As a part of last weeks Comedy Week on YouTube, David Neptune and Ken Tanaka took on the aspect of racism in which Asians and Asian Americans are exotified, no matter their birthplace: “no, really — where are you from?“ The disbelief that one’s English is “so good,” that one can be a US-born Asian. This kind of exchange, and some of my own experiences as a multiracial person, point to 1) the obsession with categorizing people by race and ethnicity, and 2) the angry emotional reaction that arises when one’s background doesn’t fit the inquirer’s stereotypes or racial schema. Check out the video; it’s funny because it’s not.
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Tags: America, Asian Americans, Asians, bias, comedy, culture, English, Ethnicity, exotification, identity, immigration, language, minorities, prejudice, Race, Racism, stereotypes, whites, Xenophobia, YouTube
Categories : Identity, Prejudice, Race & Ethnicity
When I first heard the news about the bombings, I felt what most of the US felt: “Oh, no! That is tragic.” Grief for the families. Curiosity about who did it and why. And, concern for what this means for the country moving forward.
Then, as the media began speculating about who the suspects are, I lost interest. I still feel the same ache in my heart for the victims and their families, and the city of Boston as a whole. But, I was not glued to my television, computer, or Twitter account any longer.
It was in talking with my parents about the bombings that I realized why. The speculation quickly dissolved into the guessing game regarding the suspects’ race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion. We tried to figure out why these characteristics matter. Ah — America needs a scapegoat.
It Doesn’t Matter
“Please don’t let it be a Muslim!” “They hardly look dark-skinned to me.” The media and the rest of the country became obsessed. For members of demonized groups, the suspects’ background matter because of what may come. If this turned out to be a repeat of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the US might again overflow with racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. If the suspects were Black, America might wave it’s finger and exclaim, “see, I told you Blacks are violent criminals!”
One aspect of being a stigmatized group is being treated as an indistinguishable mass. The actions of one Latino man are treated as further proof that all Latina/os do that same act. But, the suspects’ white racial identity end up saying nothing about whites as a group. They are seen as individuals who acted independent of group interests or dispositions. In fact, now that so much attention has highlighted on this double standard, efforts are being made to recast the suspects as off-white or something else all together. We must preserve the purity of whiteness!
But, sadly, the suspects’ background actually changes nothing. Muslims are still stereotyped as terrorists. Black people are still stereotyped as being prone to violence and crime. Latina/os are still stereotyped as “illegal” immigrants. And “white people” are still comprised of unique individuals.
It Does Matter
Prejudice is a funny thing. It is stubborn and rash. If there were a group of people who deeply hated the color blue, they would insist that the sky is red. Or, they might even say that they don’t see color.
Even with pictures of the two identified bombing suspects, mainstream America persisted in making this tragedy a case about international affairs, race, immigration, and religious-based terrorism. The suspects were described in ways that either heightened the importance of race or twisted the reality of their racial and ethnic background. Innocent bystanders and even victims with brown skin were identified by the media as possible suspects. Some in congress have made this an issue about immigration.
The slightest infraction, then, serves to justify further demonizing immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and religious minorities. Even feminists and LGBT people have been named as possible scapegoats. Yet, this case reminds us that infractions can be created even when they do not exist. These white suspects have given further justification for racism and xenophobia. Huh?
And, yet again, terrorist acts are being used to terrorize minorities, ironically indiscriminately. Any person with the slightest shade of brown skin could be subject to harassment and discrimination. Racist and xenophobic America once again has an excuse to terrorize the minorities.
We Got ‘Em! A Cause For Celebration
With the apprehension of the second of the two suspects after a prolonged search, Boston and much of the rest of America breathed a sigh of relief. We got ‘em! Pictures of people waving American flags and singing the national anthem filled my Twitter feed. Yes, the capture of two young adult men who terrorized a major US city was certainly a cause for patriotic celebration.
Indeed, for some, this was the first major terror attack since the 9/11 attacks. Huh? Either we really do lack a consensus on what counts as “terrorism,” or mainstream America has a bad case of amnesia. Or, maybe it’s just selective amnesia:
- The multiple sniper attacks in the Washington, DC area in 2002
- Bombing at University of Oklahoma in 2005
- 2008 shooting at a Unitarian Universality church in Knoxville, TN
- The 2009 shooting at Fort Hood in Texas
- Assassination of Dr. George Tiller (reproductive health services provider) during a church service in 2009
- 2011 attack on a Martin Luther King day march in Spokane, WA
- Aurora, Colorado shooting at a movie theater in 2012
- 2012 attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin
- 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut
- Many, many school shootings
The legal, academic, and dominant cultural definitions of terrorism aside, there have been many violent attacks before and since the 9/11 attacks — acts which serve to create terror. I am hesitant to believe that the US faces any more or less terrorism than in the past.
Beyond that, I felt relief when the second suspect was caught, but “Ohhhh, sayyyy cannn youuuu seeeeee” was not flowing out of my mouth for two major reasons. First, the Boston bombings do not seem all that extraordinary to me. Look again at the (incomplete) lists of terrorist attacks that came to mind. Such big acts of violence actually seem like a pretty regular part of life in America. We certainly have it good (in terms of safety) compared to places where bombings are a regular occurrence. But, for places in the US that are entrenched with regular crime and violence, I have to wonder if they were phased by the Boston bombings. (I bet their entire city is not shut down for the frequent “manhunts” for violent criminals.)
Second, I do not feel any more or less free from terrorism following the closure to the Boston case. The Boston bombings were just a different kind of terrorism for me. They serve as an act that supplement the regular vulnerability to being terrorized as a brown queer person in a racist, sexist, heterosexist, and classist country. Whether I am truly an American remains questioned, my status as a citizen is still not fully realized, and I am no more protected from violence and discrimination. In fact, these events sparked greater possible threat to my safety and rights.
Sadly, that what is at stake for this case depends upon the race, ethnicity, nationality, and religion of the terrorist behind the bombings in Boston tells us that America still has a race problem. The sense of dread that members of demonized groups felt that the suspects may be “one of their own” highlights the ease with which stereotypes are considered confirmed. Minority groups are treated as a monolithic mass, while privileged groups continue to enjoy the luxury of individuality. Where ever there is uncertainty, or room for doubt or speculation, mainstream America’s prejudices fill in the gaps, standing in as facts. Such prejudices are so strong that they will not only create truths, but also alter or completely counter evidence that says otherwise.
Let’s look at America before the bombings and, now, today as the case comes to a close. Nothing has changed. The country still suffers from racism and xenophobia. It’s just using a new excuse to terrorize its scapegoats: “you made me do this to you.”
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Tags: blacks, Boston, Boston bombing, discrimination, ethnic minorities, Ethnicity, harassment, immigration, Islamophobia, Latina/os, Media, minorities, Muslims, Nationality, People of Color, prejudice, Race, racial minorities, Racism, Religion, religious minorities, scapegoating, terrorism, US, Violence, Xenophobia
Categories : Discrimination, Gender, History, LGBT, Prejudice, Race & Ethnicity, Violence
This was originally posted at Kinsey Confidential.
Think about this story for a moment:
In November , … the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain agreed to pay $345,000 to six male employees who claimed they were repeatedly sexually assaulted by a group of male kitchen staffers at a Phoenix-area restaurant.
Okay, now let me share another story with you:
…but one thing I noticed about him was that he feels up every woman he meets.
The first story came from an MSNBC article about the rising number of men filing formal claims of sexual harassment in the workplace. The second story is a critique of a character on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”, who is a gay man: can gay men sexually harass straight women? I bet that there is a good chance that after reading the first story, you thought to yourself, “oh, the male perpetrators must be gay!” And, after reading the second, you might have caught yourself questioning how a gay man could sexually harass a woman – why would he want to?
The point of this exercise is to highlight that many of us assume, even subconsciously, that sexual harassment entails some unwanted and harassing behaviors motivated by sexual desire. So, some might find it confusing that a heterosexual person would harass someone of their same gender, or that a gay man might harass a woman. But, what underlies sexual harassment is an expression of power – not desire.
The Traditional Definition Of Sexual Harassment
Beginning with the US Civil Rights Act of 1964, the dominant, legal definition of sexual harassment that has evolved overtime is one of harassing behaviors or differential treatment that are sexual in nature. This includes unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and creating a hostile environment. While it is understood that men can also be the victims of sexual harassment, men as harassers and women as targets of harassment is central to our common understanding of sexual harassment. In fact, sexual harassment is commonly defined as a form of gender-based discrimination (against women).
Sexual Harassment As A Gendered Expression Of Power
There is a great deal of work, particularly in the social sciences, women and gender studies, and sexuality studies that demonstrates that sexual harassment is an expression of power, especially along the lines of gender. For example, three sociologists recently published a study in which they found that women who hold supervisor-level positions are more likely than women who do not to experience sexual harassment. These experiences for women supervisors largely serve to put them “in their place,” signaling that they are unwelcome in a position of power as women. Unfortunately, factors beyond interactions among individuals appear to place women at greater risk for harassment: working in male-dominated fields, and being physical and socially isolated from other women.
Sexual Harassment Is Not (Only) About Gender
Indeed, women are not alone in being targets of sexual harassment. Though less common, some men are victims of these experiences, as well. In another sociological study on sexual harassment, a number of men reported experiencing sexually harassing behaviors; however, men are much more apprehensive to define these experiences as sexual harassment, probably because the common understanding limits these experiences to women. This study also pointed out two interesting dynamics: adolescent males and men who are financially vulnerable (i.e., feel they do not have control over their financial situation) are more frequently targets of sexual harassment.
Indeed, sexual harassment is not merely a gendered phenomenon. For example, there has been a great deal of attention in research to racial differences in women’s experiences of sexual harassment. This work has explored whether women of color are more often targeted than white women, there are racial differences in defining one’s experiences as harassment, and whether women of color experience sexual harassment differently than white women. Some Black feminist scholars like Patricia Hill Collins and Angela Y. Davis have noted that sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence are manifestations of sexism, as well as racism and classism.
But, I wish to push this perspective one step further — sexual harassment is the sexual-based expression of any system of oppression, be it sexism, racism, homophobia or heterosexism, transphobia, classism, ableism, ageism, fatphobia, or xenophobia. A few examples come to mind:
- A white heterosexual man jokes with his Black heterosexual male coworker that he must have large penis.
- A heterosexual woman doctor asks a lesbian patient about the particular sexual activities she engages in with her female sexual partners to make sense of why the patient does not regularly use (male) condoms or other forms of birth control.
- A girl from a working-class background is teased frequently by boys at her school that she provides oral sex in the school bathroom to make money.
- A cisgender man repeatedly asks his neighbor, a transman, about parts of his body and his sex life.
A Different Perspective
So, two related points come from this perspective on sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is not limited to the unwanted and harassing behaviors that are sexual in nature by (heterosexual) men targeted toward (heterosexual). To focus just on gender and, specifically on men as harassers and women as victims, forces us to overlook the other various ways in which sexual harassment occurs. As a consequence, many people whose experiences fall outside of this traditional view may fail to define their experiences as sexual harassment, leading them to forgo seeking legal recourse or protection, or any actions to end the harassment in general.
The other related point is that this male-harasser-female-victim perspective is somewhat heterosexist; that is, it presumes that all parties involved are heterosexual. By extension, this means that heterosexual desire must be present — one that entails a sexually aggressive heterosexual man and a sexually-disinterested heterosexual woman. I must state this clearly, here: sexual harassment is not an expression of desire. As such, one individual may repeatedly sexually harass another individual whom they do not find sexually desirable. (In the case of sexual harassment between men, for example, it is probably the case that that heterosexual men sexual harass gay men much more frequently than the reverse.)
Now that US laws have shifted to reflect the reality that some men are survivors of sexual violence, it may be time to broaden how we define sexual harassment. Indeed, we are beginning to acknowledge that men, too, are targets of sexual harassment. But, it may be necessary that we recognize that sexual harassment may be an expression of racism, heterosexism, sexism, transphobia, classism, or any other form of oppression – as well as the intersections among them.
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Tags: ableism, ageism, discrimination, fatphobia, Gender, harassment, heterosexism, Homophobia, Law, oppression, Race, Racism, Rape, Sexism, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, sexual orienation, Sexual Violence, Transphobia, Xenophobia
Categories : Gender, Intersectionality, Race & Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Sexual Violence, Sociology
Many people, especially those of historically disadvantaged groups (e.g., immigrants, people of color, women), have viewed education as the route to upward-mobility and intellectual growth. The way to prove to the man that you are not inferior is to broaden your knowledge, skills, and worldview, especially when barriers remain in place that deny people of color, immigrants, and women equal access to educational opportunities. Though education is a source of empowerment, it is largely limited to what our professors, teachers, and instructors show us, teach us, introduce to us. For example, what little I knew about the history of Black and African peoples in the United States was the product of a limited curriculum, branded “Black History Month” – the shortest month in the calendar year.
In Arizona, a wave of racism and xenophobia has now put into law an explicit ban on Ethnic Studies in the state. Further, new strict guidelines have been put into place regarding teachers’ accents. This comes a few weeks after the literal re-writing of history in Texas textbooks and a week since a new law passed that allowed Arizona police free reign in stopping any individual they suspect of being an undocumented immigrants – a law, unfortunately, that nearly a dozen other states are now considering.
* Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
* Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
* Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
* Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
There are some obvious problems with these criteria, both in their intent, and the assumption that Ethnic Studies automatically meets these criteria. Like US, European, African-American, Women’s, LGBT, Chicano history curricula, Ethnic Studies programs are designed for all students – not just students of one ethnicity or another. These programs are designed explicitly to teach about the histories and cultures of a diversity of racial, ethnic, and cultural groups – not to promote anarchy, racial militancy, racial resentment, or even solidarity. Further, there is an obvious oversight of the ways in which typical “US history” focuses primarily on the history of white Americans, promotes overthrow of the government (hello, Teabaggers? those who are nostalgic of the Confederacy?), and fosters white solidarity (thinly veiled as American pride).
My criticisms aside, it is scary shit that bigotted politicians have an undeniable say in what the future generations are taught. When barriers and limits are still in place for the growth of the histories and academic study of marginalized groups, we cannot afford to move backwards. We cannot afford to send the message to students that learning about one’s ancestry poses an anarchist, militant, anti-white threat. We cannot afford to send the message that accents are okay so long as they are not in positions in which one has to communicate with others. Our children and our children’s children must be more open-minded, more liberal, and more enlightened than we – not less.
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Tags: accents, Arizona, Education, Ethnicity, immigration, language, Law, Politics, Race, Racism, Xenophobia
Categories : Education, Law, Politics, Prejudice, Race & Ethnicity
The need for fair and comprehensive national immigration policy is needed now more than ever. From the NYT:
Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration into law on Friday. Its aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. The move unleashed immediate protests and reignited the divisive battle over immigration reform nationally. Even before she signed the bill at an afternoon news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it.
The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.
Ms. Brewer acknowledged critics’ concerns, saying she would work to ensure that the police have proper training to carry out the law. But she sided with arguments by the law’s sponsors that it provides an indispensable tool for the police in a border state that is a leading magnet of illegal immigration. She said racial profiling would not be tolerated, adding, “We have to trust our law enforcement.”
How ironic, the governor noted that racial profiling would not be tolerated — but, that’s exactly what this new invasive law allows for. In the US, today’s xenophobic understanding of immigration makes the words “immigrant”, “illegal alien”, and “Hispanic/Latino” interchangeable. That is, discussions of Latina/o people often include a discussion of immigration, which almost always leads to discussion of “illegal aliens”, non-citizens from other countries who have not received legal authorization to reside in the United States. So, allowing law enforcement to stop and detain anyone they suspect of being undocumented means that anyone who is or appears to be Latina/o is fair game. And, as we saw following the 2001 terrorist attacks in NYC and DC, it is clear that many people have a hard time distinguishing or fail to care to distinguish members of different non-white racial and ethnic groups. As a country, we had blamed people of Middle Eastern descent for the terrorist attacks; in retaliation, brown-skinned people of any non-white race and ethnicity became fair game for harassment and violence.
Further, this will only exacerbate both abuse of police power and distrust of law enforcement officials. Giving police and other law enforcement officials the power to stop anyone and demand their “papers” (to prove their legal status or citizenship) will certainly bring about more hostile police-layperson interactions. Law enforcement has come under fire recently for abusing and overusing tasers to constrain, control, and calm people – even who are not physically violent or resistant. Now, in Arizona, police have free reign in harassing and hunting people of color. Funny, weren’t the conservatives just crying “fascism” against President Obama’s push for access to health care for every citizen?
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Tags: Arizona, Ethnicity, Government, immigration, law enforcement, police, Race, Racism, Xenophobia
Categories : Criminal Justice, Discrimination, Law, Politics, Prejudice, Race & Ethnicity, Violence
This past Christmas day, a young Nigerian man failed to set off a bomb on Northwest Airlines flight 253, traveling from Amsterdam to Detriot. In response, President Barack Obama has criticized the break down of communication, as there were warnings about the young man’s increasing radical views, and security (how did he get on the plane with a bomb?). Also, a new set of stringent security guidelines have been set by the Transportation Security Administration. I want to first note that if it is terrorists’ goal to create terror and fear, then that failed bomb was actually a success, considering the chaos that has now been caused in the US. This chaos includes thorough and invasive screenings of travelers to the US from 14 different countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. This guide of profiling by nation of origin is a thin veil for profiling by perceived religion, race, and ethnicity, though some conservative politicians don’t even bother with the veil:
Well, it seems I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out how to embed this video, so you can see it at Colbert Nation.
Is profiling at airport security checkpoints new? No. Is racial profiling in the US new? No. In this case, racists and xenophobes and other bigots are capitalizing on this failed attack to freely broadcast their racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, anti-Middle East views. The stereotypes of these groups as terrorists and anti-American did not emerge out of recent terrorist attacks – they already existed, but now they are spoken openly as though the Christmas day failed bombing justifies such prejudice and discrimination. Here’s a hypothetical: if a white man from Ireland attempted to bomb a US-bound plane, would all Irish people receive the scrutiny Muslims and other Arabs are now receiving? Would the attention on the Irish spread to 13 other predominantly/majority-white countries? Though the Colbert video is funny, he raises a good point: must we sacrifice freedom from prejudice and discrimination in the name of national security? Remember when we placed thousands of Japanese Americans into internment camps during WWII?
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Tags: conservatives, President Barack Obama, Racism, republicans, security, terrorism, Xenophobia
Categories : Politics, Race & Ethnicity