Tag Archives: ethnicity

Obama and Myths of Racial Democracy

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America)

Political pundits have celebrated president-elect Barack Obama’s sweeping and historic victory as evidence that the United States has taken an initial step toward a “post-racial” or “colorblind” society.

In a recent Los Angeles Times Op-Ed, Shelby Steele provocatively asked, “Doesn’t a black in the Oval Office put the lie to both black inferiority and white racism? Doesn’t it imply a ‘post-racial’ America?” Analysts on both sides of the political spectrum have answered yes. Phillip Morris of the Cleveland Plains Dealer declared, “America has completed its evolution into a racial meritocracy.” While Jonathan Kay of Canada’s National Post wrote, “Electing a black president won’t instantly cure ‘the ugly racial wound left by America’s history’ (as The Economist put it in its Obama endorsement). But it will at least prove that America has finally become a fundamentally post-racial society—a place where tribal loyalties are based on ideology, not skin color.” Meanwhile, another conservative columnist, Laura Hollis of Townhall.com, flatly claimed, “Racism is dead.”

Most interesting, and perhaps troubling, is the way Latin America is being used by observers to symbolize what a “post-racial” future will look like for the United States. In a syndicated report for McClatchy Newspapers, Tyler Bridges remarked, “This year’s election presents intriguing story lines for Latin Americans. Race is a less important issue here than it is the United States, but many dark-skinned Latin Americans are quietly cheering for Obama.”

U.S. commentators most often point to the concept of mestizaje as an example of Latin America’s seamless racial integration. Mestizaje, or racial mixing, is often seen as diametrically different to historical U.S. legal sanctions against miscegenation—the so-called “one-drop” rule. Mestizaje is cited as a prime example of how Latin Americans have been able to move beyond race. Although mestizaje has different historical roots and trajectories within different Latin American countries, there has been a rhetorical emphasis across the board on a kind harmonious racial exceptionalism at work in Latin America.

The everyday practices and lived experiences of many Latin Americans, however, paint a different picture. Continue reading

Barack Obama and the Native Vote

by Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Like millions of people all over the world, I’m ecstatic, over-the-moon inspired by Obama’s win. If for no other reason (and all the others too in which we share the same opinion, like abortion for example) than his win is actually a good thing for the people in my community. Yes indeed, the new leadership of Barack Obama in the United States of America is good for Native people, and you can sure as hell bet that a whole lot of us voted for him, and are counting on him to really give a crap about the issues we are facing.

Like right now.

Several times last night, I heard:

“If a Black man can do it, so can we.”
“We need a Native Barack Obama.”
“A man of colour in office is a victory for us all!”

Which were all great things to hear than the usual cutting each other up in stereotypes and ignorance I usually see. To me, this represented an unveiling of a layer of oppression, where you had the Indigenous peoples of this land busting ass so that a fellow marginalized person could clean house with votes within a system none of us created, to make real change that we all sorely need.

Especially if you are still being colonized, I might add.

The First Americans for Obama Campaign was a true attempt at engaging the Native Americans here to work in solidarity with Obama on our common ground issues, and get the Democratic Party to pay a little more attention to the severity of what is going on in our communities. I’ll admit myself that when I first heard about it, I immediately wanted to jump on the bandwagon of actually seeing our people represented in such a public light with the star that is Obama, but now being at the end of the campaign, I can honestly say that it did not do a good enough job of reaching out to where we actually are, which for a high percentage of us is in rural and remote places. In addition to that important factor, I have several friends and family members who although they were Obama supporters, refused to even wear a “First American for Obama” t-shirt, because of the offensive nature of referring to us as “Americans”, which of course we are not. Continue reading

The Reggaetón Factor in the U.S. Elections

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published at NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America)

Who would have thought when Daddy Yankee released “Gasolina” in 2004 that four short years later the song would become the butt of jokes about John McCain and offshore drilling? If there were still sectors of U.S. society that didn’t know about reggaetón, this year’s presidential race certainly changed that.

Daddy Yankee caused a stir in August when he publicly endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The reggaetonero recently made headlines again when he agreed to help moderate a debate on October 9 among candidates for governor of Puerto Rico as part of the “Vota o Quédate Callao” (Vote or Shut Up) initiative to get young voters to the polls in November.

Not to be outdone, Barack Obama has also had a number of reggaetón artists come out in support of his campaign, most notably Julio Voltio and Don Omar who appeared in the video “Podemos con Obama,” directed by Yerba Buena’s Andres Levin. Calle 13 is even rocking the vote over at MTV. The duo can be seen in ads on MTV and MTV Tr3s urging young people to listen to their new album on the way to the polls.

Does this signal the emergence of a “reggaetón vote”? Pundits have wondered about the weight of the “hip-hop vote” in this year’s election, particularly regarding Barack Obama’s potential appeal to young African American and Latino/a voters. But in 2012 will political pundits be asking candidates what they’re doing to win the “reggaetón vote”? Continue reading

Film Festival Pick: Irish Twins

by Latoya Peterson

Last night, I watched the best of the DC Shorts film festival, which featured a week of short films from around the globe.

The last film of the evening was called Irish Twins, written and directed by Ryder and Shiloh Strong.

The film’s synopsis reads:

Born within a year of each other, Michael and Seamus Sullivan have become very different men. On the eve of their father’s funeral, Seamus drags Michael to the local pub in their small, logging community of northern California.

He attempts to convince his brother that they must take their father’s ashes to Ireland in tribute.

Of course, it isn’t long before Seamus’ true intentions are revealed, when his involvement with a group of local drug dealers becomes impossible to avoid, and Michael must confront how much he is willing to sacrifice for his Irish twin.

But what compelled me most about the film (outside of great pacing and drama) was the discussion of Irish identity. (Warning: Mild dialogue spoilers ahead, explicit language.)

Continue reading

Cultural Appropriation: Homage or Insult?

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Discussions about American Apparel’s new Afrika line of clothing on this blog, Feministing and Racialicious sparked some confusion among people who wondered “What’s so wrong with being inspired by another culture?” Nothing, really. But “inspiration” drawn from a historically oppressed culture comes with a tangle of baggage born of generations of marginalization and bias.

It’s all about the oppression

From Wikipedia:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It denotes acculturation or assimilation, but often connotes a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture.[1][2] It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, may take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held. Or, they may be stripped of meaning altogether.

The term cultural appropriation can have a negative connotation. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture; or, when there are other issues involved, such as a history of ethnic or racial conflict between the two groups.Cultural and racial theorist, George Lipsitz, outlined this concept of cultural appropriation in his seminal term “strategic anti-essentialism”. Strategic anti-essentialism is defined as the calculated use of a cultural form, outside of your own, to define yourself or your group. Strategic anti-essentialism can be seen both in minority cultures and majority cultures, and are not confined to only the appropriation of the other. For example, the American band Redbone, comprised of founding members of Mexican heritage, essentialized their group as belonging to the
Native American tradition, and are known for their famous songs in support of the American Indian Movement “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee” and “Custer Had It Coming”. However, as Lipsitz argues, when the majority culture attempts to strategically anti-essentialize themselves by appropriating a minority culture, they must take great care to recognize the specific socio-historical circumstances and significance of these cultural forms so as not the perpetuate the already existing, majority vs. minority, unequal power relations.

In other words: It’s the oppression, stupid. Continue reading

Los Republicanos: Daddy Yankee and John McCain

by Guest Contributor Marisol LeBron, originally published in two parts at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo

In what I’m guessing is a attempt to look young and hip John McCain, 71, continued his efforts to reach out to the Latina/o community by inviting reggaetonero Daddy Yankee to his campaign headquarters on Saturday afternoon.

Considering El Cangri’s sometimes raunchy lyrics and hustlin’ past it seems like a weird political coupling. “I don’t know anything about Daddy Yankee,” said McCain spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace. Great.

Supposedly McCain and Daddy Yankee first met when they were both named two of the 100 most influential people of 2006 by Time magazine.

According to Yankee “He invited me to have a brief conversation on how we can improve the living conditions in Hispanic communities.” The two were said to have discussed issues such as im/migration, education, and Latino/a youth. Yankee says he is not ready to endorse McCain yet hopefully because he will meet with Obama to hear him out on Latino/a issues. Continue reading

Our Genes Don’t Match with “BrownPride” Clothing

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published on Guanabee

One thing that’s kind of irked us about the term “Latino” over the years is, beyond how its used to encompass such a wide range of people, is that it’s often used in mainstream media as a synonym for “Chicano,” specifically the cholo and chola subculture, which is a very insular, unique group. We find all the most superficial trappings of that group: Chola style, lowriders, art, literature slang like “firme” interesting enough and we definitely think Chicano culture has been an asset to the Latino community at large but, you know. It’s just not who all of us are.

So when “BrownPride.com” declares itself a site for “Firme Clothing and Latino Fashion,” we’re both all “This is awesome!” and “So we guess we’re not… Latina?” If we, like their model, were to ever step out wearing a tank top that said “Firme” and our hair in cornrows, we would systematically get punched in the face. Hell, we’d punch ourselves in the face. It’s both not what we’re comfortable with or a subculture that’s for us. We’re not allowed to participate, almost. We’re not much good at it, either. If we tried to make this model’s “Attitude Face,” we’d probably be advised to eat more roughage to clear that problem right up. Arugula, at that.

So while we love Chicano culture and chola style, we don’t love umbrella terms or being misrepresented. Not by mainstream media and certainly not by one another. Because, if you allow us to get a little Hallmarkesque on you for a quick second, being Latina is in our genes. Not our jeans.

New Study Shows that Latino Teens Are Pregnant Suicidal Junkies

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published on Guanabee



A new study
shows that Hispanic high schoolers are shooting up, getting drunk, having sex and offing themselves at a higher rate than their Black or White classmates. Because, again, Hispanics cannot be Black, White or Asian:

The study is the latest in a series of surveys of U.S. high school students every two years. The new report noted black and white students are reporting less sexual activity that in years past, but there was no decline among Hispanics. Experts have not been able to find a clear explanation for that.

High five! Oh, wait. That’s bad:

In addition, Hispanic students were more likely that either blacks or whites to attempt suicide, ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, or use cocaine, heroin or ecstasy.

Hispanics also most often drank alcohol on school property, were offered or sold illegal drugs, and occasionally skipped school because they feared for their safety.

The school environments many Hispanics face may differ considerably from what many blacks or whites encounter, noted Wechsler, director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.

“There’s tremendous segregation in our schools,” Wechsler said, in an interview with The Associated Press.

This news is all very troubling, to be sure, but we’re just so distracted by the question of who, exactly, these Hispanic teens are.

If they’re not Black and not White are they…. Mulattos? Mestizos? Do they not identify with a racial group as well as an ethnic group? Or did the survey just not allow for that? Where would a, for example, Black teenager of Dominican ancestry fall? Are her problems Black or Hispanic? Which interest groups will help her, which will decide she’s not their problem? Why is this just a “Hispanic” problem?