Colorlines - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:53
In a cover story interview for November's GQ, Matthew McConaughey makes clear that, despite being from Texas, he's a hat-wearing fan of the Washington, D.C., NFL Team:
[You] were a Redskins fan growing up in Texas? What the hell was that about?
Two things. First: 4 years old, watching Westerns, I always rooted for the Indians. Second, my favorite food was hamburgers. The Redskins had a linebacker named Chris Hanburger.
That's all it took?
When you're 4 years old, that's all it takes. I got a Redskins hat in my bag right now.
Hollywood Westerns were largely about myth-making, which shaped misconceived nations about Natives--and McConaughey's comment appears to point to that.
And, there's more:
What do you think about the calls for the team to change its name?
Man, it's twofold. What interests me is how quickly it got pushed into the social consciousness. We were all fine with it since the 1930s, and all of a sudden we go, "No, gotta change it"? It seems like when the first levee breaks, everybody gets on board. I know a lot of Native Americans don't have a problem with it, but they're not going to say, "No, we really want the name." That's not how they're going to use their pulpit. It's like my feeling about gun control: "I get it. You have the right to have guns. But look, let's forget that right. Let's forget the pleasure you get safely on your range, because it's in the wrong hands in other places."
But as a fan, it would hurt you a little to see the logo gone?
It's not going to hurt me. It's just... I love the emblem. I dig it. It gives me a little fire and some oomph. But now that it's in the court of public opinion, it's going to change. I wish it wouldn't, but it will.
Not everyone was "fine with it since the 1930s," since the term the team name uses refers to skinning Natives for bounty.
McConaughey also made the claim that he "know[s] a lot of Native Americans," who apparently back his claim but won't say so publicly. He then made a rather confusing comparison to gun control--a topic that doesn't include a racist team name.
Then again, he seems pretty certain the team logo will soon go.
You can read McConaughey's interview in its entirety over at GQ.
Colorlines - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:53
Using cupcake-making as a metaphor, our colleague Kat Lazo has a fabulous new video that breaks down the way that Halloween has become a sad excuse for cultural appropriation, misogyny and a lot more:
Lazo's a video production specialist for Colorlines' publisher, Race Forward--but she also works on her own stuff. Check out her YouTube channel, TheeKatsMeoww.
Colorlines - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:23
Junot Díaz has formally endorsed the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). He joins more than 370 other cultural workers in the call against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The best-selling author, Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur "Genius" Grant recipient signed on with the USACBI, which calls for an end to the occupation and the right of return for Palestinian refugees, according to an October 21 press release from the campaign.
In the release, Díaz explained his position:
If there exists a moral arc to the universe, then Palestine will eventually be free. But that promised day will never arrive unless we, the justice-minded peoples of our world, fight to end the cruel blight of the Israeli occupation. Our political, religious and economic leaders have always been awesome at leading our world into conflict, only we the people alone with little else but our courage and our solidarities and our invincible hope can lead our world into peace.
You can see the full list of USACBI endorsers here.
Colorlines - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:31
Making the rounds on national media this week is public interest lawyer Bryan Stevenson whom Desmond Tutu calls, "America's young Nelson Mandela." His new memoir, "Just Mercy," is about a man wrongly convicted and put on death row and it promises to keep the country's attention squarely on the 2.2 million people currently incarcerated in the United States--and the unjust ways that many of them arrive there. Stevenson's mainstream media tour is yet another indication that, following the success of Michelle Alexander's, The New Jim Crow, the country is ready to at least talk about criminal justice reform and reducing mass incarceration.
Stevenson is executive director of Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative. Watch his recent "Daily Show" interview with Jon Stewart above. And if you haven't already seen it, check out Stevenson's more intimate 2012 TED talk, too.
Hyphen Blog - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 08:46
Jeff Chang's Who We Be spans the career of American multiculturalism over the past fifty years.
Colorlines - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 08:22
My friend Jeff Chang has written "Who We Be: The Colorization of America," a wide-ranging history of racialized culture clashes of the last 50 years. It's a great sequel to "Can't Stop, Won't Stop," which is about the early years of hip-hop. Jeff and I have known each other since 1987, when we went through the Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program of Center for Third World Organizing together. He later went on to become the first associate editor of Colorlines upon the founding of the print magazine, and later still to become a music and cultural critic. He is now the director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.
"Who We Be" is hefty. It looks and feels like a coffee table book with a lot of art and thick paper. But unlike most coffee table books, you will actually want to read it. It covers a vast number of debates over race, cultural consumerism and artistic production that took place between 1963 and 2013, some of them well-known, others much less. Jeff and I sat down for a talk about the book, why he's obsessed with culture and how he writes.
"If Can't Stop, Won't Stop" was a history of hip-hop, "Who We Be" is a history of multiculturalism, a deep, wide-ranging history about the nation's conflicts over who gets to define our culture. You look at high art, street art, political art, advertising and a whole host of other cultural products and the fights, often quite intense fights, over them. What made you want to take such a deep dive?
I don't ever start out like "this is going to be comprehensive or definitive" anything. I start with the germ of an idea and a bunch of stories. This book came from one day in New York City, several months after "Can't Stop Won't Stop" came out. In "Can't Stop Won't Stop" there was a whole swath of history I didn't give any kind of attention to. That was the rise of the multiculturalism arts movement during 1980s as well as the student activism that you and I were a part of in those days. Shortly after the book came out, I was on a panel with Greg Tate, Brian Cross, Vijay Prashad and Mark Anthony Neal. Everybody had a different take on the question of how hip-hop fit into this post-multicultural moment. It was mind-blowing, all these aspects and positions on multiculturalism that I'd never considered. Mark saw it as a college hustle; Vijay as a grand illusion; Greg saw it as this amazing moment of cultural nationalisms coming together. Brian, coming in from Ireland, saw all points of view, and that it was an amazing time of fervor. He saw all these questions about consumerism that we hadn't resolved. Then I got on the train to the Bronx, where Lydia Yee had an exhibition on contemporary arts. We talked about how race had been drummed out of the contemporary arts world.
I pitched it to my editor Monique Patterson, one of the few black editors in the business, and she said "nobody cares about multiculturalism." Multiculturalists were ancient history. Diddy was on billboards so there was no need. Then Obama runs, and all this stuff comes out about his college history. Then the anti-Obama backlash happens, and the culture wars flare up again. When I began writing, Obama was about to be elected. I thought, cool, I'll get this book done in a year, and it'll have a happy ending. But 2009 starts up with Van Jones, Yosi Sergent, Shirley Sherrod and [Henry Louis Gates]. That's when it really got going. What was going to be a short victory lap became six-year deep dive.
In the book, you use the metaphor of a wave to describe culture as a process, one that lives in the soft spaces between events, between political events in particular. You have said, in other places, that culture trumps politics in terms of changing minds and behavior. Why are you so obsessed with culture?
The trigger for these thoughts was looking at the 2007-8 election cycle and seeing Obama not as politician but as symbol, and the explosion of street art and creative activity that begins to happen in the lead-up to his election. What does this all mean? Is it ephemeral, just an interesting phenomenon? Or does it represent something deeper about the way we think of change? There's been huge cultural churn in social life. Social media, communications strategy, messaging, framing. We talk about all these things in progressive movements now that point back to conscious and unconscious ways of thinking.
A lot of research has been moving in that direction. Not just in movements, but also in the academy. What we're concluding is that we are complex individuals, having our minds change all the time. The metaphor of the wave actually reveals something deep about how change happens. Culture functions a lot like the ocean. The wave builds, it recedes, when it builds again, there's new stuff in it.
You partly argue that multiculturalism was presented to Americans after the 1970s, especially in colleges. You seem to be saying that initially a lot of Americans bought it and then got buyer's remorse that was ginned up by conservatives.
The term "multiculture" was coined by Ishmael Reed in mid '70s. The idea's pretty simple: America is not a melting pot and there are a million different ways to become American. We then start wanting to understand what the exchanges look like and how they evolve. Now this seems basic to us, but at the time that was a huge challenge to everything. You can see how big a shift it was in the 1980s when, first academics and then the right in general, and the left, too, begin to organize against multiculturalism. This idea that there could be multiple paths to the same end, a society that's built of all these different types of people, came under attack. It's this long run, a 33-year path from Reed to Obama being elected president.
The last section of the book covers September 11, 2001 to 2013, when it became clear that the country would become majority people of color by mid-century. You use the term "demographobia" to describe the racial anxiety that erupted. Tell me about that.
Stanford faculty director H. Samy Alim coined the term in the lead-up to 2012 elections. It was a snarky, 140-character way of explaining all the backlash we could see in the resurgent culture wars. He tweeted that demographobia was the irrational fear of changing demographics. It made me laugh for hours. It really fit the moment. Richard Benjamin talks about this in his book "Searching for Whitopia," about white folks fleeing these multiracial spaces because they can't stand the idea that the country is changing this way. It's white flight 40 years after term got set. It reflects a deep-set fear among certain whites who just can't comprehend what a multiculture could look like, can't conceive of it as anything but apocalyptic.
You are a particularly visual writer. I can see the settings and people and fights you talk about in the book. How do you write? What was your process on this big book?
The book's central metaphor is of seeing race. Race happens between the actual appearance and the more complicated perception of difference. That was always in the back of my mind. You have to figure out how to describe a thing that hangs on the wall, just like you think about how do you describe a three-minute song and how it changes over time and how it makes you feel.
After I took the job at Stanford, I couldn't write whenever I wanted to. I'd get up at 4 a.m. and write for two hours before I went to work. If I was feeling it, I'd squeeze out a little extra time and show up late. That was the quiet time, in the mornings. On weekends, Lourdes, [my wife], would let me not clean the yard so I could write. But the bulk of the writing was at Sea Change cottage. I walked out of Provincetown with 150 pages. I'd get up, read a passage out of Twyla Tharp's book on creativity, have breakfast and start up by 8:30, go strong til 4:30 and then get on the bike. At night I'd read Italo Calvino or James Baldwin. I was reading "Invisible Cities," 600-word bursts of images of these fictional cities. It was the furthest thing from what I was writing about but exactly what I needed at that point
What does a setting have to do with the writing? Is it just the quiet?
There was stuff in the house, like a Jaune "Quick-to-See" Smith piece downstairs, and a lot of other art, so there would be all these different types of sparks. You don't do it 100-percent consciously, but you surround yourself. At home I have my room, my records and music. It's all there; I just have to open a cabinet door and there are these visual cues. You just want to have those kinds of things to be able to light you up and get you going or help you get out of a writing cul de sac.
What effect do you hope to have on the reader with this book?
I would hope that people get to a point where they say, "Yeah, why do we have this strange paradox where I feel like I may be closer to you because I can see a TV show or read a book about you now, and yet, I still don't want to live next to you?"
Can we have a more open conversation about that? At this particular point, it's heartbreaking for those of us who were young and in the streets in our 20s, half a lifetime later, seeing that the students are still asking for the same kinds of things we were. And things haven't gotten much better. Anyone with our background in trying to change the world, you want a person to leave with not just empathy, but with the feeling that they want to go out and change the world afterwards.
Colorlines - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:32
Oscar de la Renta died on Monday. The 82-year-old designer, who was born in the Dominican Republic, was an icon of global fashion, holding an especially special place in American fashion.
In this video from the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, de la Renta talks about dressing Hillary Clinton and playing an instrumental role in helping her land her first Vogue cover.
Colorlines - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 07:12
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- Oscar Pistorius is sentenced to five years for killing Reeva Steenkamp.
- Total CEO Christophe de Margerie dies in a crash in his private plane at Moscow's airport; he was in Russia to further expand his oil empire.
- The CDC finally issues new Ebola protective gear guidelines for healthcare workers that state what seems obvious, like covering up so that no skin is exposed.
- A former Marine convicted of sexual assault confesses to killing seven women; investigators believe Darren Vann may have killed even more women.
- China posts its slowest growth in five years (although at 7.3 percent, I'm still trying to figure out why that's so alarming).
- Apple Pay is here.
- "Saturday Night Live" welcomes Leslie Jones.
- A cell transplant helps a man with a severe spinal cord injury walk again.
- It's getting hot in here: 2014 may turn out to be the warmest year ever recorded.
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 13:20
Sudanese-born, Brooklyn-based singer Alsarah and her band The Nubatones have already gained a good amount of critical acclaim in the United States. Alsarah’s previous album “Aljawal” with French producer Débruit earned a spot on NPR’s list of 10 Favorite World Music Albums of 2013 with a sound that’s been described as “East African retro pop.“
But it’s impossible to talk about East African music without touching on the violence that’s torn the region apart for decades. Earlier this year, Alsarah & The Nubatones released ”Silt,” an album has its musical roots in the Nubian “Songs of Return” after mass displacement and resettlement due to political conflicts and flooding. Now, they’re releasing “Silt Remixed” on October 21. Here’s the world debut of the video for the track “Habibi Taal.”
In an email to Colorlines, Alsarah had this to say about the new version of the song:
This is a traditional song from Central Sudan that is a part of the women’s musical tradition, Aghani Albanat, performed at weddings and other social gatherings. Traditionally these songs are written and performed by women and are one of the few spaces that allow women to publicly express their feelings towards a romantic interest. And so, they have a tendency to be very simple flirty love songs with the sole purpose of making you dance. I think its very important to honor the simplicity of these lyrics and these songs because they express an important section of Sudanese society that is often ignored by practitioners of ‘high brow art’ (which tends to be arab, male, and muslim-centered) deeming it artistically lacking.
The release is out on October 21 and will be available for purchase on Bandcamp.
Translation of the lyrics:My love come lets be one so long as love has mixed in with the blood, where is the fault, how could they blame me oh my love my love is like mangos and apples, my love is honey, all else are bland my love is honey, all else are bland I would migrate just to be with you oh my love I will wait for you by the sea where the birds have migrated and traveled to that place where the birds have migrated and traveled to are you from here, or from Saturn oh my love my love come lets quench our longing and live up high in the sky-towers of london lets live up high in the sky-towers of london for the sake of love and decorum oh my love I’ll wait for you on Elgash road my love is gold, the others are copper my love is gold, the others are copper love should be like this or not at all love should be like this or not at all love should be like this or not at all love should be like this or not at all
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 13:16
Funny man Hari Kondabolu took on the R-word controversy with a new satirical video. He swaps out the logo of Washington, D.C.'s pro football team from an indigenous man's head to a severely burned white person. Kondabolu even asked for submissions from the internet and posted them on Tumblr. In an email, he told Colorlines: "My logic is that if human decency won't lead to them to changing it, then perhaps some creative public mockery will, at least, devalue the brand!"
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 12:19
Latinos are already remaking U.S. demography, but their impact on elections is still up for debate. In Georgia, demographic shifts, combined with Latino voters' perennial disappointment over immigration reform, make for a unique race this fall. A key question, as in other recent elections, is whether Latinos will express their frustration by staying home. Such a move would hurt Democrats more so than Republicans, who in 2010 sought to capitalize on this tension by airing a political ad urging Latinos to stay home from the polls.
Los Angeles Times' Mark Barabak reports on the issues at play in the countdown to these midterms:
Latinos have been among the biggest beneficiaries of the new federal healthcare law and Velez, a Democrat, considers it a good thing Obama has done. But it was just one thing -- and a small one at that -- compared with the immigration issue, [Eddie] Velez said. "Everything that was promised didn't happen," said the round-cheeked 33-year-old, who may skip next month's election, figuring it won't make much difference who wins. "Nothing has changed."
In many ways Georgia offers both a reflection of the past and a window into the future of Latinos' growing political clout.
The Latino population has increased from less than 1% of Georgia's 4.6 million residents in 1970 to more than 9% of the state's nearly 10 million residents today.
Eventually, Latinos, Asian Americans -- also Democratic-leaning and rapidly growing in number -- and the state's historically large black population are expected to turn Georgia from solidly Republican into a swing state. "Republicans are just going to run out of white voters," said Charles Bullock, a demographics and political expert at the University of Georgia.
But will Latinos refuse to vote this year to send a political message to Democrats not to take them for granted? In recent years, the threat that Latinos, whose midterm election turnout indeed dips between presidential elections, will stay home on Election Day has become as common a refrain as promises of immigration reform made and left unfulfilled.
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:45
In 1943 at the height of World War II, a West Coast union threatened to send 40,000 of its members on strike if the Kaiser shipyards in Portland didn't "revoke the promotions 'of eight New York Negroes' classified as skilled workers."
Think about that for a minute, the scale of mobilization threated by white workers, during war, in order to stop eight skilled Negroes from earning the same or similar benefits for their families, as their white peers. Now that same union, the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers is more than half people of color, according to the Contra Costa Times, and it's beginning to acknowledge its past with an award this September for unrecognized "Home Front support" to 94-year-old Betty Reid Soskin who is African-American. The gesture surprised Soskin--and it's perhaps one example of the honest tackling of racism within union ranks that national labor leader Richard Trumka called for after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. But is an award enough? What does it mean for labor, for working class people, to not only acknowledge but to also reconcile past on-the-job racism?
I'm curious about those "eight New York Negroes," for example, and the costs borne by their families. Whatever happened to them? What was the monetary cost borne by the growing community of migrants, many fleeing the Jim Crow South and finding equal work for less pay, benefits and exclusion from collective bargaining?
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 11:31
In a terrific post over at NACLA, Melissa M. Valle breaks down the perennial problem of non-black Latinos’ refusal to acknowledge race—both in Latin America as well as in the U.S.:
Bring up racism amongst those from Latin America and you’ll often get an exasperated groan, followed by something about how class is the predominate stratifying principle in Latin America, and a plea to stop applying your U.S.-based take on race to those in Latin America and the Caribbean. They may even throw in a “we’re all mixed” or “what is race?” rejoinder for good measure.
Valle, a doctoral student at Colombia University, highlights the upcoming afrolatin@ forum taking place in New York next week, where panels will tackle everything from media to immigration and more. The program also includes a book presentation of Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America, described as “a richly revealing analysis of contemporary attitudes toward ethnicity and race in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, four of Latin America’s most populous nations.” The presentation takes place the evening of Tuesday, October 21.
In her essay, Valle wonders about what disproportionate discrimination also means for black Latinos here in the states:
In the United States, less than 3% of all Latin@s identify as racially Black. What does this mean for access to resources determined by numerical representations for millions of Latinos and Latinas of African descent?
You can read Valle’s full post over at NACLA.
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 10:03
It's been less than a week since Misty Upham's body was found at the bottom of a steep cliff in Washington state. The 32-year-old actress, who was Native American and a member of the Blackfeet Nation, was known for her recent roles in popular films like "August: Osage County" and "Django Unchained," but also made her mark in memorable performances in "Frozen River" and "Jimmy P: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian."
Upham's family reported her missing on October 6 and at first feared that she had committed suicide after a change in her medication for anxiety and bipolar disorder. After her body was found on October 16 by a search party made up of family and friends, those closest to the actress said publicly that they believe that she died accidently while trying to hide from police, who didn't do enough when alerted that she was missing and was possibly in danger due to her illness. According to them, she had good reason to hide. In a statement posted on Facebook last Friday, family members recounted disturbing details about a previous run-in with local cops:
Misty was afraid of the Auburn PD officiers [sic] with good reason. In an incident prior to her disappearance, the Auburn PD came to pick up Misty on an involuntary transport to the ER. She was cuffed and placed in a police car. Some of the officiers [sic] began to taunt and tease her while she was in the car. Because it was dark they couldn't see that we, her family, were outside our apartment just across the street witnessing this behavior. They were tapping on the window making faces at her. Misty was crying and she told them
you can't treat me like this I'm a movie actress and I will use my connections to expose you. Then another officer walked up to her asked "are you a movie star?, then why don't complain to George Clooney!" After Misty arrived at the ER we went to see her and she has a swollen jaw, black eye and scratches and bruises on her shoulder. I asked the ER staff what happened and they said Misty was brought in like that. Misty said she couldn't remember what happened but thats why she feared the police.
Family friend and spokesperson Tracy Rector told the Washington Post that tension has been especially high between local police officers and Native Americans near where Upham's body was found, on tribal land near Aubrun, Washington that's interspersed with areas under the jurisdiction of local authorities.
"The family pleaded for the police department to look for her; they pleaded for dogs," Rector said in an interview with The Post on Friday. Long-standing tensions between police and Native Americans on the Muckleshoot Reservation might have played a role, Rector said.
"Unfortunately, it feels like 1950?s racism in many ways," said Rector, a Seattle-based filmmaker. "The family is concerned that Misty was considered just another Native person and treated as such. Even that is unacceptable. Native lives matter. It doesn't matter what her skin color was."
It's a shocking and mysterious end to a remarkable young life. Just after her critically acclaimed performance alongside Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County" earned her a Screen Actor's Guild Award Nomination, Upham wrote about the day she got the role that would change her life in an essay for The Daily Beast.
At the time when I received that life-changing phone call, I was paying my bills as a housecleaner...That's what I hoped to convey when I landed the role of Johnna in August: Osage County, a young Native American woman who answers an ad for a housekeeper and caregiver for Violet Weston, a troubled matriarch played by Meryl Streep. I wanted to bring the humanity and dignity of this woman to the big screen.
In the interview below, Upham talks about being on set of the film and getting to "believe in the magic."
Her family has set up a crowdsourcing page to help raise funds for her memorial.
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 08:10
Why do people of Asian descent make up 34 percent of Facebook's technical staff but only 19 percent of the company's leaders? At Yahoo! the discrepancy is larger--Asians comprise 57 percent of the company's technical staff but just 17 percent of its leadership. And why are 60 percent of LinkedIn's technical employees Asian but only 28 percent of its leaders Asian?
Despite considerable effort from Time magazine's Jack Linshi, his article "The Real Problem When It Comes to Diversity and Asian-Americans" doesn't do much to sort that out.
Linshi's article, which appeared online on October 14, seeks to explore a real employment issue--the seemingly invisible barriers that stifle Asians' advancement into upper tiers of corporate life. But instead of investigating the matter directly, he trips over broad generalities about Asians and Asian-Americans and reproduces the confusion that so many journalists display when attempting to discuss Asian-Americans. In the absence of testimony from tech executives, hiring managers and people who've been stifled by the so-called bamboo ceiling, Linshi attempts to explain its role in the Asian tech worker-executive gap by relying on a simplistic reading of tech sector statistics and more damaging misinterpretations of the model minority stereotype and affirmative action.
Linshi opens his article referencing his own publication's now-infamous 1987 cover story announcing the arrival of Asian-American "whiz kids." That cover image is often used as Exhibit A in discussions of the prevalence of the model minority stereotype, which portrays Asian-Americans as uniformly hard-working and high-achieving nerds who need little in the way of support, academic, professional or otherwise. Linshi's 2014 update is ostensibly about the lasting power of that myth and its impact on perceptions of Asian-Americans in the tech industry, but he only ever lays the two phenomena side by side, implying rather than substantiating a causal relationship. Ultimately he extends Time's nearly three decade-long streak of getting it sloppily wrong about Asian-Americans.
He sets up his argument with a powerful quote from Virginia Kee: "If you try to navigate the human part of it, we are seeing, as yellow people, our stereotypes still existing in the heads of many people. We don't get the chance to really go through and break the glass ceiling." But Kee is not a tech-sector worker, and neither does Linshi describe her as someone who was snubbed for an executive promotion. She is an 83-year-old founder of a New York City Chinese-American social services agency and a former high school teacher whose distinguishing characteristic, in Linshi's eyes, is that she was featured in Time's "Whiz Kids" cover story. Linshi's first mistake was in looking to a reviled 27-year-old story as a reporting map and going no further than those sources.
Linshi uses as his hook tech companies' slow summer reveal of their staff demographics. The headline-grabbers were the sector's uneven gender and racial demographics: for example, just 17 percent of Google's technical staffers are women, 2 percent are black, and 3 percent are Latino. (For a point of reference, blacks are 13.2 percent of the U.S. population, and Latinos 17.1 percent. Women are 50.8 percent.) According to Linshi, the ensuing public conversation ignored what he calls "the discrepancy between the high percentage of Asian tech employees and the disproportionately low percentage of Asian leaders."
Linshi's right about the discrepancy and that relative lack of discussion. But he interprets the "silence" as "say[ing] this: Asians and Asian-Americans are smart and successful, so hiring or promoting them does not count as encouraging diversity. It says: there is no such thing as underrepresentation of Asians and Asian-Americans."
It's a provocative point. But he doesn't fill that silence with meaningful context or stories of actual tech-sector workers' personal experiences. Instead, Linshi posits that this modern-day exclusion of Asians from the diversity discourse fits in with a history of negligence beginning in 1965, when the nation functionally repealed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the first federal law to exclude immigration on the basis of race.
I'd argue something a little different. People who shape the dominant political narrative in this country--politicians, pundits, media--have little use for substantive conversation about any group of non-white people unless it's to uphold, in stark terms, notions of black inferiority and white supremacy. To that end, Asians have actually been the subject of quite a lot of public fascination, mainly as props used to denigrate blacks and Latinos and programs designed to support them and other people of color--including segments of the Asian-American population. All too often, Asians are willing to play along.
Let's take a look at just the last few years. Abigail Fisher, the white plaintiff who sought to challenge the University of Texas' race-conscious admissions policies in 2012, peppered her Supreme Court brief with nearly two dozen mentions of Asian-Americans to attempt to show that people of color are hurt by affirmative action, Reuters reported. In 2011, and then again this year, Amy Chua brought hard-ass Asian parenting and bigoted beliefs of inherent Asian superiority to the fore with two books. Both were New York Times bestsellers and the topic of quite a bit of public conversation. (If only a belief in one's cultural supremacy were enough to eradicate racism.) When the Pew Research Center released its comprehensive report on Asian-Americans in 2012, it borrowed Chua's invented "tiger parenting" phrasing to paint a portrait of Asians in the U.S. as overwhelmingly happy, hard-working, well-educated and high-achieving. Never mind that that's not the reality.
Linshi's outlook fits in among these examples. Asian-Americans are being punished for, in Linshi's words, their own "visible success, with numbers to prove it." The model minority stereotype's stronghold on the public imagination "began to mean [Asians] should be excluded from inclusionary practices like affirmative action. More severely, Asian-Americans were seen as a hindrance to diversity," Linshi writes. So much so that in 1987, Yat-Pang Au's parents filed a complaint with the Department of Justice charging that affirmative action policies at U.C. Berkeley discriminated against their son. Two years later, Au got in. Today, he is the CEO of a San Francisco-based investment company. Still, Linshi uses Au's claim of victimhood, and in the process reveals the deepest weakness of his article. He opines about the lack of fair representation even as he argues against affirmative action.
Linshi can be forgiven for confusing affirmative action for a diversity promotion mechanism. After all, the legal debate has constrained the vocabulary affirmative action proponents can use to defend race-conscious admissions. Affirmative action, which was conceived as a small and imperfect Band-Aid to rectify the enduring legacy of racism, is today spoken of, even by its advocates, as a program that will promote diversity and therefore enrich the educational experiences of white students on campus. What Linshi misses, though, is that Asian-Americans have benefitted from affirmative action in public contracting, employment and education. To this day, some Asian-Americans--namely people of Cambodian, Laotian and Hmong descent, who have some of the lowest college-going rates in the nation--need and would benefit from affirmative action.
"Today, it appears that Asians and Asian-Americans still pose a threat to diversity," Linshi writes, adding, "The previous year, an Associated Press article reported that many Asian-Americans were no longer checking off the 'Asian' box on college applications, in order to circumvent unspoken quotas at top colleges. Their threat to diversity is so convincing that Asians and Asian-Americans have begun to offer what is, at its core, an inadvertent apology." Withholding information about your race on college applications is not an apology, it's a racial calculus in the cutthroat, zero-sum game of elite higher education admissions.
Asian-Americans are only a "threat" to diversity in a world where we forget that white supremacy and anti-blackness are twin founding values of this nation that continue to be the central organizing principles of life in contemporary America. Asian-Americans are subjected to the model minority myth, and yet also reap the social, cultural and economic benefits of not being seen as black.
According to Linshi, Asians no longer count when tallying up who's being left behind in the current tech industry boom. But he doesn't make a convincing case that they've ever been left behind--or at least, not in the way he says they are. What seems to be true across the board for the tech companies that shared their demographic data is that Asians make up large percentages of tech workers, but make up smaller portions of those in leadership ranks (though we can't know about Cisco--as they only bother to publicly classify their employees as white and "other").
Yet Asians happen to have an outsized presence in the tech industry compared to their presence in the country. At Google, for example, Asians make up 34 percent of the company's technical positions and 23 percent of its leadership. Asian-Americans, the fastest growing racial group in the U.S., are 5.3 percent of the U.S. population. What's more, Asians make up a larger portion of technical sector workers (from 23 percent at Apple to 60 percent at LinkedIn) compared to even their representation among the ranks of those awarded computer science degrees from U.S. institutions. According to the 2012-2013 Computer Research Association Taulbee Survey (PDF), 18.4 percent of those who graduated with computer science degrees in 2012 were of Asian descent.
What Linshi doesn't explore is that company statistics lump together Asian-Americans and H-1B holders, highly skilled foreign workers recruited for three- to six-year visas. As Jeff Yang wrote for CNN earlier this year, more than 40 percent of H-1B visa holders are Asian, and the bulk of these visas serve the tech industry. Those demographics could go some way toward explaining another issue ripe for discussion--the Asian tech wage gap. As Lakshmi Gandhi reported for NBC, Asian tech workers made $8,146 less than white tech workers in 2012, and $3,656 less than black tech workers.
In other words, it's plenty complex, but Linshi is too busy being angry at the "diversity" conversation to make it that far. Linshi explains the model minority stereotype capably but ends up buying into it, frowning that, in his mind, Asians are not yet seeing the dividends of "Asian success."
In the end, Linshi's article reads more like an extended whine for Asian-Americans who've bought into model minority-buttressed myths of white supremacy but wake up from entitled slumber surprised to find themselves stifled by it.
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:21
"Dear White People" grossed $344,136 at the box office this weekend. Amid all the chatter about the film's national debut at 11 theaters around the country, there's this interesting tidbit from Indiewire:
"We created an event with 'Dear White People' via continuous social media engagement, complemented with traditional PR and college outreach that attracted a young and diverse audience to theaters," Roadside's Howard Cohen said. "Exit polls showed 77% of the audience was in the 21 to 39 age range, with 29% between the ages of 21 to 24 -- younger than the typical specialty-film audience."
The film is based on the experience of college students and has a plot that's literally ripped from any number of race-fueled campus headlines in recent years, so the fact that it attracted younger viewers is no surprise. It expands to 350 theaters in the top 75 markets on October 24th. Stay tuned for more.
Colorlines - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 07:03
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- Suspected Nazi war criminals have been collecting millions in social security benefits.
- The U.S. military airdrops weapons to Kurdish fighters near Kobane; Turkey is now allowing Iraqi Kurds to cross the Syrian border to fight IS.
- Hong Kong's C.Y. Leung essentially blames outside agitators for pro-democracy protests.
- With the death toll at 38, Nepal concludes its search for additional victims from a series of avalanches and blizzards in the Himalayas.
- Obama clears his schedule for the week to deal with Ebola; urgent care clinics, meanwhile, are urging potential Ebola patients to go to hospitals instead of clinics.
- An unidentified man carries another one out of a burning home in Fresno, California.
- For $200, you can say hello to the Amazon Kindle Voyage.
- Two women protesting the death of Michael Brown are arrested after clashes outside of a St. Louis Rams game.
- The grossest episode of The Walking Dead yet airs (warning: spoilers!).
- Women are more likely to develop depression and anxiety following a heart attack than men.
- Have you seen the puppy-sized spider observed in Guyana yet? It's so big that the etymologist that stumbled upon it first thought it was a possum.
Colorlines - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 17:11
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, with his penchant for hardline anti-immigration policy and reputation for picking, and winning, fights against the invented bogeyman of voter fraud, is in an unexpectedly heated race for re-election against Democratic challenger and former state Sen. Jean Schodorf.
In a solidly Republican state, Kobach may still be in for electoral rebuke as voters tire of his political shenanigans, and sidelined moderate Republicans seek to regain control of their state, Politico reports. But it's a political antic and not Kobach's anti-immigration work or voter ID law crusade which really tested voters' patience, the Kansas City Star reported earlier this month. Kobach sought to keep a Democratic candidate for Senate on the ballot even after he'd withdrawn from the race, in a move which would have helped a fellow Republican contender.
That's not to say that Kobach's policies haven't had a lasting impact on the national policy landscape. Kobach, an architect of Arizona's SB 1070, also has served as counsel for the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform. Kobach also successfully pushed for a Kansas voter ID bill which requres not just proof of identification but also of citizenship. The move kicked some 22,000 people off the voter rolls, critics have argued. Trip Gabriel reports for the New York Times:
"They moved too far to the right," said Marc White, a lawyer who came to a candidates' forum last week in Topeka, the state capital, where Mr. Kobach spoke. "We're a Republican state, don't get me wrong. But you're going to have a backlash to the more extreme policies."
Mr. White described trying to help a man in his 40s caught in limbo by Kansas' tough new voting law written by Mr. Kobach, which requires voters registering for the first time to document they are citizens. "This individual was born at home in Mississippi and is having a very difficult time obtaining records that would allow him to register," Mr. White said.
After polling neck and neck with his Democratic challenger earlier this fall, he latest poll out this week by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling give Kobach a six-point lead over Schodorf, Politico reports.
New America Media - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 01:30
RICHMOND, Calif. -- Manuel Martinez thought his future would follow the life of his father. When he was 17, he thought he’d work in construction after high school. Despite living in Richmond, Calif. since the age of one, Martinez... Edgardo Cervano-Soto http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
New America Media - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 00:25
LOS ANGELES--Until last spring, Tesfaldey Meshesha and his wife, who came to the United States from Ethiopia in 2008, used to be regulars at Hayim Tovim Adult Day Health Care center located in the heart of the Little Ethiopia along... Julian Do http://publisher.namx.org/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=view&blog_id=19&id=103
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@JamilSmith The distorted #media depiction of African American men & boys has real life consequences, again. #mediadiversity #Tremaine