Tag Archives: stereotypes

Postmaster Refuses to Serve Non-English Speaking Patrons

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

The Daily Mail has published an article about a British postmaster’s controversial move: He’s refusing to serve customers who don’t speak English. Complicating matters is that the postmaster, who works in a culturally diverse section of Nottingham, is of Sri Lankan decent. He became a naturalized British citizen 17 years ago.

“I tell them if they don’t speak the language and they can’t be bothered to learn, then don’t bother coming here,” the Daily Mail quoted Deva Kumarasiri as saying.

In making this statement, Kumarasiri ignores his background of privilege. For instance, later in the article, we discover that he learned English in school in his native Sri Lanka. This is an opportunity that scores of immigrants never receive.

The author of the article doesn’t say what age Kumarasiri was when he began to learn English, but studies have shown that the younger a person is when introduced to a language, the better chance the person has of mastering it. So, if Kumarasiri was a minor when he learned English, he has an additional edge over the immigrants he accuses of not “bothering to learn” the language. And is it fair to say that the immigrants in his area haven’t bothered to learn? I could argue that Kumarasiri didn’t bother to learn English either. He had to speak English by virtue of being a student in a school that instructed him in the language.

Throughout the article, Kumarasiri continues to make arguments that are downright shoddy. He resorts to using offensive clichés when he says, “If you don’t want to be British, go home.” Even when he puts more thought into his explanations for banning non-English speakers from his shop, his points are flawed. For example, Kumarasiri argues, “The fabric of the nation begins to unravel if we don’t all speak the same language.” Continue reading

How to Write about Muslims (for real)

by Guest Contributors Sobia and Krista, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

After getting all of that sarcasm out of our systems two weeks ago, we decided it might be useful to put together a list of actual guidelines for writing about Muslims. Of course, this is mostly just wishful thinking, because if reporters actually seemed willing to adhere to guidelines like this, then there would be no need for this blog. But here are some suggestions anyway.

A lot of this isn’t new stuff, as you’ll see from the many MMW posts that we link to, which illustrate some of our guidelines in more detail.

So, here you go: the shockingly un-sarcastic version of “How to Write About Muslims.”

Rule #1: Don’t assume that Muslim women need to be saved, or that you know how to save them.

By making this assumption, what one is essentially doing is:

    * Assuming that all Muslim women are somehow oppressed at the hands of their fellow Muslims. The Muslim community is just as diverse as any other. By generalizing in such a way, one maligns the entire community, including the women. This is offensive to the many women who are treated with respect and equality by their fellow Muslims, including Muslim men. This assumption also ignores the forms of oppression that Muslim women may be facing from outside of the Muslim community, such as racism and Islamophobia (or even war and occupation, in cases like Iraq and Afghanistan), which for some women can be much more disastrous than anything they experience from their Muslim community.
    * Assuming that Muslim women can’t take care of themselves. This is very patronizing. Muslim women have agency, and a great deal of it. Throughout history and today, Muslim women have been taking various forms of leadership. In situations where women are being oppressed, they are resisting in all sort of ways that the media doesn’t always think about. Additionally, most Muslim countries have Muslim women’s organizations that are working hard to support themselves and other women.
    * Assuming that what you’re going to do for them is going to be helpful. The assumption is that you know better than them what’s good for them. It also suggests that you are actually in a position to help them, which might not be true.

These two posts by Faith go into more detail about what is wrong with making these assumptions.

Rule #2:Rather than assuming you know what Muslim women’s lives are like, try asking them.

Too often, writers write about Muslim women without ever having tried to find out what Muslim women’s lives are like from their perspective. This is poor research, and feeds into the problematic assumptions discussed in Rule #1. Do your homework, and try hard to connect to the specific women that you are writing about. Even if you are writing about women in another country, try to connect to women’s organisations in that country. At the very least, try to connect to women from that country who are living in your own community.

Rule #3: Be careful of who you talk to regarding Islam and/or Muslim women.

Don’t assume, just because someone is Muslim, that all Muslims will agree with them or that they represent all Muslims. For example, Muslims who have made a career out of calling other Muslims Islamists, and who base their credibility on the number of other Muslims who don’t like them, are not a good source of information. Generally, people who work within an Islamic framework, as opposed to always bashing Islam, are more likely to understand the Muslim community. Continue reading

The Big Bang Theory, Nerds of Color, and Stereotypes

by Latoya Peterson

“Though you do add some much needed cultural diversity to an otherwise homogeneous group, your responses to [The Friendship Survey] were deeply disturbing.”

—Sheldon to Rajesh, The Friendship Algorithm

A few weeks ago, I discovered a new favorite show to watch. My boyfriend has been a How I Met Your Mother devotee for the past couple of years, and tends to always make his way to the couch around eight-ish on Monday nights.

One night, I was working in the bedroom when I caught an errant nerdy reference.

Oh, love! A discussion of the physics involved in Superman with a comic book reference challenge at the end? Be still my heart!

The next time I wasn’t paying attention, but I was in the living room, so I caught the reference that changed my life:

Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, spock. Genius!

But as I continued watching, a little nagging thought started interfering with my enjoyment of the series:

So, we only get one nerd of color? Continue reading

Policing Fashion in New York

by Guest Contributor Minh-ha, originally published at Threadbared

In New York magazine’s Spring Fashion issue, there are six feature stories on clothes, designers, and models including a story on a group of tenderfoot but fresh-faced white male models (“Fashion Week’s handsome rookies”), an interview with style icon Kate Moss on her clothing line at the much-anticipated and much delayed opening of TopShop in downtown Manhattan (recent reports have doors opening in April 2009), and a recession-minded article with an increasingly familiar theme, “Everything Here is Under $100”). In addition, there is the usual array of designer label advertisements and celebrity spokesmodels: Posh and Becks for Emporio Armani, Katie Holmes for Miu Miu, Gwyneth Paltrow for Tod’s, as well as an anonymous sea of puerile, well-heeled, ivory-faced Gothamites slinging everything from Marc Jacobs handbags to cocktails to lifestyles.

Jessica Lustig’s article, “The Fashion Thief,” was the only feature story or advertisement in the Fashion Issue that featured a person of color, any color. Lustig follows Kevahn Thorpe, an African American young man from Queensbridge Houses project in Queens, New York, as he is arrested and rearrested for shoplifting from high-end Manhattan shops like Prada, Bergdorf, Barneys, and Saks.

There’s a lot about this article that’s unsettling. Continue reading

Do Poor Whites Even Exist?

by Guest Contributor Average Bro, originally published at Average Bro

This post’s title is a rhetorical question. Of course poor whites exist, but not that you’d know so if you’re informed by the mainstream media. While Ronald Reagan was successful in painting urban black women as “welfare queens”, whites receive nearly 2/3 of all welfare benefits administered by the federal government. Still, Shaniqua Jackson, not Samantha McMullen, is the face of American poverty.

Last Friday’s edition of ABC’s 20/20 tried to shed some light on the woes of dirt poor rural white Americans, a group of folks so routinely (and IMHO, intentionally) ignored they’re damn near considered invisible. And while A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains is a fairly nuanced portrait of life in the hills of Kentucky, it both informs and pisses off at the same time.

The promo trailer:

A young girl discusses her Mom’s drug problem.

Continue reading

Series Introduction: The Brazil Files

by Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

For those of you who are longtime followers of Racialicious, you may remember me as a Special Correspondent.

For those of you who are not, let me re-introduce myself! My name is Wendi Muse. I’m a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where I created a major in “Legal and Cultural Studies of Oppressed and Marginalized Peoples,” aka I set myself up for a stint here at Racialicious. After having previously written exclusively for The Coup Magazine, I began writing weekly articles for Racialicious in 2007. My first article was about racism within the Craigslist personal ads, and the rest was history (you can check out my other Racialicious articles here.)

However, in July of 2008, I moved to Brazil to teach English and conduct research. Due to the simple fact that time did not previously allow, I was unable to continue writing here at Racialicious. Fortunately, I have a little more free time, and have come back to share some of my experiences in the magical world of race and ethnicity—Brazilian style!

Before I share my first piece, however, I caution readers that my articles are in no way representative of the entire Brazilian population, nor do I expect them to be a blanket portrayal of the thoughts of millions of people in the largest country in Latin America. That, quite frankly, would be impossible. I do hope, however, to put some myths to rest in addition to opening up the avenues of conversation surrounding race and ethnicity here at Racialicious. We often catch a serious case of myopia when it comes to discussing race in America, and it’s important that we hear the side of our friends down south, too. Their struggles, opinions, and perspectives are equally important and worth giving a listen as we try to make change here stateside.

With that said, I look forward to writing here again! Até mais!



ALO Again: New Lifestyle Magazine More of the Same Old Orientalism

By Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie. An expanded version of this piece can be found at Muslimah Media Watch.

Last summer saw the launch of ALO Hayati, “America’s Top Middle Eastern Lifestyle Magazine.” Thanks to a gracious donor, I finally got my hands on a copy of the July 2008 issue.

All lifestyle magazines have an aspirational feel to them, and this one was no different. Chock full of advertisements for Dubai hotels and Swiss watches, ALO wasn’t particularly different than any other lifestyle magazine. Considering the economic situation of magazines, it doesn’t seem like an incredibly auspicious time to launch one aimed at a materialistic lifestyle. I wasn’t able to find any updates about the magazine’s publication on the website, and as far as I’m aware, this is the only edition, though in the magazine they refer to an earlier issue in some places.

As someone who enjoys a good glossy every now and then, I delighted over advertisements with Kim Kardashian, and interview with exclusive designer Bijan, and a fluffy piece on intercultural relationships (though I did not care for the cover teaser: “Shocking Intercultural Stories”).

The magazine featured an interview with Leila Ahmed, which was a great one, likening the current western media representation of Muslim women to the same patronizing Orientalism that played out in the first wave of colonialism in Middle East. Her interview shed lots of light on the history and future of the headscarf. Despite the educational qualities of her interview, I kept thinking, “Who is this educating?”

While not every Middle Eastern person is going to be familiar with the history behind the headscarf, it seems sort of odd to have an educational feature about hijab in a magazine aimed at a demographic that has a fairly lengthy history with headscarves, even if many of them aren’t Muslim. Something about this piece tugged at me. It almost felt as if it was aimed at people who were not Middle Eastern. Continue reading