Aamer Rahman is a brilliant comedian. This video humorously captures why “reverse racism” makes no sense.
Every culture holds positive and negative stereotypes of their own group as well as other groups. A stereotype is a mental attitude or belief. This is not racism. Racism is a concept that describes institutional processes that are linked to historical social relations. A racist statement by a member of a privileged or majority group carries power and the threat of violence because institutional processes ensure minorities are marginalised. Racism is locked to a system of discrimination at school, work, in the media, in politics and through other social institutions. The false concept of reverse racism ignores these institutional experiences of oppression. Continue reading No Such Thing as ‘Reverse Racism’
The best part about historical fiction is, I always have someone to relate to. The past is pretty sweet.
Here’s a satirical look at white male privilege, which refers to the gendered and racist discourses that maintain sexist, racist and heterosexist balance of power society. White men’s experiences are dominant in Western history, education, art, religion, the law and through every other major social institution. Men’s experiences shape the the dominant discourses that pervade everyday social interactions. Discourseis the way in which language is used to impose specific ways of talking and thinking about the established social order. People come to associate particular social practices with commonplace assumptions about “the way things are.” Language is used associate these practices with an idealised vision of normality and “the way things should be.”
Mainstream popular culture makes it seem as if white men’s experiences are “natural,” “normal,” and the universal ideal through which societies should judge the lives of Others. For example the way we use words shape what people come to accept about what it is acceptable about being a man and what is acceptable about being a woman: it is not okay for a woman to walk through the streets at night… but if she’s sexually harassed throughout her day, can’t she take a bit of “harmless teasing”? It is okay to use homophobic language on Twitter 45,000 times in less than half a day (and counting). It’s okay to use sexist language and imagery in gaming and to abuse women who speak out against this.
Gender discourses rest upon heterosexist ideals. Heterosexism is the idea that all people are “naturally” heterosexual and other sexualities are subservient or deviant. This position is unsupported by historical and empirical data, which chart the historical forces that give rise to white, heterosexual male privilege.
In mid-July, David Karp appeared on The Colbert Report. I’m going to tease apart Karp’s brief appearance because it came after the announcement of Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr. The interview touches on issues of digital equality, the hijacking of “cool,” and privacy. Colbert is clever and hilarious as ever. His comedy is about making fun of his guests, so unsurprisingly, during the exchange, we see that Tumblr is dismissed as a frivolous waste of time, mostly because of its reputation as a site for porn. A sociological perspective sees that even the most trivial dismissals, even during in a short comedic exchange, carries social messages that need critical exploration.
Tumblr is a fun way to spend one’s time. Yet Tumblr stands for something more: it is a popular way for young people to interact online, particularly those between 18-29 years, and it is especially used by minorities. Data from America also shows that Tumblr is unique in its gender breakdown. Unlike Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, which are more popular among women, and Twitter which is slightly more popular among men, Tumblr has a near equal split between male and female users. There are no data on non-cis gender users, but Tumblr’s transgender and queer tags are popular, suggesting Tumblr is an important blogging platform for LGBTQI youth. Tumblr also draws a slightly higher proportion of urban and educated users.
Given its unique demographics, it’s useful to place Karp and Colbert’s discussion in a broader socio-economic context. Much of their jokes centre on porn use on Tumblr, but underneath, this is a conversation about digital privilege.
Take a facet of crime, and then look at television shows/movies that feature those criminals as protagonists.
White serial killers.
White political corruption
White drug dealers
I mostly want to talk about this as a TV phenomenon, but pick a crime, any crime, and Western media has probably made a movie/TV series/play/etc. with a white person that romanticizes the criminal activity. No matter what, a white person can do whatever terrible crimes and still have a TV/movie fanbase that loves them.
When you see black or brown people committing crimes on screen, you are to see them thugs and criminal masterminds and people to be beat down.
When you see white people committing crimes on screen, you see a three-dimensional portrait of why someone might commit that crime, how criminals are people too, and how you should even love them for the crimes that they commit because they’re just providing for their families or they’ve wronged or they’re just people and not perfect. This is particularly a luxury given to white male characters, since there few white female criminals as protagonists.
If and of the above shows were about black or brown folks, there would be a backlash of (white) people claiming that TV and movies are romanticizing criminals and are treating them too much like heroes and that it will affect viewers and encourage violence and “thuggish” behavior. And yet fictional white criminals get to have a deep fanbase who loves these white criminals, receive accolades and awards, get called amazing television that portray the complexities of human nature. Viewers of these characters see past the atrocious crimes and into their humanity, a luxury that white characters always have while characters of color rarely do. The closest that mainstream TV has come to showing black criminals as main characters is probably The Wire, and even then, the criminals share equal screen time and equal status as main characters as the police trying to stop them.
The idea that crime can be so heavily romanticized and glorified to such a degree is undoubtedly a privilege given to white characters. The next time you hear someone talk about Dexter Morgan or Walter White in a positive way, it may be an opportunity to rethink how white people can always able to be seen as people no matter what they do, while everyone else can be boiled down to nothing but a criminal.
“No one can take away who we are. No one can take away our identity”. Prominent Australian writer and intellectual Anita Heiss recently made this comment on the program Living Black. She was speaking about her lawsuit win over Andrew Bolt, who was found guilty of racial vilification. In 2004, Bolt engaged in a series of racist comments attacking high-profile Indigenous Australians, essentially arguing they weren’t “black enough”, as Heiss puts it in her latest book. The Living Black video (below), recounts some of Bolt’s insidious comments, such as “Meet the white face of a new black race. The Political Aborigine… I certainly don’t accuse them of opportunism, even if full-blood Aborigines may wonder how such fair people can claim to be one of them and in some cases take black jobs”.
Bolt is a conservative commentator and notorious bigot who tries his hardest to single-handedly dismantle multicultural harmony via his newspaper column and TV appearances. Bolt glowers over Indigenous Australian leaders, patronising his readership about how he images Indigenous Australians might feel about “light-skinned” Aboriginals, without awareness of his white male privilege and the ongoing history of racist paternalism which dominate Indigenous affairs at the national level. Bolt casually makes reference to “full-blood Aborigines”, which is a socially constructed colonial concept used to institutionalise racist practices. The categorisation of “half-caste”, “full-blood” and other variations, has been used since European settlement to deny Indigenous Australians access to their human rights, social welfare and land ownership. As Heiss’ book argues, her court case win over Bolt was a symbolic triumph. The court rule in favour of racial vilification took away the power of identity labelling from white Westerners who impose racial categories upon Indigenous Australians. While this is only one case involving one infamous media personality, Heiss says that the future implications of this court case are likely to be profound: Continue reading Reframing “Black” Identity Politics in Australia
Economist-Staff is a website whose sole purpose is to point out white cultural dominance within The Economist, one of the world’s most respected economic publications. The Economist magazine shapes its global economic analyses through highly specific racial, ethnic and linguistic lenses.
The Economist-Staff website began in response to an article in The Economist that attempted to answer “Why are Korean women so good at golf?” The Economist Staff points out that is a problematic question to begin with, let alone the article itself, which reproduces racial and ethnic stereotypes. Check out the rest of the Economist-Staff site, which refutes The Economist’s claims that the magazine is about diversity, and that it is “the enemy of privilege, pomposity and predictability”. In the graphics below, we see that one way through which whiteness discourses are perpetuated in the magazine is through the English language.
Adam Serwer reports in Mother Jones that George Lucas’ latest film, Red Tails had trouble getting made, partly because the “studios weren’t willing to finance a film without a White protagonist as an anchor”. Lucas’ claim can be put into wider historical context by examining the entrenched racist practices of big Hollywood studios. In particular, the idea of the “magical negro trope” puts things into perspective. This term refers to the way valiant Black characters in movies exist only as a narrative device to teach the White protagonist how to be a better person. I also delve into other variations of the “magical negro” and the gendered dimensions of these characters. Hollywood studios bemoan that paying audiences have stopped going to the cinemas. Is it any wonder, when big productions treat us all as if we’re stuck in some arcane mono-cultural bubble?
Florence + the Machine’s (F+TM) new video, No Light, No Light (below), has stirred up quite a lot of controversy even though it was only released a couple of days a go. In the video’s narrative, Florence Welch is distressed as she is pursued by a man painted in black, who is half-naked (wearing only ripped up shorts) and who looks to be practising ‘voodoo magic’. Her assailant is wearing an ‘African-looking’ mask and sticking pins in dolls. He causes Welch to squirm in agony and to run for shelter. Welch is ‘saved’ by a choir of White children (whose faces are not painted) in what looks like a Christian church. In this post, I consider the video’s narrative with respect to the history of ‘blackface’, racist depictions of ‘otherness’ and African religions, and the notion of ‘unintentional racism’ in popular culture. I am specifically interested in the public discussions about the video, which are currently centred on what constitutes racism.