Tag: racism

Chinks III

| May 17, 2011 | Reply
Chinks III

Since writing Chinks II, I’ve felt uneasy about calling the Vietnamese workers in that nail salon ‘racists’. It’s true that they pigeonholed an African-American patron as a lazy welfare recipient who was unwilling to get a job. They seemed to take pleasure in voicing all the hurtful stereotypes that could be applied to a total stranger. I found their behavior cruel, terrifying and ironic.

The barb at the heart of Chinks II was minority on minority hate. Yet I described their hate speech as “tittering… nonsensical verbal massaging.” Even if the taunting was meant to be indecipherable, wasn’t I being a bigot myself by writing about it this way?

I can’t think of more alternatives to the pronoun “them.” That’s probably because I don’t know much about the Vietnamese women who taunted a black woman that day. (Here again, I resort to the roughest of rough sketches: “that black lady”). I don’t know their names. I don’t know where they live, although it’s probably not far from my own neighborhood. They are caricatures precisely because I have so few details with which to draw my group character sketch. And what would my cartoon self-portrait look like?

Qipao1

On the day of Chinks II, I was the most socially normative minority in the room. Being light-skinned, speaking with an American accent, growing up in a solidly middle-class household and earning a professional degree all help me to appear more “white” and inviolable. Who knows? It could have been my blessed-in-every-way-second-generation-Chinese-American presence that precipitated the verbal attack that I describe so vehemently. It’s not that I think I am the center of every story; though this story – all the Chinks stories – are about me and my perception of race. Chinks II simply exemplifies the pervasive, insidious, contagious nature of bigotry. This is a barb that hasn’t stopped pricking.

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Veteran speaks out about the military’s greatest weapon: racism

| December 22, 2009 | Reply
Veteran speaks out about the military’s greatest weapon: racism

In this video, a military veteran named Mike Prysner spoke out about the military’s main weapon: racism. He argues that without racism, none of the military’s expensive weapons could ever be used, and there would be no chance that the working people of one country would be convinced to kill the working people of another country. His argument regarding the power of racism is another way of pointing out the explosive power of ingroups and outgroups and the curing power of diversity–a willingness to embrace the humanity of people unlike ourselves.

For more on the often-used recipe for going to war, see this post on “War Made Easy.

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Does Gingrich think racism is evolving?

| May 31, 2009 | 5 Replies
Does Gingrich think racism is evolving?

I loved this op-ed piece over at Huffpo by John Ridley – “Note to Newt . . . ” – regarding Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor’s supposedly racist comment about the perspective of a Latina woman in a 2001 speech. Ridley is right on target with his comparisons of “old racism” and “new racism” – as if a comparison can even be made. Mostly, Newt and his ilk just seem annoyed that “they” just don’t know their places these days. Not women, not minorities, not gays . . . life just isn’t as simple when everyone goes off and thinks they’re just as good as the good ol’ white guys.

Sotomayor’s point was essentially that anyone who has seen the system from the bottom up has a deeper experiential perspective from which to draw when discussing said system. That doesn’t make her every thought on it correct or best, but overall, her perspective has more to draw on than that of a privileged white male who never had to fight for his place at any table, let alone on any bench.

I don’t discount white males, by any means, and neither did she. Lots of them, present company included, are wonderful, open-minded, intelligent and fair people. By calling her comment “racist,” Gingrich has merely shown he has precious little understanding of what racism is really all about.

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What are the teabag protests really about?

| April 19, 2009 | 24 Replies
What are the teabag protests really about?

What are the teabag protests really about?

Their message is so incredibly incoherent, that it’s clear that these sparsely-attended “protests” weren’t really about what they were supposedly about, at least for many of the protesters. Therefore, we need to explore the subterranean reasons. On Keith Olberman’s show, Janeane Garofalo suggests that what really upsets the teabaggers is that there is a black man in White House. With her theory, Garofalo is echoing one of my suspicions. And check out the blogger who took the microphone at one of the protests and had the protesters eating out of his hand, to demonstrate the incoherence.

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The white liberation of Paris

| April 6, 2009 | Reply
The white liberation of Paris

Apparently, the liberation of Paris was steeped in racism. Even though many of the soldiers fighting for the freedom of France were not Caucasian, it was determined on high that only white soldiers would be seen marching back into Paris.

[I dedicate this post to Richard King, an acquaintance of mine, a wonderful African American man who, as a young soldier, fought long and hard to liberate France.]

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Chinks II: Food Stamps

| April 1, 2009 | Reply
Chinks II: Food Stamps

Which reminds me: I was getting a pedicure. I know, so decadent (for a poverty lawyer, teehee), but I was, in this Vietnamese joint, tiny like a hallway lined with big massage chairs. A dangerously overweight, black woman walked in. No, she lumbered in with her handbag at her side, looking tired of lumbering. Titters from the nail-doers. Manicurists, I guess. They’d noticed her too: first the weight, then the skin color. Or perhaps I’m projecting. In any case, they beckoned her to a chair, malignant smiles aglow like jack-o-lanterns, and she quietly succumbed to the growing twitters, over-generous, nonsensical verbal massaging, and I cringed. I cringed visibly. I said nothing.

They asked her if she exercised often. They asked if she had a job. For many years, she said. Yes. “Food stamps? Are you on food stamps?” they asked. No, she said quietly. She was not receiving food stamps, and had never, in her life, benefited from food stamps. By now, she’d noticed me staring. I was. I was staring at her – and with her- at us in these ridiculous chairs, prisoners of racists. I could tell the woman picking at my toenails to give it a rest, put my shoes on, pay the bill, tell them all off and leave. Or I could sit there quietly and smile sympathetically at this dangerously overweight black woman who knew, I hoped, that I knew that I was a coward. She smiled at me.

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Chinks I

| April 1, 2009 | Reply
Chinks I

I got called a Chink today. The last time I remember being called a Chink, I was an 8 year-old in a fading blue one-piece swimsuit at the Boys ‘n Girls Club in Mt. Kisco, NY. In the shallow end. I don’t remember what I did to raise the hackles of Bully, a short blond chubby boy whose name’s been redacted by my neurons. All I remember is that I was dazed and confused when I first heard the word. I looked into his eyes and saw derision – I knew not of what or why – and a lonely, boiling soup of mysterious inadequacy rose in my belly.

I wasn’t angry at Bully. I just didn’t understand why he was angry with me. In an effort to understand what had just happened, I told my swimming instructor what he’d called me. I knew it was bad. Perhaps her intervention would reveal what it meant. Denise (sister to Dennis, also a swimming instructor – thank you, neurons) told me to ignore him or said something equally dismissive. I swam back into line on my back (this I remember too), trying to align my body with the rafters through puddly tears and swallowing gobs of phlegm. Maybe I felt anger then. Maybe I briefly flipped onto my stomach to catch my breath and hold in the soup that had turned into boiling bitterness. I remember it now. I can feel the same, helpless, indignant outrage or I can hold it at bay. That’s why I didn’t tell Jin that we’d been called Chinks today, in the bible-belt, by a convertible-driving Catholic School boy: me in my skirt suit with briefcase in tow (saving the poor) and she, a new J.D. with intolerance only for American fast food. I choose to feel nothing.

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So Much Bigotry, So Little Time to Banish it . . .

| January 3, 2009 | 1 Reply
So Much Bigotry, So Little Time to Banish it . . .

Just when I think we’re making progress, we go and pull the one-step-forward-ten-steps-back trick.  First, a friend tells me about how her daughter was treated recently in a suburb of New York City.  The daughter is 17 and African-American, although my friend is Caucasian.  Her daughter was adopted from Sierre Leone in West Africa as […]

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The Great Discrimination Guessing Game!

| October 29, 2008 | 7 Replies
The Great Discrimination Guessing Game!

A boss neglects to notice your achievements. A potential love interest snubs you. A stranger acts as though you do not exist. An acquaintance does not respect your opinion. Sometime, somewhere, someone has failed to treat you how you believe you deserve to be treated. But what, in that ego-crushing millisecond just happened? A bevy […]

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