Category Archives: The Things We Do to Each Other

“Chaim Levine,” “Charlie Sheen,” and Racism in Hollywood

by Latoya Peterson

Charlie Sheen is a fucking trainwreck.

I caught about five minutes of an E! True Hollywood Story on the man, and saw references to drug abuse and rehab, domestic violence, and a very pissed off Heidi Fleiss, noting that while Sheen is one of the top paid sitcom stars of our time, she was stuck in jail.

Charlie Sheen has been on a downward spiral for a good while now, and it’s clear from comments like these that things are only going to get worse:

Both Today and GMA asked Sheen, who says he underwent private rehab at home, if he is now on drugs. As he told the latter, “Yeah, I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen! It’s not available, because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body. … I woke up and decided, you know, I’ve been kicked around, I’ve been criticized. I’ve been this ‘Aww, shucks’ guy with this bitchin’ rock-star life, and I’m finally going to completely embrace it, wrap both arms around it and love it violently. And defend it violently through violent hatred.”

I could normally care less about the troubles of Charlie Sheen, but one of his recent verbal misfires is interesting on a few different levels. Sheen referred to Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre as Chaim Levine in an angry open letter, protesting the cancellation of the show, widely rumored to be because of Sheen’s erratic behavior. After receiving pushback for his remarks, Sheen offered this gem to TMZ:

While Charlie spilled his guts to TMZ yesterday about his hatred for Chuck Lorre, he referred to the “Two and a Half Men” creator as Chaim Levine — the Hebrew translation of CL’s birth name — which many people felt Charlie used in a mean-spirited attempt to denigrate the Jews.

Now Charlie tells TMZ … “I was referring to Chuck by his real name, because I wanted to address the man, not the bulls**t TV persona.”

FYI — Chuck’s birth name is Charles Levine … and his Hebrew name is Chaim.

Charlie added, “So you’re telling me, anytime someone calls me Carlos Estevez, I can claim they are anti-Latino?”

Oh, readers, where do we start? Continue reading

Where Is The Proof That It Gets Better? Queer POC and the Solidarity Gap

by Latoya Peterson

Last week, the internet was in a tizzy over Aliya S. King’s article for Vibe. The piece, titled the Mean Girls of Morehouse, explored how Morehouse’s change in dress code was really a reaction to a small group of genderqueer students on campus.  The article dove into the lives of these students on campus.  Vibe and King were both blasted for attacking Morehouse, a bastion of the black community, and a video was quickly uploaded to the internet showing a spirited discussion at Morehouse around the content of the article, exploring everything from lack of queer perspective to the representation of Morehouse.

However, through this whole debate, two things have stood out to me:

1. We aren’t hearing very much from those profiled.
2. Most of the conversation has swirled around representation – but what about solidarity? Particularly among groups of color? Continue reading

On Rick Sanchez, Jon Stewart, and Why We All Lose Playing the Oppression Olympics

by Latoya Peterson

Jon Stewart Rick Sanchez

CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was tired of being the butt of everyone’s joke.

He was done with hiding things. He was fed up with playing corporate games. So last Friday, Rick Sanchez went on Pete Dominick’s Sirius hosted XM radio show to get a lot of things off his chest.

Sanchez came out firing – and hit two targets, his own leg, and a few passerby.

His comments on the biased nature of news media were dead on until they veered into bigoted territory. His attacks on Jon Stewart, specifically about his ethnicity, veered fully into old antisemitic tropes. This led to Sanchez’s firing from CNN on the day the news broke.

The reactions around the media world are a mess, and unpacking the issues behind the situation becomes a wild ride through the dynamics of oppression, kyriarchy, professional passing, media conglomerates, and prejudice. Continue reading

Black AND Asian (and Jewish?)

by Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils


I meant to write this post a long time ago – kept saying that I would – but it just didn’t happen, finally fell on the back-burner. Recently, however, I read another post (here) that addressed this topic, but in a manner that felt – to me – to retain the very same “Us vs. Them” theme that’s gotten us here in the first place. The angle taken, the examples given, some of the comments, etc. allow for a dangerous misunderstanding to continue (not the author’s intention, but nonetheless . . .). So I felt it’s time. Let’s do this.

A while back, I was talking to a friend of mine (a black female, which is relevant) – we’ll call her “W.” She’s telling me about this guy she ran into at some store; this Vietnamese guy (“or Chinese or Korean or something”) comes over and starts chatting her up, hitting on her, trying to get her number and all that. She’s not feeling it. She gets irritated on a number of levels. But her primary annoyance is that she feels like he’s just messing with her, so she ends up telling him “give me a break, you don’t date black women,” and (tamely) telling him about how racist Asian guys are.

She finishes her story, looks at me, and, laughing, says “can you believe that?”

I give a one-word response. “Yes.”

But my mind was reeling – because there was so much going on in this one interaction (sort of two interactions, including the re-telling) that just sum up the state of oppression-related affairs in the U.S. First, there’s a (black) woman getting hit on by some random guy, which always carries a tinge of objectification, dominance, etc. In this case, it’s an Asian guy – so we’re bringing together two notoriously “undesirable” race/gender combinations in this country. Then there’s her confusion over the exact ethnicity of this Asian dude. Then there’s her belief (based on real past experience) that he’s not really interested in dating her; that he’s more or less mocking her, because – as an Asian man – he’s probably crazy-racist against black people. And, finally, the beauty of it all – she’s casually relating this story to me, her friend – an Asian (okay, mixed-Asian) male.

And it all made perfect sense to me. Because, you see, I happen to be a sort of connoisseur of the black-Asian interracial experience, and everything that happened in that story follows the confusing, tense narrative of a relationship that has been being shaped for the last couple-hundred (maybe far more) years. It’s a long story – with a lot of loops and twists – but it’s one worth reading, so I hope y’all follow me to the end.

Prologue – “Setting it Straight” (aka “Prepare to Have Your Mind Blown”)

We “all know” that there’s this big rivalry between Asian and black folks. The “opposites” of the PoC spectrum, there just is no bridging the divide. I’ve heard it a million times (from both sides).

And so the look of shock on the faces of this one particular group of Asian folks I was with shouldn’t have surprised me when I asked what should have been a stupid question: “You all realize that there are black Asian people, right?”
Continue reading

Talking About The Things We Do To Each Other

by Latoya Peterson

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In order to keep the peace around here, we have a policy against the Oppression Olympics:

Let’s avoid oppression olympics please. I’m not saying it’s never something to be discussed, but generally speaking, bickering over who has it worse off, or who’s more racist, is really kind of useless.

The reason why this policy is in place is simple: we are trying to organize outside of the traditional structures that separate us by race and ethnicity. This process is difficult. It is a constant negotiation of boundaries, an ongoing discussion about who we are and where we fit in race conversation, and requires a lot of weeding out of people who display that they could care less about other races/ethnicities.

However, the concept of Oppression Olympics is flawed. As I explored in an older post “Re-examining the Phrase ‘Oppression Olympics‘:”

Now here’s an example [scholar Andrea Smith sites in her chapter about Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy] that jumped out at me the most (and I think comes closer to what Black Canseco was trying to get at in the comments):

Our organizing can also reflect anti-Black racism. Recently, with the outgrowth of “multiculturalism” there have been calls to “go beyond the black/white binary” and include other communities of color in our analysis. First, it replaces an analysis of white supremacy with a politics of multicultural representation; if we just include more people, then our practice will be less racist. Not true. This model does not address the nuanced structure of white supremacy, such as through these distinct logics of slavery, genocide, and Orientalism. Second, it obscures the centrality of the slavery logic in the system of white supremacy, which is based on a black/white binary. The black/white binary is not the only binary which characterizes white supremacy, but it is still a central one that we cannot “go beyond” in our racial justice organizing efforts.

If we do not look at how the logic of slaveability inflects our society and our thinking, it will be evident in our work as well. For example, other communities of color often appropriate the cultural work and organizing strategies of African American civil rights or Black Power movements without corresponding assumptions that we should also be in solidarity with Black communities. We assume that this work is the common “property” of all oppressed groups, and we can appropriate it without being accountable.

Damn right. As we get deeper and deeper into the feminism debates, I notice a couple of bloggers who do espouse these anti-black sentiments while using the civil rights movement as a foundation to stand on. Particularly, those bloggers who continually refer to “the blacks” or “the black feminists” and the power of our numbers, as if every time we complain, something is granted and we never worked to be recognized or acknowledged in mainstream feminism. These bloggers are not white. But they are not black either. And it would be foolish to think that if someone is non-white, then they must be allied with black women, or a larger movement that advocates for the rights of women of color.

But that’s a discussion for another time.

After looking at some of the discussions about Black-Asian racism dynamics on Reappropriate, some conversations I’ve had with Thea, discussions of South Philadelphia High School, and some of our long standing conversations about inter-racial issues, looks like the time for conversation is now. Continue reading

How Do We Talk About Police Brutality When The Cops Aren’t White?

By Guest Contributor Julianne Hing, originally published at Racewire

mineo_022210.jpgYesterday, the verdict in the trial involving three New York police officers accused of abusing a young man of color was announced.

Without even knowing the particulars of the case—say, for instance, that one of the police officers in question allegedly abused a man named Michael Mineo with a baton, which led the other two cops to orchestrate a cover-up—you probably know exactly what the jury decided yesterday.

That’s right, all three cops were acquitted of all charges, on the claim that there was not enough evidence to prove that Mineo had actually had a baton shoved inside of him. The news came just days after it was announced that the cops involved in the shooting death of Sean Bell will not receive federal charges.

People of color, especially young Black and Latino men, get shot at and killed by the police at disproportionately high rates. That much seems to be common enough knowledge these days. And the white cops who’ve shot them? They’re all typically acquitted, but that is less common knowledge and more irrefutable fact.

But much of the way we talk about police brutality as a manifestation of racism rests on a classic narrative of individual white aggressors who brutalize Black and Latino men. So what happens when not all of the officers involved are white? In Michael Mineo’s case, the three accused officers were white (Officer Richard Kern) and Latino (Officers Andrew Morales and Alex Cruz).

Continue reading

How Do We Solve a Problem Like South Philadelphia High?

by Latoya Peterson

When you see a headline like “30 Asian Students Attacked,” one would think there would be massive rage.  An outcry about violence in schools.  A discussion of why our kids aren’t safe.  But in the wake of the attacks and continuing coverage by outlets like the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Asian-American blogosphere, the silence surrounding this issue confirms exactly who is considered media worthy in our society and who is not.  The kids being attacked at South Philly High School are part of our community – but where is the concern?  Where is the outcry from mainstream media? Where is the national conversation on…well, I’d take anything at this point.  Race, violence in schools, unsympathetic administrators, class, inter-community tensions, the right to an education in a safe environment – there are thousands of issues to be explored here, and we haven’t heard a peep from most mainstream media outlets.

I’ve been following the news with quite a bit of interest.  This kind of violence doesn’t pop up out of no where - it has to be nurtured.

Chaofei Zheng hiked up his shirt to reveal an angry bruise about four inches long on his right side. He pointed to a matching yellow and purple mark above his left eyebrow.

“I’m scared to go to school,” Zheng, 19, a freshman at South Philadelphia High, said through a translator today.

Zheng is one of several – community organizers say 30 or more – students who were attacked at the school on Thursday, targeted, they say, because they’re Asian.

Racial violence at the school is not new, but students and activists say this week’s attacks are emblematic of a problem that’s not going away.

“There’s a corrosive culture that’s hurting all the kids at the school,” said Helen Gym, a board member of Asian Americans United, who said the district must apologize and “admit that there’s a serious problem at South Philly High School.”

District officials acknowledge the school has problems and racial tensions but say that before the incident, violence was down by 55 percent this school year. Inroads have been made, they say.

Looking at some of the source articles, a clear narrative starts to emerge.  And while it is difficult to opine on a situation that is still unfolding, there are some dominant ideas emerging that need to be scrutinized before any progress can occur. Continue reading

Special Presentation: Wesley Du’s If I Was Like You

by Latoya Peterson

Wesley Du, creator of the film I wrote about here, has agreed to host to the film on YouTube so that everyone can have a chance to see it. (Thanks Wes!)

Here is the film, parts one and two.

As you formulate your responses, I’d like you to keep a couple things in mind:

1. How much does your race influence how you perceive this film?

2. How does this film factor into the conversations we attempt to have about the Things We Do To Each Other? As in, discussions of interracial tension that occurs between nonwhite groups?

ETA: This movie is going to dredge up some complicated feelings. It is ok to voice these, just like it is ok to be unsure how to feel. But what I am looking for in responses is engagement with the material – why do you feel the way you do? I already received a comment that is a disappointment (that will not be approved), so I want to make this clear – you can feel however you want about this film. However, I want people to articulate why they feel that way(if you are unsure, articulate that too) and what feelings this film brought to the surface. – LDP