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Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Also check out the Korematsu Institute: http://korematsuinstitute.org/

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From Catholic Archbishop of Mobile, Rev. Thomas Rodi (excerpt, full-text at link, emphasis all mine):

This is our right as Americans and as citizens of Alabama. Sometimes people will say that the U.S. Constitution gives us the freedom to worship. Actually, the Constitution gives us the right to the free exercise of our religion. “Freedom to Worship” means that we can come together on Sunday to worship. “Free Exercise” means that, when we leave church on Sunday, we have the right to exercise our faith in our daily lives. This new law prevents us as believers from exercising our life of faith as commanded by the Lord Jesus.

I did not wish to enter into a legal action against the government of Alabama. It is not my temperament to look for an argument. I prayed fervently about this matter, and my prayer kept bringing me back to the motto I chose ten years ago for my bishop’s coat of arms: “The love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14) Indeed, the love of Christ impels us to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19). No law is just which prevents the proclamation of the Gospel, the baptizing of believers, or love shown to neighbor in need. I do not wish to stand before God and, when God asks me if I fed him when he was hungry or gave him to drink when he was thirsty, to reply: yes, Lord, as long as you had the proper documents.

Throughout our history we have been a nation of immigrants. The words of Moses to the Hebrew people should resonate in our own hearts: “You shall not oppress or afflict the alien among you, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:20) As citizens we have the right to live our Christian faith. As Christians, we have an obligation to do so.

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In response to Katt Williams’ recent anti-Mexican, anti-Latino “comedic” tirade, Colorlines has posted a great roundup of five comedians of color whose commentary on race is more constructive – including one of my long-time favorite comedians, Wanda Sykes, and a new favorite of mine, Elon James White of the smart and hilarious Blacking it Up podcast (which you should all check out!). I’ve posted the clips Colorlines shared from Sykes and Elon James below; the latter has some swearing in it, so probably NSFW.

Wanda Sykes on the i-word:

Elon James White on what to do if you’re stopped by the cops or ICE.

 

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Marilyn Davenport, a Tea Party activist and member of the Orange County, California, GOP central committee, is under fire for sending a racist email about President Obama to conservative colleagues. The email reads, “Now you know why no birth certificate,” followed by the image below depicting the President as a chimpanzee.

The email perpetuates the birther myth, which seems only to be gathering steam despite having been refuted several times. As Garrett Epps writes for The Atlantic, “The drip-drip-drip of “birther” propaganda is part of a general, persistent assault on the legitimacy of immigrants and non-whites in American culture. Lurking behind the rhetoric of ‘I want my country back’ is a simple refusal to recognize the citizenship, or even the humanity, of anyone but white males.” This dehumanization is reflected in the depiction of the President as an ape, an image echoing historical associations of black people with brutes that were used as “evidence” of white racial superiority:

[ht Sociological Images]

It’s hard to know exactly, but it seems to me that there’s been a resurgence of this kind of imagery since the ’08 general election campaign (a couple examples here and here).

The racist trope of black people as monkeys is universally familiar in American culture. There’s virtually no way someone repeating this trope would not be at least somewhat aware of its racist implications or history. On top of all that, this is not the first time Davenport has been implicated in racist behavior:

Michael J. Schroeder, an Orange County resident and former chairman of the California Republican Party, also said he was disgusted.

“This is a three strikes situation for Marilyn Davenport,” Schroeder said. “She was a passionate defender of former Newport Beach city councilman Dick Nichols who stated that he was voting against putting in more grass at Corona del Mar’s beach because, he said, there were already ‘too many Mexicans on the beach.’ She was also on the wrong side of the fence with the Los Alamitos mayor and his White House watermelon patch picture. Now, she has managed to top both of those incidents by comparing African Americans to monkeys. She has disgraced herself and needs to resign. If she doesn’t, the Republican Party must remove her.” (The OC Weekly)

So you might be as astounded as I was to read that Davenport is claiming there’s nothing racist about the email, and engaging in derailing “I am not a racist” bingo in response to news coverage of this incident:

Reached by telephone and asked if she thought the email was appropriate, Davenport said, “Oh, come on! Everybody who knows me knows that I am not a racist. It was a joke. I have friends who are black. Besides, I only sent it to a few people–mostly people I didn’t think would be upset by it.”
Wow. To share an email depicting a black man as a chimp and then take offense at the suggestion that one might be racist is…bold? Clueless? Disingenuous? I don’t know. Like Ta-Nehisi Coates says, it seems these days that despite increasingly vocal and widespread expressions of white racial resentment, there are no racists.

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The LA Times reported on a new Georgia law that parallels Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation from last year.

The heart of the article gets straight to the problem:

In a provision with rough similarities to the most contentious part of the Arizona law, the Georgia bill gives police the authority to check a suspect’s immigration status if the suspect is unable to produce a valid ID and if the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a “criminal offense.” If the person is verified as an illegal immigrant, police can detain that person or notify federal authorities.

Charles Kuck, a prominent Atlanta immigration attorney, said the way the bill is written, “criminal offenses” could be as minor as traffic violations.

Kuck, a Republican and outspoken critic of the legislation, said there was some question as to whether this provision gave police any more power than they already have. But the bigger problem, he said, was with “the message that it sends — this bill says, ‘Immigrants, do not come to Georgia…. You’re gonna have to show us your papers when you come.’ ”

He scoffed at another section prohibiting police from considering “race, color or national origin” when enforcing the bill.

“Let me ask you a question,” Kuck said. “Do you think any white people are going be taken in for an immigration background check if they forgot their wallet at home?”

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I’m just going to warn y’all right now that this is a post about reality TV.  And also it might be a wee bit snarky. Just to be clear.

So I was watching the Season 2 premiere of The Fashion Show a few nights ago (why yes, I am a sucker for cheesy fashion reality shows).  I was all set to enjoy some pretty clothes, laugh at some truly hideous clothes, and be entertained by overblown egos and petty bickering.  Oh, and bask in the unmatched fabulosity of Iman, the co-host and more or less the star of the show.  And all of that happened, but not without considerable irritation and swearing at the TV on my and my husband’s part.

Iman, as you might know, is from Somalia, and is one of the few black models to make it big in the fashion industry.  The first challenge for the designers was to create a look for her, inspired by her career and life story. One of the designers, Mike, apparently decided that the only relevant fact about Iman’s life is that she’s “African” and decided to create a dress that would “honor her African heritage.”  Well.  Perhaps you see where this is going.

That was warning sign number one.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but when Americans, and especially white Americans, start talking about the heritage and culture of the entire African continent as a monolith, odds are something deeply ignorant and possibly very offensive is about to come next.  This case was not the exception.  Mike went on to identify “safaris” and “wild animals” as part of Iman’s “heritage.”  Because when you think of Africans, obviously wild animals and white tourist attractions would be the first thing to come to mind.

It got worse.  He summarized Iman’s life story as  “leaving a tribal background and coming into the modern world.  Apparently, knowing someone is originally from “Africa” means that you can deduce their life story without having any shred of actual information about their history.  Funny thing is, Iman is the daughter of a diplomat.  She has a degree in political science – from, *gasp*, an African university (yes, we have those! amazing!).  She speaks five languages fluently.  But nevertheless, leaving “Africa” is what introduced her to the “modern world,” whatever that means.  And “African” automatically means being of “tribal background” (of course there’s the huge issue that the standard Western narrative of “tribal” Africa is fundamentally racist, paternalist, and colonialist to begin with).

Then he went on about how he was designing with “African tribal motifs,” but making them into a “more sophisticated dress.”  Because African = unsophisticated.  And because he magically knows something about what “African tribal motifs” look like.  Which part of Africa? Which tribes?  Doesn’t matter!  And the dress he designed, my goodness.  It wasn’t a bad looking dress, but the concept behind it was breathtakingly arrogant and offensive.  It was sleek and polished in the front – representing Western modernity and sophistication, you see – and the upper back was a halter made out of thick knotted rope – “representing the restrictions” of Iman’s native culture or some such rubbish.

It was kind of astounding to hear this dude who obviously doesn’t know the first darn thing about ANY part of Africa pontificate about how backwards and restrictive “African” society is.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I’ve heard countless similar comments like this since I first moved to the States at 8.  Many Americans are convinced they know something about “Africa” because they’ve seen huts and starving children and wild giraffes on TV (for the record, to the best of my recollection, I have never in my life seen a wild giraffe, or a wild anything that wasn’t a dog or cat.  The only giraffes I saw in Nigeria were at the zoo.).  They assume all Africans are from rural, tribal contexts (and assume quite a bit about what it means to come from such a background); they assume we all have little or no education or real “culture.”  Because education, art, and cities are all things that Africans can’t have, at least, not without Western assistance.  As Dodai put it over at Jezebel:

When using Iman as a muse for their collections, the contestants used words like “exotic,” “wild animal,” “jungle” and “tribal.” If only I were fucking kidding. Yes, she is from Somalia. But do you know what the city of . . . Mogadishu looks like? It looks like a city. The winning design was a leopard print dress, but Isaac Mizrahi made sure to point out that it won because it “celebrated her figure” and not because animal print is for black people, who are animals from Africa.
Not only are these ideas about Africa and Africans woefully uninformed by any real knowledge, they’re also incredibly arrogant, and as Chimamanda Adichie points out in the talk below, dangerous (transcript).

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I posted most of this as a response to Nikki’s recent post on transracial adoption; it was suggested that it would make a good followup post, so, here it is.

I think it can be tempting for potential adoptive parents to personalize critiques of transracial adoption, and this can make it difficult to hear what people who have concerns about transracial adoption are actually saying. This isn’t about questioning specific potential parents’ committment to equally love an adopted child of whatever race, or about weighing their parental skills. It’s about calling people to be the best parents they can possibly be to their children – something that doesn’t come easily to biological parents, or parents who adopt children within their race or ethnicity, either. People don’t always realize that parents of color aren’t automatically great at teaching their children an age-appropriate awareness of racism or teaching them to be proud of their identity.

As an example – I was raised by my biological parents, who emigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. when my siblings and I ranged in age from 3 to 8 years old. My parents had very little notion of the history of racism and race relations in the U.S.; now I realize that their understanding of race in America was only slightly more sophisticated than mine, if at all (i.e., that there used to be issues with racism, but that was all a long time ago, and now everything was more or less fine, with the exception of your occasional KKK member).

I don’t remember my parents ever initiating conversations about race with us, and whenever I did ask questions about race the answers I got were that 1) if we worked hard and kept out of trouble, no one would have a problem with us, and 2) people who complained about racism were either bitter and unforgiving, or they were using it as an excuse for their laziness. I don’t know that these things were said in so many words, but that was the definite impression I got from my parents. On top of all that, my parents had attitudes towards African Americans (as opposed to Africans) that were frankly pretty racist, and I grew up in predominantly white conservative churches that had serious issues with white privilege, classism, and racism. I internalized a lot of those attitudes.

All that to say, I have black parents, and I was completely unprepared for what it means to be black and a woman in this country.  I internalized harmful stereotypes and beliefs about what it meant to have black skin in America, and I struggled with self-hatred and prejudice against African Americans because of this.

Part of that is because my parents are immigrants, and they were getting an education on race in America along with their children.  They couldn’t teach me what it meant to be black in America because they themselves didn’t know.  If you talk to them today, their views on race and racism are very different than what they communicated to us even just a few years ago.

In any event, I’ve had to grapple with race and racism largely on my own, and carve out my own identity as a black American woman and as a member of the African diaspora, and all that is still a work in progress.  And I have to figure out how to help my biracial, black, American daughter make sense of these questions for herself, and sort through her own experiences of race and racism, which will be similar but also quite different from mine – all while I’m still working on understanding them myself. That’s not easy. But it would be a mistake to just not try because it would be difficult.

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