A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a screening of Peter Bratt’s La Mission. The screening, which was part of a limited release, was at San Francisco’s Metreon Theaters. My compañero and I, joined by two of our queer sisters of color, were lucky enough to find seats in relative proximity to each other in the sold-out space.
It was a late night screening and the vast majority of folks in the theater were people of color. In fact, I’d say most of the people there were Latina/o, with a nice mix of generations representing. The experience was unforgettable as all four of us, none of which were born and raised in San Francisco, were sitting in what seemed to be an intimate living room screening of La Mission.
We all smiled and were occasionally misty-eyed as people in the crowd, youth and adults, loudly expressed their pride in the various shots of San Francisco portrayed in the film. During the movie, I realized that this was the first time I had ever witnessed the screening of a film that embodied the geographic and cultural identities of the audience. People not only saw themselves on the big screen, they also saw the places that have shaped and witnessed them. Continue reading →
…a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.
Now, “reasonable suspicion” is a legal standard that’s been around for over 40 years. In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that a stop by law enforcement on the grounds of reasonable suspicion was legal if it met the following criteria:
…when a person possesses many unusual items which would be useful in a crime like a wire hanger and is looking into car windows at 2am, when a person matches a description of a suspect given by another police officer over department radio, or when a person runs away at the sight of police officers who are at common law right of inquiry (founded suspicion). However, reasonable suspicion may not apply merely because a person refuses to answer questions, declines to allow a voluntary search, or is of a suspected race or ethnicity. (Wikipedia)
But unless Arizona law enforcement actually catches someone in the act of crossing the border illegally, there’s no way to really establish reasonable suspicion except by race or ethnicity, which is why SB 1070 is being referred to by some as the “Breathing While Brown” law.
What I find myself wondering though is: How Brown? SB 1070 is racism, to be sure, but is it colorism, too? I can’t help thinking that the browner you are in Arizona, the more “suspicious” you’ll seem. Already, lighter-skinned Latinos in the U.S. make $5,000 more on average than darker-skinned Latinos. And it’s well-documented that dark-skinned African-Americans receive longer prison sentences than their light-skinned peers (not to mention whites). There are examples the world over–in Asia, the Middle East, Brazil–of color prejudice, where light skin is preferred, both interracially and intraracially, and where it equates to improved social standing, economic status, and marriage prospects.
Does this mean that more Hispanics and Latinos in the U.S. will be reaching for the Sammy Sosa-lightening cream in SB 1070’s wake? It appears it’s already happening. From the NY Times op-ed piece, “Shades of Prejudice,” published in January after Harry Reid’s comments surfaced about Obama being an ideal political candidate because he was “light-skinned”:
The Harvard neuroscientist Allen Counter has found that in Arizona, California and Texas, hundreds of Mexican-American women have suffered mercury poisoning as a result of the use of skin-whitening creams.
(Note that Dr. Counter’s findings were clustered in Arizona, California, and Texas, all border states.)
And in a 2003 story for the Boston Globe, “Whitening skin can be deadly,” Dr. Counter wrote of these same women:
Apparently, the patients reporting to clinics with mercury-induced disease believe that the health risks associated with bleaching their skins are outweighed by the rewarding sociocultural return.
With “brown” now equating to “illegal,” this may be truer than we’d like to think.
Some high school seniors are now deciding against going to college in Arizona. One comment on the New York Times blog post on the topic struck me as particularly intelligent, and hinting at the root of African American disdain for SB1070.
Barbara, a Duke alumnus, writes:
When I was a student at Duke there were many male African-American students who felt like they were being profiled because of the relatively high rate of crime on campus, and the fact that a disproportionate amount of it was attributable to young black men in the community. In some cases students were held even after they proved they were students. It made their college experience a lot worse than if they gone elsewhere. It’s a legitimate consideration.
It’s not that I don’t understand that border states face special challenges and find the lack of progress frustrating, or that I don’t agree that Mexico has long shown lack of inclination to face its social problems because it has a safety valve next door — I share those concerns. But there is simply no way to enforce this law without targeting Hispanics. I don’t care if that was the intent or not, it is almost certainly going to be its practical effect. Continue reading →
I called up a fellow young black professional friend of mine and told her about the findings of the study. “Is it messed up that I’m kind of glad in a way?” she asked, “I mean, all this time I’ve been wondering why I can’t get my shit together, but it turns out I’m normal.” We both laughed at her small attempt at gallows humor around a situation many of us know a little too intimately – when it comes to our white counterparts, women of color are light years behind in wealth.
The study is a new report from The Insight Center for Community Economic Development, titled “Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth, and America’s Future.” The report is an in-depth look at the issues in wealth accumulation particular to black women, Latinas, Asian and Native American women. However, even as this report is one of the most comprehensive I have seen on the subject, the limited data for Asian American and Native American women means that their statistics are limited from entire sections of the report, and discussed in a subsequent section about the need for better stats. The report’s title is should be a familiar refrain to many black women, but the author of the report, Mariko Chang, kindly includes an explanation of the origin of the phrase:
More than a century ago, the National Association for Colored Women was founded by African American women leaders in response to a vicious attack on the character of African-American women. A few decades distant from the abolition of slavery, the intensification of poverty, discrimination, and segregation impelled these women to action in defense of their race. Their motto was “Lifting as We Climb,” signaling their understanding that no individual woman of color could rise, nor did they want to rise, without the improvement of the whole race. At the top of their agenda were job training, wage equity, and child care: issues that, if addressed, would lift all women, and all people of color.
The lift as we climb refrain was implanted into some of us from birth and a lot of my earliest lessons about black empowerment focused on financial empowerment. Yet, these adages about saving money, investing in the community, and being a conscious consumer was like propping a footstool against a fifty foot high sheer rock wall. Continue reading →
This article is part of a series appearing on RH Reality Check, written by reproductive justice advocates responding to recent efforts by the anti-choice movement to use racial and ethnic myths to limit women’s rights and health. Recent articles on this topic include those by Pamela Merrit, Gloria Feldt, Kelley Robinson, and Maame-Mensima Horne.
At first glance, it’s nice to see the anti-choice community pretending to care about communities of color. But within a few minutes, the skepticism sets in. What’s really behind these tactics, coming from a group that is majority white, middle-class and Christian? In the end, we know this isn’t actually about women of color and their well-being. It’s a sensationalist attempt to pit women of color against the reproductive rights movement. Classic divide and conquer.
Women of color within the reproductive rights and justice movement have brought light to the policies (often perpetuated by our own government, medical providers and researchers) that serve the mission of population control within our communities. We’ve fought back against the connections and alliances with those in the environmental rights movement who blame the challenges of resource scarcity on women of color and their family size.
We’ve fought back against governmental policies like welfare family caps and limits on access to certain types of contraception over others. We’ve fought with the reproductive rights community to get them to care about these issues and how they affect our communities—and we’ve won.
We’re fighting for access to contraception, to abortion, to options for childbirth and parenting. And now we’ll fight the racist and paternalistic logic behind the eugenics arguments being made by anti-choicers.
In the Latina community, we’ve dealt with all sorts of attempts at controlling our families. In addition to welfare family caps and abusive immigration policies, we’ve also got a long history of sterilization abuse. The height of this was in the 1970s, when Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias and others discovered that doctors and residents at a Los Angeles hospital had sterilized hundreds of Mexican women, without their knowledge or full consent. We’re talking women being asked to sign consent forms in languages they did not speak, being lied to and told that the procedure was reversible, or being offered sterilization in the midst of labor.
The result of this was a major organizing push by CESA—Committee to End Sterilization Abuse–to enact federal informed consent laws for sterilization. They won, and in 1976 these laws were enacted, mandating processes for informed consent, waiting periods for sterilization consent, and forms that had to be in the patient’s language, among other things.
Comedian George Lopez debuted “Lopez Tonight” on Monday, November 9. A veteran of the stand-up stage, Lopez’s foray into late night does little to mess with the familiar format honed by Johnny Carson and tweaked by Leno and Letterman: it includes a monologue, video-taped comedy segment, celebrity interview, and musical guest.
The primary difference, as pushed by Lopez, is the “color” of the show. “¡Oralé!” he exclaimed as he walked out on stage. “The revolution begins right now!”
It’s an odd role for Lopez, the man who carved out his niche in prime time as a Mexican Bill Cosby. His eponymous sitcom featured a middle (maybe even upper-middle) class family struggling with the same kinds of life issues faced by any family. Its lack of depth and specificity relating to Latino life was deliberate. It didn’t evade “race,” but it rarely let it mean more than we’re slightly different but still the same. Continue reading →
After several months of a focused internet and social media campaign pressuring CNN to fire Lou Dobbs, the xenophobic pundit announced tonight he is leaving CNN effectively immediately.
BastaDobbs.org–the virtual Latino coalition which led the campaign against CNN–is claiming victory. “We are thrilled that Dobbs no longer has this legitimate platform from which to incite fear and hate,” said Roberto Lovato. Lovato, who is an accomplished writer, is also the founder of the Latino-advocacy group Presente.org, the lead organization behind the anti-Dobbs campaign. “The community is newly empowered and energized,” he continued, “and we are ready to fight for a respectful and civil media discourse when it comes to immigration coverage on mainstream news.”
I couldn’t be happier that Lou Dobbs’ uncritical voice of hate is off the air. I am a firm defender of anyone’s right to free speech, but I am also fiercely opposed to the notion that we are better as a society if we provide a platform for all speech. Television news–and cable news in particular–has moved into an era where providing a “safe space” for the voices from the political extreme has come to substitute for critical discourse and constructive debate. That isn’t the news and it isn’t “fair and balanced.” It’s petty, and it’s lazy, and it needs to evolve.
Reuters recently published a pieced entitled “Reggaeton fever shakes up Cuba’s culture” the article cites an now infamous (in reggaeton circles anyway) quote by Juventud Rebelde that calls reggaeton a “reflection of ‘neoliberal thinking’.”
I think the development and growth of reggaeton in Cuba has been fascinating (if you are interested check out Geoff Baker’s work) and illuminates much about the ways in which different musical forms/genres circulate as cultural and ideological commodities.
The idea of reggaeton being a product of neoliberalism is intriguing. Clearly the flows of neoliberal capital and its circuits facilitated the spread of technologies and people that enabled the different permutations of reggaeton within the Caribbean, the Americas, and globally.
More than anything else, I wonder what seeing reggaeton as a neoliberal commidity says about how Cuban authorities think about the neocolonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico and the forces of diaspora (not only between Puerto Rico and the U.S., but broadly speaking) in forging reggaeton, essentially outside of the Cuban nation (and well any nation really). Reggaeton is largely positioned as outside of the Cuban nation, seen as an import from the yanquis via Puerto Rico, which is why Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto is quoted in the Reuters piece as saying that reggaeton needs to be “pushed away.” Reggaeton is agringado, a corrupting influence on Cuba’s revolutionary ideals.
While reggaeton is (often mis)understood as a Puerto Rican, or even an American phenomenon, the more authorities and cultural brokers attempt to place reggaeton within some kind of national frame the more obvious it becomes that reggaeton exist in between and outside of national boundaries.
Maybe that is what makes reggaeton so threatening, what incites all these national panics? Well, besides sex and race, but of course those things are tied up within the nation too…
Now I’m just ranting though….thoughts?
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World