Category Archives: race relations

Gran Torino and Hmong Gangs in the Midwest

by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng

In Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood plays a bitter old man who’s basically the only white person left in a run-down neighborhood somewhere in the Midwest. He (reluctantly, at first) gets to know his Hmong neighbors, and ends up getting intricately involved in their lives, as they deal with issues caused by a local Hmong gang that some of their relatives are a part of.

There are plenty of things about the movie that might make for great posts on Racialicious:

1. Like most Hollywood movies that are about a community of people of color, Gran Torino features a white protagonist who not only saves the day, but also has the most layers of complexity to his personality.

2. As the first major Hollywood film about Hmong Americans, how did it do at depicting this community? Does the exposure of Hmong culture and the opportunity for Hmong actors outweigh the possible inaccuracies and negative representations? (See some of the commentary about this on AsianWeek.)

3. Clint Eastwood’s character’s constant racist remarks serve as a running joke in the movie. Just because he uses outdated and blatantly un-P.C. language with an “equal-opportunity discrimination” approach, is it OK to use this deeply offensive language as comic relief?

But I don’t really want to write about those things. I want to write about another reaction I had. Continue reading

Getting Past the Bears: Racist Abuse in Middle School and the Formation of People of Color Consciousness

by Guest Contributor (and regular commenter) Atlasien

*Warning: Strong Language*

From Protecting children from racism and racial abuse: a research review: Summary of research and findings

– Although the family structure is an important site of resistance to racism, research highlights that many minority ethnic children do not discuss their experiences of racial abuse with parents or other family members.
– Ethnic minority young people are not passive recipients of racism – they employ a range of strategies when confronted with racial abuse.
– It is important to produce integrated strategies, involving a number of agencies, to combat racist abuse both in the school setting and in the local community.
– To date, the majority of responses have focused on the victims of racial harassment, but the effectiveness of these programmes is debatable. Agencies also need to undertake both preventive and interventive programmes focusing on perpetrators.
– There is a need for approaches which are based on children’s actual experiences and perceptions rather than adult constructions of the problem.

Did they ever tell the black girls to go back to Africa?

Back then, I didn’t know. And I had no idea how to ask.

There were a few of them at my middle school, maybe around ten. For some reason, I don’t remember ever seeing any black boys. The middle school must have been between 95-99% white. It was about .001% Asian (me).

The black girls stuck close together. I had no interaction with them, with one exception. One girl was in my Honors class for a year. She didn’t fit in well. She seemed very loud and very insecure (I was quiet and insecure). One day for show and tell, she brought her little sister to school. She was obviously proud of her little sister, who was extremely cute. But the girl’s first name was the same as a certain household product and the rest of the class couldn’t stop saying how crazy that name was. Why would any parent name their kid something so crazy? They must be stupid. I watched the big sister get frustrated, almost to the point of tears. Either her family moved after that year, or she transferred to another school.

I always looked at the black girls and wondered: what did I have in common with them? I took this question very, very seriously. If I found something in common with them, maybe I wouldn’t have to feel so horribly alone. As it was, junior high school race relations felt sort of like The Omega Man/I am Legend, with me being Charlton Heston/Will Smith.

When I was five and six, we lived in Japan with my father. Then my mother moved back to America to be close to my grandparents. We started off living with them, then moved to a house in the suburbs. I quickly forgot all my Japanese, but I kept ties in other ways. I refused to eat sandwiches for lunch; I had to have my bento with noodles or rice.

I was as close to my father as is possible with a non-custodial parent in another country. We talked on the phone, I flew out to Japan in the summer, he got copies of my grades in school. My grades were always good. I really liked school. I played soccer and swam and rode my dirt bike. I liked living in America. I was American because my mom and my grandparents were American and I was born in America and I lived in America.

Then, starting about second grade, I noticed that other kids started calling me names and singing funny songs at me. The other kids started telling me I didn’t belong. I looked weird and I talked funny. I wasn’t a real American. I should go back to China. My mother had always stressed the importance of logic, reason and peaceful conflict management. I tried logic. I told them I’d never even been to China. I didn’t even know anyone from China. Nobody paid attention. I started getting frustrated and depressed in school. Continue reading

Open Thread: Dating, Online and Off

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Minda sent in this interesting tidbit she heard while listening to the radio. She writes:

    I was listening to XM Shade 45 today and the rappers/hosts of the radio show were discussing how on eHarmony they might get a possible match, but then when the woman hears their voice on the phone and discerns their black she’s no longer interested. They talked about how they had to use their “white” voices and how if internet dating sites are a last ditch effort, then what are black men to do?

Now, there are a lot of potential places to go for conversation in this small paragraph, but I want to focus on the race based lack of interest angle. Has anyone else ever been hit with the “you aren’t what I was expecting?”

I’m also going to expand this a bit. One of Wendi Muse’s most commented on posts is Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training where Wendi discusses the racial bias inherent in a lot of personals postings.

She notes:

In the world of online dating, where a user name, masked email address, and optional photo sharing means freedom to speak ones mind in complete anonymity, users frequently abandon political correctness and resort to exotification, stereotypes, and blatant racism when referring to racial/ethnic “others” in their attempts to choose a mate. While some ads include the user’s thoughts on race is more subtle ways, for example, simply stating a racial “preference” (still, arguably, a sign of prejudice), others are more obvious in their descriptions—ranging from the utilization of explicitly racist phrases or terms to describe his/her own background and/or the background of the person being sought to downright exclusion a la Jim Crow style (“No -insert race here- need apply”).

Continue reading

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 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

Open Thread: Uncle Toms and House Negroes

by Latoya Peterson

Okay, so first, it was Nader talking about how Obama “might” act like an “Uncle Tom.”

Now, Al-Qaeda’s called him a house negro.

What did Eric D. say in the comments? Stop the world, I want to get off? I concurr. I need a damn nap, so there isn’t much intelligent commentary from me on this one. I think all I can muster is a spew of profanity.

Luckily, Dr. Melissa Harris Lacewell & Dr. Yolanda Pierce over at The Kitchen Table have us covered.

First, there was Melissa’s response to the “house negro” incident:

I didn’t start a revolution at The Kitchen Table while you were in class, but Al-Qaeda was clearly tripping while I was teaching. After my long seminar yesterday I came back to my office to a phone call from a Saudi newspaper. They wanted to talk with me about the fact that Ayman al-Zawahri accused Obama of being a “House Negro.”

When I first heard the message I thought one of my friends was teasing me. A Saudi newspaper is reporting on Al-Qaeda calling Barack a House Negro? Doesn’t that sound like some kind of twisted practical joke that my overly intellectual friends would perpetrate? But the story is true and I find this latest Al-Qaeda video truly fascinating. Continue reading

Waking Up in “Post-Racial” America

by Latoya Peterson

The night Barack Obama won the election, I was pissed off about losing my wallet.

Having accepted a last minute invite to an election night party down in Dupont Circle, I hastily threw hat, umbrella, wallet, gloves, and Ipod into a large bag, dressed in layers, and headed out into the evening drizzle to hang with friends as the ballots were counted. My homegirl Spiff and I entered the scene, bypassing a frustrated Republican looking for a red celebration and a guy playing both the guitar and a harmonica, trying to rhyme words in his improvised song with Obama, McCain and Palin.

The room was electric, supercharged by the palpable excitement in the air at the possibility of an Obama win. Though there were two different drink specials offered for party goers, four out of five drinks were of the “Blue Victory” variety. Unfortunately, so many people and so much energy, combined with so many azure colored concoctions would have eventually spelled disaster for my winter white coat. I crammed it into my bag and kept partying, until the open bar closed and I realized I was out of money. And metro fare home. And an ID with which to buy more drinks.

I checked the screen and saw that John McCain had an electoral college lead over Obama. Open bar closed early, the free food had run out, so we decided to head down to Kramer’s to grab some food and drink, and perhaps the next part of the election cycle on CNN. Luckily for me, some old friends were on duty, so discounted drinks and apps were on the menu.

We sat in the bar, sipping on Obama-tinis, hanging with my friend Abby who brought maps of the United States with her. She also held blue and red colored pencils, so she could color in the correct states in real time. While Abby is the most cynical person I know, she seemed strangely upbeat. She was unshakeable in her faith that Obama would win – her reasoning was that all other alternatives were too grim. We ordered another round.

The night wore on, the electoral college count started creeping toward Obama, and more friends dropped by to drink to with us. Abby was still shading in the electoral college votes. Little snatches of excited conversation rippled through the bar, debating ideas and policy changes. Then, suddenly, Obama pulled ahead. 270 was close, then in reach, then surpassed.

The whole bar broke out in an uproar, screaming and shouting at the television. I looked over at Abby, surprised to note that tears were streaming down her face. Her eyes refused to move from the screen, but she was still clutching the colored pencils.

“We did it?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, I guess we did,” I replied, equally shocked.

For a few moments, we all just watched the screen, waiting for someone to come and take it back. To say that the projections were off or something. I can’t speak for anyone else in the bar that night, but I know my shock was genuine. I had never thought Obama would lose – the other offerings were just too grim to consider. But, somehow, it had never entered my mind that he would win, either. I personally was expecting another Supreme Court battle. I figured we’d have a President somewhere around December, give or take vote challenges and other shenanigans.

But Obama won.

When we got over the shock, popped some champagne, and settled into listen to McCain’s concession speech.

After that, we headed home. Weaving through the happy hornblowers downtown, we crept back into the suburbs around one. I texted my boss and told her I was pre-emptively calling in drunk. I turned off talk radio because it was bothering me, listening to the pundits shift to talking about all the problems Obama had to face when he was literally thirty minutes into the President Elect role. I came home, listened halfway to Obama’s speech, and fell into bed.

The next day I woke up feeling like shit.

Continue reading

Busta’s Busted: “Arab Money”

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

I know, I know. If you’re looking for socially conscious rap or hip hop, you don’t go to Busta Rhymes. But this still surprises me:

Maytha from KABOBfest has highlighted Rhyme’s song “Arab Money,” which has some disgustingly racist lyrics. Maytha brings up some great points about this video, namely, that it is a blatant example of the acceptability of anti-Arab racism.

Let me highlight some of Busta’s rhymes:

Women walkin around while security on camelback

Club on fire now — dunno how to act

Sittin in casino’s while im gamblin with Arafat

Money so long watch me purchase pieces of the Almanac

Ya already know i got the streets bust

While i make ya bow down makes salaat like a muslim

Camelback?! Gambling with a dead PLO leader?! Elsewhere, there are references to growing beards and Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family known for his success in business (his…uh…bread).

Busta Rhymes’ song (and its fakey Arabic chorus–shudder) is just one more instance of hip hop’s cultural appropriation of Middle Eastern music (producer Timbaland has been “sampling” Arabic songs for years: remember Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin”? That is Egyptian artist Hossam Ramzy’s “Khusara Khusara” that you hear).

Rhyme’s references to Yasser Arafat and Saudi princes create the illusion of ownership: not only are we expected to think that he and Browz understand/speak Arabic and understand Middle Eastern politics and geography, but we’re also supposed to think that he rolls with said Arabs.

When I first heard the song, I didn’t know whether to be angrier about the sexism (Rhymes makes reference to “Middle East women and Middle East bread”—things), the racism, or the casual name dropping in what Maytha calls “baseless stereotypes masquerading as knowledge.” Continue reading