Tag Archives: ethnicity

The Racialicious Links Roundup 7.24.13: Ethnicity, Trayvon, Devious Maids and Marc Anothony

By Joseph Lamour

  • How to Ask Someone About Their Ethnicity Without Being an Asshole (Jezebel)

    …I am Not a White Person. This means I am a walking version of this fun little game called “What Kind of Not White Person Are You?” Here’s how it goes: I introduce myself to you at a party or some such social gathering. You introduce yourself as well. In an attempt to get to know me better, or maybe just keep the conversation going, you want to know exactly how I am a Not a White Person. Which is totally fine at the right time and place, because I love gabbing on about my immigrant parents and how much I love mango pickle. It’s all good fun in post-racial America, like wearing a red, white, and blue dashiki on the fourth of July (who knew you could don a dashiki and be patriotic at the same damn time?!)

    But the majority of the time I play this game, supposedly well-intentioned people curious about my brownness go about asking it in the wrong way. No, not the wrong way- the ASSHOLE way. I get it, really. You grew up in a suburb of Indianapolis and no one ever taught you how to not be an asshole. That’s actually my life story, too, but you can’t always throw Indianapolis under the bus as your excuse for being ignorant.

  • The Curious Case of George Zimmerman’s Race

    Gustavo Arellano, editor in chief of OC Weekly and the syndicated columnist behind ¡Ask a Mexican! bristles at the idea that Latinos are responsible for explaining Zimmerman’s actions. “Latinos have acknowledged that he’s half-Peruvian and that makes him Latino. But no one is going out there to say, ‘He’s one of us,’ just like Muslims don’t go out and say, ‘Osama Bin Laden was one of us.’”

  • Obama, Trayvon and the Problem That Won’t Be Named (Colorlines)

    Obama rightly claimed that he could have been Trayvon Martin 35 years ago. Those who immediately took to Twitter to remind us that Obama didn’t grow up in a ghetto are correct. But they should be reminded that Sanford, Fla., is a majority white, yet mixed neighborhood—and far from a ghetto. Those who remind us that Obama attended private schools should know that racism remains alive and well in those institutions. Yes, Obama attended Columbia University in the early 80s—during a time when a whites-only fellowship was offered; in fact, the fellowship never went away. And yes, Obama attended Harvard University, just up the street from where professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct four years ago—on suspicion that he was breaking into what turned out to be his own home. Those who think that racial profiling somehow only happens in “ghettos,” which in this case is code for black neighborhoods often orchestrated for poverty, should be informed that black bodies are even blacker among white ones.

    But Barack Obama hasn’t only attended institutions that have historically created unfair advantages for white students, or questioned black professors who teach there.

    Barack Obama has been a politician in the United States where, for the past five years, he’s been continually harassed about this citizenship. A convincing rumor originally started by Hillary Clinton’s supporters in 2008, Obama’s dark skin and lineage cast doubt on his ability to campaign for president. Unlike any other candidate, Obama was forced to provide a copy of his birth certificate in order to illustrate his capacity to serve if elected. And unlike any other president, the rumor that the president may have been born in another country persists. That’s because Obama truly is unlike any other president—he’s a black one. And Friday’s remarks remind us that he, too, remembers what it’s like to not only be the nation’s first black president, but also what it’s like to be the black man in an elevator when a white woman clutches her purse.

  • Marc Anthony On Latino Stereotypes: The Entertainment Industry Doesn’t Owe Us Anything (HuffPo Latino Voices)

    Adding to a viewer’s video question concerning any upcoming projects on film or television, Hill alluded to the “Devious Maids” stereotype controversy and asked the singer whether he believed there was “space to have a different kind of Latino representation.”

    “Is that the show with the fine maids?,” Anthony asked before answering the question.

    “As far as people being in uproar, they don’t owe us anything. The industry doesn’t owe us anything, networks don’t owe us anything. You have a complaint? Educate yourself, take up writing, become a producer, direct it,” the salsa singer told HuffPost Live. “You know what I’m saying? Get up and do it — write good material, produce good films. I’m not of the mind that we’re owed [anything] because ‘oh every Latino on TV is either criminal…then get up and do better.”

Quoted: Lala Vasquez on the Concept of Ethnicity

A lot of people don’t realize that I’m Latina, which is fine. One thing about being Latina is that there isn’t one look that comes with the territory. I don’t expect people to know my cultural background just by glancing at me. I do, however, expect that when I tell people my family is from Puerto Rico, that I will be believed and not accused of trying to be something that I’m not. It usually goes something like this: a person having a conversation with me discovers one way or another that I’m Puerto Rican and fluent in Spanish. That person then expresses their shock over these realizations for any number of reasons–common responses are, “You don’t look Latina” and “I thought you were black!” I never said I wasn’t black. And since when does being black and being Latina have to be mutually exclusive? [...]

As I start to get my feet wet in Hollywood, I already know that there are certain parts I won’t even be considered for. The character can be Puerto Rican and speak Spanish just like me, but Hollywood defines Latina as Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara. As beautiful as they are, we’re not all one race in Latin America. But I don’t go to auditions so that I can give history lessons to film executives. I’d rather skip the entire process.

—From “Personal Essay: Yo Soy Boricua” on the LaLa Blog

(Thanks to N for the tip!)

Going Back Like Babies and Pacifiers; Why I Love Mariah

by Special Correspondent Thea Lim

I said it once and I’ll say it again, I love Mariah Carey.

mariah
I rarely try to justify this rabid adoration when I’m talking politics. Sometimes radical folks think that just because they like something, it must be radical. I’ve seen many bloggers look foolish this way. So I try to sidestep any probing questions as to why an incredibly serious and intellectual person like me (ahem) owns a Mariah wall calendar and tends to squeal deliriously when “Heartbreaker” plays over the supermarket PA system.

Usually when people ask why I so celebrate Mariah, I say “We’re both mixed race, and we’ve both experienced heartbreak. Obviiiiiously.”

But about a week ago, while discussing Nick Cannon’s accusations that the Mariah-inspired Eminem song “Bagpipes from Baghdad” was racist and sexist, the discussion that fell out of the post made me wonder if, after all, there was some need to untangle my Mariah love and its distant political underpinnings.

A little recap of the post and discussion: in trying to defend his wife against Eminem, Cannon proclaimed that Carey was a BLACK woman (the caps are his) and that it was time enough that white men like Eminem disrespected women of colour like Carey. He went on to compare Carey to Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as examples of black queens that the black community should not allow to be disrespected. A lot of commenters said, “Right on, Nick!”

But a bunch said “Mariah Carey is black?” There were attempts to prove that she was not that black, by probing her bio and discussing her ethnic heritage in sixths and eights. Some suggested that she played both sides, emphasising her whiteness or her blackness according to which could sell more records, and that she was only black when it benefitted her. Some took offense at Cannon comparing Carey (who if half-white) to Obama and Winfrey (who are not half-white), frustrated by the fact that there was no recognition that Carey being light-skinned meant all sorts of light-skinned privilege, including more mainstream success than if she was darker-skinned.

I was taken aback. Truth be told I was unsure how Mariah herself identified. So I went back through the dusty internet archives, back to when Racialicious was Mixed Media Watch, to the first post I ever read on this site: Essence on Mariah Carey’s struggles with mixed race identity.

The post was interesting, but the comments were shocking. Commenters were incensed that Essence had identified Carey as a black woman. They were dismissive about Carey’s struggles with biraciality. Mostly the consensus was that Carey was a stupid rich poptart and that Essence was full of self-loathing idiots. Then again, I only read about the first 20 comments; it started to get too upsetting. Continue reading

Boxed In: the UC system’s ethnicity representation

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

When I went to college at the University of Utah, there was no box for me to check. There was no “Middle Eastern” and there was definitely no “bi- or multi-racial.” I’d like to think that the U of U has since updated their ethnicity data, but I can’t be sure.

When I applied to graduate school, I practically wet my pants when I saw “Middle Eastern” on the online application. I was overjoyed to think that my regional ethnicity was included. I happily checked “Middle Eastern”, ignoring the line for “Other,” where I could have specified “bi-racial.”

Currently, if you fill out an application on the Oregon State University’s website, there is a drop-down box of ethnicities, with an almost exhaustive list. They divided “Middle Eastern” and “North African” to make sure all ethnicities within these groups were covered, and the lists were fairly inclusive. Hazaras, Maronites, Baluchis, and other under-represented Middle Easterners were under “Middle Eastern.”

However, there is still no option for multi- or bi-racial.

Last March, several Middle Eastern UCLA student groups began a lobby to expand the University of California application ethnicity check boxes to include ethnicities such as Arab, Persian, Afghan, etc. It’s mind-boggling that the UC system would still not have up-to-date ethnicity representation on its applications, especially since California has high concentrations of West Asian diasporas in California (they don’t call it “Tehrangeles” for nothing).

The University of California system updated its ethnicity check boxes in 2007, when the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) started the “Count Me In!” campaign, intended to break down the different groups pushed together under the category “Asian/Pacific Islander.” The campaign successfully put 23 new ethnicities on the application, including Samoan, Pakistani, and Hmong, and aims to improve census and research data on these specific groups’ college attendance patterns, financial aid packages, and student representation.

The first thing I thought when I read about the previous campaign was, “Lots of West Asian ethnicities are technically Asian because regionally they are on Asian continent. Why weren’t any of them included in this campaign?” Erin Pangilinan, a member of the APC  campaign, stated that the campaign’s ethnicity representations were based off California Assembly Bill 295 (which included a call for “state entities that currently collect demographic data regarding the ancestry or ethnic origin of Californians to also make a separate category and tabulation for specified Asian and Chamorro, Indonesian, Malaysian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, and Tongan”) and the 2000 U.S. Census, which stated that the aforementioned specific ethnicities have the largest populations in the United States. She stated that the campaign “was not intended to be exclusive, instead it is starting point to have a more inclusive and comprehensive admissions policy.”

The second issue that arose was that many of the “ethnicities” on the list were not actually ethnicities, but nationalities (Pakistani, Taiwanese, etc). Pangilinan explained that the campaign focused on ethnicities provided by the Census, which brings up more questions about ethnic representation in governmental processes. Constructing nationalities as synonymous with ethnicities creates troubling deficiencies in ethnic representation within nations, erringly homogenizing the ethnic populace.

This led me to question the inclusivity and strategy of the current campaign. I spoke with Faisal Attrache from UCLA’s United Arab Society. He said that the campaign is not aiming for a “Middle Eastern” designation: “We are attempting to gain representation of Middle Eastern minorities, but we do not want it to be under the heading of ‘Middle Eastern’ for many reasons.  It is a term with an unclear meaning and sometimes excludes several groups that we would like to include in the campaign. Ideally, we would like all the categories to standalone and not be grouped under ‘Middle Eastern’ or ‘Near Eastern’, because after all, the region we represent stretches from Central Asia to Western Africa.”

The campaign’s aim at a designation other than “Middle Eastern” is a relief: “Middle Eastern” is a term that’s left over from the colonial period, and is fairly misleading ethnically. “West Asian” includes much of the Middle East, including Arabs, but leaves out North Africa, a region which is heavily ethnically Arab. But I do have a fair skepticism at the stand-alone designations: if every other group has overarching categories, these ethnicities will most likely have one, too.

While I’m overjoyed that we (meaning underrepresented West Asian groups) might finally be included on the applications, I still worry about all those who aren’t being represented, and won’t be unless they lobby (or someone lobbies for them). Attrache mentioned that student groups at UCLA representing these ethnicities coordinate the campaign, and so Arab, Persian, Afghan, Armenian, and Assyrian students will be included. But no conclusive list has been agreed upon at this time, and so it’s difficult to say whether ethnicities that don’t have a large student presence on campus will be represented accurately or at all, especially if they are a significant minority in their home region. Because of the numerous and varied ethnicities in these regions, it’s almost certain that someone will get left out, which feels wrong in the current “We’re here, we’re [insert ethnicity], get used to us!” climate.

There’s also the fact that the box system itself is flawed, not just because of any possible lacks in representation, but because it historically leaves out bi- and multi-racial individuals. While the bi- or multi-racial designation could appear with a line for clarification, universities that use a drop-down box format have no way of collecting data about bi- or multi-racial students because the students cannot specify their racial makeup.

A blank line would illustrate better how people define themselves through their ethnicities and would be less likely to pigeonhole respondents into a group they don’t feel they identify with. It would also be welcoming for bi- or multi-racial students (much better than check all that apply).

The difficult logistics aside, this is an important campaign, just like it was two years ago. Not only will it give university statisticians and financial aid operators a better idea of the population indicators, but it can help the community at large gauge where it is on the local university scale in terms of representation, participation, and inclusion. It may also lead to an overall overhaul of the ethnicity system, recognizing differences among ethnicities under other categories previously bunched together (“Hispanic”, anyone?) and inaccurately represented.

ALO Again: New Lifestyle Magazine More of the Same Old Orientalism

By Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie. An expanded version of this piece can be found at Muslimah Media Watch.

Last summer saw the launch of ALO Hayati, “America’s Top Middle Eastern Lifestyle Magazine.” Thanks to a gracious donor, I finally got my hands on a copy of the July 2008 issue.

All lifestyle magazines have an aspirational feel to them, and this one was no different. Chock full of advertisements for Dubai hotels and Swiss watches, ALO wasn’t particularly different than any other lifestyle magazine. Considering the economic situation of magazines, it doesn’t seem like an incredibly auspicious time to launch one aimed at a materialistic lifestyle. I wasn’t able to find any updates about the magazine’s publication on the website, and as far as I’m aware, this is the only edition, though in the magazine they refer to an earlier issue in some places.

As someone who enjoys a good glossy every now and then, I delighted over advertisements with Kim Kardashian, and interview with exclusive designer Bijan, and a fluffy piece on intercultural relationships (though I did not care for the cover teaser: “Shocking Intercultural Stories”).

The magazine featured an interview with Leila Ahmed, which was a great one, likening the current western media representation of Muslim women to the same patronizing Orientalism that played out in the first wave of colonialism in Middle East. Her interview shed lots of light on the history and future of the headscarf. Despite the educational qualities of her interview, I kept thinking, “Who is this educating?”

While not every Middle Eastern person is going to be familiar with the history behind the headscarf, it seems sort of odd to have an educational feature about hijab in a magazine aimed at a demographic that has a fairly lengthy history with headscarves, even if many of them aren’t Muslim. Something about this piece tugged at me. It almost felt as if it was aimed at people who were not Middle Eastern. Continue reading

Quoted: Richard Owen from the Times (UK) on Gastronomic Racism


The tomato comes from Peru and spaghetti was probably a gift from China.

It is, though, the “foreign” kebab that is being kicked out of Italian cities as it becomes the target of a campaign against ethnic food, backed by the centre-right Government of Silvio Berlusconi.

The drive to make Italians eat Italian, which was described by the Left and leading chefs as gastronomic racism, began in the town of Lucca this week, where the council banned any new ethnic food outlets from opening within the ancient city walls.

Yesterday it spread to Lombardy and its regional capital, Milan, which is also run by the centre Right. The antiimmigrant Northern League party brought in the restrictions “to protect local specialities from the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines”.

Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on nonItalian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.

Mr Zaia said that those ethnic restaurants allowed to operate “whether they serve kebabs, sushi or Chinese food” should “stop importing container loads of meat and fish from who knows where” and use only Italian ingredients.

Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”

—Richard Owen in his article “Italy Bans Kebabs and Foreign Foods from Cities” writing for The Times Online

Comprehensive new report on chinese americans

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

In November, the University of Maryland’s Asian American Studies Program, with support from OCA, released a major new study on Chinese Americans in the United States. Based on extensive U.S. Census data and independent interviews, A Portrait of Chinese Americans offers the most comprehensive and current portrait of the country’s diverse Chinese American population: Major Study of Chinese Americans Debunks ‘Model Minority’ Myth.

According to the study, Chinese Americans, one of the most highly educated groups in the nation, are confronted by a “glass ceiling,” unable to realize full occupational stature and success to match their efforts. The returns on Chinese Americans’ investment in education and “sweat equity” are “generally lower than those in the general and non-Hispanic White population.”

Continue reading