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Mixed Race America



Thoughts, musings, and observations about race in America, particularly the mixing of race--in all the ways you can imagine: people of various races interacting, people of various races not wanting to mix, issues of purity, hybridity, multiplicity, hetero



Updated: 2018-02-11T15:04:39.820-05:00

 



Barack Obama as our first Asian American President?: Part II

2013-03-31T14:58:40.509-04:00

So it's a bit longer than I anticipated, but here is Part II of my playful querying about whether Barack Obama can be considered our first Asian American president (click here for Part I). As I noted in Part I, I am not the first to make this speculation--both Rep. Mike Honda and Jeff Yang (during the 2008 elections) made note of the many Asian connections in Obama's biography and background (which I already elaborated on in the previous post). What I didn't mention in Part I was that their imagining of Obama as Asian American was riffing off of Toni Morrison's essay in The New Yorker in which she famously was quoted as saying:white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas This quote from Morrison got a lot of play during Obama's 2008 election since it was noted, many times, that Bill Clinton was not an "actual" black person but that Obama was.However, what is missing from this widely repeated quote is the context that Morrison was writing about Clinton--namely the Lewinsky scandal and the way that the impeachment hearings were using his infidelity as the impetus to get him out of office--the ways in which"the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and body-searched"which Morrison saw was akin to the experience of African American men being policed and persecuted based on their sexuality.I mention this because while one could argue that there are tropes of "Asian-ness" that we can see in Obama's life--his time spent in Indonesia, his upbringing in Hawaii, his Asian extended family--they are but symbolic gestures--figurations.  They aren't how he identifies and it's not how others would identify him either since we are still living in an age where we believe we know what someone who is "Asian" looks like, and we know what someone who is "black" looks like--and we apply these rubrics to people and call them racial identities.  Furthermore, the truth is that Obama does not identify as Asian American.  Technically, as far as the 2010 US Census goes, he identifies as African American rather than both black and white and certainly he didn't check the "Asian" box.  And it is important for us to acknowledge that people get to identify the way they want--something folks often forget when they refer to Tiger Woods as monoracially black when he, himself, identifies as mixed-race or half-black, half-Thai.  So why enter into this exercise at all?  I guess I wanted to think about the limits of racial ambiguity, which is the topic of my current book manuscript--the one that has been consuming me and taking me away from being able to think about blogging.  I do think that imagining race as fluid and as flexible is an anti-racist position.  But I also think that there is a historic reality to racialized bodies that we can't ignore.  And that's the tension between theory and praxis.  It's important to be able to theorize beyond our raced bodies--to imagine a place where we can acknowledge the constructed nature of race and the ways in which multiracial people especially complicate this simplistic notion that there are pure races.  But on the other hand, there are the ways that the state has regulated bodies based on believing in race.(sigh)So I will continue to think about the possibilities of what if--what if we could say that Barack Obama is our first black American, first mixed race American, and first Asian American president?  What if checked off more than one box became the norm for all of us?[...]



Barack Obama as our first Asian American President?: Part I

2013-03-21T12:27:08.506-04:00

It has been two months since I last wrote a post in this blog--which is embarrassing (sigh).  For all my good intentions, I have not felt compelled to write in this space, even though I, ostensibly, have the time since I'm not teaching.But this is, perhaps, the reason why I haven't been writing in this space--because I have been immersed in trying to finish my book manuscript on racial ambiguity and Asian American culture (which also happens to be the title of the book).  I'm fortunate enough to have a research and study leave, which means I've been reading and thinking and writing and trying to make the most of my time out of the classroom.And then, of course, as I realized how much time had passed from when I last blogged, the pressure to write something meaningful or at least intelligible increased after so much silence (sigh)--always the dilemma of the writer--the blank page and wondering if there is an audience out there.But as I tell my students, sometimes, whether you're feeling it or not, you just have to write it.  Good advice.  So I thought I should share what I'm working on, since it has applicability to this blog.  For the last few weeks I've been thinking about the coda to my book--which is also the title of this blog post.  If race is a social construction--if it doesn't have a basis in biology or blood, then could we imagine that Barack Obama is not only our first African American president, our first (openly) mixed race president, but our first Asian American president of the United States?Barack Obama with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng from their earlier daysThis might seem like an odd way to end a book on racial ambiguity and Asian American culture.  Yet if we think about taking the idea of racial ambiguity to its furthest extremes, if race is not just limited to what you "look" like--if you can be Asian American without Asian American family (as transracial adoptees would seem to prove), if one's racial identity is as much about culture and community as anything else, then it would seem that there are clear markers of Asian American racialization that correspond to Obama's life narrative.  For example:*He was born and spent his formative adolescent years in the only state in the union that has a majority Asian American population.  The local culture in Hawaii is steeped in Asian American culture from the various Asian immigrants who have come to the island archipelago from the 19th C.  He can speak pidgin, he eats local food, he grew up with his grandparents preparing sashimi for guests and with Asian American neighbors and classmates.Obama's fifth-grade class photo from The Punahou School*He is the child of an immigrant father who came to the US to be educated (first, a BA at U of Hawaii and then a PhD at Harvard), and his name reflects these immigrant roots, with people who find it odd, foreign, and hard to pronounce (something many children of Asian immigrants with Asian names understand all too well).*He lived for four years in Indonesia (from the ages of 6-10) thus experiencing life in an Asian country.*He has family members--a sister (Maya Soetoro-Ng--Indonesian-white), a brother-in-law (Konrad Ng--Chinese-Malaysian from Canada) and nieces who are Indonesian-Chinese-Malaysian-white--who are Asian American.The Soetoro-Ng familyIn October 1998, writing for The New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" about the ways that President Bill Clinton was being targeted by special prosecuters for potential impeachment after revelations of his affair with Monica Lewinsky became public, Toni Morrison famously (or infamously) wrote:Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.Until Barack Obama was elected to office in 2008, it was believed, in certain quarters, that Morrison had claimed blackness for Bill Clinton, thus dubbing him our first black president.  But if you read the above quote (and the entire[...]



Ending Rape Culture

2013-01-20T10:13:37.590-05:00

About a month ago I received a comment on a blog post, "Are Jewish People a Race" that read:"get raped you stupid chink cunt"[Aside: I apologize for the racist, sexist language--or rather, for reprinting the racist, sexist language, but I also think it's important to know when people use this language and for what purpose.  I didn't "publish" it, but I did want to address this comment in a blog post.  Also, I re-read the post, and I don't think that the comment was trying to specifically address anything in the post that ruminates on anti-semitism but rather seemed to be a general note on the dissatisfaction that the commenter "an ah" felt about the blog/me in general.]There's obviously a lot that could be upsetting about reading this comment.  But what I want to focus on isn't the obvious racism and sexism but the order that begins this comment:"get raped"There's so much about our society that is immersed in rape culture.  And what I mean by rape culture is the idea that women (and it's largely women although men are targets of rape and victims of rape) need to be regulated, and one way in which to control women is through forcible sex. For this commenter, "an ah" (and yes, I did report him, and yes I believe it is a "him" although it might just be a woman--lets not forget that women can be violent towards other women, especially when you add the toxic blend of racism), my existence as an Asian American woman who speaks out about issues of racism, anti-semitism, sexism, homophobia, and other social justice issues is troubling/problematic to him, and so his idea of voicing his dissent is to tell me his desire that I be socially regulated through coerced and violent sexual violation.I'm parsing all this out because it's important to always remember that at the heart of rape and rape culture is the idea of power.  Of people, largely men, who feel disempowered--who want to take control--who are threatened by changes in society--who feel vulnerable and don't know how to appropriately process these feelings of vulnerability.  Rape isn't about sexual desire--as the comment above should make clear, there's nothing about it that suggests real desire or lust--the commenter wants my rape to happen not necessarily at his hands but by someone anyone who can put me in my place, show me that I'm wrong, make me feel small--ostensibly because the commenter feels small himself.I think it may be nearly impossible to get into the head of "an ah" or any other person who actively and openly endorses rape culture (although it is telling that "an ah" is a pseudonym--I did report him to Blogger & Google).  Often people hide behind anonymous comments or pseudonyms in their endorsement of rape culture--but it's there--you only need to read the comment thread of any controversial (or even non-controversial) topic to see it in action.I've been thinking a lot about rape culture because there is an active conversation going on at Southern University in light of recent allegations and a federal complaint filed by Southern U students and a former assistant dean of students (whom I know--figure I should put that out there for the record) about the ways in which Southern U does not support students (largely women--the four students listed are all women) who have been sexually assaulted.And here's what I know about rape.When I entered UCSB as a freshman I didn't know anyone who had been raped.  When I left UCSB I knew several people (some of them close friends), who had been sexually assaulted.  In certain cases my friends and acquaintances did not know their attackers (but believed they were fellow UCSB students).  In some cases my friends and acquaintances were very familiar with their attacker since they were current or former boyfriends, men they were dating, men they went to a party with, friends of friends.Since the time I have been at Southern U, nearly ever semester I hear a story about a student who has been sexually assaulted.  Eithe[...]



Happy New Year Mixed Race America!

2013-01-02T19:29:59.791-05:00

I had hoped to post on the first day of 2013, but posting a day late is better than not posting at all--and since I'm heading out of town to go to MLA (big academic conference for English & Lit & Language profs) and will have sporadic internet availability while in Boston, I figured I should post something that is both meaningful for a new year and something I've been wanting to post for quite some time now:

Dr. Maria Root's Bill of Rights for People of Mixed Heritage.

Essentially, it's the Bill of Rights for Mixed Race America.

Because I've just finished a draft of my Tiger Woods chapter, I've been reading a variety of essays, articles, books, blogs, and esoterica about Tiger Woods and the many opinions that people have ab out Woods.  But I think Thea Lim of Racialicious sums it up best:

“Tiger Woods seems like a jackass. . . . But that’s no reason to deny him the right to self-identify.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!


Bill of  Rights  
for  
 People of Mixed Heritage 
    I
 HAVE THE RIGHT...
Not to justify my existence in this world.
Not to keep the races separate within me.
          Not to justify my ethnic legitimacy.
                    Not to be responsible for people’s discomfort with
                        my physical or ethnic ambiguity.
       I
  HAVE THE RIGHT...
 To identify myself differently than strangers  
     expect me to identify.
                    To identify myself differently than how my parents
                        identify me.
                         To identify myself differently than my brothers and
                        sisters.
                    To identify myself differently in different
                        situations.
       I
 HAVE THE RIGHT...
 
 To create a vocabulary to communicate about
    being multiracial or multiethnic.
                    To change my identity over my lifetime--and more
                       than once.
                    To have loyalties and identification with more
                       than one group of people.
                    To freely choose whom I befriend and love



Tunnel Vision

2012-12-22T09:33:49.980-05:00

It has been embarrassing how long it has been since I last wrote a blog post.  Well over a month.  Almost two.  In between the time I last wrote in this space, I've attended two conferences, gotten a nasty head cold, and--the reason I'm really not writing here--started to write my Tiger Woods chapter in earnest.  These are not excuses or rationales (well not entirely)--they're just a reality of how I've gotten tunnel vision.  Right now, it's all Tiger all the time.And tunnel vision is what I want to write about right now.It's easy to get tunnel vision, especially when one (like me) is immersed in a particular project.  I used to be the queen of multitasking, but increasingly (perhaps due to age? I find that after 40 almost everything gets attributed to "Oh, you're just getting older"--good to know that I have my aging body and mind to blame for things that pop up in the future) I find that I get tunnel vision when I embark upon certain projects, especially writing projects.But I think there are other ways in which we get tunnel vision.  When we become so focused on a certain task, project, person, position that we lose sight of everything but the thing right in front of us.Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) is someone who I believe suffers from tunnel vision. In a statement he made on behalf of the NRA yesterday, Mr. LaPierre blamed violent movies, songs, video games, and the lack of armed guards in schools for the tragic massacre in Newton, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I don't think I need to repeat the circumstances and details that led to the deaths of 28 people (and yes, I include both Nancy Lanza and Adam Lanza because their deaths are part of that tragedy).  Last week when news slowly unfolded about the shootings--when the final count was 20 children and 6 adults dead at the elementary school--I, like just about everyone else in the world who heard this news, felt numb and heartsick. The NRA went silent for a week in the aftermath of the mass shooting: they took down their Facebook Page and went silent on Twitter.  And when they popped back up, they said they wanted to enter into "meaningful" conversation about how to avert this tragedy.[Aside: It's interesting what going "silent" means in the day and age of rampant social media]Apparently meaningful means putting an armed guard in every school in the nation and pointing a figure at multiple sources--except for gun owners, gun sellers, and gun manufacturers.  In other words, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA suffer from extreme tunnel vision.  They are so focused on protecting their "right to bear arms" ala Second Amendment that they cannot see anything beyond this single issue, remaining tone deaf (among other sensory deprivations) to what the nation is saying and feeling about gun violence.Now, I know this doesn't seem like a topic for Mixed Race America.  But there are two things that I thought about when reading about the NRA's response and seeing the lines of people outside gun shops who want to buy up as many assault rifles as they can because they fear that the assault gun weapon ban may just pass in the new year.1) LaPierre complained that the news media had demonized gun owners and rhetorically asked since when did "gun" become a bad word?  It strikes me that LaPierre's language echoes those of people who act defensively when they have been called out for racist acts.  When people get called out for racist acts or are trying to defend people/institutions/events that have been labeled as "racist," these folks often lament the demonization that they, the purported racists, are feeling.  They turn the tables, so to speak (or try to) by claiming to be the "victim" or the "demonized" object of some kind of irrational witch hunt or vendetta that is simply unfair.  In this way, LaPierre and the NRA are setting themselves up as a maligned entity at the[...]



Cloud Atlas Review Part 3: Mixed race people save humanity

2012-11-09T15:54:59.258-05:00

Here's the last installment of the epic 3 part review on the film version of Cloud Atlas.  I really want to stress that my critiques and observations in these reviews have been based entirely on the movie version and not on the novel by David Mitchell, which is epic and wondrous and luminous and the highest compliment I can pay this novel is that I couldn't put it down--I just wanted to live inside the novel for the time I was reading it.If you want to read the first part of the review, click here, and you can also read Part 2 on the subject of Yellowface & Orientalism here. Also, I'm going to be talking about the film in its entirety--so if you want to be able to either see the film or read the novel and not have any spoilers, then stop reading NOW.OK, if you're still reading you either don't care about spoilers or you're familiar with the plot/structure/general narrative elements of Cloud Atlas.[Aside 1: I hate to admit this, but even after all these years of blogging, I'm still tech-media challenged when it comes to certain things--for example, I can't figure out how to do that "Read More" function where you hide the majority of a post and readers have to click a link to read further.  Seems so smart, especially to prevent spoilers (sigh)--if there are any readers out there who can help me out in the comment section, I'd be most grateful]Some people have asked me if I liked Cloud Atlas, and it's hard for me to say whether I enjoyed the film because there was such a richness to it in terms of things I wanted to critique and study.  Of course visually it's gorgeous, and the schmaltzy-sentimental part of me resonates with the theme of transcendent love that moves throughout the ages.  But most of all I was fascinated (and in some cases appalled) by the representation and handling of race and racial difference.[click here for the website where I got this chart so you can see it in a larger scale]If you look at the image, above, you will see that among the most "evil" characters are several who appear to be "white."  Certainly the characters that Hugo Weaving plays, with the exception of his Neo-Seoul persona, are all evil white men (and one evil white woman, and actually a green evil devil).Whereas the characters in the film who triumph over their baser natures--who stand up and do the right thing, who put themselves in harm's way for another person, are often characters who are not white or who have some other minorizited identity (like being gay). In the vignette that takes place in the 1970s (San Francisco) there is a scene where Luisa Rey (played by Halle Berry) and Napier (Keith David's character) are running away from the assassin Bill Smoke (played by Hugo Weaving).  They run into a sweatshop where they encounter a Latina woman (played in brownface by the Korean actress Doona Bae), who doesn't understand what they want until Rey speaks to her in Spanish (thus alerting audiences to the fact that Berry is playing a Latina woman or a woman with Latin American heritage).  Subsequently when Smoke comes looking for Rey and Napier, he encounters the Latina woman and he calls her a wetback before killing her dog.  So Smoke is both a racist and a dog killer.[Luisa Rey & Napier about to flee from Smoke]Smoke meets his demise at the hands of this unnamed Latina woman--who bludgeons him to death with a huge wrench, all the while yelling at him for killing her dog and then telling him that she doesn't like to be called a wetback.The takeaway from this scene is that being a racist doesn't pay (or killing someone's pet).  And time and again, we see this--that there are people of color who will "save" others who are not of their "tribe" so to speak.  This happens in the mid-19th C. story on board a schooner where Jim Sturgess's character, Adam Ewing, is saved by Autua, a Polynesian slave.  And in the post-Apocalyptic story, Meronym (p[...]



FOUR MORE YEARS!

2012-11-08T12:24:01.077-05:00

Despite what all my friends who follow Nate Silver's blog were saying, I was still nervous last night and couldn't settle down until after 11:00pm when all the major networks called Ohio for Obama.  And even then, I couldn't be sure until after Romney's concession speech.  And by that point, I was all in and had to stay up to hear President Obama address the throng of supporters in Chicago.  If you missed it, well, here it is:

allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/nv9NwKAjmt0" width="560">

Besides Obama's victory, there were many other things to feel cheered and heartened by if you are a liberal-progressive Democrat--the passage of gay marriage laws in Maine and Minnesota, the defeat of two different Republican candidates who made beyond tone-deaf remarks where rape is concerned, and the election of Tammy Baldwin, the Senate's first openly queer person.  The Atlantic's Ta-Nehesi Coates has an aptly titled essay, "Hippes wander into the lion's den, maul lions" that you should check out.

[UPDATE: 11/8/12:  A commenter, jestingjousts, points out that Minnesota did not pass a gay marriage law; they prevented a law from being passed that would have defined marriage between one man and one woman.  Also, Washington and Maryland passed laws that excluded same-sex couples from marrying--for more go to Freedom to Marry]

Finally, for a comedic take and some good old fashioned MC Hammer dancing, here's Key & Peele:

allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/eX8tL3PMj7o" width="560">



November 6--Election Day--VOTE FOR OBAMA

2012-11-06T06:00:01.034-05:00

So it probably goes without saying that a blog called Mixed Race America is going to support President Barack Obama's re-election and wants to URGE anyone who has not yet voted to please GO VOTE FOR PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.

As a dyed-in-the-wool-blue-to-my-core-Democrat, I am not going to bother rehearsing why I think voting for President Obama is the sane choice.  If you are a dyed-in-the-wool-Republican, I'm probably not going to convince you that he's the right choice.

But if there are any undecided voters out there, especially undecided white votes, then Chris Rock has a special message for YOU:

allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/EDxOSjgl5Z4" width="560">

I'm hoping it's not a nail biter--I'm hoping we go blue again, even if (sadly) my own southern state changes to red (sigh).  LETS GO DEMS!



Cloud Atlas Review Part 2: Yellowface & Orientalism

2012-11-04T19:41:58.324-05:00

So here's part 2 of my 3 part review of Cloud Atlas (click here for part 1).  Today's topic: the film's use of yellowface and other Orientalized aspects of Cloud Atlas.There are many people who have written about the phenomenon of "yellowface," which is the Asian version of "blackface"--having white (although at times there have been black) actors and actresses portraying Asian and Asian American people in Hollywood films.  Racebending.com has a particularly astute and thorough accounting by contributor Michelle I.  I recommend reading her piece, "Yellowface: A Story in Pictures," to familiarize yourself with the LONG history of yellowface in Hollywood cinema.  But I think this photo of Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's probably says it all:As I wrote about in yesterday's post, there's a certain narrative logic that the filmmakers had in mind for putting their non-Asian actors in yellowface (including the African American actor Keith David in a role that reminded me of Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix, if they had taped back Fishburne's eyes).  One of the themes of the narrative (film as well as book) is a repetition or eternal recurrence of experiences, of relationships, of people with a comet birthmark who show up across space and time.  To connect these otherwise disparate narratives, the filmmakers chose to have actors and actresses play various roles in all six segments/stories of the film -- so Halle Berry has a throwaway minor role as a woman dressed in a sari (she's supposed to be an Indian woman in London) but in two other stories she has a major role (as a Latina reporter in 1970s SF and in the future as a post-apocalyptic survivor who has access to technology).  One of the stories takes place in 2144 in Neo Seoul, a dystopic "corporocracy"where "pure bloods" are consumers and "fabricants" are the cloned humans who serve them.  So that brings us to the white actors playing Korean or Neo Korean men:Jim Sturgess playing a Korean commanderJim Sturgess without the yellowfaceHugo Weaving playing a Korean enforcerHugo Weaving as himselfJames D'Arcy playing a Korean archivistJames D'Arcy as himselfI'm not sure whether to say that the film's makeup and special effects department did a "bad" job in the yellowface department.  I mean, given their task, this may have been the best they could do, although one would think that if you could turn Eddie Murphy into an old white Jewish man, you could do a better job with Hugo Weaving.  I didn't really find the yellowface all that believable with these actors.  Perhaps because I had been seeing them throughout the film in their non-yellowface roles.  While I understand the impulse to want to use the same actors in all the segments of the film, there are things I wondered about, for example:1) In the first segment, which takes place aboard a schooner in the mid-19th C., the Polynesian/aboriginal "slaves" are portrayed by African American and Afro-British actors.  It could be that the film decided to transplant African slaves into the South Pacific, but I wondered about why the filmmakers didn't just hire aboriginal/South Pacific/Maori actors to play these roles?2) While it's true that the racial masquerade isn't just inclined towards yellowface--that there are Asian and black actors who are in whiteface--Halle Berry plays a German Jewish woman, Bae Doona plays a 19th C. lawyer's wife in SF and she plays a Latina sweatshop worker in 1970s SF--no one in the film is in blackface (which I am glad about).  My point is this: while it's understandable according to the logic of the film to put both black and white actors in yellowface for the scenes taking place in Neo Seoul, why wasn't that same logic applied for the scenes depicting Polynesian slaves--that not one white actor or Asian actor was p[...]



Cloud Atlas--the Film Review in 3 parts

2012-11-03T14:23:37.284-04:00

So I just saw the film Cloud Atlas, which is based on David Mitchell's novel of the same name--a novel that defies easy categorization since Mitchell is Irish, the six settings of the six embedded stories take place across various geographies and millenia (in chronological order, the story starts in the mid-19th century and ends in a post-apocolyptic future time marked by the seasons rather than by a calendar).[Aside 1: Movie posters are always a good indication of who is most important, character-wise & star-wise in a film.  Case in point: Tom Hanks's head is HUGE compared to everyone else's--Halle Barry comes a close second in terms of prominence, and then you can figure out the prominence of everyone else in descending order]Cloud Atlas, the novel, has been on my radar for several years.  In fact, a friend of a friend handed me a copy and told me I should read it.  And the book sat on my shelf for years, until finally in a purge I (stupidly) placed it in a library donation box.[Aside 2: It's not stupid to donate to a library--only stupid that I didn't actually read the novel before doing so, because when I finally DID read it, the novel BLEW ME AWAY]That brings us to August 2012.  As some of you may (or may not) know, I am a guest contributor to an Asian American magazine, ALIST.  In fact, you can read my latest column about Patsy Mink here (although I'm sure regular readers will recognize it from an older post I did over the summer--I did think with the election coming up on Tuesday, doing a political piece seemed in order).  In August I read this guest post by Matthew Salesses, where he talks about the yellowface going on in the film version of Cloud Atlas.[Aside 3:  Full disclosure: Matt is a former student of mine, dating back to the first ever class I taught at Southern U--a course on Asian American literature.  Matt is also a very fine writer (which I know from the essays I've read by him).  You can check out his work by going to his website.]Of course once I realized that there was yellowface in this film, I knew I had to see it.  But I had heard good things about the novel, so I sat down and read all 528 page in 2 days (doing nothing else but--well, eating and sleeping obviously, but you get my drift).  It's a brilliant novel--I couldn't put it down.  And is very thought provoking and well executed, despite the misgivings by this New York Times review.One might say, based on the complexity of setting, time, character, and form that this would be an impossible novel to film.  But that apparently didn't stop the Wachowski siblings (the folks who brought us The Matrix franchise) and Tom Twyker from deciding that they were going to try.  And some might say that it's an admirable task that these three directors have done, distilling the essence of the novel, particularly the theme of "eternal recurrence" (taken from Frederick Nietzsche).  In trying to whittle down a 500+ novel into a film (one that clocks in at nearly 3 hours) certain choices had to be made--and one of the devices that the filmmakers used to unify the six narratives was to have the main actors portray various characters, major and minor, in all 6 segments, which inevitably meant that actos would be portraying people of different races, and in some cases gender.The above image of the actor, Hugo Weaving, is an excellent demonstration of the ways in which he crosses gender, race, and in the last case metaphysics to play a female nurse, an unidentified Korean enforcer, and the incarnation of a tribal devil.There's SO MUCH to say about this film that I've decided I need to divide it up into 3 parts--an introduction (which is this post) and then two parts: cross-racial masquerade, most notably the use of yellowface and whiteface and m[...]



How much does mixed race matter?

2012-10-24T17:35:51.074-04:00

Recently I've been realizing that there are people whose race I've assumed to be one thing who are, in fact, something else.  People who I thought were mixed-race African American who turn out to be mixed-race white & Burmese.  Case in point: Alex Wagner, host of the show "Now with Alex Wagner" on MSNBCPeople who identify as African American who have one white and one black parent. [Melissa Harris-Perry, another MSNBC staple with her eponymous show "MHP: Melissa Harris-Perry."  Harris-Perry is a professor of political science at Tulane University]People who appear white who identify as a person of color or multiracial.[Aside 1: The folks in this category are actually not public figures, so I'm not going to name them nor post their photos here]I mention all of this because I think this is a commonplace thing to happen to many of us, particularly in the U.S.  We believe that racial categories are stable--we fit people into one of the slots on the racial pentagram (white-black-Latino-American Indian-Asian American) or hexagram (add Middle-Eastern/Arab).  Multiracial people defy this kind of easy categorization.[Aside 2: Although it can and should be argued that there's really nothing easy about racial classification systems and that they've always been flexible and liable to change]Yet, as the Harris-Perry example above and our own president, Barack Obama, demonstrates, even when someone has parents of two different racial backgrounds, one may identify not as bi- or multi-racial but with the minoritized racial category.  And it's probably not a coincidence that both of these very public mixed-race/black-white figures identify as African American, given the ways in which our country has treated (and continues to treat) people who identify as or are visibly identifiable as black.The title of this post, "How much does mixed race matter?" has to do with whether or not having knowledge of someone's mixed-race background matters in terms of how this person is regarded.  Now that I know Melissa Harris-Perry has a white mother and a black father, does that change my opinion about her and her show?  Now that I know that Alex Wagner is half-Asian, does that change how I view her commentary on MSNBC?While my immediate answer is "no"--the truth is, I think that our experiences make a difference in our lives--so someone who was raised with parents of 2 different races may have very different experiences than someone who was raised with parents who shared the same racial.  So while knowing about Wagner and Harris-Perry's backgrounds may not change what I think or how I feel about them, knowing, with more precision/accuracy what their racial background is, is important in understanding that their life experiences may offer differences that have shaped their opinions and personas.[Aside 3: This post is actually not quite as articulate as I had hoped it would be -- things sometimes sound different in my head than when I type it out.  I suppose I could scrap all this and start fresh, but I figure I'll let this stand, especially because I haven't written about multiracial people for a while and this IS a blog called Mixed Race America and therefore SHOULD actually spend some time thinking and talking about multiracial Americans]Finally, the last thing I want to leave readers with is a book recommendation.  I've finally gotten around (embarrassing to admit this, but it's true) to reading UC Berkeley law professor Ian Haney Lopez's book White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (originally published in 1996 and re-issued in 2006).  It's a very smart book, particularly in tracing the legal construction of whiteness through what Haney Lopez terms the "prerequisite cases"--cases by people who we would now id[...]



Celebrate Indigenous People's Day

2012-10-08T14:04:13.792-04:00

In 1992 the city of Berkeley decided that the second Monday in October would be celebrated as Indigenous People's day, because in the U.S. we've celebrated this as a holiday for that other guy.

So in honor of indigenous people's day, let me share a map that everyone child in the U.S. should get in their K-12 classes (but most likely don't):


And this poem Cherokee poet, Jimmie Durham, which I found from the website, American Indians in Children's Literature (a great resource for parents and teachers)--I don't want to quote it, in full, since I don't have permission from the poet, but if you click here, you can see it/read it, in full.

Finally, there's this postcard from someecards--and it's funny 'cause it's true:






Racism: it's alive and well

2012-10-01T22:04:25.799-04:00

Living as we do in the 21st century, where in the U.S. inter-racial marriages, mixed race people, and our first non-white President are now part of the norm (or at least are part of the norm for many people and for readers of this blog I imagine), it's easy to forget what old-fashioned racism looks like--you know, the kind that's not veiled in euphemistic language or hidden behind coded words.  I'm talking about straight up, in your face, one race is better than another racism.For anyone who still believes that we've moved into a post-racial society, I have 2 recent examples of good-old-fashioned racism.Exhibit A: The comment threadI suppose comment threads are thrumming with good old fashioned racism because you can be anonymous.  This choice piece was submitted by someone who identifies as a parent of a Southern U. student--it's in response to this Letter to the Editor, "Bid day racism is not to be taken lightly," which was in response to a sorority whose theme "Mi Casa Es Su Casa" was celebrated with sisters dressed up in sombreros, fake mustaches, and ponchos.I was a huge believer in racial equality for most of my life. Unfortunately, I am a scientist at heart, and I value honesty, accuracy, and objective reality more than political correctness. And having read the scientific literature and statistics on the topic, and having eyes and ears of my own enough to see the obvious, I have been forced to concede that... all the evidence very clearly shows that white people are objectively superior in most ways (intelligence, compassion, low crime, achievements, etc.) to everyone except Ashkenazi Jews and North East Asians (Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans). And even then, one could make a reasonable case that white people have achieved more than Jews or NE Asians ever achieved without White help. I value intelligence highly though and I have to concede white inferiority in that regard to Jews and NE Asians. comments by anonymous_amren I don't think I need to comment too much on why this is racist--the language of eugenics is never where we want to go.  I bolded the part that I thought was the most egregious, but really, most of the comments by "anonymous amren" point to someone who seems like a throwback to life in the 1950s.Exhibit B: Roger Lotchin's denial of historyRecently UNC Chapel Hill history professor, Roger Lotchin has written an Op-Ed piece to a Wyoming newspaper making many statements about the Japanese American incarceration that are (how to put it) just plain wrong headed.  Among Lotchin's biggest claims are that the phrase "concentration camp" was wrong and those who use it are wrong and that the whole experience was not based on racism but was a justified and justifiable reaction because of (wait for it): PEARL HARBOR--here's my favorite quote from this piece:"That the Japanese- Americans suffered loss in the camps cannot be denied, specifically loss of property, loss of income, and loss of reputation. For some these losses were grievous. But the reason for that loss was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and other American territory in the Pacific."Racism wasn't a factor in their losses because they deserved to be racially targeted because the Japanese military bombed Pearl Harbor?  [sound of mouth opening and shutting]So remember, if you ever start to think that maybe we really ARE living in a post-racial society.  Maybe racism is a thing of the past, just remember these two examples--there are people in the US who still believe that some races are better than others--who are staunchly upholding white supremacy.  I will say that one thing that heartens me is the comment thread of Lotchin's piece--folks do not seem to agree with [...]



The Argument against "English Only" in the U.S.

2012-09-15T08:23:19.913-04:00

If you haven't been living under a rock, and if you have friends who are Asian American, Korean American, or Korean (or just anyone paying attention to pop culture) then you have undoubtedly seen this video by Korean impresario PSY:

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His song "Gangnam Style" is an international sensation--and you know it's really hit the mainstream when you can watch him on NBC's weekday morning program, "The Today Show":

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Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What is so striking to me about his performance is that he's singing this song in Korean (there is the phrase in English "Hey, sexy lady," but every other lyric is Korean) and he's getting the crowd pumped up and THEY'RE SINGING BACK TO HIM IN KOREAN.  Granted, a lot of the people, especially crowded around the stage, look like they could be, themselves, Korean or Korean American.  But you also see non-Asians in the crowd dancing, and singing.

Which is pretty incredible--I mean, the U.S. is a pretty parochial place when it comes to being accepting or even tolerant of people speaking different languages.  The fact that PSY is singing in Korean and getting folks to sing along with him, in Korean, makes me so happy!  Granted, it's NYC, it's a global pop phenomenon, and that dance move he does (the horse dance) is sweeping flash mobs everywhere.  But still.  I'm a glass half full kind of gal, and I'd like to think that this marks a small turn in our language consciousness towards a more polyglot acceptance that being American does not mean that you only speak English or even predominantly speak English.



Jeremy Lin + Hello Kitty = AWESOME!

2012-09-13T22:07:12.041-04:00

This video really speaks for itself -- as the post title says, there IS going to be a moment when Jeremy Lin and Hello Kitty meet up--and for that alone, you should watch. 

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If Mixed Race America was a political party it would be ...

2012-09-06T22:09:48.059-04:00

So as any regular readers of this blog will know, I am a proud Democrat who campaigned for Barack Obama in 2007.  In fact, my 3rd blog post is titled "Obama for President."  Which means that it's going to come as no surprise that I believe that if Mixed Race America were a political party it would be a Democratic party--THE Democratic party.However, I also know that it's not true that every person of color, every multiracial person, is a Democrat.  Bobby Jindal, Michael Steele, and Marco Rubio would certainly disprove this idea.  Yet I can't help noting the contrast--an obvious contrast that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have certainly milked on their respective shows--between the RNC in Tampa last week and the DNC in Charlotte this week.This is a crowd shot of the RNC 2012 -- it's a photo I found that was part of this article, "Mia Love and Susana Martinez: RNC 2012 Showcased Diversity On Stage, But Not Among the Crowd."  There is a very telling quote from the above article:Drury Hoover, a GOP delegate from Hope, Ark., said she noticed the homogeneity of the convention crowd. "Somehow we need to attract all of the people in the country, not just what is apparently the Caucasians," she said, gesturing toward the crowd. "Because there are seemingly few of any what we would call minorities. Not many of you who are Oriental," she added, referring to a Huffington Post reporter, "not many blacks." [Aside:  Yes, apparently the GOP delegate from Arkansas believes that people of Asian ancestry in the 21st century should be referred to as "Oriental" -- since I've already ranted about this in a previous blog post, I won't repeat all the ways in which this phrase is tone deaf, except that imagine if she were talking about African Americans at the RNC and instead used the phrase "Negro"--'nuff said]So even delegates at the convention noticed the overwhelming whiteness, confirmed in part by the fact that African Americans comprised 2% of the convention attendees.And honestly, it's not just the lack of African Americans in the crowd--it's the lack of real diversity--of other racial groups (I've seen "Arab Americans for Obama" and "Sikhs for Obama" signs), of mixed race Americans, of proud and out queer people.  So because pictures say a thousand words, I leave you with images from the DNC.  I know it may be tempting to think that I've only selected images that show diversity, but if you've watched any of the DNC coverage, you'll notice that it's impossible to find a shot that is as homogenous as what was on display at the RNC.  And I haven't even selected photos of the prominent speakers that have graced the stage: Gabby Douglas & Gabby Gifford both led the pledge of allegiance (different days--although I joked that maybe you had to be named "Gabby" to get this honor), Tammy Duckworth, Kal Pen, Julian Castro, Craig Robinson, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and Deval Patrick.Finally, I just have to give a plug for the speech that Deval Patrick gave on the first day of the convention.  I know the media has concentrate on more high profile speakers like Michelle Obama (who was AMAZING) and Bill Clinton (whose charisma is so strong it came pouring out of my television), but in the middle of his speech, Patrick had this to say to the DNC base--and for any Democrat, for any liberal-progressive, for anyone who truly believes that the United States is and should be a mixed race America, they're words worth remembering and living by:"If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it's time for Democrats to stiffen our backb[...]



Introducing the tumblr "Amy & Shaun" (a mixed-race love story)

2012-08-28T12:16:59.230-04:00

A few weeks ago I received a lovely email message from Shaun, the creative talent behind the tumblr "Amy & Shaun."  He sent me a link to his tumblr, along with this description:The pictures are not making any overt political or social commentary, but I think they send a very strong, positive message about the viability of mixed race couples, a love of oneself, and that love for oneself in the state in which we were made (without the need for processed hair and etc.), and, to some extent, a message about strong women and what they can do in this world.Here's one of the pictures -- I particularly like it for its cheekiness!I loved scrolling through the tumblr and seeing all these whimsical images of Amy & Shaun--especially the ones incorporating Shaun's background with Asian art (there are a few that look like he has plopped his characters in the middle of a Chinese painting).So I decided to ask Shaun if he'd be willing to be "interviewed" by me -- a first for Mixed Race America.  I'll probably have to work on my interview questions, but I really appreciated the chance to chat more with Shaun about the inspiration for his art and his thoughts about inter-racial relationships.  Please do check out the tumblr "Amy & Shaun."MRA:  What was your inspiration for the tumblr "Amy and Shaun"?  And where do you derive inspiration for your individual art pieces?A&S:  Originally, these pictures were only ever meant to be a way for me to reach out to my love every morning to let her know just how much I love her, to remind her that her Shaun loves his Amy very very much.  I was going through a difficult time dealing with some personal things a year and a half or so ago, and Amy started sending me a picture each morning to help keep my spirits up.  After she'd sent a hundred of them, I decided that it was my turn to take over.  And I've never stopped.  I've drawn a picture every day for Amy ever since, and I don't have any plans to stop at this point.  Inspiration for each picture can come from all sorts of different places, but mostly from the fun of living my life with Amy.  If we go on a hike together, the next day I might draw a picture of us hiking.  If we see a beautiful sunset together, I might draw that same scene we had shared and draw us in it together.  Some times I'll see certain colors or patterns as I walk through my day, and they'll set off a chain reaction in my mind, imagining a picture around that color or idea.  It's really just daily whimsy, I guess I would have to say.MRA:  Do you have a favorite art piece?A&S:  Wow, choosing favorites from among our pictures is really really hard.  I usually really love whatever I've just drawn.  Until the next picture comes along, and then it becomes my favorite.  But I particularly like any of them in which I feel like I've done a particularly good job of making Amy look really really cute.  Because she is!  Of our more recent pictures, I do love this one of us dancing cheek to cheek on the ballroom dance floor:http://amyandshaun.tumblr.com/post/26643751469/dancing-cheek-to-cheekMRA:  Any plans to add text or to create narratives/stories that will accompany the pictures?A&S:  I don't think so.  I really try to have the picture itself tell the whole story, or just convey a certain mood or feeling.  I do often add captions though.  But I probably won't ever do more than that.  I've been thinking about trying a few pictures that include multiple panels, like a co[...]



What is it like to be white?

2012-08-18T09:46:17.796-04:00

I think another title for this post could be "What is it like to be in the majority?" but I it's not just any majority I wanted to write about today, the last day of my beach vacation in my home southern state.  No, it's the kind of majority that is racial, and cultural to a certain degree.The view from our balconySouthern man and I have been vacationing for the past week at a beach, lets call it "White Sands" since that's pretty much what the beach looks like.  Aside from a few storms when we arrived and one mid-week, it has been glorious each day--highs in the mid to upper 80s, Atlantic ocean that feels like swimming in bath water (particularly since I grew up splashing in the Pacific which is just plain frigid), and stretches of sand to lie out with a good book and to dry off from our swimming (or to jump in the water if we get too warm).This is the kind of vacation I love--nothing to do but just hang out and read and swim and eat good food (in this part of the state it means Calabash which means fried, which is OK by me--I mean, I'm on vacation). So why am I wondering what it's like to be white (especially now that my skin is a toasty almond brown from all that sun)--because that's pretty much the only people who are here at White Sands beach.  Seriously.  We're been here for a week and I will tally up the number of people of color we have seen walking about a mile in either direction of our rented condo:*Asian Americans:  4 (not including myself) -- 2 appear to be the transracial/transnational adopted children of a white couple*Latino:  12 -- I should note that 8 of those have consistently been a work crew that is helping to prevent against beach erosion.  If you look at the photo above and see all those sandbags, for the past week a crew of about a dozen people, 8 of whom are Latino, have been building those sandbags outside our window.*African American:  6*Native American:  N/A -- I couldn't tell -- I'm sure that there were Native Americans in the various crowds of people we saw, or rather that there are people who identify as such, but I wouldn't have been able to guess by just looking at anyone.*White:  100-200 -- I'm TERRIBLE at estimating, but I'd say at we saw at least 100 people the beach if not 200 people. I'm not even counting the number of people we saw at restaurants and supermarkets--I'd say for the most part that every place we dined in I was the only Asian American person.  One particular lunch place that is renown for their deep fried goodness was the kind of cafe that has the menus printed on chalkboards--not fancy but good.  We walk in and it's like a Western--every head in the cafe swivels to look at me.  Most look back at their food, but one particular gentleman, someone in his mid to late 1960s, white haired, paunchy and beady eyed.  This guy was eyeballing me like I was an alien who landed.  Like I was an unidentifiable creature.  Like I was the Viet Cong come back to haunt him (he had that kind of vet vibe going on, and here at White Sands there are a TON of those MIA/POW black flags around here, which always makes me nervous in a southern setting because I know they're looking at me and having flashbacks to the war).Anyway, my usual thing to do in this situation is to simply stare back.  Hard.  Usually the other person is embarrassed and looks away.  But not eye-ball man.  He just keeps staring.  And staring.  And staring.  His table is right by the hostess station, and since they were packed, we had to wait a whi[...]



Activism as Parody from the women of Wellesley College

2012-08-10T17:45:39.207-04:00

A few months ago I was sent a link to a Youtube video by two Wellesley College students, Nicole and Meliora.  I didn't click on it because (a) I'm never sure if things are a "scam" and some awful virus would infect my computer (b) the email account that is connected to this blog isn't one I check on a regular basis.  So I saw it and then forgot about it.Thankfully I decided that I should trust Niclole & Meliora (after all, they're women of a seven sister's school and I have a soft spot in my heart for all seven sister schools after having taught at Mount Holyoke College for 3 years).  What I found was a parody based on Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"--a parody of Asian American stereotypes.[Note: If you have NO IDEA what I'm talking about, just google "Call Me Maybe" and "Youtube" and you will find both the original music video that Jepsen did AND a host of parodies, most famously the US Swim team did one and my favorite is by "Corgi" Rae Jepsen]Nicole and Meliora sent me a description of what inspired them to make this parody and what they hope to accomplish in terms of Asian American activism.  It's rather long, but let me quote a segment for you: As we all know, the media is a conduit that allows artists and visionaries to express their opinions to the general public, and in many ways this expression can be very liberating and has become a staple of American society. What is not liberating however is the underrepresentation of minority groups in the media that runs the risk of portraying a race as one collective identity. Especially in communities where there is very little interaction between racial groups, the few representations the media provides can set societal expectations or stereotypes for how a race should be approached. With the hopes of challenging these stereotypes my fellow classmate Nicole and I embarked on an exciting journey of composing, directing and editing our own music video about breaking down the typical Asian stereotypes projected in the media. Our goal is to see how influential we as two students, with limited political connections and resources, can be in getting our voices heard. We decided the best way to do this would be combining pop culture, activism, and the Internet. The stereotypes Nicole and I address in this video are all ones that have been projected within the media at some point or another: submissiveness/ politeness; the excessive type A personality that excels in mathematics, chess and the medical field; the martial artist; the uncultured Asian that eats strange foods and speaks in broken English; the nerdy anime lover; the over sexualized Asian that will “love you long time” or engage in such strange fetishes as tentacle porn; the stereotype that all Asians look like; and of course the age old stereotype of bad Asian drivers. We try to address and conquer all of them. However, we are aware our video will be working against years of engrained racism that has targeted both Asian American men and women. Anyway, please watch Nicole & Meliora's activism as parody in "Just Don't Call Me."  I, for one, applaud their desire to challenge stereotypes and educate us while making us laugh. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/2Q4ji0DsvxE" width="560">[...]



Dear Mixed Race America, it's time to stop the MADNESS

2012-08-10T12:44:21.590-04:00

An Open Letter to everyone in the United States, I am heartsick.  The recent violence in Aurora, Colorado and now the shooting at the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Gurdwara (Sikh temple).  So much violence.  And not enough outrage.Oh, I know there are plenty of people who are angry at the shooters.  Angry that this "senseless" violence could happen.  There's lots of hand wringing and, in a case of what I consider to be misplaced fear and anxiety, gun purchases ratcheted up in Colorado immediately following the midnight massacre.This isn't going to be a post just about gun control, although heaven's knows I believe in it--I believe that we absolutely need more not less gun control--there's no earthly reason why any individual needs semi-automatic weapons and so much ammunition you could kill a theater or temple full of people.  And I wish there was more concentrated outrage that will lead to stricter measures.But what I want to concentrate on today is hatred.  The madness of hating someone else based on their difference--their racial and religious difference.Members of the Oak Creek gurudwara listening to an FBI report on the shootingThat's the crux of the Oak Creek shooting.  Wade Page was a known white supremacist.  According to this New York Times article, the Southern Poverty Law Center had been keeping tabs on him due to his "ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy."  While some officials are calling this an incident of domestic terrorism -- there are many who are clamoring to call this what it was: a hate crime.  Page walked into the Gurdwara and opened fire because he had steeped himself in an ideology of white supremacy that taught him that it was his right to hate people non-white and his right to inflict violence on non-white people.  There has been some speculation that perhaps Page was confused about the Sikh religion--that he had meant to target Muslims and confused Sikhism for Islam.  But as my colleague Amardeep Singh so astutely and powerfully writes about in this New York Times piece:Whether or not that target was actually the “right one” was beside the point for the Oak Creek shooter. . . . I also don’t think we should fool ourselves that all hostility will be resolved purely by education, nor should we presume that this shooter suffered only from ignorance. As a white supremacist, it seems safe to suppose, what mattered to the shooter was that he hated difference — and saw, in the Sikh gurdwara at Oak Creek, a target for that hatred.Difference, the targeting of others based on racial difference, is the subject of Matthew Salesses piece in the Asian American Writer's Workshop:  "If you look different, you are treated differently. This is just how our world is. We are not in another, better place, where we each fit in for our individuality. There is a true power to appearances, and there is a true power to the words we attach to those appearances."[Side note:  Matt is actually a former student of mine from Southern U, and I am so proud that he has become such an eloquent writer] Another colleague, Viet Ngueyn, makes a very astute connection about various forms of global violence and racialized violence in the United States, writing that his essay will show "the direct line from the core of American culture and history to the Viet Nam War to the Oak Creek massacre and a couple of other massacres many of us have already forgotten about."  And Hars[...]



Who do you root for?

2012-08-01T09:38:48.083-04:00

Unless you've been truly living off the grid and avoiding human contact & any form of news, then you know that the London Olympics have started.I must confess that I'm a fan of the Olympics.  I know that there are many critiques one can level at the IOC (International Olympic Committee), at the amount of commercialism, the problems of corporate sponsorship, and jingoism that can get out of control.  But there is something I find spell binding about seeing people push themselves to their athletic limits--to see them excel in sports that they have devoted themselves to for most of their lives.Which brings me to the title of this post: Who do you root for?The natural answer is the country you identify with--but for those of us with multiple heritages and/or passports, this can be a thorny answer.One of the things I've realized is that I am drawn to rooting for people of color.For example, I'm a Top Chef fan and at the beginning of every season, I find myself rooting for the chefs of color--unless, of course, they turn out to be super annoying, jerks, or just not plain good.  Which does happen.  In the last season, I was NOT a Beverly fan but I was so happy Paul won.This isn't to say that I don't root for non-people of color. If you've been following Olympic swimming then you must know who Missy Franklin is--and from the feel good piece that NBC did about her and her family, she just seems like an incredible athlete, with an amazing personality and a very down-to-earth family.  She has turned down extraordinarily lucrative endorsement deals because by turning professional she wouldn't be able to compete for her high school swim team.  You can't put a price on loyalty like that.But if I have to be honest, I am drawn to the athletes of color.  Especially athletes that look like they may be multiracial, like Kyla Ross, a member of the Fab Five who just took home gold in the team gymnastics event last night. When I saw her and her teammates featured on the Today Show at the start of the Olympic games, I immediately googled her because I thought she might be mixed race.  And sure enough, I found an article that described her background--her father is African American and Japanese and her mother is part Filipina and part Puerto Rican.  Then there's John Orozco, a gymnast who visibly looks black but who identifies as Puerto Rican.  There's a Washington Post article that talks about the increased diversity in US Gymnastics and lists Orozco along with Gabby Douglas and Danell Leyva.  No mention of Kyla Ross, which strikes me as a BIG oversight--I'm not sure whether being of part Asian heritage or being mulitracial kept her off the radar of the Post (or it could be that she's not one of the more prominent members of the Fab Five).  But it is good to know that diversity (a buzzword that I find annoying but I get that the Post is using it as a shorthand for racial diversity in a sport that is predominantly white and middle class) is being recognized/talked about in terms of the Olympic athletes.[Note: There has been some speculation about whether Orozco is adopted or not--apparently this website suggests that he is, indeed, adopted, and might be of Dominican heritage--but on his official site and in news pieces his parents are described as his parents--whereas one of the things I find a bit disconcerting are the ways in which sometimes Dannell Leyva's father & coach is referred to as his stepfather and sometimes his father]The l[...]



Changing institutional culture -- thoughts on the Penn State sanctions

2012-07-24T13:24:59.126-04:00

I do not follow collegiate sports, generally speaking.**  Nor do I watch major league sports.  I guess you could say I'm not a "team" person because the sports I'm attracted to watching (and playing) are singular activities: golf, tennis, running, biking, swimming.I am, however, a tenured faculty member at a large southern university that has a very active sports culture (more basketball than football, but we have our share of football fans too).  And as a faculty member dedicated to the education and enrichment of the Southern U. student body, I am very interested and invested in discussions about the place of NCAA sports on college campuses.Which is why I tuned in to the 9am EST press conference at NCAA headquarters to announce the sanctions against Penn State in light of the Freh report--the report that detailed the failure in leadership to report the sexual abuse that Jerry Sandusky carried out against scores of minor children he purportedly was mentoring.  The failure reached the upper echelon's of Penn State's administration and including the much revered and beloved "Joepa"--Joe Paterno, who had once-upon-a-time been the most winningest coach in NCAA collegiate football.Before...After.I say "was" because among the penalties imposed on Penn State were*The evacuation of the wins they accumulated from 1998 (the date at which the abuse came to light at Penn State and therefore the date that marks the failure of Penn State's leadership to end Jerry Sandusky's sexual predatorship of young boys) to 2011.*The reduction in scholarships to be made available to their football program (10 scholarships per year for the next four years)*A ban on post-season games (bowl games) for the next four years.*A $60 million dollar fine (the equivalent of revenue that the football program typically generates during a football season) to be donated to an organization to help prevent sexual abuse and to support survivors of sexual abuse nationwide. In a quick google search to reactions based on the announcement by the NCAA words like "brutal," "harsh," "unfair," and "too far" popped up.  Continually there has been a rhetoric of the punishments being meted out hurting innocent victims--the student-athletes and coaches who were not affiliated with the events of the past.  There are others (including the NCAA) who believe that the sanctions will help change the institutional culture at Penn State and other college athletics program.  In the words of NCAA's president, Mark Emmert:"Football will never again be placed ahead of educating, nurturing and protecting young people . . . the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics"[for more on the sanctions, see this New York Times piece]However, I'm skeptical of whether these sanctions will actually change the culture at Penn State, at Southern University, or any other college or university that fields a major sports team that competes on a national stage, particularly in division 1 sports.  It sounds pretty to say that we want to emphasize education over sports--that we value and privilege academics over athletics.  But I know that if I assign work the night of a basketball game, there's a great chance that only 50% of my students will do the assignment, study for the exam, hand in a complete final paper.  And they will grumble--at me and my colleagues--for not checking the basketball schedule and assigning work on a g[...]



T.G.I.F. -- Patsy Mink: Pioneer Powerhouse

2012-07-20T07:30:03.839-04:00

While most people have probably heard of Title IX and think of its main application in terms of providing equal access for girls and women in high school and college sports, many people may not know that (1) Title IX was actually proposed with the idea of equality of education for women and covers 10 areas, including equality in sports (2) The principal architect and sponsor of this bill -- a bill that was subsequently renamed in 2002 to honor this congressperson's achievements, is Patsy Mink.Patsy Mink in the 1960s when she first came to CongressPatsy Mink was an extraordinary woman.  She was born Patsy Matsu Takemoto on December 6, 1927 and grew up on a plantation in Maui, Hawaii (although it should be noted that her father was one of the few college-educated plantation employees -- he was a land surveyor -- and received a very good salary, certainly better than the laboring plantation workers in the fields).  Mink wanted to become a doctor, but found that a combination of sexism and racism barred her from medical school.  So she got a law degree from the University of Chicago, but subsequently found that a combination of sexism and racism prevented her from being hired in both Chicago and Honolulu.[Mink was one of 2 Asian Americans and 2 women in her graduating class--she also met and married her John Mink, a graduate student in geology, while at U of Chicago] So Patsy Mink got involved in politics.  And while the path to Congress would take too long to recite in this blog space, the important thing to know about Patsy Mink is that she became one of eight women in the House of Representatives and, most significantly, she was the first woman of color, the first Asian American woman, the first Japanese American woman, to serve in Congress.PBS is airing a documentary, Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority, which you can watch on-line through July 31, 2012 (click here for the link to the Independent Lens website and here for a link to the filmmaker's website).  It's truly a wonderful documentary that chronicles the life of a truly extraordinary woman.  A woman who was a true liberal lion--who spoke out against the war in Viet Nam.  Who fought on behalf of women and poor people.  Who always spoke up for what she believed in, even when her opinion was a minority opinion and not well received.  She was one of the 66 people who voted against the Homeland Security bill post-9/11.  And, as noted in the beginning of this post, she fought for equal access for women in higher education--because Title IX forced colleges and universities to open up the admission process in graduate and undergraduate admissions to women, enabling the current equity we now see for women entering medical and law school. June 23 marked the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX -- I am a direct beneficiary of its passage.  I am a direct beneficiary of the legacy that Patsy Mink left in terms of her public service, in terms of her fighting for social justice, in terms of her breaking down barriers and showing up as an Asian American woman at a time when that phrase "Asian American" wasn't even in existence and when a woman's place was believed to be in the kitchen not the halls of Congress.  Title IX expanded educational access for women--I don't know the faces or names of the countless women who have been impacted by Title IX, but I do know the face of one woman who was key to its implementation.Pat[...]



Linsanity moves to Houston

2012-07-19T12:36:02.310-04:00

As most of the world who follows the NBA or Asian American athletes or the very fine intersection of the two in the singular figure of Jeremy Lin now knows, Lin is moving to Houston to join the Rockets because the NY Knicks wouldn't match the Rockets' offer.Lin accepting the 2012 ESPY award for best breakout athlete The New York Times has a piece that describes the reasons for the Knicks failure to retain Lin, and Jeff Yang of The Wall Street Journal talks about the impact this will have on Asian American fans.  Yang quotes my friend and colleague, Tim Yu, whose astute observations bear repeating in full:“I don’t care who he plays for — I’m a Lin fan, not a Knicks fan,” says Timothy Yu, an associate professor of Asian American Studies (and Jeremy Lin Studies pioneer) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “What I’m mad about is that the Knicks just completely cut him loose — and they’re blaming him for cutting such a hard-nosed deal with the Rockets. The fact of the matter is that even the team that benefited from Linsanity doesn’t believe it’s for real. That really burns me as an Asian American fan. But shed no tears for Jeremy: An Asian American athlete is getting paid like a superstar, because he is one — and that’s cool.”Like Yu, I am a Lin fan, not a Knicks fan.  In fact, I have been a Lin fan from back when he was playing in the Ivy League and awarded him a T.G.I.F. (The Great Impossible Feat) back in February 2010.  Who knew that just two years later, I'd have caught the fever called Linsanity.Farewell  Jeremy.  I hope Houston treats you right.  Most importantly, I hope that you have an AMAZING season/career such that the Knicks and all the fans in NYC and around the world will weep at this decision.  I, for one, am just excited to be seeing you play and to know that you are getting what you deserve--a salary and recognition to match your talent!So long NYC! I'm headed to HOUSTON!!![Update: 1:46pm EST:  Just saw an interview that Lin did before the 2012 ESPY awards last week--it's just under 4 minutes and at around the 2 minute mark he gets asked about his impact on the Asian community and talks about what it's like for him as an Asian American breaking stereotypes about Asian American athletes--you just gotta love this guy!] allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/PGnGu84Iqpc" width="560">[Second Update -- July 19, 2012: Just saw this GQ article in which the author, Devin Gordon, talks openly about what no one wants to say was part of the whole Lin-to-Houston kerfuffle: Lin's race and ethnicity played a part in the calculations of Dolan, the Knick's owner, even if subconsciously.  Here's a quote from Gordon that says SO MUCH of what I, and many other Asian Americans, think/feel:"But here's what I am confident saying about Dolan on the subject of Lin's ethnicity: he has absolutely no grasp of what Jeremy Lin really means as a cultural phenomenon. It does not pierce his bubble. It stirs no emotion in him. He doesn't understand what it means for millions of people in this country, and around the world, to watch the first Asian-American superstar athlete excel on the highest stage, and what it means to have that player wearing the uniform of his team. The pride, the joy, the inspiration, the transformative effect it can have on an entire generation of kids." Read[...]



Fear of a Mixed Planet

2012-07-16T11:16:07.029-04:00

This weekend I attended a friend's wedding.  It was absolutely lovely, a lot of fun, and the epitome of this blog--Mixed Race America.  The bride is a white Mennonite from Canada.  The groom is a Chinese American born to Taiwanese immigrant parents.  The guests were a mix of various ethnicities and races--and a great number of them were "foreigners" -- Canadian family members and immigrants (many of whom have since become naturalized citizens) from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Guatemala, Viet Nam, and Argentina.  And there were multiracial guests: white-Chinese, white-Indian, Chinese-Guatemalan.  One of the running jokes was that I was one of the few true "Americans"--one of the few guests born and raised in the United States.I take for granted that weddings like this happen and that it was celebrated by guests who were African American, white, Canadian, Taiwanese, Asian American, Latino, etc...So it was jarring to receive this blog comment on an older post I had written back in December 2009 when Philadelphia Cream Cheese put out its first (at least I believe it's their first) commercial featuring a visibly inter-racial couple (in this case a white man and a black woman):"A close look at the Word of God proves he is against mingling"[Aside: Shouldn't it be "He" when referring to "God" and how do we know that God is even gendered male and do we even know for sure there IS a God--at least a God in the singular sense?  Couldn't there be gods, Gods, Goddesses, Divinities, a sense of the Sublime Divine?]When I clicked on the commenter's profile, his handle is A.C.W. (American's Culture War), the description of who he is came up as:"White Christian Male under attach from both left and right"[Second aside:  It seems unkind and mean spirited to point out the obvious grammatical errors in his handle and profile description, right?]I'm not going to link to his blog--I think it's best not to give air time to someone whose own views are clearly diametrically opposed to my own views.  I will say that A.C.W. decided that he wasn't content with just leaving a comment on my blog--he decided to take it a step further and contacted me through an email address that I have on my blog (and which everyone who wants to contact me is free to use--just click on my profile page and you can find my contact info--it doesn't have any personal information within it, which is why I use it for this blog).  Anyway, this is what someone named H.J. Rossi with a gmail account wrote to me:"race mixing is a sin . Not on a sin, its the sin that brings genocide to one race or the other..currently in 50 years the white race will be a minority in the USAyour comment caught up with you"[Third aside: I cut and pasted it exactly as it was written--he also included a link back to the blog in which he originally commented, which I didn't bother to include since I embedded the link above.]Now--let me be clear.  I'm not trying to pick on H.J. Rossi.  Yes, he doesn't seem to want to engage in real dialogue and debate, as I encourage, and yes he may have violated rule #2 for comments on my blog--being respectful.  I mean, I don't think that it's respectful in the slightest to say that God is against mingling (by which I'm assuming means race mixing) -- after all, how can he or anyone else nkow what God thinks???  I am, in part, shedding light on Rossi's comme[...]