Musical yellowface

by guest contributor Kai Chang, originally published at Zuky

musical yellowface chinky musicThe bare title of this post might already be enough to summon, in your head, the ubiquitous musical phrase that says “chinky!” with as much self-conscious gusto as bamboo fonts and gongs:

Having grown up in a music-loving household filled with both Chinese and Western classical music, this little melody has always annoyed me. It’s basically what white folks play every time Orientalism is invoked in a TV show, movie, or pop song. It’s so prevalent that I honestly suspect that many white folks unconsciously hear this ditty when they see me walk into the room.

Funny thing is, it’s neither Chinese nor even representative of Chinese music. It’s a white supremacist construction whose artistic purpose is to caricaturize, mock, and dehumanize Asians.

From Ask The A.V. Club:

Nilsson calls this “the Far East Proto-Cliché,” and documents its use in popular and light classical music back to the 1880s. Although it was used to signify generalized Asian exoticism (associated with places as far-flung as Persia and Egypt), by the early 20th century, it’s nearly omnipresent in music associated with “chinoiserie,” the fad for Oriental décor and dress.

Every two-bit jazz combo in the country seems to have recorded a novelty song with some version of the Proto-Cliché, from “Chinatown My Chinatown” to “Chong, He Come From Hong Kong” to “My Yokohama Girl.” The Walt Disney music department was especially fond of the trope. Versions occur in “The China Plate” (a Disney Silly Symphony in which painted figures on a piece of porcelain come to life), a few propaganda cartoons from the World War II period, and most beloved by The A.V. Club, the classic music-ed cartoon “Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom.”

Check out the exhaustive research piece by Martin Nilsson.

links for 2006-11-08

links for 2006-11-7

  1. Love ‘Springtime for Hitler’? Then Here’s the CD for You – New York Times

    “from a century-old genre that is essentially Jewish minstrelsy. Often known as Jewish dialect music, it was performed in vaudeville houses by singers in hooked putty noses, oversize derbies and tattered overcoats…”

  2. Nickelodeon’s Diverse Programming – Broadcasting & Cable

    Thanks Caroline! “Among Nickelodeon’s upcoming shows is El Tigre, which will debut in March. The show is about a Mexican-American teenager who has to choose between becoming a superhero or a villain. Ni Hao Kai-Lan revolves around a Chinese family…”

  3. The Pigeon-Holing of Keith Ellison (Congress’ First Muslim?) – CJR Daily

    “He is not wearing his religion on his sleeve, but the media has been putting it back on his sleeve,” Saeed says of Ellison, attributing this in part to the seeming appeal of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” framework and to “a post-9/11 obses

  4. Things You Need To Understand #4 « The Angry Black Woman

    “This post is required reading for anyone who wishes to engage me in any debate on White Privilege or who insists that it doesn’t exist (or it doesn’t exist for you).”

  5. Cover the basics – Having Read The Fine Print……

    “Privilege is the ability to be over someone else without an tangible justification. By being over it you don’t have to deal with the muck and mire of NOT having it. Privilege is more about NOT having to deal with something than the actually having of mor

  6. Low IQs are Africa’s curse, says lecturer – The Observer

    Thanks Tariq! “an evolutionary psychologist, is now accused of reviving the politics of eugenics by publishing the research which concludes that low IQ levels, rather than poverty and disease, are the reason why life expectancy is low and infant mortality

  7. Army Recruiters Accused of Misleading Students to Get Them to Enlist – ABC News

    “Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?” one student asks a recruiter. “No, we’re bringing people back,” he replies. “We’re not at war. War ended a long time ago,” another recruiter says.

  8. Wrassling – Oh Word

    “by acknowledging the comparison, we’ve more or less accepted it as status quo. No one ever goes “rap is like pro-wrestling: we need to do something about it”. Instead, when some rapper gets shot, we roll our eyes, repeat the line and go back to our

    to hiphop 
  9. “Wife Swap” seeks “hip hop families” – AllHipHop.com

    ” Wife Swap is seeking families who live a Hip-Hop lifestyle (including career choice) and believe freedom of expression is important to their children”

  10. ‘Master-race’ children revisit past – Scotsman.com News

    “The Lebensborn children were bred in special clinics, where SS men were mated with German maidens selected for their racial purity. They were then parcelled out to be brought up in the foster care of fanatical Nazis…”

  11. Imelda Marcos to Launch Bling – Bling Accessories Line – New York Times

    “Imelda Marcos, the Philippines’ former first lady famed for her rapacious extravagance, plans to launch a line of cheap accessories and sports shoes aimed at the youth market this month…Filipinos used the phrase ”Imeldific” to describe acts of excess

    to asian 
  12. Pakistan’s ground-breaking transvestite – BBC NEWS

    “Going by the name of Begum (Lady) Nawazish Ali, she hosts an eponymous talk show that has taken Pakistan by storm. Flirting and skirting her way through politics, society gossip and plain old sexual chemistry, Begum has become the most popular icon to in

    to glbt tv desi 

Watch out for the evil American Indian identity thieves!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Yet another race-baiting political ad. This one from Jeff Johnson, who’s running for Attorney General in Minnesota. Notice how the American Indian sitting in his dark apartment is juxtaposed with images of Johnson’s smiling white family, sitting in the great outdoors, flooded with sunlight. (Thanks to Rob at Newspaper Rock for the tip!)

It’s bigger than hip-hop

by guest contributor Dumi, originally published at BlackatMichigan.com

nyoilI’m guilty of it. You’re probably guilty of it, you know, it usually goes something like this “I listen to hip-hop, not rap.” The distinction between hip-hop and rap is one that “heads” have been making for years. While there are number of nuanced arguments about Hip-Hop as a culture, the hip-hop versus rap dichotomy is outdated and useless.

So the gist of the argument is usually any commercial rap music is classified as “rap” and anything that may be underground or semi-authentic is “hip-hop.” The water usually gets murky when you ask about folks who have cross over appeal, but ya’ll know what I mean. I recently realized, I can no longer do this bullshit distinction between hip-hop and rap. First let me make it clear, I’m not saying that I can’t tell some difference between the two. This doesn’t mean that I don’t watch 106 and Park with a pain in my stomach. None of that changes, but my decision is one that is much like many disgruntled married couples, I can’t split (hip hop from rap)… because of the children.

When I first started spewing the distinction it was in cinder block dorm rooms, but now that I hear the argument I hear it on TV, on websites, in blogs. As someone who considers himself somewhat of a scholar of Hip-Hop, I can appreciate a theoretical distinction. But I’m trying to look at it from the bottom up, not top down. I really started thinking about this distinction when I was reading blac(k)ademic’s post on NYOil’s video “Ya’ll should all get lynched”.

Over at blac(k)ademic NYOIL’s video and comments have created quite a stir. In reading through I recalled that people like to distinguish between hip-hop and rap. As someone who consumes more hip-hop than rap, I can honestly say, they’re not all that different. Let me go through my issues Rolodex: misogyny – check, homophobia – check, violence – check, drugs – check (yes, weed counts), foul language – check, materialism – check (yo rapping about your sneakers counts too!). Continue reading

The story behind “Flags of Our Fathers”

by guest contributor Carole Levine, originally published at NativeVue

flags of our fathersVery few people have ever heard of Ira Hayes. But he’s a hero. He and millions of other young men who weren’t quite men yet, but boys; underfed, undereducated boys growing up during the Great Depression intolerant and fearful of each other’s ethnic differences.

Despite all that, they were heroes in the purest of the pure sense of the word. They were heroes because they fought and died and prevailed for a cause that really had little to do with their hardscrabble lives whether they had traveled steerage or had roots to the land spanning thousands of years.

Ira Hayes was a Pima Indian from Arizona who joined the Marine Corps shortly after the start of World War II. He was hungry and needed money, and not least, he wanted to bring honor to his tribe. What happened to him during the war and his death as a demoralized, lonely alcoholic ten years later defines the legacy of naivete, pride, exploitation and bigotry of the era.

Most Americans alive today don’t know Ira Hayes. But most do recognize his image; one of the six young men planting the Stars and Stripes atop Mount Suribachi on the volcanic island of Iwo Jima during the waning days of World War II. Their flag raising, captured on film by photographer Joe Rosenthal, has been cast in bronze and reproduced more than any photographic image in history.

The story of the men in the photo—only three of whom survived the bloodbath that killed nearly 7,000 Marines and wounded 18,000 more—was detailed in the best-selling book Flags of Our Fathers. Written by the son of one of the three survivors, John Bradley, the book takes a straight-edged look at the sacrifice, valor, and manipulation of the men, no…boys…who waged what my Dad’s generation referred to as “THE War.”

Clint Eastwood has adapted James Bradley’s book into a movie. Ira Hayes, the young Pima from Arizona who fought for a nation that had massacred and marginalized his people is now depicted onscreen to an international audience who never knew nor cared who he was. He is portrayed by Adam Beach, the first Native actor ever to be cast in the role. In a previous movie made in 1961, Hayes was played by Tony Curtis. Yes. Tony Curtis. Continue reading

links for 2006-11-06

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World