Tag Archives: caucasian

Barack Obama and racial authenticity

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Update: Eric included extra comments from the folks he interviewed for this article on his blog, The Feed.

Today’s issue of The St. Petersburg Times features an article by Eric Deggans, who examines the discussion surrounding Barack Obama’s race. If Obama isn’t considered to be authentically African-American, then who is?

It’s a fascinating article that includes a multitude of perspectives: Al Sharpton, Julian Bond from the NAACP, Sylvester Monroe from Ebony magazine, conservative Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn, history professor Jonathan Holloway, anthropologist Peter B. Hammond, Monroe Anderson from the Chicago Sun-Times, and yours truly.

I really enjoyed talking to Eric for this article — I think we spent over an hour on the phone. One of the main points I made to Eric was this: How a multiracial person self-identifies is almost the least important factor in how others view that person racially. This phenomenon is especially obvious in Obama’s case. He has repeatedly stated that he self-identifies primarily as a black man and an African-American but still, everyone projects onto him what they want to see.

So if self-identification isn’t how racial authenticity is determined, then what is? Halle Berry and Nicole Richie both self-identify as black women, yet we think of Berry as somehow “blacker” than Richie. Eric’s attempt to create a list by which we judge “how black” someone is is really interesting:

Van Kerckhove, Hammond and other experts agree there is a long list of characteristics others often use to judge someone else’s racial identity. And these details can be crucial cues for others – sometimes given more weight than what the person actually says about his or her own racial identity.

Some characteristics: physical appearance/genealogy; language (do you have an accent or speak in a vernacular?); race of your romantic partner; race of your friends (an area which is often segregated in people’s lives); music you enjoy; your history of activism, if any; your name; where you go to church (churches are still highly segregated); your assertion of culture at your job.

Here’s my take on the multiracial angle:

While some may view race identity as something handed down through families, experts agree that race is a delicate balance between how society perceives you and how you perceive yourself.

Tiger Woods, for example, learned the folly of trying to carve a new race identity for himself without society’s permission – once insisting on Oprah Winfrey’s popular talk show that he was not African-American but “Cablinasian,” a mix of Caucasian, black, Dutch, Native American and Thai (both Woods’ parents are from mixed-race heritage).

But Woods quickly found trouble: Some black people assumed he was denigrating their culture by refusing to be a part of it, and white sports commentators didn’t seem to know how to handle a guy who didn’t want to be the first black golf legend.

“He came out too early on. … America wasn’t ready to take it,” said Carmen Van Kerckhove, a New Yorker of Flemish-Belgian and Chinese heritage who serves as president of the antiracism training company New Demographic.

“I think mixed-race people exist in this space where their legitimacy is constantly questioned,” said Van Kerckhove, who recalled a discussion with friends who insisted mixed-race people must “choose a side” when defining their racial identity. “Different communities try to claim you, depending on how well you’re doing at that point in your life.”

Woods, it seems, has learned his lesson: He rarely talks openly about race anymore. But Obama, in seeking to become the nation’s first black president, doesn’t have that luxury.

Radar Online’s list of racial stereotypes in the movies

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Radar Online just published a great list called From Borat to Mammy: The top ten stereotypes in cinema history:

Hollywood has a long history of racial insensitivity—stereotypes are its stock in trade. But, as with Borat, watchdog groups are too quick to sound the alarm when things get out of hand. Unfortunately for film-goers with less-fragile constitutions, some of the most deliciously offensive characters in cinema have been relegated to the dustbin as a result. Where were the Golden Globes when Long Duk Dong dropped his L’s in Sixteen Candles? It just doesn’t seem fair. Come with us on a tour of Hollywood’s walk of shame, where we gaze, slack-jawed, upon the ten best stereotypes ever captured on film.

(Hat tip to Angry Asian Man.) So who’s on the list?

Long Duk Dong
From: Sixteen Candles, 1984
Played By: Gedde Watanabe
Groups Offended: Asians, exchange students

Speedy Gonzales
From: The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, 1981; various Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies animated shorts
Voiced By: Mel Blanc
Groups Offended: Mexicans, mice

James ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb
From: The Silence of the Lambs, 1991
Played By: Ted Levine
Groups Offended: Gays, transsexuals, lesbians, serial killers, cannibals

Dick Hallorann
From:The Shining, 1980
Played By: Scatman Crothers
Groups Offended: African-Americans, mystics, Lady Cleo, Dionne Warwick, most of the Psychic Friends Network

Jar Jar Binks
From: Star Wars: Phantom Menace, 1999; Attack of the Clones, 2002; Revenge of the Sith, 2005)
Voiced By: Ahmed Best
Groups Offended: Jamaicans, nerds

Pagoda
From: The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001
Played By: Kumar Pallana
Groups Offended: Indians, hipsters

Grand Vizier Jafar
From: Aladdin, 1992
Voiced By: Jonathan Freeman
Groups Offended: Arabs, street urchins

Caiaphas
From: The Passion of the Christ, 2004
Played By: Mattia Sbragia
Groups Offended: Jews, Jews for Jesus

Mr. Yunioshi
From: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961
Played By: Mickey Rooney
Groups Offended: Asians

Mammy
From: Gone With the Wind, 1939
Played By: Hattie McDaniel
Groups Offended: African Americans

Barack Obama is AWB: articulate while black

by guest contributor Philip Arthur Moore, originally published at TheThink

Why do I keep finding news articles about Barack Obama that conspicuously mention how “articulate” he is?

Reality check: ‘Barry’ Obama attended Columbia University, Harvard Law School, and was the first ever black American to be elected president of the Harvard Law Review. His educational biography is impressive, to say the least, and when he stormed into the national spotlight at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (part 1, part 2), we should have taken note of how “articulate” Obama was with the English language (his native language, by the way) and moved on. Instead, writers, taking adjectives from the same play book and arranging them just slightly differently, are harping on how well Barack Obama can speak about as much as they harp on how well George W. Bush mangles the English language (which, incidentally, is also his native tongue).

Take, for example, the following news snippets that have come out in the past several days alone:

“Barack Obama and the Pertinent Precedents” (Townhall.com, January 18, 2007):

The way in which he resembles George W. Bush — his thin resume — is not one that will help him. It may be cancelled out, though, by the ways in which he conspicuously contrasts with the outgoing president — notably, being thoughtful, articulate and seemingly open to opposing views. Bush is the commander in chief. But it’s Obama who gives the effortless impression of command.

“Much buzz, many questions over Barack Obama’s bid” (Christian Science Monitor, January 17, 2007):

But his biggest advantage could be his persona – young, attractive, articulate, a fresh face.

“Iowa Blogger Thrilled At Obama’s ‘08 Ambitions” (KCCI 8, January 17, 2007):

“We have someone in Obama who is a wonderfully articulate speaker, and we should never underestimate the importance of public officials being able to move people,” Goldford said. “The danger for somebody like Obama is: he rouses such high hopes. I mean, it’s the puppy love. The crush phase.

“Obama may find his newness both help and hindrance in campaign” (The Financial Express, January 18, 2007):

Obama’s appeal as an articulate, intellectual, multi-racial candidate prompted supporters such as fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to urge him to run in 2008. So far, Obama’s easy-going charm is the only thing most voters know about him.

Continue reading

Whoop that waif: Black Snake Moan

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Update: Looks like they pulled the video, and I couldn’t find another trailer on YouTube. If anyone can find the trailer online, please post a link. Thanks!

We warned told you about Black Snake Moan back in May. It’s Craig Brewer’s follow-up to Hustle & Flow and it’s all about pushing our buttons when it comes to race and sex.

The trailer is out now (hat tip to Christopher) and it looks like Sam Jackson will be playing the time-honored role of The Magic Negro, saving waifish white Christina Ricci from her own sexual demons. Even if he has to chain her up in his kitchen:

If you’re reading this in an RSS reader and can’t view the video, please click on the post title.

Video from The Charlatans UK: Asian woman sells body to support white boyfriend

by guest contributor Kevin

Here is a new high concept video by the band The Charlatans UK called “Blackened Blue Eyes” being aired nationally. The lead female role is played by an Asian woman. You’ll never guess what role she plays. I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the pimp role or the john role. If you guessed anything more prestigious than a prostitute… well, you’re headed for disappointment.

The archetype of the eager to please Asian woman doing anything for her charmingly reckless white suitor has become a celebrated ideal of oriental romanticism. Pursued by evil Chinese thugs, who (surprisingly) are easily swayed by the almighty dollar, one would assume any reasonable woman would leave her dirtbag pimp-boyfriend. Not so for this Asian woman. She seems to suggest that despite being a whore and getting slapped around by her customers… there are worse things in life? Probably things like a stifling Asian culture and cold Asian men who are always accused of… treating their women like property?

The moral of the story: Stand by your white man, even if he whores you out for money.

If you’re reading this in an RSS reader and can’t view the video, please click on the link title.

Nicole Richie was white in 2003, black in 2006

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

black and white cookieFunny stuff, from MollyGood:

Three years ago, Nicole Richie was arrested for heroin possession, so following this morning’s DUI arrest, The Smoking Gun was kind enough to compare the changes in her booking sheets from 2003 and 2006. Wheee. The picture accompanying the 2006 sheet is her mugshot, while the 2003 pic is just a photo of Nicole from around the same time.

Here is how she’s changed (I mean, other than her drug of choice). In three years, Nicole Richie has:

1. Shrunk one inch.
2. Lost 5 lbs. (That’s all? Seems fishy.)
3. Changed which race she identifies with (White in 2003, Black in 2006).

Well, at this rate, when she’s arrested in 2009 she’ll be a 5’0”, 80 lb Latina.

Cartoon about biracial conjoined twins

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Today’s random YouTube find.

Conjoined twins, one black, one white. With a black mother and a white father. The white twin is a killer skateboarder. The black twin can dunk a basketball like nobody’s business.

Gee, wonder why this animated series pilot never got picked up? It takes the twins obsession to a whole new level.

If you’re reading this in an RSS reader and can’t see the video, please click on the post title.

Vibe Confidential revokes Justin Timberlake’s ghetto pass

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Apparently Justin Timberlake disses Janet Jackson in one of his new songs:

It’s not enough that he thinks he brought sexy back, but now word is that Justin Timberlake is talking smack about Janet Jackson on a new track. The song titled “Give It to Me”, which features Timbaland and Nelly Furtado, leaked to the Internet, and Justin’s lyrics are raising a few eyebrows:

“Could you speak up and stop mumbling / I don’ t think you’re even clear / When you’re sitting on the top / It’s hard to hear you from way up there / I saw you tryin’ to act cute on TV / ‘Just let me clear the air’ / We missed you on the charts last week / Damn, that’s right. You wasn’t there.”

So Vibe Confidential has decided to officially revoke his ghetto pass. They add: “Oh yeah, and he’s no longer allowed to rock a fade.” Hehe…

ghetto pass justin timberlake