Category Archives: class

Reflections On “The Rise Of Asian Americans,” Or, Don’t Believe Hype

By Guest Contributor Esther Wang, cross-posted from her Facebook page

Courtesy: multiculturalfamilia.com

Thirty years ago in June of 1982, a Chinese American man named Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit by two men who were angry and fearful about the decline of the US auto industry and the economic rise of Japan, and 20,000 Chinatown garment factory workers in New York City–almost all Chinese immigrant women–went on strike, after factory owners refused to budge over cuts in benefits and services.

These were seminal moments for Asian Americans, and galvanized a wave of organizing and activism in the US by and for working-class Asian Americans that continues to this very day.

A few months later in 1982, I was born in a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, to two Chinese immigrant parents who had come to the US as part of the Taiwanese “brain drain” that accelerated in the 1970s, after the US government loosened its nativist immigration laws in 1965 and prioritized students and other educated workers.

And just this past week, on two separate occasions, I was asked, “How long have you lived in this country?” and told, “Go back to China.”

All of this (which is to say, the personal that is political and the political that is personal) was on my mind as I read the Pew Center’s new report, “The Rise of Asian Americans.” In it, the Pew Center details the growth of Asian communities over the past forty years, focusing on the six largest Asian ethnic communities; their median incomes, educational attainment levels, and immigration status; and the social mores that Pew deemed were most relevant when trying to understand Asian communities.

Like many commentators have already written (see here and here), the report grossly simplifies a diverse and complicated community and, more destructively, feeds into the myth that Asians in the US succeed by dint of hard work and cultural values brought over from our homelands (despite Pew’s own research, buried in the last chapter of the report, that showed Asians overwhelmingly favor a larger government that provides more services).

This is not to say there weren’t some interesting nuggets in the report, or that many of their facts were incorrect–what concerns me and others are the conclusions that were drawn by the writers and researchers at Pew, and how those ideas can and unfortunately will be used by others in the service of their own political projects. What is troubling is how reports like these feed into the dominant lens of how all of us, including Asian Americans ourselves, view our communities, and understand the politics of race – and therefore how power operates – in the US.

Continue reading

An Ideological Mess: Or, How I Learned To Not Stop Worrying And Still Love Rock Climbing

By Guest Contributor Narinda Heng, cross-posted from Girls Like Giants

Ashima Shiraishi via author. Courtesy: Julien Jarry Photography

I’ve been climbing fences, balconies, and trees for years, but it wasn’t until January of 2011, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that I went rock climbing for the first time at Malibu Creek State Park. It’s funny that instead of participating in a Day of Service, I went rock climbing. I guess that could be seen as one of the very first moments when I had to grapple with feeling a contradiction between pursuing rock climbing and the many other ideals and identities that I hold dear. And now here I am–here we are–discussing race, gender, and class in rock climbing.

And it feels good. Really good. Even though it’s uncomfortable and difficult. Because I don’t feel like I need to ignore or hide the fact that I think about and experience these contradictions and, what’s more, I’m seeing that there are so many people out there who are supportive of talking about it. And my partner, who has been climbing and dealing with this for much longer than I have, gets to heal a bit from her earlier discouragement with discussions like this in the online climbing community.
Continue reading

The New York Times Offers Reasons ‘Why Black Women Are Fat’

By Guest Contributor Erika Nicole Kendall, cross-posted from A Black  Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

… for crying out loud … good grief.

I had lots of thoughts about this op-ed, simply because I struggle with the reality that so much of women’s body issues are tied up in dating and mating, not their own health. I’m not downing those who have made that decision–that’s not my place–I just wonder if those women truly wind up getting what they originally wanted in the end.

I’ll explain that later. For now, on to the article.

I had to chop this up into bits and pieces. It’s so hard to read, that every time I go to paste a new paragraph, I feel like sticking my virtual finger out and saying “B-b-but …” because it misses so much of the point.

Maybe I’ve been writing about this stuff for too long.

At any rate…the article starts out with a photo of Josephine Baker, with the caption “Josephine Baker embodied a curvier form of the ideal Black woman.” This highlights a huge problem with a lot of Black women as it is today: we don’t understand sizes, our bodies or “curvy” because “curvy,” like “thick,” has been misappropriated so many times that it no longer has any meaningful definition.

Courtesy: A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

“Curvy” simply means that you have curves. Josephine Baker–and, by correlation, Marilyn Monroe–does not have the same kind of curves that many Black women (hell, women period) refer to when the say “curves” today. Josephine’s waist isn’t any larger than a 28; her hips, no larger than 40 inches. Not by a long shot. She might be curvy, but she was small. Petite women and smaller women are also afforded the ability to be curvy. Maybe if we embraced and accepted that idea, we’d stop clinging to the notion that “curves” can only accompany a larger frame. It simply isn’t true, and I’m annoyed by the author’s attempt to use Baker’s photo to imply such.

Continue reading

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: rosasparks

By Andrea Plaid

Courtesy: rosasparks

Before the R got into the Tumblr game, I followed rosasparks on my personal one, just totally vibing her nuggets on living, mothering, community-loving, and wisdom-giving that she brought to my dashboard when I logged on. When she followed me back, I felt all swoony and fangirly.

Before I had my Tumblr, Ms. Owner/Editrix adored rosasparks’ commentary on Jezebel while Ms. O/E worked as a scribe over there.

So, when I suggested rosasparks to be our Crush Of The Week, Ms. O/E fangirled a bit, too. When I told rosasparks about how much we loved her here at the R, she squeed herself. We at the R had to know more about our loved-up, so here’s an interview with her, continued over at the R’s Tumblr.

I discovered you on Tumblr, and Latoya adored your whipsmart comments when she worked at Jezebel. What/who informs your politics? And what keeps you at Tumblr vs., say, maintaining a blog at WordPress or Blogspot? 

My ma is a progressive and has always been very politically active. I was born in Oakland, in the early 70s, and the Bay Area was alive and bubbling with activity and my ma was inspired by and busy in all of it. My first memories, no joke, are of watching political debates and speeches on TV with her and listening to her talk about the importance of being civic-minded and paying attention to issues and what politicians are saying, and not saying, and being engaged in your community.

I was an African American studies major, in college, which included studying a ton of world politics and history. And throughout my adult life, I’ve always been working, volunteering or taking great, personal interest in government and transparency and equality and policy. Now that I have a daughter, I stay involved because I’d like for her to live and participate in a society that is inclusive and cares about all of its citizens. All of this stems from my ma and what she instilled in me. Also, I adore bell hooks. I take everything she says as gospel.

I was a commenter on Jezebel, for a long time, and when I decided I didn’t want to comment there anymore, several commenters I was close with had headed to Tumblr and said I should go there, too. I followed them, no pun intended, and I’ve never left. I love the community of Tumblr. It’s a simple format to manage and a lot of fun. It inspires me and I’ve met and encountered so many amazing people and hear so many different stories. I’ve forged true friendships, all from something as silly as cat gifs and liveblogs of TV shows, to real substantive discussions about feminism, mental illness, equality, LGBTQQ issues, parenting, the fuckery of the GOP; you name it and it’s probably been discussed–ad nauseum, in fact. Some days, you just want to post the gif of the jockey beating a dead horse.

I stay at Tumblr because I’m lazy, I guess, but really because I don’t feel like I have the ‘voice’ to have a stand-alone blog. Nor do I feel egotistical enough to say, ‘Oooh haaaay, I’m so important, go read my personal blog!’ That just sounds bizarre. I like interacting with people in the moment and I think Tumblr allows for that more than being some private island of blogitutde. Besides, I’d miss all the gifs and the ridiculous memes and everyone I follow.

DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! Vagina Whitening (That’s Right, You Heard Me)

By Guest Contributor Jen Wang, cross-posted from Disgrasian

One year I vacationed in Mexico and spent the entire time in the water, body surfing and boogie boarding. My skin got really dark, which I don’t care about one way or another, though I am afraid of sun damage and skin cancer, in that order. I made one mistake that trip though, and it wasn’t forgetting sunscreen (always, always remember sunscreen). My mistake was going to see my grandmother right after. The first thing she said, once she got over the shock, was “How did you get so dark?!” For the rest of the visit, she introduced me to her friends as “My Granddaughter-Who’s-Normally-Not-This-Dark.”

Light skin is still prized in Asia for a number of reasons that have to do with longstanding notions of race, class, and gender. Good thing then, that there’s a booming market for skin whitening creams, many of them manufactured by Western companies! And good thing the companies who make these creams also make commercials, because quite a few of them–beyond their creepy, disturbing premise–are kinda hilarious.
Continue reading

Vogue Italia’s ‘Haute Mess:’ Racist, Ignorant, or Brilliant?

All images courtesy Vogue Italia

By Fashion Correspondent Joseph Lamour

That’s right: what you’re seeing above is actually something that’s in the world’s current fashion bible. Vogue Italia’s March 2012 issue features this spread, aptly titled “Haute Mess”, and features a bevy of the world’s most beautiful women obscured by everything but the kitchen sink.

I’ve got to say right off the bat that Coco Rocha is one of my favorite models in the entire universe–I often gasp in Minnie Riperton octaves when I come across her (and this is one of the reasons why) but, until I read the credits, I had no idea she was even in this spread. The same goes for models usually familiar and amazing like Joan Smalls and Jessica Stam. Fashion most of the time is supposed to enhance or highlight the beauty of the wearer, but sometimes–like in this spread–it’s trying to challenge what your idea of beauty is. But does this shoot succeed or offend? In looking at this shoot, I couldn’t decide whether or not it included subtle or overt racist tones, if it was ignorant to the message it would provoke…or that it so beautifully over-the-top it was actually brilliant.

Continue reading

Sundance Pick: Mosquita y Mari

“Though we tremble before uncertain futures/ may we meet illness, death and adversity with strength/ may we dance in the face of our fears.”
― Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Mosquita y Mari is a slow paced exploration of being a teenager peering over the brink of adulthood. Set in a Mexican-American neighborhood in Los Angeles, Mosquita y Mari follows the lives of two very different Chicana teenagers. Yolanda (Fenessa Pineda) is a studious high-achiever, a dutiful daughter from a loving home. Mari (Venecia Troncoso) is rebellious and volatile, with a chip on her shoulder that crowds out most of the world. Circumstances toss them together again and again, and they embark on a deep and intense friendship.

In her press kit, writer/director Aurora Guerrero writes:

The inspiration behind my debut feature-film, Mosquita y Mari, was my own adolescence. Initially, when I decided I wanted to write a feature-length script I kept coming back to a series of complex, same-sex friendships I had while growing up. When looking back, long before I identified as queer, I realized my first love was one of my best friends. It was the type of friendship that was really tender and sweet but also sexually charged. Despite the fact that we had the makings of a beautiful teen romance we never crossed that line. The beginnings of Mosquita y Mari was reflecting back on that time and asking myself the questions, why didn’t we cross that line and what kept us in “our place”? I didn’t grow up in a household where my parents forewarned me that if I turned out to be gay they would disown me. They didn’t wave the Bible in my face saying it was wrong. Instead the message was subtle. It was hidden in the silences around sex and desire; it was implied in society’s expectations, you know, like you only experience those feelings of love and desire with the opposite sex. I think all of us are subject to society’s rules so I think many people can relate to this story of censored friendship. That was the initial inspiration. […] Continue reading

Voices: Reactions To ‘If I Were A Poor Black Kid’

By Arturo R. García

Just when you thought Satoshi Kanazawa had wrapped up Tone-Deaf Article Of The Year honors for 2011, Forbes’ Gene Marks sauntered his way into consideration Monday with “If I Were A Poor Black Kid,” which spun a speech by President Obama on economic inequality into a privilege-fest with bon mots like these, emphasis mine:

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently. I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city. Even the worst have their best. And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities. Getting good grades is the key to having more options. With good grades you can choose different, better paths. If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

Somehow Forbes chose not to tag the bit about good grades as BREAKING NEWS. But maybe Marks’ editors didn’t want to overshadow the moment when he breaks it down even further than the President. That whole Occupy business? Totally barking up the wrong tree:

President Obama was right in his speech last week. The division between rich and poor is a national problem. But the biggest challenge we face isn’t inequality. It’s ignorance. So many kids from West Philadelphia don’t even know these opportunities exist for them. Many come from single-parent families whose mom or dad (or in many cases their grand mom) is working two jobs to survive and are just (understandably) too plain tired to do anything else in the few short hours they’re home. Many have teachers who are overburdened and too stressed to find the time to help every kid that needs it. Many of these kids don’t have the brains to figure this out themselves – like my kids. Except that my kids are just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction.

And about Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry thinking Marks’ column sounded like something out of The Onion? Well, she’s not wrong:

You know, it occurs to me that you don’t even live in America. And I’ve got to know, what the heck are you doing living in Sri Lanka? What do they have there? Camels? Rugs? Well, I can tell you one thing they don’t have: 100 percent grade-A American opportunity.

America is the land of milk and honey. You can probably catch a flight here from Sri Lanka for as little as $2,500 if you shop around. So what’s keeping you? Okay, I can imagine how it is: you live in a back alley and you eat garbage. And maybe you don’t have the liquid capital to outlay $2,500 on a luxury-like first-class airfare to the U.S. Well, you can always fly coach for about a third of first-class fare, and if worst comes to worst, put it on the plastic. As long as you pay it off as quickly as you can, the interest won’t cramp your style. (See Tip #1.)

It should also be noted that, as, Talking Point Memo’s Callie Schweitzer pointed out, Marks has also applied his “wisdom” to gender-equality issues in the workplace:

Women also have more personal and social pressures than men. And this affects their ability to further their careers and get the experience they need to become good managers. It’s common today for families to have two working parents. But let’s admit it, when little Johnny gets sick at school who’s the first person that’s usually called? When a child is up at night coughing, which parent is staying up with her? When the plumber has to make an emergency morning visit, who’s generally staying at home to deal with it?

It’s usually mom. And even if she has a full time job too.

When my wife and I were younger and our baby would cry in the middle of the night I would put a pillow…over my head. That stopped the crying for sure. My wife (who was working full time by the way) was the one who got out of bed to care for the child. Yes, I was an ass. I’m not saying that many dads don’t pitch in or try to do their fair share. But as much as women have achieved in earning their equality, there are still some age old cultural habits that won’t die. Children need their mommies. And most moms I know, whether they have a full time job or not, want to be there for their child. I know plenty of women who admit they struggle with this instinctual tug on their gut. Men don’t have this kind of instinctual tug. Let’s face it: unless there’s beer involved, men don’t have many instincts at all. We figure our wives will ultimately handle these things. And in many cases, they just do.

I could go on and on, and but, you know – beer. More reaction from around the ‘Net under the cut.

Continue reading