Category Archives: solidarity

Race + The Netherlands: Resistance, Lost in Translation

By Guest Contributor Marly Pierre-Louis

I’m an activist and, one way or another, wherever I am, I always find my way to movement work, or it finds me. So when my partner and I uprooted our lives in Brooklyn for him to pursue a job opportunity in Amsterdam, I was excited to get involved. I figured since we’d be living here for the indefinite future, might as well jump in the mix. What were the issues? Who were the oppressed? And what were they fighting for? I met with organizers and did my research. Initially, I was disappointed at what seemed like a lack of collective struggle and as a result a lack of movement work. I didn’t detect a culture of resistance. But surely there was conflict in a society that celebrated a figure like Zwarte Piet.

In fact, there’s been more activity than ever before concerning Zwarte Piet, particularly in the last couple of months. In the Dutch mythology, every year Sinterklaas, more of a religious figure than our Santa Claus, rolls through the Netherlands from his home in Spain. Accompanying him are his servants known as Zwarte Piets or Black Piets. These characters are white adult men and women with their faces painted Black, red lipstick, gold hoop earrings and a black curly wig. Zwarte Piet is clumsy, subservient and unintelligent; a regular coon. In October, Quinsy Gario, a prominent anti Zwarte Piet activist who was arrested in 2011 for protesting the Sinterklaas parade (Trigger Warning: Police violence) while wearing a T-shirt that read, “Zwarte Piet is Racisme (Black Piet is racism)”, publicly denounced Zwarte Piet on a popular Dutch talk show, as racist and hurtful. Dutch Twitter went MAD, and an ugly, racist underbelly of the worst kind was revealed:

(Trigger Warning for pictures under the cut)

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Voices: March For Immigrant Dignity And Respect

By Arturo R. García

About 3,000 people attended the March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect in San Diego, Calif. All pictures by Arturo R. García.

On Saturday, thousands of immigrants and immigration advocates took to the streets across the country for the national March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect, a renewed call for U.S. lawmakers to stop dragging their feet on heavily-promised immigration reform. In San Diego, the event drew at least 3,000 people by police estimates, a mix of religious, labor, education and nursing groups from multiple communities.

In English: “Obama, where is the reform?”

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Announcements: A Mural Goes Up In Harlem And A Goddess Walk

Photo courtesy of Picture the Homeless.

Photo courtesy of Picture the Homeless.

Just got this last-minute invite to a really great event going on in Harlem, if you’re in town later today.

Picture The Homeless (PTH), a grassroots social-justice organization founded and led by homeless people advocating around the issues of housing, police violence, and the shelter system, reveals their new mural based on those themes today at 4pm at 138t Street and Adam Clayton Powell. The mural is on the side of Epiphany Bar. (More details here.

According to Shaun Lin, one of PTH’s community organizers, the mural was a 6-month collaborative effort of people of all ages living in the community.

“This mural itself is actually the conclusion of a 6-month collaborative process between Picture The Homeless, Peoples Justice, and artist Sophia Dawson. We started with a few study sessions–of “Broken Windows” theory, “quality-of-life” policing, and resistance/organizing around these policing practices–which guided a collective visioning process in which particular images drawn directly from study and conversation. And finally concluded in the painting of the mural, which included 2 community painting days and over 80 volunteers [sic]. The mural itself is beautiful in itself, but the process of creating and painting the mural has been one of the most engaging, collaborative, and community-oriented projects I’ve personally worked on.”

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Meanwhile, On TumblR: “Serving Up Black Frida Kahlo Realness”

By Andrea Plaid

It’s the second time I’ve seen a photo like this.

One of my favorite Tumblrs, black beauty, featured photos submitted by Tumblrer Indigo, who dressed in an homage to legendary artist Frida Kahlo. (The headline comes from the caption she wrote to describe her picture.)

Serving Up Frida Kahlo Realness

She isn’t the only African-descended woman to get gussied up as the iconic Kahlo. Guest tweeter Minna Salami, a.k.a. Ms. Afropolitan, did a similar shoot back in March of this year:

tumblr_mjayfgEflh1r9qbgqo1_500

Image credit: Bumi Thomas Photography.

Not saying that it’s a trend or anything. I just find it really cool to see women of color are showing love to women artists of color like this, like speaking back to the elders with gratitude.

See what and who else we find cool at the R’s Tumblr!

White Times: 5 Keys To American Racism (Plus 3 Reasons For Hope) [Essay]

by Guest Contributor Hari Stephen Kumar, originally published at Kinetic Now

Trayvon Martin Protest Photo, by Flickr User WorldCan’tWait

Shortly after George Zimmerman was acquitted, a friend said that “these are dark times in America.” To which I said, “No, these are white times in America, as always.”

In the month since the Zimmerman acquittal, the mainstream conversation about the case has morphed into a personal verdict on Trayvon’s behavior and a cultural indictment on black people more broadly. When even the President of the United States, a black man, begins his heartfelt statement on the issue by saying that he wants to address “the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling,” you already know that in the public imagination the case of Florida v. Zimmerman has become instead a Trial of Trayvon.

And when the President ends his speech by asking the American people to ask ourselves, echoing Martin Luther King, Jr., “Am I judging people as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character?” you cannot help but reflect on all the ways that it was indeed Trayvon’s character that was judged and assassinated in both the legal courtroom and in the court of public opinion.

For many, this is one of the strangest things about the case: why did the trial’s focus shift to Trayvon instead of Zimmerman? After the verdict, why has the so-called “national conversation on race” become so fixated on “problems” with “black culture”? Why did the acquittal give license to commentators from across the racial and political spectrum to speak so bluntly in blaming black people for Trayvon’s death? How do we make sense of the ugly racial rhetoric coming from white commentators like Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and NRA board member Ted Nugent who are so quick to condemn the character of “the black community”? Why do their talking points get repeated across online comments and in personal conversations?

And why do so many such conversations begin with “I’m not racist but …”?

I mean, there’s even a satirical app called iNotRacist which allows anxious white people to demonstrate their level of non-racism by surrounding themselves with tokens of minority cultures:

In all seriousness, though, how do people across the racial spectrum get to ask genuine questions about race with each other? What about people who recognize that there is indeed something deeply odd about race relations in America but are not sure how to begin asking about it without getting accused of being racists?

In summary, here are five keys that explain how mainstream conversations and perceptions about race in America contribute to a broader history of racial injustice:

  • Key #1: Practice racism without being racist
    American racism is more of a color-blind cultural racism than a personal racism. This kind of racism allows people to believe cultural stereotypes about minority communities in general, without feeling like they are being personally racist against minority individuals.
  • Key #2: Continue a long American tradition of condemning blackness (while confirming whiteness)
    American cultural stereotypes linking blackness to criminality go back a long ways, to discriminatory social policies and Jim Crow laws instituted after the Civil War that condemned black people as a group based on biased crime statistics. Meanwhile, similar patterns of crime by white immigrant groups were instead humanized and individualized.
  • Key #3: Use new Jim Crow methods to legally profile black/brown men with “reasonable suspicion” 
    Our current legal system enforces a new kind of Jim Crow policing and segregation in urban black/brown communities, while largely ignoring suburban white communities, through the court sanctioned use of de facto racial profiling and discriminatory sentencing in the War on Drugs. This results in a disproportionate suspicion of black/brown men.
  • Key #4: Rely on whiteness to deny ‘neighborliness’ to black/brown neighbors
    White privilege shapes the ways people interpret and suspect the actions of their non-white neighbors. This happens even if the person suspecting the neighbor is non-white, because whiteness is a system of beliefs that we are all immersed in, so you don’t have to be white in order to uphold the normalcy of whiteness.
  • Key #5: Stand your (white) ground by supporting gun laws based on white supremacist talking points
    Laws like Stand Your Ground (which, by the way, was absolutely part of the Zimmerman defense) reflect fears and paranoias that once were the domain of white supremacist groups but are now a part of mainstream NRA talking points that openly encourage violent white vigilantism as a “reasonable” response to suspicious behavior in “your” neighborhood.

These keys interconnect to explain how so many Americans believe and act upon a deeply entrenched set of cultural prejudices that make black/brown bodies automatically suspicious in everyday encounters, suspicious enough to justify an aggressive and even violent pre-emptive response. The next few pages explore each key in more depth, but there are also significant reasons for hope. Continue reading

Announcement: Yuri Kochiyama: Passion For Justice Screening, Panel Discussion At Maysles Tonight!

By Andrea Plaid

Yuri Kochiyama Passion For Justice poster

When Dr. Brittney Cooper started the #paulawontcookit hashtag during the height of Black Twitter dragging Paula Deen for her controversial comments—and my undergrad college ace Dr. Lisa Huebner Rutchti  tagged me to join in the fun–I contributed

pauladeenwontcookit--Yuri Kochiyama Cornbread

Which, I’m proud to say, met with Dr. Cooper’s approval and made Racialicious guest contributor (and my homie) Sofia Quintero say:

pauladeenwontcookit--Sofia Quintero

Why Kochiyama? She most famously held Malcolm X (who, by that point, changed his name to El Hajj Malik el Shabazz to reflect his pilgrimage to Mecca) while he was dying from assassins’ bullets. She was a member of his Organization of Afro-American Unity. And, in 1977, she joined 29 members of the New York Committee to Free Puerto Rican Nationalists Prisoners, a pro-independence group, as they took over the Statue of Liberty to protest for the return of the island’s sovereignty, ending anti-Puerto Rican discrimination, and freeing Puerto Rican political prisoners. She also became an activist mentor as Asian Americans protested the rampant racism against them that the Vietam War exacerbated as she herself agitated for reparations for the Japanese American who the US government interred during World War II.

And she—who is still alive—is known for much, much more, as the new documentary Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice talks about.

CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities and Women Make Movies are co-sponsoring a screening and a panel discussion at Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem tonight, starting at 6PM! Some of the panelists include members from Kochiyama’s family and Racialicious Crush alum and guest contributor Scot Nakagawa.  Tickets are $10 (suggested donation), and the proceeds go toward supporting CAAAV’s programs.

For more information and tickets, please check here. And I’ll let you know how the cornbread turns out!

Meanwhile, On TumblR: The Role Of Asian Greeks Today?

By Andrea Plaid

Via binghamton.edu.

Via binghamton.edu.

While I’ve been away adjusting to my new professional position(s) and some intensely lovely life changes, Owner/Editor Latoya Peterson has been so gracious in taking care of the R’s Tumblr. This week, she found a post that, to say the least, is a conversation-starter. From 8asians’ Akrypti on the how Asian fraternities and sororities are failing to live up to their activist history and principles:

The first Asian American fraternity was formed in upstate New York around the time of World War I to combat the racial discrimination that Asian college students faced. Basically, because Asians were excluded from the white people’s clubs, the guys decided to form their own. In the late 40s, a group of Japanese American women in Southern California formed the first Asian American sorority to support one another in the face of anti-Japanese sentiments and racism.

After the murder of Vincent Chin in the 80s, Asian American fraternities and sororities were at the helm of college-level coalitions pushing for federal prosecution of the perpetrators. They organized vigils, raised money, passed out pamphlets to inform people of what happened, back before the days of YouTube, Facebook, and blogs, and led protests.

By the 90s, the idea of starting your own cultural interest Greek (“Asian Greek”) went viral and today there’s a gazillion of them. In the 90s, Asian Greeks led the charge on many campus political fronts. They had the clout to round up crowds of Asian Americans to rally for change. Many of those fraternity brothers and sorority sisters were activists. They challenged white-dominant student associations when minority interests were subjugated. I recall one incident during my stint in college where this happened and the Asian Greeks united in a positive and uplifting way that did bring about change.

So where are the Asian Greeks today?

Are they the superheroes that the Asian community turns to when shit gets racist? Heck no. The Asian Greek voice has been silent in the wake of the last decade’s eyelid pulling, Asian-men-shoot-up-schools stereotyping, racist receipts, abysmal APIA voter turnout, and the other daunting social and civil issues Asian Americans face in 2013. I do not deny that individuals who happen to be affiliated with an Asian fraternity or sorority have contributed, but there has been no national scale mobilization, which these organizations are highly capable of if they’d only give a damn. Re-imaging popular (effeminate) conceptions of Asian masculinity is still unfinished business for APIA activists and I would think Asian fraternities would feel a personal stake in doing more to be positive public Asian male role models.

I do not write this to condemn Asian Greeks. I write this to critique them. There needs to be an active engagement in the politics and social issues that involve Asian Americans. These fraternities and sororities are in the best position to mobilize on a large scale in response to iniquities and offenses against Asians.

::Long whistle::

I’mma leave this here for people to chime in on what Akrypti said. And please check out what and who else are starting conversations on the R’s Tumblr!