Tag Archives: stereotypes

What Do We Take for Racial Tension Headaches, Again?

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We can’t have anything, can we?

Not one scrap of dignity. Not one little bit of humanity. Nothing. None. Nada. One would think after a blood-soaked summer, those of us battle scared and weary by current events could find a refuge in television, with one of the most diverse seasons we’ve seen since the start of this blog. Even if diversity behind the camera is still suffering, we could at least relax into our favorite televised escapes, right?

Wrong. We’re not going to talk about *that* article, though we hope we see something from the New York Times public editor addressing the controversy. Kara Brown’s take down at Jezebel is worth reading if you missed the controversy.

How deep does this go? Melissa Harris-Perry and her team on MSNBC created an amazing send-up, analyzing the role of the Angry White Man on television:

If MHP’s bit felt a little strange, it’s just a little dissonance: we are not accustomed to turning the othering gaze used on white characters.

But this situation begs the question: what now? The online community rallied to support of Rhimes, but what else can we do? A tweet in? A watch in? What could we do to deliver a message that these kind of mistakes are not just an editorial judgement error, but a societal problem?

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And in case you were confused by the title of this piece:

What Bill O’Reilly gets wrong about Asian Americans

What Bill O'Reilly gets wrong about Asian Americans

Credit: Frank Micelotta/invision/AP

By guest contributor Kevin Wong (originally posted at Salon.com)

Bill O’Reilly went to Harvard and grew up in Levittown, a Long Island town that is 94 percent white. He attended a private boy’s school on Long Island that is 90 percent white and currently costs more than $8,000 a year to attend. And yet he recently remarked that white privilege is a lie — that being white gives a person no inherent advantages in America. Irony is dead.

It is obvious, to anyone paying the slightest attention, that white privilege does exist, that legal equality is different from equality in practice. But then, O’Reilly has a long history of making ill-advised statements about race. What really stood out to me, though, on a personal level, is how O’Reilly used Asian-Americans to support his argument against white privilege. Just to recap:

Here are the facts. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for black Americans is 11.4 percent.  It is just over 5 percent for whites; 4.5 percent for Asians. So do we have Asian privilege in America? Because the truth is that Asian-American households make far more money than anyone else… Also, just 13 percent of Asian children live in single parent homes compared to a whopping 55 percent for blacks and 21 percent for whites. There you go.  That’s why Asian-Americans, who often have to overcome a language barrier, are succeeding more than African-Americans and more than white Americans. Their families are intact and education is paramount.

From what experiences, exactly, does O’Reilly draw these conclusions? Allegedly, his own encounters with Asians are less than enlightened. In her sexual harassment suit against the pundit, Andrea Mackris made the following allegations: that O’Reilly recounted his foreign sexual experiences to her; that a “little brown woman” masseuse in Bali, Indonesia, had asked to see his penis, to which O’Reilly obliged; that a “girl” at a Thailand sex show took O’Reilly to a back room and “blew [his] mind.” When a man pursues colonialist fantasies and exploits women in Asian countries for his own pleasures, he loses the moral high ground to lecture anyone on race privilege.

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Uh-Oh. The Pentagon Considers Well-Traveled, Broke Indian American Women Threats

by Guest Contributors The Aerogram Editors, originally published at the Aerogram

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The Huffington Post’s Matt Sledge recently introduced readers to “Hema,” a character in an online training given to Pentagon employees to teach them how to identify “insider threats.”

Writes Sledge:

A security training test created by a Defense Department agency warns federal workers that they should consider the hypothetical Indian-American woman a “high threat” because she frequently visits family abroad, has money troubles and “speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy.”

As you can imagine, reading that line caused all of us here in The Aerogram’s headquarters to have a “Hey! That sounds like me!” moment.

Sledge goes on to say that the training was designed to help catch future Bradley Mannings and Edward Snowdens, who are both white men. (Editor’s note: We think the training would have been much more true-to-life if Hema had been the child of a Welsh immigrant a la Manning.)

Visits twice a year; inadequate work qualityBecause the training is declassified, anyone can now take it here. Examining the slides, we were struck by the fact that a character that regularly plays high-stakes poker was considered less of a threat than Hema, and that Hema’s propensity of travel made her as much of a risk as a recently divorced man mired in debt who openly worries about paying child support. Hema’s foreign travel, the slide notes, is a threat because it “gives foreign agents a chance to contact foreign intelligence services. She also demonstrates possible divided loyalty and financial difficulties. She is a high threat.”

Emphasis ours. Let’s break down exactly why labeling Hema as a threat to security is problematic. Using this training’s criteria, in order to be classified as low risk (0 indicators) by the Defense department, one would have to:

1) Estrange oneself from family and friends, not to mention cultural connections and heritage by not going back to India regularly. (Besides, who needs grandparents or your aunties when you have Uncle Sam?)

2) Be politically apathetic or somehow always support U.S. foreign policy, even though that policy could vary wildly from administration to administration. But never mind that. U-S-A! U-S-A!

3) Be financially well off. (But don’t you dare spend any of that money on foreign travel or political causes, like other well-off people do. Always remember: brown-skinned individuals have to be extra careful.)

For us, the strangest part of seeing someone like the fictional Hema classified as a high risk threat is that traveling internationally, exercising the rights to free speech and having political opinions are generally indicators of a well-rounded, actively involved citizen. Couldn’t the government use more inspired young people who know that the world is a big and complicated place? Why are these traits considered undesirable and threatening when the person possessing them is a South Asian American woman?

The Media’s 5 Worst References To Huma Abedin’s Ethnic Background

by Guest Contributor Lakshmi Gandhi, originally published at The Aerogram

Huma Abedin with Anthony Weiner. Image from NY1 via 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.

Typical reaction:

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Radio host Rush Limbaugh:

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.

Typical Reaction:

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The Racialicious Links Roundup 6.13.13

Image via The Root

  • Trayvon’s Dad: ‘My Kid Was Perfect to Me’ (The Root)

    My kid was perfect to me. As a father, it hurts to see how Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, has tried to twist the truth. And I can’t defend my son, who has been killed. It’s demoralizing. How do you blame the victim?What they don’t understand is that Zimmerman didn’t only murder my son — he destroyed an entire branch of my family tree. I looked forward to the possibility of having grandkids from Trayvon. And that’s something that can never happen now. But as far as the attacks on Trayvon’s character, it certainly isn’t true, and therefore doesn’t affect me personally. I just hope it doesn’t work with the jury and the public.O’Mara has tried to focus attention on whether or not Trayvon had smoked marijuana in the past. First, that’s irrelevant to the facts of the case. I recently read a government report that showed 36 percent of American high school seniors had tried marijuana in the past year. And white kids do it more often than blacks or Hispanics. Is that a reason to shoot a kid? Would Zimmerman have shot a white kid in that neighborhood?

  • Opinion: The problem with “Devious Maids” goes far beyond Hollywood (NBC Latino)

    It is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid, but there is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be.My grandmother was a maid in Cuba; my biological grandfather was her employer. My father, never claimed by his bio-dad, was a janitor when he first began working in the United States, as a teen immigrant. My father went on to get his PhD, sort of a real-life Good Will Hunting, and became a leading sociologist. He raised me to believe in myself and my voice; I went to Columbia, and I’m a bestselling author Tom Wolfe called one of the most important social critics of our time.We don’t see stories about people like me or my dad. Indeed, network executives say to my face that I don’t exist. That’s the problem.

  • The Dangerous, Infectious Logic of National Security (Colorlines)

    It is comforting to believe these things have nothing to do with one another, to insist that the administration’s shocking spying program is a distinct issue from the trends we’ve witnessed in communities of color for years. But the logic used to defend secretly collecting the communications data of people not accused of any crime is the same logic used to defend NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and Homeland Security’s deportation apparatus. The logic of “national security” was developed and honed by law enforcement practices inside communities of color. It is one of the more striking examples of a basic truth: racial injustice is cancerous; it eats the national body from the inside out.

Nature, Nurture, And The Pro Athlete

By Guest Contributor Jason Eastman, originally published on Sociological Images

Race as biology has largely been discredited, yet beliefs about one race being biologically superior to another still seem to pervade one social arena: sports.  Claims that different races have genetic advantages to play particular sports persists both because individual athletic ability obviously has some basis in biology (even though that does not mean it is racial biology at play) and athletics appears to be one social arena where racial minorities succeed over whites in certain sports.

For example, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports’ 2011 Racial and Gender Report Card on The National Football League, over 2/3 of players in the NFL are African American–far higher than the proportion of Blacks in the general population of the United States.  This report also shows that all other racial groups are under-represented in the NFL relative to their proportion in the general population, including Asians who make up only 2% of the players in the league.

These statistics compel many to assume that racial biology plays a large part in athletic success.  However, the 60 Minutes investigation “Football Island” debunks this assumption during a trip to the place where most of the Asian players in the NFL come from: American Samoa.   This small island is a US Territory in the Pacific and has a population small enough to seat comfortably in most professional football stadiums.  Yet the average Samoan child “is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL than any other kid in America.”

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The Bourne Legacy And Manila’s Militaristic Mapping

By Guest Contributor Bryan Ziadie

I’ve heard a few friends’ opinions so far about The Bourne Legacy, the latest installment in the Bourne film franchise. The last set of sequences in the film got particular attention. Those scenes take place in Manila. It seems to be the case here in the Philippines that people, at least those I know, managed to stay immersed in the film up until that point. After this, a feeling of strange misrecognition of the landscape took over. This may be because what we’re shown through the camera work in the Manila scenes suggests a perception of the Philippines not unfamiliar to a militarized American pop-culture industry that’s easy to identify with it until you find that familiar spaces have become the focus of the camera’s lens.

Rooftop-Hopping

One thing that I’ve noticed about First World action sequences that take place in Third World settings is the position of the camera. You often find it hovering above, looking down on metal, shanty-town rooftops as protagonists run across, leaping from one roof to the next either in pursuit of, or escape from, the enemy. A couple examples that come to mind can be found in Edward Norton’s Incredible Hulk and, in Inception, the scene that takes place in Mombasa. I can’t actually remember the movie Quantum of Solace very well, but the video game features a shanty-town, rooftop-hopping stage.

(Don’t watch the whole video, it’s actually pretty boring)

But, to say on track, here’s an illustrative scene from Bourne.

(Watch the whole video. It’s actually pretty badass.)
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Resistance Is Futile: Tolerating Tyler Perry In South Africa

By Guest Contributor Christopher Keith Johnson

Writer/director/actor Tyler Perry. Photo via rollingout.com

All of the things I had grown accustomed to in the US were engaged often and early in my move to South Africa. I felt right at home after experiencing housing discrimination in my apartment search. Seeing airports filled with white travelers, while bus stations overflowed with folks who looked like me. It all seemed so familiar.  South Africa was a long way from being post-racial.  I could deal with that. I came from that.

What was pleasantly surprising was the level of activist engagement of the South African people. The documentaries I had seen were capturing something real. From service delivery protests to pushback against Wal-Mart’s acquisition of South Africa’s largest retailer, the people were not afraid to protest—nonviolently and otherwise.

South Africans won’t let you off the hook easily. In my role directing programming between the largest American trade union and its counterparts in West African, more than a few meetings with partners ended with tough questions about U.S. foreign policy and my employer’s take on positions supported by the American government. One had to be quick on the toes to navigate queries on Palestine, Israel, and Cuba. The activist community in which I had to engage expected that I would be able to respond to issues and concerns in and outside of Africa. As the only G20 member on the continent, politics beyond its borders mattered to my South African counterparts.

With the above in mind, I was wholly unprepared to be faced with the popularity of Tyler Perry in South Africa.
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