Tag Archives: white

What is the Cost of Racism?

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

Over at Resist Racism, there are two excellent posts up discussing the damage racism does to white people.

The first talks about a loss of empathy:

I often think that one way racism does serious damage to white people is by stripping them of their empathy. Privilege has long taught them that white is right. White people are given constant, regular reinforcement that their opinions are superior. They receive validation for their viewpoints. And they typically live in environments in which they do not have to pay any attention to people of color.

Subsequently, when people of color talk about racism, white people are quick to issue denials. Not only do they deny that the opinions or feelings of other people are valid, but they deny even the right to have those opinions. Look at some of the comments people made after Miley Cyrus’ racist “slant-eye” gesture. Remember the one about the rabbits?

    What about kids who hold up their fingers and do bunny ears in photos? Should rabbits start holding town meetings to cry racism??

Translation: Asian Americans complaining about racism is as ridiculous as if rabbits began to talk. In other words, Asian Americans are not fully equal. They are being equated with rabbits. And who would imagine that rabbits might dare to bring up racism?

The second discusses critical thinking skills:

Another way that racism harms white people is by denying them the ability to develop their critical thinking. This is due in part to the constant, regular reinforcement that white is right. White people are raised in an environment in which they are regularly assured of their superiority. Their experts are white, like them. And they often live in segregation, thus denying them the opportunity to be exposed to other viewpoints.

What happens in a culture of white supremacy? White people assume that they are the experts. Even in the absence of any history, education or knowledge.

The most blatant example of this is when a white person (typically a white man) is pontificating about a subject and is challenged when a person of color expresses an opinion. The white person will assume that the person of color knows nothing about the subject and will strive to “correct” him or her. I’ve had this happen when a white person who was not in my field was speaking with authority about something in my field. They never assume that you might actually be knowledgeable on the subject, nor do they assume that you might have professional credentials. (I’d also note that this is a very common experience on the part of people of color. And I recently heard a anecdote about this happening to a writer of color with a white man who was discussing her book. Only he didn’t know she had written it.)

It does not cross their minds. This is racism.

Go check them both out. Just make sure you read “We’ve heard it before” and “Racism 101” before commenting.

Racialicious at the Movies: He’s Just Not That Into You

by Latoya Peterson

You know, dear readers, I am sometimes entirely too curious for my own good.

But I’m going to blame Joseph for this latest bout of killing the cat, since it was his comment (#58) on the original HJNTIY thread that led me to the Friday matinee show.

Before I jump into my impressions of the movie, let me add a little background information. We often receive comments on Racialicious about how sometimes people just want to escape, or that movies are made for “intellectuals,” or that we critique everything and never like anything, or that we are busy judging things we haven’t seen or don’t watch or whatever.

These comments are generally incorrect. In the case of He’s Just Not That Into You :

  • I remember where this all started, as I watched Seasons 1 – 4 of Sex and the City, and sporadically finished out the rest of the series. (I enjoyed the series, glaring race and class issues aside – I just tend to lose patience with most shows after a few seasons.)
  • Not only do I remember the episode that spawned the book, I actually read He’s Just Not That Into You. The book wasn’t very memorable, but it is infinitely better than It’s Called A Break Up Because It’s Broken which made me want to gouge out my eyes with the spoon I was supposed to use to eat my break-up mandated pint of Chunky Monkey. (No, that’s in the book. The cover shot is an empty pint of ice cream.) Instead of reading that, I recommend Cindy Chupack’s Between Boyfriends. She also wrote for Sex and the City and while the book isn’t self-help, it’s probably more helpful than that mess.
  • I really enjoy escapist romantic comedies. Seriously. I deal with race, gender, class and activism all freaking day – what do you think I go home and do? All I ever want is a glass of wine and something funny. That’s all. However, I would prefer that comedy doesn’t actively insult my intelligence. (In another post, somewhere in the future, I’ll talk about one of my favorite romcoms – That’s The Way I Like It – and why it works using the romcom formula without becoming formulaic.)

So, I went to the movie cautious. While I hated the trailers, the alternate trailer (marketed to guys, natch) made the movie seem more interesting than I had anticipated. So after lunch, I suckered my boyfriend into going with me.

*WARNING: SPOLIERS AHEAD* 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

The Pathetic White Women of Grey’s Anatomy

by Guest Contributor Melissa Silverstein, originally published at Women and Hollywood

The thing that I love about Grey’s Anatomy is how great the women of color are. Strong, decisive, smart…awesome. Sandra Oh, Sara Ramirez, Loretta Devine. My favorite character is Miranda Bailey played by Chandra Wilson. No one even comes close to my love and respect for her.

But as I was reading this past weekend about some lame comments from ABC Chief Stephen McPherson at the Television Critics Association gathering about how they (ABC) just didn’t like Brooke Smith’s character Erica Hahn on Grey’s, — “the character was not working for us, and the dynamic with the relationship was just not working for us…” — I realized that all of Grey’s Anatomy’s white women are pathetic.

Think about it. The strong ones — Addison Montgomery was spun off to her own show in LA and seems to have lost her compass, and Erica Hahn was fired because her chemistry with Callie just wasn’t good enough, and maybe she just came off as a bit too strong. Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) has always been one step from pathetic. She holds the story together, but she is no pillar of strength. Izzie (Katherine Heigl) has gone over the deep end this season appearing in a bad version of the “I See My Dead Husband” Sally Field, Jeff Bridges and James Caan 80s romance Kiss Me Goodbye. Sadie the sadist is gone as of February and she never did anything of note except almost kill herself. Lexie is shagging Mark and who knows where that one is going. And now they’ve brought in Jessica Capshaw as pediatric surgeon Arizona Robbins to supposedly be the new girlfriend of Sara Ramirez’ Callie. First and second impressions have not been good. She pretty much comes off as a bubbly idiot and even Miranda looked like she wanted to belt her.

While it’s so unprecedented that the women of color are written so well and strong on Grey’s (cause they hardly exist of most others shows), I don’t think it should or will diminish from those characters if we pump some strength into the white women.

I think it will make the show better.

Avatar: Get a tan, become asian

by Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

There was a lot of uproar last month when it was announced that M. Night Shyamalan’s movie adaptation Avatar: The Last Airbender would star a lot of pretty white people, with no Asians in sight. The animated Nickelodeon show takes place in an Asian-inspired fantasy realm. Hollywood, of course, is a Caucasian-inspired fantasy realm.

The controversy hasn’t really died down. Avatar fans are still angry. And one of the movie’s actors, Jackson Rathbone, who will play Sokka, seems to think he can easily pull off playing Asian with just a new hairstyle and a tan: ‘Twilight’ Star Jackson Rathbone Hopes To ‘Show His Range’ In ‘Last Airbender’.

Due in theaters in summer 2010, “Airbender” has already begun to face a bit of controversy over the casting of white actors like Rathbone, Ringer and McCartney to play Asian characters – a concern the actor was quick to dismiss. “I think it’s one of those things where I pull my hair up, shave the sides, and I definitely need a tan,” he said of the transformation he’ll go through to look more like Sokka. “It’s one of those things where, hopefully, the audience will suspend disbelief a little bit.”

Continue reading

Classic Film Review: Imitation of Life

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

*Warning: Spoiler Alert*

If there’s a classic film on race that gives “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” a run for its money, it’s 1959’s “Imitation of Life.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the film, which stars Lana Turner and Juanita Moore. There’s no denying that this film is chock full of stereotypes and relegates its black characters to the sidelines—even on the DVD cover. So, why today is this Douglas Sirk film still regarded as ab fab? A few reasons come to mind—both shallow and serious.

For starters, Lana Turner’s wardrobe is to die for. Mahalia Jackson sings her ass off, and the acting in this melodrama reaped Academy Award nominations. To boot, the movie’s emphasis on mother-daughter relationships gives it mass appeal. Mix in a couple of failed romances and an untimely death, and you have all the ingredients needed for a tearjerker.

“Imitation of Life” inspired a 2001 R.E.M. song of the same name and the 2002 film “Far from Heaven.” Also, in ’02, a scene from the film was featured in Eminem’s star-making vehicle, “8 Mile.” Its enduring popularity made it no surprise when the film debuted on DVD in 2003.

The Lana Turner version of “Imitation of Life” is a remake of the 1934 film of the same name starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers, based on the book Imitation of Life by Fannie Hurst. (Both films were released together in a DVD set in 2008.) In the first film, white actress Colbert and black actress Beavers hawk a pancake recipe together. In the 1959 version, the focus here, Lana Turner (Lora Meredith) runs into Juanita Moore (Annie Johnson) on Coney Island after their daughters become playmates.

At first, Lora has no idea that Annie is the mother of little Sarah Jane. “How long have you taken care of her?” she asks Annie. Annie is brown-skinned, and Sarah Jane is “light, bright, damn near white,” as the saying goes.

Lora looks like she’s going to crap her pants when she learns that Annie isn’t SJ’s mammy, prompting Annie to tell her that Sarah Jane’s dad is “practically white.” This explanation is good enough for Lora, who likely would’ve needed smelling salts had SJ’s dad been actually white instead of practically so. Still, there’s no way for us to know his race for sure because he took off before Sarah Jane was born, leaving Annie to fend for herself and young daughter alone. Continue reading

Was There a Race War after Hurricane Katrina?

By Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

Herrington, Alexander and Collins. 

It’s unlikely that these names ring a bell, that upon hearing them a knot will form in your stomach as often happens to those who hear the names of another trio—Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney. The latter threesome received worldwide recognition after a lynch mob executed them in 1964 for trying to register black Mississippians to vote. On the other hand, the former threesome was shot during Hurricane Katrina by a group of men described as “white vigilantes.” Unlike Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney, however, Herrington (pictured above), Alexander and Collins survived to tell their tale.

Now, A.C. Thompson, a writer for The Nation, has launched an investigation into the shootings of Herrington, Alexander and Collins. In an article called “Katrina’s Hidden Race War,” which was published online Dec. 17, Thompson asserts that at least 11 blacks were shot as the hurricane unfolded—all by white men.

“So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting Herrington, Alexander and Collins—in fact, there was never an investigation,” Thompson writes. “As a reporter who has spent more than a decade covering crime, I was startled to meet so many people with so much detailed information about potentially serious offenses, none of whom had ever been interviewed by police detectives.” Continue reading

Mixed Messages: On Bi-Racial Siblings

by Special Correspondent Fatemah Fakhraie

My brother likes to push my buttons. When I bring up women’s issues, he tells me to get back to the kitchen. When I bring up Iranian culture, he cracks jokes in a fakey Middle Eastern accent.

I love him anyway.

We’re pretty close. We look alike, family members often confuse our voices on the phone, and we crack jokes to keep each other entertained when things get tense or boring. I feel very blessed to have him, and to have the relationship that we do.

Since high school, I have been striving to reconnect with my Iranian and Muslim identities; he hasn’t shown the same inclination. This isn’t to say that he’s remained the same person since high school: he and his interests have developed and evolved, but they have not done so in a direction that seeks to connect with this half of his ethnic identity. He is just as Iranian as I am in his biological makeup, but his identification doesn’t mirror mine.

Continue reading