Updated: 2 hours 8 min ago
Tue, 10/28/2014 - 10:42
This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a suite of articles examining an enduring phenomena of academia: the dearth of black men in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Far from being a great mystery, the troublingly low numbers of black men in science and math fields is a well-tracked, if entrenched, issue. In 1992, black men received 138 of the more than 11,000 STEM doctorate degrees awarded in the U.S. In 2012, they were only 334 of 16,545 STEM doctorate degree graduates, The Chronicle of Higher Ed reported.
Stacey Patton, writing for The Chronicle, tracks some of the myriad contributing factors, as well as experts' frustration with the undertones of the discourse:
Among the factors are academic and cultural isolation, the difficulty of performing in the face of negative stereotypes and low expectations among faculty members, a lack of mentors of color and friendship networks, concerns about financial debt, inadequate advising and emotional support during times of stress, and lack of exposure to hands-on research.
Some scholars have also argued, in reports and academic journals over the years, that the movement to broaden minority participation has tended to focus more on "fixing" the black male student than on addressing the structural and institutional forces that undermine his academic achievement and sense of belonging on campus.
The numbers have improved over the years, but are still a long way off from parity with blacks' representation in the U.S. population. In 1992, 4 percent of those who earned doctorate degrees science and engineering were black, and 3 percent were Latino, according to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. In 2012, blacks made up 6 percent of those who received science or engineering doctorate degrees, while Latinos made up 7 percent.
Head to the Chronicle of Higher Ed for their suite of articles on the topic.
Tue, 10/28/2014 - 10:23
Tanzina Vega and Channon Hodge of the New York Times launched a new video series today called, "Off Color." It takes a look at how some today's hottest comedians of color use race in their material. In Hari Kondabolu's words, "It's incredible how we recycle pain and turn it into laughter." He's featured in the new series, along with Kristina Wong, Issa Rae and Lalo Alcaraz.* Check out their interviews below.
*Post has been updated to correct spelling of Lalo Alcaraz's surname.
Tue, 10/28/2014 - 07:50
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson really isn't moved by this newfound fascination with whether he's "not black enough." Amid reports of locker room strife and alleged complaints from other black teammates that put his racial identity into question, Wilson told reporters:
"I think it was people trying to find ways to knock us down, but we just keep swinging and keep believing in each other. We keep believing in the people that we have in the room and we keep believing in the coaching staff. We keep believing in our fans, we keep believing in each other and there is no doubt that we are together. There is no doubt that we are more together than ever before.
"And so, in terms of me, the 'not black enough' thing I think you are talking about, I don't even know what that means. I don't know. I believe that I am an educated, young male that is not perfect. That tries to do things right, that just tries to lead and tries to help others and tries to wins games for this football team, for this franchise. And that's all I focus on."
That didn't stop NBA legend and current sports analyst Charles Barkley from blaming black folks in an interview on Philadelphia radio. "For some reason we are brainwashed to think, if you're not a thug or an idiot, you're not black enough. If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligent, and don't break the law, you're not a good black person. It's a dirty, dark secret in the black community."
But as Gina Torres writes at For Harriet, "there is no single definition of 'black people.' Torres continues:
"Black people--including African-Americans and other descendants of the African Diaspora--are not a monolith. We are all shaped by our various experiences, socioeconomic backgrounds, and geographical location. But given the fact that mainstream society often uses the behavior of one Black person to represent us all, Barkley's broad generalization is extremely myopic and disappointing. His statements allow for non-Black people to sign off on this highly problematic sentiment."
Whenever a premiere NFL team hits a rough patch and loses a couple of games, there's talk of trouble in the locker room. Obviously, this attack on Wilson seems deeply personal, but chances are, if his team keeps winning, the talk will die down significantly.
Tue, 10/28/2014 - 07:09
Here's what I'm reading up on this morning:
- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defends the mandatory quarantine of Kaci Hickox, a nurse suspected of having been infected with Ebola.
- The second Dallas-area nurse infected with Ebola is now free of the virus.
- Authorities in Mexico arrest four people suspected of abducting and likely killing 43 students--but not the local mayor who allegedly ordered the hit.
- Fuel prices--along with pretty much everything else--are skyrocketing in Syria.
- Meanwhile, British war photographer and IS hostage John Cantlie is now the apparent new face of a new IS propaganda video.
- Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano threatens to destroy homes as smoke starts to take its toll on local residents.
- Alibaba founder, and one of China's richest men, Jack Ma says he doesn't actually shop online.
- Are you ready to pay to subscribe to YouTube?
- The rate of babies born with symptoms on the spectrum of fetal alcohol symptom disorder in the U.S. is much higher than expected, at up to nearly 5 percent of all births.
- Global warming also makes it colder and snowier in the winter.
Tue, 10/28/2014 - 07:03
Fast food workers in Denmark earn a minimum of $20-an-hour. Meanwhile, in the U.S., fast food workers earn on average $8.90-an-hour and roughly half rely on some form of public assistance. The provocative comparative analysis in yesterday's New York Times drives home the difference through the choices available to two Burger King employees, 24-year-old Dane, Hampus Elofsson and 26-year-old Floridian, Anthony Moore.
At the end of a typical week, Elofsson still has spending money:
On a recent afternoon, [he] ended his 40-hour workweek at a Burger King and prepared for a movie and beer with friends. He had paid his rent and all his bills, stashed away some savings, yet still had money for nights out.
Across the pond, Moore, a shift manager and single father of two earns $9-an-hour and regularly falls behind in lighting and water bills. He receives food stamps and Medicaid for his daughters. He is uninsured.
Of course there are significant differences between the United States and Denmark, not least the cost of living, universal healthcare and collective bargaining. Read more to understand the differences at The New York Times.
Mon, 10/27/2014 - 11:58
Okayplayer TV caught up with Erykah Badu after a recent performance with Childish Gambino at Berkeley's Greek Theater. She talks about intergenerational artistry, calling Gambino one of her "frequency heroes." Watch the full interview below.
Mon, 10/27/2014 - 11:41
Born in Palestine and raised in Toronto, singer Merna made a name for herself by creating music for other artists including DJ Jazzy Jeff and James Poyser of The Roots. But now, she's breaking out on her own with a new album, "The Calling."
"Musically, I always aim to break my own ground and delve a little more into my history and things that I've been influenced by," the singer said in a press release. "For example, there are sounds and rhythms on this album that are African and Arab inspired. Not a lot of people know that my first ever band in Abu Dhabi was a rock band, and that I'm classically trained in piano."
Below, check out live performance of the song's lead single, "A Little More," which was produced by Ali Shaheed Muhammad.
Mon, 10/27/2014 - 09:39
Long before Dropbox's tech bros invaded San Francisco's Mission District and made headlines for picking fights with neighborhood kids, legendary guitarist Carlos Santana called the historic neighborhood home. Over the weekend, the city's art commission paid respect to one of its most beloved sons by unveiling a new spray-painted mural by fellow hometown artist Mel Waters at the corner of 19th and Mission. Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.
A photo posted by Mel (@melwaters) on Oct 10, 2014 at 1:13am PDT
Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:41
I went into "Dear White People" wanting to hate it, but I didn't. The film did exactly what it said it would do: parody the experiences of black students on a predominately white college campus. It was funny at times, heavy-handed at others, but overall, it was good. Was it a game-changing race film? No. Could it have done more to address more subtle forms of racism? Sure. But as A.O. Scott wrote at the New York Times,"everyone will see it a little differently." At the very least, "Dear White People" has introduced a young black filmmaker, Justin Simien, to a national audience and shown that he's got the talent to do even better work in the future.
But now, several days after seeing it, I can't get over how much the film centers on how black characters react to racism from their white counterparts. That's not surprising--the title, after all, is directed at white folks. But there's a way of talking about race in America that centers the experiences of white people that irks me.
Simien's story follows a group of black college students, but mostly one: Samantha White, a biracial campus activist and host of a radio show, "Dear White People," who is struggling to find her political identity. There's also the black, gay campus journalist, Lionel, who's fighting for a byline at the school's most prestigious paper; the black dean's son, Troy, who wants to join an exclusive and all-white campus club lead by the son of his father's rival; and there's Coco, the dark-skinned black girl who wears blue contacts and wants to catch the attention of a black reality TV show producer. Each character is reacting to a very specific level of white racism that ultimately shapes their lives. Their fates come together when a riot breaks out after a racist campus party.
(Spoiler alert) Sam eventually backs away from her Black Student Union activism, calls herself an anarchist, reconciles with her white dad and openly embraces her white boyfriend. Lionel starts his own campus newsletter while Troy uses the incident to run for student body president
There are some plot lines that might make you cringe, like Sam's irritating role as the tragic mulatto and the holier-than-thou Black Student Union member. But overall, Simien's film delivers a satirical look at college racism seemingly ripped from the headlines about incidents at USC, Santa Barbara or Ohio University.
That's to say, we know these stories well, and that's at least partially why Simien's debut effort has gotten so much mainstream attention. (He received a glowing review in the New York Times, a spot on "The Colbert Report" and Vogue coverage.) If we can't do much about racism, then we can at least laugh at it, right?
The white racism in "Dear White People" could've also been ripped from the headlines of my own predominately white alma mater, the Claremont Colleges. In 2003, in the fall of my freshman year, a string of high-profile racist incidents swept across the Claremont, California, grounds. A cross was burned on one end of campus. A car was vandalized on another. Local media pounced, the FBI investigated, and the administration held rallies at which professors of color gave speeches. The students of color on campus, especially the black ones, were rightfully angry, and there was never a time when I felt more exposed than I did then.
Within months, the FBI closed its case. The news cameras left. Reforms, like more campus resources for students of color, were enacted. We moved on.
I don't say that to mean that we in any way forgot about what happened or moved "past race." But reacting to white racism was not the focus of our experience. It may have been the bass line to our college days, but we made up the hooks. We supported one another in the way that students of color often do when they're totally outnumbered and coming into their political consciousness. There were no epic stances against racism per se; it was more individual. My closest friends, many of whom were black and members of our campus' Black Student Union, vented to one another about how few students of color there were in British Literature--and the fact that we had to take British Literature. When one of my best friends moved off campus to deal with a medical emergency, we helped. When another lost her brother because of a senseless dispute over a PlayStation, we went to the funeral. When one of us drove three hours to visit his brother in prison, we were there to meet him afterwards to hear about how much he missed his brother's laugh.
It's those stories that I'd like to see more of. Not the ones where we're being acted upon or reacting against, but those hugely important stories that don't make headlines. The ones about your best friend's certifiably non-existent game. The awkward sex stories. Or the tension that arises in a family when you finally "make it." It's the "Boomerangs" and "School Dazes" of today. Yes, it's important to name overt racism. But it's also important to name the ways that we thrive in spite of it.
Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:18
Over the weekend, some awful human beings decided to dress up like Ray Rice -- blackface paint and all -- and poke fun at his brutal assault on his then-fiance, Janay, that got him kicked out of the NFL. Here's one that appeared on TMZ:
October 26, 2014 October 26, 2014
Janay Rice, the woman at the center of the controversy, spoke out on Twitter:
.@TMZ it's sad, that my suffering amuses others-- Janay Rice (@JanayRice) October 22, 2014
Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:18
Mindy Kaling is a 35-year-old Indian-American writer and creator of the hit show "The Mindy Project." Malala Yousafzai is a 17-year-old Pakastani activist who just won a Nobel Peace Prize for championing girls' education. They're not the same person. But the New York Times unearthed an embarassing episode from this month's New Yorker Festival:
As she stood by the banquettes, a tipsy man in his 80s cornered her and showered her with compliments, apparently mistaking her for Malala Yousafzai. "Congratulations on your Nobel Prize," he said, before expressing wonder at how well she had recovered from Taliban gunshots.
Ms. Kaling was speechless. "Did he really think I'm Malala?" she said when he was safely out of sight. "And that if I were, I'd be at the Boom Boom Room?"
Still, she thought it was pretty funny: "That's the best thing that's happened all night."
But, you know, this sorta thing happens all the time. Casual racism -- guess there's not much to do but laugh it off, right?
Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:05
Here's what I'm reading up this lovely Monday morning:
- After essentially defying scientific wisdom, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo changes course on mandatory quarantines for Ebola health aid workers returning from West Africa.
- The nurse who was placed in a quarantine isolation tent, Kaci Hickox, now says that she's suing because her civil rights were violated.
- Speaking of civil rights violations, the family of Thomas Eric Duncan wonders why more wasn't done to save his life.
- Gia Soriano, who was shot by Jaylen Fryberg in a school rampage on Friday, has died.
- The captain who abandoned a sinking ferry in South Korea, leaving more than 300 people--mostly school kids--to die, may face the death penalty.
- Ukraine's pro-EU parties take the lead.
- Defense contractors are still making a pretty penny from a failed Army intelligence program.
- It was bad, or maybe it wasn't so bad, that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told women not to ask for raises--and Rick Smith mansplains why.
- #TaintedMeat trends after last night's episode of "The Walking Dead" (warning: spoilers!).
- A noninvasive home colon screening test debuts today.
Fri, 10/24/2014 - 13:55
Goya Foods, a mainstay on corner store and supermarket shelves in Latino neighborhoods in the U.S., is making a run for the rest of the country. In California, that means a brand new distribution center nearly four times the size of Goya's older, nearby center in the City of Industry, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The new facility is part of a $300 million expansion in California, Georgia and Texas as Goya, which sells some 2,400 products, prepares to jump from niche "ethnic" markets to a mainstream audience. With $1.2 billion in sales in 2012, Goya's already well-positioned to make that leap. Latino foods are expected to become a $10.7 billion yearly market by the year 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The growth of Goya tracks the huge growth of the Latino population in the U.S., as well as a longstanding appetite for Mexican and Latino food from American eaters. In California and New Mexico, Latinos are already the largest ethnic group--outnumbering whites in both states.
Not everyone's a fan of Goya though. Ubiquitous as they may be, "Using Goya products to cook Mexican cuisine is like making your Cuba Libre with Hornitos," Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly executive editor and author of "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America," once wrote in his syndicated column.
Fri, 10/24/2014 - 13:34
What if I told you that there is a policy change that is pretty much guaranteed to help low-income people of color struggling to get out of poverty, and that it has Democratic and Republican support even in today's super-polarized Congress? Sound too good to be true? Well that's what the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) expansion is. If we set aside the question of how to fund it, expansion has wide bipartisan backing, from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to President Barack Obama.
The EITC is a decades-old tax policy that essentially helps low-wage people who meet certain age and income requirements keep more of the money that they earn. Because it's a tax credit, EITC recipients can get back more money than they owed in taxes--almost like a bonus for being a low-wage worker. The EITC, which arrives as a lump sum, has been shown to help the low-income people who qualify for it significantly. For example, the EITC brought 6.5 million peoples' take-home pay above the poverty line in 2012. Often called a policy that "makes work pay," the EITC can mean the difference between working a full-time, minimum-wage job and still not making enough to survive.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) and its youth-focused offshoot, Generation Progress, recently released proposals arguing for the expansion of the EITC.
A major element of both proposals is raising the credit amount for childless workers. As Imara Jones reported last week, a childless person working full time and earning minimum wage is eligible only for up to $25 a year in EITC help. Raising the credit for childless workers could have a significant effect on black and Latino men, who are disproportionately likely to be working low-wage jobs without receiving much assistance from the EITC. Expansion would also help men who have kids but aren't the custodial parent to qualify for the credit.
As it stands now, childless workers must be at least 25 to access the EITC. Generation Progress and CAP both advocate for lowering the eligibility age to 18. (President Obama's plan would lower the age to 21.) The minimum age was originally designed to prevent college students--who are assumed to have parents who support them financially and claim them as dependents on their taxes--from receiving EITC funds. But both CAP and Generation Progress point out that the reasoning is outdated; the IRS today has the ability to determine the dependent status of students. Decreasing the minimum eligibility age would also mean that many of those who don't go to college--the majority of EITC recipients--don't have to work full-time for seven years before receiving the benefits. Generation Progress also argues that students who are low-income and without parent support should still benefit from the EITC.
Another group that stands to benefit from expansion is LGBT workers, who tend to have children at a later age than their non-LGBT counterparts. Almost half of non-LGBT people have a child before age 25. According to Generation Progress, "this means that childless LGBT [workers] ages 18 to 24, who experience high rates of poverty, miss out on one of the federal government's largest anti-poverty programs,"
CAP has an interesting idea about allowing EITC recipients to access a portion of their credit before tax time as a way to offset the use of predatory lending programs. Blacks and Latinos are more likely to use services such as payday loans when facing an emergency. According to a CAP report, 49 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 would not be able to come up with $2,000 in 30 days. For African-Americans, it's 50 percent; for Latinos it's 47.
While Republicans and Democrats alike support some level of EITC expansion there are two major points of difference. The first is how the expansion should be funded. Democratic proposals, including President Obama's, offset the costs by closing tax loopholes for corporations and high-earning individuals such as hedge-fund managers. Republican proposals, like those from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ryan, pay for the expansion by making cuts to other government programs such as the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
A second point of disagreement is about the relationship between the EITC and the minimum wage. While some conservatives argue that the tax credit is an adequate substitute for minimum-wage regulations, progressives, including CAP and Generation Progress, argue that EITC expansion needs to be coupled with minimum-wage increases.
If the predictions that Republicans will gain control of the Senate after next week's midterm elections pan out, President Obama may find himself faced with a tough decision: whether he should veto an EITC expansion funded by making cuts to other anti-poverty programs. Economic policies that work to the extent that the EITC does are unusual, and it's likely that both parties will want to extend this benefits to low-income workers in advance of the 2016 presidential election. At what cost remains to be seen, and will likely be just another move in the game of partisan chess.
Fri, 10/24/2014 - 11:54
Spike Lee directed a documentary on 13-year-old pitching phenom Mo'ne Davis for Chevrolet that gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the teenager's path to stardom at last summer's Little League World Series.
Fri, 10/24/2014 - 09:49
As leaks trickle out of Ferguson, Attorney General Eric Holder has warned the Justice Department that the "selective flow of information" being released to the public is "inappropriate and troubling," the Washington Post reports.
Last week it was Darren Wilson's version of events, first published by the New York Times. This week, a decontextualized autopsy. Both seem to bolster a case in favor of Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9.
Criminal justice experts have speculated that the leaks may be a strategic attempt to head off the inevitable outrage should a grand jury decide not to indict Wilson, AP reported. Wilson's attorneys say that they've had no hand in releasing information to the public while the grand jury deliberates.
A decision on whether to indict Wilson could come within the month, and Missouri police and activists alike are already preparing themselves for the outcome.
Fri, 10/24/2014 - 09:15
Halloween is just 10 days away--and so are the annual nightmares that come along with it.
Over at Native Appropriations, Adrienne Keene provides a roundup of several years' worth of posts about why it's a really bad idea to dress up like an Indian. (A bonus post explains what to do when your friend dresses up like an Indian, too!) If you're still not positive that you shouldn't dress up like an Indian, then this post is for you.
- Paris Hilton as a "Sexy Indian": The Halloween Fallout Begins
- We are not a costume
- Halloween Costume Shopping: A sampling of the racism for sale
- Open Letter to the PocaHotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween
- So you wanna be an Indian for Halloween?
- Open Letter to the Pocahotties: The annotated version
- So your friend dressed up as an Indian. Now what?
- The one stop for all your "Indian costumes are racist" needs!
And if the list seems like a little too much to read, here's Keene's wrap up:
Native peoples are a contemporary, LIVING group of people, not a costume. Seriously. Stop putting us in the same category as wizards and clowns. Don't believe me? Come to a Native event dressed like that, and see how many friends you make! Fun for everyone!
So, what are you dressing up as?
Fri, 10/24/2014 - 08:57
Lupe Fiasco is gearing up to release a new mixtape called "Lost in the Atlantic." He dropped the track "Haile Selassie" on Friday featuring singer Nikki Jean, who fans may remember from 2007's "Hip-Hop Saved My Life."
Fri, 10/24/2014 - 07:46
Culture critic and English professor Roxane Gay sat down with the Chicago Tribune's Christopher Borelli to talk about the whirlwind of a year she's had since publishing her first collection of essays, "Bad Feminist." Gay talks about the delicate line she walks between engaging online audiences and facing tons of racist and sexist harrassment.
White men don't receive the same level of (expletive) that women and people of color do online. They don't see the harassment. Of course they see a yes-man culture. They're not having their physical appearances -- "You're ugly," "You're fat" -- brought up. They are not even aware of the real world. It's adorable. Writing about literary culture, they seem to be protecting literary truth. They have good points: Critical rigor is important, what the Internet is doing to rigor is not small. I would just to like to see an awareness that others live in this world, that the subject is about more than a notion of literary integrity.
Fri, 10/24/2014 - 07:46
Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American executive director of the Arab American Association in New York City, has had plenty to do this past year. As Gaza burned, and the media drumbeat of ISIS grew ever louder, people in the U.S. were grieving and responding to a spate of police killings of black men, including Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Sarsour's longstanding work on law-enforcement accountability converged with her Arab-American civil rights work.
Two weeks ago, Sarsour joined a contingent of activists who traveled to Missouri to participate in Ferguson October and to speak with Arab and South Asian business owners in Ferguson. "We were thinking about what our role is as Arab-Americans and Muslims, as the children of immigrants or immigrants ourselves. What is our role in the larger conversation about race and racism in the U.S.?"
For the last decade Sarsour has been pushing for an end to racial profiling in law enforcement, primarily around domestic surveillance programs run by the federal government and the NYPD that target American Muslims. She says that has required Arab-American communities to "build solidarity with people and communities who have been impacted for decades by police brutality, by racial profiling, by stop-and-frisk and by broken windows policing."
November 15, in Dallas, Sarsour will break down racial injustice in the post-September 11 era at Facing Race, the biennial conference held by Colorlines' publisher, Race Forward. She spoke with Colorlines about how she spent her summer and the lessons and laughs she's taken away from young people on social media.
Can you talk about what you took away from your time participating in Ferguson October?
What I took away from Ferguson was that it's OK to be angry. That anger is not something we should be ashamed of when we are each working against injustice. Injustice is supposed to make us angry. And that anger can be productive and translated into systemic change. I was proud to be angry, which is something we're told not to be--angry Arab women or angry black women. But in Ferguson it felt good to be angry, and we were angry alongside people around us who also showed you love. It was something I never felt before in my life.
These young people in Ferguson are not waiting for national leaders to come in and tell them how to organize, when to sit in the streets, what to occupy, how to chant, or what their demands are. These are young people who taught me that I don't need anyone else to lead me or guide me, I'm going to do whatever feels right at that moment.
I remember this one moment at the end of the rally; I've had nightmares about it since. People had congregated in a park. There was a fountain in this park and the water was colored red because there was a Cardinals game, and their team's color is red. And right across the street was a historic building where they used to auction off slaves.
So there were these steps, and battles and blood. To think we were standing there talking about the murder of young black men across the country, and to think of Mike Brown laying in his blood for four hours while we were standing across from a place where slaves were auctioned off, it made me realize that history continues to repeat itself. Ferguson is teaching us that we can't keep doing the same thing expecting different results. It's time for radical organizing, and that's exactly what they were doing in Ferguson.
Can we talk about resistance elsewhere, too? This summer with the devastation in Gaza there were powerful protests in the U.S., and with ISIS dominating headlines, there's been really creative resistance from Arabs and Muslims here. Can you talk about what you've seen this summer and fall?
In July we were watching the massacres happening in Gaza, and people made a connection between Gaza and their water supply and Detroit and their water issues. People were connecting the dots with creative messaging, saying, "From Detroit to Gaza, water is a human right." We are here supporting people. These are people of color, poor, living in a densely populated piece of land who can't even get access to clean water, and we look across the world and have empathy for them. But right here in our own country in a place like Michigan, we have our own fellow Americans who are literally without running water in their apartments. We are a superpower, there should be no reason why any American should be without water.
Did you notice any other connections being made?
Remember Ferguson, when that paramilitary response was brought [to protests]? People in Gaza, who barely have Internet access, were tweeting at people in Ferguson telling them how to protect themselves from tear gas. Even without our intervention as Palestinian-Americans--I'm Palestinian-American and have family living in Gaza and the West Bank--ordinary people in Gaza in a war found the time to reach out to fellow human beings across the world. [They said] you are in resistance. We are in resistance. This is how you resist tear gas. Somebody better write a book about that because it's so magnificent and so inspiring.
And in Ferguson, I saw Palestinian flags being flown, not by Palestinians. It was young black kids who were chanting: "From Ferguson to Palestine, occupation is a crime." I was like, "What?" It was beautiful. It inspires people wherever you are, whether you are in Detroit, or L.A., or New York or a little city in Gaza, it inspires you to keep resisting knowing other people across the world are resisting.
Can we shift gears and talk about the cycle of Islamophobic fear-mongering, hate crimes, backlash and resistance? What part of the cycle are we in now?
Nothing that I saw post-September 11, [during] the first few weeks, months or even years is anything close to what I've seen in the past four years. Our community, and I'm talking about Arab, South Asian, and Muslim communities--unfortunately most Americans think we're the same thing--live in the most hostile civic environment that I've ever experienced in my life, and I'm 34 years old. My parents, who've been here for over 40 years, say the same thing.
We never saw mosque opposition. It's a new phenomena. We never heard of people trying to pass anti-Sharia bills, which would basically ban Muslims from practicing their faith fully. We've never seen people on TV equate terrorists with an entire faith group. We've never heard pundits say: "a bullet to their heads," that's the way we solve this problem.
For us, right now, there's so much external pressure on the community, not just from media or elected officials, [but] from external terrorist groups all the way across the world. It's gotten to the point where it's brought some of our leaders to their knees. [They] apologize for any horrific thing [that] anyone who's Muslim or says they're Muslim does in the name of Islam. What's different about this kind of heat is this doesn't happen in any other community. You will never, ever see a person from the Jewish community or Christian community or the Buddhist community--no one is ever put in a position where they have to apologize for every single person that supposedly is from their faith group who does something horrifying. So why is that? That's what hurts me the most, to see imams and leaders in our community who feel the necessity to continue to condemn, day in and day out things that have nothing to do with them, and have no association with them as American Muslims. And I think that is not sending a message of empowerment and encouragement to our young people, which scares me the most.
[Some of our] young people are like, "We can't even be proud of who we are because we have to worry about people saying they're Muslim like us, and we have to apologize for every Muslim who does something in the world. I just won't tell people I'm Muslim. How about if my name is Mohammad, but I just tell people I'm Mo or Mike and I'll be all right.
People say, "What are you talking about? Muslims aren't a race, you're a faith." And I'm like, duh, thank you. I kinda know that. But whether we like it or not, based on government policies, we've been racialized as a community. There are specific policies being implemented by the U.S. government and some law-enforcement agencies on the federal and local level targeting people who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim. So we have become a racialized community. Stop-and-frisk focuses on black and brown young people. Well, surveillance programs are focusing on Muslim communities in all of their diversity. And, I'd add that at least a quarter of our community is African-American Muslims. These people have to deal with issues that black communities already have to deal with, plus the additional layer of anti-Muslim hate preventing them from doing things like going to mosque and dressing traditionally.
Can you share your thoughts on a social media response to that, via #MuslimApologies and #Notinmyname?
Young Muslims on social media are the masters of using snarkiness and satire to make light of a situation that's actually pretty serious. #MuslimApologies was hilarious. And a few years ago, when it came out that the NYPD was spying on Muslims, we did one called #MyNYPDfile. We were reading secret documents in people's files and seeing nothing incriminating except for people going to mosque, hanging out in a bookstore or drinking coffee. So we started a hashtag where we asked people, "If there were a leaked file on you, what would it say?" It was hilarious and it was also powerful, because we were able to raise awareness.
What are you looking ahead to in your work?
It's really about integrating Arab-Americans and South Asian and Muslim communities within the larger work around combatting racism in the U.S. and continuing to see campaigns that are multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multi-sector. I think [that's] the only way we will win. I saw that already happen in New York City with police reform. I want to see that become the norm and not the exception.
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@JamilSmith The distorted #media depiction of African American men & boys has real life consequences, again. #mediadiversity #Tremaine