step toward greater understanding.

–Joe Grimm, “‘Bias Busters’ Class Publishes Cultural Competence Guide,” Maynard Institute 5/23/13

Race + Higher Ed: Fear Not, Suzy. You’re Still #1!

By Kendra James

As we celebrate the graduating classes of 2013 over the next few weekends, lets take some time to glance at the new data on college graduation percentages vs. minority enrollment rates. There’s no accompanying article to the data (all via the National Center for Education Statistics, 2011), but if there were I suspect it would start like this: “Fear not, Suzy. You’re still #1.”

At Elite Colleges, an Admissions Gap for Minorities - Interactive Feature - NYTimes.com (1) Continue reading

Visiting Academia: Roger Williams University Lecture, “Re-Racing Steampunk: Race, Memory, And Retrofuturism’

Flier for the author’s appearance at Roger Williams University.

By Guest Contributor Ay-leen The Peacemaker, cross-posted from Beyond Victoriana

Visiting Roger Williams University last Tuesday was an amazing opportunity and a great pleasure to present there. Dr. Jeffrey Meriwether, along with professors Laura D’Amore, Charlotte Carrington, Sargon Donabed, and Debra Mulligan were all immensely welcoming and kind.

That morning, Dr. D’Amore picked me up from the Inn, and she explained that the university has started a new social-justice initiative to embrace the historical impact of its founder. That fall, they had their Social Justice Week to initiate conversations across campus. The History department in particular wanted to contribute to this new venture in innovative ways; hence, the invitation to speak at their campus.

During my visit, I gave presentations to Dr. Carrington’s American History (where they just started a unit on African-Americans during the American War for Independence) and Dr. Donabed’s History of Religion courses (where they are currently studying Western perceptions of indigenous practices versus indigenous perspectives themselves).  Afterward, I held “office hours” in the department lounge for students to come and talk about steampunk and ended up having a long, involved discussions about cosplay, Legend of Korra, and Fullmetal Alchemist. Then came my public lecture at 5PM — and look, I have evidence that it happened!

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Meanwhile, On TumblR: In Case You Missed It

By Andrea Plaid

Usually, I highlight some of the most popular posts on Tumblr, some of which appear here on the main R. However, there are some really great posts that may not have gotten the biggest numbers but still got some love, like this Parlour Magazine interview with hip-hop feminist Joan Morgan:

Parlour: You talk a lot about the Politics of Pleasure, what does that mean?

Joan Morgan. Via madamnoire.com

Joan Morgan. Via madamnoire.co

Joan Morgan: Much of my work as a feminist revolved around how do we improve black women’s lives. I had been investigating how we talk about black women, particularly in terms of sexuality, without talking about pleasure. Instead, we identify the racial and sexual history, particularly in the United States, and why that history prevents or complicates black women’s sexuality from enjoying a sex positive space.

Feminism is very good at dissecting the politics of respectability and the culture of dissemblance thanks to Darlene Clark Hine. Still, we’re not so good at articulating a language for pleasure, which is crucial for any human being but it plays a critical role in other black women’s issues with which we don’t necessarily make the connection. For example, if we’re talking about black women and the rate of new HIV cases – the percentage of black women among new infections is disproportionately high – but when you look at the prevention, the language is ‘If he doesn’t want to use a condom, tell him to back off’ or, ‘If he really cares about you he’ll use protection.’ The discourse is centered around men’s pleasure.

Parlour: Perhaps women don’t like the way condoms feel either, so how about developing protection that feels better without centering the conversation around men …

Joan: For black women, I think about our health and the diseases that compromise our lives due to stress, and we will send out the call to arms around obesity or heart disease. But we’re not talking about making a real commitment to joy in our lives, particularly around the erotic or sex and the body. I’m very interested in that little taboo area. With the Politics of Pleasure I begin to argue that what’s missing is language, and I really wanted to begin to articulate language and introduce pleasure as a feminist priority for Black women.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Heidi Renée Lewis

By Andrea Plaid

Heidi Renee Lewis. Courtesy of the interviewee.

Heidi Renée Lewis. Courtesy of the interviewee.

Once again, Mark Anthony Neal–aided and abetted by one David J. Leonard–committed the kindness of introducing me to another cool-ass groove in African American-ness, this time on his Facebook page in the form of Heidi Renée Lewis and her post on Li’l Wayne and his politics of cunnilingus.

After reading her smart essay–and seeing how she dealt with some fooligan respectability-politics criticism in the thread about her post being fluff under the guise of an academic-sounding title–I had to be friends with her. We friended, and I’ve been deep into her brilliantly funny loving-The-Community commentary on vids about gospelizing over chicken, praise leaders losing their shoe trying to be cute and jumping on cheaply made tables, and people doing the Robot at church services (among other ones) ever since. Hanging with Heidi is like hanging with that one wild-ass play cousin whose pithy ongoing social commentary has you holler-laughing for days.

In other words, totally Crush-worthy.

Of course, I talked to Dr. Heidi…but I had to talk about her lively ass, too! Check out what I said to Crush alum Tamura Lomax about our latest one…

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