Archive for the ‘ Race ’ Category

Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black

Tim Wise anti-racist writer and activist wrote an interesting piece on the Don’t Tea on Me Blog (my friend Timmy tipped me off to it)

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure – the ones who are driving the action – we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on freerepublic.com last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

THOUGHTS?


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Princess and the Frog, Voodoo, & Evil

Over the past year there has been a lot of buzz about the Princess and the Frog which premiered in December. People were encouraged to see an African-American princess, but many were also disappointed that her suitor was not white (I value the multi-racial/ethnic aspect, but also hope that at some point we do see a black prince, more on that in another post). Some were also a little disappointed (spoiler alert!) that the princess spends most of the time as a frog (A concern I share, but I also believe there is so much fervor around the film and the New Orleanian African-American culture is portrayed so strongly that no one will forget she is Black)

Since the release there has been a new slew of critique considering the usage of Voodoo. From my perspective this has come mainly from mothers and/or evangelical Christians (which for clarification sake, I am not the former and only partially the latter).

I had no problems with the Voodoo given Disney’s propensity to use magic. Disney couldn’t use a witch or warlock because the film wasn’t in the context to use Wicca, it was in the context to use Voodoo. The reality is, the witches that we so readily view as “acceptable” evil characters are the white-European equivalent to Voodoo. There are various similarities in the way the spirit world is engaged and interestingly enough the Christian – mainly Catholic – response to these two sets of beliefs.

If you have a problem with magic or witches,  you should also have a problem with Cinderella, the Little Mermaid and most of Disney’s Princess films. What I think made the difference with Princess and the Frog is that this was a depiction of a culturally unfamiliar, but geographically close magic. Americans talk more readily about witchcraft, which makes it not as shocking. We have TV shows – including kid’s shows – about witchcraft, can you imagine having a TV show about Voodoo? Even the magic in Aladdin had been primed by years of I dreamed of Genie.  Voodoo is a partly American magic, but we don’t discuss it, thus when it is portrayed illicits more fear due to its unfamiliarity. Like with most things, we fear that which we don’t understand or is unfamiliar to us.

Perhaps the magic was a little more intense than what Disney has previously produced, but for whom? Children today are more used to intensity and reality than they were a generation ago. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes adults and especially Christian adults can be a little overprotective of our children. Remember the days when children could actually walk to the park, have adventures in the woods, not have to put on hand-sanitizer every time they stepped out of the house or do anything without helicopter parents swooping in? I believe children are much more imaginative, independent (not individualistic) , confident and mature when they are given the freedom to be themselves, be with friends, and be responsible for themselves and their thoughts. I am not saying we throw our children to the wolves. There is some mid-point.  Watch a child who learns anything, they have to be guided through the process. As adults we have to help children to become human beings who think, feel, critique etc. We are called to “raise” our children. Which may at times mean protect, but those words are not synonomus.

Truthfully, I would rather magic be presented realistically, because whether Wicca or Voodoo, it is real. I would rather have children realize the gravity of Magic as opposed to taking it lightly. Would I take a four-year old to the Princess and the Frog? No. But I wouldn’t take a four-year old to most Disney movies. Would I debrief with an eight year old? Yes. But I would do so for ANY movie we went to.

* By the way, things were intense in the Lion King. Remember that dark musical scene with Scar and the hyenas and the fact that Mufasa was murdered? Talk about evil. And there wasn’t even Magic involved . . . oh yea except for the illusions via Rafiki.

How White is your resume?

It is often joked that minorities are more likely to be hired because institutions want/need diversity, but the reality is research still shows that a White male with the same qualifications as a Black male is more likely to be hired for the same job. This bias specifically applies to resumes. “Ethnic” names and connections with Ethnic organizations (Latino United Fund, NAACP, HBCUs etc.) are seen as damaging for non-White applicants in corporate America. Thus, many Black candidates have chosen to remove or change information in order to “Whiten” their resume.

I cannot help but think of my own life experiences when I have felt as if it is necessary to assimilate to fit in and be accepted with White people in my school, college, neighborhoods and churches. Even if I did not assimilate, I let inconsiderate racial (and often political) comments go because I did not want to be the angry Black person that disagreed with everything. What is more dangerous is that I did not feel comfortable expressing my racial point of view, be it religious, social, political etc. (not all points of view are based on race, but race often mediates points of view).  I knew that the only way to be “in” with the majority and the folks in power was to not rock the boat and to be as much like them that I could – even if I was not honest to them or myself.

This is not solely an ethnic-minority issue.  Folks with Southern accents (notice the plural, there are a variety of Southern accents) are perceived as dumb or slow and females have their own set of roadblocks to overcome. The issue is one of culture. In this case, the acceptance of racial difference and the culture of those differences.

To a degree, it is understood that applicants must adapt to a professional culture. An applicant cannot interview in baggy jeans and a South Pole sweater (and one’s boss should view their employee or applicant differently if he or she sees them in the store with baggy jeans and a South Pole sweater), but when individuals feel as if they must augment or hide their legal name, educational background and ethnic identity we must classify this as ethnocentric and racist.

Nevertheless, even those who make it and are hired are often stuck. NPR  also posted a story on Blacks not advancing to high positions within corporations. Even institutions that “celebrate diversity” and have a diverse staff often fail to mentor ethnic-minorities and women into places of senior leadership. Although U.S. companies of various ilks may appear diverse, their leadership is generally ethnically homogeneous.

We have gone far, but we still have a long way to go.

How Asian culture affects future generations

This was initially posted by DJ Chaung, and is a brief conversation about broad Asian culture – I realize that Asian culture is diverse . Being married to an Asian (Taiwanese) American woman has given me an interesting perspective of an Asian-American experience. At times, even unthinkingly, my wife is in-between White-American culture and Taiwanese culture. And although we are both ethnic-minorities, her experience as an Asian-American woman is much different than my experience as an African-American male. The differences are not solely in the way our skin tone is accepted by society, but in our personal understandings and experiences. We both have the tension of what DuBois calls a “double-consciousness”, but the way double consciousness manifests itself is unique. In addition, many Asian-Americans – even those several generations removed from immigration – deal with a cultural generation gap that is considerably greater than that of African-Americans.

What are your thoughts on this video and the influence of Asian culture?

HP Racist?

HP responded on its blog.

“We are working with our partners to learn more,” HP said. “The technology we use is built on standard algorithms that measure the difference in intensity of contrast between the eyes and the upper cheek and nose. We believe that the camera might have difficulty ‘seeing’ contrast in conditions where there is insufficient foreground lighting.”

“Everything we do is focused on ensuring that we provide a high-quality experience for all our customers, who are ethnically diverse and live and work around the world,” HP continued. “That’s why when issues surface, we take them seriously and work hard to understand the root causes.”

I believe that HP is being up front, but I can’t help but ask why HP didn’t  test the camera on a variety of folks from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and in multiple lighting situations – maybe they did, but if so it seems it wasn’t sufficient.

HP isn’t a racist organization, but I do think this is an example of privilege based on skin gradient.  HP probably didn’t consider that the camera wouldn’t work the same with darker skinned individuals. It is kind of like band-aids not being mass produced in darker tones.

Glen Beck & “White Culture”

Why is it so hard for Beck to define White culture – especially when he says Obama has a hatred of it?

What is “White culture”?

My personal take is that there is “White culture” just like there is “Black culture”. But just as within Black culture, White culture is not monolithic, nor should everyone who is White be stereotyped into a rigid Whiteness.*

An interesting characterization of “White culture” -in the shallow expression of culture** – is the Stuff White People Like Blog and the subsequent book Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. If you haven’t seen either they both contain a list of things that typically White people enjoy: farmer’s markets; bookstores; wine tasting; etc (Our of Ur and Urban Faith posted a interesting article about the potential of small groups being a White Christian thing.)

I actually don’t like the book/website because it is limited and Lander, the creator, is making misinformed generalizations. It is really only touching on one section of White America. I think about lower-class Whites, or blue-collar Whites, or inner-city Whites, or rural Whites, the book/website it isn’t really stuff “White” people like, it is stuff a certain level of educated and socialized White like.

But there is something important in the book/website. It affirms that there is a culture typical to Whites – more appropriately various White cultures within a boarder American experience. White folks who deny that they have a culture and assume that  their actions are universally normal hinder actual multiculturalism, diversity and reconciliation because that perspective naturally color-blinds the world.

But again, it is also dangerous to ignore the diversity within Black and White folks  – as well as Asians, Latinos etc.  We literally make things black and white and don’t examine the variations and blending. So many Black folks have to fight the assumption that we ALL like, fried chicken, rap, baggy jeans, the N-word, basketball etc. and fight Being called “White” when we don’t like those things or happen to like NPR. Also, some white folks fight being called a “wigger” ( a common expression I heard when growing up) when they are genuinely a child of Hip Hop culture.

So I return to the original question, what is “White Culture”?

*The conversation is beyond just  Black/White – but Beck’s comments and interaction with the issue of culture was/is mainly Black/White.

**There are deeper culture values that are help differently in different cultures (i.e. preception of eldery, perception of time, gender roles, role of religion etc.). These are perhaps the real difference that divide folks. Which is why people of different ethnicities seem to be able to increasingly feel capable of working together – a fairly shallow exercise – but struggle with worshiping  and living together.

Giving Thanks,Together: A Prayer for Unity

Turkeys being dressed this eve
Norman Rockwell table setting
Families sitting elbow to elbow
Gestures preparing the moment

Conversations link to yesterdays
A time when time was breathing
Prayerful celebrations of thanks
Snapshots of where it all began

Empty chairs of of lost feelings
Ceilings echoing voices passed
Nodding dreams sleeping away
A photographic gallery of family

A season of trimming windows
Window shopping for a purpose
Finding quality in mere quantity
Lighting roof lines with promise

Hands to chin mosaic reflections
Colored fragments, introspections
Framed into a thanksgiving feast
Humanity harvesting a collection

A symposium of what is worthy
Where humility should find rest
A monumental gesture of prayer
Putting each member to the test

It is not in the fare of the harvest
Where Thanksgiving finds her heart
It is in the careful considerations
That every human has their part

Let nothing divide family meaning
As a house on sand will not stand
It is in the foundations of God’s love
Where thankful hearts will understand

Thanksgiving is the grace of understanding
That together we can provide provisions
For a world longing to know the true meaning
Of the First Thanksgiving, a prayer for unity

Kathy Paysen 2009

Thank you to my friend Bob Henry who made me aware of this poem.