Category Archives: race in the workplace

On Embracing the Burden of Representation

By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, cross-posted from Televisual

I recently had a conversation with a black director who fretted not putting any men of color in his film project. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t find anyone to play the role. In the end he told me: “I can’t carry the whole black community on my own!”

It’s a strange thing to be a writer, creator, producer, artist and belong to some kind of “other” group. Every one of us — I think — struggles with how responsible we are to our communities. It’s something I find myself having to deal with more and more. And I’m starting to develop opinions about it.

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Surprise Takedown Of The Week: Al D’Amato

By Arturo R. García

Even by Fox News standards, the amount of FAIL on this segment from Money Rocks is staggering. But oh, does it on on a funny note.

In discussing why the U.S. Postal Service should be privatized – a foolish idea, but just roll with it here – GOP “strategist” Jack Burkman lets fly with this beauty:

“Most of these guys working in the Post Office should be driving cabs, and I think we should stop importing labor from Nigeria and Ethiopia. That’s about their skill level. They’re only in there because of massive union protection.”

Now, the host, Eric Bolling, lets him off the hook. And columnist S.E. Copp, not to be outdone, brags, “I can deposit a check by taking a photograph of the check with my phone and e-mailing it to my bank!” (Where does she bank, Narnia?). But attorney Tamara Holder – who seconds earlier defends privatizing national security(?!) is the first to call Burkman out on his remarks. And when Burkman tries to defend his assertion that postal workers are “unskilled labor,” former Sen. Al D’Amato (R-NY) lets loose around the 5:19 mark. Language is NSFW, but well worth it.

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In the Back of the Kitchen

By Guest Contributor quadmoniker, cross-posted from PostBourgie

Top Chef’s contributions to the reality show genre don’t come from exciting cliff-hangers or the evil machinations of those who would only win by cheating: the ingredients that make it work best are good chefs cooking food that looks pretty and makes you want to eat it. Occasionally, there’s a key rivalry or a chef you want to hate. The two chefs everyone hated are now gone: possible-pea thief Alex left last week, and Amanda, the overly-intense, scatterbrained former addict who never seemed to get anything right, was finally voted off last night. But before that, another source of drama this season ended prematurely when Kenny Gilbert, whose long-simmering rivalry with Angelo made him seem more talented than he probably was, was voted off after the Restaurant Wars episode. (Restaurant Wars is the show’s bread and butter: two groups of chefs start restaurants and compete to win.)

Kenny inspired a lot of inappropriately racist, pimpish nicknames, like chocolate bear and big daddy, and, when he was kicked off, an unfortunate number of outdated South Park  jokes (I think you know the one). But mostly he was a gregarious, lovable self-promoter; fans believed he was the big cheese because he said he was every week. In truth, his cooking skill seemed uneven. But whether you think he deserved to go or not, his absence highlights a longstanding problem with the show:  there hasn’t been enough diversity, and it is particularly problematic in the way it portrays its black chefs. Diversity on a reality TV show might not seem the most important topic, ever, but it evidences two things: one, the dearth of people of color at the top of many fields extends to reality contests that purport to propel novices to the top of those fields; and two, shows like this in which contestants are judged subjectively still often pick white male winners.

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Senator Jim Webb Aruges Against Affirmative Action, Says It Does Not Benefit Blacks

by Latoya Peterson
good is not enough cover
White privilege is a myth? Do tell…

In Jim Webb’s latest op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (titled “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege“), he turns the traditional narrative for ending affirmative action on its head. Instead of using the same old racist platitudes, the Democrat from Virgina uses history and acknowledgment of structural inequality to propose a radical rethinking of government programs. But check the bait Webb uses:

I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America’s economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship. Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.

In an odd historical twist that all Americans see but few can understand, many programs allow recently arrived immigrants to move ahead of similarly situated whites whose families have been in the country for generations. These programs have damaged racial harmony. And the more they have grown, the less they have actually helped African-Americans, the intended beneficiaries of affirmative action as it was originally conceived.

My, my, my. Webb’s op-ed makes some very astute points but also trades on the idea that race is a zero-sum game. For this reason, the piece both succeeds and fails. Continue reading

Stephanie Grace, Ivy League Racism, and the Seeds of Institutional Bias

by Latoya Peterson and Thea Lim

We’ve received about five or so emails about Harvard Law Student Stephanie Grace, and her email ”clarification” after a group dinner where she made some racist remarks that were not well received (predictably). At the time of the first email, her identity was shielded – as of today, outlets like Bossip, Jezebel, and Gawker have outed her identity and posted her photo.

Again, on its face, this is a fairly simple thing for the Racialicious audience – this woman was basically spouting the foundation to eugenics, the idea that some races are genetically inferior. This isn’t exactly new or revelatory – it’s the same logic used to justify the white man’s burden. So, after arguing that she could possibly believe that black people are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than whites, she sent out an email clarifying her beliefs. As Above the Law excerpts from her email:

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don’t think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn’t mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.

I also don’t think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects.

Then, the email went national, leaving us with an interesting other situation that cropped up: those rising to defend Stephanie Grace. Continue reading

Shiftshaping

by Guest Contributor Sumeia Williams, originally published at Ethnically Incorrect Daughter

The doors slid open to another frost covered morning as I left work. I took a deep breath and shivered as the crisp air invaded my lungs. In contrast, the sky defied the dead cold with its deep red and orange streaks. Mesmerized by the flaming sky, I stood in the doorway for a moment taking time to absorb the world outside.

The morning breeze carried a mixture of odors, the most distinguishable being of car exhaust and frying chicken. The adjacent streets echoed with the hum, squeak and whine of the early rush to get somewhere. I was in no hurry but was content to let life flow around me like flood waters around a tree.

As the sun rose higher, the warm hues reflected off of the still frozen dew enveloping everything in the color of warmth. It had been a long time since I’d stopped to enjoy a sunrise.

“What are you doing?” a co-worker approached, “Go home.”

“I will,” I smiled, “Just taking time to remember that life can still be beautiful.”

“Okaaaaay, spit it out,” he joked, “What did you take?”

“Look you,” I turned my head to glare at him, “can you not drag me out of my happy place today?”

He laughed, “Let me guess. It’s a Zen thing, right? You got some feng shui thing going on?”

I raised a fist and shifted my weight, “Wanna die, white boy?” Continue reading

NDN in the North

By Guest Contributor Aaminah Al-Naksibendi, originally posted at Anishinaabekwe

Note from Cecilia, owner of Anishnaabekwe: This is a guest post by Aaminah Al-Naksibendi. She is a Michigander, mother, daughter, sister, artist, writer, activist, truth teller, rebel and NDN. I asked her to write a guest post because of my utter exhaustion around what happened to me this week. So I thank her with all my heart for helping me to speak and share this story when my voice is drenched in sorrow, depression and dealing with the effects of racism in the 21st century.

I grew up in Michigan, adopted by a white family. As a young girl I attended NDN pow wows, African American cultural festivals and the Hispanic festival in our West Michigan city. My parents attempted to raise us with multi-cultural friends, in multi-cultural public schools, and attending multi-cultural churches. As a woman, I had a long relationship with a fellow NDN who had gone to school with and remained friends with my brother. We had a son together before we separated.

When my son was about 7 months old, I started dating a Zhaganaash man whose family lived in Benzie County, up just north of Traverse City. For many reasons, I was not really liked by his overbearing mother, but we attempted to build bridges and visited up there several times before we married in December and his family refused to attend and cut communication with him.

Needless to say, those visits up north were very uncomfortable in many ways. But one thing that was especially difficult for me was the complete lack of color. My fiancée talked about wanting to move up north. We loved the wooded areas, the idea of living just outside a small town, and the literally Crystal-like water of the lake – cleanest water I have ever seen. But the idea of being surrounded by only white people made me really uncomfortable. I wasn’t Muslim at the time, and I am pale (and as a baby my son was blond and pale too) so I was able to “pass” as white and no one recognized us as NDN. I didn’t experience personal racial attacks while visiting (except by my fiancée’s mother of course) and out in the community, though there was one time when a shop keeper asked my fiancée “what” I was and he answered that I was Irish like him. I do also recall overhearing jokes about Blacks, “wetbacks”, and NDNs. Even so, my discomfort stemmed more from the complete lack of color, and not being able to imagine raising my son not only completely outside his own culture, but also without the benefit of a multi-cultural environment and amongst people who were clearly hostile to people of color.

There was one time, only one, where I saw any other color in that town. It was when a Black girl accompanied a white foster family who was visiting the town on vacation. We ran into them when we went to have lunch in a little burger shack near the lake. The little blonde children of the family were in bathing suits, and the Black girl was in sloppy cut off shorts and an oversized none-too-clean t-shirt. When the family’s number was called to pick up their food she got up to serve everyone. I didn’t hear the mother or father say that wasn’t necessary or even thank her, and they certainly weren’t jumping up to help. I lost my appetite and that was the day I declared there was no way I could live there. My fiancée insisted that since they were only visiting their cabin in the summer, that family didn’t represent the year-round residents, but I will never forget what it represented to me. Between that and his family, I never again was able to bring myself to visit.

When my NDN sister Cecelia told me about moving up north, my first thought was discomfort but of course I didn’t want to spoil her plans with my misgivings so instead I congratulated her. I wanted to believe that things have really changed in the last dozen years and there would be more color in the north. Continue reading

“Compton Cookout” Party at UCSD Ignites Racial Firestorm

By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem, originally published at Race Relations on About.com

The University of California at San Diego is still feeling the aftermath of an off-campus party organized by students dubbed the “Compton Cookout” in which racial stereotypes of blacks were used in flyers and a Facebook invitation. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the invitation included references to ‘dat Purple Drank,’ an apparent mix of ‘sugar, water, and the color purple, chicken, coolade, and of course Watermelon.’ Party organizers aimed to have a “ghetto” theme Feb. 15 poking fun of Compton, a community near Los Angeles made famous by rappers and films about urban blacks.

When word spread around campus about the party, black students were outraged, as were administrators who worry that prospective students of color may decide not to apply to UCSD because of the incident. Presently, fewer than 2% of UCSD students are black.

“I’m most touched by the fact that students who personally felt stereotyped are hurting,” UCSD Vice Chancellor Penny Rue told NBC San Diego.

Imagine how you would feel if you were an African American student who rose from the ranks of a place such as Compton, only to have white classmates stereotype you as being “ghetto.” And ghetto in these situations always means tacky, boorish, classless, ignorant and laughable, not to mention a drain on the system or the single parent of multiple children from multiple mates. The Los Angeles Times posted verbatim what women attending the party were told to wear and how to act. I’m choosing not to re-post the hatred it contained on the Race Relations site.

In short, those who planned the party took the worst stereotypes of African Americans and threw them in the face of black students who embody exactly the opposite. Making it into an institution such as UCSD requires intelligence, talent and hard work, but “ghetto” parties are more interested in showcasing blacks who fit stereotypes such as gold chain-wearing pimp or welfare queen. It’s unfortunate that no one had the foresight to see how planning such a party would be a slap in the face to the small number of African American students at UCSD. Being part of a community is a huge part of college life. It’s hard to feel like you belong when you’re a minority, however, and even harder when you discover that students from the majority culture view you in terms of racist caricatures.

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