Welcome to winter! I know, according to the calendar winter doesn’t start for another week and a half, but the weather says it’s winter. So let’s curl up by the fire, roast some chestnuts, and talk diversity.
There’s been a lot of back-and-forth on some new films depicting African Americans. We start out with Precious: is it a harsh but realistic portrayal of issues too-often found in poor black communities, or is it a racist depiction of black Americans, relying on stale clichés and taking advantage of the people and situations it pretends to help? David Schmader explains why he likes it and then highlights the arguments of those who don’t.
I hope everyone had as good a Thanksgiving as I did! Now, we’re back with another batch of diversity-related links.
Last month’s job report was an improvement, but the recession is still keeping employment just a dream for many. Also keeping dreams of employment from becoming reality? Race, even now. The New York Times brings us an exploration of the difficulties faced by even college educated African Americans. Postbourgie responds with some points on the issues faced by college educated professional black women, and the unfortunate tendency to assume that black men’s experiences are representative of all black people.
This week is Thanksgiving! There’s lots to love about this holiday, and some of it doesn’t even have to do with food (although…pies! stuffing! MORE PIES!).
Thanksgiving is also a great opportunity for teaching and discussion. I know sometimes people have an adverse reaction to that–something like “Stop trying to make my holiday traditions politically correct!”–but so much of the Thanksgiving story is still relevant today. I like thinking about Thanksgiving as a celebration of a history that is still being written, a history that we can take an active part in.
On that note, Fourth World Journal points to a new teaching resource for Thanksgiving developed by a teacher and historian whose ancestors happen to be Quebeque French, Metis, Ojibwa, and Iroquois. He suggests that it’s time to move past some of the myths surrounding Thanksgiving towards historical accuracy, and insists that this will make the holiday more, not less, meaningful. I especially like some of the discussion questions, like this one:
I know, I know, salad isn’t a food we usually associate with Thanksgiving. (Stuffing is not salad. Nor is green bean casserole.) But in my reading this week, I came across a quote disagreeing with the concept of America as a melting pot. Instead, “Everyone keeps their different shapes and forms but still contributes something to the salad.” I like that; it’s both more accurate and a better ideal.
I’m still not going to eat salad on Thanksgiving, but we can give thanks for the great Salad Bowl of America, imperfect though it is.
And whence comes that great quote, you ask? From this great City Room post on a unique new college education program in a Connecticut prison. Selected for their essays and academic potential, these incarcerated students take classes from Wesleyan University professors, using the same syllabi and the same standards of grading as are used on Wesleyan’s campus. The classes are the same, but the students bring a much different perspective: a view from inside a justice system with, among other things, much higher rates of incarceration for Blacks and Latinos than for whites.
Friday afternoon: time to read up on diversity around the web! This week we have a rather miscellaneous batch of links for you, so dig in.
Ah, Hollywood, will you never stop provoking discussion on race in casting? Not this week, certainly. Racialicious looks at the Screen Actor’s Guild’s annual diversity research and explains why the state of minorities in major acting roles is worse than the numbers suggest.
It should come as no surprise that we here at LEE & LOW BOOKS are rather fond of the written word. A lot.
But we also like the spoken word, so in addition to great posts and articles on race and diversity, we’re going to be sharing some great videos we’ve found around the web.
Like this one, from Ill Doctrine:
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:
[vodpod id=Groupvideo.3810859&w=425&h=350&fv=affiliateSiteId%3D18188%26amp%3BwidgetId%3D27552%26amp%3Bwidth%3D420%26amp%3Bheight%3D338%26amp%3BkaShare%3D1%26amp%3BautoPlay%3D0%26amp%3BmediaType_mediaID%3Dvideo_807910] If the video does not appear, you may need to download the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.
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.”
It’s easy to think of racial groups as cultural monoliths: black culture is like this, Asian culture is like that. An article on culture clashes between recent immigrants from Africa and African Americans, many of them descendants of slaves whose families have been in the U.S. for centuries, reminds us of the complexity. It also opens a window into perceptions of blackness and Africanness, as when a recent African immigrant says of African Americans, “Those people, they don’t respect African people,” or when a black American says of a black African, “They think they’re better than black people.”
Continuing with the idea of blackness in America, Ta-Nahesi Coates brings us a beautifully written essay on blackness, obesity, segregation, and shame. I keep coming back to this line: “Segregation was a cocoon brimming with all the lovely variety of black life.”