Category Archives: racism

The Colbert Report1

Why Colbert’s Joke Failed #NotYourSafeComedyRace

By Guest Contributor refresh_daemon, cross-posted from Init_

While writing my piece on the damaging effect of the #CancelColbert campaign, I have to admit that, like hashtag originator Suey ParkJenn at Reappropriate andAngryAsianMan, I too felt that something was wrong with the actual satire made by The Colbert Report in the segment, especially when you consider, like Jenn and AngryAsianMan noted, that the Stephen Colbert persona has a history of going to anti-Asian racist satire. Then I realized that while the structure of the satire is mechanically correct, the satire from The Colbert Report in the piece doesn’t work because it doesn’t realize that the audience won’t find it wrong or offensive. (Trigger warning: Ethnic slurs quoted or used demonstratively below)
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[Thursday Throwback]: How to Debunk Pseudo-Science Articles about Race in Five Easy Steps

by Latoya Peterson

This was originally published on 5-17-2011

PhD Comics
Justifying racism using “science” isn’t new, by any means. Every few years, it appears that someone needs to provide a rationale for bigotry, so they publish some sort of madness and hope most of the readers suffer from scientific illiteracy. The problem is that even with a thorough debunking, people latch on to articles like this to confirm their own biases. So, if you are suddenly confronted with racist foolishness masquerading as science, here is how to respond. Since it’s here, let’s use the Psychology Today article (available in full here) as an example.
Look at the Methodology

Whenever you hear the word “study,” start checking for the methodology. Oftentimes, a methodology will reveal more about the study than the summarized results.

A good example of this is a study we were alerted to a year or so ago. The Daily Mail covered a scientific study which proposed that racism may be hard wired into our brains. However, there was an obvious flaw in the study:

All the viewers were white but the researchers believe the results would still have been similar with any other group.

Now, this study wasn’t using basic things, like a sample representative of population. Yet the study authors felt confident in applying the results to everyone.

The same issue pops up in Satoshi Kanazawa’s piece. He actually doesn’t refer to his own research, but another study. And he doesn’t link to the other study, assuming that all readers will know the term “Add Health.” What he refers to is a rigorous, national study…about teen development and health.

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (also known as Add Health, the Add Health Study, and the Add Health Survey) is a nationally representative study originally designed to examine how social contexts (such as families, friends, peers, schools, neighborhoods, and communities) influence teens’ health and risk behaviors. The study is now examining how health changes over the course of early adulthood. [...]

The Add Health Study surveyed 90,000 7th to 12th graders, and has re-interviewed the same group of teens as they age. The study is made public to assist others studying adolescent health, and collects information on the following:

What kinds of topics does the study address?
The study collects information on:

*Physical and mental health, such as weight and height, injury and disability, dietary patterns and physical activity, substance use, access to and use of health care services, and suicide and depression
*Interpersonal relationships and sexual behaviors, such as family relationships, friendships, interracial relationships, faith community interactions, sexual activity, and sexual orientation
*Education, including cognitive ability and individual, family, peer, and community influences on school performance
*Delinquency and violence, including individual, family, peer, and community influences on delinquency and violence and risk factors for delinquency and violence
*Involvement in adult roles, including parenthood, jobs, marriage
*Genetic characteristics and biological measures that indicate the presence of specific diseases and disease processes
*Measures of the environments in which participants live and go to school

So this study provides a lot of data on the lives of teens. However, Kanazawa tries to pull information that wasn’t intended to be studied from the report, with no further discussion or references, and present it as fact. (In fact, would you know what the Add Health study was intended to do if we didn’t look it up?) Problematic, to say the least.

We had issues with Allure’s report on the changing face of beauty in the United States, but at least their methodology was much more clear – we knew how many people were surveyed, the images of the models they were shown, what questions they were asked, and how that compared to a similar survey done twenty years ago.
Interrogate the Author of the Study

Kanazawa calls himself “The Scientific Fundamentalist,” and claims to take “a Hard Look at the Truths of Human Nature.” His other articles include things like “Are All Women Essentially Prostitutes,” “Beautiful People Really ARE More Intelligent,” “What I Have Learned from Barry Goldwater,” and this statement on Eva Longoria and Tony Parker’s divorce:

Yes, I called it, nearly two years ago. I knew their marriage was very short-lived long before they themselves did. Once again, such is the power of the evolutionary psychological imagination. We know everything, not because we are special, but because we are evolutionary psychologists.

I’m a Mac, and I predict events before they happen.

I’m afraid to click the links for that rationale.

Amazingly, Kanazawa’s work fits neatly into this bingo card, created by the Punk Ass Blog:

EvoPsych Bingo Card

Check for Scientific Racism

Wikipedia has a very useful summary (and a few interesting convos on the talk page) dealing with Scientific Racism. But the clearest example is actually found on the Wikipedia page for The Bell Curve, where an intrepid Wikipedian added a debunking guide for racist misapplications of science:

Evolutionary biologist Joseph L. Graves described the Bell Curve as an example of racist science, containing all the types of errors in the application of scientific method that have characterized the history of Scientific racism:

  • claims that are not supported by the data given
  • errors in calculation that invariably support the hypothesis
  • no mention of data that contradicts the hypothesis
  • no mention of theories and data that conflict with core assumptions
  • bold policy recommendations that are consistent with those advocated by racists.[38]

Be Wary of People Trying to Quantify What is Subjective

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And yet, every few years, someone tries to prove that x is definitively more attractive than y group. The closest science has been able to come to anything remotely resembling consensus is a link between symmetry and facial attractiveness.

Everything else is informed by personal preferences, how one interprets beauty, and cultural messages about beauty – which again, do change. What was beautiful in the 1980s and 1990s isn’t necessarily valued today. And globally, the idea of beauty shifts often. So trying to definitively state what is attractive and what is not is a bit of a losing game.

Remember that race is a social construct

Racebox.org shows how these alleged racial categories have changed over time. Here’s who you could be in 1890:

1890 Census
1940:

1940 Census
and 1970:

1970 Census
Combine that with the shifting categories of “black” and “white” and how people have been included and excluded based on political whims, and trying to explain definitive differences becomes an exercise in futility.

Related:

White People Swim, and Black People Run? Race, Science, and Athletics - Racialicious
Scientific Findings are not Public Service Announcements - Restructure
Interview with Joseph L. Graves - Addicted to Race
Guest Rant: Joseph L. Graves - Addicted to Race
James Watson’s Racism - Addicted to Race

(Image via PhD Comics, by Jorge Cham)

Thanks to readers Ruthi, Karen, and Lorenzo for sending in copies of the article!

redskins032614

Race + Sports: Dan Snyder’s ‘Original Americans Foundation’

By Arturo R. García

Dan Snyder apparently attempted to sidestep the continuing criticism around his National Football League franchise on Monday, announcing the formation of an “Original Americans Foundation” in a four-page letter on his team’s website, the Washington Post reported.

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Annie1

Breaking Down That New Annie Trailer — And The Worst Reactions To It

By Arturo R. García

So after watching the trailer a couple of times Wednesday night, I came away feeling not totally worried about the forthcoming Annie remake. Quvenzhané Wallis looks like she’ll inhabit the title role more than capably — showing her ask “What’s the hustle?” was a nice touch to include this early — and Jamie Foxx (as Michael Bloomberg stand-in Benjamin Stacks) and Rose Byrne (as his girl Friday, uh, Grace) came off well in this trailer.

Cameron Diaz’s take on Miss Hannigan, here reimagined as a foster mother for Annie and her friends, looks less steady, shading further toward Carrie Bradshaw than Carol Burnett. The film’s IMDB page also reveals another potential setback for the character: there’s no listing for Daniel “Rooster” Hannigan, depriving Diaz’s Hannigan — at least thus far — of someone with whom to banter beyond Annie and Stacks. The music and choreography, from the brief glimpses we get in this trailer, don’t look bad.

The story also looks like a simplified version of the original, which you can either take or leave, considering that the 1982 vehicle featured “Bolsheviks,” assassination attempts, bodyguards named “Punjab” and “The Asp,” and Daddy Warbucks hanging around with Franklin D. Roosevelt. And while sites like ScreenRant and Jezebel also liked the trailer, it’s a long jump from a good two-minute clipshow to a coherent final product. (Remember, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen had a pretty well-liked trailer, and … well.)

In other words, there’s plenty of good discussion to be had about this movie; for starters, you might be surprised to see Emma Thompson — yes, that Emma Thompson — is one of the three writers. (In truth, it’s her 13th writing effort.)

But as you might imagine, some Internet Racists just couldn’t stop themselves from catching feelings. So, for anybody wondering why our comments policy is tight, we picked some real “winners” to show you under the cut.
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CK4

So Funny It Hurts

By Guest Contributor Eric Anthony Glover, cross-posted from Midnight Breakfast

Some months after I’d come out as queer to my friends and family, I happened upon a Louis C.K. meme about anti-gay rights advocates—particularly those who argue they shouldn’t have to expose their children to same-sex marriages. The meme’s caption read, “Two guys are in love but they can’t get married because you don’t want to talk to your ugly child for f*ckin’ five minutes?” As much as I’d like to tell that you that straight allies don’t deserve cookies and congratulations for exhibiting the bare minimum of human decency, I’d be lying if I said C.K.’s words didn’t move me. After years of shaming from straight people, whether in purposely oppressive ways or indirectly cruel ones, it always strikes me as miraculous when some of them support my cause—especially if they’re cultural icons. And given the thousands of Likes and Shares the Louis C.K. meme received, I’m guessing his words touched a few others, too. Thing is, I doubt it would have gotten as much mileage if the caption had included C.K.’s full quote: “… Who f*ckin’ cares about your sh*tty kid? He’s probably a faggot, anyway.”

On the one hand, I personally find the punchline funny: it subverts the sentimental direction of the setup, makes fools of the people he’s frustrated with, and arguably turns the word “faggot” into a weapon against them. On the other hand, it’s not the only time C.K. has used the slur for a laugh, and he hasn’t always been so progressive while doing it. Louis C.K. follows a similar pattern with the word “nigger,” insightfully addressing the horrors of racism in some of his stand-up, but gluttonously employing the epithet for amusement in other instances. And it’s not as if he does so without racial awareness, either; despite being half-Latino, C.K. has publicly acknowledged looking white, identifying as white, and benefiting from white privileges — such as never being marginalized enough for slurs like “cracker” to truly hurt him. As a black man with the opposite experience, I find myself on edge whenever I hear him speak. Although I haven’t forgotten his beautiful bits bashing racial prejudice, I have to remember that he’s prone to blurting “nigger” at whim, and doesn’t always care to add a constructive reason.
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Michael-B-Jordan

Future On!: Michael B. Jordan And The New Human Torch’s World

By Arturo R. García

The Human Torch (left) and Michael B. Jordan. Image via ScreenCrave.

After months of speculation, Thursday night brought confirmation: Michael B. Jordan will play Johnny Storm/The Human Torch in 20th Century Fox’s newest attempt to build a Fantastic Four film franchise. And while some geeks reacted as badly as you might expect, this iteration of Marvel’s First Family is worth keeping an eye on for far more interesting reasons.
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Jessica Williams 021814

Video: Jessica Williams breaks down the Michael Dunn verdict

The Dunn verdict is really the cherry on top of the sh*t sundae that is Black History Month. First, We got assigned February — the month nobody wants, the only month that contains the letters ‘F’ and ‘U.’ And then, in case we didn’t get the message, they round out the month by letting another white guy off for gunning down a Black kid. You do know Black History Month isn’t like deer season or turkey season, right? It’s not the month when you’re allowed to shoot Black people.

Sure, [Jordan Davis and his friends] looked unarmed to us. And to the police, and to the other eyewitnesses. But that’s because we’re not wearing fear goggles. That’s the lens through which chronically terrified white people look at Black kids. Like, say, a guy who carries a gun in his glove compartment and thinks Florida juries favor Black people.

Once you put on fear goggles, you’ll hit anything with a bullet.

dale hansen1

Quoted: Sportscaster Dale Hansen sounds off on Michael Sam’s critics

It wasn’t that long ago when we were being told that black players couldn’t play in “our” games because it would be “uncomfortable.” And even when they finally could, it took several more years before a black man played quarterback. Because we weren’t “comfortable” with that, either.

So many of the same people who used to make that argument (and the many who still do) are the same people who say government should stay out of our lives. But then want government in our bedrooms.

I’ve never understood how they feel “comfortable” laying claim to both sides of that argument. I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay; I don’t understand his world. But I do understand that he’s part of mine.

- As aired on WFAA-TV, Feb. 10