By Andrea Plaid
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
Which, I’m proud to say, met with Dr. Cooper’s approval and made Racialicious guest contributor (and my homie) Sofia Quintero say:
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!
By Andrea Plaid
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.
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!
By Arturo R. García
“DISCLAIMER: No racism intended.”
– Statement from Lambda Theta Delta’s original post of “Suit & Tie” blackface video, per The Huffington Post
That stunning “disclaimer” over a University of California-Irvine fraternity’s use of blackface to interpret the Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z track “Suit and Tie” makes the fraternity’s subsequent “apology” ring hollow.
“We sincerely apologize if we offended anyone whatsoever,” president Darius Obana told KCBS-TV. “On behalf of my brothers who were involved in the video, know that it was unintentional. But unintentional or not we do know that it was wrong.”
By Andrea Plaid
Since it’s National Poetry Month, let’s talk about one of my favorite poets: Suheir Hammad.
Of course, Hammad speaks quite a few women of color’s truth with her classic piece, “Not Your Erotic, Not Your Exotic”:
By Andrea Plaid
To paraphrase bell hooks, like feminism, allyship is something you do, not who you are. And Racializens gave a lot of love to Shakesville’s Melissa McEwan, who wrote one of the smartest come-get-your-people responses to “Accidental Racist” (and, btw, wrote a great post on allyship itself):
It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to put on a shirt with a Confederate flag. It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to say he’s “got a lot to learn BUT.” It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to whine about “walkin’ on eggshells” and “fightin’ over yesterday,” as if racism is a thing of the past and not something active and present in the here and now. It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to say “we’re still paying for mistakes / that a bunch of folks made long before we came,” as if White Southerners’ lingering discomfort with slave history is the same fucking thing as the structural effects of slavery that inform the lives of Black USians’ to this very day. It isn’t a fucking accident to compare the Confederate flag to a do-rag or saggy drawers. All of this is thoughtfully conceived and deliberate bullshit.
Marginalized people don’t owe privileged people non-judgment and tolerance and indulgence of their gross redefinition of symbols of oppression in exchange for basic decency. The inherent power imbalance between privilege and marginalization makes the entire idea of an “equal exchange” of good will reprehensibly absurd.
If White people want Black people to trust us, then we should make ourselves fucking trustworthy. That means releasing our stranglehold on a lot of symbols and images and words and practices with racist origins, even if we like them a lot—boo fucking hoo!—instead of trying to argue selective context. Especially when there are always plenty of White folks who still value the embedded racism in those things. Brad Paisley, you are literally expecting Black people to be able to read White people’s minds and magically discern whether this one White guy is wearing a Confederate flag just because he has Southern Pride, ahem, or because he hates the fuck outta Black people.
That wildly unreasonable expectation is no accident, either.
By Guest Contributor David Zhou
Forgive me for anthropomorphizing a website.
The announcement that Google Reader would be shutting down hit me like the loss of an old friend with whom I had lately fallen out of touch–softly at first, then more powerfully. It’s easy to think as tech consumers that things die because of our neglect or disinterest. The biggest cliché that I acknowledge here is that Google Reader was more than a website, and whatever we neglected was more than a RSS aggregator. Still, Google Reader supported a blogging culture in which I have participated more infrequently over the years. Perhaps it’s worthwhile to take a wistful moment to reflect on how things have changed and what we do now.
I think I started using Reader in 2006 or 2007. I started by following some TV fan blogs that I wanted to keep up with. (I was really into Lost at the time.) When I got a handle of finding RSS feeds, I began to add everything. Blogs for cooking, news, tech, music, of college administrators and advisors, and even calendars and events. I must have cleared hundreds of items a day, reading post titles in fractions of a second. (The Trends feature in Google Reader tells me opaquely I have read 300,000+ items since 2009; apparently, it can’t fully count how many items I have read.)
In the summer of 2007, I started a blog with a close friend for our campus Asian American student organization. In the process of gathering things to write about in the world at large, I started a folder in Reader called “asian americana”, and then set out to find all the Asian American blogs there existed. There weren’t that many. Into “asian americana” went Angry Asian Man, of course. Hyphen magazine had a blog, too. Reappropriate was refreshing. Sepia Mutiny was still alive. Disgrasian was just a new upstart. If I missed any, my sincerest apologies; I read you all.
By Andrea Plaid
If we had to pick a Racialicious poster boy–that aphrodisiac of sapiosexuality–Junot Diaz would be it.
The R’s Owner/Editor Latoya Peterson says this about his book, The Brief Wonderous Life Of Oscar Wao:
My eyes drank in every word of “Wildwood,” the second chapter in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. On the plane from Baltimore to Austin, the narrative gripped me solidly by the throat, turning a casual curiosity about Oscar into a desperate longing to hear more from his sister Lola.
When the plane touched down, my sweatshirt was crunchy with the salt from shed tears and I had run through six napkins while the story unfolded. I grabbed my bags, and called my boyfriend who had been badgering me about reading the novel for some months now.
“Why didn’t you mention Lola?” I asked.
“Who? Oscar’s sister? Why is that…oh.” His voice suddenly bloomed with recognition and we sat in silence for a few seconds.
In all the reviews I have read about the novel since I finished the final page, the character of Lola is generally a footnote. Described as a beautiful girl, or a troubled girl, or Oscar’s sister, the strength of her narrative and her story seem overshadowed by the book’s focus – obviously, Oscar – or by the story of her mother, Belicia, the beautiful prieta who seemed forged partially from the steel intended to break her into submission. And yet, to me, Lola’s story was the most compelling, reflecting back in stark focus so many emotions, trials and ideas that were intimately familiar to me and the other girls I knew growing up.
Because in the book I read – as in life – the men in each of these women’s lives were not central figures. There are men, yes, and Oscar is the unifying force in the narrative, but the people Belicia and Lola were involved with were not the point unto themselves. The men stood for the method of escape. With the exception of The Gangster and Yunior, all the men in the book that Lola and Belicia were involved with were ways to get the hell out.
Lola’s boyfriend Aldo is the method to escape her mother. Sure, she loved him. Kind of. But reading through the lines, the catalyst for her leaving with Aldo was that he asked to her to come live with him. Sex was part of the travel cost. As I have written before, a guy is the easiest way to escape a fucked up family life.
But this easily overlooked difference belies the true genius in Oscar Wao. It isn’t just a documenting a fictionalized account of the things that happen in our real life communities. The book shines in how Diaz fills in what would normally be an outline, and shows us the after. Or more appropriately, how Diaz demonstrates how there ain’t no happily ever after. There are just choices and consequences.