Category Archives: identity

Aspiring to whiteness

by Guest Contributor Tanglad, originally published at Tanglad

As we celebrated the eve of November 4th, I was struck by a comment from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He pointed out with pride the role of the Latino vote in Obama’s election. I wish I could say that about my fellow Filipinos.

And yes, I know, the Filipino vote is not monolithic. I am specifically talking about Filipinos like me, who have immigrated here in our adult lives. We’re working to make ends meet. Many of you are raising families, go to church every Sunday, support extended families back in the Philippines. The Philippines that would theoretically be a very red state if it could vote.

So yeah, there are lots of factors behind this particular Pinoy demographic’s support of McCain and Proposition 8, but I will dive into the one that presents the most challenges.

Filipinos can be quite forthcoming when talking about race. In news interviews in the Philippines and in Pinoy gatherings, many immigrant Pinoys have made it abundantly clear that their “discomfort” over Barack Obama is not due to the rumors that he’s an inexperienced, socialist, Muslim politician. Their discomfort is from Obama’s blackness. Continue reading

On Being American and African Black

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

The first time I saw “Roots” I was in puberty, but since my birth the groundbreaking miniseries has been a running joke among my maternal relatives.

My mother is a black American, raised Baptist in Tennessee. My father is a Muslim from Nigeria. More specifically, for those in the know, he’s Yoruba.

When I was a baby my American relatives, all natives of small-town Tennessee and wholly unfamiliar with Africans, took to holding me up in the air and anointing me Kunta Kinte, like the character in “Roots.” Although the gesture annoyed my mother to no end, her family members found it hilarious.

Africans, you see, are hilarious. If there is one stereotype about Africans that has lingered throughout my life it is this. Perhaps because of this stereotype, before my birth my maternal grandmother envisioned that I would look less like a baby and more like an offensive cartoon character. She warned my mother to expect me to have coal black skin and bright red lips like Little Sambo. In expressing her fears, my grandmother ignored the reality of my father, who is dark-skinned but not especially so. In fact, he is a shade or two lighter than my mother is. Because Africans are an “exotic other,” however, my grandmother adopted a white supremacist gaze in connection to my father.

She’s far from the only black American to adopt that stance in relation to Africans. In Chicago, where my parents met and lived, my mother recalled being approached by a black woman curious to know if I cried in “African.” Now, I was born in the late1970s, before Akon dominated music charts or Hakeem Olajuwon (a fellow Yoruba) dominated basketball courts. Still, it’s somewhat shocking to note that some of the African Americans in my midst then viewed me as an entirely different entity from themselves. Continue reading

On Race and YA Lit

by Guest Contributor Neesha Meminger

Young Adult (YA) literature has exploded in recent years with the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books, the Chronicles of Narnia, Tuck Everlasting, Lord of the Rings, the Gossip Girl series, The Princess Diaries, and the more recent Twilight series to name a few right off the top of my head. There are some who look down their noses at YA lit and don’t consider it real literature. But, given the success of the aforementioned novels and series, I blow a big, fat raspberry in those people’s general direction.

Kidding. But, seriously. My guess is that the reason all those titles, and many, many others in the YA or MG (middle grade) categories have been so successful is that they reach across age barriers. If you look at the audiences for Harry Potter, Gossip Girl, Lord of the Rings and Twilight – books and movies – you’ll find fans ranging from nine-year-olds all the way through to the middle-aged, paunch set. The same cannot be said for high literary novels, or children’s books. YA and upper MG novels are right smack in the middle and appeal to that vast swath of almost-adult to inching-out-of-adulthood readers. There are often subtle, mature themes, and usually no gratuitous violence or sex.

I write YA because that is a time that ideals were still strong and fresh.

When I write, it is as if I was on the cusp of adulthood where things were still simple: good and bad were easy to define, as were right and wrong. It was a time when my inner life was more vivid than my outer and there were constant, brutal clashes between the two. It was a time where creativity was wild, unencumbered by the expectations and restrictions of adulthood. Anger, pain, joy – all were raw, enormous forces. It is still the place I go when I am seeking unrefined, unfiltered Truth.

My first novel, a YA release, comes out in March, 2009, and the road to getting it published has been full of surprises. I belong to a group of first time authors with Young Adult (YA) and Middle Grade (MG) novels coming out in 2009. We are all working together to promote our first novels. We share resources, commiserate about bumps and bruises along the way, and rejoice in one another’s accomplishments. It is completely voluntary, and no one is obligated to do anything they don’t want to, except participate in whatever capacity they can. The group is a wonderful social and networking space with some amazingly talented authors and many future stars.

And yet, something about the group caught my notice.

I don’t have any hard data or statistics in front of me, but several weeks ago as I was answering questions for my first online author interview, I was startled to realize that I was one of three YA authors of Color debuting in 2009. Continue reading

Anachronism and American Indians

by Guest Contributor Lisa, originally published at Sociological Images

In many places in the midwest the American Indian is very present, but in other places in the U.S., like in California, Disney’s Pocahontas is as close as we get to “Indians.” The idea that American Indians are gone comes, in part, from the ubiquitous representation of them with feathers, buckskins, and moccasins. These anachronisms are everywhere (see, for example, here, here, here, here, and here).

American Indians are as modern as the rest of us, why are representations of American Indians, as they live today, so unusual? And what effect might that have on the psyche of American Indian people?

Via PostSecret.

On Tyra: Biracial Women Who Hate Their Other Side

by Latoya Peterson

Checking my Clutch feeds, I stumbled across this video from the Tyra show*. Literally, the title of the post sums it up. It’s about biracial folks who hate one side or the other.

The video is 32 minutes long.

The video features Jenna, who is half black and half white, who denies her blackness; Tabitha, who is half latina and half white, who denies her whiteness; Jaselle, who is black and Puerto Rican, who denies her PR heritage; and Sohn (her segment was not included in the video I watched.)

While Tyra focused more on Jenna for the majority of the segments, but the other guests actually brought up some really good points about race and identity.

Jenna appears to have been a ratings ploy – she espouses extreme hatred of other blacks, denies of all positive aspects of her non-white heritage, reaffirms stereotypes as truth, explains a preference for a “white” way of living, proudly displays three rebel flags (using the customary “get over it, it’s heritage not hate, it’s in the past” defenses without any acknowledgment of her own contradiction) and even has a photo of her in makeshift Klan gear.

[One of the Clutch commenters called her a sighted Clayton Bigsby. Was Chapelle’s art imitating life? Or was that skit based on a true story?]

Yeah…moving on. Continue reading

Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom Movie Plays to Modest Success

by Latoya Peterson

Well, look at what slipped under the radar.

In the midst of the election run up, the results, and the waves of discussion about proposition 8, Logo launched a movie based on their popular (yet mysteriously canceled) series Noah’s Arc.

The New York Press’ Armond White has a thought provoking review on the significance of the movie, titled “MEET THE BLACK CARRIE BRADSHAW – LOGO’s Noah’s Arc makes the jump to the big screen—showing a completely different African-American experience”:

Noah’s Arc’s quartet of young black men counteracts the prevailing image of gayness as a young, rich, white male phenomenon. The title refers to Noah (Darryl Stephens), an L.A.-based aspiring screenwriter whose love and social life resist Hollywood storybook cliché. Noah may dress in couture like Carrie Bradshaw (he enters Jumping wearing a Russian toque, cape and calf-high boots) but his style is provocative; he flouts ideas about masculinity, blackness and class. If you accept Noah (his gentle, gazelle-like demeanor stresses effeminacy), his friends still test your tolerance: Chance (Doug Spearman) is a snooty, over-enunciating university professor; Alex (Rodney Chester) is a plus-sized drama queen who likes to cook when not dispensing counsel at a gay men’s health center; and Rickey (Christian Vincent) is incorrigibly promiscuous. Continue reading

take back the halloween!

by special correspondent Thea Lim

Thanks to the Toronto Asian Arts Freedom School for helping me figure out just why I have a hard time with Halloween, and for allowing me to share our strategies with Racialicious!

white rasta

I’m a Halloween party pooper. I do a dismal job of dressing up. My last costume consisted of a baseball hat with googly eyes and mouse ears. I’ve only given out candy once. Some years I’ve even hidden upstairs in the dark, ashamed of my lack of candy, pumpkin and sense of fun.

I’ve always felt like a bit of a jerk for not participating in the festivities. It doesn’t come that naturally to me – I spent most of my childhood in a country where Halloween wasn’t really celebrated, except as a club night. But since I moved back to North America 8 years ago, Halloween has seemed more like an obligation than a party zone, and every year I fail to rise to the challenge.

A year ago a new friend pointed out to me something that Angry Asian Man nicely illustrated on this here blog a few weeks ago: Halloween is not just a time to wear fake blood and fishnets, it’s also…racist!

white mexican

Mainstream North American culture likes to define itself as cultureless, but Halloween is a very cultural practice. Not only is it a little weird (Just look at it from the point of view of an outsider. Send your kids out to strangers’ houses and tell them to ask for candy? Decorate your house like a graveyard? Dress up like a sexy version of a public health worker?) it is also based on difference – the point of Halloween is to dress up as “something different.” So how do people who are often made to feel visually different – you know, like people of colour – experience Halloween? The average Halloween costume tells us a lot about what we culturally consider to be abnormal.

Continue reading

All About Race

by Guest Contributor Jenn Fang, originally published at Reappropriate

This past Sunday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell broke with the GOP ranks to endorse Senator Barack Obama for president. Citing in part McCain’s negative campaigning as part of his decision, Powell said of Obama:

Sen. Obama has demonstrated the kind of calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach to problem-solving that I think we need in this country.

As political analysts posted wave upon wave of comments on this latest development in the ‘08 presidential election, Politico posted an email from Rush Limbaugh saying that Powell’s endorsement had nothing to do with Obama’s qualities as a candidate and everything to do with race.

“Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race,” Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail. “OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I’ll let you know what I come up with.”

How racist of Limbaugh to see a Black man showing support for another Black man and to automatically assume it’s all about skin colour. Forget that Powell spoke at length about Obama’s qualifications as president: Limbaugh can’t fathom that Obama could be endorsed for any reason other than race.

This morning, Limbaugh defended his comment, saying that because Democrats are remarking on Obama’s race as reason for his candidacy’s historic nature, that Limbaugh is in the clear.

“I thought it should be about race,” he said. “I thought you liberals thought this was a historic candidacy because finally we are going to elect a black guy…why hide behind this, why act like it’s not about race?”

“This was all about Powell and race, nothing about the nation and its welfare,” Limbaugh added. The talk radio host also criticized members of the media for not addressing his claim that Powell likely hasn’t endorsed white candidates who, according to Limbaugh, have similar political leanings and experience as Obama.

It’s ironic that Limbaugh is making this argument; just last Thursday, I got into a discussion/heated exchange with some local Democrats over Obama and race. They were making the argument that Obama should be praised for not making an issue of the race and racism he has experienced on the campaign trail — like Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player to play for the then all-White Major Leagues, Obama was to be credited for not “turning it into a race issue”. Continue reading