Category Archives: family

Race + The Netherlands: Exile

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.
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Friday Fun: Ava DuVernay Makes Fashion Fair Cosmetics Look Good–And Relevant!

By Andrea Plaid

Via chaudmag.com

Via chaudmag.com

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.

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New online magazine highlights Gazillion Voices of adult adoptees

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“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.

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Unlocking The Truth

By Andrea Plaid

Unlocking The Truth's Malcolm Brickhouse (l) and Jarad Dawkins.

Unlocking The Truth’s Malcolm Brickhouse (l) and Jarad Dawkins.

In the midst the Paula Deen- and Miley Cyrus-leveled foolishness this week stood Unlocking The Truth, a trio of young Black guys who’ve been unleashing slaying metal chords in New York City for a minute. Though they didn’t wipe racism’s grime from the nation’s consciousness, they’re a definite salute to what Black folks have long brought to US music–which is fitting for this month, African American Music Appreciation Month (a.k.a. Black Music Month).

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Barack Obama as our first Asian American President?: Part I

Barack Obama with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng from their earlier days

By Guest Contributor Jennifer; originally published at Mixed Race America 

It has been two months since I last wrote a post in this blog–which is embarrassing (sigh).  For all my good intentions, I have not felt compelled to write in this space, even though I, ostensibly, have the time since I’m not teaching.

But this is, perhaps, the reason why I haven’t been writing in this space–because I have been immersed in trying to finish my book manuscript on racial ambiguity and Asian American culture (which also happens to be the title of the book).  I’m fortunate enough to have a research and study leave, which means I’ve been reading and thinking and writing and trying to make the most of my time out of the classroom.

And then, of course, as I realized how much time had passed from when I last blogged, the pressure to write something meaningful or at least intelligible increased after so much silence (sigh)–always the dilemma of the writer–the blank page and wondering if there is an audience out there.

But as I tell my students, sometimes, whether you’re feeling it or not, you just have to write it.  Good advice.  So I thought I should share what I’m working on, since it has applicability to this blog.  For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about the coda to my book–which is also the title of this blog post.  If race is a social construction–if it doesn’t have a basis in biology or blood, then could we imagine that Barack Obama is not only our first African American president, our first (openly) mixed race president, but our first Asian American president of the United States?

This might seem like an odd way to end a book on racial ambiguity and Asian American culture.  Yet if we think about taking the idea of racial ambiguity to its furthest extremes, if race is not just limited to what you “look” like–if you can be Asian American without Asian American family (as transracial adoptees would seem to prove), if one’s racial identity is as much about culture and community as anything else, then it would seem that there are clear markers of Asian American racialization that correspond to Obama’s life narrative.  For example:
*He was born and spent his formative adolescent years in the only state in the union that has a majority Asian American population.  The local culture in Hawaii is steeped in Asian American culture from the various Asian immigrants who have come to the island archipelago from the 19th C.  He can speak pidgin, he eats local food, he grew up with his grandparents preparing sashimi for guests and with Asian American neighbors and classmates.
Obama’s fifth-grade class photo from The Punahou School
*He is the child of an immigrant father who came to the US to be educated (first, a BA at U of Hawaii and then a PhD at Harvard), and his name reflects these immigrant roots, with people who find it odd, foreign, and hard to pronounce (something many children of Asian immigrants with Asian names understand all too well).
*He lived for four years in Indonesia (from the ages of 6-10) thus experiencing life in an Asian country.
*He has family members–a sister (Maya Soetoro-Ng–Indonesian-white), a brother-in-law (Konrad Ng–Chinese-Malaysian from Canada) and nieces who are Indonesian-Chinese-Malaysian-white–who are Asian American.
The Soetoro-Ng family
In October 1998, writing for The New Yorker’s ”Talk of the Town” about the ways that President Bill Clinton was being targeted by special prosecuters for potential impeachment after revelations of his affair with Monica Lewinsky became public, Toni Morrison famously (or infamously) wrote:

Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.

Until Barack Obama was elected to office in 2008, it was believed, in certain quarters, that Morrison had claimed blackness for Bill Clinton, thus dubbing him our first black president.  But if you read the above quote (and the entire article) carefully, you will see that it is the “trope of blackness” that Morrison refers to rather than claiming that Clinton’s identity is that of an African American man.

In similar fashion, claims for Barack Obama as our first Asian American president have been made by Rep. Mike Honda and Jeff Yang – mine is not the first observation made in this regard.  
Yet what does it MEAN for me to imagine, that Barack Obama could be considered Asian American based on the trope of Asian-ness–the ways in which parts of his life narrative contain similarities to those of Asians in America?  Is this an anti-racist move, one that can remind us that race is a fiction, a social construction designed to elevate one racial group above others?  Can knowing that race is this fluid and flexible become a means to dismantle structures of institutional racism?
Stay tuned for Part II (which I promise to write this weekend!) and, of course, if there are any readers out there, I welcome your thoughts and comments, your agreements and disagreements.  I welcome dialogue, because that’s the reason I started this blog to begin with–and Barack Obama was the topic of the third blog post I wrote back in May 2007.

 

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Jose Antonio Vargas’ Documented

By Andrea Plaid

Second week of Pride Month, and I have some great documentary news!

Journalist/activist/filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas casually mentioned his newest documentary, Documented, to me when we gathered to petition the New York Times to completely stop using the terms “illegal” and “illegal immigrants.” But I thought he was in the throes of shooting or at the beginning of post-production. In other words, the movie was a long way off from being in the theater.

Well, documentary-fan me is so happy to announce that the movie will make its world premiere next Friday, June 21, at Washington, DC’s American Film Institute’s documentary festival!

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Open Thread: A Tale Of Two (Racialized) Spoofs

By Andrea Plaid

I really need to figure out why people outside of Black communities stay needing to play around with still-volatile n-word. It just doesn’t go too well, especially when folks want to use it to show how oh-so-edgy they are. Example: here’s a spoof on the going-for-a-hipper-image Kmart commercials that goes for it:

Personally, I’m not here for the hipster racism or the Black person in it as a “The Black Best Friend” justification. But that’s me.

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WTF? Supercute Cheerios Ad Featuring Mixed-Race Family Rallies The Racists

By Andrea Plaid

Now, I can understand critiquing this Cheerios commercial for being, say, heterosexist–and even at that, that’s not a critique that unto itself would shut down a YouTube comment section.

Nope. The decision-makers at Cheerios had to shut the comments because the racists somehow thought it was a dog-whistle for them to get their hatred on. From Huffington Post:

The ad had received more than 1,600 likes and more than 500 dislikes as of Thursday evening.

Prior to the closure, the comment section had been filled “with references to Nazis, ‘troglodytes’ and ‘racial genocide,’” according to Adweek.

Commenters on the cereal’s Facebook page also said they found the commercial “disgusting” and that it made them “want to vomit.” Other hateful commenters expressed shock that a black father would stay with his family.

Though the racists shut down the comments section, Huffington Post reports that “many took to Facebook to express their appreciation for Cheerios’ decision to feature a mixed-race family,” and the commercial is still up on YouTube.

(H/t Lakesia Johnson)