Tag Archives: barack obama

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A Call For An Annual #PrezRezVisit

By Guest Contributor Megan Red-Shirt Shaw

Only four United States presidents have ever visited an Indian reservation during their terms: Calvin Coolidge in 1927, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, Bill Clinton in 1999 and now, Barack Obama, here in the year 2014. Last week ended a 15-year-long gap between visits by our country’s leader to Indian Country. As I watched footage of President Obama and First Lady Michelle sitting at a powwow hosted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, the thought shocked me: over the past 80 years, the president of our country has only come knocking on our doors four times.

Four.

Clinton’s visit ended a 63-year gap between presidential Rez visits. During that time, the Indian Reorganization Act was created; roughly 25,000 American Indians served in World War II; the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Youth Council came into existence; the American Indian Movement seized Alcatraz Island; Wounded Knee was reoccupied; the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs was reestablished; and the United States v. Sioux Indian case was decided by the Supreme Court. Yet, in sixty-three years, within Indian Country – none of these happenings warranted a visit from the President of the United States.
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Voices: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Front page, The Sowetan newspaper, Soweto, South Africa. Image via Lydia Polgreen.

African men want to have their wives and children to live with them where they work, and not be forced into an unnatural existence in men’s hostels. African women want to be with their menfolk and not be left permanently widowed in the reserves. Africans want to be allowed out after 11 o’clock at night and not to be confined to their rooms like little children. Africans want to be allowed to travel in their own country and to seek work where they want to and not where the labour bureau tells them to. Africans want a just share in the whole of South Africa; they want security and a stake in society.

Above all, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy.

This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

- Nelson Mandela, during the first day of his trial on charges of sabotage, April 20, 1964.

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Barack Obama as our first Asian American President?: Part I

Barack Obama with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng from their earlier days

By Guest Contributor Jennifer; originally published at Mixed Race America 

It has been two months since I last wrote a post in this blog–which is embarrassing (sigh).  For all my good intentions, I have not felt compelled to write in this space, even though I, ostensibly, have the time since I’m not teaching.

But this is, perhaps, the reason why I haven’t been writing in this space–because I have been immersed in trying to finish my book manuscript on racial ambiguity and Asian American culture (which also happens to be the title of the book).  I’m fortunate enough to have a research and study leave, which means I’ve been reading and thinking and writing and trying to make the most of my time out of the classroom.

And then, of course, as I realized how much time had passed from when I last blogged, the pressure to write something meaningful or at least intelligible increased after so much silence (sigh)–always the dilemma of the writer–the blank page and wondering if there is an audience out there.

But as I tell my students, sometimes, whether you’re feeling it or not, you just have to write it.  Good advice.  So I thought I should share what I’m working on, since it has applicability to this blog.  For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about the coda to my book–which is also the title of this blog post.  If race is a social construction–if it doesn’t have a basis in biology or blood, then could we imagine that Barack Obama is not only our first African American president, our first (openly) mixed race president, but our first Asian American president of the United States?

This might seem like an odd way to end a book on racial ambiguity and Asian American culture.  Yet if we think about taking the idea of racial ambiguity to its furthest extremes, if race is not just limited to what you “look” like–if you can be Asian American without Asian American family (as transracial adoptees would seem to prove), if one’s racial identity is as much about culture and community as anything else, then it would seem that there are clear markers of Asian American racialization that correspond to Obama’s life narrative.  For example:
*He was born and spent his formative adolescent years in the only state in the union that has a majority Asian American population.  The local culture in Hawaii is steeped in Asian American culture from the various Asian immigrants who have come to the island archipelago from the 19th C.  He can speak pidgin, he eats local food, he grew up with his grandparents preparing sashimi for guests and with Asian American neighbors and classmates.
Obama’s fifth-grade class photo from The Punahou School
*He is the child of an immigrant father who came to the US to be educated (first, a BA at U of Hawaii and then a PhD at Harvard), and his name reflects these immigrant roots, with people who find it odd, foreign, and hard to pronounce (something many children of Asian immigrants with Asian names understand all too well).
*He lived for four years in Indonesia (from the ages of 6-10) thus experiencing life in an Asian country.
*He has family members–a sister (Maya Soetoro-Ng–Indonesian-white), a brother-in-law (Konrad Ng–Chinese-Malaysian from Canada) and nieces who are Indonesian-Chinese-Malaysian-white–who are Asian American.
The Soetoro-Ng family
In October 1998, writing for The New Yorker’s “Talk of the Town” about the ways that President Bill Clinton was being targeted by special prosecuters for potential impeachment after revelations of his affair with Monica Lewinsky became public, Toni Morrison famously (or infamously) wrote:

Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.

Until Barack Obama was elected to office in 2008, it was believed, in certain quarters, that Morrison had claimed blackness for Bill Clinton, thus dubbing him our first black president.  But if you read the above quote (and the entire article) carefully, you will see that it is the “trope of blackness” that Morrison refers to rather than claiming that Clinton’s identity is that of an African American man.

In similar fashion, claims for Barack Obama as our first Asian American president have been made by Rep. Mike Honda and Jeff Yang – mine is not the first observation made in this regard.  
Yet what does it MEAN for me to imagine, that Barack Obama could be considered Asian American based on the trope of Asian-ness–the ways in which parts of his life narrative contain similarities to those of Asians in America?  Is this an anti-racist move, one that can remind us that race is a fiction, a social construction designed to elevate one racial group above others?  Can knowing that race is this fluid and flexible become a means to dismantle structures of institutional racism?
Stay tuned for Part II (which I promise to write this weekend!) and, of course, if there are any readers out there, I welcome your thoughts and comments, your agreements and disagreements.  I welcome dialogue, because that’s the reason I started this blog to begin with–and Barack Obama was the topic of the third blog post I wrote back in May 2007.

 

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Beyoncé (With Shout-Outs To Tina Turner)

By Andrea Plaid

Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Via wallpapersbest.net

Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Via wallpapersbest.net

I find myself increasingly defending someone whom I otherwise wouldn’t look around at or wouldn’t listen to: Beyoncé.

I haven’t converted to listening to her discography: To me, she sounds like every other Black female soloist in a Black church choir, so her voice–her timbre and melisma–isn’t unicorn-unique to my ears. In fact, I find it gratingly common because I heard so many women with her voice every Sunday from the age of five to my late twenties; Beyoncé just has a better production team.

And, as I’ve said on the R, her female-empowerment messages aren’t my feminism:

[S]ome of folks who see Bey as “girl power” may have never heard of Valenti or may even want to be bothered with her writings or what they perceive to be “white feminism” that she embodies. Bey is their feminist text and their idea–and ideal. And whatnot…On the real though, Bey is not my sort of feminism–and that’s not blasphemous to say. Then again, neither were the Spice Girls…or the Riot Grrls, for that matter. And I remember folks tripped on each of those pop-cultural “generations” of feminist representations, too, trying to figure out their effects on younger people.

Feminism is rather malleable as each generation figures out what it means to them, even when we’re fighting the same old battles.  Or because of them.

And let’s not forget Beyoncé now-notorious photo layout in French Vogue, which she said was an homage to “African queens in the past” and “African rituals”:

Beyonce Blackface 5

And I was quite happy to leave Beyoncé to her ideas about race pride and “girl power” with a genuinely heartfelt “bless her heart”…until Harry Belafonte came along.

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Inauguration Fashion: Highlights

by Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour

From E! Online.

Just a quick note (“quick” is a bold faced lie and I know it) to show you that we Racialicious denizens leave the roost sometimes and branch out!

Yesterday, we celebrated the swearing in of our first African American president, for the second time (woo!) We also celebrated the confirmation of four more years of Michelle Obama looking ferosh all the time in the public eye, so I was asked to participate in a Huffington Post Live hangout where a few people would talk about the highlights of the inauguration ceremony from various angles. The guests were:

  • Reverend Deborah L. Johnson, Founder of Inner Light Ministries, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Molly Darden, Managing Editor of Azizah Magazine, Atlanta, GA
  • Dr. Christopher House, Dir., African American Worship Service at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
  • Tim Byrnes, Professor of Political Science at Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
  • J.J. Colagrande, Professor at Miami-Dade Wolfson and HuffPost Blogger, Miami, FL
  • Joseph Lamour, Fashion & Entertainment Editor at Racialicious.com, Washington, DC
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C’est moi! The drawing behind me is by yours truly as well. Cross promotion!

Let me just tell you: I did not expect to be seated amongst tenured professors and ministers. I was taken aback (and feel honored to be even thought of for the same discussion as the above people). I was so taken aback that I forgot my opening line! I had dubbed yesterday African American Awesomeness Day, and it really was. I promise I’m not talking about myself, either. I’m being humble (for once). To have Martin Luther King’s birthday fall on the same day as the re-inauguration of an African American President with his African American First Lady at his side was truly, truly, awesome.
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Open Thread: 2013 Inauguration Of Barack Obama

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President Barack Obama taking the official oath of office with First Lady Michelle Obama. Photo credit: Reuters.

Coverage of the Inauguration will likely begin at 9AM ET, with a performance by Public School 22 from Staten Island, NY. The Inaugural invocation, led by Myrlie Evers-Williams, is scheduled to begin at 11:35 a.m.

Update: In light of the president not only being sworn in as the country celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but on Dr. King’s personal copy of the Bible, The Grio will be interviewing visitors to the MLK Memorial throughout the day in the livestream under the cut.
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Video: Kicking Off Our New Year With Some Junot Diaz

As Latoya mentioned at the time, we dealt with not only the holidays but some technical glitches to close out the year. Those are in the past now, thank goodness (and some folks who offered their help).

We’ll be rolling out new content throughout the week–expect a Django double-feature on Wednesday–but to get us started, check out this Moyers & Company interview with Junot Díaz, in which he not only revisits many of the themes of his keynote speech at Facing Race, but also touches on the choices in Star Wars that resonated with his immigrant experience and his wishes for the next four years of the Obama administration. A full transcript can be found here, but a small excerpt of the conversation is under the cut.
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11.15.12 Links Roundup

As I have watched “The Walking Dead,” however, I have been disappointed to discover that, while the writers occasionally take a moment to comment on the state of gender — and of race — in this new world, in the end they leave these issues to die and reconstitute a world in which white men rule. Men of color are reduced to occupying a nebulous space, and women (with rare exception) are to be protected. Even more pernicious, any power that women have usually comes to them in the old-fashioned, stereotypical way of manipulating the men in their lives into doing what they want them to do.

I’m not sure if it is a failure of the writers of the TV show (and yes, I know, the show is based upon previously written graphic novels), but surely, if the writers could take time out for the characters to constantly question and talk incessantly about how they are supposed to live a civilized life in a world that has risen from the ashes, couldn’t the characters have spent more time trying to figure out how to behave, now that gender and race should no longer be factors? Why has the world of “The Walking Dead” turned into a white patriarchy?

After Rick is rescued by Morgan and Duane, it’s as if racial reality disappears. Rick leaves to search for his wife, Lori, and son, Carl. Despite the fact that Atlanta is 54 percent African-American, when Rick arrives in a deserted Atlanta, he is swarmed by an all-white mob of walkers — in downtown Atlanta. That was my first moment of cognitive dissonance — in Atlanta, where were the black walkers? — but I let it go as I let myself get more into the story.

To be honest, the locations are not too bad. Buildings are similar to those in Iran, the houses are not that different, the bazaar is quite like the actual shopping centre in south Tehran. Banners, placards and signs are in Persian and many characters actually speak the language, although some with accents.

There are silly mistakes, however. In one scene, for example, the protagonist Tony Mendez (Affleck) says “salam” at the end of his conversation with an Iranian official. Salam means hello in Persian, not goodbye.

Minor mistakes aside, the film takes a black and white view towards Iranians, like many other western films about Iran. It portrays them as ugly, poor, strictly religious, fanatical and ignorant – almost in line with the young revolutionaries behind the hostage-taking at the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic revolution, which the film is about. The only nice Iranian in the film is the Canadian ambassador’s maid.

The whole experience is like asking an Iranian who has never been to the US to make a film (let’s say in Cuba) about the Columbine high school massacre. You’ll probably end up watching a film in which all Americans are crazy, have a gun at home and are ready to shoot their classmates.

During an interview on “Democracy Now” West criticized Al Sharpton, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, and frequent guest host Michael Eric Dyson for “selling their souls” in exchange for insider access to Obama.

“They want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way, given the kind of critical background that all of them have had at some point.”

The activist also made a shot at the MSNBC personalities lack of dedication to black interests by inviting “them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves.”

West didn’t hold back when it came to Obama either. During the interview he called President Obama a “Rockefeller republican in blackface.”

If the move out of New York has softened the glow on Lin’s celebrity, it hasn’t softened the ferocity with which the sport comes for him. From the playground to the Ivy League to the NBA, the eyes on America’s breakout Asian-American basketball player felt the same.

“I’ve always been a target,” Lin says. “Everyone looks me and says, ‘I’m not going to let that Asian kid embarrass me. I’m going to go at him.’ That’s how it’s been my whole life. This has been different, though. Now, I was on the scouting report. People started to pay attention to what I could and couldn’t do.

“But a target? I was used to that. I’m not saying I get everyone’s best shot, but I would say people don’t want to be embarrassed by me because of my skin color.”