Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Demands of Somali Pirates--More Reasonable Than You Think

So yeah, about those scary black pirates who've stormed our poor calm capitalist waters. Yeah, um, they're trying to tell you that your toxic waste is all up in their business down in Somalia.

Oh silly American media, you forgot that part! You only told me about the scary black men stealing booty.

How is it I have to go to "terrorist" news source, Al Jazeera, to find out that these "pirates" have much more depth to their attacks than what is immediately visible?

Somali pirates have accused European firms of dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast and are demanding an $8m ransom for the return of a Ukranian ship they captured, saying the money will go towards cleaning up the waste.

The ransom demand is a means of "reacting to the toxic waste that has been continually dumped on the shores of our country for nearly 20 years", Januna Ali Jama, a spokesman for the pirates, based in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, said.

"The Somali coastline has been destroyed, and we believe this money is nothing compared to the devastation that we have seen on the seas."

The pirates are holding the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware, off Somalia's northern coast.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, 61 attacks by pirates have been reported since the start of the year.

While money is the primary objective of the hijackings, claims of the continued environmental destruction off Somalia's coast have been largely ignored by the regions's maritime authorities.

Now for the juicy part...
"Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there," he said.

"European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne.

"And the waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it."

Nuttall also said that since the containers came ashore, hundreds of residents have fallen ill, suffering from mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments.

You know, I get tired of that nonsensical public mentality that is only capable of understanding criminal-like activities as undeniably evil. Can't it be the case that people are forced into criminal activities when they are being consistently beaten down? Can't some people steal a ship to get some leverage in their demands for basic human rights like clean water for their peoples?

When the world has turned its back on you and shat all over your water, it makes sense that your only option is to fight back by any means necessary.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Why Is God Injected Into The Gay Rights Equation?

I've been hearing so much about the mess that is prop 8 (in California). This proposition to ban gay marriage remains controversial, and I feel disappointed that people are conflating legal rights with religious beliefs.

After all, we're not all Christians right? What about the Californian atheists, Buddhists, and so on? Why is it prop 8 is considered legal when it is born out of beliefs specific to a kind of religion? They're not trying to force churches to marry them, people, they are trying to gain the right to be recognized as monogamous married couples! Who wants a "domestic partnership?" It doesn't carry the same social message that "marriage" does.

It's not about God, it's about rights and recognition! Ayayay!

I know it's a bit annoying to see the kid being fed his lines and such, but you get the picture. What they say is very enlightening.[side note: yes they have my last name, that's how I found the video on youtube because, well, I like to google my name now and again]. Yeah, moving on...

A friend of mine shared this interesting piece about protests against the newly implemented proposition 8 in California, which bans gay marriage.
"Scott Eckern, artistic director for the California Musical Theatre, resigned Wednesday as a growing number of artists threatened to boycott the organization because of his $1,000 donation to the campaign to ban gay marriage in California.

[...]Los Angeles-based and Tony Award-winning composer Marc Shaiman ("Hairspray") wrote a blog saying he would never allow any of his shows to again be licensed or performed by California Musical Theatre while Eckern was employed there."

The way I see it is that just as Mr. Eckern has the right to express support for policies he believes in, others have the right to withhold their support of Mr. Eckern--specifically because he supported a change in California's constitution that they do not agree with, and a change in the constitution affects everybody.

For example, Marc Shaiman refused to have any of his shows be performed at the California Musical Theater while Eckern was still employed. Those shows are his. He has the right to prevent Eckern from making money off Shaiman's work. Why would Shaiman want to continue contributing to the earnings of Eckern who has directly donated money to a political cause that Shaiman is firmly opposed to?

Shaiman has the right to cut the flow of capital from his work to Eckern, and I think it is just for Shaiman to deny Eckern profit from his work when Eckern is trying to deny gays their legal rights based on his religious beliefs.

In sum, Mr. Eckern, in donating the thousand, made a political statement. A political statement is meant to be heard. He made it clear that he did not support gay marriage rights, and many people decided to take a stand against him.

Finally, why does God and Gay have to be mutually exclusive? It's ridiculous to believe they don't mix, when they do.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The New President Obama Ushers In A New Patriotism And A New American Identity

Today, the meaning of everything has changed drastically. Today, the face of America has been given quite a new look. Today, a person of color, predominantly recognized as African American, is our president.

Whoever you are, and whatever your beliefs, today I write directly to you with a new sense of American unity. For once, I feel as if America truly does have an exciting and unknown future for the ideas, discussions, and education of our people.

Children in schools all over the world will learn of this historic event and probably feel a sparkle of excitement in their chests at this monumental change in America. Children here in America will be finally given an undeniable and unmarginalized hero and role model--I say this because despite the great figures that are Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, they are unfortunately forced into a segment of children's educational experiences. They are always a part of black history, never treated as the very fibers of American history.

But today, America, Barack Obama cannot be sectioned off. He cannot be shoved into a single month, a single decade, or a single category of history. He is inevitably pervasive--his presidency explicitly touches every piece of the world today and for at least the next four years.

Do not deny him. Do not develop double standards for him. Whether he succeeds in your eyes or not, never associate it with his race. He is undeniably an African American president, but just as Bush's failed image has only been attributed to him personally, do not attach Obama's presidential performance entirely to his race.

Please America, do not deny him, but give him the opportunity to show us that a person of color should be seen just like any other president. Yet at the same time, recognize him for what and who he is. He is an historic figure, a man of color who has accomplished a great feat, and who does represent, for many, the voices of the marginalized and disenfranchised.

And finally, I would like to pay my utmost respect to Michelle Obama, who is now the first African American First Lady of America, and their two beautiful young girls, who all come together as the first African American family to take their rightfully earned place in the White House.

This new African American family has publicly and undeniably broken the chains of true patriotism. For those who still resisted diversity in patriotism, now, it has been cemented in the history books. Now it is legitimized in the academy. This is our First Family. They don't just represent African Americans, but they represent diversity unified. It's a great birth of a new face of patriotism.

I embrace each of you as my fellow Americans, and I hope we can all eventually come to make this historic new presidency into a chance to heal the great fissures that have fostered hatred and ignorance for so long. As Obama beautifully asks, let us all redefine patriotism together. Let us listen to one another and be honest to one another. Let us resist partisanship and immaturity, and let us rediscover the beautiful values that unite us.

Peace to you all,

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Video The Vote Election Coverage

As a part of a class assignment to do something meaningful for the elections, I will be blogging for Video The Vote, "a national initiative to protect voting rights by monitoring the electoral process...to make sure the full story of Election Day gets told."

I'll be updating this same post with a live feed of my reports, check 'em out as you like, they are not meant to be partisan, only conscious ;D

Monday, October 27, 2008


Hi all, as a part of a small class assignment to do something for the elections, I decided to compile a quick and short voter information guide to dispel misconceptions and rumors about the upcoming election day.

*Please* pass this around (email, blogging, facebook notes, myspace bulletins, etc). I did not author it, I just found information online and assembled it into a brief outline of important points to share with others. So it is free for everyone to use. In fact, if you have additional important tips to share, please, let me know! I know some of these might sound obvious to you, but it's always good to share in case it's not so obvious to others. Peace.

Make Sure You’re Registered and Check Your Polling Location
Check That You Are Registered to Vote: http://www.866OurVote.org.

Check Your Polling Place: Even if you've voted in the same place for 30 years, polling places can change, so make sure you know where to go on Election Day.

Bring Your ID and Vote Early
Bring Your ID Just in Case: While not all states require government-issued ID at the polls, it’s always a good idea to bring a photo ID such as a driver’s license if you have one. Even if your state requires an ID and your forget to bring one, you are still entitled to vote. Ask to cast a provisional ballot.

Vote Early
: Record turnout is expected this year, so avoid long lines and alleviate the strain on local election officials by going earlier. Voting lines are shortest in the mid-morning or early afternoon.

Be Aware of Your Rights on Election Day

First and Foremost: Law enforcement authorities will not be screening those who show up to vote.

Wearing Campaign Gear
: In some states, wearing campaign gear in a polling place (like shirts, a buttons, etc) is against the law. But no matter what, your vote cannot be taken away from you. At most, you will have to take off a button or put a jacket over a T-shirt. You will still be allowed to vote. Cover up your campaign materials to ensure a smooth voting experience.

Unpaid Bills/Fines and Home Foreclosures: Eligible registered voters cannot be denied the right to vote because their homes have been foreclosed upon, they are late on child support payments, and have outstanding parking tickets, bills, or fines. Even if you have been forced to move somewhere else, most states give you a grace period in which you can vote at your old polling location. You do not have to pay any of the above tickets, bills, or fines in order to vote.

There Won’t Be Immigration Officers at the Polls
: While you must of course be a U.S. citizen in order to vote, immigration officers and law enforcement officers cannot and do not check immigration status of voters at the polls. If you’re lawfully registered to vote in your area, no one can stop you from voting.

Those Convicted of a Felony
: Many states allow people who have been convicted of a felony and completed their sentence to vote. Know your state laws and don't be intimidated by misinformation.

Look Out for Voting Problems and Help Others Vote
Report Any Voting Problems: Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 866ourvote.org. You can also send Election Protection an update through its Twitter Report Your Vote page http://twitter.com/866ourvote.

Bring Family, Friends and Neighbors
: Help elderly voters, disabled Americans, and people without transportation get to the polls.


KSDK Election Protection: by a nonpartisan voter protection coalition. http://www.ksdk.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=158571

Voter Protection Center
: by the Barack Obama Campaign. http://truth.voteforchange.com/

Thursday, October 23, 2008

This Year's Nobel Prize Winner In Economic Sciences Is Truly Worth Reading Up On

Sitting comfortably in my little (and heated) studio apartment, I browse the internet on my Sony laptop while watching episodes of House on Hulu (sorry, it's my guilty pleasure!) in a small window while chatting as well. Amidst these tokens of privilege that make up my Thursday evening, I find myself reading an article about a very interesting Ph.D. who has lived in housing projects...on purpose.

Thus, here I write. Partially in reflection of my own moderately comfortable situation despite the economic hardships at the moment, but mostly in admiration for this astounding human being I never knew until now.

The article, from UC Berkeley news, is about this year's Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences who has gone out and lived in poverty on purpose--not to "study" our poor per se, but rather, to embrace them and for once learn from them for a change.

He is Martín Sánchez-Jankowski, Ph.D. But here's the real kicker--the man grew up in poverty in rural Mexico. He's come out of poverty, achieved great educational feats, and now he's a true warrior on a mission to not just give a damn, but also do something monumental. And he's packed with all his knowledge, all his cultural capital, and all his dutiful fury.

This man is my hero. He is actively, passionately, and usefully rolling up his sleeves and putting his academic butt to work. I mean that with all due respect. Here is a little from the article, but the entire thing is more than worth reading, it is necessary. There is so much to learn...

"Cracking The Chronic Poverty Code"
He spent most of the 1990s living in housing projects in five chronically poor neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles, documenting what he calls the “subculture of scarcity” for the recently published Cracks in the Pavement: Social Change and Resilience in Poor Neighborhoods (UC Press).

What he discovered was that the poor, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, are different — albeit not in the ways that other sociologists (and many political conservatives) have argued for decades. Impoverished neighborhoods, Sánchez-Jankowski learned, exhibit a fierce sense of self-preservation, constantly reinforcing values that serve to maintain the status quo while protecting against those that threaten their local culture, whether the source is state agencies seeking to impose order or foreign immigrants who bring their alien cultures into public-housing projects.

It’s not that the poor don’t aspire to status and material wealth, in his view. But due to the perception that they’re less likely to achieve them in the ways that middle-class people do — via well-paying jobs, for example — residents of poor neighborhoods are more apt to embrace, or at least tolerate, the underground economy. Similarly, absent the level of social services on which middle-class people regularly depend, gangs and other local institutions often step up to play a constructive role in low-income communities.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Whiteness Isn't Bad, What's Bad Is When People Don't Recognize It As A Degree of Privilege

Stop for a second and just read these images.

Recognize the privilege in your bottled water

Recognize the privilege in your produce

And recognize the privilege in U.S. conceptions of "terror"

The privileges involved include whiteness, although they are much broader. They expand into notions of Western privilege, first world privilege, capitalism, and U.S. national sovereignty.

So I got a hate comment on an old post, "Consciousness of White Privilege Has Great Potential" today.

It always turns out that people who send me hate mail/comments always misread (or probably don't even bother to read) my writing. They see a few words here and there and immediately react. To me, that is not only a mistake, it perpetuates ignorance. Why? Because it's NOT READING. To me, reading is an active pursuit to discover; it necessitates that you recognize your uncertainty. You don't know it all, therefore you read...but I digress.

From the hater's comment:

"You have obviously never been a white person in the middle of a black bus or community."

Um, actually I have. Why are you telling me what I have or have not experienced? If we are to get technical, well, I am what is technically referred to as a "White Hispanic." I have volunteered substantially in a local continuation school for "at risk" youth here in the Berkeley area...and I have been in a classroom full of black youth. Like it or not, people with any degree of whiteness need to be conscious. I'm not saying they're not, but I'm saying that many aren't conscious enough. I'm not a black man, nor am I an indigenous Chicana...I'm a light skinned Argentine-American. I have to come to terms with my identity so that I can better understand the problems of this world.

And in the past, I know, I have thought of myself as a person of color. What is wrong with this? Just as I have degrees of whiteness, I have degrees of color. I am sick and tired of the misconception of race that is tied to exclusive notions of categories. I am both white and of color. I am both Latina and European. I am American and Argentine. But never one more than the other...they are layers of me.

To continue on this hater's comment... here's another snippet:

There are just some things we ice people are better at.

Why is that so upsetting? Because its been abused in the past?

Privilege? Look at S.A. Its the most violent place on Earth since the change to black power. Look at Katrina. Look at Nigeria. I mean when black folks run things, people die in large numbers.

[...]But I do ask you no matter what your ethnicity, to consider giving up crossing the gaps that can't be crossed and let's work out our problems together.

First, there are not some things "ice" people are better at because they are white. The only reason I can see why someone would come to this conclusion is because they see the effects of privilege without seeing their causes. You got the majority of doctors and academics in power who are white...well, did you ever stop to think that this can be traced back to them being toddlers who receive kindergarten education (at higher rates than blacks and Latinos by far), thus beginning with far more advanced cognitive skills? AP classes in high school, SAT's, community service...these are all great determinants of one's competitive college applications--and too many urban youth of color are denied these resources in their under-funded schools, they can't afford SAT prep classes because they are poor, and they can't afford to volunteer because they have to work part time aside from school. And their parents come from similar circumstances--they are consumed by hard labor and low wages, overall lack of higher education, and a lack of political leverage and cultural capital. PEOPLE ARE NOT ALL BORN UNDER EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES. And your comment about black athletes...wow, I can't begin to address that.

Second, the examples given are full of fallacies. Lots of people have had advanced societies in this world...but your conception of "advanced" is loaded with Western conceptions of capitalism and imperialism. Africa, Asia, and Mesoamerica have all had advanced civilizations, but for a variety of reasons collapsed. Katrina? What are you talking about? That was a natural disaster exacerbated by the Bush administration. Black people in power? Look, I'm not denying there are "bad" black people in power, but there are FAR MORE bad white people in power. Throughout history...I mean, do I have to spell this out? I'm tempted to, but to say Hitler is obvious and cliché and to say Reagan depends on one's level of enlightenment...

So, rather than building bridges of understanding between communities, we should try to "work out" our problems by yelling across the wide expanses between us? I'm sorry, but that's not right.

Also, you mentioned reverse racism in your comment...I have a real problem with the words "reverse racism." Not because I don't think there is racism against white people, but because you can't "reverse" the racism experienced by people of color. Every racism is unique and carries heavy historical and political meanings that can't be transferred in meaning to other racial groups.

In the end, this person doesn't even get it. White people need to become conscious of the privileges that their whiteness is rooted in (historically and institutionally). This way, they become powerful tools for social change. I'm not hating on them.

My problem is not only when they fail to pursue this potential, but also when they refuse to acknowledge that they even have it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I Have Overcome The LSAT And It Feels Good!

I have overcome a major obstacle in my path towards fighting for justice. Today I took the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). After months of preparation, I did the best I could possibly have done and I feel good!

As strange as this might come off, the one thought I had in my mind as I walked to my testing site was, dear Lord, I am so lucky to be taking this test today. I mean it still. What profound fortune and great privilege. As a senior at UC Berkeley, who could put her part time job on hold, who could rely on support from her loved ones, and who could afford the time and prep classes necessary to do her best.

Not to be cheesy, but the LSAT isn't to be taken lightly. It's an expensive, time consuming monster that you have to tame--and the prep classes are necessary if you want to even try to be competitive, unless you are a natural genius I guess.

So now as I reflect, I realize that I have to remain conscious of my unique position to pursue law school. I will now proceed to apply to law school in this upcoming month, and I know that I'm doing it for a cause much greater than myself.

What better reason to pursue something great than to do it for a worthy cause? Disintegrated families, single mothers, poor individuals, immigrants, silenced youth, people of all kinds of backgrounds who don't have the opportunities that I do.

I am elated and unstable. I feel strange and unsure of my life. No more LSAT class, no more practice tests, no more hours of studying. It consumed my life to the point where I feel like a huge piece of me was taken away by the test proctor today...weird.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Late Night Thoughts

Lost in thought, walking to the places I have to go to during no particular day, I feel like I'm in a racial vacuum...

During this moment, I'm completely unaware of myself as a social being--that is, of my labels as a woman, Latina, etc. I'm not really interacting with others, I'm just passing through blurs of people that I pay no attention to as I cross streets and pass buildings. I'm not even conscious of my walking. I'm practically in a dream.

It's a strange thing, that lapse in time that occurs when I'm getting from one place to another. It's not that I'm not appreciative of the day--I notice the green leaves and blue skies I pass along the way. I'm still adhering to the laws of society, but in auto-pilot mode.

I can never consciously experience these racially-vacuous dream lapses, I can only reflect upon them afterward. I wake up from my dream and I'm left with only a few remnants of the event.

I can't assume you go through this moment, but it feels so natural that I wonder if others do go through it. My question is, is this a way of attempting to escape the burden of racialized identity, or is it rather a brief return to a natural state before and beyond social identity? Both and neither?

In short, I think moments like these matter because they show that I cannot be my social self every single second of the day. Race, gender, sexuality, class. They are not a part of the fiber of my being, they are only roles I assume when I interact with others.

In this way, double consciousness can also be the literal state of the term--being conscious of your consciousness. That is, being aware of your awareness as a socialized being intersected by race, class and gender.

...The moment I hear "hi" from a friend who sees me walking by, I suddenly notice the dripping paint of society all over me. I suddenly become aware of my name, place, and time in society. No longer just a body, but now back to Sara, back to Latina in 2008, back to California-born daughter of Argentine immigrants.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Light Skin Wins Again

Beyonce's latest L'Oreal advertisment has really struck a chord with the light-skinned/dark-skinned black divide. We all know celebrities get photoshopped, but putting my sentiments about that aside, I agree that "white washing" Beyonce is going way too far.

I remember for a short time people had issues with Angelina Jolie being "ethnicized" for some movie role. That was controversial, but this is beyond controversial to me. This is just embittering:

From EW.com:

Anyone who saw the Féria hair color ad in this month's Elle (pictured, left) might have had to do a double-take to make sure it was really Beyoncé, and not the long-lost twin of the light-skinned model on the product's box. Today, in a NY Post report cheekily headlined "O, RÉALLY?," L'Oréal reps deny altering the singer's features and skin tone. The chairman of the media-monitoring committee of the National Association of Black Journalists even chimed in, arguing that "magazines have to be sensitive to perceptions that light-skinned African Americans are more acceptable."

By now, most of us are used to pretty much all commercial images of celebrities getting the Photoshopped-into-oblivion treatment. But shouldn't there be some sort of line here? We don't know exactly what or who is responsible -- severe makeup? odd lighting? digital alteration? too much time indoors? -- for making Beyoncé practically unrecognizable. Whatever the culprit, whitewashing a well-known face in the interest of selling hair color (that is wrong for 'yoncers anyway) takes the "anything for a great shot" argument a little too far.

What do you think -- does the ad offend you, or is this sort of "optimized" commercial image safe in the plasticine land of Fictionarnia we've all come to generally accept at this point, and therefore unworthy of a second thought?

It's possible that Beyonce comes out lighter if you use flash when taking a picture. But come on, this is an advertisement for L'Oreal...they're not stupid, they know exactly what they were doing and they need to fess up.

My one question is, did Beyonce get a say in the use of this final picture? I wouldn't necessarily give her the benefit of the doubt in all this. I mean, she's a huge celebrity, I can't imagine that she'd allow them to publish the photo without her final approval...but what do I know.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

COLTAN: The Other "Blood Diamond"

If you don't know what Coltan is, you really need to find out. Unfortunately, it was something I barely found out about just a couple years ago in college.

I was pleased to randomly come across a little Yahoo article about Coltan, a very unique metal that is essential to all electronic devices. Yes, it is in your phone, your computer, and a lot of other stuff close to us, including our Play Stations.

Unfortunately, the atrocious reality of Coltan is not nearly publicized enough, even though it is essential to the Western world.

From Yahoo:
According to a report by activist site Toward Freedom, for the past decade the search for a rare metal necessary in the manufacturing of Sony's Playstation 2 game console has fueled a brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

...the demand for coltan prompted Rwandan military groups and western mining companies to plunder hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the rare metal, often by forcing prisoners-of-war and even children to work in the country's coltan mines.

From Suite101.com:
Every day millions of children are forced to crawl into underground mines on their hands and knees to dig for the essential raw material, coltan, to make electronic gadgets like cell phones, iPods, laptop computers, play stations, wireless systems, DVD players, blackberries and pagers possible.

These technologically advanced toys are given life from capacitors, which are made from coltan, dug up from dangerous mines by children, under age 10.

The illegal trafficking of coltan in the Congo, has made thousands of children labourers. They work from sunrise to after dark digging with their calloused little hands into the earth to remove the raw material to be traded on the black market for US $400 a pound.

This is a really complicated issue--we got race, class, globalization, human rights issues, capitalism, and a whole lot of other stuff implicated in this Coltan business. As controversial as Marx is, right now his Fetishism of Commodities is first on my mind. We really need to know the history that is hidden within our commodified products.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Late Night Thoughts

What does it mean to be "of color?"

I call myself a person "of color" but it is such a vague and complicated way of describing myself. I mean, I'm light skinned, but I am Latina. I've got "dark" features (thick dark hair, eyebrows, etc). Yet that is not a defining feature because there are light-colored hair people "of color."

Oh yeah, and I also "practice" my "ethnic" culture. (I know, I know, the quotation marks are getting annoying, but I use them for a reason). I speak spanish, drink yerba mate, and occasionally wear hooped earrings--the last of which aren't exclusively "ethnic" of course.

We all have the right to define ourselves, and I find myself defining myself to new people all the time. I usually default on "I'm Latina," or "my parents are immigrants from Argentina."

But I can't help but find it funny that I always get asked about my strange accent and my undefinable racial features. I feel like because I am a bit more of a vague person "of color," I get asked what the hell I am more often than others. Funny enough, all my life I have had people tell me they think I'm Indian/Middle Eastern.

Such as this one time when I was on the bus, a sweet black woman was staring at me, so I looked out the window thinking, oookaay. Then she said, smiling, you make me think of India. I smiled and accepted her remark, but then she insisted on asking me about my race. So I just said, "I'm South American." I didn't feel like saying Argentine-American--nor did I want to get into the rest of my ethnic description routine--because I was about to get off. She kept on though, full of questions, but I missed my stop so I had to get off. When I finally got off, I thought to myself, well that was kind of out of the blue. I laughed my way home.

I find it funny because I myself will ask these ethnic questions of others when I can't immediately guess what they are. But when I meet people who "look the part," I don't ask them about their race because I just go with my assumption that they are white, black, or even Mexican often times.

I don't know what to think of it, but that's my two cents.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

NO. You Do Not Have The Right To Grab My Ass

I am fucking tired of walking through the streets of Oakland and being judged as racist for avoiding groups of black men*. I'm avoiding men of all races throughout the day. Every fucking time I have to walk anywhere, there's always got to be a creepy guy who gives me one of those looks that just forces me to either skip a bus stop or walk on the curb of the street next to the cars whizzing by. I have even taken out of the way detours walking to some of my destinations because I am afraid of being cornered by a man.

So I come out of work today and then I see a group of three black men, at least six feet tall, loitering in a *four foot wide* space between a building and the bus stop bench. If I walk through, I would be forced to squeeze my way through three men. So when I decide instead to make a really obvious detour in front of the bus stop, walking like a damn ballerina on the cub of the street, I hear:

"HEY. Why you walkin' all the way over there?" It was accusatory. It was me being light skinned and supposedly *afraid* of black people. It was obvious by the way he said it, and I get it a lot. I was thinking, fuck, are you kidding me?

Man, fuck you. Fuck you so much because of that. What, being black is the only possible element in my decision? Man screw you. You act like you don't know what you are doing. Three fucking penises in a four foot wide space. I don't care about the color of your penises, I care that you *have* them!

This is something I've gone through, not something I just imagined in my supposedly racist mind. I was talking on my damn cell phone outside...during lunch, mind you. Pure daylight, but distracted. And then all of a sudden...boom. Full on ass grabbing. His hand slowly sliding back off. eeehhhhh. I was frozen. The guy, yes he was black, but he was a man. A man who was more than six feet tall and took advantage of me. "Ohh I just had to grab that." NO YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO GRAB MY ASS. No, you do not have the right to come closer to me right now. Get the fuck away, I am calling the police. God.

It took me two months to get over that shit (and I know that it was nothing compared to what too many other women go through). Nevertheless, I went through two months of complete self disgust. It took me half a year to ever wear those jeans again. Now I panic if I forget my pepper spray at home...my pepper spray was the only consolation I could find after that.

I work at a place where I hear the most intense stories of criminal acts of violence against immigrant women. Rape. Sexual assault. Child abuse. Abusive men who use rape to *prove* that the woman hasn't been with another man. Or who take advantage of undocumented teenage children because the mother is busy working two jobs. No matter how long the staff have been working there, we all have the same disgusted reactions when we get new clients. "How can anyone abuse a child like that?" "How could anyone even think of doing something like that to a woman?" Etc.

So this is my final two cents:

All men need to be conscious of their sex 24/7. Just as much as white men need to realize that they are both racialized and sexualized beings...black men need to realize they are not just racialized. They are also sexualized. Hey, I'm not saying some don't, but from what I keep experiencing, many don't even realize it. Guys, have you ever heard of that little dating tip about never taking a girl on a first date in an isolate/desolate/closed space? The translation of that tip is: "Realize that you have the penis and that a girl doesn't want to fear being raped. She doesn't know you, so how does she know if you're gonna keep it in your damn pants or not?"

It's not fair. We women are under constant awareness of our sex and our environment. I had to learn to no longer talk on my cell phone or be distracted in any other way when walking in the city. I also learned to take detours. I have even walked right past my own home when there is any man behind me. In fact just yesterday I did this and it was some white guy in a suit and a briefcase. I trust no strange men.


*[EDIT: I removed "because they are black," since it came out of my incoherent ranting at the time of writing the piece. On a side note, if my rant was not clear, this should sum it up--I am not avoiding black men more than white or any other race when I feel that I suspect an unsafe situation]


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Obama's Half Indonesian Sister Appeals To Asians

Obama's campaign is feeling more and more like a movie, and now all of a sudden we've been thrown a plot twist halfway through. Obama has a younger half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is half Indonesian, and who has now come out to campaign for Asians to back him. I guess there are those who might of already known about her, but I sure didn't.

This is perfect timing by the Obama campaign. Maya has come out to speak on Obama's behalf at a time when his opponents are framing him as non-American. Well after finding out about his sister, I'm thinking Obama is more American than McCain could ever be. Obama represents diversity; a broad spectrum of races. McCain represents isolated whiteness. Sure Obama doesn't represent every race, but come on, he is a lot closer to the experiences of non-white men and women in the U.S. than McCain.

Juliana Barbassa at AOL,
Soetoro-Ng's appearances give voters a chance to get to know Obama as a person, not just an elected official. Her stories illustrate the development of his character, from his days as a teenager who loved basketball and bodysurfing and didn't always get the strongest grades, to his growing sense of civic duty in the summers she spent with him in Chicago.

But she also has a political role to play. She plans to spend her summer vacation - she is a teacher at an all-girls' school in Hawaii - introducing her brother to crowds such as this one.

"We are ready for a more complex construction of identity as a country," she said, dismissing the possibility some voters might find it hard to relate to Obama's multiethnic background and foreign experience.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Do Gays And Undocumented Do For "Us"?

Image from Governing.com

I've been hearing a lot about how good gay marriages will be for California's economy. I am not comfortable with this simplification of the issue. It's like heterosexuals have found a way to justify gay marriage in pure economic terms. After all, how much harm can homosexuality do to California's heterosexual culture if it does so much good to California's economy?

Michael LIndenberger from Time reports,
A report released by the Williams Institute at UCLA law school says fully half of the state's 102,000 gay couples could wed in the next three years. UCLA law professor Brad Sears told TIME that the number is in keeping with experience in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is also legal, and Vermont, which permits civil unions. Another 67,000 or so are expected to arrive from other states, says Sears, the report's co-author. Those couples and their guests will spend some $680 million in tourism dollars, a welcome boost to a state whose hard-hit economy could use all the help it can get.

Justin Ewers at U.S. News & World Report also mentions the UCLA study, which predicts,
approximately half of the 103,000 same-sex couples living in the state will get married in the next three years. Nearly 70,000 same-sex couples from other states, they predict, will come here to marry...the combination of marriage license fees, increased state and local tax revenues, and the attendant boost in tourism spending by wedding guests is likely to create and sustain over 2,100 jobs in California...Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has thrown his support behind the court's decision, has said same-sex marriage will be good for the state's economy. "You know, I'm wishing everyone good luck with their marriages, and I hope that California's economy is booming because everyone is going to come here and get married," he told a gathering in San Francisco on May 21.

This kind of talk reminds me of the cost-benefit discussions of undocumented immigration. Like those claims that undocumented immigrants don't pay taxes, strain our health are and public education, and abuse our welfare system--these are all misleading and largely untrue, but they strongly support our country's anti-immigrant sentiment. They are based on the idea that undocumented immigrants bring us a little labor and lots of family.

In other words, undocumented immigration today is hypersexualized, feminized. Pure labor wasn't a problem when it was just the men coming to work on a seasonal basis, we happily incorporate undocumented male labor into our economy. Why not? It's pure gain for U.S. citizens; they work hard and don't demand rights because we keep them under fear through their undocumented status. But we resist children and pregnant mothers because they become our dependents. Immigrant labor brings wealth to our country, but immigrant children bring costs: they are a net loss.

On the other hand, gay marriage is being framed, in an economic sense, like the pure undocumented male labor that is good for California's economy. Gay marriage is about non-dependent adults. They work, they spend money.

It doesn't feel right reducing gay marriage to pure economic gain. I know there are people using this information as one of the pluses for heterosexuals to accept gay marriage, and I get that. But it's just weird, and how do gay people feel about this? The us/them mentality really stands out with gay marriage just as it does with immigration--what can "they" do for "us?"

I don't know, as long as gay marriage passes, its advocates should be happy. But the end result can't be the only thing that matters--it's good to at least take a good look at what measures are taken to get to that result.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

"Me" and Consciousness

Who am I? To you, I mean. Who am I, to you? I sit here writing, assuming a sort of authority to write, spewing my words into the depths of the internet for anyone to find. I know who I am, but how does that come across in the internet?

I recently received an email attacking my "about me" section on my personal blogger profile. Weird, because it is senseless, I can't really understand it. But in spite of this, I was struck by the email because it seems to be less an attack upon the issues I discuss and more of an attack on me. It is about me.

Subject: Your opinion "about me"

I sort of do not understand the premise of your comments. How are you a citizen of the United States of America yet feel foreign and then state that you are for those who voices are silent. In America opportunity is greater than anything. For those who are supposedly “silent” with opportunity they speak. Cubans are silent because no matter how much they scream and cry and disapprove the have no opportunity to go nowhere. Its sad to hear that So, if someone bombed the united states of America whose side would you be on since you feel foreign? And you really do teach rhetoric. Seems like you would have more regard for the country that gave you the ability to speak as crazy as you’d like without repercussions. Regardless of our problems here the opportunities that are afforded to us give us the voice in and of itself so there is no silence.

Why do I have to explain myself to you? An honest question, not a biting one. On the one hand, I could say, "you don't know me." Thus forcing dialogue to a close. On the other hand, I could say, "here is my life story," and spend hours trying to explain myself in vain.

Here's the beautiful thing: the reason I shouldn't have to explain myself is because I'm not writing to prove myself (how could I when my idea of myself is constantly changing?). I am writing to explore my own consciousness as a Latina, but more importantly, to reach out to others with the hope that what I say might affect them in any way. So if my "opinion" about myself seems unpatriotic or something, then that's only because you have a very different idea of what is patriotic than me.

What's the point of blogging here, then? I write because consciousness (and double consciousness) is idealistically about infinite awareness. It is about never cementing oneself in ideas about the world and its people because the dynamics of such are always changing. Consciousness is to me a contradictory state--you acquire it by never accomplishing it.

You are conscious by always realizing that you do not know everything--that your consciousness must always be expanding because there is always something you are not conscious of. I don't know who I am to you, or who you are to me. I just love the fact that we don't have to know each other to rework our respective consciousnesses here on this blog.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

White Privilege At Its Finest

I was enraged to hear so much news coverage about the murder of Chris Wootton, a white fraternity student at UC Berkeley. Why? Because last fall, a dark-skinned Latino student, Rod Rodriguez, was confused for a gang member and murdered. He too was a UC Berkeley student. He and Chris were high achievers in school. Chris, however, was killed in a Saturday night drunken brawl, whereas Rod was visiting home and had been closing up at the barbershop where he worked. He often provided free haircuts to locals because they could not afford hair-cuts. He also was heavily involved in the Berkeley community, advancing racial justice through volunteer work.

Not only did the Chancellor of the university write a detailed email to all of the students about Chris Wootton's tragic murder, my mother called me all the way from San Diego saying she heard about it in the news. It was also significantly covered on the internet. Rod, however, was virtually unnoticed except by members of the ethnic communities on campus and in his hometown.

As enraged as I was, I only made a few comments to fellow students in my classes. Adrienne Johnson, however, wrote a piece to the main campus newspaper--The Daily Californian--who heavily covered the Chris Wootton murder in several detailed articles, and who had only given Rod a passing glance.

Adrienne succinctly puts it all into perspective:

Like many students, I was shocked and saddened by Chris Wootton's tragic death.

However, may I comment on the articles devoted solely to Wootton's death? I have counted no fewer than five full-length, prominently placed articles detailing this tragedy. I attended the forum on Sproul Plaza and found myself sandwiched between NBC reporters, TV crews and photographers.

May I also comment on your coverage of another, very tragic death of a graduating senior killed in very similar circumstances-Rodrigo Rodriguez Jr.? This past September, he was killed by a gunman who mistook him for another person. This story received little coverage; there was no community outpouring. I remember only one of very few articles, from Sept. 19, "Student Gunned Down in Hometown." Why, do you suppose, this is? Why would the Daily Cal cover Wootton's death-involved in a fight on frat row -and ignore Rodriguez's tragic victimhood? Could it have something to do with favoring a white frat boy over a child of immigrants? Favoring a science student over an American Studies major?

"Student Gunned Down in Hometown" is an inappropriate, insulting title in comparison with Wootton's article "Community Mourns Shocking Loss of Senior."

It is the Daily Cal's responsibility to inform the community when something of this measure occurs with fairness and equality. Just because Chris may have been more popular should not be reflected in his death's coverage. I feel that this is a grave error on part of the Daily Cal and this letter or a formal apology should be published apologizing to Rodriguez's friends and family.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Image of Irony

I admit it, I like to browse "lol" pictures. Here's a great one.

You'd think that a lack of historical knowledge would be the only thing wrong with these people. You'd think that the irony of this ideology would end at race, ethnicity, culture, xenophobia.

...but no, I am proven wrong, it's much more than that. As much as I despise her hatred and ignorance, I have got to thank that lady for pushing the envelope of senselessness.

Political Picture - Protester
see more politics and fun!

Tongue-in-cheek, I can't help but say that it sounds like "...fecal." Might seem a bit forced to you, but it honestly jumps out at me.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Late Night Thoughts

I'm in the middle of finals, and this weekend is going to be crazy full of work. It's a time when I'm writing so many essays and doing so much research that I become a trasnocheando, twitching, mate-drinking hermit. I'm sitting here right now with my big earphones on, listening to beats as I drink my mate to stay awake and write away. Yet here I am drifting away from my work and engaging in my long-time affair with the internet...youtube, myspace, facebook, google news, reuters, wikipedia...It is at this time when a million different insights hit me all at once--a product of my thoughts, internet browsing, and texts all mixed up into a ball of nonsense. Here it is.

Barack Obama. Black man with a mission, trying to hold him back. McCain...Hillary...it's all the same. Puhleese, he's electable, the problem is when people say he's not electable that they create division, doubts, and difference. Hey, I am not making an argument for a pure and glorious politician--but Obama is my man. As a conciente cyborgic feminist, Obama is my choice.

As I was walking to turn in a rhetoric final, I crossed a white woman that weirdly looked like Donna Haraway. The hair, the age, it was all there. It was weird because my final was about Cyborg Manifesto. I had read Cyborg Manifesto more than a year ago, but reading her this semester for a second time, and writing about it again for my rhetoric final, and seeing her on my way to turn it in...I was forced to bite my tongue and keep walking...I wanted to say "Donna?" and I wanted to say "thank you." Very weird feeling.

Speaking of Haraway, I've been re-evaluating my sense of identity lately (which I love to do, my identity is never stagnant) as a Latina, woman of color. I really don't know what I am anymore. I love the image of the cyborg, because it's so hard to understand myself wholly or categorically. Woman of color...my skin is very light, I am not indigenous, but I am culturally and spiritually Latina. But what is Latina? As Haraway says, there is nothing that naturally binds women. I am not naturally bound to other Latinos or Latinas.

So what is my identity at the moment? Well earlier I would have said, eh, I'm a Californian Latina--I identify with California the most as my "land," since I have no country (as Anzaldua says)...yet I don't want to try and attach myself to a land of origin...so right now, my identity, no, identities, are the ones I've assumed throughout my life from the people I love. I am "Sarita." "caracolito." "sorete" (yes, sorete, don't ask). "patita." "tiny."

It's funny, when it comes to my English name, meaning Sara as pronounced like the English "Sarah," it feels so formal. So official. It is a name I assume, it is a hat I put on and take off.

I also had a good chuckle walking back from turning in my rhetoric final, when I saw a sign near the art/architect buildings on campus...it said "brush yo teeth." Don't know what it was about, but the phrase just hit me in the funny bone.

Ha, okay I need to get back to work.

brush yo teeth!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Straight People Are Not Gay? It's Less Obvious Than It Sounds

We define "gay" as "not straight," but never the other way around. It seems silly to say this, but by admitting that straight people are not gay, one can easily embrace a form of double consciousness.

Double consciousness is about understanding that anyone who is "different" is different from something that has been accepted as normal. What is accepted as normal in Western society is the white, male heterosexual. I say "accepted as normal" because it is only an idea that has been accepted as true in our society--but it is not a truth. It is not normal.

This is a picture worth a hard look:

The story behind this image hit me as a great way to illuminate the burden of double consciousness. This is the car of a homosexual white female, Erin Davies, whose car was originally silver. One day she found that someone had vandalized it by spraying the homophobic slur in red paint, and rather than have it removed, she left it on. Now you can follow her on her website fagbug.com.

Her decision to sport the hate crime was met with strong opposition and strong support as she journeyed across the country to document reactions to her car. She had even re-painted the hateful words after several people have anonymously attempted to remove the bright red message. Recently, she had the entire car professionally painted with the rainbow colors and the name given to her by the original vandals.

This car makes obvious the identity of difference. You would never find someone's car vandalized with the word "straight" because the straight identity is widely accepted as natural...which leads to the logical conclusion that gay is unnatural; false even.

What is normal? There is no normal, because when you say someone is different, it goes both ways. The "gay" is different from the "straight," yes. But the "straight" is different from the "gay" too.

I cannot end without emphasizing the importance of recognizing that double consciousness involves many differences all at once. In this case, we're only looking at a homosexual, white female--who is different from the straight white male and the homosexual white male. But it gets even messier when you look at a homosexual, black female for example.

We can't get stuck on singular terms. We've gotta see that everyone is made up of endless differences--we are all intersected by differences in class, race, gender, and more.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Amusing Headlines

Every once in a while, I'll read a headline that is worth a few yuks.

White House admits fault on 'Mission Accomplished' banner

"After shifting explanations, the White House eventually said the "Mission Accomplished" phrase referred to the carrier's crew completing its 10-month mission, not the military completing its mission in Iraq. Bush, in October 2003, disavowed any connection with the "Mission Accomplished" message. He said the White House had nothing to do with the banner; a spokesman later said the ship's crew asked for the sign and the White House staff had it made by a private vendor."

To this, all I can do is shake my head and smile.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Come On America, Arizona's SB 1108 Is A Racist Bill

"I'm gonna show you WHO's BOSS"

To some people it may have seemed like the fight was against undocumented immigrants. They are "illegals," "aliens," "criminals" overrunning our nation.

Well for me that was never true. From my own experience, it's basically a fight against culture, language, and color. The anti-immigrant sentiment that is so strong today, as it has been throughout our history as the United Sates, is about hatred. It's about racism, colonial power, capitalist interest, and everything else you can think of.

Man, I am just sick and tired of this. I am sick and tired of this game that a lot of "Americans" are playing. This is not about immigration.

YOU KNOW WHY? THIS IS WHY: Arizona state lawmakers and their evil SB 1108 bill is about killing Mexican-American/Chican@/Latin@ identity. To say this bill is fueled by merely anti-immigrant sentiment is to confuse the real issue here--because anti-immigrant sentiment has always been about anti-Hispanic sentiment (hey I don't like calling it Hispanic, but that's what it is to them)

You can look up several news articles on the bill, but here's one:

Some state lawmakers are again sticking their noses where they don't belong and trying to tell educators what should or shouldn't be taught in public schools.

The Legislature is attempting to usurp the decision-making responsibilities of local school boards and is perpetuating lies and creating divisions among Arizonans by pushing a bill that seeks to end programs like Raza Studies in the Tucson Unified School District. The bill would deny state funding to schools whose courses "denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization."

Whatever that means.

Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services reported in Thursday's Star that the bill, SB 1108, is aimed at MEChA, the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, a student group that state Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, describes as racist.

Raza Studies has also drawn the ire of anti-immigrant-rights activists and last year was criticized by state schools superintendent Tom Horne, who said the program was promoting "ethnic chauvinism."

Horne investigated the program and then quietly dropped his inquiry.

Pearce, one of the state's most strident opponents of illegal immigration, appears to have bought into the notion that MEChA followers want to take over the southwestern United States, which was part of Mexico.

That's hogwash.

The myth is perpetrated by right-wing anti-immigrant-rights groups like American Border Patrol and their Web sites. The lie gained new life over the last couple of years as the illegal-immigration debate reached a boiling point.

...What lawmakers like Pearce ignore is that programs like Raza Studies and MEChA help many Hispanic students excel.

By learning more about their race's culture, the students become engaged in the education process and go on to become better taxpaying members of society.

OH I'M SORRY AMERICA. I'm sorry that because world history is OBVIOUSLY distorted in every damn aspect of our education to favor learning about white people, I have to oppress my own identity and educate myself about subjects that are not only irrelevant to my culture and diversity, but are also not reflective of true history.

It wasn't until college that I finally came to understand the dimensions of my Latina identity. It wasn't until college that I learned about the atrocities of white America's past and present--the genocides, the school of the Americas, the coups, the SLAVERY, the exploitation, the National Origins Quota, the "treaty" of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the promises of reparations, the diseased blankets, Thanksgiving, Africa, Guatemala, the list goes on...

I AM NOT ANTI-AMERICAN. The REAL anti-Americans are those people who RESIST accepting that AMERICAN MEANS MANY LANGUAGES,CULTURES,RACES,AND HISTORIES. American is NOT CITIZEN--AMERICAN IS PERSONHOOD. I AM AMERICAN BECAUSE I AM A LATINA BORN IN THE UNITED STATES who is an active member of society, respects her fellow Americans (documented or not), and upholds her values of tolerance and human rights for all. I recognize that HISTORY is not ONE STORY, BUT MANY. Our country does not have a history, as our euro-centric society would have it, our country has HISTORIES--good and bad--of peoples from all perspective.

I am tired of being taught one perspective. What Ethnic studies does, let alone Chican@ studies, is give us ANOTHER perspective--one that often reflects that of us "Hispanics" who are trying to learn something other than the white history. LETS KEEP TEACHING WHITE HISTORY BUT NOT WHITE HISTORY ALONE. Let's teach many histories.

With all my heart, with all my soul, I beg others to join me and many others in saying: AMERICA, THIS BILL IS RACIST, XENOPHOBIC, AND UNCONSTITUTIONAL.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Late Night Thoughts

i've got rice

and it's not in my tummy
but its in this here paper box

i've got rice in my cupboard
why does that matter
well you've got people of color
hunger pains all over

the world's aching
and I can't hear their cries

over the sound of my rice...


i have no reason to cry
i'm fine

what was i thinking?
i'm fine
i'm eating my rice.

i'm no poet

But I got rice.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Obama, 'Black Man' With Authority

What do you think when you hear about the latest critique of Obama? From remarks about his "lack of experience," to his pastor's preachings, and now to his "bitter" remarks about xenophobic Americans, Obama's racialized identity is implicated in every remark made of him.

When we look at criticism of Obama, there is a lot going on there, but you just can't separate it from the fact that he is a man of color, and mixed at that.

David K. Shipler has written a very insightful piece in the Los Angeles Times, giving us context by which we can understand the deeper meaning of what's going on here. He writes,
Obama has made some real missteps, including his remark last week that "bitter" small-town Americans facing economic hardship and government indifference "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them." Perhaps he was being more sociological than political, and more sympathetic than condescending. But when his opponents branded him an elitist and an outsider, his race made it easier to drive a wedge between him and the white, rural voters he has courted. As an African American, he was supposedly looking down from a place he didn't belong and looking in from a distance he could not cross.

This could not happen as dramatically were it not for embedded racial attitudes. "Elitist" is another word for "arrogant," which is another word for "uppity," that old calumny applied to blacks who stood up for themselves.

At the bottom of the American psyche, race is still about power, and blacks who move up risk triggering discomfort among some whites. I've met black men who, when stopped by white cops at night, think the best protection is to act dumb and deferential.

Furthermore, casting Obama as "out of touch" plays harmoniously with the traditional notion of blacks as "others" at the edge of the mainstream, separate from the whole. Despite his ability to articulate the frustration and yearning of broad segments of Americans, his "otherness" has been highlighted effectively by right-wingers who harp on his Kenyan father and spread false rumors that he's a clandestine Muslim.

In a country so changed that a biracial man who is considered black has a shot at the presidency, the subterranean biases are much less discernible now than when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. They are subtle, unacknowledged and unacceptable in polite company. But they lurk below, lending resonance to the criticisms of Obama. Black professionals know the double standard. They are often labeled negatively for traits deemed positive in whites: A white is assertive, a black is aggressive; a white is resolute, a black is pushy; a white is candid, a black is abrasive; a white is independent, a black is not a team player. Prejudice is a shape shifter, adapting to acceptable forms.

So although Obama's brilliance defies the stubborn stereotype of African Americans as unintelligent, there is a companion to that image -- doubts about blacks' true capabilities -- that may heighten concerns about his inexperience. Through the racial lens, a defect can be enlarged into a disability. He is "not ready," a phrase employed often when blacks are up for promotion.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pointing Our Dirty Finger At China

The controversy about the 2008 Olympics in Beijing is deeper than it might appear on the surface. Westerners pointing to its human rights violations and other issues are doing more than just that--they are carrying a long-held note sung by our country for about half a century. Ever since China turned communist, there has been a bitter-sweet diplomatic history between it and the United States.

This Olympics controversy is throwing fuel into the flame of anti-Chinese sentiment. From the Los Angeles Times:

As the Olympic torch made its way through the streets of Paris, London and San Francisco, tens of thousands protested China's treatment of Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

But inside some Chinese American communities, notably the San Gabriel Valley, the view of Tibet and its spiritual leader is far more complex.

On Cat Chao's Mandarin-language talk show "Rush Hour" on KAZN-AM (1300), most callers haven't been debating whose side to take but why the Western media has been so biased against China in its reporting of the riots that rocked Tibet earlier this month.

"They're pretty angry," Chao said. "People usually trust Western media because they think it's balanced. Not anymore."

Others complained that the torch protests have gone beyond criticizing the Chinese communist government and have a decidedly anti-Chinese feeling.

Our country's people are voicing a lot of objections to China, especially now in light of the Olympics controversy. But we should keep in mind that as much as we try to disassociate ourselves from China through discussions of human rights abuses and environmental abuses, our country has been and currently is guilty of the same things.

I'm talking about our companies that set up sweatshops and/or factories in foreign countries--abusing local workers, their families, and their environments. Such as the Mexican maquiladora industry.

There is a lot going on with the Olympics controversy, we can't just try to target China because in doing so we are implicating ourselves. In other words, who are we to point the finger? It's not that no finger should ever be pointed, but come on, the United States?


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Let's Talk About White People

The other day I visited a beautiful city called Sausalito, north of the San Francisco bay. "Beautiful" is very loaded--the city was so clean, plump with flowers and shrubberies, and very white. I mean, there were shops with incredibly expensive yachting apparel, and more. But in pointing out its whiteness, I am not being hostile. I have every right to point it out, for I do the same thing when I observe black, Latino, Asian, and other racialized geographical areas.

Pointing out whiteness should not make white people uncomfortable. It should be blatant and funny, Kind of like it is in this article about San Francisco being a top white destination.

As odd as this may sound, it's refreshing to find out about a blog that highlights "Stuff White People Like." The blog brings white culture into shape and form. It latches onto whiteness and drags it down from its normative perch, so that we can pinpoint its traits and study it. It even provides information about how to deal with/talk to the stereotypical white people described in each of its entries.

This Time article by Jeninne Lee-St. John describes the blog a little further:

If you don't keep up with all the snarky, zeitgeisty corners of the Internet, Stuff White People Like is a pseudo-anthropological list mocking the habits, tastes and whims of people of non-color. (Entry #1: Coffee. "White people all need Starbucks, Second Cup or Coffee Bean. They are also fond of saying "you do NOT want to see me before I get my morning coffee.")

...I called Damali Ayo, a black social critic and artist who wrote the book How to Rent a Negro — a satire inspired by the same sentiments as another thing that white people like (#14), Having Black Friends. She thinks the blog, oddly, represents a form of social progress. "I'm really glad that white people are stepping up to critique white culture, because in general white people like to deny that there is such a thing as white culture," Ayo says. And she sort of made me feel better about being enmeshed in that culture. "Stuff white people like is what we all live and breathe everyday. Turn on the TV: it's all stuff white people like. I've been studying stuff white people like since I was four just so I could have a conversation."


Thursday, April 3, 2008

James Bond Filming Clashes With Chilean Community

Here's some weird news from Chile: during the filming of a scene in Chile for the upcoming James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, a local Chilean mayor angrily drove a vehicle into the set. Mayor Carlos López, of Baquedano, Chile, was protesting the filiming for its negative impact on the community.Tom Leonard from Telegraph.co.uk reports:

Mr Lopez was arrested and briefly detained for what police called "causing public disorder". It was claimed that he almost ran over two people at the town's railway station as he sped onto the set.

He had been protesting at what he called an excessive police presence in Baquedano and objecting to Chilean soil being used as a stand in for neighbouring Bolivia.

Baquedano lies in a mining region around the city of Antofagasta in the far north of the country. It was forcibly annexed by Chile from Bolivia in the late 19th century - an issue that continues to divide the two countries.

...Mr Lopez said yesterday: "For a town that has just 1,000 residents, sending in special forces and water cannon, preventing people from walking in the street, reminded me of the worst of the Pinochet years.

So what's the problem? This situation just comes off to me like another one of those big western capitalist F.U.'s to the other guys. Sure the filming was permitted and legal, but that doesn't rid it of all evil. I mean, all those foreign companies set up in Jamaica are there legally too...but their presence there has greatly harmed the national sovereignty of the country. When Jamaica finally gained its independence, like many other countries, it faced overwhelming debt. As a result, the country turned to international lending organizations for help. However, the loans came with conditions that forced Jamaica into submission under foreign companies. Ultimately, the country's own resources and monetary system were completely undermined by foreign imports, and the country ultimately fell at the mercy of foreign Western capitalist nations.

Specifically, I'm trying to get at the issue of Western capitalist interests overpowering the national sovereignty of other countries. I'm talking about a blatant disregard for the culture, history, and identities of the locals who become unavoidably involved in Western capitalist affairs in such countries. In the specifics of the James Bond incident, I'm trying to point out that the filming of this movie cannot simply take place without imposing on the relations of the Chilean and Bolivian people implicated by the filming controversy.

These kinds of filmings are not uncommon, but we have to realize that taking such projects into a foreign country does not have the same effect as filming on some Los Angeles high school campus for some Hollywood teen movie. There is a heavy racial, cultural, and international clash that takes place--which the general Western capitalist public takes for granted.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Consciousness of White Privilege Has Great Potential

I often take notice when white people say things in public that reflect their lack of self-awareness in terms of white privilege.

For example, Geraldine Ferraro, you know that lady from the Clinton campaign who basically reduced Obama to a token "blackie" of the public.

I was recently directed to a very insightful Los Angeles Times article by Gregory Rodriguez, who writes about a less-obvious racism that takes place when some whites feel threatened by "minorities" in power (such as Geraldine Ferraro):

Rodriguez writes,
Geraldine Ferraro's remark that "if [Barack] Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position" was not racist per se; it did not presume racial inferiority on the part of any person or group. But it was remarkably arrogant, ignorant and, unfortunately, reflective of an all too common and growing sentiment in the post-Civil Rights era.
In 1999, the Seattle Times commissioned a survey that found 75% of whites agreed with the statement that "unqualified minorities get hired over qualified whites" most or some of the time. Two-thirds felt the same when asked about promotions and college admissions. Whether white disadvantage is real or imagined, the poll showed that a considerable number of whites feel threatened not only by the means of ascent but by minority advancement itself. Clearly, most minorities who advance up the professional ladder are not unqualified. (If you think that last sentence is incorrect, you probably are a true-blue racist.)
Unlike so many -- often media-created -- black leaders, Obama doesn't use a parochial message of victimhood or the zero-sum logic of "us versus them." Rather than spend a lot of time talking about racism, historical or otherwise, he preaches a form of collective can-doism. He sells himself as a symbol of reconciliation and knows that at this point in history, cries of racism are the quickest way to turn off white voters who are tired of being made to feel guilty for racial injustice.

Geraldine's case is not a new one, nor is it very fascinating. Yet talking about this kind of thing is important, because racism is popularly interpreted as a one-way thing--it's something someone thinks of someone else. Yet as Rodriguez's article points out, racism is more about what one thinks of oneself.

As I like to reflect on issues of people of color, it often crosses my mind how valuable it is when white people are conscious of their whiteness. Not in a patronizing way, but in a natural way, like how black people naturally know from a very young age that they will always have a natural disadvantage in society because of their skin color. What I like about this article is that it touches upon the subtle racisms of today that are rooted in racist structures of society.

Simply saying that Obama, or any person of color with cultural capital, has what he has because he is black points to the enormously ignored reality that in fact the opposite of this has historically been true: throughout our country's history, it is white men whose power is acquired because they were who they were. When we look at someone in power, we must become aware of our prejudices: when we make a claim about one person in power, why don't we realize that we are conveniently opting out of making a claim about everyone else who is in power?

Some may look at Obama and reduce his popularity to his race, yet how is it that so many white men have gone unquestioned in their positions of popularity or power in our country?

I disagree that Obama's blackness is his ticket to the White House, but I will not hesitate in asserting that Bill Gates and George Bush are in the positions they are in largely in part of their white masculinity. Being a white man has always been, and remains to be, the greatest source of cultural capital in our world--let alone our country--today.

It is important to explain, however, that when I say such a thing, I am not asserting that white people cannot understand the implications of white/male cultural capital (and of course I'm just touching on the surface issues, because I could also talk about the cultural capital that comes with heterosexuality, class, education...etc). As much as I point out privileges that naturally come with whiteness, what matters is what a person decides to do with knowledge of such privileges. I firmly believe that consciousness of priviledge has a lot more potential of power than consciousness of disadvantage.

In other words, a lot more progress can be accomplished when more white and/or male people are aware of the advantages that come with being white and/or male. I know of several white people who are conscious in this way, but it's not enough.

The more white people conscious of privilege, the more power they have to make change for the better of all people. Privilege combined with consciousness equals great power, and so to end on a cheesy note, with great privilege comes great responsibility--use it!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why is Whiteness Absent in Reports of L.A. Violence?

Los Angeles' "Dangerous" image is very racialized. Maybe this comes as a "no duh" to some, but it's a point that I can't help but stress in light of the commotion instigated by media reports all over blacks and Latinos and killings and so on.

Mandalit del Barco's Los Angeles Times article:

Sirens and gunshots are the soundtrack of South Los Angeles, formerly known as South Central. People thought changing the name would change the neighborhood's image, but it hasn't. L.A. is in the midst of a new surge in gang violence that is claiming some very young victims.

Barco's piece really captures the racialized negative image of the dangerous Los Angeles. What specifically bothers me is that articles like these are repeatedly emphasizing violence associated with themes of Latino gang violence, brown v. black divide, and so on.

It's angering for these media reports to capture these highly tragic events as isolated racial issues rather than as symptoms of a greater structural force of dominant white society.

For example, in Barco's article, one can look at the following description:
The parents of a 6-year-old African-American boy who was shot in the head when Latino gang members opened up on the family's SUV are experiencing similar pain.

That same week, a 42-year-old Latino man and his 20-year-old son were shot to death outside their home for no apparent reason as well.

Whiteness is completely absent in conversations about such tragedies. Yet I ask, isn't the absence of something like whiteness a presence? I cannot accept these racialized accounts because they indirectly forge whiteness out of the picture. In reading these stories, I feel as if I am being led to blame one minority over the other, or blame them both. I have no grounds to attribute accountability towards the white race, only blacks and Latino ethnicities.

I feel coerced. I feel stripped of my power to point to the oppression of blacks and Latinos because I am continually reading articles that clearly depict them as oppressing themselves.

How am I to argue about greater economic, legal, and societal systems of white dominance when these reports completely reject these factors from the start by not stating them as relevant? That's just it, I can't. I am silenced because my argument for the relevancy of whiteness contradicts the founding racialized assumptions of such reports.

Read Barco's article in full, there's so much more to what I've been able to conjure up in response.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Live from New York, Here's Your Saturday Night Minstrel Show!

From Aretha Franklin to Star Jones, Kenan Thompson is no stranger to making a spectacle out of the large black woman. The fictional character of Virginiaca Hastings literally takes the cake as Kenan's most minstrelesque role on Saturday Night Live.

This is not merely a matter of dressing in drag, but a much deeper racist and sexist mockery of the hypersexualized black woman.

As the skit opens, we are taken to the Baby Gap, and the high class narrative voice of a man says, "and now, shopping with Virginiaca." It's no accident; the man's upper-class intelligent voice serves to poke fun at the name itself--it's reminiscent of stereotypical black names like Laquesha.

Kenan Thompson then stomps into the store dressed as the stereotypical large black woman with a small cheetah-skinned purse and long nails. To top it off, he's stuffing cake down his throat. When approached by a young white male worker, who asks if he is looking for baby clothes, the conversation turns into "can you lift me up over your head," and "do you wanna see me in some baby clothes?" Then it gets worse, as "Virginiaca" pulls out her phone and calls for her daughter, "girl you are gettin' on my one big nerve, where is you?"

Then Ellen Page, the leading actress in Juno, runs in with a loud husky voice and a huge black afro. The two proceed to obsess over small children's pants as "booty shorts," and are insulted when the worker insists they won't fit Virginiaca's step daughter, who complains, "mama he's tryin' a seminate that I'm fat or sumthin'."

After complaining that they need the shorts for their "booty back and forths," they show the worker their dance--which is basically just them shaking their butts. The skit ends as Virginia stuffs her face with chips from her purse and hits on the worker by flaunting her large breasts on the counter and then jumping onto a table and shaking her butt. The worker proclaims, "I quit," and leaves the set, with Virginiaca still on the table.

The entire skit is a minstrel show--the mispronounced words, the exaggerated outfits, the big hair, the obnoxious voices, and of course, the dancing. The presence of the young white male worker is most important, for he is the character that non-black/female audiences are meant to immediately identify with. His purpose in the skit is to serve as the white male gaze and simultaneously lasso-in the audience into an us against them--the two "black women."

As a consequence, we get a minstrel show which focuses primarily on the large black Virginiaca who throws herself at us constantly. Along the lines of Eddie Murphy's horrible Mrs. Rice character. We are then supposed to derive a perverse pleasure out of watching her big, overeating, big-breasted body disgust us nonstop.

Yes, perverse. It's a disgusting pleasure that comes from observing a large, sexualized black woman made into a complete spectacle by a black man dressed in drag.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Immigration Is Also Emigration

We are fed stark images of brown men in running or jumping positions; brown pregnant women clutching the hands of their several little brown children; gardeners in pickup trucks; and Spanish-speaking cleaning ladies and nannies who now fill the shoes that were once worn bitterly by black women.

From Fidel Castro's recent retirement to the genocide of indigenous Guatemalans by the CIA-funded military during the eighties, undocumented immigration has more to do with what's going on beyond our borders than within them.

Undocumented immigrants are depicted as two-dimensional creatures who overrun our country, never as humans leaving their own countries. Sure they are specified as Mexicans, Hondurans, or Haitians, but always in a way that neglects their personal histories back home. A Guatemalan man who enters the country without documents seems to suddenly pop into existence upon crossing our southern border. The fact that he is an indigenous Mayan fleeing military persecution--which the U.S. has historically funded--disappears in the eyes of Americans who accuse him of unlawfully invading their territory.

Beyond our borders are all those countries where “illegal” immigrants aren't yet immigrants, but citizens in their native lands. The same people who come here as unwanted strangers are only perceived of as invading homes, never as leaving behind their own homes, families and friends.

Through our conversations of undocumented immigration, we always frame them as the assaulters of our national sovereignty. What conveniently fails to come into our discussions, however, is the United States’ own assaults against the national sovereignty of the countries from which they are coming. After the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994, hundreds of thousands of Mexican farm workers were thrown off their lands by a corrupt Mexican government working in league with greedy American developers. Even those that kept their land had a difficult time competing with heavily subsidized U.S. agricultural goods. As a result, they fled, and continue to flee, here by the hundreds of thousands seeking work to sustain their families.

The Cuban “wet-foot dry-foot policy” grants automatic admission to any Cuban who sets foot upon our soil, thanks to our animosity towards Fidel Castro’s government. Yet many people from poor Caribbean nations experiencing diasporas are continually rejected, especially Haitians who are continually denied recognition of amnesty status because of our diplomatic relations with the government of Haiti.

It’s important to see that there are many factors pushing immigrants out of their countries and pulling them into ours, many of which are greatly influenced by U.S. foreign relations. Once we expand the depth of our understanding of the processes of undocumented immigration into our country, we will come to understand that our popular policy approaches to the issue are far from solutions. From building walls to guest-worker programs, undocumented immigration is going to remain strong as long as we continue to tackle it as a mere occurrence within our borders.



Blog Archive