By Guest Contributor Ellen Oh
When I was a little girl, I was already very aware of what racism was. It felt like the cigarette burn to my flesh by the high school girl who called me a dirty chink. I was eight years old.
Racism has been seared into my psyche, like the shame that filled me when a white boy spat on me as he screamed “Go back to where you belong!” It sounded like the laughter of the crowd of middle school kids, both Black and White, that surrounded me and called me chink and gook. It looked like the jeers and smirks on the faces that pressed close, like nightmare images I couldn’t escape. I was 10 years old.
It was the fear I felt as I held my little sister’s hand tightly as we ran away from a group of Puerto Rican girls who pelted us with rocks and told us that slanty-eyed chinks don’t belong in their neighborhood. I was 11 years old.
It was the pain of my hair being torn out of my head by the middle aged Russian woman who spoke no English but knew every dirty, filthy word that she could use with “ching chong,”when I confronted her for stealing from my parents store. I was 15.
It was having a kind looking white grandmother scream at me to go back to my own country because she didn’t want my kind ruining the USA. I was 22.
It was having the managing partner of my law firm ask me if I had any relatives on the Golden Venture, the smuggler ship that ran aground in NYC with over 200 illegal Chinese immigrants. I was 24 and not Chinese.
This year’s keynote session for Facing Race starts at 4:30 p.m. EST and will be a multi-generational affair featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon.
From the program description:
Bernice Johnson Reagon, a scholar, singer/songleader, and activist for over half a century, has been a profound contributor to African American and American culture. Born in Southwest Georgia, her singing style and traditional repertoire are grounded in her experiences in church, school, and political activism. As a composer, she has created a narrative of her social and political activism through her songs and larger compositions. She performed as a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers during the sixties; founded an all women a capella ensemble, The Harambee Singers, during the Black Cultural Movement; and founded and led the internationally acclaimed Sweet Honey In The Rock for thirty years until retirement. Paralleling her work in music, Reagon is one of the leading authorities in African American Cultural History.
Her strongest musical collaborator is her daughter, Toshi Reagon. Described as “a one-woman celebration of all that’s dynamic, progressive and uplifting in American music,” Toshi is a composer, producer, founder, and leader of her own ensemble, Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely. Taking the stage at 17, singer, songwriter, guitarist Toshi Reagon moves audiences with her cross genre offerings of blues, rock, gospel, and incredible original songs. Collaboratively, these two socially conscious women artists have masterfully created two operas, “The Temptation of St Anthony” and “Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter.”
Tashawn Nicole Reagon is a Sociology and Gender Studies major and an Intergroup Relations minor at Skidmore College. Tashawn has co-facilitated a two-credit, intergroup dialogue between students of color and white students on race, and interned in the Gender Rights and Equality Unit of the Ford Foundation, where she wrote a report entitled Student Activism for Gender Equity. Tashawn helped to establish the Justice Project at Saint Ann’s high school that examined issues of race and other identities.
The full session, as posted online, can be seen live below.
By Arturo R. García
Even though Father’s Day was yesterday, this video passed along by Love, InshAllah is worth checking out if you want to watch something positive this morning.
Set to “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the clip is simply photos of Muslim fathers and their families sharing joy. The photos were curated by Love, InshAllah and the Rad Brown Dads tumblr, which shares these kinds of images — and often the stories behind them — more regularly. Here’s an excerpt from one posted last week:
This is Hafeez Bajwa; seafarer, head chef, father of 2, brother to 10, uncle of 46. My dad fills his pockets with golden chunks of wonder, remains inside the house he built and never phrases what he desires. For his children, he provides everything, trains us to be moral crusaders and illustrates thrilling travelogues from his years on sea. He finds every garage sale, reads the terms of agreement, and wears his apron with pride.
By Arturo R. García
Skye (Chloe Bennet) meets her mentor, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) in “Agents of SHIELD.”
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
Not to get all Morpheus on you, but: what if some of us Whedonistas have been approaching Agents of SHIELD off focus, just a bit?
Sure, I’ve been among the fans who have been critical of the show during most of its’ freshman season, with a good deal of that dissatisfaction aimed at the ostensible audience POV character, Skye (Chloe Bennet) — and this was before we found out she might be an extraterrestrial sort-of object of considerable power, on top of being a super-hacker.
But, over the weekend a colleague of mine at The Raw Story, Scott Eric Kaufman brought me up to speed on at least one more way to approach the series. It might not excuse some of the story choices in Agents thus far, but it sheds new light on how we might consider Skye and her cohorts.
By Guest Contributor Sara Erdmann
Cover to “Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother’s Journey to Adoption in China.”
Despite the fact that international adoption has become commonplace — most recent studies show that over 70,000 Chinese girls were adopted into the United States between 1991 and 2010 — Beth Nonte Russell’s path to motherhood was a nontraditional one. In her 2007 memoir, Forever Lily: an Unexpected Mother’s Journey to Adoption, Russell describes accompanying a friend who intends to adopt on a trip to China.
This book, while almost 7 years old, is continuously recommended across the web for adoptive mothers — it’s pinned on Pinterest and a regular on the book club circuit. In an era obsessed with memoir, it seems only natural that Russell would choose to chronicle her journey as such, particularly considering the major surprise (read: book sales) that characterizes her trip: Russell’s friend changes her mind. Quickly becoming the heroine of her own story, Russell looks down at the little girl she has only just met and begins conceiving a history in which the two of them were meant to be together. Eager to substantiate her sudden role as Lily’s mother, Russell proclaims that “there was a past life connection between [her] and Lily,” and that her “longing brought [Lily] into being.” To suggest that this child living in an orphanage in China exists because Russell willed her into being is problematic to say the least, but Russell goes one step further in her desire to feel permanently and unalterably connected despite her and Lily’s cultural and racial differences.
White adoptive families are regularly challenged by the idea of incorporating their child’s birth culture into their family. Researchers have long questioned whether an adopted child’s birth culture should be ignored, as in cases when families essentially raise their child of color as white, or whether it should be embraced, even to the point of trying to mimic a Chinese upbringing in the United States (think Chinese New Year parties and Mandarin lessons). In Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant observe that “there is a continuous temptation to think of race as an essence, as something fixed, concrete, and objective. And there is also an opposite temptation: to imagine race as a mere illusion, a purely ideological construct which some ideal non-racist social order would eliminate.” Because Russell sees Lily’s race as an essence, something unalterable, and she needs to feel she was meant to be Lily’s mother, she relies on personal epiphanies and memories that confirm that, in some way, she is also Chinese.
By Guest Contributor Marly Pierre-Louis
Photos courtesy of the author.
I was warned before moving to Amsterdam that there’s a term Dutch people use for kids which translates to “monkey.” They use it with all kids and it’s supposed to be a term of endearment. They literally have no context for why you can’t call a Black kid that. The thing is my son is exceptionally cute (just sayin’) and people are constantly cooing at him, especially older people. Sure, they’re all smiles and sweet sounds but are they in fact calling my son a monkey?! And if they are, what do I do about it? Curse them out in English? Memorize Dutch insults to sling at all offending grandmothers?
We were also warned that we should make sure to be vocal about our two-year-old not being involved with any Zwarte Piet celebrations at his daycare. Most schools not only have kids coloring in pictures of him but they may even consider having Sekani dress up as a Piet! Excuse my Dutch but WHAT THE F*CK!?
The Dutch are so adamant about their love for Piet that the indoctrination begins as early as daycare. When parents have tried to have their kids abstain from the festivities at school, it seems unfathomable to teachers who do everything from guilt tripping the parents, “Why do you want your child to be left out?” to turning the kid against their parents, “your mommy doesn’t want you to have fun.” I heard from a friend that a Black mother she knew went to pick up her daughter from school one day only to find her face painted Black. This is all problematic for so many reasons.
When Sinterklaas season began, I was fully preparing to go to war.
By Andrea Plaid
I’ve always given side-eye to Fashion Fair Cosmetics ever since I started wearing make-up. To be a part of the Johnson Publication empire–the people who bring us Ebony (and its online equivalent) and Jet–their make-up was not only too rich for my wallet but never quite fit my skin tone. (You’d think, of allllll the companies, Fashion Fair would have a shade that fit the full spectrum of Black folks and well, right?) And, to be honest, the brand itself made me think of its relevance to my mom’s generation–the fresh-off-the Movement, up-the-corporate-ladder Baby Boomers–not mine.
Of course, it would be award-winning director Ava DuVernay who would make Fashion Fair relevent to my mom, me, and younger generations.
“There’s this story out there: ‘We started when we fell out of the plane. We were destined for our adoptive families, and that we are just like you — we are exceptional. We are not like the other poor, undocumented communities that we were born from. And I had questions about that, even as a 5-year-old.”
— Laura Kunder, on being adopted from Korea by a white American family
Gazillion Voices, a Minnesota-based online magazine which was scheduled to launch Monday, aims to change the traditional narrative of global adoptions, by injecting race into the discussion, according to a piece on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). Created by Kevin Vollmers, who was born in South Korea and adopted by a Minnesota family at age 7, the new magazine is designed to give voice to adult adoptees in defiance of a traditional narrative that focuses most on adoptive families and the babies they bring home, ignoring “what becomes of those babies.”
Vollmer advocates preparing white families to raise children of color, saying:
“If you are going to place an African-American child in the middle of nowhere in northern Minnesota where they are going to be the ‘diversity,’ you best make sure there are resources available for those kids.”
Listen to the MPR report on Gazillion Voices.