keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
A bunch via [ profile] yhlee:

* Clever typographical logos. I especially like the piano and the coffee and the playground and and.

* Kitchen chores, geek-style.

* [ profile] nestra on what happens too often.

* IBARW 4 will be from July 27 to August 2! While I am away, so I shall have to promote it heartily in-person.

* [ profile] thedeadparrot's Remyth story for the Asian Women's Carnival #2, titled "Chopsticks."
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
This is the last day of IBARW, and I found myself with two possible topics. I debated between them for a while before realizing that IBARW should not be a week of awareness and nearly a year of ignorance. So--I've met my goal of a post a day, and here's a bonus post!

The University of California higher education system is an intriguing look at both race-neutral admissions (something that I won't go into here, since I posted about affirmative action earlier in the week) and at the flip-flopping of racial roles. California state law forbids the use of race as a factor in university admissions. According to the College Board, UC Berkeley is 45% self-identified Asian/Pacific Islander, 3% black, and 12% Hispanic (30% white, 7% unreported); UCLA is 41% Asian/Pacific Islander, 4% black, and 14% Hispanic (30% white, 4% unreported). Even assuming that the unreported demographic is white, the typical Caucasian American student will find him/herself a minority at many UCs. This has led to much disgruntlement and nicknames bordering on racially derogatory.

Personally, I think it would benefit any white student to spend a semester at a UC or a historically black college--to experience firsthand what it's like to be a minority. It's different, and often difficult, but neither is it the end of the world to be a minority or majority in school when your position in society is the opposite. I can attest to this myself, albeit on a smaller scale. I attended a performing arts middle school with very few Asian students and a math/science high school with a strong "critical mass" of high-achieving Asians; the environments are very different, both including the good and the bad.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Compared to the U.S., China seems like a homogeneous country. But in addition to the Han majority, there are 55 different ethnic minorities. One, the Manchu, even ruled China during the Qing dynasty. (During which they discriminated, naturally, against Han Chinese.) When the Qing dynasty was overthrown by the Nationalist party, ethnic minorities essentially ceased to exist in federal eyes. The Communists made an effort to register various minority groups, but even then, their official names were assigned by Han. [source] Today, those with at least 1/8 ethnic minority blood are allowed to have multiple children without penalty. Pretty good, right?

But in homogeneous China, standing out from the collective is rarely beneficial. Minorities have either assimilated, adopting Western dress and blending with the Han, or endured constant exoticism. I'm certainly guilty of it--in my Chinese folk dance class, we learn dances from different minority groups and enjoy the strange costumes. Most Chinese people, I think, simply ignore the minority groups; they are recognized only when convenient, such as in the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. Which is sad, because an important part of Chinese culture is overlooked.

And the Tibet issue--I don't know nearly enough about it. Anyone want to explain in comments? (I'm proudly pro-Tibet, for the same reason that I would be pro-Quebec secession if they ever vote to do so.)
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Thus far, what I've read of IBARW has been excellent but largely U.S.-centric. Of course, I live in the U.S. myself, but I want to point out racism all around the world. I don't feel knowledgeable enough to analyze or elaborate on the situations, but I can present them for your consideration.

Discuss: give me more examples! Enlighten me.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
The Arbitrary Compilation of Books by/about POC, not!live from your local Delaware library:
Part I
Part II
YA Edition
Part III [This one!]

As usual, asterisks indicate recommendations and brackets indicate special notes.

*Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop [nonfiction]
China by Yann Layma [nonfiction/photography]
Aloft by Chang-rae Lee
Gesture by Chang-rae Lee
China Saga by C.Y. Lee
Cloud Mountain by Aimee Liu
Flash House by Aimee Liu
Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord
Jian by Eric Lustbader
The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz [one book]
Wedding Song by Naguib Mahfouz
The Two Chinatowns by Dan Mahoney
*The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi [my review; highly rec'd]
The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka [SE Asia/Malaysia]
Shalimar by Kamala Markandaya
The Bride's Kimono by Sujata Massey
The Samurai's Daughter by Sujata Massey
Autumn Bridge by Takashi Matsuoka
Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka

A short contribution today, and late as well.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
As engrossed and fascinated as I am with college research, I can't avoid the topic of affirmative action. But I confess to being a) confused, and b) undecided. What exactly is AA intended to accomplish? Is it succeeding in this goal, and is it the best way to achieve this goal?

- more African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans ("URM" = underrepresented minority) in selective colleges
- racially diverse campus

- in practice, raises admission standards for Caucasians and Asian-Americans ("ORM" = overrepresented minority) --Note that Asians are still considered URM by some schools, mostly Midwestern liberal arts colleges.
- does not necessarily lead to a socioeconomically diverse campus

From what I've read and heard, affirmative action has two central (and contradictory) aims. The first is to ensure a racially diverse campus; the second is to compensate for historical societal discrimination, which often leads to lower socioeconomic status. I am torn because I support the ideal of the first goal, but I believe that AA is a flawed approach to the second. Institutional racism has indeed existed in the past, still exists in the present, and in all likelihood will exist in the future. I'll even grant that maybe African-American and Latino families have a lower median income or similar indicator of socioeconomic rank. However, if this is true, a policy of affirmative action regarding socioeconomic status rather than race would still benefit those who needed the help--and stop unfairly benefiting the well-to-do minority families, because they exist too. As a side bonus, such a policy would help poor folks of any color, including white.

Frankly, if you're black--or white or pink or yellow--and making $200k a year, you are not disadvantaged. Sure, society is still racist against you--guess what, it's racist against Asians too, and even more discriminatory against poor white people. Ultimately, money counts for more than race. And all this assumes that AA is the correct way to compensate for institutional racism, a point that some might argue.

But what about ensuring racial diversity? Answer: I don't know. I think that colleges and universities should consider all kinds of diversity, but that race should play no more a factor than geography by today's standards. If you do the research, you'll find that currently race is much more of a "tip" than either socioeconomic status or geographic distribution. Also, balanced against the need for diversity is the need for fair admission of students based on merit--defined holistically, of course. A student may merit admission based on character, extracurricular activities, leadership, etc. The problem with AA is that it helps the rich, mediocre black/Hispanic/NA (though usually not this last) student who would nototherwise be admitted at the nation's most selective colleges.

So you tell me: is affirmative action ultimately good or bad? Somehow, I have a hunch that it's solidly gray.

Disclaimer: I am a college-bound student of Asian ancestry with the biases inherent in that. But note that Asians may be considered URM or ORM, depending on the school, and I am attracted to both kinds of schools.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Today Tonight, I want to talk about the intersection of religion and race in America, in that insidious institution of privilege. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the majority of those who read this will be nominally or devoutly religious. That is, you believe in the existence of a single (or even multiple) higher being(s). And if so, even if you are a racial minority in the United States, you are part of an overwhelming religious majority.

My current default icon for IBARW states, "Do you really not see race?" And the tone of that question applies to every institutional prejudice; no one can be aware of all of them. For example, until [ profile] coffeeandink 's excellent post today (warning for pregnancy squick), I didn't know about ableism. Now I do, and even if I later forget, the knowledge will sit in the back of my mind. So I write about religion, only tangentially related to race, because awareness aids all kinds of anti-discrimination.

As my friends well know, I am atheist. I also love to argue. You can see where that might lead to untactful conversations, yes? But I ask you to consider the following, some of which is obvious and some of which is hopefully not as obvious.

1. "In God We Trust"--printed on every U.S. bill of currency (and coin?). So who is this collective "we" that trusts in an unspecified god? I certainly trust no god or goddess, seeing as I am convinced of the non-existence of any deity, with perhaps an exception for a deity that has absolutely no interaction with this plane/universe (including creation).

2. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Interesting fact: I consider myself Chinese-Canadian, i.e. not American. However, I know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart because when I moved here in elementary school, it was a (Communist-esque) mandatory daily recitation. Recent rulings have allowed students to omit the italicized clause, but in practical terms, that does nothing but ostracize the rare prescient student who makes such a choice. Why is the U.S. so insecure that it requires (by an unspoken code of ethics, if not by law) its youngest citizens to recite an oath of allegiance? Freedom should also mean the choice to not be loyal to one's country, so long as you don't break any laws.

3. "*sneeze* Bless you!" This seems to be an American quirk, since I don't recall ever being blessed for sneezing in Newfoundland (and this at a school where we said grace every lunchtime). Whether or not the implied "God" is omitted, I still don't understand why you or your deity would wish to bless me. Especially since I'm going to hell as a blasphemer, etc.

4. Christmas and Easter breaks, now renamed to the politically correct Winter and Spring Breaks. I can accept that Christmas has become a commercialized holiday. However, I see no reason to take a week off from school in the middle of spring every year, somewhere in March or April. Jewish people have excused absences for their holidays, but the major Christian holidays are school-wide vacations.

5. And finally, the little things. For instance, I have a wonderful yoga DVD that I love; I even embrace some of its dubious health claims. But in the Closing Prayer is a jarring farewell note of "God bless you." I assume that the viewer may fill in their own god as necessary--while those of us with no such handy filler must simply ignore it. There are so many little things in life that as a minority--whether that involves belief, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else--one learns to ignore in order to survive sane. Because you can't get offended by everything. You can't argue at every single opportunity. In such an outnumbered battle, you can only choose strategic retreats--and strategy dictates sacrifice of the little things.

Privilege is a wide, overarching influence. If you read or participate in IBARW, I know that other bloggers will gladly enlighten you concerning white privilege. But for many of the non-white people: please consider your religious privilege. Barack Obama has faced undeniable prejudice during his Presidential campaign, but I assure you, if Obama or even any old white man were openly atheist, they wouldn't have a chance in hell at winning. I am Asian, Canadian, female, and atheist; I am also lucky enough to be middle-class, educated, able (physically and mentally), and cisgendered. But of the many minorities I belong to, atheism is by far the most dangerous. So I guess I'm saying, think about the privilege that you take for granted, and don't limit your activism to one cause and one week.

<End of infomercial; we now return to our regularly scheduled topic for this week.>
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight against Imperialism
by Cornel West
229 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Nonfiction

In general, I agree with Cornel West's opinions. White supremacy is uncomfortable but undeniable; both political parties are screwed up; I find his subdefinitions of nihilism intriguing. However, I believe that West's approach to his subject is fundamentally flawed. His scathing tone will offend enemies and allies alike--for instance, he condemns youth blogging as comparable to middle-school blowjobs (176)--which accomplishes exactly nothing. Fancy rhetoric is all and well for a philosopher, but West is damn unpersuasive, especially for such a noted scholar and tenured Harvard professor. I'm sure he can present an eloquent defense of his argument, but in writing popular nonfiction, such skills are useless. West's prose is flagrantly critical and filled with emotional triggerwords, the latter of which I also find sloppy. He has some wonderful points but to the general public, his worthy ideas are buried in execution.

Furthermore, West has a tendency to ramble almost-but-not-quite off topic. From the title, one would think that the book concerns democracy; this is technically correct, but should not be an excuse for him to devote half of a chapter to a direct defense of an apparently much-publicized debacle with Harvard's President Summers. I, for one, expected more content relating to democracy rather than (black/white) race, (Judaic/Muslim) religion, or West's memoirs. All are fine topics for a book, but they do not belong in this book. Thus, for IBARW 2008, I am reviewing Democracy Matters rather than West's previous book, Race Matters (i.e. the former was assigned reading for a class and I'm now disinclined to read the latter). And I'll even incorporate the intersectionality theme, since West devotes two out of seven chapters to discussing religion.

Table of Contents
1. Democracy Matters Are Frightening in Our Time [introduction]
2. Nihilism in America [background to discussion of democracy]
3. The Deep Democratic Tradition in America [what this book should have been entirely about]
4. Forging New Jewish and Islamic Identities [what about Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and agnostics?]
5. The Crisis of Christian Identity in America [oh, boohoo--sorry, but I have very little sympathy for the religious majority's wavering faith in a supposedly secular nation]
6. The Necessary Engagement of Youth Culture [by making a hip-hop CD, insulting youth bloggers, and defending his side of the Summers scandal]
7. Putting on Our Democratic Armor [conclusion]

The first chapter does a decent job of introducing West's concept of democracy. You would do well to go find a comfortable-to-hold highlighter at this time, because his prose often elevates obscurity above clarity. West says that the three dogmas against democracy today (in the U.S., it is assumed) are free-market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism, and escalating authoritarianism. Broad accusations follow, plus a shout-out to every major anti-ism. Three counter-dogmas: Socratic questioning, prophetic witness, and tragicomic hope. Interesting analysis of 9/11--"Never before have Americans of all [emphasis original] classes, colors, regions, religions, genders, and sexual orientations felt safe, unprotected, subject to random violence, and hated" (20). I wish he had used "beliefs" instead of "religions," but that's a minor quibble. The introduction is actually a decent read, once you get past the prose; for example, on page 15: "Race is not a lens to justify sentimental stories of pure heroes of color and impure white villains or melodramatic tales of innocent victims of color and demonic white victimizers."

Chapter two actually follows up on some of the introduction's implicit promises, with an interesting discussion of political nihilism and its subsets--evangelical, paternalistic, sentimental. I have 20 minutes left to write this before it's tomorrow, so I'm not detailing all these weird philosophical terms that West makes up. Chapter three talks about democracy as a verb rather than a noun. It's also exceptionally dense and would probably make more sense on rereading.

The fourth chapter, which begins an extended discussion of religion in America, is where my patience with West begins to wear thin. I'm fascinated with the impact of religion on American culture and would readily admit that it has some bearing on American democracy; but it is hardly two-sevenths of all democracy matters. West laments the patriarchal leanings of Islam and the dangers in the Middle East without presenting any possible or theoretical solutions. The rest of the chapter tells me lots and lots of stuff about Judaism, which is great except that it's not diverse in the way that West's introduction promises. Chapter five continues the same broad topic, this time focusing solely on Christian identity. I believe Buddhism is briefly mentioned in passing as an afterthought; I don't recall anything about Hinduism, arguably the world's oldest organized religion, and with this track record, I won't even bother looking for awareness of American atheists and content agnostics. West acknowledges that he is a devout black Christian--apparently the "black" part of that makes him an amazing spokesman for all oppressed minorities--but I found his treatment of religion identical to that of mainstream America. The Christian viewpoint obviously dominates, with Judaism welcomed because of a common God and Islam a point of concern post-9/11. Eastern religions and non-believers exist outside a democratic America, is how I read West.

Also, re: page 165, "...the most liberal nonwhite group--American Jews--voted for Reagan..." Am I lonely and delusional in thinking that most American Jews--especially the traditional families, not the isolated converts--are white? Ethnicity /=/ race, kthxbai.

Chapter six involves West bragging about his outreach efforts to black youth, then defending himself to an imaginary bank of reporters concerning his "all-too-notorious encounter with the president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers." It also hosts the ludicrous association I mentioned above, on page 176. I quote necessarily at length:

...we witness personal depression, psychic pain, and individual loneliness fueling media-influenced modes of escapism. These include the high use of drugs like cocaine and Ecstasy, the growing popularity of performing sex acts at incredibly young ages, such as middle-school-age girls giving boys blow jobs because it will make them "cool"; and the way in which so many kids have become addicted to going online and instant messaging or creating Weblogs in which they assume an alternate personality. This disgraceful numbing of the senses, dulling of the mind, and confining of life to an eternal present--with a lack of connection to the past and no vision for a different future--is an insidious form of soul murder. And we wonder why depression escalates and suicides increase among our precious children.

Ironically, I'm critiquing West as a youth blogger, posting this on a "Weblog" under an alternate personality and killing my (condemned-to-Hell-anyway) soul. Moving on--the last chapter is thankfully just a reiteration of the first three. For a book about democracy, this one talked a whole lot about race and couldn't even cover that tangent properly.

Overall, I am dissatisfied with West's decisions and omissions. He portrays himself as an ally of all the variously oppressed, but he sees fit to champion only certain groups. I will not be reading Race Matters because I have limited reading time these days and given the choice, I'd much rather read Frank Wu's Yellow, then go on to educate myself about all the rest of the non-black and non-white U.S. ethnicities. Is this my own cultural prejudice against African-Americans? Perhaps, but I feel that others--not necessarily my ethnic peers, though I'm woefully ignorant about them as well--more desperately need representation in the race discussion. The final verdict on Democracy Matters is mixed; I didn't enjoy it, but I don't think it was a waste of time either. In the end, it's up to you.

And I'm 5 minutes over the deadline, alas.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
First, happy birthday [ profile] ryuutsurugi! I hope BMC works out well for you; don't forget to come visit, for tax-free shopping if nothing else. ;)

Second, I am astonished by the diversity of comments on yesterday's IBARW post. The incident I described was intensely personal, something that I strove to downplay; at one point in the card-table debate, I was close to tears. But I am heartened--and simultaneously disheartened--by the knowledge that my Chinese community isn't alone in being racist. The island is still in the middle of the ocean with little hope of rescue soon, but at least I have friends and allies on the island too.

Another post to follow, this time hopefully more objective--a book review.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Especially in the U.S., mainstream coverage of racism tends to focus on the black-white divide. I can assure you that Asians are also discriminated against, though perhaps more subtly (and I can't speak for any other group, or even for Asians as a whole); but that's a topic for another time. This post is about racism committed by minority groups upon other minority groups.

I want to specifically present an incident from my own life, a few weeks ago. I was at a Chinese card party, playing a variation of Tractor (with three decks, tons of fun); the other players consisted of adult family friends and one other teenager. In case you didn't know, Chinese card parties are a time both to play cards and to gossip until your throat is parched--that's what the tea is for. Somehow, the table began discussing a time when one woman had been approached by a (white) man at a gas station in a poor neighborhood. This digressed logically into a discussion of African-Americans/blacks and how "luan" (rough) they were, predominately in poor neighborhoods and thus responsible for the majority of crimes in such areas.

Slow down and reread that sentence. "Logically," I wrote. For many Chinese (perhaps extending to Asians in general, but I don't have any personal experience), especially the older immigrant generation, black people automatically connotate "luan." The educated like to think of themselves as tolerant, and when the topic comes up, so will inevitably the "exceptions"--for example, there's a perfectly nice black family on our drive. One of the kids even goes to the same daycare as my sister. This family is a "good black family," one of the minority. Whereas, if I were to bring home a black boyfriend? Interracial yellow-white relationships are still frowned upon, let alone yellow-black. When I posed it as a hypothetical situation, one card player--a man known for his strong and rarely PC views--derided such a possibility as only for Chinese women seeking green cards. Another (female) said, no wonder, black men will scare you to death.

At this card party, I got into a heated argument with the mother of a very good friend--a debate made all the more difficult by her constant assertions that she knew what was best (i.e. her opinion was automatically correct) due to her age. Likewise, my continued outspokenness--compared to the other teenager, who agreed with me but remained silent--was because my parents coddled me too much and allowed me to have a dissenting opinion. Gee, dissent; what an un-Communist novelty. (There are pros and cons to both Communism and capitalism; regardless, the former is generally not conducive to free thinking.)

And I think that were it not for IBARW, for what it taught and reminded me about the importance of activism (however small and local), I would have been silent too. Throughout my life, I have been raised with this subtle and pervasive prejudice. When I hear people around me casually make insulting and incorrect generalizations about another race, I wince inside but have largely given up the fight. When I see a dark-skinned African-American on the street, I unconsciously shied away. This is something to be ashamed of. Unconscious prejudices can be overcome through conscious effort. Furthermore, I am guilty of secondhand racism every time I let a racist comment slide by. I may not be able to commit to blogging against racism all year long, but I can speak out against it when an opportunity smiles at me.

There are other stories I could tell; one man I know has an irrational, intense hatred of Indian people. But I'm sure that I'm not the only one encountering multicultural racism; for today, I am content to point out that just because someone is being racist towards you, doesn't mean you aren't being racist towards someone else in a different context. The oppressed are also the oppressors. Belonging to a minority group doesn't give you a free gold star.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
International Blog Against Racism Week ([ profile] ibarw) is August 4-10! To participate:

  1. Announce the week in your blog.

  2. ETA: If you use a blogging system that allows post icons/pictures, switch your default icon to either an official IBARW icon, or one which you feel is appropriate. To get an official IBARW icon, you may modify one of yours yourself or ask someone to do so. Here's a round up of IBARW icons.

  3. Post about race and/or racism: in media, in life, in the news, personal experiences, writing characters of color, portrayals of race in fiction, review a book on the subject, etc. (Linking back here is highly appreciated!) The optional theme this year is intersectionality.

My goal this year is to post something every day--not necessarily an essay; the important thing is consistency. First post to follow.


keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)

January 2011



RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios