When Sammy Lee dreamed of becoming a diver at 12 years old, it was at a time when people of color were restricted from using public pools in Fresno, California. So, he practiced in a sand pit. In 1948, he won an Olympic gold medal for diving. Then he became a doctor. Cheers to this badass.
"Peace here was quite often bought at the expense of smashing up some other part of the world. And these beautiful rich rolling estates that we think of as the English countryside are quite often based on illegal activities of some kind."
Alice Oswald is my newest, most absolute heroine.
Racism is still very much with us. So why don't we recognise it? (The Guardian) -
INEVITABLE TR(LOL)L COMMENT:
“Well I am white and I have experienced racism…
When will there be an article about racism that talks to our feelings?”
I was really horrified by the quality of the top few comments actually. Especially the one that asked ‘if Gary Younge was away’, like only black people would ever bother to write about racism and like he does it just because that’s his niche as opposed to because it’s an enormous structural problem that he’d actually like to see change.
Great article, though. (Although it does feel like Asian people seldom get a mention in big ‘race’ discussions). I’ve been increasingly noticing the following:
"The indignation of those who just can’t help racialising their images, insults and explanations stems from the recognition that racism is a charge with moral and political weight. It is also broadly interpreted in Europe and the west as a hangover from the past. To be "accused" of racism is thus to be lumped in with the ignorant and the politically extreme, to reek of the past and the aberrant in societies that have "moved beyond" racism."
A friend’s girl-of-the-moment announced over dinner recently that she lived in South Africa for a while, but, played for laughs, “Don’t worry, guys, I didn’t become a racist!” [She witnessed poverty and everything!] Later in the evening she started complaining about Indian doctors in the UK who couldn’t speak English that she could understand. I was pretty sure she’d be a temporary presence in my life so I didn’t bother saying anything.
At another dinner, with people I like and respect a lot more, talk turned to a holiday one girl was planning in Marseilles and another advised her that it “wasn’t really France”, because “there’s a lot of North Africans there”, so it’s “quite dodgy”. (Dodgy being a lesser-known synonym for black). I didn’t feel like I could say anything, because to “bring up race” at a nice, candle-lit birthday party where people are talking about their summer vacations seems so incredibly uncouth - but shouldn’t it be the other way around, some other way around?
All of these insiduous, barely-perceptible (unless you happen to be of colour, in which case you tend to have a laser-sensitive radar) examples, like the ones cited at the start of the article don’t get CALLED racism, because you’re “not a racist” unless you literally own slaves or lynch someone or own a white pointy cloak. Which is bullshit.To divide us up into RACISTS and non-racists is to deny the reality of racism. I saw the novelist Chimamanda Adichie speak and she recounted a story where Desmond Tutu once panicked because he realised the pilots of his private plane were black, and something inside him assumed they would be under-qualified, careless, incapable. Everyone has internalised racism to some extent, but if we spend all of our time frantically refusing to ever be called up on the fact that we do or think or say something racist, then it’ll just get buried deeper inside and turn into the most boring resentment of all time, the political-correctness debate. We should be honest with ourselves and others, own up to racist behaviour if we get called out on it, and learn from it. #pipedreams
The opportunities are enormous for Asian Americans to be integrated or co-opted into the system. Fortunately, there’s been an Asian American movement that has sought to align itself with all people of color … The Asian American movement has an enormous amount of promise. But you have to make choices. You have to decide whether you’re going to take advantage of your ability to be cooperative with the system, or see how profound the contradictions in this system are. The challenge is, how do we create a more human society, how do we ourselves become more human? — Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Grace Lee Boggs | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture
OK, so since the KONY video started polluting my newsfeed, I’ve done a 180 revolt against it, and then come half-full circle back around, following some of Nick Kristof’s posts particularly, who I kind of see as the most reliable moral compass around.
Things I think are good about it:
1) Raises awareness. Even a lot of those who criticised the video for its lack of crucial context and nuance hadn’t actually heard of Kony until the video (me included). It’s also true that our celebrity culture is skewed and that those with a platform ought to be allowed to speak on important issues (but not necessarily be forced to do so by Twitter peer pressure).
2) Good to see someone harnessing social media/advertising/marketing for something which isn’t predominantly profit-driven, although of course that has been questioned… (Besides, other people have done it, cf. the Girl Effect video)
3) Debating the niceties and flaws of the video is a luxury which only those of us who live in peaceful states can afford - for the victims of Kony’s devastation, an immediate solution in the form of international troops is exactly what is needed.
(A few of the) Things that I dislike about it (leaving aside for now issues of context, the potential long-term harm, and basic inaccuracies):
1) It’s effective marketing rests a lot upon manipulating easy and questionable emotions, see the cute white kid (who deep down is JUST LIKE those black kids!), the paternalistic, gung-ho AMERICA FUCK YEAH attitude to global issues, and all those time-cheap gestures like wearing a bracelet which allow you to do just enough to get you off the hook of really doing something. (I also felt uncomfortable with them appropriating ‘Who Gon Stop Me Now’, a song which is about African-American oppression, “this is something like a holocaust/millions of our people lost” to soundtrack loads of white college students running around town putting up posters to ‘save the Africans’, but that might just be me).
2) The part when the narrator presses the boy to say over and over again, “I’d rather be dead than live like this”, his desperate words giving the West licence to bomb the shit out of the child soldiers who are, let’s not forget, still Kony’s bodyguards and troops, call it necessary collateral damage, kill “the bad guy” and go home heroes. I mean, they said it was ok by them - we got it on camera!
3) Raising awareness about human rights issues is one thing, but pitching increased militarisation and national unrest as the sole answer is another. The ‘War on Terror’ definitely raised awareness about the ‘oppression of Islamic women’, but somehow those women aren’t the ones benefiting from the whole thing, as, I suspect, will be the case for Ugandan children. If the video was calling for donations to local NGOs who would really be improving living conditions and infrastructure/ establishing long-term foreign investment, then I would have a lot less problems with it. As it is, all those good-willed donations seem to be going into the pockets of the people at Invisible Children and into making bracelets which everyone will throw away at the end of the year.
Amy Chua profiles four female tycoons in China -
Happy International Women’s Day!
Few concepts are as emotionally charged as that of race. The word conjures up a mixture of associations—culture, ethnicity, genetics, subjugation, exclusion and persecution. But is the tragic history of efforts to define groups of people by race really a matter of the misuse of science, the abuse of a valid biological concept? Is race nevertheless a fundamental reality of human nature? Or is the notion of human “races” in fact a folkloric myth? Although biologists and cultural anthropologists long supposed that human races—genetically distinct populations within the same species—have a true existence in nature, many social scientists and geneticists maintain today that there simply is no valid biological basis for the concept.
A turning point in debates on race was marked in 1972 when, in a paper titled “The Apportionment of Human Diversity,” Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin showed that human populations, then held to be races, were far more genetically diverse than anyone had imagined. Lewontin’s study was based on molecular-genetic techniques and provided statistical analysis of 17 polymorphic sites, including the major blood groups in the races as they were conventionally defined: Caucasian, African, Mongoloid, South Asian Aborigines, Amerinds, Oceanians and Australian Aborigines. What he found was unambiguous—and the inverse of what one would expect if such races had any biological reality: The great majority of genetic variation (85.4 percent) was within so-called races, not between them. Differences between local populations accounted for 8.5 percent of total variation; differences between regions accounted for 6.3 percent. The genetic divergence between geographical populations in the course of human evolution does not compare to the variation among individuals. “Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either, no justification can be offered for its continuance,” Lewontin concluded. — http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/pub/race-finished
There are moments where I actually really like being ‘of race’ in the UK… I work at the Box Office of the student theatre, and usually spend the hours scrolling Facebook with my eyes glazed over besides when they flick to the desktop clock, and selling tickets to plummy-voiced eighteen-year-olds and eighty-year-olds. However every now and then, like just now, an older international student or research fellow comes in and asks where I’m from and I ask where they’re from, and it’s always so sweet and I think that must be what it’s like for British-British to talk to new people, not to feel my guard/bile constantly being raised and just to enjoy seeing the world in common with someone else…
^^This is Mickey Rooney playing an Oriental man in ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’.
Like many girls, I suspect, I loved ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s before I’d ever seen it - it’s one of those movies with a mythology around it. Everyone wants to be Audrey Hepburn. I had a clock with her face on it in my bedroom at home and an obscenely big poster in my room at uni. But when it came to actually watching it, I realised that even if I was wearing chic black and pearls and sitting kookily half out my window, there was more in my way of identifying with her than my lack of perfect-face (and guitar.) (and cat.) The glamour of Holly Golightly didn’t rub off on me, but it rubbed out of the film after I saw the offensive and practically unwatchable caricature that is Mr Yunishi.
The amazing Hadley Freeman draws a line between this stereotype and the reception of Jeremy Lin (yes, the backlash begins already) in this piece in the UK Guardian: Jeremy Lin row reveals deep-seated racism against Asian Americans
I recommend reading it (and recommend against, as did the friend who passed this on to me, reading the comments): here are some excerpts.
"Chink in the armor" was ESPN’s take not once but twice when the Knicks lost a game last week, both as a headline added by ESPN writer Anthony Federico and then as a phrase used by the anchor Max Bretos (Federico has since been fired and Bretos received a 30-day suspension.) Those two muppets look the height of sophisticated decorum compared with Foxsports.com writer Jason Whitlock, whose response to Lin’s triumph over the Lakers on Friday night was to tweet"Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight", a comment notable for being almost more misogynistic than racist. When the Madison Square Garden Network flashed up a photo of Lin, itsuperimposed it with a fortune cookie, presumably refraining from adding some chopsticks purely because it didn’t have the graphics.
Nor does one need to look to the morons for examples. Chinstroking journal the Atlantic put forward the charming theory that Lin’s success is due to his “philosophical heritage” – ah, so! And so inscrutable, too!
Asian Americans are, without question, barely represented culturally. Black roles in Hollywood are still by and large limited to maids, drug dealers and James Earl Jones, but Asian roles are invariable limited tocamp villains, martial arts experts, dippy shop owners and exchange students soundtracked with a gong.
So the answer to what connects Mickey Rooney and Jeremy Lin is that both reveal a side of America that even this most racially aware country tends to ignore. The difference is that Rooney encouraged those stereotypes, Lin overturns them, yet the response remains the same.