I caught anti-racism activist Scot Nakagawa’s online action at Tumblr when an excerpt of his post, “Why I, An Asian Man, Fight Anti-black Racism,” cross-posted at Dominion of New York from his own blog, Racefiles, was getting reblogged and liked all throughout that scene. (N.B. The title also changed. Same essay, though.)
I’m often asked why I’ve focused so much more on anti-black racism than on Asians over the years. Some suggest I suffer from internalized racism.
That might well be true since who doesn’t suffer from internalized racism? I mean, even white people internalize racism. The difference is that white people’s internalized racism is against people of color, and it’s backed up by those who control societal institutions and capital.
But some folk have more on their minds. They say that focusing on black and white reinforces a false racial binary that marginalizes the experiences of non-black people of color. No argument here. But I also think that trying to mix things up by putting non-black people of color in the middle is a problem because there’s no “middle.”
So there’s most of my answer. I’m sure I do suffer from internalized racism, but I don’t think that racism is defined only in terms of black and white. I also don’t think white supremacy is a simple vertical hierarchy with whites on top, black people on the bottom, and the rest of us in the middle.
So why do I expend so much effort on lifting up the oppression of black people? Because anti-black racism is the fulcrum of white supremacy.
With thoughts like that–and, let me be real, a face and headgear like that–I had to know who this man is. So, being me, I interviewed him. In it, he talks about the reaction to his essay, along with other ideas and things that make him totally crushable in my estimation.
Scot, let me be real with you: I think you’re totally hot. Now that I’ve gotten that out the way, tell me…how did you become involved with anti-racism?
I love the compliment. At 50, “totally hot” is not something I hear often, if ever.
I’ve been involved in some sort of anti-racism work since my late teens. Starting around 18 I tutored people in literacy classes and managed youth and family programs and an emergency shelter in my community in Hawaii. My education was gained in the field, working with low-income people of color. I saw the way racism served to exclude us from economic opportunities and political power. The solutions to our problems as a community seemed obvious to me, but winning support for those solutions from the political system was a lot tougher. That got me involved in community organizing.
The first time my work addressed racism specifically and not as part of delivering services to people of color was in the 80s. I worked with a group in Portland, Oregon called the Coalition for Human Dignity. That group formed in response to the murder of an Ethiopian student named Mulugeta Seraw who was beaten to death by neo-Nazi skinheads. The Coalition monitored vigilante white supremacist groups and organized the community to respond to violent bigotry at a time when violence and membership in white supremacist groups was on the rise. The Coalition eventually become a regional organization. Ever since then, keeping an eye on the racist right has been an obsession of mine.
Juan Williams, Fox News: Speaker Gingrich, the suggestion that you made was about a lack of work ethic and I’ve gotta tell you my email account and my Twitter account has been inundated by people of all races who are asking if your comment was not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities … you saw some of this reaction during your visit to a black church in South Carolina by a woman who asked why you refer to Barack Obama as a “food stamp president.” it sounds like you’re trying to belittle people.
Newt Gingrich: first of all Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by barack obama than by any president in americanhistory. I know that among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable. Second, you’re the one who, earlier, raised a key point: the area that oughta be I-73 was called by Barack Obama a “corridor of shame” because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven’t built a road, they haven’t helped the people, they haven’t done anything. One last thing … so here’s my point: I believe every American, of every background, has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness, and if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn someday to own the job.” – Video via The Grio
The issue of long-term and comprehensive immigration reform has gained tremendous momentum over the last month. Be it progressive bloggers, faith-based groups, immigration rights activists, the White House or Congress, the buzz is that those in power must deliver a sustainable and humane solution to the immigration problem. But the disconnect between the mainstream media and the issues of immigration continues to remain challenging.
National Geographic Channel’s new reality series, “Border Wars”, is a perfect example of how the popular media tends to misconstrue the issue of immigration through a sensationalist approach to the problem. Launched on January 10th 2010, and co-produced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), “Border Wars” follows agents from CBP as they go after drug trafficking, human smuggling, and undocumented migrants trying to cross the border.
The U.S.-Mexico border stretches for 2,000 miles, over mountains, through deserts and dividing cities. Each year over one million undocumented people cross this border….U.S. dollars are the answer for many poor people struggling in Mexico, Central America, and beyond….From the skilled tracker on foot to the agent able to see in the dark with special night-vision equipment, the U.S. Border Patrol faces the challenge of controlling the desert every day. In “Border Wars”, National Geographic goes inside the world of the U.S. Border Patrol with unprecedented access to the surprising world of the southern border.
While globalization has turned much of the world into a wide-open labor market, it has also created complex human and societal dramas. Women account for up to 50% of the world’s 100 million–strong migrant-worker population — and there is no effective entity to protect their rights and dignity. In 2008, Indonesians working abroad, commonly as domestic staff in the Middle East and parts of Asia, contributed about $6.8 billion to their national economy via remittances, according to the World Bank. And while statistics are difficult to come by, there are increasing reports of many who are physically abused, raped and — in some cases — killed by their employers…
…female migrant workers are raped and then dumped on the streets by their employers, who refuse to give them their passports after discovering that the women are pregnant. The women are then arrested by police and placed in jail. Sometimes they are deported before the child is born.
Normawati says there are dozens of children who were abandoned by migrant workers in homes throughout Jakarta and surrounding areas.
I really appreciate the way this article draws attention to the intersection of gender and workers’ rights. The article focuses on Indonesian women working in Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but their stories are an illustration of a wider problem — those hit hardest by callous economic policies are almost always poor women of colour.
But it must be said that I do not care for the way Time Magazine characterises the women migrant workers. The article doesn’t interview any actual migrant workers; as a result both the mothers and the children they leave are painted as voiceless victims, when there is definitely a lot more to their existence than that. (For example, the women are referred to as “raped migrant mothers” – not “women who were raped while doing migrant work.” Potentially a small difference, but the first phrase reduces the women to the word “raped.”) As well the article repeatedly emphasises how these women have ABANDONED their children; leaving the reader with a rather crude and over-simplified picture of women in unimaginable situations, forced to make terrible choices.