Tag Archives: international

In South Africa, Chinese is the New Black

by Latoya Peterson

“S Africa Chinese ‘Become Black’”

I spotted this headline while surfing the BBC newsfeed last week – at the time, bloglines was behaving badly, so I didn’t have a chance to post about it.

No worries though – at least six of you sent me the tip, as well as the article in the Wall Street Journal.

For those of you who may have missed the news:

The High Court in South Africa has ruled that Chinese South Africans are to be reclassified as black people.

It made the order so that ethnic Chinese can benefit from government policies aimed at ending white domination in the private sector. [...]

The association said Chinese South Africans had faced widespread discrimination during the years of apartheid when they had been classified as people of mixed race.

The BBC’s Mpho Lakaje in Johannesburg says the Broad-Based Economic Empowerment and the Employment Equity Acts were designed to eradicate the legacy of apartheid which left many black people impoverished.

The laws give people classed as blacks, Indians and coloureds (mixed-race) employment and other economic benefits over other racial groups.

Now this story has gained international traction, probably because of the ham-fisted way the government decided to deal with the issue – by adding the Chinese to an existing ethnic group, rather that just adding Chinese people to the protected classes.

But what struck me most wasn’t the article – it was the reaction of many of the other readers around the web. Continue reading

Proposed Afrocentric School in Canada Hit With Stereotyping and Skepticism

by Latoya Peterson

Our neighbors to the North have been debating the various merits of adding an Afrocentric school to serve the needs of Toronto’s black teenagers. The Globe and Mail explains:

The Toronto District School Board voted in favour of the Afrocentric initiative in January. Plans call for a school that will begin with elementary education and run right through high school. Classes will be under way beginning September, 2009. The board will be meeting next month to hear recommendations for the location for the school as well as begin the process of hiring teachers and support staff.

Proponents of the program claim will help combat the 40-per-cent dropout rate among Toronto’s black teens by introducing curriculum and staff that better represents this demographic.

Back in February, when the debate was still raging after the January decision to move forward with the school, the Globe and Mail also published this editorial cartoon:

Continue reading

What We Are

by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian

In Rwanda, from where I’m writing, it’s illegal for citizens to ask one another what they are. By “what” I mean, Hutu or Tutsi. The reason why it’s against the law to make ethnic distinctions in Rwanda these days is rooted in the genocide that took place here in 1994. That year, Hutu militias, on government orders, conducted a brutal 100-day extermination of 800,000 to 1 million people, most of them Tutsis. In Philip Gourevitch’s account from the survivors’ perspective, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, he estimated that the murder rate during those 100 days was 6 people per minute.

Tutsis were the minority then (around 15% of the population) and now. But the difference between Hutu and Tutsi has always been, from what I understand, a false distinction. There wasn’t a perceived difference among Rwandans between Hutu and Tutsi until the late 19th century, when European colonizers (first the Germans, then the Belgians) insisted on that ethnic divide for their own political gains. In the 1930′s, the Belgians went so far as to issue ID cards to all Rwandans identifying them as belonging to one group or the other. In ’94, Rwandans still carried such cards. And if yours said that you were Tutsi then, it soon became your death certificate, too. Continue reading

A Secular Jewish Point of View on Israel

by Guest Contributor Sarah Jaffe

As an American Jew, the Israel question has been a part of my life. “Birthright” tours of the holy land are encouraged in the Jewish community, and Israel policy dominates the questions I am asked by other Jews on the campaign trail.

I embraced the Irish liberation struggle in college when I was reading Yeats and Synge, and through that lens I recognized that Israel was wrong in so many ways, yet I struggle to reconcile what I feel about it.

I find myself recoiling at pro-Palestinian articles, and I understand that even in me, progressive anti-racist anti-colonialist that I am, the identification of Israel with all Jews and thus with me is internalized. Continue reading

Five Not-Impossible Things Before Breakfast

by Latoya Peterson

As I wrote last week, my inbox was filled with so many tips I didn’t have time to tackle them before the week was out. So, here are a few of the ones we can get done quickly:

Rachel Ray and the Paisely “Islamic Jihad” Scarf

Rachel Ray is wearing a scarf. She is not sending a message for Islamic Jihad!

Will someone please tell that to Dunkin’ Donuts and Michelle Malkin?


Jehanzeb says:

This is nothing but shameless racism. I really hope more people speak out about this because it is not only outrageous, it also reflects the ridiculous amount of paranoia and xenophobia that’s tarnishing our society. Yesterday morning, I heard about Rachael Ray’s new commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts getting pulled because of complaints from the right-wing blogosphere, specifically from the notoriously anti-Islamic and xenophobe Michelle Malkin. What were the complaints about? Well, according to Malkin, the black-and-white colored scarf worn by Rachael Ray in the commercial heavily resembled the keffiyeh, which she defined as the “traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.”

Are you kidding me? The commercial was yanked because of a black-and-white patterned scarf with paisley designs? The bigots from the right-wing were so offended and worried that Dunkin’ Donuts was “promoting terrorism” or “Palestinian jihad” because their sponsor wore a scarf?

Continue reading

Fair and Lovely Ad: Lighter Skin = Better Job Prospects

by Latoya Peterson

Deesha sent in these two ads for the skin-lightening product Fair and Lovely. Targeted to the Indian market, the ads promise job advancement (and the perception of beauty) after you lighten your skin by a few shades.

This ad is in English:

Notice, when the actress mentions that four is her lucky number, they show her skin lightening by four shades.

This ad is not in English, but the meaning is clear enough:

Not only does the ad show the model lightening six shades, but the emphasis in this commercial is working with a “modern beauty company.” So modern beauty equates to fair skin? Fascinating.

I am also amused by Fair and Lovely’s marketing to women in Indonesia:

Inspiring women

Since 1993 until today, we have been committed to transforming and inspiring the lives of women through beauty. We also believe in the economic empowerment of women to improve standards of living and contribute positively to the quality of life of all Malaysians.

What we offer

The products we offer are dedicated to the beauty of women everywhere. Our range comprises Fair & Lovely Fairness Cream, Fair & Lovely Herbal Cream, Fair & Lovely Facial Facewash, Fair & Lovely Under Eye Cream, Fair & Lovely Fairness Soap and Fair & Lovely Fairness Body Lotion. Our Multi-Vitamin Fairness Cream is yet another innovation to make your skin naturally fairer and radiant in a mere 4 weeks – harnessing the goodness of 4 essential vitamins, namely Vitamin B3, C, A and E.

How noble.

Manga Mania: Muslim Manga’s Reach

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

Asia Alfasi is a talented manga artist in the U.K. The BBC covered a talent competition she’d won (barikallah!), but managed to irritate me through mislabeling Ms. Alfasi’s drawings and misuse of the word “Arabian.”

Ms. Alfasi won a competition given by the International Manga and Anime Festival for her character “Monir,” who, according to the BBC, is a “feisty young Arabian from the Muslim Abyssinian times who draws strength from his faith to fight injustice and battle for his family’s survival.”

Does the BBC follow AP guidelines? Even if they don’t, I’d assume they’d know that an Arabian is a horse, not a person. Hmph!

Ms. Alfasi’s characters are beautifully drawn, but I’m tired of the “exotic” angle. She says, “I wanted to introduce some Arabian mysticism to the market.” A Muslim character from the Abyssinian times would be interesting enough, considering the fact that there is no such thing in Islamic history as the “Abyssinian Era” (unless they’re talking about when the Prophet and his followers went to Abyssinia…? Confusing!) Perhaps they meant Abbasid?

Anyway, a Muslim character from the Abbasid era would be interesting enough without exoticizing him. You could learn history and ancient culture…the nerd in me screams for more! What’s so mystical about him? What’s with the Aladdin outfit? Too close to Disney for comfort, personally. Continue reading

Jerusalem Cries for Peace

by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

I was worried that I was not going to have time to blog about this, but as I waited in rush hour traffic and enjoyed the gentle breeze and pleasant weather, I was reminded of how grateful I should be. Grateful that I am not living under the extremely violent, horrific, and turbulent conditions that others endure on a daily basis. With this realization comes purpose and meaning. In Islam, we are taught that everything has meaning, even the smallest details that we tend to overlook. No leaf falls without God’s knowledge, as the Qur’an says (6:59). For those of us in the west, we typically do not think reflect on the hardships and struggles that people on the other side of the globe are battling (look at what’s happening in China today). Many times, I believe that one of my purposes in this life is to help people in all possible manners. Not just through words, but more through action.

For most of the west, May 15th of 2008 is the 60th birthday for the state of Israel, but for the Muslim world, it is Youm al-Nakba — “The Day of Catastrophe”. I have seen other people decorate their blogs and Facebook profile pages with Palestinian flags and “Free Palestine” slogans. I’ve seen people change their profile pictures to images of themselves wearing a Palestinian scarf, or keffiyah. I have no intention to generalize about people, but from the certain individuals that I know, they display such patriotism for Palestine and yet they hardly know anything about the current events, the history, or even about the politicians. I remember when I was directing my short film, “A Flower from the East,” my main characters were Palestinian, and my film professor asked, “what is the significance of the Palestinian scarf? Does it serve any religious significance?” This question made me reflect on what the Palestinian cause means to me personally, and I believe this is a question we all should ask ourselves. What do the flags, scarves, and slogans mean and symbolize? We have to avoid chanting slogans emptily. It’s like the young and proud Pakistanis who shout “Pakistan Zinadabaad!” (Long Live Pakistan) just for the sake of showing off their Pakistani pride, but not really understanding what they’re saying.

The Palestinian people have suffered a great deal and their story is still neglected by the mainstream media, which is what frustrates Muslims around the world, myself included. A common mistake that many anti-Islamic and even well-intentioned conservatives make is that they think anti-Zionism equates anti-Jewish (yes, I’m one of those people who refuse to say anti-Semitism, since Arabs are Semites too, not just Jews). This is absolutely false. Another mistake is that they think Islam teaches Muslims to hate and kill Jews. Again, this is false. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has nothing to do with Judaism and Islam; this conflict needs to be understood in light of historical context. More than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were brutally and systematically evicted from their homes by the terrorist organizations known as Irgun, Stern Gang, and the Haganah, “the precursor of the Israel Defense Forces.” Examples of where these groups evicted Arabs can be found in the villages of Deir Yassin and Duwayma. According to Dan Freeman-Maloy of ZMag, the Zionist forces controlled 78% of mandatory Palestine by 1949. They declared the State of Israel after razing “some 400 Palestinian villages to the ground.” As mentioned earlier, to this day, the creation of Israel is infamously known around the Muslim world as a great historic injustice and/or the Nakba (Catastrophe). In the years that followed, the Israeli military occupation (or the Israel Defense Force) patrolled the Palestinian settlements for “security” purposes. This is not to insult or stereotype the Israreli Defense Force, but just to point out that so many horrific crimes against innocent Palestinians have been committed by countless Israeli soldiers, who are not branded “terrorists” or charged with war crimes. In 1982, the prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, ordered the massacre of Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps. He formed an alliance with a Lebanese Christian militia-men, who were permitted to enter two Palestinian refugee camps (Sabra and Shatila) in an area controlled by the Israeli military. They massacred thousands of Palestinian civilians — something that the Palestinians and the Muslim world will never forget.

And the west ponders why the Muslim world is so antagonistic towards them and Israel. Extremist televangelists like John Hagee claim that this is a “religious war,” which sounds very medieval if you ask me. It reminds me of the Crusades, when the Pope Urban II called for a holy war against the Muslims. The truth of the matter is that Christians, Muslims, and Jews have coexisted for centuries. Contrary to the “Islam-spread-by-the-sword” myth, Christians and Jews were allowed to practice their religion, pray in churches and synagogues, and hold honorable positions in the government (for example, the Christians would translate the Greek philosophical texts into Arabic). When the Muslim leader, Salah Al-Din, captured Jerusalem in 1187, he did not slaughter a single Christian civilian. He established peace and coexistence among the Christians, Muslims, and Jews. To read more about Salah Al-Din, read my entry on the Crusades here.

Why do I mention history? Because if we really care about the Palestinians and peace among human beings, we must learn from our history. Salah Al-Din and the Christian King Baldin IV were not afraid of negotiating with one another. Right now, President Bush is heavily criticizing Barack Obama for wanting to negotiate with “terrorists.” Notice the terminology: “terrorists.” In the mind of right-wing extremists, the Palestinian leaders, along with the Iraqi and Iranian leaders, are nothing less than “evil.” According to tonight’s CNN report, there are many Jewish-Americans are concerned about Obama’s wanting to negotiate with the aforementioned leaders, particularly with Hamas. My question is: what’s the alternative? Violence? War? Salah Al-Din and Baldwin IV negotiated to prevent bloodshed and slaughter. Salah Al-Din and Balian of Ibelin negotiated for the same reasons. What happens when there’s no communication and understanding? People start to fear one another, and fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, and hatred leads to suffering (I learned that from “Star Wars”). Continue reading