How to have productive discussions about racism

What an impassioned discussion about race-based issues on ESPN’s First Take with Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless after the ESPN headline incident where a racial slur was used and employees suffered severe consequences — one fired, one on probation.

While I agree this was a productive discussion on a sports television network, I wonder what it’d be like to have this kind of productive discussion in the Christian world / church context? Why is it so difficult to have this conversation that’s obviously much needed in American society at large, which in turns implies that it is at least just as necessary within the church?

And if an Asian American were at the table, in addition to the African American and Anglo Americans at that table, what would s/he have said?

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Jeremy Lin & Asian American Male Sexuality

I have to join in on the conversation here.  First of all, I’m excited and proud to see all the attention Jeremy Lin is getting, not only because he’s an Asian American and a Christian, but because he has worked so hard and shown such courage to get where he is today.  And because, as described in the previous post, he has serious talent!  That’s just fun to watch.

Growing up, I feel like there was a lack of representation of Asian American men in popular culture, that I could look up to.  And that kind of thing is really important in one’s childhood… to see positive images of people you can relate to.  I rooted so hard for Yul Kwon, the first Asian American winner of the hit reality show, Survivor, and felt so validated when he outmuscled and outstrategized his competition.  And today, I love seeing Jeremy Lin tear up the court, proving all his doubters wrong.

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Not Post-Racial Yet Or Are We?

Last night I had a great conversation with my mother-in-law (wow, how many times have you ever heard that in your life?) and we talked about some of the dynamics of racism, poverty, and power. Her assumptions as an Indian immigrant were that poor, uneducated people were simply plagued by a mentality where they simply settled for what they had, didn’t value education, and didn’t want to save money, to push themselves. She reminded me that her husband came to this country with only $6 in his pocket, but my wife and I reminded her that he was in a PhD program. It’s slightly easier to starve today if you know have the intellectual assets and opportunities for a payoff tomorrow.

And while something of a “mentality” issue might be there, we had to get the conversation to a point that despite the laws that made us equal, the playing field was not. Furthermore, the people in power haven’t changed much, so poor neighborhoods stay poor, the worse schools stay the worse schools, and the low-paying jobs don’t help people gain useful job skills nor does it allow them to save or invest. In essence, while the system pats itself for being fair and just, it is clear that some people do not have a fair shake or that it is much, much, much harder for certain people based on race and class.

But a huge contingency of people think that these are issues in the past and that the cream of any crop – white, black, or other – are rising to the top. And when the real color is green (as in money), that may well appear to be the case, but categorically speaking, when we assume individualism as the lens for this discussion, we fail to understand how the system as a whole has inequalities in it. To prove the point, my in-laws, while financially secure, do suspect that they never got credit for the amount of work they did, especially when my father-in-law has over two dozen patents to his name. He was passed up for promotions and never got his due. Maybe it was “a mentality” or maybe it was a race thing. It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? We can always rationalize it when there are a few exceptions to the rule, but it really begs the question of whether or not we are post racial.

A great site for all things racial is Racialicious, where I found this post asking the question “How Post Racial Are We?” And it’s clear that while we would like to think that racism is a thing of the past or at least a settled matter, it is clear that it is not. And so the writer, Latoya Peterson finds answers from our society.

Apparently, so post-racial that the Feds just interrupted an assassination plot that would have eventually targeted Barack Obama.

Two white supremacists allegedly plotted to go on a national killing spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, federal authorities said Monday.

In all, the two men whom officials describe as neo-Nazi skinheads planned to kill 88 people — 14 by beheading, according to documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tenn. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

The spree, which initially targeted an unidentified predominantly African-American school, was to end with the two men driving toward Obama, “shooting at him from the windows,” the court documents show.

“Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt,” the court complaint states. “Both individuals further stated they knew they would and were willing to die during this attempt.”

This follows the attempted assassination plot back in August at the Democratic National Convention.

So post-racial that vandals tore down a memorial sign to Emmitt Till:

A sign marking the site where Emmett Till’s battered body was pulled from a river in 1955 has been ripped down by vandals, authorities said.

The sign posted on a road near the Tallahatchie River was among eight that were erected after the county adopted a resolution last year apologizing to Till’s family because an all-white jury acquitted two white men of murdering Till for whistling at a white woman. […]

“We’re not going to tolerate them tearing down anything that’s marking Emmett Till’s murder,” Board of Supervisors President Jerome G. Little said Monday. “I want to send a message: Every time they take it down, we’re going to put it back up.” […]

This isn’t the first time vandals have targeted Till memorials. Last year, a roadside marker on U.S. 49 in Greenwood in Leflore County was stolen. It was replaced with another sign. And, another sign in Tallahatchie County was damaged earlier this year, commission members said.

So post racial, that we seem to be repeating history:

Jacquline McClelland poses with a photo of her son Brandon McClelland, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, in Paris, Texas. Brandon, a black man, was on a late-night beer run across state lines to Oklahoma with two white friends last month and ended up dead on a rural Texas road. Authorities say he was run over by a pickup and then dragged as far as 70 feet beneath the truck. Two white men have been charged with murder in the case.

So what do you think?

Race: Much Ado About Nothing? or Let’s move on?

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So You Want To Be White…

h/t to Mr.Pages for this article: “Acclaimed skin-whitening studies from Ottawa raise racism concerns”

Some quick eyebrow-raising quotes:

Award-winning research by Ottawa biochemists into technology that makes dark skin fairer is renewing controversy about a type of cosmetic product worth billions in Asian markets.

‘The market exists and we’re not going to increase or decrease that market.’— Researcher Eman Ahmed-Muhsin

“We’re not racist,” she [Ahmed-Mushin] said, pointing out that tanning products are popular in North American in the way whitening products are in places such as India, Japan and China.

Critics have accused the industry of racism and imperialism. Ranni Moorthy, a U.K.-based actress from India, told CBC News the products are touted as cures, as if dark skin is “some kind of disease, to be put right.”

Notice the language here seems to tying together skin color and “the market”.

From what I’ve been told of the Indian notion of race, the etymology of the word “caste” is strongly correlated to “color”. And most Asians, including South, associate white skin with luxury…free from work, shaded from the sun, and pristine.

It just so happens that there is a whole people group out there whose most definitive characteristic is their white skin. It also is coincidental that those people have, over the last five hundred years or so, developed global distribution channels and created entire systems of economics and markets that allow for ridiculous amounts of profit to be gained. So now, people of color who never want to be that color again can white themselves out and people with white skin can paint and glaze themselves some other color. And you know what? It’s all in the name of money…there’s a market, it exists, and therefore we are slaves to it.

Any problems with this? Anyone?

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