Thursday, May 10, 2007

Brown: the new black

Had a great conversation with a good friend from Boston this morning--we talked a lot about identity, in all its permutations, from race to religion to gender and nation. One of the things he mentioned was something he heard on either The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, which is that "brown is the new black"--meaning, Latinos are now facing the same kind of discrimination that historically African Americans have (and I would say still) faced. Apparently membership in the KKK has risen due to a lot of anti-immigration rhetoric/fear/anxiety--and of course it's mostly fear coming from Mexico rather than other countries (although my guess is that people wouldn't be any happier about illegal immigrants from Turkey or China or Afghanistan). And this also reminds me about a student who recently told Spike Lee (during a Q&A at Memorial Hall) that she believed that Latinos were now more discriminated against than any other racial group--that Latinos face the most racism. This, as you can imagine, was not well received in the audience, half of whom were African American (hard to guess demographic percentages, particularly because I'm horrible at estimates/abstractions and because I'm aware that we have a tendency to overproject figures when we're dealing with non-majority populations. So a crowd that is 50% African American is going to be perceived to be 75% because people, by and large, aren't used to seeing such large percentages).

But back to my point--is this true? That there is a perception that this is true, I don't doubt. And I don't want to start playing the "most oppressed" game (it's like ranking genocide--while most people would say The Holocaust was the worst, people start to debate the Armenian genocide versus what happened in Rwanda with what happened in Cambodia, and even taking the Holocaust into account, is this really productive? Isn't it all too horrific for words?) but I guess what I'm wondering is why that perception exists. And what this may be saying about a changing understanding of racial hierachies and racial affiliations at this time.

Of course Asian Americans continue to be the "model minority" so what do I know...

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