Tag Archives: institutional racism

Politics: A Color-by-Numbers Study

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Mitty Loves the Kids!

In the aftermath of Democratic battle over the black vote, I started thinking about how politics tend to shake out among racial lines. While I cannot speak to why whole groups of people vote one way or another (theories abound) I can explain a little of what has shaped my views and beliefs.

Part of that reason is the complete and total lack of interest in minority issues from the Republican camp. They aren’t really interested in diversity or social justice. If Republicans are interested in black voters, it’s more of a superficial interest, at best. You don’t really want to talk to me, you just want to use the word “bling” in a sentence.

(Exhibit A: The pic I chose for this piece. I expect if Mitt Romney was a bit more current, he would have yelled out “Mitty loves the kids!” as opposed to quoting the Baja Men. Alas, one can only dream…in da wind…in da wind…)

At any rate, I do try to occasionally see what Republicans are discussing and see if there have been any major shifts in the party that are worth noticing. I was recently directed to this column by Larry Elder, a self-proclaimed Libertarian who just so happens to roll with the Republicans.

In “A Democrat or A Republican?” Elder tries to explain why people vote on way or another. The logic he employs to demonstrate this baffles my mind:

Republicans believe hard work wins, and government should allow you — to the fullest extent possible — to keep what you earn. Democrats believe that success results from luck, chance and happenstance, and therefore a just government takes from those who have and gives to those who do not.

Hard work wins? Really? And y’all backed a President who looks at Camp David as a lifestyle choice? Half-jokes aside, I notice this is a common way to frame the debate between parties – one party wants people to work hard and achieve, the other party wants handouts. From a more leftist perspective, one could argue that Republicans stand for corporate welfare and old boys clubs while others just want the opportunity to work hard. It’s really in how you look at things.

Republicans believe discrimination to fix previous discrimination remains discrimination, and that all a government can be is just in its own time. Democrats wish to use government to “rectify” past wrongs, which they hold responsible for today’s “inequities.”

So…you’re saying there aren’t inequities today? No skill gaps? This isn’t just a black and white issue. And we don’t need to “rectify” past wrongs? Why is rectify in quotes? I have yet to think of a problem that one can solve by ignoring it and hoping it goes away. I suppose we can call this the “fuck it, it’s time to move on” defense. Things happened in the past, but we need to press on to a new future. However, if we never face our past, how can we possibly act like we have laid all the issues to rest?

I am not sure about anyone else here… but in my life, running from old problems tends to create more problems in the long run.

Republicans believe that government should empower the individual — that a government that taxes least taxes best. Democrats want individuals to empower government, and support policies that redistribute income from person A to “deserving” person B.

Continue reading

The New York Times censors adult adoptees on adoption blog

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Update 11/14 at 10:25 am: Please click here to digg this story so we can bring more attention to it.

Update 11/14 at 7:40 am: Yesterday evening, shady things started happening where the NYT apparently started to add back in some old comments that it had not previously approved. And they’ve now completely shut down comments to the post. Also, check out this comment that Sarah Kim tried to leave, but was not approved. Hmm… I don’t see a thing in that comment that violates the NYT’s comment moderation policy. And yet they still chose to censor her. Meanwhile, a much harsher comment was allowed through – but that came from another adoptive parent, instead of an adoptee. It’s clear whose perspective this NYT blog is pushing.

The New York Times started a new blog this month called Relative Choices, about “adoption and the American family.”

The blog has been met with mixed reactions, especially since many prominent thinkers like Jae Ran Kim who are critical of certain adoption practices were deemed to be “too out there” to contribute. Also, the blog has featured some rather questionable posts written by adoptive parents.

This one, titled Finding Zhao Gu, is an example. Author Jeff Gammage goes all magical thinking on us, with a healthy dose of orientalism and white savior stuff thrown in:

Before I knew there was a man named Ma Guoxing, I imagined his existence.

I wondered what he — or she — might look like, whether he was married or single, had children or not. Most of all I yearned to know the secrets that he, alone among millions in China, held within himself.

Sorry Jeff, but we’re not allowed to tell. No ancient Chinese secret for you!

But yesterday’s post really takes the cake. Writer Tama Janowitz wrote an oh-so-funny post about how all kids hate their parents, so therefore it’s ok to ignore all the critiques that center around race, culture and ethnicity:

A girlfriend who is now on the waiting list for a child from Ethiopia says that the talk of her adoption group is a recently published book in which many Midwestern Asian adoptees now entering their 30s and 40s complain bitterly about being treated as if they did not come from a different cultural background. They feel that this treatment was an attempt to blot out their differences, and because of this, they resent their adoptive parents.

So in a way it is kind of nice to know as a parent of a child, biological or otherwise – whatever you do is going to be wrong. Like I say to Willow: “Well, you know, if you were still in China you would be working in a factory for 14 hours a day with only limited bathroom breaks!”

And she says — as has been said by children since time immemorial — “So what, I don’t care. I would rather do that than be here anyway.”

Wow. Imagine what other you’d-better-be-grateful crap gets said in that household, even as “a joke?” And that deliberately unnamed book that she writes off as a bunch of whining? That’s actually the critically acclaimed Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption.

As if this post itself wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that comments from at least four 13 different adult adoptees and allies critical of Janowitz’s post have not been approved. (Check this post for the latest numbers – Jae Ran is updating every couple hours.) So not only does The New York Times refuse to include contributors who are critical of certain adoption practices, it seems that they won’t even let critical comments through the gate!

This begs the question: just what does The New York Times have against adult adoptees? Why does it believe that adult adoptees’ experiences are just not valid? Somebody over there really needs to read Jae Ran’s How to suppress discussions about transracial and transnational adoption.

For more on the NYT blog, see these posts:

Save one, win valuable prizes
Relative choices?
Nail? Meet hammers.
Racist M/Paternalism at its Best
Whoa. Hey. People — this isn’t ok
Shut Up, Tama Janowitz. Just shut up. And turn in your parenting license while you’re at it.
To Willow Janowitz: You’re not alone….
All The (Adoption) News That They See Fit To Print
A Comment About the Comments
The New York Times: Gatekeeper, Censor
Tama Janowitz, My Canidate for Mother of the Year
Tama Janowitz on NYT adoption blog
Fairness Doctrine
New York Times aka “the Adoption Police?”
censorship on new york times adoption blog
New York Times Adoption Blog Censoring Adult Adoptees
Where are the Outraged Parents here?
New York Times’ Adoption Blog Censors Adult Adoptees
Late to the Party
Surprise – The NY Times is filled with Red Thread Ladybug Arses
NYT Adoption Blog Salts Wounds In International Adoption Community
Adoptees Are Not Your Therapists
Appalling

Tama Janowitz, let me introduce you to
Dear Tama,
Willow’s day

NYT Relative Choices ~ Adoption & censorship?
“Either Chinese, or some black dude – who can remember?”
Dear Tama Janowitz

Race and Money – Michelle Singletary Calls Out Comparative Studies

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Michelle Singletary’s the Color of Money column in the Washington Post has been a must read for me for ages.

In her October 21st column, Michelle decided to tackle the issue of a financial report issued by two leading fund managers.

For 10 years, Ariel Mutual Funds and Charles Schwab have issued an annual report on the saving and investing habits of middle- and upper-income blacks.

The survey throws a spotlight on the progress of black money-management skills — or lack of progress. It also compares the investing behavior of blacks and whites.

Like many others, I’ve often found reason to comment on the results of the surveys. But now I wonder about the value of comparing the two groups. What exactly do we learn that can help change decades of economic differences? Do these surveys just perpetuate the notion that blacks aren’t taking care of business?

In a special “black paper” marking the 10th anniversary of their survey, Ariel and Schwab came to a sober conclusion. “For middle-class African-Americans,” the report said, “the march toward financial security has been an uphill journey marked by half steps, pauses and, for some, retreat. . . . The results consistently show that blacks save less than whites of similar income levels and are less comfortable with stock investing, which impedes wealth-building across generations and contributes to an impending retirement crisis in the African-American community.”

Interesting. Yet another financial crisis rocks the black community. In addition to high interest payday loans,and the subprime mortage fiasco, retirement savings spells another impending crisis for African-Americans. Or does it?

Michelle then summarizes the survey, highlighting:

This year’s Ariel-Schwab Black Investor Survey found that blacks had median investments of $48,000, compared with $100,000 for whites. The survey looks at blacks and whites who earn more than $50,000 annually.

When Schwab and the Chicago-based Ariel, a black-run mutual fund company, first teamed in 1998, 57 percent of blacks and 81 percent of whites said they owned individual stocks or stock mutual funds.

A decade later, that percentage still stands at 57 percent for blacks and has dropped to 76 percent for whites.

For the first time, Ariel and Schwab looked at middle- and upper-income black and white retirees. The survey found that retired blacks had a median invested savings of $73,000, compared with $210,000 for whites.

So, from the results of this survey, one would surmise that African-Americans are not saving and are putting themselves in a much more precarious position than their white counterparts. However, “one” is not Michelle Singletary. She keeps digging, focusing on one question in the report in particular: Continue reading

Nooses are racial threats, not pranks

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

nooses workplace race racismThe New York Times ran a story yesterday on the rash of local incidents in which black people have found nooses left in their workplaces. I spoke to the reporter about why people cannot consider nooses to be mere “pranks.” They are serious cases of racial intimidation:

At least seven times in the past few weeks, nooses have been anonymously tossed over pipes or hung on doorknobs in the New York metropolitan area — four times here on Long Island, twice in New York City, once at a Home Depot store in Passaic, N.J. The settings are disparate. One noose was hung in a police station locker room in Hempstead, where the apparent target was a black police officer recently promoted to deputy chief. Another was draped over the doorknob of the office of a black professor at Columbia University.

…Lynching was not part of that history. But to some of those sifting the evidence, the nooses of 2007 represent much the same impulse as lynchings did in the Jim Crow South.

“In the context of today, the noose means, ‘There is still a racial hierarchy in this country, and you better not overstep your bounds,’” said Carmen Van Kerckhove, the founder of a New York consulting firm, New Demographic, that specializes in workplace problems, including racial tension.

The reporter also spoke to Rachel Sullivan from Rachel’s Tavern, who did a great job of providing a historical context for the nooses:

Rachel E. Sullivan, an assistant professor of sociology at Long Island University’s C. W. Post College, said most people do not understand what lynchings were. “They think it was a few guys coming in the night, in their hooded sheets, taking you away,” she said.

She teaches a course on African-American history, including the killings of thousands by lynching in the United States between the end of the Civil War and the end of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“But in reality these were whole, big community events,” she said. “Children and families would come to watch. Hundreds of people attended. They would watch a man being burned and mutilated before he was hung. They would pose for pictures with the body.

“If people had a grasp of what really happened at these things,” Professor Sullivan continued, “they would understand the power of the symbol of a noose.”

Racial Rumors: Do(n’t) Believe the Hype

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

If Spike Lee said it, then it must be true . . . right?

Not exactly.

In a 1992 interview with Barbara G. Harrison for Esquire Magazine entitled “Spike Lee Hates Your Cracka Ass,” Spike Lee informed readers of a racist statement made by popular women’s clothing designer Liz Claiborne during a guest spot on Oprah:

Claiborne got on and said she didn’t make clothes for black people to wear. Oprah stopped the show and told her to get her ass off the set. How you gonna get on Oprah’s show and say you don’t make clothes for Black women? It definitely happened. Get the tape. Every black woman in America needs to go to her closet, throw that shit out and never buy another stitch of clothes from Claiborne.

His allegations weren’t true. Liz Claiborne was never a guest on Oprah and had never been quoted as having said that she thought black women’s hips and butts were too large for her clothes, among other variations of the rumor. It turns out that Lee had bought the hype. He had fallen victim to what snopes.com calls a “racial rumor,” an urban myth of sorts that relates to a specific race and/or ethnic group. While some of these double-Rs are formed arbitrarily, others find their roots in good business. If a brand does well in and/or its creator caters to a specific demographic, it may be the object of a racial rumor during its lifespan on the market. [Note from Carmen: Thanks very much to Deb for the tip!]

The Liz Claiborne rumor is just one of many. Some of you may have heard a few about Tommy Hilfiger clothing (see above), Timberland boots, Coors beer, menthol cigarettes, KFC, Starbucks, and even Snapple, just to name a few. While the original source of these rumors often remains anonymous, the myths themselves usually reach a popularity of insane proportions and are difficult to squash for several reasons. I have a few guesses of my own. . .

For one, word of mouth is one of the most powerful publicity options known to man, and the oldest. The adult version of the telephone game serves as a successful means for disseminating information, particularly that which directly affects a specific group of people. Considering the tradition of oral history within communities of color, as well as a distrust of popular media sources by many people who consider themselves on the margins of dominant culture, it is no surprise that this method of communication is popular. If one were to question why a racial rumor had yet to make its way to television, newspapers, or films, a reasonable reply would be that the mainstream media was simply withholding information, siding with The Man to protect his interests. This is not to say that people of color are superstitious or paranoid. In fact, the reliance upon information found via alternative sources is a smart choice for groups whose concerns and interests are virtually ignored by the media unless a crime is committed or by the government unless it’s voting season. Such a method of communication also has a history of providing “them”s with a chance at “us”-like opportunity. [Please see: the Underground Railroad, slave revolts, the civil rights movement, occupational advancement because someone who came here before you knew someone else who could “hook you up,” talking to family abroad to lead to immigration, and so on and so forth] Continue reading

Of A Split Mind: Thoughts on Affirmative Action

by Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I’ve been reading and reading and reading about Barack Obama and his views on affirmative action.

First came this Washington Post Op-Ed analyzing Obama’s comments on ABC’s “This Week.”

Eugene Robinson, the author of the piece, compares Obama’s statements:

Obama has repeatedly gone on record as a supporter of affirmative action. But “if we have done what needs to be done to ensure that kids who are qualified to go to college can afford it,” he said in the ABC interview, “affirmative action becomes a diminishing tool for us to achieve racial equality in this society.”

He seemed to side with those who think class predominates when he said, “I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and have grown up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed.”

Robinson ends by discussing other issues in college education – like legacy admissions – and notes his own views on race and class.

After reading the Op-Ed, I came across another interesting post. Written by dnA of the Too Sense blog, he address the original issue in this post, and then revisits the topic in yesterday’s post.

dnA summarizes his views by stating:

Obama seems to be suggesting that AA is needed only for those people for whom “race and class still intersect.” That black middle class folks who are the first generation in college need AA, “as opposed to fifth or sixth generation college attendees.”

Empirical research bears out that race still matters in hiring practices, regardless of class, which means that black folks of all classes need Affirmative Action, not just those who are poor and are first generation college attendees.

Saying otherwise is suggesting a significant change in Affirmative Action as we understand it.

Obama is obviously between a rock and a hard place on that one. There is no right answer – at least, not one that will please a large group of people.

I wish I could supply an answer, but I cannot. On one hand, I understand Obama’s sentiments – most of the obstacles I have had in life have resulted from being poor, not being black. The boost I received from programs rooted in affirmative action were predominantly to overcome financial barriers. I remember sitting in my AP classes, listening to my friends discuss SAT prep programs like Kaplan, expecting their parents to cough up the $700 (it was much more expensive in 1999) it would take to increase their SAT scores by 200 points.

I remember being silent during those discussions, knowing that in my household a free $20 was hard to come by. I earned all my own money in those days, and $700 might as well have been seven million. Paying the reduced fees on my AP tests broke my pockets enough, along with all of the extra expenses involved in being an extra-curricular superstar and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. Thank goodness for my pre-college programs. They gave us PSATs and SAT prep every year, paid for up to five college applications, and allowed us access to internships, interviewing skills, and summer school and job opportunities that my friends took for granted.

Still, I understand Obama’s position. Broke is broke. Poor white kids are at just as much of a disadvantage as poor black kids, right? Continue reading

More black men in jail than college? Actually, no.

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Check out this video (hat tip to Keith Boykin) that debunks oft-cited statistics about black men. Stats like 1 out of 2 black men doesn’t graduate from college. Or that there are more college-age black men in jail than in school. And visit out this page, where they compile links to all the sources they used for their research.

Time machine: November 2005

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Here’s another installment of our Time Machine series… when we take a look back at what we were blogging about a year ago this month.

Why we need to drop the word “exotic”

padma don't call yourself easy!In this classic post, Jen comes across an article that applies the dreaded E-word to Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger, who is of Hawaiian, Russian and Filipino descent. It leads her to discuss why the word “exotic” is so problematic.

What’s wrong with “exotic” you ask? Well…the definition is literally:

1 : introduced from another country : not native to the place where found
2 archaic : FOREIGN, ALIEN
3 : strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual

Mixed people being labeled “exotic” is simply one way that we continue to be othered. We are not all as alien as one would like to believe, though. When people say that I am “exotic,” I usually check them and explain that there are actually many out there that are just like me, ethnically — that I am not as unusual as the term “exotic” would infer. The reality is that we are not yet on everyone’s radars. When people call upon their notions of race, we don’t fit neatly into the existing/accepted categories…this is why so many continue to think of mixed individuals as “exotic” beings.

Dispelling misinformation about the Paris riots

paris burningThis time last year, the world was watching as civil unrest broke out in France. It started in late October in Clichy-sous-Bois, a working-class commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris after two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, were accidentally killed. For the first time, we heard about the deep-rooted racial and economic inequities and tensions in France.

Ireland details the 30 years of government neglect, segregation, racism, and discrimination and argues that nobody should be surprised that it has come to this…

It seems to me that the larger issue here is that European countries are trying to hold onto the notion that they are essentially white countries, and that all non-white people are minorities or temporary residents. The French simply don’t recognize non-white people as French, and that’s clear from the terminology being used in the media coverage of the rioting.

New study: interracial relationships less likely to end in marriage

If you read between the lines, articles about interracial relationships often seem to have subtle cautionary messages. In this case, the message seemed to be, “It’s okay to fool around with a [fill in race] man/woman but don’t expect him/her to marry you!”

Newsday reports on a new study by researchers at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania that says that while interracial relationships are on the rise, they are significantly less likely than same-race relationships to lead to marriage…

Hmmm… I don’t know if I necessarily agree with their interpretation of the findings. Isn’t is possible that people who date interracially may also have less traditional views on relationships and therefore don’t necessarily feel the need to get married? I think this emphasis on marriage as the ideal end-state is a bit archaic. To assume that interracial relationships are somehow “bad” because they don’t result in marriage – that sounds to me like a thinly veiled cautionary message against entering those relationships.