Tag Archives: racism

Thing Three: Dr. Seuss, Rap and Racism?

Check out the original article for some Seuss images and sweet rhymes from author Aaron Retica. Happy Belated Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

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There is nothing more ridiculous than the cultural insights you derive as a parent, at least the kind that come to you when you are reading “The Foot Book” or “The Sleep Book” for the 107th time. I am not the first to notice that Dr. Seuss’s rhymes sound good declaimed in hip-hop-style. Try it with the opening lines of “The Sleep Book.” Try it and you will see.

The news
Just came in
From the County of Keck
That a very small bug
By the name of Van Vleck
Is yawning so wide
You can look down his neck.

It’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday today. Seuss is the guardian angel of Reading Across America, which brings millions of parents into classrooms on March 2 to read with their kids. Just this morning I sat in my younger daughter’s fifth-grade class, listening to “Happy Birthday to You!” The rhythms of Seuss’s verse kept me thinking about his influence on rap, because Seuss was the dominant voice for younger readers throughout the period when the rappers who created the music were growing up.

Run D.M.C. acknowledged Seuss’s influence in “Peter Piper,” the first song on their crucial 1986 record, “Raising Hell,” suggesting that they were now usurping his crown.

Philip Nel, Seuss’s biographer, notes that “both Seuss and rappers have used poetry as a medium of dissent,” although I think I’d give the edge to the rappers, “The Butter Battle Book” notwithstanding. Seuss’s propulsive verse is friendly to a number of other declamatory styles, including the preacherly tradition, captured most spectacularly in Jesse Jackson’s reading of “Green Eggs and Ham” on “Saturday Night Live.” The Seuss-rap stew is also exploited by the L.A.-based comedy troupe Half Day Today in its pleasing “Cat in the Hat” rap, which imagines the Beastie Boys as figments of Seuss’s imagination and lets us know that Seuss himself

Looking into these connections, doing research, in fact, on Seuss’s avant-garde sympathy for African-Americans (long before the rise of the civil rights movement), I discovered something that surprised me, even though it has been written about before — I think I may have been reading “The Foot Book” when the news broke. During the Second World War, Seuss drew dozens of cartoons for the left-wing tabloid P.M., in which he nobly advanced positions that were anti-isolationist, pro-integration and philo-Semitic, while at the same time publishing a series of caricatures of the Japanese and Japanese-Americans that are revolting to look at now. I understand that we were at war — my grandfather served on a hospital ship in the Pacific and never dropped “Nips” from his vocabulary — but contextualizing Seuss’s cartoons only removes some of their viciousness.

Many of them feature drawings of Hitler and General Tojo that are far more savage in their depiction of Tojo, including one in which Hitler and Tojo are imagined carved into Mount Rushmore. But the most startling and upsetting of these cartoons, which was published on Feb. 13, 1942, shows a long line of Japanese-Americans, an “honorable fifth column” spreading from California into Oregon and beyond, with each smiling person waiting to pick up a package of TNT. They are, a caption explains, “waiting for the signal from home.” It does not help Seuss’s cause when we learn that President Roosevelt signed the executive order authorizing internment a week after this cartoon came out, although of course the planning for relocating Japanese-Americans was long under way.

It turns out that Asian-American educational groups protested against Seuss being chosen as the patron saint of Reading Across America for precisely this reason. Nel’s comprehensive biography and two art books about Seuss’s war efforts do a fine job of looking at Seuss’s work as a whole, but it is still deeply disturbing to see the otherwise-estimable Seuss engaged in this kind of propaganda, illustrated with figures that don’t look that different from those who populate his children’s books.

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Blog Post Blizzard

I have too many interesting articles to share with you and so little time.  So, in honor of the snowcalypse in the Midwest, here’s a blizzard of fabulous things to read.  Choose your poison:

 

Why Keeping Little Girls Squeaky Clean Could Make Them Sick – NPR

WESTLAND, MI – JULY 6: Hannah Rose Akerley, age 7, of Grosse Point Park, Michigan, gets some relief from the heat by playing in a gigantic lake of mud at the annual Mud Day event July 6, 2010 in Westland, Michigan. The lake was created by mixing 20,000 gallons of water with 200 tons of topsoil. The event, which is sponsored by the Wayne County Parks Department, draws about 1,000 children each year. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

 

Middle Eastern and North African Protests Shatter Myths About Muslim Women – Ms. Magazine

Young people are coming out in full force to fight for democracy, and women are at the forefront of these protests, breaking a huge stereotype that Muslim women passive, voiceless or apathetic.

 

THIS PICTURE IS SO BADASS!!!

 

 

Beauty and the Double Standard of Aging – Sociological Images

Today I had the pleasure of reading a 1978 essay by Susan Sontag titled The Double Standard of Aging. I was struck by how plainly and convincingly she described the role of attractiveness in men’s and women’s lives: “For women, only one standard of female beauty is sanctioned: the girl. ”

 

Brisenia Flores, Another Nine-Year-Old Girl, Was Shot and Killed in Arizona – Village Voice

Brisenia Flores, 9, was killed on May 30, 2009, when a group led by anti-immigration fighter Shawna Forde raided the girl’s family home in the border town of Arivaca, Arizona. Allegedly, the attack was organized in the name of the Minutemen, a crew of vigilante border patrols, who hoped to steal money and drugs to fund their revolution against immigration. The Flores household was attacked mistakenly, for they had no drugs or money, but according to reports, Forde and her cronies commenced to shoot Brisenia’s father in the head, killing him, before wounding her mother and eventually, shooting Brisenia in cold blood…

 

 

 

The Black Power Mixtape – Democracy Now

We broadcast from Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival, the nation’s largest festival for independent cinema. One of this year’s selections that is creating a lot of buzz is a documentary called The Black Power Mixtape. The film features rare archival footage shot between 1967 and 1975 by two Swedish journalists and was discovered in the basement of Swedish public television 30 years later. We speak with renowned actor and activist Danny Glover, who co-produced The Black Power Mixtape.

 

Oscar nominations an all-white affair – The Gazette

It’s a wonder that the security guards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t stop Mo’Nique and make her show ID when she arrived to help announce the Oscar nominations early Tuesday at the organization’s Beverly Hills headquarters. After all, she was the only person of colour involved with the extravaganza, since the 83rd annual Oscar nominations have the dubious distinction of being an all-white affair…

 

 

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Get Schooled Six minutes of segregation a day: Can it help black students?

Ok, so my spiel:

I went to a women’s college for my undergraduate – and I loved it.  I honestly felt that learning in a single-sex environment enabled me to better understand both sexism and feminism.  I wouldn’t trade my education for anything.

But I also wouldn’t force it on anyone.  I chose to go to a women’s college.  Despite the good intentions, these students are not choosing to be segregated, which in turn excludes them, others them, and reinforces how they are the “problem” minority.  Now, if white students were segregated and in their groups discussed white privilege, then mmaaayyybbee I could see how this situation might be beneficial.

But even then you get into identities.  Are we only excluding students by race because what about class?  gender?  sexuality?  religion?  location?  …  I’m all about learning about inequality and multiple identities, and in that consciousness-raising discussion learning about one’s own identity, privileges, and disadvantages, but you can’t force it on people.  What identities do you choose and is everyone else discussing these same issues in their own groups?

So ultimately, while it may help black students find support, recognize injustice, and study harder, is this segregation challenging patriarchy, capitalism, and white privilege?  No.

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By Maureen Downey at the Atlanta Journal Constitution

A Pennsylvania high school has begun to segregate black students for daily homeroom to address the lower academic achievement, build mentoring relationships and explore stereotypes and challenges unique to African-American students.

Good idea?

Before you judge, take a look at this story about McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pa. It is clear that this unique response came out of good intentions — an effort to see whether grouping students homogeneously both by gender and race even for a brief period each morning provides a backdrop to discuss tough issues and give teens personalized attention.

I hate to be wishy-washy for two blogs in a row — I am also torn on the punishment given to the mom who lied about residency  — but this is another story where I have mixed feelings. I first asked myself whether the school could accomplish its goals without resorting to segregating the students. I would think it could.

But I also have to point out that the premise behind the program — that you can talk more honestly to kids and motivate them when they share similar situations and face the same problems — is what has led to the resurgence of single gender schools and classrooms.

But I have to admit queasiness over this idea.

According to Lancasteronline.com

During a recent class period at McCaskey East High School, T’onna Johnson’s class discussed a film, learned about a college-visit trip, talked about designing a class T-shirt and was encouraged to sign up for a seminar on the importance of a good education.

This all happened during homeroom  — that fleeting period when teachers take attendance, principals make announcements and students, usually, don’t do much of anything.

Not at McCaskeyEast. Every junior at the school has been paired with an adult homeroom mentor who tries to squeeze as much information and activities as possible into six minutes each day and 20 minutes twice a month. The intent of the program, implemented in mid-December, is simple, principal Bill Jimanez said: “Let’s make these guys think for six minutes about their future.”

Every junior was matched with a teacher who already had a relationship with that pupil. But in the case of T’onna’s class, there are other ties that bind the homeroom. Every pupil is a black female. And their mentors are both female African-Americans. Across the hall, two homerooms of black male students are led by black men.

The all-black homerooms are part of an experiment to determine if grouping students homogeneously for a brief period each day will help them socially and academically. “At first I was kind of like iffy because why would we be in homeroom together?” T’onna recalled. “But we work together and we do problems together, so I like it. “Here we learn about how we can basically make a difference and how we don’t have to settle for less.”

The idea originated with Angela Tilghman, a McCaskey East instructional coach who was alarmed at the poor academic performance of the school ’s black students. Only about a third of McCaskey’s African-Americans scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year’s PSSAs, compared with 60 percent of white students and 42 percent of all students. Math scores were even worse, with just 27 percent of black pupils scoring proficient or advanced. {PSSA is the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment.}

Research has shown, Tilghman said, that grouping black students by gender with a strong role model can help boost their academic achievement and self-esteem. She and fellow instructional coach Rhauni Gregory volunteered to mentor the African-American girls, and Michael Mitchell and Willie Thedford each took a homeroom of black males. No other students were divided by race, Jimanez said, although pupils enrolled in the school’s English language learners program were paired with ELL teachers.

Initially, some McCaskey East students and staff objected to separating out black students. Some juniors asked to go back to their old homerooms. Others complained that the experiment ran counter to the culture of McCaskey, long a melting pot of students and staff from many diverse backgrounds. But Jimanez said the academic data dictated the school take a different approach with its black students.

“One of the things we said when we did this was, ‘Let’s look at the data, let’s not run from it,’ ” he said. “Let’s confront it and see what we can do about it.” In all homerooms, teachers are tracking their students’ grades, test scores and attendance and encouraging them to engage in discussions around “goal setting and self-actualization,” Jimanez said.

Tilghman and Gregory’s homeroom, dubbed the Black Diamonds, has discussed books and movies that emphasize strong relationships between black women. Last week, the students hosted a group of female black professionals who talked about the importance of getting a good education. “This isn’t something we’re just trying to preach to you about,” Tilghman told the class. “This is the reality. Black women today need education.”

The mentors also have talked about common stereotypes about black girls — that they’re aggressive, combative, “cackling and confrontational” and more interested in pursuing relationships than academics, Tilghman said. According to research, black students tend to feel disengaged and alienated in school and “act out behaviorally because they don’t perform,” she said.

“Our first theme was sisterhood so we can get them to see that we’re here for each other and they have people they can rely on,” Tilghman said. The mentors also shared with students a detailed analysis of their test scores and grades.

Mitchell doesn’t agree with those who criticize grouping black students together. “I would have a problem if every class period was like that, but it’s six minutes most days and 20 minutes other days,” he said.

He has discussed with his students how the city’s unemployment rate is higher for African-Americans than for other ethnic groups, and Tilghman has talked about how statistics indicate that black males are three times as likely to spend time in jail as to earn a college degree.

“I see all too often when students give up far too easily these days, and parents will allow this to perpetuate itself, and then students think they don’t have to complete anything.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

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Do the Emmys Have a Race Problem?

Re-post from Movieline by Kyle Buchanan.  Embedded links from author.

Until Archie Panjabi’s surprise win this year for The Good Wife, only eight people of color had ever won an Emmy in the top four acting categories for drama and comedy. It’s a sobering statistic about the racial inequality that still persists on television, and after watching the Emmys this weekend (and being mistaken for another black actress), it has Southland’s Regina King ready to speak her mind.

The actress (who really should have merited Emmy consideration for the first season of Southland) vocalized her concerns in a Huffington Post essay:

Since the Emmy ceremony, I have been going back and forth about whether or not I should compose this letter. I try hard in my daily life not to engage in uncomfortable situations regarding race. But sometimes it’s very difficult to find other reasons that better explain why certain events play out the way they do. It is impossible for me to ignore the published statistics regarding the number of people of color mentioned, celebrated or honored in the history of the televised Emmys. Up to and including this year, there have been only 53 non-white actors nominated for emmys out of nearly 1,000 possible nominations in the top four acting categories for drama and comedy.

I’ve worked in television nearly all of my professional life, and that statistic is quite sobering to me. And to add injury to my already sensitive nerve endings a picture of Rutina Wesley from True Blood, who attended this year’s Emmys, had a caption that read: “Regina King enters the 62nd Emmys.” No, I wasn’t there. Mistakes happen, right? Well after a few “mistakes” of how people of color are portrayed in the Hollywood media, I decided it was important to say something about how things go down in Hollywood.

The initial pull on my heart strings was not seeing the veteran Sesame Street actress Alaina Reed Hall included in this year’s memoriam […] I am assuming other actors have lost someone close to them who weren’t recognized during that segment of previous Emmy telecasts. So I will take the stats about people of color out of my complaint and pose an essential question on behalf of any television artist of note working in our business. What is the process in determining who will and will not be recognized during the Emmy memoriam?

We wish we knew. But what do you think: Does King have a point?

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“Michael Jackson, Glenn Beck, MLK, and the Worlds We Create” – Racialicious

This is an excerpt of Latoya Peterson’s poignant blog post for Racialicious.  Read and watch the entire article here.

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Friday night, after another day of survey gathering and site visits, I headed over to the 9:30 club for DJ Dredd’s dance party to celebrate Michael Jackson’s birthday. As we swayed with the crowd rocking along to Michael’s (and Janet’s!) greatest hits, an observation kept pushing to the forefront of my mind, one I had wanted to write about last year when he passed.

While much was written about the racial politics of Michael Jackson, particularly in reference to his skin color/plastic surgeries, there was little discussion of the most striking part of Michael’s racial politics: the worlds he created in his music videos. Most folks are familiar with two of his most political hits, “Black or White” and “Man in the Mirror.”

But what always stood out to me was the populations of Michael’s created worlds – which were overwhelmingly multicultural, featuring a lot of different types of people all rolling with the King of Pop.

Michael’s worlds were often overwhelmingly urban. Featuring streetscapes and subcultures, Michael’s videos illuminated – and humanized – different segments of American and global life, in the face of a pop culture environment that insisted those types of images remain marginalized. Even his journey back to ancient Egypt became a quiet political statement.

Watching the mega-sized images accompanying the DJs selections, and looking at the assembled crowd gathered, it hit me that Michael’s legacy was one of both pop and politics – and in many ways, he had succeeded, continuing to unite very different factions of people through the shared love of his music.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early to work Columbia Heights Day for the Public Media Corp (Read the whole article to get the full gist of her work). Sore from dancing, but with Michael’s songs playing in my head in an endless loop, I worked, gathered surveys, handed out waters, and looked at the conscious effort to create community. It was interesting working an event in my neighborhood – some of the other fellows asked if the make up of the crowd go-ers reflected Columbia Heights. While the crowd was pretty diverse for a community day, it still didn’t reflect the Columbia Heights I have come to know and love. Columbia Heights Day was intended to celebrate the diversity of a neighborhood in transition, the historically working-class black and latino population meshing with the new young, predominantly white professional set. But did we succeed in creating a celebration the entire community felt comfortable participating in?

It is these ideas of inclusion and exclusion that I keep thinking of, particularly in the aftermath of this weekend.

If my neighborhood looks like this:

Columbia Heights Mural

And Glenn Beck’s world (amusingly tagged “Whitestock”) looks like this:

And Al Sharpton’s world (as seen by his “Reclaim the Dream” rally) looks like this:

Al Sharpton Rally

What type of worlds are we each creating?

If Beck cared about creating a truly equitable society, then where is that reflected? Why didn’t the Restoring Honor rally look like my neighborhood? Or, better yet, why didn’t it look like Dr. King’s original march on Washington?

Dr. King's original march on Washington

…The part I hate the most is that we are all involved in shaping and creating the world in which we live – even those who chose to dodge these issues. And, as Dr. King showed, inclusion and opportunity for all is something that must be fought for. Complacency will not lead to equality. Bitterness (which many trade upon for political gain) and hatred of those different than ourselves can never lead to true unity – only more divisions… The battle has changed, no doubt, but in many ways we are still fighting for those same values so many marched for in the 1960s.

In a way, I can understand why people want to declare the fight for racial equality over. It is tiring work, to undo hundreds of years of policy, thousands of years of conditioning that those that are different are lesser beings. It is so temptingly easy to rest on our laurels now, to say that the heavy lifting was over, that the most important goals have been achieved. And it is far to easy to allow those who did not stand with us to pervert what we fought for, to “get their country back” by ignoring the massive inequalities that still exist.

No one said fighting for justice will be easy. And it is always a fight. In our own, tiny way, sweating out in the sun with surveys that most people don’t want to take, grappling with feeling inadequate, fighting the feelings of internalized shame, wanting to give up, knowing that if we do, we will do a grave disservice to the communities that need the most help…

The larger fight requires far, far more effort.

But, luckily, we have a lot of things working in our favor.

One of which is the burning desire for a better world, held by those who can look around and acknowledge that yes, injustice exists, and yes, we have the power to change it.

And fortunately, those of us who believe that we can make a change have a kick ass soundtrack to help ease the load.

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Quoted: Mayor Bloomberg on “cowboying up and cracking down” on Natives

Thanks, Racialicious, for keeping us informed.

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By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg giving advice to Governor David Paterson on how to deal with the sale of tax-free cigarettes on sovereign Native lands within New York State;

“I’ve said this to David Paterson, I said, ‘You know, get yourself a cowboy hat and a shotgun. If there’s ever a great video, it’s you standing in the middle of the New York State Thruway saying, you know, ‘Read my lips – the law of the land is this, and we’re going to enforce it”.

So now I’d much rather quote my sister Tia Oros Peters, Executive Director of the Seventh Generation Fund for Indian Development who said in response:

Indigenous Peoples remain the final “frontier” for colonization — where discrimination and a warped “civil religion” kind of thing permeates the american consciousness and allows, perhaps even encourages prejudice, suggestions of genocidal violence, and intention of direct harm with impunity – simply because of being Native. That’s the United States today, August 2010.

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Asians can only play terrorists or geeks, says Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel

This article gets at some core issues about the racial and ethnic stereotyping of Asians in films.  The only thing I would add is the stereotype of the spiritually wise Asian (Victor Wong in 3 Ninjas, Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Buddhists in Ace Ventura Pet Detective: When Nature Calls…..)  Expect a blog post soon about the Orientalism in Eat Pray Love.

Dev Patel in The Last Airbender, Photo by Paramount Pictures

By Anita Singh, The Daily Telegraph, link

Hollywood is institutionally racist, according to Dev Patel, the Slumdog Millionaire star, who claims Asian actors are limited to roles as terrorists, taxi drivers or geeks.

When the film about the Mumbai slums became the surprise hit of last year, winning eight Oscars, it was expected that Patel’s career would take off.

But the 20 year-old from Harrow, north-west London, has been frustrated by the lack of decent roles on offer and is currently jobless.

“Because Slumdog was such a big hit, there was a lot of pressure in terms of what I did next,” he said. “For my second film, I wanted a role that would stretch me, but all I was getting offered were stereotypical parts like the goofy Indian sidekick.

“Asian actors tend not to be sent Hollywood scripts that are substantial or challenging. I’m likely to be offered the roles of a terrorist, cab driver and smart geek.

“I want to show that I have versatility. You have to remember that, before Slumdog, the last film about India that went big at the Oscars was Gandhi, as played by Ben Kingsley. The fact that me and Freida have any kind of platform in Hollywood is a big step forward.”

Freida Pinto played Patel’s love interest in the film and is now his real girlfriend. The Indian-born former model has had more success than Patel, winning a role in Woody Allen’s latest film.

But he said he hoped to overcome any prejudice. “I’m buzzing with adrenaline and raring to go, but I have to be realistic. Being an Asian actor, it’s never going to be easy. Hopefully the industry is changing and the casting directors will be less focused on colour so that people like myself can get through the door.”

Patel was plucked from the relative obscurity of Channel 4’s teenage drama, Skins, to make his film debut in Slumdog Millionaire. Directed by Danny Boyle, it became a box office success and won the best picture Oscar.

The film Patel chose for his second role has been mired in accusations of racism. The Last Airbender is based on a children’s television cartoon in which the main characters are Asian. The pounds 100?million Hollywood adaptation, released in Britain this week, has white actors in the leading roles while the Asian actors – including Patel – are limited to playing villains.

When the film premiered in America last month, there were protests at the cinema.

The actor still lives at home with his parents and travels on public transport. He said: “One time I was on the Tube and I picked up a free newspaper. Inside was a big article with the headlines, ‘Dev Patel, the new rising star’ along with a picture of me. This woman got on and started reading the piece. She looked up at me and did a classic double take.”

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