Monday, February 25, 2008

Unity Is Up To Us

Last week, I was somewhat forced to participate in an argument about the Presidential election. What I liked most about the argument were 1) all three of us supported different candidates, and if you looked at us you would think you knew who supports whom but you'd be wrong; and 2) unlike with most people, we could argue and argue our points of view but it never got personal and no one got offended/their feelings hurt/etc. And we were all three women, so the fact that no one got upset about anything was a miracle and reminds me why female lawyers are the best females.

This conversation was between BFLS, BRF and I (see the last post for descriptions of these people), i.e. a white female, a black female and me being a mixed black female. The white female supports Obama. The black female supports Huckabee. I support Clinton. I say I was forced because I'm tired of the election and tired of repeating my point of view about it. Plus, everybody is talking/writing about the election, and nothing new is being said, really.

Well, here's something that I wish I had remembered to argue. Let's try this and see if it's new:

I have a hard time really grasping why people believe in Obama so much, why they want to believe in Obama so much. I know the country's screwed up. I didn't think too many other people knew that, to be honest with you, because it seems like we're always rushing to give to other nations but ignoring problems here unless it affects a group to which we belong somehow. With blacks, I have a hard time understanding why 1) they all assume we all support Obama, and 2) why so many of them do support Obama. Is it because of his message, because he's black or both? Other than the race and sex, I don't think there's a lot of difference between Obama and Clinton...except she has more experience, has been on the scene longer and has a husband who has been President.

A lot of people who support Obama like his message, but I think there are at least three camps of people: 1) those who like his message of hope, unity and change enough to support him, 2) those who are skeptical of his message, and 3) those who are just not going to vote for a Democrat. I'm very skeptical of his message. I'm one of the many people who find it to be just empty language. And, even more than that, as I said to my friends last week, I just don't believe he can deliver. In addition, my friend who supports Huckabee made great, what I feel are, very true arguments about Obama--basically amounting to if he becomes President at this time he will be in over his head for many reasons, such as his lack of experience and the war in Iraq, and he should run in the future. I absolutely agree, and I have even said here that I believe now is not the time for Obama--he should run, at the earliest, in the next election. In addition to that, his language is lofty for somebody like him...or, to me, really for anybody. If he's going to have a hard time with something like Iraq, he will certainly have a hard time with an issue that has been America's biggest problem since whites brought blacks here--uniting the people of this nation.

The truth is, uniting the people of this nation and bringing about change is not up to Obama or any other President. And I think my friend who was arguing vigorously for Obama knows this, because part of her argument is that the President is a figurehead position. If he's a figurehead position, then exactly what work will he be engaging in that will help bring us together and make changes? I agree--Presidents are figureheads. They give speeches. At best, they go places...and give more speeches. The dude is brilliant at giving if that's all it takes to really be a successful President, then, yes, he's qualified. He doesn't control who's in Congress or the Senate, and right now it doesn't appear to me that he would have much say who is on the Supreme Court. The Presidency is a position of limited power.

These people are his check and balance system. Half of that check and balance contains Conservatives who surely don't share his stated vision for America. I'm not even sure I share his vision--yes, I mean that I don't know if I want to unite with the rest of America. As far as the House and Senate, there is currently a Democratic swing, but there's no telling how many of them will support any ideas Obama has for achieving his stated goals or how long these seats will remain Democratic during his reign...if he becomes President. Furthermore, as I stated before in my blog, he does not control how people vote on issues crucial to certain groups of Americans and not others, such as gay rights and affirmative action. In fact, he, himself, could not bring himself to say he supports gay rights. So, no matter what he says about wanting to unite us, in many ways he will be a divisive figure, because he does have his own beliefs and beliefs are almost always going to lead to some sort of division. That's just how politics work. If he supports gay rights, he will alienate people who don't. If he doesn't support gay rights, he will alienate--and has alienated--people who do.

Thus, we, too, are a check and balance. He can have the intent to unite us all, but if we ourselves don't have that intent, we can go to the polls and harm others. We can elect harmful people. But, perhaps, what's most important is how we treat others every single day. If we insist on being divisive and alienating, then what can the President do about that? If we're busy looking to the President to solve all our issues with one another but we're not doing what we can and should do every day, what can the President do about that?

My friend who supports Obama said that Clinton can't bring about unity any more than Obama can, but Clinton hasn't said anything about that. Her campaign is not built around it. So, if she fails at this task--which any President would, I believe--she will not look like a failure, a liar or like an ill-equipped leader. And I believe no President can deliver unity to us simply because it's not up to that person--it's up to us. In fact, it's frighteningly simple, actually. If you want to see racism end, stop being racist. Don't just vote for a black President so you can pat yourself on the back and convince yourself you're not racist and racism doesn't exist. Or don't just look at the fact that someone who has a similar skin color as you is finally a viable candidate and think that race is no longer as much of an issue. If you want to see the end partisan battles, stop being partisan--or at least stop insulting and attacking people from a different political party. Obama can't even stop attacking a member of his own party--I wonder how he will work with Republicans. If you want to see the end of poverty, stop being elitist, classist and centered on what you can get out of life...the hell with everyone else.

While a candidate can be inspirational and make you want to act, you have to act. Obama can't end hatred and separation for us. He can't come to our homes, to every noose hanging, to every act of employment discrimination, to every instance of a hate crime and give a speech, talk some sense into us, make us change what we believe and what we do. Regardless of who will be President, the actual work is and always will be up to us. If we don't stop our own divisive behaviors, then the ideas some of you like so much from Obama will be as meaningless as I think they are and ultimately suspect they will be. Because as long as we're focused on ourselves far above all others, we will always see to it that someone else is doing worse than we are...and we will keep doing it in the same ways as we always have.

Essentially, it's not so much Obama in whom I lack faith--it's you. It's the people of America. If you really want to unite with others despite differences, the next time you go out speak to or befriend someone of a different race rather than always treating them as if they don't exist or worrying how they will react to you. Make a conscious effort to stop referring to gay men as "fags," even if you only do it behind their backs, and embrace them even if you don't "agree with their lifestyle" or "choices." Abolish the black lunch table, the white lunch table, the Asian lunch table and the Latino lunch table--teach your children to sit together in school, and then maybe we will sit together as adults. I know I said we're all naturally racist and teaching kids is not the solution, but I'm not asking you to lie to your kids that "we're all the same" and tell them "racism is wrong" rather than behavior we all engage in. At least give your kids the environment, the encouragement, to go out and learn about others of all races, sexualities, religions, etc, on their own so that they can form their own opinions about others and the world, rather than running to homogenous neighborhoods and schools. Stop blaming all poor people for being poor or calling all Republicans evil. We all have to learn how to do these things, including myself. No one can teach us what we already know but choose to ignore. We know how to unite and change the nation; all that's left is just to do it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Beauty Standards Pt. 2

Part 1 here

Would a Queer Woman Find You As Attractive As You Find Yourself?

In my search, I ran across an article, which I'm pretty sure features/is basically talking about white women, that got me thinking--do women generally hang out with groups of women who match them in terms of looks? I would describe my female friends as women who are generally a little bit above average, definitely not standouts to most people--or shouldn't be, I feel, except maybe in terms of personality. I think being a woman who likes women romantically, hanging out with straight women and hearing what some women think about their looks, is advantageous to me because I get to compare what I think with what they think, what others think, etc. I don't think straight men really get that kind of opportunity, i.e. to sit around hearing women talk about their own attractiveness level and he has his own ideas about that going on in his head as someone who could prospectively check that same woman out.

Interesting to note that while I think all my female friends are kind of average, except a few of them, the black ones are the only ones who don't have men in their lives right now, except one and she's in her late 30s. In fact, let me break down the women I'm thinking of as of right now:

-Nikki: so, I've mentioned her several times in my blog before. She's black, a little bit younger than I am, parents are African immigrants. I know I said I would leave Africans out of this, but I guess technically she's American. She is very confident that she is attractive, yet she is bewildered by why men don't seem interested in her. She has a really good personality; I don't think anyone dislikes her. She's not the kind of black woman that people like to think most black women are, i.e. I really don't perceive her as the kind of woman who would be much of a problem in a relationship. Thing is, she's not as good-looking as she thinks she is. I would say she is my least attractive friend. Though she has a good personality, for me, it's not the right kind of personality to make me overlook her level of physical attractiveness. If she were queer, we wouldn't be a match; in fact, I wonder how we're even able to be friends. We simply have very little in common.

-Best Friend In Law School (BFLS): have mentioned her before, too. White female, my age. I think she is perfect in every way except physical attractiveness. There's just no attraction there, physically. I do think she is average or a bit above. Sometimes, I feel that the outstanding nature of her personality would be enough if she were queer. There are guys here who think she is perfect, including physically, and she has a lot of male friends and a lot of female friends. Some [straight] women here agree she is the total package. She is extremely humble about all these kinds of compliments. She is engaged and will be marrying a man upon graduation.

-South Asian Friend (SAF): I think she's pretty in a very realistic way, i.e. nothing glamorous about her. She's not someone I would feel awkward hanging out with or dating because they look too good for me--and, trust me, I've been there with some females. A relationship would be a crazy idea, though. We're both too straightforward and controversial, i.e. a little too similar in ways that can be bad. It would be a little like having a relationship with a stereotypical black female. Last I heard, she was dating a South Asian male.

-Korean Friend (KF): I think she's pretty, too. Good personality. I guess she's pretty enough, combined with the fact that she's Asian, for me to be a little surprised that she seems to like me as much as she does, even in just a friendship capacity...I suppose partially because I perceive Asian females around here to be stuck-up and/or very interested in white people mainly or only. I've never thought about dating her, but she has been in a relationship (with some white guy or another) ever since I've known her.

-Best Friend In Music (BFM): White female, engaged to be married. Men of all races love her, but she has no idea why (and neither do I). That article I linked to above? She is so one of those kind of women, from having men approach to the point of viewing it as a major annoyance to women hating her to talking about how difficult it is...only she doesn't think she's attractive and she's not friendly. I have never thought she was that attractive, so on one hand some of the male harassment stories she's told me have been amazing to me, but on the other hand I understand this is a white female, blonde hair, blue eyes, "innocent" or "girl next door," "tiny and cute" kind of look. But partially because of her, I believe pretty much everything the women in that article say, can see how it's a problem and have even been thankful myself for not having to deal with stuff like that, especially the more black men get away from liking black women (though older black men still seem to like and annoy us). In fact, this friend and I joke about how she needs to be a black woman so she won't have to deal with these things, as my theory is that black women who are good-looking don't experience the problems in that article except maybe when they're in black environments. Aside from having no physical attraction to her, I would never want to date her because, as with SAF, we're too similar in ways that are problematic and just too similar for a relationship to be interesting.

-Black Religious Friend (BRF): mentioned her in my last post (i.e. the religion post), she's a little older than I am, single. She looks alright, but...I don't know, she's another one of my friends I've never had the slightest interest in...absolutely no chemistry or anything. I can tell she cares about how she looks by her appearance, spends time on it and that she feels confident in that area. We have really good conversations, but I can tell we're pretty different in many ways. We still have a lot more in common in terms of how we think than Nikki and I do.

-Angel: mentioned her before, she's in her late 30s, married, half-Asian/half-white, GORGEOUS, GREAT PERSONALITY--too damn perfect, hence the name. In fact, if she were any other woman, I would likely have issues being friends with her. But for whatever reason, I feel very comfortable with her, and I can tell she genuinely likes me. I see her as the kind of woman that, despite coming off as perfect, you just can't help but like her. I can't see her having the issues with other women that women in the article do, and she strikes me as the kind of woman who doesn't realize how great she is and won't run around talking about being attractive, but is still just confident in general. I want to marry her, but I'm pretty sure some white guy beat me to it! haha. Oh, well. She's very much like all the great things I see in BFLS, plus the looks, and seems humble about her looks and everything else. In fact, I kind of joke about the way she responds to compliments. She's like, "That's nice of you to say," as if I'm not being serious!

-Black Successful Friend (BSF): who is also religious and mentioned in my last post. Late 30s, married. Don't really know her and this guy's story because that's not the kind of thing we talk about when we speak. I do think she's pretty. But I also never thought about her "that way," probably for several reasons--when I met her, I didn't like older women; I could tell she was straight; she lives far away; she's really more in the role of a career mentor. Like BRF--and, really, Nikki, too--I can tell she works on keeping herself looking nice and feels good about herself in that area.

I would say my closest friends are generally the more average ones, in my eyes, i.e. BFLS, Nikki, and BFM. Angel, BRF and SAF are the next bracket. I'd say BFLS, Nikki, BFM and Angel are the friends I've bonded with on some level, very special friendships and the kind that come about just from clicking without a real explanation...just could never have other friends like them, most likely, or at least not female friends (remember, this list doesn't include the male friends I have). Yet, it seems among these four women, you have differing levels of physical attractiveness. BFM is a guy magnet physically, even though she doesn't want to be. Nikki probably wishes she could get even just a little of what BFM gets. Angel's been with the same person for almost two decades and still looks better than most females who are 20-25 years younger than she is. And everybody thinks BFLS is the total package, even straight females I know. The one commonality that maybe exists? Good-to-great personalities.

What does this say about me? Hell if I know.

But I guess ultimately, most women have a warped sense of how they look, at least vs how others see them. Is there a racial correlation as to what way? I think it's a good question.

Black Women & Beauty Standards

For a change, let us not talk about Halle Berry and Beyonce, white women or light skin vs dark skin. In fact, let's take African women out of the picture, as well. Let's just talk about everyday American black women and how we feel about us, physically.

This is one of those times I would really like to open up comments to see what others think about this--and, therefore, wish I had a blog that I could control to my satisfaction--because, unlike pretty much every topic I write about, this is the one topic I have not been able to find anything online about. There are many similar topics, but what I want to know--and can't seem to find the answer adult black women generally think of themselves as attractive, or no, despite all the negative media and trends in interracial dating that leave black women out?

So, in this case, this is not my non-PC, no-limits response to a popular topic and response that I hear and see everywhere, per se. I'm aware that you can't generalize a group as far as some black women surely have issues in terms of their physical appearance just like many other women do, while some black women are very happy with their looks. I'm curious about black women for two main reasons, though: 1) I feel that we hear all the time how white women feel about their looks, and 2) as I've mentioned before in my blog on more than one occasion, my experience with black women is that, at least compared to what we hear about women/self-esteem/beauty standards in general and all the degradation of black women physically alone, black women are surprisingly very happy with their looks and have a higher rate of self-confidence in that area than other women. As I said, I have nothing to back this up, and it really could just be a result of the kind of black women I find myself around.

My search around the internet actually did turn up more items that indicate, at least, a mindset of celebrating black femininity, not to mention topics about interracial dating. I could find topics about issues of black women and self-esteem, but these issues never really had anything to do with the self-esteem of black female adults in relationship to physical appearance--it was either how some black women felt when they were younger, issues of colorism among blacks--which also tended to relate to being younger vs now--or just general self-esteem issues.

There are a lot of reasons why I think this question should have been raised and explored by now by someone other than myself, the bulk of them mentioned above at some point. But the main reason I'm bringing it up right now is because I find myself seriously wondering if I'm the only black female adult who does not view herself as physically attractive. Now, like I said, this topic today has nothing to do with white women, the media, or even body image--though I don't like my body, either, but I think every woman hates something about her body. I'm just plain-old talking about, I don't think I'm a good-looking person. Although the topic is raised in the context of race, my issues are not race-related. I think there are many attractive black women, including many dark-skinned black women and black women without permed hair; I just don't think I'm one of them.

As a black female who is racially mixed, very light-skinned, usually has long hair and has hair of a certain texture, I have probably been assumed on occasion to be a black female who automatically believes herself to be good-looking and/or who is standoffish or what have you because of these features. There has never been a time in my life when I have found myself physically attractive--ever. I don't think that will ever change. However, lucky for me, my self-esteem has always predominantly come from my intelligence (and in the last decade, from my talents, as well), so not feeling attractive has never been the kind of thing to keep me sitting around feeling bothered or bad about myself. Throughout my adolescence, high school and probably college, too, I pretty much never thought about how attractive I was.

I worried about weight, but I think I usually think about weight for me. For the past couple years, weight has been more about feeling good than feeling attractive, especially after having gotten on a healthy regimen and seeing results from it--results being things like not just weight loss, but having more energy, not feeling gross internally from eating junk or greasy foods, having an easier time doing certain things, not having as many headaches or other medical issues, being able to workout without being in pain the next day, etc. Still, the reason I say my issue isn't body image is because I could finally achieve my ideals in terms of working out and how my body looks, and I will still not see myself as physically attractive. I will like my body, but I will not think I'm much prettier.

As I've said before, it amazes me that pretty white women or even pretty Asian women can seriously think they aren't attractive, but a range of black women know--or "know"--they are good-looking. That is, some black women look good and they know it; some black women don't look good, but they still think they're all that. Now, obviously, I'm not saying "all" here...but I am saying it seems like you'll encounter more white and Asian women who underestimate their looks than black women. Ironically, they are the most desired women in the US, black women the least desired.

I also must say that I have wondered for years how people know they are attractive. Even if I thought I were, I would never say I was to anyone, and I don't understand people who do. One time, I did put this question to some people, and they told me, basically, that they know because they're told. Do I think everyone who is attractive is told as much, though? Not really. Do I believe the people who have said it to me? Absolutely not. With family, I feel like they say it because they're family. With others, I feel they are either trying to be nice or, frankly, trying to trick me in some way. Now, I have heard other non-black women say the same thing or something similar, so I don't know why I have never heard a black woman say this.

For example, my oldest sister had to know on some level that she was physically attractive, even though she had self-esteem issues, because, at one point, she was trying to become a model. My mother has essentially always been one of those people who, as I mentioned, will announce that she is attractive and still brags on her high school and college days as one of the most attractive women at her schools. Nowadays, she's a little more like those black women who seems like her mirror is not quite the same as everyone else' offense. My white friends and I laugh about it, though, because she would unquestionably be overweight to white people. And even to blacks, I don't think she would be considered obese or anything like that, but, still, they should be able to see she has some weight on her.

However, until recently, my mother has insisted that she is "thin." I don't think she understood that's not true until a doctor told her how much she weighs and let her know she's overweight. And, honestly, I still don't think she understands fully, because she keeps blaming the weight on things such as digestion problems, failing to see that she has been overweight for some time now. She, as does my oldest sister, also insist that I weigh more than they do. For example, my mother refuses to believe that I wear a smaller pants size than she does, and my sister's stomach is bursting out of shirts I have given, she goes to work like this! I'm sure people there can see her stomach all day.

You remember my last post on religion and how I said many religious people seem to have difficulties in conversations sometimes, though I specifically meant conversations about religion. Well, make that conversations in general. I remember I asked my mother maybe a year ago why she feels that she is physically attractive and was telling her I don't see myself this way. And her response was basically something like, "Of course, you're attractive. Your parents aren't ugly. I was Mrs. Blah Blah Blah in high school and La Di Da in college, and women were after your father blah blah blah." And, come to think of it, I really wonder how my mother was considered very beautiful back in the day, because we do look similar sometimes. Again, no offense to her, but I have a hard time thinking about people in my family in terms of attraction, so I always find it odd when people describe their mother as the most beautiful person in the world, for example.

Cont'd here

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Reflections on Religion

In a way, I'm surprised I haven't thought to tackle this issue before, and then I think about how little religion affects my life. The main reason I thought to write about this is because this past week I've spent some time on a site primarily for blacks and was reminded of how blacks, particularly when writing, mention God and/or religion all the time...and, to me, rather unnecessarily.

Aside from being black, religion should pop up in other inconvenient ways for me: sexuality, region and holidays. But, really, I've been pretty good at not having to deal with these issues. And I think it's because of the kind of people I stay away from. I don't live in the South anymore. I don't encounter religious people most of the time, because my experience has been that intellectuals tend not to be religious, except maybe if they're black. And most holidays I spend by myself, rather successfully ignoring and forgetting that it's a holiday.

I'm not religious and never have been. Frankly, I view blacks as people who pretend to be religious. I can hear someone saying that most "Christians" do. But blacks are special because it seems as if this applies to the majority of the race. Being religious is very much tied to black identity and even being from the South, by blacks...and apparently by others, as well, as one of the "Best...Posts...Ever" links to the right entitled "Describe a Prejudice..." includes Rachel, I believe, saying she assumes blacks are religious. But I'm not. In fact, I hate hearing about religion. I can't stand people mentioning God. This was so long before really understanding my sexual orientation (which, apparently, I still haven't done), so it has nothing to do with that.

My mother is one person I can point to for support that blacks pretend to be religious. She'll say the words sometimes and she'll have the narrowminded beliefs (i.e. having a problem with gays/homosexuality), but she doesn't really live as a Christian in any way and seemingly possesses more character pitfalls than the average person (i.e. controlling and overly-critical/judgmental of everyone, curses without hesitation, racist in private without hesitation or guilt, etc). This is how I perceive most blacks to be, except, unlike her, some of them go to church and their faults will differ. No one is fault-free, but as I said, I know better people who are not religious across the board.

When I was younger, she did go to church, though--we went to church. I always, always, always hated church. Everything about it--getting up at the crack of dawn every Sunday without fail, dressing up, sitting in church for hours listenening to screaming and yelling...oooh, and especially Sunday school. It was an all-day, every single Sunday event and I just could not understand the purpose. You have the Bible, which I still don't understand how any kid in their right mind is supposed to understand that thing. I remember trying to force myself to get into religion more in college and not being able to understand that thing then. I'm about to finish law school and probably still couldn't understand that book.

By college, it was really too late for me. I am a kid of science and logic. To me, education and religion are very incompatible. If I can't see it, I don't believe it. If you say it, I need to see evidence and proof. The reason why I think so many people in college and graduate school aren't religious is because school teaches you how to think totally differently than the church does. School teaches you to question everything, to support and backup everything you say, to poke holes in everything everyone else says, to follow formulas. I always perceived religion as being an area where you're supposed to just take everything you're being told. If God says this, you do it, you be it. That's not how people at my point in education are told to be; we're told to question. And I like being the way I am.

And when I was in college, trying to be religious while minoring in philosophy, I just couldn't help but agree with what some of those philosophers had to say about religion, God and man. I tend to believe man is the center. At the very least, I believe that if I achieved something, it was because of my efforts, not anything any God did, and that people who pray to God for help don't believe in their own strength or have enough faith in themselves (the latter idea coming from a philosopher, i.e. weak people use religion as a crutch--I believe this was Nietzsche).

Probably one reason I tried to be religious was because my mother has been trying to get me to be religious for years, even though, to me, she's not really religious herself. It's just that she believes in God, and she knows I don't...or more accurately, she thinks I don't when the truth is I just don't care whether or not God exists. As I said, my life is what I make it, so what does it matter if there is a God? That's how I think about it, when I think about it at all. My mother attempts to force her ideas on people, so she insists without question that one day I will become religious and believe in God, as if this is something everyone does and, clearly, God can anyone not see that? Very difficult to have a logical conversation with these people, because they can't use logic or evidence to support their beliefs, since religion is pretty much as I described it above vs education. When you make a logical point, they get exasperated and just repeat themselves or are like, (sigh) "Come on, you KNOW this is true." I have made my mother have to stop and think many times with a legitimate, logical question about what she believes. In general, my father is with me in terms of religion (the non-black parent and also a person more of science and logic).

Encountering Religious Blacks
It seems that every time I'm communicating with blacks via the internet/e-mail, they assume we're all religious or don't think about the fact that some of us aren't. I'm not the kind of person who complains about people forcing religion, or one religion, on everyone else. I know how people are; you can't make people stop talking about their religion. However, I reserve the right to ignore it, and I will tell some stories below about exercising that right, the last story being the most dramatic. First, internet stories:

My mother always sends me religious forwards. Always. And even knowing how I feel about religion. Especially if it's one of those forwards that you have to forward back to the person or otherwise, I ignore them. In fact, usually when I see that an e-mail is religious, I delete it. I made a black friend who does the same thing--sends religious forwards that you're supposed to send around. I never do, and I think to myself maybe she will get the message to stop sending those to me. But she hasn't. As I said, I don't say anything. She's also one of those people who when she talks about being thankful for anything, such as our friendship, or difficult experiences, she will mention God. I have another friend, black female, who does the same thing. I know a couple of white religious people--all from the high school days--and they don't do these things, so it's very interesting to me. Right now, my two best friends, white females, are both from religious families--one's father was a minister. All three of us are on the same page about religion.

One day, I met this black guy, at law school of all places, who assumed I went to church because I told him I was from the South. Throughout the conversation, the black guy basically did what blacks usually do to new blacks they meet--gave them the "black enough" exam. One by one, he assumed many things about me--including that my mother cooked "soul food" for my family growing up, to which I responded that my father cooks and not soul food--and, one by one, I let him know none of them applied to me.

Later that same semester, I believe it was, I was on the train heading to Chicago. It was Christmas time. Now, being agnostic, I decided it was inappropriate for me to, in any way, celebrate holidays, particularly ones that relate to God. I also have my convictions, so I made the conscious decision not to say things like "Merry Christmas" in response to people who say that to me. I might say "Happy Holidays," but usually not even that. Other than that, everyone else can do what they want, and I will ignore it; I'm not going to fight a battle over it.

But these two people--a black male and, in particular, a black female--were making it pretty damn hard to ignore. They were rowdy the whole ride to Chicago--basically a 5-hour ride. And another example of fake Christians??? These people were drunk, harassing others, cursing and going off, slapped a female, etc. Yes, on the Amtrak. Unfortunately, I was sitting right behind these people. The black male kept harassing me, wanting to know if I had Jay-Z--yep, Jay-Z, not the most holy music--on my mp3 player, where I was from, etc. The black lady seemed to have the "Christmas spirit," loudly singing Christmas songs and such. Now, on the train, people are supposed to be quietly in their own little world and leave others alone, but no can do. She tried and tried to force everyone on the train to sing Christmas songs and say "Merry Christmas"...and, eventually, became irate because others would not do so. Now, you know if I'm not going to say "Merry Christmas," I'm not going to sing Christmas songs...not that I really even know that many. My plan? I decided to pretend to sleep so she would leave me alone.

I guess it worked for me, but, unfortunately, it didn't work for the white female sitting across the isle from me. Now, this black lady harassed this white female the whole way to Chicago! This is one time when if a white person wants to complain about black-on-white racism, I will support them, HAHA. We're talking everything from, upon learning where the female was from, talking about how white people probably don't live there anymore because black people now do, to going off about how not all black people are from broken homes like white people seem to think we are, to slapping this girl repeatedly in order to wake her up for no real reason!!! And if I remember correctly, the slapping happened around the time this black lady was walking up and down the isle, having her tantrum, going off on everybody on the train because they didn't want to sing Christmas songs and say "Merry Christmas." The black male was nowhere near as bad as her, but he was her accomplice and, as I said, he was annoying me while the black lady was annoying the white female.

My point, other than to tell a funny story, is I didn't complain; she did. And I probably had more to complain about. See, people try to force their beliefs, their celebrations of God, on others whether they realize it or not. And, like I said, I normally don't have anything to say about that, even though it really irritates me even in the smallest manner, such as not being able to spend time on a black website without seeing post after post referencing God or talking about how blacks are messed up in part because they aren't into God, etc, like blacks used to be.

Blacks, Religion & Homosexuality
In addition, I can't go to these sites without reading something where a black person--ironically, often a black male--ranting and raving in long, unreadable (because they are horribly written, demonstrating ignorance in more ways than one) posts about blacks and homosexuality. I say it's ironic because 1) black males are notorious for being on the downlow, and 2) the majority of these posts talk about homosexuality and black women only, which is funny given that so many black men act as if they can't stand black women...apparently, it's a case of "I don't want her, but you can't have her, either." However, I have seen posts with black women going off, too, or agreeing with the black males. They don't talk about this without bringing up the Bible, of course. Very interesting was how one of these black men wrote a post, kicking it off with crap about the Bible, but the whole way through was referring to black women as "ho's."

This is one of the reasons why people, particularly blacks, being narrowminded towards anything related to me in a religious way doesn't bother me at all. People rarely illustrate narrowmindedness in an intelligent fashion. Seeing how stupid they are--with the incorrect grammar, run-on sentences, misspellings and contradictions, not to mention THE ANNOYING ALL-CAPS--gives me a level of satisfaction, not to mention smug superiority. Of course, a white gay person reading those messages would be crying and whining and calling GLAAD and the media.

I've realized that a lot of people question queer blacks who identify more with blacks than white queers, or, as they would see it, "choose" blacks over gays. And I definitely identify more with blacks and care more about racism/racial issues than homophobia/queer issues. I really could write a book as to why. It's all about 1) experiencing racism all my life vs pretty much never dealing with homophobia, 2) not having the same interests/issues as white queers, 3) not being accepted at all by white queers vs having some sort of acceptance by blacks, even if it's just their being nice to my face and disparaging behind my back or over the internet. I've started to see a difference, because there are some blacks who fit in with the gay community. To me, it's about how race-conscious you are. Whites want us all to forget everything else and just focus on our sexuality. Blacks who are better at, at least, presenting the perception that they generally can do this and/or think about black issues in a way that is very similar to that of naive whites can find a place for themselves among white queers. There are other blacks who have the same story as I do, or similar anyway in terms of fitting in, and many of them mention things like not feeling that we have the same issues and interests as white queers and racism.

As unaccepting as blacks can be, I've had it with not being accepted by whites. I know blacks well enough to know how to navigate their alienation in many ways. As I said, at least many blacks will pretend with you, or even genuinely like you as a person but adamantly have a problem with your being queer through their lack of understanding about where queerness comes from. Whites don't really bother; you're always in the room but aren't, with them. I also have realized that I simply don't understand white queer culture, nor do I relate to it...and I have no desire to. However, I do understand black heterosexuals, even the "religious" ones. When it comes down to it, I can say that I have more experiences in common with them than I do with white queers. And I can tell you the hows, the whys with blacks as far as the way they think/act, but can't do this with white queers. With blacks, I just have a bond that nothing they do can will break; this is not the case with anybody who is gay, mainly because it's not a culture/experience I've been immersed/thrown in my entire life as with race.

"If it's war the Asians want..."

People, it's time to stop reporting racism only when it happens to blacks and whites--and with blacks, only sometimes; with whites, sometimes when it's not even racism. I want to see this on the news, and, trust me, I will be contacting stations:

From Boulder's Online Independent Voice Since 1996
If it's war the Asians want...
It's war they'll get

Max Karson

Issue date: 2/18/08 Section:

....That's when it hit me.

The Asian was so jaded by his experiences with the whitebread, brainless tree sloths of CU that even though three people had explained to him that he was trying to return the ball to the wrong court, it was inconceivable to him that we might be right.

And when he looked into my eyes, it wasn't just irritation and disgust that I saw-it was hate. Pure hate.

I'm such a fool for not realizing it sooner. I can't tell you how many times the Asians have treated me like a retarded weasel and I've forgiven them. But now I know that Asians are not just "a product of their environment," and their rudeness is not a "cultural misunderstanding."

They hate us all.

And I say it's time we started hating them back. That's right-no more "tolerance." No more "cultural sensitivity." No more "Mr. Pretend-I'm-Not-Racist."

It's time for war.

But we won't attack their bodies or minds. We will attack their souls....

And just in case you miss it, the opinion goes on to describe the racist plan for how, including (among other things) capturing Asians with nets, tieing them up, tickling them until they urinate, and giving ambiguous-looking people math problems to see if they're Asian. I'm sure it's a "joke," but I'm way past tired of the things white people seem to think are "funny," especially when it comes to racial & ethnic minorities. This is, yet, another example of racist whites playing the victim. This guy is too much of an idiot to realize that he basically told everyone that the reason Asians at Colorado respond to whites the way they do--the rather, if you ask me, innocuous way they do as opposed to the blatantly unabashed public display of racism by whites there, as evidenced and described by Karson--is because the white kids there started it. In other words, Asians at Colorado don't hate whites out of nowhere, I'm sure. Yet, whites somehow come out the victim in the whole thing and should "start a war" against Asians. It's "time to start hating them back." As always (in terms of history), whites hated first. Given Karson's response, he couldn't possibly be one of those whites who is naively mad because "racism is always wrong, no matter what."

Oh, yeah--feel free to e-mail Mr. Typical White Male, who actually has the nerve to be staff editor:
Contact Campus Press staff editor Max Karson at

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Does A Fetish Matter?

I think it depends on who you ask. I'm not sure anyone would ever come out and say, "No, it doesn't matter to me." But I believe I hear/read people brush it off on a regular basis.

In my last post, I linked to Carmen's video podcasts on YouTube. In one, which I watched almost a week or so ago, if I remember correctly she lists a few of the most common myths about interracial dating. One of those myths was that people who engage in IRs have a fetish. Now, don't get me wrong, Carmen doesn't completely brush it off. She just deflects a bit by saying, "Well, most people are in relationships for the wrong reasons, and nobody ever says anything about that." Fair. do you compare dating someone for racial stereotypes and/or more because of their ethnic background than having an interest in who they are to other "wrong" reasons? And I actually do think we make a big deal about some of the other more common reasons people "use" others in dating. The next biggest reason besides race, I'd say, is money. We talk about that all the time. How often do we hear people, particularly women, referred to as "gold diggers"? I think black women know that one really well, despite the fact that we now make more money than the men we typically find ourselves interested in, i.e. black men. How often does a male celebrity hook up with a woman or get a divorce, and we're all looking at the situation like, "This chick is after his can he not see this...when will men learn?!"

Another reason, which I think is very similar to dating "preferences" based on race, is how we tend to value the most agreed-upon attractive people above all others. What the two have in common is being interested in someone for how they look rather than who they are. Often, people in these shallow relationships do see negative qualities in the attractive person but they try to ignore them because the person is so good-looking. Nowadays, we talk about the media's influence on self-perception/esteem and beauty standards as if this is a problem just as serious as the war in Iraq (sorry, but, to me, it's not...perhaps because I'm not influenced as much by the media and don't understand women crying on shows such as "Oprah" and "How To Look Good Naked" on Lifetime because they hate some aspect of their bodies). And we complain about people valuing looks over personality nonstop. People worry about their looks because of how it makes them feel, sure, but it's also about attracting others and competing with attractive individuals, especially for people who are single. Several industries make millions off this year after year.

Then there's age. Boy, do we harp on age differences. You think all of these relationships are 100% about love? Neither do I. The appeal for many people in these kinds of relationships, much like IRs, is stereotypes and the actual age. We look at couples such as Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and wait for the day they break up. We wonder what the hell those two have to talk about, because we assume they're too different. When is Demi going to get over using Ashton for sex, and when is Ashton going to see signs of Demi being her age and run for the hills?

So, yes, there are other relationships that seem all wrong to us and, in fact, probably include at least one partner who is in it for the wrong reasons. But what are relationships anyway? To me, there's always a self-serving element. You wouldn't be in one if there weren't. We all get something out of relationships. But with the way our society makes the biggest deal of them all about race in everything, it goes without saying that when race is the reward--and then, in turn, seems like a punishment for others who are being left out--that that is the relationship where we stop and look at the trade-off and really have a problem with it. Anything that hints of racism is going to illicit that kind of reaction.

With something like age, you can't really have a group that gets left out/disadvantaged the way you can with race. And so, the thing that I've noticed is the people who brush off observations and criticisms of IR trends are usually those in the more advantaged groups. It's easy to say that those of us who claim we have no problem with IRs as long as the couple really is in love truly do have a problem with all IRs when you're among "the chosen." Of course we have a problem with IRs. And that problem goes beyond just your being an Asian woman with a white man or a black man with a white woman; it's about what these kinds of trends mean for black women and Asian men, the people sitting, watching all the same groups of people with long lines leading to their doors while we have nothing going on.

Do black women and Asian men have to be more proactive in their relationship search? I mean, is IRs to blame for every single black woman or Asian man who is single? Despite the answers to these questions, however you answer them, it's still just not a good feeling when you're the equivalent of the ugly layperson vs the media beauty, the blue collar nobody vs the six-figure executive. What some people fail to understand is there are winners and there are losers in IRs dynamics, and the majority of the people who have no complaints are the winners. Black women and Asian men have no false positive stereotypes following their groups around romantically, and we can't trade a fetish for a fetish with anybody.

In other words, a white man with an Asian fetish can meet an Asian female with a white fetish rather easily. Whatever kind of fetish a black woman may have, she may eventually find someone, but it's going to be a lot harder than for every other kind of woman and odds are pretty good that the guy doesn't have a fetish for black women, though some guys like that exist. In a way, the fetishes are besides the point; it's the result of them, the effects, the disproportionate desire for some and not others, that make some of us feel like sh!t and respond in turn. For some black women, it could be like being slapped by both the media and everyday life. Mix in racism, and it's three slaps. Sexism and the fact that women outnumber men...and, well, black women never stop getting slapped, basically. Where to go to find someone who thinks you're beautiful and worthy, for the right or wrong reasons? Just any reason?

Therefore, I find it, at least, insensitive the way some people think 1) nothing's wrong with "preferences" that exclude entire groups of people, especially when certain groups emerge consistently as more preferable than others, and 2) when the "fetish" arguments are dismissed in any fashion. If you don't have a problem with someone using you because they think people of your group are better in bed and/or because you see a benefit in that in the form of more dating partners, it being a compliment, your being able to get more dates from X race or whatever...or you just decide to be one of those people who, until someone makes it blatantly obvious to you that they're fetishizing/stereotyping you, you choose not to think they are...that's on you. I'm not going to get mad for you and, indeed, in general I'm not really mad for you.

But think a little deeper about the issue and what the fact that there are tons of relationships out there like yours means for people like me. I'm not asking you to care or to refrain from dating whomever you want; I'm just asking you to get the entire issue, so that you can stop addressing the issue as if it's not problematic at all, or is but isn't especially problematic for some just because you benefit from it even if you don't want to accept it.

I can't remember if this was in one of Carmen's videos or not, but I heard a good point recently, which is something that I've always known: just because a relationship started from a fetish or includes one doesn't mean the two aren't really in love or can't become so. I know this. I'd say my parents' relationship includes some fetishizing; how many mixed kids actually think about that or admit it, I wonder? Well, this one does. But still. Like me for me, 100%. I can't stand being stereotyped. See, my being fetishized, whether or not someone comes out and says something squarely stupid to me, matters to me. If you hint that you find my being black or being mixed especially exciting at all, I'm not interested. And can people of the same race fetishize each other? You know it. Black people say crap all the time like, "We'd have cute/light babies" and/or "Our kids would have 'good hair'." I don't want to hear that, either. Saying you want someone who understands your culture and that's why you'd prefer someone of your race is fine, understandable even. I don't see that as a fetish. But comments about how cute our kids would be because of my skin color or hair stinks of same-race racism and a "white is right," "if you're brown, stick around" kind of fetish.

What is a fetish, even? To me, a fetish is about either 1) being interested in someone and/or finding them attractive solely because they are from a particular background or have a certain kind of look, and/or 2) being interested in someone and/or finding them attractive because, due to their background, you assume/hope they have certain characteristics. Basically, you have a formula for your ideal man or woman, and race is very central to it. For example, sometimes people disclaim a white male's having a fetish because he likes Asian women who are feisty or Americanized, not the ones who will do anything he wants. But that's still a fetish because it's a specific race-related formula. It's not as if the guy likes any kind of woman who has an attitude; indeed, a black woman who acted like that Asian woman would be branded a "typical black b!tch" or unfeminine.

And point #1 is often a joke among black women, i.e. black men liking fat and/or ugly white women vs attractive black women. Very important to #1 is that a woman of that background can be unattractive by many standards, but her race makes up for it or keeps that man from noticing her unattractiveness. In other words, any woman from that background will do/is attractive. Recognition of this is very important for black women, who would otherwise start to agree with everyone else that we're not as attractive as all other groups of women in terms of the physical or personality. This is another reason why brushing off the existence of such fetishes or taking them lightly isn't a good idea.

What's important for those in the more privileged dating groups to know is if these descriptions don't fit your relationship, then don't take people's criticisms about fetishes--whether addressed towards your relationship or you, if you're single, personally. If you feel that you're genuinely attractive, for example, and a man of another race shows interest in you, as an Asian or white woman, and you hear black women discussing the aforementioned dynamics in IRs, why think we're talking about you, specifically, or even all non-black women? Or if some black women are talking about you, why let it get to you when you feel you're good-looking enough for comments about preferring ugly non-black women aren't justified in your case? Either way, just know that as IRs become more and more common, the topics of IRs and fetishes aren't going away; if anything, we'll talk and write about them more and more.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The "Raced" Individual: Oxymoron?

So, my research continues--for some reason, I've been focusing more on Asians than other races & ethnicities...maybe because there's such a wealth of information online that they, themselves, provide. In those findings, I've been consistently noting, what I think is, a huge difference between many Asians and many blacks, and I've touched on it a bit before indirectly when writing about how nobody in the US is considered "American" except whites.

That difference is the strong desire to be seen as an individual first rather than as a race first.

Now, this is certainly not to say that most blacks don't want this. I get the sense that we just accept more than Asians do that it's not a possibility. I also think that Asians come to live under the illusion, when they surround themselves with whites who genuinely seem to like and accept them, that they are finally being seen as an individual and not in racial terms. And because of those experiences, they wonder why blacks harp on race or why blacks won't work harder to achieve what they, as Asians, believe they've achieved, the assumptions being that the efforts work just the same for blacks as for Asians...and, of course, that the efforts work. Again, this is not to say most Asians fall into this category or way of thinking or that most blacks don't. You will find a mix.

I have to say, though, that I don't personally know any blacks who don't put race first. I have come across blacks online who don't seem to do this, i.e. many black gay bloggers. And then there are blacks, of course, in my environment who seem to want to fit in just as much as I perceive the majority of Asians as wanting to do, particularly Asian females. But the blacks I know are very happy with being part of a black community they've carved out, identifying with these people, referring to them as family, talking about race and bringing up race with non-blacks they speak with. In a sense, a lot of black people's worlds revolve around race, even if they don't realize it.

As I mentioned in another post, my Asian friends and I tend not to talk about race. And the other day, I thought about how interesting it is that I have white friends whom every time I'm with them, not in drive-by situations such as seeing each other in the halls on the way to classes and speaking for just a couple minutes, we eventually discuss race. And they're willing participants in the discussion. You're talking about a group that tends not to be "raced" to the extent that minorities are, i.e. have no reason to think or discuss race because they rarely are forced to have the feeling that their race matters. And's easier to discuss race with them than with another group of people that is always "raced," i.e. Asians.

I love to talk about race. I don't think anything is wrong with discussing it, noticing it, pointing out differences, identifying with it, etc. In a way, I love being "raced." But maybe this is one of the reasons I don't really have as many close Asian friends anymore as I used to. I've realized that many Asians approach race in a completely different fashion than black people do, and many perceive blacks as having a victim mentality or complaining just for discussing race. Many are tired of hearing about race; let's just get beyond it. Let's work harder to be accepted. Or let's work harder to be seen as individuals. It's such an unrealistic, confusing viewpoint to me, as a black person, but it's hard to explain that, especially when the person you're trying to find words to explain that to is completely tired of these very kinds of conversations.

For blacks who don't particularly care to be seen as individuals, or who like that in theory but feel we're always seen as black first to others...that's what I relate to. I don't fight to change it, even as a mixed black person, because I don't see anything wrong with that, in and of itself. I think the ways race is used in society are problematic, but race itself isn't. I think race is great. Yes, you read that right. And I think race is great because it allows people to be individuals. Yes, you read that right, too. I think race allows people to be different in ways that are good. That's why I love being mixed. It's not about feeling better than other blacks; it's about "this is how I'm different" or at least one of the ways in which I'm different. And blacks get to say that, because so many blacks find themselves in environments where the majority of people are white. Same for Asians and Latinos. White people are the ones who, in my mind, get the burden of not standing out at all.

And I think a lot of white people actually do look at race that way, at least sometimes. You can tell by comments they make sometimes, comments that are oftentimes taken as offensive by minorities (for example, on one of Carmen's video pods, someone brought up how people will comment "I wish I were mixed" in response to their telling someone their racial mix). And I can see that. But I think what a white person's intention is oftentimes is to get across that there is nothing much special about being white. Of course, there is--socioeconomically, at least. But physically and culturally, in some people's eyes, as well as some other ways...some whites feel like they have nothing to offer.

And not to be racist, but I agree with that. In some ways, whites just don't have anything special to bring to the table. I think that some people spend too much time not seeing what's great about being a racial or ethnic minority, putting being white on a pedestal just because it's the mainstream or it's power. I know it seems like I complain about blacks and whites, or even Asians and Latinos when talking about issues such as immigration. But when it all comes down to it, I love that we have various races and ethnicities in America and that we focus on race. I think this is why I don't understand some of the Asian attitudes, i.e. the inner turmoil of bridging being Asian with being American, wanting to be seen as American and an individual, etc.

And up until now, I've been talking about what makes a group special, but I think that the group being special, in turn, makes every individual from that group interesting and special. Whites are a dime a dozen. How many white kids can you meet who all seem to like similar things, things that are associated with being a typical white person--or, as whites describe it--a typical 20-something? This is not to say all whites in their 20s are alike, just that since there are so many whites everywhere sometimes it will sure seem that way because you'll encounter more whites who have a lot in common, a lot of similarities in addition to more whites who differ from one another. In addition to that, you turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, go to school, go to work and there they are. They're inescapable.

On the other side, how many Asian kids can you meet who truly make you think all Asian kids are essentially the same? And by this, I mean from really taking time out to get to know various Asians, not just observing from a far or applying stereotypes. One kid will be a Korean American who is in touch with aspects of her identity from Korea, visits Korea. Another will be Filipino in essentially name only, couldn't tell you a thing about Filipino culture, has an American style of dress, hair, etc. Another is an exchange student from Thailand, has an accent. You know, I always thought that "diversity" arguments when it comes to college were bs, i.e. people from different races don't learn much of anything from each other. They just come to school and segregate. But I realized it's not totally true. I've been thinking about all the interesting things my Korean/Spanish college roommate exposed me to, things that I wouldn't have learned or appreciated otherwise and certainly wouldn't have if she'd been 100% assimilated into the white American culture, was never seen/identified as a racial being and never thought of herself as a racial being.

For me, the best memories of all the universities I've attended have been race-related. Being among the first good black friends a white female from a nearly all-white area had. Getting to know and having conversations with whites who have shown me that not all whites are completely naive about race in the US. Although I didn't like it, trying Indian and Korean food because of friends and roommates from those backgrounds. Learning more about the caste system in India. Being exposed to Korean music and Bollywood films. Becoming aware that blacks aren't the only people who can be racially mixed or who experience discrimination. A desire to learn an Asian language or two.

These are some of the good things that can come from being "raced." To me, we should take the good with the bad rather than trying to abandon these identities. Honestly, now that graduation is nearly upon me, I feel that one of the last things you go to school for is to get an academic education; it's all the outside stuff that teaches you what's important. There will come a day when I can't tell you what "in rem jurisdiction" is. Heck, who am I kidding--that day is essentially upon us. But I will always have some k-pop on the mp3 player or whatever new musical technology comes through. At this point in my life, there is very little I can learn from whites about being white. That has been shoved down my throat against my will for nearly 27 years. But the rest of us are kept so alienated from each other and so in the dark about each other. White people no longer interest me, and black people no longer interest me since I know what it is to be black. You interest me, as an Asian or Latino or Native American. What's so bad about that?

To me, you don't have to ditch race to be seen as an individual. I think every person's race--even a white person--is always kept in mind in interacting. I love my white friends, but they are always to me my "white friends." That never goes away, and it has absolutely no negative connotation attached to it for me. I'll never be seen as a writer first or an activist first, and that's fine with me. It doesn't mean I'm not an individual and am never seen as one. It's just that race is a part of my individuality, a part of how I differ from other people. To people who know me or know of me, I'm not always indistinguishable from other blacks or other mixed kids. And you know what? Really, are whites you don't know always indistinguishable from other whites? As an Asian, can you really tell me that you never see a black person and think of them in racial terms first and foremost, even when they're your friend? Okay then, why would you ever think people completely look beyond race with you?

My friends have several adjectives for me aside from "black" or "mixed," as do I for them. All my friends tend to be intelligent, outgoing, interesting. Some are cute, some are attractive, some are hot. Some are like family. Some are creative, talented. Who cares that I notice what's most visually obvious about them every time I see them or every time I think about them? Sometimes, their race is incorporated in a positive way. For example, when I think about my good-looking friends, I think about what makes them good-looking, i.e. physical features. For some, some of their most appealing physical features are thought to be associated more with certain races than others. Now, is that really all that bad?

I joke to myself about how if you ask an Asian person about their ethnic background, some will get upset; ask a black person, and they'll gladly start naming off each and every ethnicity they know of...some blacks even make up stuff. I think that, despite the crap we go through for being black, we still appreciate being black and appreciate how we're different. And we don't want it to change, and we don't ever want the "culture" to die, even if refusals to assimilate cost us a better position in society. Deep down, I think the majority of us know but haven't articulated that the trade-off is worth it. But that's the thing when you compare people who came to the US for completely different reasons. If you came here to have a better life, then that's what matters more to you and you'll do whatever is necessary to get it. What people don't understand about blacks when they compare us to Asians or put our way of thinking/living down is, aside from modern-day immigrants, that's not why we're here. We didn't come here to get what whites have; we're here so that whites can have what they have.

So, if you don't think like us, fine, but make an effort to see and understand the differences in approach before you insult them. I've seen people basically refer to blacks as being people who "demand to be given the world" or feel entitled, essentially--not in these words, but that's the implication--while Asians work hard to achieve. Again, you've got to understand the difference in history. I do believe blacks have an entitlement argument, but that doesn't stop me from doing the work. Will I work twice as hard or three times as hard as whites? No. That's part of my entitlement mentality. Working harder is, to me, tantamount to accepting inequality when there are ways you can be just as successful just the same way as whites despite discrimination, i.e. starting your own business rather than working in white-owned ones trying to "prove" yourself when others don't have to and still reaching glass ceilings.

In other words, I will work hard but I won't play things the white way, and I think more and more blacks--particularly black women--are starting to catch on to this kind of thinking, as well. Other cultures, having a somewhat different history with this nation and a different cultural philosophy, are more okay with playing things white people's way in order to succeed or fit in. And these are differences that are worth exploring and discussing. But, again, it's hard to have a discussion with people who want to forget racial differences.

I have realized that if I am going to work in civil rights and not be one of those black leaders who only thinks/talks about blacks, this will be one of my biggest challenges...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Okay, so about two weeks ago, I found myself pleased with one--and, trust me only one--of "The L Word" storylines, i.e. showing the alienation trans individuals can experience in the queer community. One step forward. However, last Sunday the show took two steps back, in my opinion, by doing something the white queer community has a habit of doing--making blackness the face of homophobia. Interesting that they did this, too, given that not too long ago I'd also written about how the media portrays blacks and Asians, pointing out that one of the roles Hollywood likes to cast blacks in is, what I like to call, the "@sshole of the show" or "the b!tch of the show."

Well, that's exactly what "The L Word" likes to do with their more black characters--Jennifer Beales not exactly counting given that she hardly ever seems to identity with her blackness on the show. For example, there's a black female character who is on the show now for her second season, though, clearly, she will not be a mainstay of the cast. When she first came on the scene, she was known amongst the white girls as "angry." Although she's a bit more accepted now and has herself a white girlfriend, there are still times when she's "angry"...

Like when her white girlfriend, the professional homosexual I wrote about in the post linked to above about trans issues on the show, outed this black male athlete on the show. Seems the writers of the show--you know, the ones who can't bring themselves to write the only permanent black character on the show as a black character and writes pretty much all the temporary black characters the show brings on in stereotypical ways--decided to make the black male athlete a closet gay at a party one night and then a ranting homophobe to the media the next day. Fine--there are black homophobes, sure; I'm not saying there aren't. But the stereotype goes something like--and white queers, in particular, completely buy this--blacks are the only homophobes, or the most homophobic and, thus, deserve all of white queers' hate versus--oh, I don't know--the tons of Asians and Latinos who happen to think a lot like black homophobes or the conservative white homophobes who are always getting busted on the down low or just the significant percentage of the white hetero population in general that has a problem with queers.

What, were they worried that nobody'd believe a white, Asian or Latino as an athlete-slash-homophobe, thus adding another stereotype to the mix? Or were they just trying to mimmick the Tim Hardaway situation in every way except imposing their fantasy that every homophobe is really a closet case (not to mention every closet case is really a homophobe)? Can't they be more original than stereotypes and ripping other stuff off (btw, does "Les Girls" conjure up the idea of a lesbo ripoff of "Dream Girls" to anybody else?!?! If not, recall the episode from last season where they did this little fantasy musical-type thing out of "Les Girls," then answer that question again)? The most interesting thing is how this perpetuates the idea out in the world of whiteness as the face of queerness, not to mention the new and "only" wronged group left in society, from the show's blindingly white cast in addition to blackness as the face of homophobia...and blacks as the new oppressors rather than any longer an oppressed party, let alone part of the oppressed queer community. It allows queer whites to justify being racist, as if they weren't all along.

And then, to top it off, the white chick who outed the athlete got into a fight with her black girlfriend--the black girlfriend wanting to know why the hell the professional homo (PH) had to go and out the black dude. Frankly, the black female was right--it was not PH's place, and the way the situation came about could be harmful to the black female's future as she, herself, is not out...and if her girlfriend had used her head, she would have realized that outing an athlete would make her famous, garnering a lot of scrutiny of her, her background and, thus, scrutiny of her closeted girlfriend who is in the homophobic military (the reason she's closeted). But...the situation makes PH a heroine to white queers watching the show because white (and white-washed) queers have a tendency to think everyone should be out--indeed, every queer owes them the relinquishing of this private decision--and it's okay to out people, especially hypocrites who say things they don't like.

This is really what bothered me about the Isaiah Washington scandal. I don't get mad about slurs, but I see where people who do are coming from. So, it's not like I agree with Washington's behavior or choice of words. What got to me is the way white queers simply get mad at and protest other bigots whereas they make an example out of black bigots. The black bigot has got to get fired after a studio scuffle and be held up to say, "See? We told you blacks were more homophobic than everyone else." Meanwhile, some white guys can be to blame for the most famous hate crime against a homosexual as of yet in the US and Latinos can have more derogatory terms for queers than every other culture put together...still, blacks are more hateful than everyone else. And so, when it comes time to cast the homophobic bigot, let's make 'em black most of the time. And then we'll just have the angry black b!tch stick up for 'em.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ranking Oppression: An Exercise In Futility?

For the most part, my observation has been that people universally see no use in ranking oppression, i.e. saying one group has it harder than any other. As I mentioned in regards to white anti-racists, a lot of people are of the view that inequality is inequality and such distinctions don't matter. I argue that they do matter. Here are the two biggest reasons why:

You can be oppressed and also be an oppressor. The higher up on the social hierarchy you are, the more likely you're inescapably implicated in the role of "oppressor" daily.
Our hierarchy is more complex than people make it seem, usually because talk of a hierarchy tends to be confined to race and/or sex. But the hierarchy includes race, sex, class, sexual orientation, gender, age, religion, and so on. Because of this short-sight, we tend to talk about the oppressor as white and/or male without recognizing our own ability to oppress.

Being near the bottom of the hierarchy, of course, doesn't mean you can't oppress others at times. It's just that, for example, blacks being racist towards Asians or whites ultimately doesn't hinder their progress in the world, whereas Asian or white racism does keep blacks down. This is because of relative power, i.e. relative hierarchy position. You also have to look at identity intersections. Black men can and do oppress black women, but because they are men--not because they are black. A white transgendered individual can be oppressive towards blacks or Asians, but has this power because he/she is white. Even a black person who happens to have power, i.e. usually financially, can oppress others who aren't black but are lower socioeconomic.

Furthermore, people who are in a relatively better position, whether they realize it or not, not only oppress but have stake in it. This is another one of the reasons why I don't think various minority groups will form wide-scale, effective coalitions. Asians are where they are in society partially because blacks are where they are, partially because whites use Asians in the game of oppression against blacks and partially because of their efforts. However, Asians are still not equal to whites. In some ways, Asians are accomplices in their own oppression, and oftentimes this oppression works against other minority groups.

The most obvious example is the exaltation of whiteness by many Asians. Rather than working to break down whiteness and white privilege, they do things to hold it up, i.e. efforts to lighten the skin, alter the eyes, date/marry and breed with whites, become more culturally white, etc. And in the process, many will agree with white ideals for oppressing other groups, i.e. the amount of Asians who are against affirmative action or who teach their kids that only whites and other Asians are good enough to mimick, live among, have friendships or relationships with, etc, or carry forth these lessons received from their parents/the Asian community at large in their daily lives.

Regardless of whether or not an Asian person grows up to believe in equality for all, the overwhelming majority still act out these thoughts of blacks and Latinos not being good enough to interact with relative to themselves and whites (though many of these same people draw comparisons to blacks, quote W.E.B. DuBois and other black scholars when describing their experiences in the US, listen to rap music, "steal" elements of "black culture" and support Barack Obama). You'll almost never hear them say anything that indicates they consider blacks and Latinos "American" or romantic options like they do whites, yet they want these benefits from whites. In other words, they believe they should be equal and considered good enough but don't exactly seem to extend this same courtesy, resulting in indirect roles in and support for the idea that oppression of/inequality for blacks and Latinos relative to Asians and whites is correct or, at least, acceptable.

Knowing why people from other groups "hate"--or, more realistically, resent--you helps in the quest to lessen/eliminate inequality and discrimination.
We can't make people stop hating one another if we don't understand all the reasons why they hate. For many people, particularly those from minority groups, discrimination is rooted in the idea that the other group is more accepted by the more powerful groups in society and/or the fact that the other group is perceived as more powerful or advantaged. More people know this than they realize. For example, oftentimes when I visit an Asian American message board, someone has posted a news article about a black person attacking an Asian. And the ensuing discussion usually includes at least one person "pointing out" that blacks hate Asians because of the model minority myths--usually the Asian poster is listing off the "myths" as if they are "truths" that instill, apparently, a violent amount of jealousy in blacks.

At this moment in time, you're dealing with an Asian who doesn't particularly care about the stress that allegedly being smarter than everyone else places on many Asians, the fact that certain Asian ethnicities in the US are doing better than others, the fact that whites use Asians in white supremacist games against blacks and all the other arguments more observant/analytical Asians tend to make when they discuss why stereotypes are "just as" problematic to Asians as they are to any other group.

Well...whether or not there's any jealousy there or the reasons are as stated by Asians who believe in the model minority depiction, these statements sound somewhat similar to the truth. It's not that blacks really believe Asians are better than blacks or even whites, as whites and even some blacks will have us believe, and hate Asians accordingly. Rather, it's the fact that so many people buy into the idea of an Asian supremacy of sorts and allow it to affect that way they treat/accept Asians vs the way they treat/accept blacks in society. More specifically, we're talking about white people.

To give an example...I've mentioned that my mother does not like Asians and Latinos. I remember one of my white friends asked me why my mother doesn't like Asians when I mentioned it to her, and I explained it in a pretty succinct way, considering it's more complex than it actually seems. Succinctly? It's because white people treat Asians and Latinos better than black people. Now, to me, this is a reason to hate white people, not Asians, if you're going to hate people based on something like this. It's kind of like how your man cheats on you with another woman, and, yet, you're trying to kick the woman's @ss.

Basically, my mother notices the prevalence of interracial dating among Asians and whites--particularly Asian women and white men. She's one of those people who doesn't really consider Asians and Latinos born in the US "American," so the thought is always that "these people" can come from their countries and have whites "roll out the red carpet" for them, date them, be friends with them, give them all kinds of opportunities that are foreclosed to blacks even if the Asian or Latino can barely speak English or hates America/ns, sympathize with their struggles in their native lands and/or to achieve the American dream while this sympathy is not extended to blacks, etc.

And, to top it all off, "these people" have the nerve to think they're better than blacks. Blacks, who built this country almost single-handedly while whites sat on their @sses, only getting up to rape some poor black woman and beat some poor black man. Blacks, who were born here because they were brought here against their will, rather than coming here of their own volition simply to take from the US, not to give to it. Blacks, who have been here and have been fighting for their rights for over a century, yet still keep seeing people from other nations come right on in and, immediately, they're ahead of blacks on the social hierarchy.

And you know what? I have to agree. I can totally see this pissing any black person off. People from other countries do come here and get all these advantages and acceptance while looking down on blacks and blaming blacks for their own place. Blacks did and do contribute so much to the US while whites generally get the credit. I even agree that people who immigrate to the US are essentially looking to take from the nation--that's what the American Dream is all about, in my eyes. What I don't agree with is blacks were the only ones who built the US, that other people didn't and don't contribute to the US, that Asians and Latinos born here are not more than just more outsiders who are taking from nation, or that--aside from their racism--Asians and Latinos are to blame for this.

Still, the point is: this is how some blacks feel; what to do about it? See, ranking oppression is not the divisive act. The divisive act has already occurred, and ranking oppression is all about pointing the divisive act out. To me, if you understand why tensions exist between blacks and Asians or blacks and Latinos, i.e. we don't like them because they get everything that we still deserve but don't get, then and only then can you start figuring out how to resolve the tension. I get the sense that so many people think that knowing racism and discrimination exists is enough and that we can dive right in working on the issue just based off that limited knowledge. That's not good enough.

And it's certainly not good enough to brush off other people saying, "hey, this, this and that happens to black people and it doesn't happen to Asians." In other words, trying to deconstruct privilege without recognizing your own or why you have that privilege is not going to work. Simply blaming or going after whites is not going to work just like blacks simply blaming or going after Asians and Latinos is not going to work. You have to look at everybody's role. And, as I said, anybody with any privilege has a role in oppression. Therefore, you can't be committed to equality without being realistic about the different types of inequality, who creates it, who participates in it, how they participate, etc. In other words, inequality is not just inequality regardless.
In discussing this topic, I discuss Asians vs blacks more because the piece that inspired this topic was on an Asian site and someone had basically made the point that blacks were worse-off than Asians, to which someone responded that people shouldn't really get off into that kind of thing. My response was that there are times in which it's useful and times in which it's not. Personally, I think that when people say we shouldn't talk about who has it worse, it's usually to save themselves from facing their own privilege and, thus, feeling bad about themselves...or, if they are the less-privileged, to keep from having to think too much about how bad their position really is relative to others who are not the typical white straight male enemy that I pointed out many of us like to focus on in these discussions. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why people tend not to like the argument that immigration is bad for blacks, along with the popular idea that minorities cannot or should not be discriminatory because they experience discrimination.