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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
by Guest Contributor Lakshmi Gandhi, originally published at 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.
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.
By Guest Contributor T. F. Charlton; originally published as Grace is Human
A couple nights ago I made an offhand comment on Twitter about the conflation of “Black” with “African American” – the two aren’t synonymous – in response to a tweet referring to Nelson Mandela, y’know, the Xhosa, South African Nelson Mandela, as “African American.” It touched off a long and really interesting conversation about race, ethnicity, and identity, which is Storified and shared below.
A conversation on blackness, ethnicity, nationality, and identity. Not in strict chronological order – somewhat rearranged so the conversation flows more logically.
By Guest Contributor Sarah J. Jackson; originally published at Are Women Human?
Naming and Politics
In February 1964, Cassius Clay became the heavyweight champion of the world. A month later, he changed his name to Muhammad Ali. For months–in some cases years–journalists, members of the boxing establishment, and occasionally his competitors refused to call Ali by his new name. Grant Farred (2003)contends that Ali’s name change was “simultaneously an act of negation (denial of his slave name) and self-construction (adoption of his Islamic name), both…the acquisition of an unprecedented ideological agency.” (28)
The controversy that erupted over Ali’s name then hinged largely on the perceived ideological danger of a black man in America refusing “safe” narratives of black masculinity and politics. Ali’s choice to rename himself, alongside his conversion to Islam, and later refusal to serve in Vietnam were treated as anti-American, threatening, and unstable. The social and economic consequences were years of denigration in the press, alongside a formal ban from boxing in the United States.
In what can only be described as a combination of social and political progress and severe historical amnesia, Ali is now commonly lauded as an American hero with little acknowledgement from the media of the ways he was socially disciplined for his decisions. Contemporary constructions of Ali rarely discuss in any detail the anti-colonial politics that lead to his dissent around Vietnam or the domestic racial politics that lead to his identification with the Nation of Islam and name change. Ali’s identity then continues to be shaped by forces outside of himself, but the necessary negotiations around it have left a lasting mark on the way our country understands sports, politics, and race.
I am total a geek. Who’s a geek here? That’s probably a rhetorical question at a TED conference, right? I love Star Wars, I collect action figures, and my favorite biography is the biography of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style–for God’s sake, I read a book about the writing of another grammar book. How about those geek credentials?
I’m here today to talk about grammar, but not the “gotcha” grammar of split infinitives and the misuse of “whom” because frankly, I hate it when grammar is used to belittle others. I am here to talk to you how grammar is a tool, to be used like a pair of glasses. When employed at the right time, grammar can bring the world into sharp focus, and when used at the wrong time, it can make things incredibly blurry. And this all starts with the subjunctive. I remember talking to my dad about the subjunctive, and because he wasn’t a native English speaker, he didn’t understand all the nuances of the subjunctive. “Listen, Dad. You can say something like ‘If it hadn’t rained, we would have gone to the beach.’” And his response? “That’s a stupid thing to say. Why are you talking about something that didn’t happen?” (A staunch reader of non-fiction, my father has a similar opinion of fiction. “Why do you want to read books about people who never existed doing things that never happened?”)
Here’s a quick refresher of the subjunctive: in English, we have three moods: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. If we use the indicative mood in writing or speaking, we view the verb’s action as factual: “I am talking at a TED conference.” And the subjunctive mood is used when we view the action as nonfactual: “I might shit my pants.” The imperative mood is used when we view the action as a command: “Bring me a change of clothes.” The subjunctive comprises all the nuances of non-fact: potentiality, possibility, and contrafactuality.
The subjunctive mood allows us to look into the future and see multiple, highly nuanced possibilities with just a little sprinkling of could’s, would’s and might’s. Similarly, it also allows us to look into the past, to envision a world that didn’t happen but could have happened. The subjunctive is the most powerful mooda time-space dream machine that can create alternate realities with the idea of “would have been” or “should have been.”
And within this idea of “should have” is a Pandora’s box of regret and hope.
Growing up in Pennsylvania as a Vietnamese refugee, I would sometimes think about what would have happened if my family hadn’t escaped Saigon in 1975. Would we have been imprisoned like my father’s cousin, who spent years in re-education camp being tortured and sentenced to hard labor, or would we have been killed like countless other South Vietnamese unable to escape that April? The night we were fleeing Saigon, my entire family–grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles–were scheduled to board a bus. As the bus was loading passengers to go to the airport, I begin crying, shrieking uncontrollably–so much so that the entire family decided to wait for the next bus. And as that bus pulled away, it was struck by artillery fire, exploded, and killed everyone on board. As a young kid, I thought a lot about our good fortune and about what could have happened. I didn’t know it then, but I was pondering things that my parents couldn’t ponder–all because of the English subjunctive. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World