Category Archives: poverty

This Week In Dog Whistles: Paul Ryan, Come On Down!

By Arturo R. García

I know, I know…it’s too easy. But we haven’t seen P-Ry pull one of these maneuvers. Until now.

Here’s a transcript of his statements:

We have good strong gun laws. We have to make sure we enforce our laws. We have lots of laws that aren’t being properly enforced. We need to make sure we enforce these laws, but the best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner cities is to bring opportunity to the inner cities, is to help people get out of poverty in the inner cities, is to help teach people good discipline, good character, that is civil society.

Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher summed up the issue pretty well:

Ryan’s assessment of “inner city” people is of a piece with the not-at-all subtle and even out-and-proud overt) attitudes of the leading lights in the Republican Party, best exemplified by racism decoder-ring Newt Gingrich, who helpfully singled out black people as the “Food Stamp-satisfied” people we already knew they were talking about, and who echoed Ryan’s chatter about the low character of the inner city denizens who “have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”

So, anybody else need convincing to register to vote?

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Raj Patel

By Andrea Plaid

Raj Patel. Photo: Eliot Khnuner. Via Twitter

When I watched the documentary Payback, based on Margaret Atwood’s book about debt and forgiveness, I really wasn’t there for Atwood. I’ve never took a liking to her literary self since developing an intense dislike for her most famous work, The Handmaid’s Tale. The book rubbed my proto-anti-racist self the wrong way when I read it years ago. What I didn’t expect is to have her introduce me to my latest infatuation, Raj Patel.

A sect of people think he’s a god. No, seriously: a New Age sect believes Patel is a messiah predicted by their leader in 2010. Patel graciously and firmly stated at NYT.com that he wasn’t whom that set of faithful folks were looking for:

“It’s incredibly flattering, just for an instant,” Mr. Patel said of his unwanted status. “And then you realize what it means. People are looking for better times. Almost anything now will qualify as a portent of different times.”

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The Whitest Show On TV: 11 Statements About AMC’s Breaking Bad

By Guest Contributor Garland Grey; originally published at Tiger Beatdown

1

I am totally hooked on this show.

2

The actors and the writing are solid. The plot lines are interesting, and the dialogue is fresh; it is very well done, and it is part of the much-lauded television renaissance. It always finds a way to reveal character in really interesting, visually terse ways. Last season revealed so much about the status of Walter White’s moral vacuum with a single shot of a potted plant on a patio. The cinematography and visual palette is engaging, and the show is very hard to stop watching once you absorb a emotional defense against its weird, slow, anxiety-based drama.

[There are spoilers under this cut, you have been warned.]

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Arundhati Roy

By Andrea Plaid

Arundhati Roy. Photo: Sanjay Kak. Courtesy: pcp.gc.cuny.edu

If Arundhati Roy was a rock star and I was at her concert, I’d be that fool who’d shout, “I LOVE YOOOUUU!” from the cheap seats while she was doing her between-song banter.

Well, Roy is a literary rock star. I fell for her writerly riffs when I caught up with her 1997 semi-autobiographical debut novel, The God Of Small Things, a couple of years ago:

May in Ayemenen is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The rivers shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.

The nights are clear , but suffused with sloth and sullen expectations.

But by early June the southwest monsoon breaks and there are three months of wind and water with short spells of sharp, glittering sunshine that thrilled children snatch to play with. The countryside turns an immodest green. Boundaries blur as tapioca fences take root and bloom. Brick walls turn mossgreen. Pepper vines snake up electric poles. Wild creepers burst through laterite banks and spill across the flooded roads. Boats ply in the baazars. And small fish appear in the puddles that fill PWD potholes on the highways.

The God Of Small Things brought Roy, who previously worked on screenplays and movie criticism and trained as an architect, incredible acclaim in the US. She also won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1997 for the book, though some folks threw serious shade about it. However–perhaps presciently–she had to answer for obscenity charges back in Kerala, where she grew up, for the book’s descriptions of sexuality.

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Reflections On “The Rise Of Asian Americans,” Or, Don’t Believe Hype

By Guest Contributor Esther Wang, cross-posted from her Facebook page

Courtesy: multiculturalfamilia.com

Thirty years ago in June of 1982, a Chinese American man named Vincent Chin was murdered in Detroit by two men who were angry and fearful about the decline of the US auto industry and the economic rise of Japan, and 20,000 Chinatown garment factory workers in New York City–almost all Chinese immigrant women–went on strike, after factory owners refused to budge over cuts in benefits and services.

These were seminal moments for Asian Americans, and galvanized a wave of organizing and activism in the US by and for working-class Asian Americans that continues to this very day.

A few months later in 1982, I was born in a hospital in San Antonio, Texas, to two Chinese immigrant parents who had come to the US as part of the Taiwanese “brain drain” that accelerated in the 1970s, after the US government loosened its nativist immigration laws in 1965 and prioritized students and other educated workers.

And just this past week, on two separate occasions, I was asked, “How long have you lived in this country?” and told, “Go back to China.”

All of this (which is to say, the personal that is political and the political that is personal) was on my mind as I read the Pew Center’s new report, “The Rise of Asian Americans.” In it, the Pew Center details the growth of Asian communities over the past forty years, focusing on the six largest Asian ethnic communities; their median incomes, educational attainment levels, and immigration status; and the social mores that Pew deemed were most relevant when trying to understand Asian communities.

Like many commentators have already written (see here and here), the report grossly simplifies a diverse and complicated community and, more destructively, feeds into the myth that Asians in the US succeed by dint of hard work and cultural values brought over from our homelands (despite Pew’s own research, buried in the last chapter of the report, that showed Asians overwhelmingly favor a larger government that provides more services).

This is not to say there weren’t some interesting nuggets in the report, or that many of their facts were incorrect–what concerns me and others are the conclusions that were drawn by the writers and researchers at Pew, and how those ideas can and unfortunately will be used by others in the service of their own political projects. What is troubling is how reports like these feed into the dominant lens of how all of us, including Asian Americans ourselves, view our communities, and understand the politics of race – and therefore how power operates – in the US.

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The New York Times Offers Reasons ‘Why Black Women Are Fat’

By Guest Contributor Erika Nicole Kendall, cross-posted from A Black  Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss

… for crying out loud … good grief.

I had lots of thoughts about this op-ed, simply because I struggle with the reality that so much of women’s body issues are tied up in dating and mating, not their own health. I’m not downing those who have made that decision–that’s not my place–I just wonder if those women truly wind up getting what they originally wanted in the end.

I’ll explain that later. For now, on to the article.

I had to chop this up into bits and pieces. It’s so hard to read, that every time I go to paste a new paragraph, I feel like sticking my virtual finger out and saying “B-b-but …” because it misses so much of the point.

Maybe I’ve been writing about this stuff for too long.

At any rate…the article starts out with a photo of Josephine Baker, with the caption “Josephine Baker embodied a curvier form of the ideal Black woman.” This highlights a huge problem with a lot of Black women as it is today: we don’t understand sizes, our bodies or “curvy” because “curvy,” like “thick,” has been misappropriated so many times that it no longer has any meaningful definition.

Courtesy: A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

“Curvy” simply means that you have curves. Josephine Baker–and, by correlation, Marilyn Monroe–does not have the same kind of curves that many Black women (hell, women period) refer to when the say “curves” today. Josephine’s waist isn’t any larger than a 28; her hips, no larger than 40 inches. Not by a long shot. She might be curvy, but she was small. Petite women and smaller women are also afforded the ability to be curvy. Maybe if we embraced and accepted that idea, we’d stop clinging to the notion that “curves” can only accompany a larger frame. It simply isn’t true, and I’m annoyed by the author’s attempt to use Baker’s photo to imply such.

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: rosasparks

By Andrea Plaid

Courtesy: rosasparks

Before the R got into the Tumblr game, I followed rosasparks on my personal one, just totally vibing her nuggets on living, mothering, community-loving, and wisdom-giving that she brought to my dashboard when I logged on. When she followed me back, I felt all swoony and fangirly.

Before I had my Tumblr, Ms. Owner/Editrix adored rosasparks’ commentary on Jezebel while Ms. O/E worked as a scribe over there.

So, when I suggested rosasparks to be our Crush Of The Week, Ms. O/E fangirled a bit, too. When I told rosasparks about how much we loved her here at the R, she squeed herself. We at the R had to know more about our loved-up, so here’s an interview with her, continued over at the R’s Tumblr.

I discovered you on Tumblr, and Latoya adored your whipsmart comments when she worked at Jezebel. What/who informs your politics? And what keeps you at Tumblr vs., say, maintaining a blog at WordPress or Blogspot? 

My ma is a progressive and has always been very politically active. I was born in Oakland, in the early 70s, and the Bay Area was alive and bubbling with activity and my ma was inspired by and busy in all of it. My first memories, no joke, are of watching political debates and speeches on TV with her and listening to her talk about the importance of being civic-minded and paying attention to issues and what politicians are saying, and not saying, and being engaged in your community.

I was an African American studies major, in college, which included studying a ton of world politics and history. And throughout my adult life, I’ve always been working, volunteering or taking great, personal interest in government and transparency and equality and policy. Now that I have a daughter, I stay involved because I’d like for her to live and participate in a society that is inclusive and cares about all of its citizens. All of this stems from my ma and what she instilled in me. Also, I adore bell hooks. I take everything she says as gospel.

I was a commenter on Jezebel, for a long time, and when I decided I didn’t want to comment there anymore, several commenters I was close with had headed to Tumblr and said I should go there, too. I followed them, no pun intended, and I’ve never left. I love the community of Tumblr. It’s a simple format to manage and a lot of fun. It inspires me and I’ve met and encountered so many amazing people and hear so many different stories. I’ve forged true friendships, all from something as silly as cat gifs and liveblogs of TV shows, to real substantive discussions about feminism, mental illness, equality, LGBTQQ issues, parenting, the fuckery of the GOP; you name it and it’s probably been discussed–ad nauseum, in fact. Some days, you just want to post the gif of the jockey beating a dead horse.

I stay at Tumblr because I’m lazy, I guess, but really because I don’t feel like I have the ‘voice’ to have a stand-alone blog. Nor do I feel egotistical enough to say, ‘Oooh haaaay, I’m so important, go read my personal blog!’ That just sounds bizarre. I like interacting with people in the moment and I think Tumblr allows for that more than being some private island of blogitutde. Besides, I’d miss all the gifs and the ridiculous memes and everyone I follow.

The Poverty Of Marriage

Courtesy of eurasianet.org

By Guest Contributor Sana Saeed, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

The burdens of poverty affect most, if not all aspects, of social relations. Most prominently (and unsurprisingly), women carry the greatest burden of the social predicaments that arise from a dire lack of economic security.  Women in groups hit hardest by financial strain easily become seen as sources of further strain on their families. Education is often either inaccessible or seen as an unnecessary part of a young girl’s growth and life.

This is not always necessarily the case, as there is much evidence that shows support of girl-child education by, specifically, mothers who realize the role education can play in providing a better life for their children. Yet, despite this, in many instances across the world (primarily in developing countries, but not limited to them), young girls are forced to accept the strain upon their families that they are perceived to pose. This position can lead many young girls, either by coercion by family or by “choice,” onto the road towards prostitution, sex slavery, or even suicide.  Yet perhaps the most common result is marriage.

An article published earlier this month on EurasiaNet explores the impact of poverty on “early marriage” in Tajikistan. The article cites a recent study by the Eurasia Foundation that looks at the issue of “informal justice” in Tajikistan. While looking at a variety of issues, the article dedicates a good amount to gender relations, specifically the issue of non-state-administered justice for women in unregistered marriages, which come in a variety of flavors, one of which is early marriage. Marriage before the age of 18 is illegal under Tajik law and subject to harsh punishment.

However, it is commonly practiced and encouraged by many religious clerics who not only feel it is sanctioned within Islam but also believe it to be a solution to the problems of poverty faced by women in a country ravaged by years of war. In its discussion of underage marriage, the report explores the relationship between the privilege (and burden) of education on poor families and marriage before the legal age of 17 for Tajik girls.  According to the report (emphasis mine):

Early marriage is partially a result of poverty and, given the weak state of the economy and gender discrimination in hiring practices, there is little incentive to support daughters wishing to pursue higher education before marriage. As a result, a worrying trend associated with underage marriage is young women not completing their education. Tajik girls’ access to education is impacted at the secondary level, and there are significant gender disparities at the high school and university levels.

In rural areas of Tajikistan, it is common for girls to leave school at grade nine due to inadequate educational facilities and economic constraints. Families have to contribute money for their children’s education, including buying uniforms and renting textbooks…Due to limited resources, families make conscious decisions to educate boys over girls, as girls’ education is not seen as a pragmatic investment.

According to a UN Report from 2004, an “estimated…12 percent of [Tajik] girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed.” Given that the burden young girls may place on a poor family is characterized in economic terms, it is natural that the resulting solution to the problem would also be economic in character. Most, if not all, young girls, who are forced (or, in some instances, “choose”) to marry at a young age, marry men far older than them.

While there is certainly the aspect of the attraction an older male may have towards a young, virginal woman, the economic security that he provides for both her and her family in this context cannot be understated. Given the nature of employment, maturity, gender relations, and poverty in many underdeveloped countries, men are considered mature at an age that comes far later than for women.

At the heart of this maturity is financial stability. Unfortunately, this stability often comes at the expense of a young girl’s rights, sexual agency, body, reproductive and sexual health, and choice. These young girls also often do not only face domestic violence in their unequally leveraged relationships but also can once again return to a point of economic and social uncertainty if their spouse dies, bringing an added burden of being a widow.

The EurasiaNet piece (and the report it cites) on early marriage in Tajikistan, as well as other similar pieces on underage marriage elsewhere in the world, points to an important issue. Equally important is the ability to see the practice of early marriage as motivated by more than just religion or culture. But early marriage is not the only consequence of strained economic times. What is missing from this discussion is that marriage has often been traditionally as much an economic contract between two individuals and two families as a religious contract or a bond of love within legal parameters for reproduction and social harmony.

Thus, poverty cannot only lead to young girls being married off to much older men but also women, over the marriageable legal age of a particular country, marrying far older men, entering polygamous relationships (which the Eurasia Foundation report notes) or even temporary marriages. Marriage, for many women facing financial burdens or uncertainty, becomes seen as a refuge from the harms that follow being a single woman without an education in a social sphere where no other economic safety net exists (or is enough to meet increasingly costly demands of life). And this is certainly not exclusive to poverty- and/or conflict-stricken countries.  Furthermore, there needs to be a clear differentiation between early marriage and ‘child’ marriage, the latter in which the framing of “child” needs to be clearly defined. Surely there must be a difference in betrothing an 8-year-old and betrothing a 16-year-old?

My concerns, however, aside–such pieces point to the unfortunate circumstances in which many early marriages emerge and highlight the abuses and injustices faced by these young women.