Tag Archives: race relations

Obama, and the Birth of the (Above-)Racist

By Guest Contributor Catherine, originally posted at Hyphen Blog

obama
The New York Times commemorated President Obama’s 100th day in office last week with some optimistic reportage of race relations in the United States. Citing a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, the article asserted that Obama is positively influencing public perception of race relations, stating that

Two-thirds of Americans now say race relations are generally good, and the percentage of blacks who say so has doubled since last July….

If only the public’s perception of “progress” were motivated by actual progress. Even a cursory examination of the state of race relations in the US will reveal that we are still a very racially divided nation, in some ways even more so than before Obama’s election. The Southern Poverty Law Center, for example, just released a report which found that the number of hate groups in the US has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000, and by 5 percent since last year. SPLC attributes the increase, in part, to growing anti-immigrant sentiment — a key point to remember, as Obama’s rise seems to have us thinking about race relations exclusively in black and white. Continue reading

Confrontations, Indian Villages, and the start of Black History Month

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Okay, so I’ll be honest, my night didn’t really start off too well. Waiting for the streetcar to come so I can go check out the much anticipated photo exhibit for “Prom Night in Mississippi” I see this gem of a display in a popular Queen West shoe store right across the street:

Between debating on going inside to voice my annoyance and offense, or hopping the fast approaching streetcar on this bitterly cold night and making my opinions heard later, I chose to go inside, and become angrier by the second as I make my way over there. Who the hell do they think they are? I’m probably like the tenth person who complained, I mean this is Toronto, for heaven’s sake!

“Excuse me, I am extremely offended by the “Indian” village display at the front of the store, can I speak to the manager?” I ask.

“Thank goodness you said something! No, he’s not here, but yeah, I said something and since I’m just an employee, it didn’t change.” she replies.

Turns out the company making the moccasins, mukluks, and boots on display is called Laurentian Chiefs, and she proceeds to tell me how they are actually from a reserve in Quebec (although I still have yet to confirm all the details of who this company really is).

“So does Laurentian Chiefs mandate the store to put on a display like that?”  I continue.

“No, my boss just went out and bought the stuff.” she says.

Well that’s just great, especially considering all the amazingly gifted (and popular!) Native fashion designers, photographers, artists, and countless others in Toronto who could have easily given them some better guidance on how to put together a more realistic and ethical display.  There are more than 60 000 Aboriginal people who live in this city. And apparently, I’m the first person who has said anything about it.

After collecting said manager’s info and being assured my comments would be passed along, I go back outside to wait for another streetcar, when a group of young Native women come along and also take notice of the display.

“That’s just racist, man.” one of them says. Continue reading

The Return of Mona: Race and Friendship (The Sequel)

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Remember my ex-friend “Mona?” I wrote about our “breakup” in a post called “Race and friendship:”

    The social construct we call race is complicated, but there are a few things about it that I know to be true. One thing is that everyone who grows up in this country absorbs some prejudice–everyone, no matter their race. Also, many people have no real relationships with anyone outside of their own culture. Most racial misunderstandings are borne of ignorance not malice. As a woman of color, I try to keep that truth in mind. Nevertheless, last year I lost a good friend. And our parting can be blamed on race–biases that I felt my friend was unwilling to examine and that I was unable to forgive.

    There were other strains on my end of our friendship. My friend, let’s call her Mona, could be overbearing and self-centered, and she possessed a frankness that sometimes crossed the line to rudeness. But to be honest, that was part of her charm. When we met, we were both working for a large public relations agency. I liked Mona the minute I met her. I have a soft spot for misfits, and she didn’t fit in with the agency types–those skinny, stylish girls with their Kate Spade bags and rich daddies. Neither did I. Mona was smart, loud, sassy and a little hippie dippy. She liked to talk about past lives and “bad energy,” and she would rail against the patriarchy and “the man.” While I philosophically talked about politics, she would get in the trenches and volunteer to help Democratic campaigns in other cities. Mona and I became good friends.

    It occurred to me sometimes that my friend’s “power to the people” ideology was somewhat theoretical. I knew she had other friends of color, but I also knew that they were like me–educated and assimilated–friends who could slip easily into the mainstream. But aren’t we all most comfortable with people who share our interests, values and likes? Race was not a precious topic between Mona and I. We discussed it openly. I explained the black women and hair thing. She talked about what it was like as a white woman to date black men. Then something changed. Continue reading

Miley Cyrus Thinks It’s Cool to Mock Asians

by Latoya Peterson

Now, what did the Spanish Olympic basketball team say when they did it?

Oh, right, it was a “wink.” A sign of “affection.”

Here’s what other bloggers are saying – I don’t really have any words on this one.

Angry Asian Man:

For those who don’t know who the most popular teenager in America is, Miley’s third from the left. Is this how kids are posing for photos these days? Hey! Look at us spoiled punkass hipster kids making racist gestures! Because it’s fun, and we just don’t care. And it’s, like, totally ironic or something, you know? Our friend here is Asian and the rest of us are white! Get it? Watch us all do the silly squint-eye!

Who is the Asian guy, anyway? Sitting there like a tool and letting his “friends” getting away with racist gestures. Not funny. And is it me, or is he actually trying to make his eyes look wider? Couldn’t resist getting to hang out with the cool kids, I guess. Even if it means having to deal with this idiocy. Or maybe he’s forgotten what it feels like when some jerk on the street does that out of real-ass hate.

Continue reading

Open Thread: Dating, Online and Off

by Latoya Peterson

Reader Minda sent in this interesting tidbit she heard while listening to the radio. She writes:

    I was listening to XM Shade 45 today and the rappers/hosts of the radio show were discussing how on eHarmony they might get a possible match, but then when the woman hears their voice on the phone and discerns their black she’s no longer interested. They talked about how they had to use their “white” voices and how if internet dating sites are a last ditch effort, then what are black men to do?

Now, there are a lot of potential places to go for conversation in this small paragraph, but I want to focus on the race based lack of interest angle. Has anyone else ever been hit with the “you aren’t what I was expecting?”

I’m also going to expand this a bit. One of Wendi Muse’s most commented on posts is Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training where Wendi discusses the racial bias inherent in a lot of personals postings.

She notes:

In the world of online dating, where a user name, masked email address, and optional photo sharing means freedom to speak ones mind in complete anonymity, users frequently abandon political correctness and resort to exotification, stereotypes, and blatant racism when referring to racial/ethnic “others” in their attempts to choose a mate. While some ads include the user’s thoughts on race is more subtle ways, for example, simply stating a racial “preference” (still, arguably, a sign of prejudice), others are more obvious in their descriptions—ranging from the utilization of explicitly racist phrases or terms to describe his/her own background and/or the background of the person being sought to downright exclusion a la Jim Crow style (“No -insert race here- need apply”).

Continue reading

Aspiring to whiteness

by Guest Contributor Tanglad, originally published at Tanglad

As we celebrated the eve of November 4th, I was struck by a comment from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He pointed out with pride the role of the Latino vote in Obama’s election. I wish I could say that about my fellow Filipinos.

And yes, I know, the Filipino vote is not monolithic. I am specifically talking about Filipinos like me, who have immigrated here in our adult lives. We’re working to make ends meet. Many of you are raising families, go to church every Sunday, support extended families back in the Philippines. The Philippines that would theoretically be a very red state if it could vote.

So yeah, there are lots of factors behind this particular Pinoy demographic’s support of McCain and Proposition 8, but I will dive into the one that presents the most challenges.

Filipinos can be quite forthcoming when talking about race. In news interviews in the Philippines and in Pinoy gatherings, many immigrant Pinoys have made it abundantly clear that their “discomfort” over Barack Obama is not due to the rumors that he’s an inexperienced, socialist, Muslim politician. Their discomfort is from Obama’s blackness. Continue reading

Waking Up in “Post-Racial” America

by Latoya Peterson

The night Barack Obama won the election, I was pissed off about losing my wallet.

Having accepted a last minute invite to an election night party down in Dupont Circle, I hastily threw hat, umbrella, wallet, gloves, and Ipod into a large bag, dressed in layers, and headed out into the evening drizzle to hang with friends as the ballots were counted. My homegirl Spiff and I entered the scene, bypassing a frustrated Republican looking for a red celebration and a guy playing both the guitar and a harmonica, trying to rhyme words in his improvised song with Obama, McCain and Palin.

The room was electric, supercharged by the palpable excitement in the air at the possibility of an Obama win. Though there were two different drink specials offered for party goers, four out of five drinks were of the “Blue Victory” variety. Unfortunately, so many people and so much energy, combined with so many azure colored concoctions would have eventually spelled disaster for my winter white coat. I crammed it into my bag and kept partying, until the open bar closed and I realized I was out of money. And metro fare home. And an ID with which to buy more drinks.

I checked the screen and saw that John McCain had an electoral college lead over Obama. Open bar closed early, the free food had run out, so we decided to head down to Kramer’s to grab some food and drink, and perhaps the next part of the election cycle on CNN. Luckily for me, some old friends were on duty, so discounted drinks and apps were on the menu.

We sat in the bar, sipping on Obama-tinis, hanging with my friend Abby who brought maps of the United States with her. She also held blue and red colored pencils, so she could color in the correct states in real time. While Abby is the most cynical person I know, she seemed strangely upbeat. She was unshakeable in her faith that Obama would win – her reasoning was that all other alternatives were too grim. We ordered another round.

The night wore on, the electoral college count started creeping toward Obama, and more friends dropped by to drink to with us. Abby was still shading in the electoral college votes. Little snatches of excited conversation rippled through the bar, debating ideas and policy changes. Then, suddenly, Obama pulled ahead. 270 was close, then in reach, then surpassed.

The whole bar broke out in an uproar, screaming and shouting at the television. I looked over at Abby, surprised to note that tears were streaming down her face. Her eyes refused to move from the screen, but she was still clutching the colored pencils.

“We did it?” she asked in disbelief.

“Yeah, I guess we did,” I replied, equally shocked.

For a few moments, we all just watched the screen, waiting for someone to come and take it back. To say that the projections were off or something. I can’t speak for anyone else in the bar that night, but I know my shock was genuine. I had never thought Obama would lose – the other offerings were just too grim to consider. But, somehow, it had never entered my mind that he would win, either. I personally was expecting another Supreme Court battle. I figured we’d have a President somewhere around December, give or take vote challenges and other shenanigans.

But Obama won.

When we got over the shock, popped some champagne, and settled into listen to McCain’s concession speech.

After that, we headed home. Weaving through the happy hornblowers downtown, we crept back into the suburbs around one. I texted my boss and told her I was pre-emptively calling in drunk. I turned off talk radio because it was bothering me, listening to the pundits shift to talking about all the problems Obama had to face when he was literally thirty minutes into the President Elect role. I came home, listened halfway to Obama’s speech, and fell into bed.

The next day I woke up feeling like shit.

Continue reading

Busta’s Busted: “Arab Money”

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

I know, I know. If you’re looking for socially conscious rap or hip hop, you don’t go to Busta Rhymes. But this still surprises me:

Maytha from KABOBfest has highlighted Rhyme’s song “Arab Money,” which has some disgustingly racist lyrics. Maytha brings up some great points about this video, namely, that it is a blatant example of the acceptability of anti-Arab racism.

Let me highlight some of Busta’s rhymes:

Women walkin around while security on camelback

Club on fire now — dunno how to act

Sittin in casino’s while im gamblin with Arafat

Money so long watch me purchase pieces of the Almanac

Ya already know i got the streets bust

While i make ya bow down makes salaat like a muslim

Camelback?! Gambling with a dead PLO leader?! Elsewhere, there are references to growing beards and Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family known for his success in business (his…uh…bread).

Busta Rhymes’ song (and its fakey Arabic chorus–shudder) is just one more instance of hip hop’s cultural appropriation of Middle Eastern music (producer Timbaland has been “sampling” Arabic songs for years: remember Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin”? That is Egyptian artist Hossam Ramzy’s “Khusara Khusara” that you hear).

Rhyme’s references to Yasser Arafat and Saudi princes create the illusion of ownership: not only are we expected to think that he and Browz understand/speak Arabic and understand Middle Eastern politics and geography, but we’re also supposed to think that he rolls with said Arabs.

When I first heard the song, I didn’t know whether to be angrier about the sexism (Rhymes makes reference to “Middle East women and Middle East bread”—things), the racism, or the casual name dropping in what Maytha calls “baseless stereotypes masquerading as knowledge.” Continue reading