Tag Archives: identity

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“Nothing is more punk rock than surviving in a hungry sea of white noise:” Reflections on Afropunk

It’s hard not to feel something for Afropunk, even if your punk days were long behind you (if they ever existed at all.)

For me, a DC girl raised on hip-hop with a twist of go-go (but with enough friends drawing Xs on their hands to dabble a bit into other people’s rebellions), Afropunk is like gazing into the looking glass. I’ve never been, though I love that it exists. For me, Afropunk came a little too late – my black friends who were into skating and punk rock were memories long before James Spooner pulled the original film out of his mind and on to celluloid. I would have loved Afropunk when I was young, but grew up fine without it. At some point, we sort out who we are supposed to be – Afropunk wasn’t an identity then the way it is now. And after my friend Tiff sent three essays around the Afropunk festival, which happened last weekend in Brooklyn, NYC, I’m not sure what the Afropunk identity means anymore – and I’m honestly wondering if it was supposed to be an identity at all.

Over at Pitchfork, Hanif Abdurraqib bared his soul in a beautiful, moving essay on being black in punk space. You don’t need to identify with the music to feel what he’s saying. It opens with the kind of moment most of us have experienced:

I don’t remember the first time I heard a racist joke at a punk rock show. Rather, I don’t remember the first time I was grabbed into a sweaty half-hug by one of the laughing white members of my Midwest punk scene and told don’t worry about it. We don’t think of you that way. I don’t remember the first time I saw a teenage girl shoved out of the way so that a teenage boy her size, or greater, could have a better view of a stage. I don’t remember the first time that I made an excuse for being a silent witness.

And passages like this one hit home, cutting almost to the bone:

It is a luxury to romanticize blood, especially your own. It is a luxury to be able to fetishize violence, especially the violence that you inflict upon others. To use it as a bond, or to call it church, or to build an identity around it while knowing that everyone you can send home bloody will not come back for revenge. To walk home bloody. To walk home at night. At the time of writing this, a video is circulating of a black man being killed by police, on camera. Before this, there was another black man. And a black boy. And black women vanishing in jail. And black trans women vanishing into the night. I do not blame punk rock for this. I instead ask to consider the impact of continuing to glorify a very specific type of white violence and invisibility of all others in an era where there is a very real and very violent erasure of the bodies most frequently excluded from the language, culture, and visuals of punk rock. I ask myself who it serves when I see countless images showing examples of why “punk rock is a family”, images with only white men. It does no good to point at a neighborhood of burning houses while also standing in a house on fire. It is true, in 2015, the flames in the house of punk may climb up the walls more slowly than, say, the flames in the Fox News building. But the house is still on fire. Too often, the choice in punk rock and D.I.Y. spaces for non-white men is a choice between being tokenized, or being invisible.

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Illustration from Hazlitt

Link Love: ‘Our Brownness Does Not Belong Here’

An amazingly layered and nuanced long-read from Adnan Khan seeks to answer the question “How Brown should a Brown person be?”

His prose strings together the all the stars of racial interactions and microaggressions that form our constellation of racial identity, moving effortlessly from Indian restaurants to Wu-Tang, whiteness and anti-blackness, love songs and Harold and Kumar, the meaning of ABCD and the subtle pain that comes with forging a sense of self. Here’s a short selection:

My parents were eager for us to assimilate and there was no surplus of Indian affectations around the house—Bollywood tapes were played on the DL and we never joined a mosque or came into regular contact with other Muslim Indians. Memories of family were left unopened and ignored. I learned nothing about the cousins, uncles, and aunties who remained on the subcontinent. My mother missed India silently but my father hated the country. She visited her family occasionally, but nearly 14 years passed before my father went. When my mother wanted to send me back for a month in Grade 10, my father asked, “What’s the point?” They grew up as the first generation after Partition, during a time of chaos and uncertainty. He didn’t look back because there was nothing to look at.

My high school, meanwhile, was so multicultural that post-9/11 racism barely made it flinch. One of my oldest friends, Korean, called me a terrorist in my grade nine yearbook, and I still think of him with abiding affection. Another kid who’d casually lob the word at me was so Muslim that his last name was Islam. But I felt there was a deep shame at being Indian, some of which came from my father, who spoke badly of the country whenever he could, and some from the “smelly Indian” legacy that trails us: our body odor, our stinky food, our houses marked by a mash of unknown spices. I tried to pass as Arab. Since I was born in Saudi Arabia, I thought I could latch onto that, even though we were like mercenaries in the country, living in an isolated compound and only there for work opportunities India didn’t have. I couldn’t escape my brown skin, but at least I could be rich like an Arab. The distinction between Arab and Indian was messy, but I didn’t know that—I was only looking for a way out. This fell apart when an Egyptian asked if I could speak Arabic and I replied, no, Urdu. To be Indian meant nothing good. I had picked up enough from stray White culture to understand that the “smelly Indian” stereotype had real world implications and that we were somewhere near the bottom of a structurally explicit hierarchy.

Even though I couldn’t say why I was imagining myself as White, adopting Black culture, pretending to be Arab, I could sense that there wasn’t a clear role for me. Life was cleaved neatly: white identity (Korn), black identity (Ma$e), and brown identity (Amitabh Bachchan movies in the background, the dull dishoom-dishoom sound of our noble protagonist punching out the bad guys). I didn’t fit into any of these, so I borrowed from all. This kaleidoscope identity made it hard for me to locate myself in the world, and I felt for a long time, an ache for definition.

Read the rest, it’s worth the investment.

(via HRD CVR)


Quoted: Carvell Wallace on Run-D.M.C. and Personal Revolution

Something else happened that day. I realized that I really liked being an anonymous kid on a street corner in L.A. I realized that I really liked not giving a solitary fuck about what anyone was doing, not even myself. I realized that in some way it was my natural state.

Two days later, I started dressing differently.

I cut my own hair into a weird nappy mushroom top. I took this goofy trench coat I had and sliced it at the waist with a pair of scissors. On the chest I sewed the patch that I earned in a middle school spelling bee. I wrote graffiti on the sleeve in Sharpie. I took to wearing pajama bottoms and black chucks.

In short, the combination of Parliament and Hollywood had instantly funked me out.

And it worked, because the first time I left the house in this new uniform, I experienced something that I never had before. You might call it freedom. Abandon. Cultural immunity. I had a self. It was adolescent and awkward and trying too hard. But it was my very own self. It was a me that was all mine. It didn’t matter what anyone thought about it. For a brief moment in time, I simply didn’t give a fuck.

And that’s an important thing. When you have come to regard your very skin color as an insufferable disease, when you have to punch other people in the mouth just so you can be ok with who you are, not giving a fuck is the single most divine experience you can ever have.

– Carvell Wallace, “How to Raise Hell in Three Steps: on RUN-D.M.C, Parliament, Blackness and Revolution,” Pitchfork


The Producer and the Anarchist: Dear White People’s Critique and Vision of Film

by Guest Contributor Mario Fitzgerald

In one of the many footnotes in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Yunior opines:

“Rushdie claims that tyrants and scribblers are natural antagonists, but I think that’s too simple; it lets writers off pretty easy. Dictators, in my opinion, just know competition when they see it. Same with writers. Like, after all, recognizes like.”

Through the mind of Yunior, Junot Diaz expresses a core truth about writing: Despite being a tool of dissent for justice and equality, writing is also a powerful and thoroughly successful method of erasure, revision, and domination.

Through his first feature film, Dear White People, director Justin Simien has demonstrated how film can similarly be a tool for either justice or domination. Through the characters of Helmut West, a reality television show producer and Sam White, an independent documentary filmmaker, Justin Simien dramatizes the different ways in which the film industry has responded to racism and white supremacy.

Helmut West drifts in and out of the film searching for “conflicts” on the campus of Winchester University from which he can create a reality television show. Despite the title of the film directing viewers’ attention towards the many documented micro-aggressions of White characters towards the film’s Black characters, West is a Black man.

His presence raises a critique against the constant search for anti-Black racist acts committed by White people rather than manifestations of White supremacist thinking which, as bell hooks has so eloquently written, operates within us all. Continue reading


Google to Latinos: We Will Define You for You

by Guest Contributor Roberto Lovato, originally published at Latino Rebels

MISSION DISTRICT, SAN FRANCISCO—A new age is upon us, the Age of Soy.

No, I’m not talking about some new genetically-modified organism that will (further) fundamentally alter the corn in our tacos, the gas in our cars or the farmland of the Midwest.

The development of which I speak has to do with how Mountain View, California-based Google’s launch of .SOY, a web domain targeting the country’s Latinos, was supposed to herald a new day on the Latino web, with some “Hispanic marketing experts” waxing triumphant about our (finally) getting some respect from a company that has a less-than-triumphant record of hiring Latinos or black people.

And then the Latino and vegan web responded: Hey Google, “soy,” (Spanish for “I am”) sounds more like a domain name for one of the tony vegan Mexican restaurants that Google and other Silicon Valley workers eat $15 tacos at than it does a hub for online Latinos.

Far from being the Latino web sensation Google and its “experts” expected, .SOY provides fodder for the amateur comedian in us all, with Latinos and vegans joining forces, taking the “.SOY” domain and applying it to different adjectives like quépendejo.soy (how stupid I am), #soyhispandering or calling .SOY “The must-have domain for the lactose-intolerant.” Continue reading

I’m Sorry: Reflections on Shootings on Parliament Hill

by Guest Contributor Dorothy Attakora-Gyan

By now I am sure most people worldwide have heard about the October 22 shootings that took place on Parliament Hill in the nations capital in Canada.

Tragically the event took the life of Cpl Nathan Cirillo, a young 24 year old father.

The very fact that this fallen soldier lost his life at the National War Memorial has the nation in collective mourning.

As a student residing in Ottawa, one privileged to live downtown, mere minutes and walking distance from Parliament Hill, I have witnessed the fear and uncertainly that throughout the day evolved into moral panic.

More specifically, I speak of panic that has led to some very racist depictions in the media, over social media, and in public domains, some riddled with undertones of Islamaphobia and anti- Indigenous sentiments. As the day came to an end and night approached few still had answers and I was only left with my reflections.

So many ‘feels’ that left feeling conflicted and unsettled.

All I could do was sit in this pool of sorry’s that still threatens to drown me.

I’m really sorry that today was so awful and triggering for so many people. I’m especially sorry for the soldier who lost his life today as well as those affected a few days ago in Québec. Sorry for their families and friends. I’m sorry for the collective fear felt by all, children, youth, adults, and elders alike. I’m sorry for the lockdown across downtown Ottawa and University of Ottawa that kept people indoors when they could have been out getting fresh air. Sorry for the pregnant and expectant mothers, those that are differently abled who were inconvenienced unexpectedly from the lock out. Sorry for the classes that were canceled. For the dogs that couldn’t be walked. That time stood still for so many.

I’m sorry for all the victims of today that won’t be written about. I’m simultaneously sorry for any ‘Aboriginal’/ ‘South American looking’/ ‘terrorist looking Muslim’ folk who fit the ‘description’ of the suspect as depicted and labeled by the media. I’m sorry for those who embody such descriptions and the experiences they will have in this world walking the streets the next few days as a result. Continue reading

Twerkin’ in the USA: On Big Sean and Miley Cyrus

by Guest Contributor Lima Limon of LimaLimonArt

Can’t see the video? Here’s a basic transcript:

I’d like to call this blog “Twerkin’ in the U.S.A.”

Now, lately Miley Cyrus has been putting herself ass first into the hip-hop scene. And you won’t guess where that ass showed up next. Big Sean has this song called “Fire,” and I like this song. You know, he raps about overcoming adversity and manages to avoid saying “ass” 30 times for the chorus. SO the message and the lyrics are nice and the beat is pretty on point to match it.

Then there’s the video, which is basically just Miley Cyrus in different slightly revealing clothes, some fire and an exploding flower. Now the visuals are dope and Miley Cyrus is attractive, but that doesn’t really have much to do with the actual song itself. Oh but luckily he explains via Twitter. He says “Miley is symbolic of strong women overcoming heartbreak.”

Vato, you ain’t fooling nooobody with that shit. Let’s be honest that’s not why you did it. Cause plenty of actresses, models, stars, whathaveyou could’ve easily filled that metaphor. Megan Good, Adriana Lima, and apparently Levy Tran is down to do whatever type of music video gig.

So I will give it to you, those visuals were sick and at the very least you didn’t use an exaggeratedly muscular WWE create-a-wrestler version of yourself for your music video. (see Kanye West’s Blkkk Skkkn Head music video) But let’s be real. Big Sean. Miley. Y’all used each other. Sean, you used Miley Cyrus for the fact that she’s currently a buzz word in pop culture right now. So what did Miley get to use from this? Continue reading

The Media’s 5 Worst References To Huma Abedin’s Ethnic Background

by Guest Contributor Lakshmi Gandhi, originally published at The Aerogram

Huma Abedin with Anthony Weiner. Image from NY1 via the Aerogram.

Huma Abedin with Anthony Weiner. Image from NY1 via the Aerogram.

As you’ve probably noticed, much of the media’s focus in its coverage of the current Anthony Weiner scandal has been on the candidate’s wife Huma Abedin. Over the past few weeks, it’s seemed like the media just doesn’t know how to cover the Michigan-born, Saudi Arabia-raised, South Asian former aide to Hillary Clinton. Each day brings another story full of assumptions about Abedin’s background and upbringing and endless speculation about how those biographical details have affected her personal choices.

Without further ado, here are the top 5 worst of the worst.

Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd:

When you puzzle over why the elegant Huma Abedin is propping up the eel-like Anthony Weiner, you must remember one thing: Huma was raised in Saudi Arabia, where women are treated worse by men than anywhere else on the planet.

Typical reaction:

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Radio host Rush Limbaugh:

Huma is a Muslim. In that regard, Weiner ought to be able to get away with anything. Muslim women don’t have any power, right? Muslim women are beheaded, stoned, whatever if they drive, have affairs. In certain countries, Muslim women, if they’re raped, are killed — it’s their fault.

Typical Reaction:

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