This week, we’re looking at the idea—the fallacy—of purity: racial purity, national purity, and cultural purity.
Let’s start with South Korea, which is experiencing a clash between its historical ideas of ethnic homogeneity and its increasing immigrant population. A New York Times article draws attention to both the prevalence of racism in South Korea and the new efforts that are being made to stem it. It also highlights how closely ideas of racial purity are tied to sexism.
England and the US have their own issues of purity, some of which Andrew Sullivan explores in Scratch white America and beneath it is black. As a born Englishman who moved to the United States decades ago, Sullivan shares how, to an outsider, the black influences on American culture are apparent in everything from music to books.
It’s Halloween and the costumes are out! No zombies or vampires here, but we do have some serious masquerading to share when it comes to race.
To start us off we go to Germany, where a journalist is investigating the treatment of black people in Germany—by donning blackface and going undercover. Sure enough, he uncovers a lot of racism—but he does it without showcasing the experiences of actual black Germans.
Closer to home, this week’s America’s Next Top Model featured the competitors being dolled up as biracial: makeup, often darkening their skin; wigs; clothes that are a “fashion interpretation” of their cultures’ historical clothing. Dodai at Jezebel looks at it suspiciously, pointing out that “the problem, of course, is that race is not silver eyeshadow, a bubble skirt or couture gown. It’s not something you put on for a photo shoot to seem ‘edgy.’ Race is not trendy.” Still, she has mixed feelings: “Her intent was probably to showcase bi-racial beauty. Is this a case in which the action can be forgiven if the motive comes from a good place?” Thea at Racialicious, on the other hand, has no mixed feelings: she’s just angry.
OK, tell me that this CNN promo does not sound just a little bit like the trailer for a horror movie:
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The first time I saw this ad, I was sitting on the couch with my roomate. “Oh my God,” she said, “I can’t believe how racist that sounded.”
We’ll start things out with the bad news: a justice of the peace in Louisiana refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple. His justification? That any children the couple had might suffer discrimination. A quick history review: it was 1967 when the U.S. Supreme court ruled in the case Loving v. Virginia that race-based legal restrictions on marriage are unconstitutional. In other marriage-relate news, same-sex couples can still only get married in six states.
Riding on the subway over the past few weeks, I kept coming across ads for ABC’s new “Comedy Wednesday” sitcom lineup: Hank, The Middle, Modern Family, and Cougartown. Now, aside from my personal feelings about some of these shows (Courtney Cox, what happened to you?) what struck me was how white–and I mean WHITE–the lineup looked, at least from the ads.
The lack of diversity in network programming isn’t anything new, but this fall it really bothered me, especially after reading this great article over at Movieline called “Who Is Killing the African American Sitcom?” Why is a comedy labeled as an “African American sitcom” as soon as it includes more than one black person in the cast? And why don’t sitcoms about people of color make the lineups of major networks anymore?
Every week, we’re going to be bringing you a roundup of interesting articles, commentary, and projects dealing with diversity—race, gender, immigration issues, discrimination, and people bridging cultural barriers.
From the New York Times, a California hospital is working with Hmong shamans to improve care—body and soul—of the town’s Hmong immigrant population.
From Genreville, Josh Jasper discusses the problem of lazy sexism and racism, when women and minorities are excluded not due to conscious bias, but due to a lack of awareness and thought. “Oh, it just happens that all the good stories we found were written by men/white people/middle-class people.” That sort of thing. Also see a follow-up post and this bingo card of excuses for racism. It’s talking specifically about fantasy, but the same excuses get used in many other genres.
In April 2003, researchers completed their analysis of the human genome project. They confirmed that all human beings were 99.9% genetically identical. While science has proven we are nearly the same, why do we continue to judge people based on our perceived differences? Race, religion, politics, meat eaters vs. non-meat eaters—the list is endless. Our life experiences shape us more than the innate sensibilities with which we are born. History also documents the injustices we have bestowed upon each other as a result of deep resentments that have accumulated between groups of people. So while our bodies are the same, our brains—our minds and perceptions—divide us from one another. Ironically, our brains are also the difference between us and the animals who act on instinct alone.
It’s been an odd summer, weather-wise: roasting in April, cool in June and July, and just a few blazing weeks in August before the current chill September. So yesterday I mused, are we going to get an Indian summer?
And then I stopped thinking about the weather itself and started thinking about the term “Indian summer.” I had no idea where the term came from. The surface meaning—an unusually warm period between the leaves changing and the first snow—is harmless, but I had a sneaking suspicion that the origin of the term was racist.
Wikipedia gives three theories of the term’s etymology: