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.
A friend of mine was on the subway near three middle school-aged kids—an Asian boy, a Latina, and a Middle Eastern girl wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by many Muslim women.
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.”
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.
Another Friday, another batch of links relating to diversity and race.
The Horn Book has been host to a debate on risk-taking, trouble-making, and realism in YA novels with black protagonists. Teacher Lelac Almagor starts us out with an essay on books for black kids teaching them to stay out of trouble and author Sharon G. Flake follows it up with an essay on the value of those books . It’s interesting reading, and both essays reinforce the idea that we need more books for and about African American youth.
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.