Tag Archives: latino

Are Ethnic Studies Programs in Danger?

by Latoya Peterson


Over the weekend, I received two email bulletins about recent events surrounding ethnic studies programs, one focusing on Asian Americans in Maryland and one focusing on Latin@s in Arizona.

Lee Fang wrote in with an Action Alert: Save Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland:

Asian American University of Maryland Students Mobilize To Save Asian American Studies

(COLLEGE PARK, MD) — Students at the University of Maryland are stepping up to demand Asian Americans are included in the future of the University. The current draft of the University “Strategic Plan” – a document which governs future resource allocation and academic affairs policy for the next 5 to 10 years – completely ignores Asian American Studies and does nothing to address meeting the needs of Maryland’s growing Asian American student population.

Outrage has been vented at several recent meetings of Asian American student organizations and activist groups. Given forecasted fiscal shortfalls for the state of Maryland, many students fear Asian American Studies, as well as other academic programs dedicated to the study of race, gender, sexual orientation and issues of identity, face elimination or severe cut backs in the case of a budget crisis.

“Without inclusion in the Strategic Plan, you don’t exist,” lamented Pi Delta Psi President Scottie Siu.

As the deadline nears for community input, several Asian American groups are preparing to lobby and write letters demanding that the Provost add provisions to ensure that Asian American Studies be protected and promoted one day into a Major. Other demands include that there should be more needs based assessment surveys so counseling services can be improved, and that there should be a space on campus for Asian American cultural events.

Take action now! Call Provost Nariman Farvardin at (301) 405-5252 and ask that Asian American Studies be in the Strategic Plan!

(You can also contact Lee Fang at Lhfang@gmail.com).

I also received an email from Aaminah with an opinion piece from the Arizona Daily Star. The piece was written in response to a proposed bill in the Arizona State Legislature to target courses of study that they perceive as anti-American:

Some state lawmakers are again sticking their noses where they don’t belong and trying to tell educators what should or shouldn’t be taught in public schools.

The Legislature is attempting to usurp the decision-making responsibilities of local school boards and is perpetuating lies and creating divisions among Arizonans by pushing a bill that seeks to end programs like Raza Studies in the Tucson Unified School District. The bill would deny state funding to schools whose courses “denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization.” Continue reading

Bananas, Oreos and Coconuts: Would You Identify as White on the Inside?

by Guest Contributor Nadra Kareem

I was recently at a gathering with a Korean-American friend of mine when a young Asian guy approached us.

“You’re not Korean, right?” my friend asked.

He shook his head at her. “No, I’m Japanese.”

“You don’t look all Japanese. Are you half?” my friend asked.

I searched his honey-colored face, looking for telltale signs of whiteness but finding none. I wondered aloud if my friend thought he was half because of his hair. It was textured and brown rather than her hair, which was stick straight and black.

“It’s because of the way I carry myself,” he chipped in before my friend could answer. He went on to invoke some stereotypes about Asians, explaining that he didn’t look fully Asian because he had a very emotive face and liked to gesture a lot. All in all, he was a banana, he said.

I’m assuming that most of you know what this term means. But, for the uninitiated, a “banana” refers to Asians who believe that, while they may be yellow on the outside, they are culturally white on the inside. A synonym for banana used in this context is “Twinkie.” Anyway, when the guy self-labeled as a banana, my friend nodded in agreement, declaring that she, too, was one. Then, a white guy joined us and declared that he was an “egg,” white on the outside and yellow on the inside. Why a group of people in their twenties and thirties was using terminology that should have been left on the schoolyard years ago is beyond me. But, before I knew it, I felt their eyes turn to me.

“Well, I’m black,” I said.

But this response wasn’t acceptable to them. Continue reading

Model Minority: How Women’s Magazines Whitewash Different Ethnicities

by Guest Contributor Alex Alvarez, originally published at Guanabee

Associate Editor Alex Alvarez, befuddled to find that her boobs and hips, or lack thereof, seem to fall in and out fashion like leggings and stirrup pants and poppers, takes a look at the American women’s magazine industry in an attempt to decipher just how, exactly, they can get away with telling women their bodies are ok – if only they’d look more like white girls. (Take The Quiz On Page 62!)

My name is Alex Alvarez. And I hate women’s magazines.

Don’t get me wrong: I like fashion and I’ve worked at several magazines over the past couple of years. I can talk about Courrèges and Two Girls, One Cup in the same breath. But so many women’s magazines, both “fashion” mags like Glamour and Vogue and “sexy” mags like Cosmo and Horse & Hound do women so much more harm than good.

Women’s magazines have long been accused of creating a standard of beauty that will forever be just out of the grasp of most women – prompting them, of course, to wait until next month’s issue for more advice on how to be perfect. (Hint! Transplant your face with this other face.) Selling women this promise not only keeps magazines on newsstands and subscriptions in the mail, it also helps appease the real driving force behind all magazines — advertisers and Satan. And what women end up purchasing is cosmetic “whiteness.” You know you’ve made it, baby, when you wake up looking like you faceplanted on Plymouth Rock.

In this feature, I’ll take a look at women from four, over-simplified ethnic or racial backgrounds and see just how, exactly, magazines are fucking them all up. Then, after a few dozen sex quizzes and several minutes of trying to figure out how you can both “Love Your Body!” and orient yourself on the latest “Plastic Surgery Tips Every Woman Should Know!” without wanting to gag yourself on an exclamation point, I’ll give the magazine industry a few tips on how to talk to women.

Latina

Brief Overview: Latinas are portrayed as being sultry and seductive. They can get away with playing the “bad girl,” possibly because they are allowed – and even encouraged – to have more overtly sexual bodies, with an emphasis on curves, dark eyes and bright, plump, shiny, slick, wet lips shown in loving close-ups, usually while the face to which they’re attached is growling or purring or doing something else that’s totally fierce. They also give better head. Oh. There goes my attempt at subtlety.

The ideal: Jennifer Lopez

Hair: Often enough, Latinas have “big hair” with lots of volume, possibly as a middle ground among the various hair textures found among Latinas of different races.

Skin: Latinas are often depicted as having an olive complexion, with lighter or darker generally ignored or unmentioned by mainstream media.

Ass: Big, round. Makes a “ka-ching ka-ching” sound when bouncing in time to a song about cars and beach houses.

Breasts: While Latinas are generally depicted with large backsides, breast size is allowed to vary. As long as they’re big.

How magazines fucked up: “Latina” is not a race. It’s a diverse group made of many racial, ethnic and religious groups. Some who don’t even look like J-Lo. Additionally, women can’t have it both ways. While Latinas have been “en vogue” for a period of time, certain celebrated icons of “Latina beauty,” such as Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek, have whittled down their once-celebrated curvy figures as the years have gone by. Wait until Jennifer loses all that baby weight. She’ll look so much better without Marc.

Continue reading

Fast Company: Latina Marketing Maven Ignores Stereotypes, Turns Profit

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Fast Company recently profiled Alicia Morga, founder and CEO of online-marketing firm Consorte Media.

The opening paragraphs of the article reveal exactly what is wrong with the advertising industry:

Every marketer, pollster, and advertiser knows this much about Hispanics living in the United States: They are deeply family oriented, and their families are big. So when Alicia Morga, founder and CEO of the Hispanic-focused online-marketing firm Consorte Media, first started working with ad agencies on home-financing campaigns, she was told to use cheery images of happy, home-owning families. Problem: “The pictures of the big, brown family turned out to be the lowest-performing creative among Hispanics,” Morga says with a laugh. “By far.” What worked instead were simple shots of well-kept homes with white fences and lush lawns. “It’s aspirational,” she explains. Who knew?

Anyone who bothered to think outside the caja would know–and Morga does. In less than two years, she and Consorte Media have changed the thinking on how to find Hispanic Web surfers in the United States and convert them into customers, replacing the stereotypes that often typify minority-targeted marketing with insights gleaned from rigorous data collection and analysis. And she has built a business that’s already profitable, scored big-name clients including Best Buy and Monster.com, and completed two rounds of venture funding worth $10 million. Her secret: “Data works. There’s too much of the anecdotal in this marketplace.”

I am not sure why marketers want to overolook things that are fairly obvious. Perhaps it is the need for quantifiable, packaged data. I used to work for a market research aggregator and some of the reports that came across my desk for loading were sketchy, at best. Much of the research targeting specific ethnic/racial/gender/age demographics were heavily biased, used to essentially justify pre-existing stereotypes.

A coworker and I occassionally amused ourselves by opening some of the reports and laughing about what the researchers said our demographic wanted. Apparently, according to an older report targeting the African-American market, I am supposed to be single, very religious, overweight, and respond well to food images and church choirs. I guess that’s what the deal was with this Nivea ad. Continue reading

Glamour Magazine on Women, Race, and Beauty

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop.

Last August, a former Glamour editor found herself in a hailstorm of controversy after she gave a speech to a law firm where she indicated that an afro was not an office appropriate hairstyle. Jezebel had the scoop:

[A] recent slide show by an unidentified Glamour editor on the “Dos and Don’ts of Corporate Fashion” at a New York law firm shed some light on the topic, according to this month’s American Lawyer magazine.

First slide up: an African American woman sporting an Afro. A real no-no, announced the ‘Glamour’ editor to the 40 or so lawyers in the room. As for dreadlocks: How truly dreadful! The style maven said it was ‘shocking’ that some people still think it ‘appropriate’ to wear those hairstyles at the office. ‘No offense,’ she sniffed, but those ‘political’ hairstyles really have to go.

In November of that year, Glamour tried to make amends to its readership by hosting a panel to discuss Women, Race, and Beauty. The March Issue of Glamour contains the transcript from the panel as well as some extra information about the panelists and some sidebars.

Reading the finished product, I notice I am left feeling unsatisfied. It’s kind of like when I saw The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift soundtrack advertised. DJ Shadow, Mos Def, Verbal from M-Flo, Dragon Ash, The Far*East Movement, and N.E.R.D. were all featured but after I previewed the tracks, I ended up leaving the CD in the store. How did something so right go so wrong?

I got the same feeling from this Glamour article. All the all stars are here: Farai Chideya (NPR, News & Notes), Vanessa Bush (Essence), Jami Floyd (TV Anchor), Daisy Hernandez (Colorlines), Lisa Price (Carol’s Daughter Hair Products), Venus Opal Reese (PH.D, University of Texas), Mally Roncal (Celebrity Make Up Artist/make up creator), and Barbara Trepagnier (Professor of Sociology). And yet…

Continue reading

Latino Artists Bear Burden of Anti- Immigrant Frenzy

JLo in Bordertown(Jennifer Lopez in “Bordertown,” which won’t be seen in the United States)

by Guest Contributor Alisa Valdes-Rodiguez, originally published at Multiplicative Indentity

In 2007, Mexican-born author Reyna Grande’s first novel, “Across a Hundred Mountains,” is released to critical acclaim, and wins the American Book Award – yet Grande’s San Diego bookstore appearance is canceled after anti-immigrant patrons call the manager to protest their support of a novel by and about “illegals”.

In 2004, the South Coast Repertory Theater in Costa Mesa, Calif., kills its Hispanic Playwright’s Project, in part to appease donors who fear “illegals” benefiting from their money.

In 2007, Touchstone Pictures pulls the plug on “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” a feature film starring Eva Longoria, about a fully assimilated Mexican American woman, saying there is nothing particularly “Latina” about an educated, professional shopaholic from Texas; meaning, the character is “too American” for audiences to believe as “Latina”. (Meanwhile, Texas is no longer a majority-white state, and most Latinos there speak English…)

In 2005, the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles dismantles all four of its minority playwright development programs.

In 2008, People magazine puts Latina singer Christina Aguilera on the cover and sees the average number of copies sold drop by more than 100,000.

The Latin Grammys, created in 2000 with a mainstream English-language CBS audience in mind, have since been downgraded to Univision only, in part due to protests from anti-Latino viewers.

In 2007, ABC decides to pull the plug on The George Lopez Show, even though the show had better ratings than at least two other series that were renewed; he is replaced by a short-lived sitcom about cavemen.

Also in 2007, Jennifer Lopez wraps filming on the Gregory Nava movie “Bordertown,” about serial killings of Mexican women along the US-Mexico border, only to find that it will not be released in the United States after all; hostile anti-Mexican reaction in screenings relegate the film to release in Europe only. Variety magazine savages the film’s anti-NAFTA stance. The film goes on to win several awards at the Berlin film festival, including one from Amnesty International.

I, meanwhile, have seen my publisher decide to stop printing my books simultaneously in Spanish for the domestic market, citing a waning interest from booksellers for such material. Latina authors in my circle of friends all say times have gotten harder and harder for them over the past two or three years, with several telling me they, like I, have been on the receiving end of more and more hate-mail through their web sites and blogs. Personally, I have seen the advances paid on my books decline by 80 percent, and the size of my book tours slashed from 14 cities to 4.

Taken separately, these anecdotes might appear to be nothing more than bad luck, or flukes, a the natural ebb and flow of a career in the fickle entertainment industry. But taken together, and held up against a shifting corporate media climate that increasingly scapegoats and targets immigrants and Latinos (a trend both the ACLU and FBI blame for drastic rise in hate-crimes against Latinos), they paint a frightening picture of an increasingly hostile America for all Latinos – creative artists included.

Continue reading

Brown and Out of Town: a POC Traveler’s Guide to Racism

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

Author’s note: Before anyone jumps all over me, I use “brown” here as a general term for people of African or indigenous American descent, not solely South Asians or Central Americans, though the article discusses issues for all POC travelers, not just the ones with darker skin.

Ah, Madrid.

I had decided that for spring break in 2005, instead of going to Memphis as planned, I’d take a week-long trip to Paris and Madrid instead. After all, in a weird twist of fate, the plane tickets to Europe were only about 100 dollars more than those I had bought to go to the place Elvis and I both called home. I figured as I could speak, read, and understand Spanish and French, I’d be fine. I’d been to Paris before, and loved it, and had heard awesome things about Madrid from my friends, so I thought, “Why not? Just breathe, and take a chance.” So I did, though I wasn’t exactly prepared for the less than warm reception in one of the liveliest cities in the Iberian Peninsula.

Paris was no problem, possibly due in part to the city’s expressed love (read: borderline fetishizing) of black folks (Josephine Baker, anyone?) or the running assumption that I was Moroccan/generally North African and not a black American. Most people just treated me like I was French, before I opened my mouth, of course (despite my perfect French accent, my occasional pause to find vocabulary words from my high school French mental database was a dead give-a-way). No one was rude to me or my friend with whom I went out on occasion (who is half white American, half indigenous Mexican, and clearly “of color”).

Madrid, on the other hand, completely did me in.

On a super basic level, I wasn’t a big fan of the traditional Spanish food, and, instead, flocked to the numerous Middle Eastern restaurants like water in a desert mirage. And though I was only there for three days, these little hole-in-the-wall, family-run eateries ended up being my surrogate safe havens as walking around on the street proved, well, difficult. I would say the city, overall, was far from receptive. While I understood having a pride in being Spanish, or a Mardileño, to be more specific, what I did not understand was why that translated into racism. I faced constant stares, and I mean constant, many of which were steeped in anger or confusion, despite my more than proper attire (I was not one of those fanny pack-wearing, head buried in a map, incapable-of-speaking-the-native-language types of tourists, trust me). I was cat-called, a lot, and though I was conditioned to that from having lived in NYC for four years at that point, what I hadn’t been exposed to was the overtly sexual racist epithets thrown my way (none of which I will repeat here). I tried to search the eyes of other people of color for an explanation. People of Asian descent seemed happy, even moreso there than in Paris. And people clearly from Africa also seemed OK, though I am sure their black skin proved problematic at times (look no further than the Madrid soccer related racism or even the recent Formula One racing incident in Barcelona). It was the somewhat racially ambiguous brown folks who seemed to run into trouble. Continue reading