Tuesday, October 16, 2012

anti-racist excess: the digest

1. Businessman arrested over 'anti-gypsy' email he did not even write: A businessman became the subject of a £12,000 police investigation after council officials accused him of being “offensive” to gypsies in an email he had not even written.

Maybe it's like an April Fools Day joke that I don't get because I'm not a local. But it appears to be real. The Daily Mail covered the story also.

I hope the gypsies get to keep their home. But I also hope someone changes the law that came into play there, because freedom of speech includes the freedom to be a rude idiot.

Brits may not have a constitutional right to free speech, but many of them do get the concept: We all have the right to be offensive.


2. First read NBC Cafeteria Celebrates Black History Month With Fried Chicken Special (Update)

Then read Cook defends fried chicken choice for Black History Month menu and play the video. The cook's a black woman. She came up with a menu of what's been called soul food.

Anti-racists, I realize this is hard for you to understand, but fried chicken is not racist.


3. MARTA "Yellow" Train Now "Gold": Atlanta Asian Community Pushed For Change:
The Metro Atlanta Regional Transit Authority, known as MARTA, announced the change Thursday. MARTA recently renamed its train lines with colors – yellow, red, blue and green.

The yellow line went to Doraville in the northeast suburbs, an area that has a large Asian population.
And the red line went to an American Indian village, the blue line went to a tree of Na'vi, and the green line went to Mars.

Dear anti-racists, the color yellow is not racist.

As you would expect, there's a Mixed reaction on MARTA's ‘yellow line' rebranding.
"What difference does it make if it's yellow, gold or black," said Gary Gung, noting that New York and other major cities use color coding to help commuters better navigate their transit systems. "Make the issue about the economy or something else more important."
Kenny Wong, manager of the Hair Capital salon, said such racial issues tend to be overly scrutinized in America.

"I heard about [the controversy]," Wong said. "It doesn't matter to me. Only racial people think about things like this."

His friend, John Nguyen, owner of Saigon Deli, took a different approach. "I don't consider myself yellow. I'm gold," he said, smiling.


4. Russian Ice Skaters 'Aboriginal-Themed' Dance Controversy:
Russia's Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin Aboriginal-themed costumes and dance stirred controversy during the Vancouver Winter Olympics Feb. 21, 2010. Australian media cited aboriginal leaders as complaining that the routine contained inauthentic steps and showy costumes. "It's very offensive," Sol Bellear of the New South Wales state Aboriginal Land Council said. "We see it as stealing Aboriginal culture and it is yet another example of the Aboriginal people of Australia being exploited." Their coach, Natalia Linichuk, responded to the accusations, saying, "Aboriginal, it translates from Latin language, it's from the beginning. We try to represent a picture of this time when Aboriginal people start being in the world. It's no customs, no country, nothing." (Reuters)
Why are people who complain about cultural appropriation so quick to impose their concepts of racism on other cultures?


5. White Sorority zeta tau alpha wins Sprite Step Off.

Their victory provoked charges of racism and a change in the official result. I especially liked this comment atYouTube - White Sorority zeta tau alpha wins Sprite Step Off!!!: "The only color is ego. We are all one."

'The bottom line was they didn't care if the girls were better or not, the people that were upset were saying white girls should not have won, period,' Antoine said. 'I think this is bigger than a step competition. Race relations in America still needs a lot of work,” he said.

Ironically, it was an attempt to foster unity that first brought Zeta Tau Alpha into stepping. The chapter at the University of Arkansas began participating 16 years ago in a Unity Step Show sponsored by the campus chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., an African-American sorority.� Through the years, the Zeta Tau Alpha teams learned a variety of steps as well as some history on the tradition of stepping, said Alexandra Kosmitis, a senior Zeta Tau Alpha who is a member of the current step team.
Even if Zeta Tau Alpha was best, I can't quibble with Sprite's solution: two teams got to win.

The comments at youtube are interesting. There are people who say they're black who say this team deserved their victory. And yet, it may've also been dancing bear syndrome--not that this team won because they're white and therefore better, but that they won because expectations were so low for a white team.


6. Students Kicked Off Campus for Wearing American Flag Tees on Cinco de Mayo.

Yeah, the kids were probably being assholes, but freedom of speech has to include the freedom to be a jingoistic jerk.


7. History is racist!

And now, the antiracist community is upset because a TV show is focusing on history they don't know about rather than history they already know about: racebending: I'm like, 'Where are the Chinese?'. All communities like having their preconceptions validated.

I get why they want more stories about the Chinese in America. I'm as frustrated as anyone that Hollywood ignores working folk of all hues. I hate the tendency to cast white folks wherever possible--I want to visit the universe where Bruce Lee got to be the star of the Kung Fu TV show.

But, to use identitarian terminology, why are they playing oppression olympics?

This is yet another example of identitarians being unable to engage with class issues. They have a vision of the 19th century that Hollywood created for them: all black folks were slaves, the railroads were built by Chinese laborers, women were either farmwives or whores... They are as fond of old Hollywood mythic history as any racist who rants about revisionist historians.

 Someone could as easily argue that people who want to focus on the Chinese crews want to "erase" the Plains Indians. Picking any point to tell the story is going to leave out someone initially. While I would've used a Chinese crew because I've always loved stories about the Chinese in the Old West, I can see an argument for choosing a setting that's not as well known and for making the story move from east to west, a direction that's symbolically very powerful.


8. From Phillip Roth's An Open Letter to Wikipedia About Anatole Broyard and "The Human Stain":
“The Human Stain” was inspired, rather, by an unhappy event in the life of my late friend Melvin Tumin, professor of sociology at Princeton for some thirty years. One day in the fall of 1985, while Mel, who was meticulous in all things large and small, was meticulously taking the roll in a sociology class, he noted that two of his students had as yet not attended a single class session or attempted to meet with him to explain their failure to appear, though it was by then the middle of the semester.

Having finished taking the roll, Mel queried the class about these two students whom he had never met. “Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?”—unfortunately, the very words that Coleman Silk, the protagonist of “The Human Stain,” asks of his classics class at Athena College in Massachusetts.

Almost immediately Mel was summoned by university authorities to justify his use of the word “spooks,” since the two missing students, as it happened, were both African-American, and “spooks” at one time in America was a pejorative designation for blacks, spoken venom milder than “nigger” but intentionally degrading nonetheless. A witch hunt ensued during the following months from which Professor Tumin—rather like Professor Silk in “The Human Stain”—emerged blameless but only after he had to provide a number of lengthy depositions declaring himself innocent of the charge of hate speech.

A myriad of ironies, comical and grave, abounded, as Mel had first come to nationwide prominence among sociologists, urban organizers, civil-rights activists, and liberal politicians with the 1959 publication of his groundbreaking sociological study “Desegregation: Resistance and Readiness,” and then, in 1967, with “Social Stratification: The Forms and Functions of Inequality,” which soon became a standard sociological text. Moreover, before coming to Princeton, he had been director of the Mayor’s Commission on Race Relations, in Detroit. Upon his death, in 1995, the headline above his New York Times obituary read “MELVIN M. TUMIN, 75, SPECIALIST IN RACE RELATIONS.”

But none of these credentials counted for much when the powers of the moment sought to take down Professor Tumin from his high academic post for no reason at all, much as Professor Silk is taken down in “The Human Stain.”