Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm a race woman

I suppose I should begin with an apology to my regular blog readers for the long gap in-between posts. I was fairly overwhelmed with work when I got back from the long roadtrip around the South. I'm also surprised that I haven't blogged more about the trip. I suppose I'm still processing parts of it. Not that anything dramatic really happened. Aside from the encounter with the veteran in the restaurant at the beginning of our trip, things were largely uneventful in the realm of distressing or unwanted or inappropriate conversations and comments. In general the people we met were friendly, largely because the people we spoke to were in the hospitality (hotel, restaurant, museum) industry. And even the random people we sometimes encountered and spoke with were friendly because most folks in the South are just like that.

Which makes me wonder about the degree to which race rules the South. And I suppose what I mean by that is the ways that it pops up whether people want it to or not. I was at dinner last night with a group of faculty from my department, and in speaking to one of our senior members, someone whose own family roots are deep within the South, he spoke frankly but at the same time entirely casually about the kind of racism that was so endemic here in the 1970s and 1980s that prevented certain political figures from gaining office (we were, as a table, having a larger conversation about politics). I was both surprised, and not, to have this older white male colleague speak so vehemently about the rabid racism that exists in parts of the South and how reprehensible it is. Some of the most ardent critics of white privilege and white supremacy I've found have been Southern whites who grew up in the South and have seen things with their own eyes and sometimes within their own families that they've had to grapple with.

And this makes me wonder about the reputation I've developed for myself within my department, because I'm definitely known, in the parlance of an older era, as a "race woman"--as someone who is "obsessed" with race and issues of social justice.

Recently there was a skit night that the graduate students in our department put on. It's an annual tradition, one that isn't unique to our department, and it's a tradition in which the graduate students write skits that mock and parody members of the English departments, both themselves but more importantly, their faculty mentors. This skit night is open to the entire department--in fact the students WANT faculty to attend, and in some years there is better turn out than in others. I didn't attend this year's performance because I had another obligation but I did hear from a grad student that there was a skit in which I was parodied. The scene was a comprehensive examination meeting in which I and other faculty members were sitting around the table. Apparently the person playing me (and I should note here that given the lack of Asian American grad students, it was a cross-racial performance by a white grad student) started on a rant about snow, saying things like "Why does snow have to be white? Why is whiteness so pervasive in snow? Can't we imagine other colors to describe snow? Isn't this another instance of white supremacy?"

It was apparently played for broad laughs, and the student who told me about it was worried I would be offended--that this is the second year that I've been parodied as the strident and righteous professor declaiming about injustice (the previous year they had me ranting about feminist issues), particularly around issues of race. He (the student) wondered why I had been pigeonholed into this "race obsessive" professor.

And I laughed, partly because I have a thick skin about these things--after all, I have seen these skits and scene the parodies. I think I got off fairly lightly as far as the send-up. But I also laughed because in some ways, it is true. I am obsessed with race. And it doesn't bother me to say that.

Because here's the thing: in my view, why wouldn't I be obsessed with race? I'm a professor--I'm a faculty member doing research. We all have intense relationships to the field of inquiry that we are immersed in. We all have our professional obsessions. No one would criticize or think twice about describing a geneticists's obsession with finding a gene for alzheimers. Or an art historian's obsession with Egyptian art if that was his specialty.

But to be obsessed with race? Somehow this is seen as pathological. Yet as my friend and colleague "JC" said to me over dinner the other night, how can you be living in the U.S. and NOT be obsessed about race? You are either obsessed about race because you realize the extent to which it has shaped and continues to shape our society OR you are in denial about the role of race in our lives. Either way, it's an obsession, of either omission or visibility.

So I'm a race woman. I suppose there's no better place to be one than in the South.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A tale of two cities

I'm actually back home now, but thought I should continue writing about my road trip around the South, because I have to say it was an enlightening trip overall.

The biggest disappointment was New Orleans--not because the city disappointed us. On the contrary, the two previous times I had been to New Orleans I thought it was a fascinating place, and I was really looking forward to seeing what the city was like in the years post-Katrina.

However, when Southern Man and I had driven over 5 hours from Natchez, MS to our bed and breakfast in the garden district of New Orleans, Annabelle's House, we were told by the innkeeper that he had accidently double-booked our room and that since there was a conference of over 30,000 opticians in town, there wasn't a room to be had in New Orleans, a truth I accepted since I booked us into his B&B because I couldn't find a room in any hotel in the French Quarter when I looked back in January.

Needless to say, we were livid. Especially since the B&B owner didn't even attempt to provide any option for us beyond telling us to find a hotel near the airport or in a town half an hour away. So we said so long to New Orleans and drove onto Mobile, AL, not an expected stop for us, but it would put us closer to Montgomery, AL and also allow us to stay there a day early.

Which turned out to be a good thing because the two museums I really wanted to go to, the Rosa Parks museum at Troy University and the Civil Rights Museum run by the Southern Poverty Law Center were only open on Saturday (and we were originally slated to get into town on Sunday afternoon, and both museums were closed through Tuesday).

I have to say that I found Montgomery to be a very interesting city--really, it's two cities (hence my post's title), which you can see in the seal of the city of Montgomery:

[sorry it's fuzzy--but essentially what you see within the center of the seal is the phrase "the cradle of the confederacy" and what you see around the perimeter of the inner seal is the phrase "birthplace of the civil rights movement."]

Montgomery is both the place where the confederacy gained its first foothold in the early days of the civil war, where Stonewall Jackson established the first whitehouse of the confederacy:

[as a little point of trivia, Jackson and his family ended up moving to Richmond, VA after a year or so, establishing that residence as the second confederate whitehouse]

Montgomery is also the place where some of the most egregious acts of racism--of violence and racial oppression and harassment happened. And it's where George Wallace, who was sworn in as governor of Alabama in 1962 declared on the steps of the Alabama state capital "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever"

[the Alabama state capital]

However, Montgomery is where Rosa Parks first made her stand by not standing up and giving up her seat to a white bus patron.

[This is the entrance to the Rosa Parks museum at Troy University]

It's where Martin Luther King Jr. was propelled into history through his leadership during the Montgomery bus boycotts while he was the pastor of the Dexter Baptist Church.

And it's where the Southern Poverty Law Center established a memorial and museum commemorating the Civil Rights movement and those who died for the cause of civil and human rights.

Overall, I found our trip to Montgomery to be not only educational but really inspirational. I think too often we forget about what life was like in the pre-Civil Rights era. Hearing first hand testimonials from people who were living in Montgomery and who had to endure segregation and life as second-class citizens and reading about the crimes committed against African Americans and white allies who were working for civil rights made me realize how comfortable I am and who I have to thank for my present comfort and opportunities. It also made me wonder, if I had been alive in the 1950s, what choices would I have made? Would I have marched on Washington? Would I have been a freedom rider? Would I have risked me life to ensure a better life and a better society--a better America, a mixed-race America?

I'd like to think the answer is yes, but I honestly don't know. I haven't had to push myself like that in my current life. I have written letters. I have spoken out. But I have done so from a fairly comfortable and fairly secure position. Anyway, it does give me pause to think about the stands I want to take and the limits of my own privilege and recognizing my privilege and hoping I'd risk it for causes I believed were important.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The South in black and white

So I last left you, dear readers, with the encounter I had with the veteran in a restaurant in Monteagle, TN. The next day we went to The University of the South so I could do some digging in their archives. Susan Choi's first novel The Foreign Student, is set in the early 1950s and depicts the life of a Korean foreign student who comes from war torn Korean through the auspices/generosity of the Episcopal Church to study at Sewanee. Choi, in an interview, says that her own father studied at Sewanee in this way. And it turns out that Sewanee has a tradition of offering scholarships and refuge to students from war-torn Asian nations since another alum, Clement Chen, also came to study at Sewanee from wartorn Shanghai right before it fell to Mao's communist forces in 1949. Chen went on to become an architect and donated funds for a building, Chen Hall, at Sewanee--which is now the official residence of the Vice-Chancellor.

[This is Clement Chen Hall, which opened in 1990]

And this is one of the things I've found, so far, in traveling around the South--that Asian Americans pop up in unexpected places and in unexpected ways.

But the truth is, for the most part, our travels have been largely a black and white affair. And what I mean by that is that we have seen very few non-black and non-white people in traveling from Sewanee to Memphis to Natchez to Mobile to Montgomery (where we currently are staying).

While we were in Memphis the Asian influence was felt mostly at the Belz Asian and Judaic Art Museum--and these, of course, were Asians depicted as art objects in paintings and sculptures and on pottery/ceramics.

[These are two lions/foo dogs that stand at the entrance to the museum]

A bit to my surprise, we didn't see any Asian tourists at Graceland

[This is the front of Graceland]

or on Beale Street

[This is Beale Street--probably looks better at night but we didn't venture out since there were thunderstorms the night we stayed]

And we saw no Asian Americans, save one young woman at a Starbucks.

We also were the only mixed-race couple that we saw on the entire trip. And what I mean is that everywhere we went, we did not see a lot of racial mixing. And I don't mean multiracial people, I mean that every time we sat down to a meal, every attraction we went to, every hotel that we stayed at (with the exception of Montgomery, and I'll get to that in a minute) we were the only people of two different races interacting socially with one another. In other words, we saw African Americans sitting and eating with other African Americans. And white Americans touring Graceland together and eating together. But we did not see mixed groups of black and whites hanging out. And even the few Asians or Asian Americans (we saw two tables at a rib joint in Memphis) were at tables to themselves. No mixed race America.

Which could have explained some of the looks we got. Southern Man commented on this early in our trip when we stopped at a McDonalds for lunch. When we left he asked if I had noticed all the people in the McDonalds staring at me. And I said yes and no. Yes, I had noticed them noticing me, but I hadn't registered it consciously because I've grown so accustomed to people looking at me in the South (even in my liberal college town) that I sometimes forget to realize that it's an odd thing. It was odd for Southern Man--and a bit of an education for him as well, I think, to be singled out the way we were--by looks mind you, no one said a peep to us, which he was preparing himself for. But I actually didn't think that would happen. I'm not sure why--I mean, I wouldn't be surprised if someone had uttered an epithet our way or discoursed about the scourge of miscegenation. But I think in this day and age, the brand of racism that you get is more subtle. It's in the non-smiling faces of people and hard looks and the general vibe of not quite feeling welcomed.

Although to be honest, we didn't even get that much of the above. I mean in some rest areas and gas stations, yes. And even walking in Montgomery last night, a woman was eyeballing us in a way that suggested she did not like what she saw. But generally folks, both black and white, have been pretty friendly--which may have to do with the places we've been traveling to--largely tourist areas and in the case of Memphis and Montgomery, cities that do see people from all over the world.

Well, maybe that's more Memphis than Montgomery, although it is in Montgomery at a Thai restaurant last night that we start to see evidence of a mixed race America. Outside our restaurant, two young college-aged men, one white and one black, who seemed to be friends, stroll by looking for a restaurant where they are supposed to meet up with friends. Two tables inside the restaurant have black and white patrons at one and black and South Asian patrons at another. And this morning, at breakfast, we see an inter-racial couple, black male and white female, which means we are not the only ones anymore.

And I have to say, it's nice not to be the only ones. It's great to see other races interacting and mixing. And I just wonder why it has taken this long on our trip to see such evidence of a mixed race America.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Small town talk

My intent, during this road/research trip I'm making around "The South" was to blog about it every night. But I have been pretty tired the last few nights--long nights driving and then long days of sight seeing and information gathering. So I'm a bit delayed in my narrative, but that's OK--I don't need to share every single detail on this blog about what I'm doing!

But I did want to share a bit about our time in Sewanee, TN. I went there, or rather that area, to do research at The University of the South in Sewanee, TN--an old and revered liberal arts college of the south, as its name clearly implies. There really isn't any place to stay in Sewanee itself, so Southern Man and I made our way to a lovely bed and breakfast inn in Cowan, TN, The Franklin-Pearson Hotel, run by Jared Pearson -- this is a picture of him:

And here are two photos of the interior of the inn:

When we got to the inn we were tired (over 8 hours in the car), hungry, and a bit cranky. Or maybe this was just me. Jared directed us to a restaurant, High Point, in nearby Monteagle. I wish I brought my camera because the house that the restaurant was in was a beautiful old stone house, apparently financed by money from Al Capone--he used the house as part of his boot legging operations! So there are apparently all these hidden entrances and trap doors and false walls--at least that's what the brochure to the house said.

Now the thing about small towns in the South is that people love to talk to you. For example, Jared, our innkeeper, told us all about the politics of the town-gown divide between the University of the South and the local communities (something quite common in many small town college communities). And our waiter at the restaurant told us all bout the history of the restaurant. And while I was doing research in the archives, Southern Man went to a coffeeshop where he met local residents and the owner of the cafe who also shared all sorts of stories with him about Sewanee and the surrounding area. This is part of what it's like to travel in small towns in the South. People like talking to you.

And for the most part, I've grown accustomed to this. My natural demeanor whenever I travel, whether on an airplane or by car, is to put on a polite face but one that suggests I am not interested in conversation or small chit chat. Because especially when you are on an airplane, you DO NOT want to get trapped next to the woman who is going to talk to you the entire flight across the continental U.S. about her mother issues (this happened to me once) or about the guy who is trying to hit on you and who actually keeps bothering you, even when you have your laptop up and your headphones on (again, another true story).

But after living in "The South" for a few years, I've learned that this is part of the culture of many communities here--and after all, when in Rome.

However, and this was why I ended with the essay I wrote in the previous post, no matter where I am, I'm never comfortable with a conversation that begins with this opening salvo:

"What part of Asia are you from?"

At the end of our dinner (which was quite good--I had scallops and Southern Man had a NY strip and we ended the evening with creme brulee--YUM) when Southern Man went to the restroom, an older gentleman who had been sitting with his wife (she also was not at the table when he broached me) asked me "What part of Asia are you from?"

Now, I should tell you that the room that we were in was the size of a small dining room and there were only half a dozen tables in it, and during our meal there was only one other occupied table--the one with this older white couple--they looked to be in their late 60s. It was clear that they were listening to our conversation, because at a certain point when we talked about what we were going to be doing when we got to Memphis, the woman chimed in and said, "Oh we're from Memphis! It's lovely--you should go in May!" Southern Man thanked her--I didn't even make eye contact with her, I mean, we were in the middle of a conversation and the entrees hadn't come yet and I didn't want to open the door for having to talk to this couple all night long (they seemed the type who would invite you to join them at their table and we were both at 4-tops).

Anyway, this OWM (older white male) asks me the question that I dread--the variant of "Where are you from/what are you"--because that's really what he wants to know--he wants to know what I am. Because since he's been eavesdropping on our conversation all night, he would have picked up on the fact that I have no discernible accent and since I talked about my research and was working out with Southern Man the different components of my class at Southern U., it should have also been clear that I was not a visiting foreign professor.

So I looked at him, unblinkingly, and asked him to repeat the question--I was really stalling for time because I wasn't sure how I wanted to answer him--it was late, dinner was over--we were waiting for the check. He repeated the question--admitted that he had been listening to our previous conversation (I had been talking about my grandfather and his life in China earlier, as well as the research that a friend of mine is doing in Cambodia around issues of the tribunals for the former Khmer Rouge and the killing fields), and he wanted to know whether I was from Asia.

I think a quick glance at me would tell you that I appear to be Asian and probably Asian American. Again, he didn't want to know about whether I was from Asia--there was another motivation behind his line of inquiry--and perhaps, in hindsight, my 6th sense also told me this from non-verbal cues--his absolute confidence in how he posed the question--his assumption that it was OK to talk to me and ask me this question.

So I told him that I was from California and that I consider myself to be Californian. He then moved on to asking me where my parents are from--he wasn't phased by me putting him off. And I said that my mother was from Jamaica--which was actually the wrong tactical move to make because I kid you not, his eyes LIT UP and he leaned in towards me and squinted and said

"I never would have guessed by looking at you!"

At this point his wife had rejoined him, and I realized my error in trying to throw him off--that it was only going to reinforce his exoticization of me and my family, so I said,

"No, you wouldn't probably because she's Chinese Jamaican."

At this point I was hoping he would drop it and leave me alone--I was not smiling and clearly not enjoying out tete-a-tete. But that's the thing about white privilege--it means that those actively employing it--and I would put this OWM in that category--don't care about what YOU want--he only cared about what HE wanted to get out of the conversation.

And what he wanted to demonstrate to me, and perhaps to remind his wife was that he had traveled all over Asia, including Cambodia -- yes, he had heard us talking about Cambodia, he said--and then he proceeded to list ALL OF THE ASIAN COUNTRIES that he had been to and that he had been to Cambodia DURING THE WAR WHEN HE WAS IN THE MARINES.


This was now THE WORST because not only was I accosted by an OWM but it turns out that he's a Veteran of the war in Viet Nam and he wants to regale me with bombing stories of Cambodia and to tell me about all the Asian countries he went back to visit over the war (he said that specifically--that he went back to Asia after the war to see what had happened to it after he left).

Now, I am not trying to diss veterans. I'm sure this man has his share of PTSD stories and that there is a genuine interest that he has in Asia since he has a connection to it that is unique.

However, I don't need to be part of his therapy and I certainly didn't want to hear his stories or to be the conduit for launching into what he was doing in Asia, during and then years after the war.

Luckily Southern Man came back and we quickly left the restaurant. And Southern Man asked me why I didn't turn the tables and ask him and his wife where they were from--but the truth is, these people wouldn't have gotten the sarcasm--I would have had to have been really direct and said, "why aren't you asking my white partner where he is from--why are you focusing on where I'm from?" and as confrontational and direct as I can be, I really just wanted a nice dinner out after a long day of driving and didn't feel like having to deal with having to educate the older white couple about their white privilege. But it does give me some food for thought and it does make me wonder next time I'm asked this question and it starts to head into the territory of "look at all the Asian countries I've been to!" whether I won't flip the conversation around to the real motivation behind why I'm being asked this question or whether I won't just simply speak my truth and tell my interlocutor that s/he is making me feel like an orientalized object and I don't want to continue talking with them anymore because I'm not feeling comfortable with their line of questioning.

Which brings up an interesting question for all of us: when we are faced with this kind of weird racial crap, why don't we get more aggressive?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TWA: Traveling while Asian

For those of you who actually know me--know my real identity I should say--then you know that I've been traveling non-stop since Thursday. As I alluded to in my previous post, I have left my Southern college town for a big urban city, and then left that place for a small college town and then headed home, only to hop in my car the next morning, with Southern Man at my side (we had to leave our dog "B" at home, but he's being well taken care of by our dog-house sitter "J") and we hit the road to explore THE SOUTH.

Well, actually, this is what happened. I got grant money last year to develop a course on Asian Americans in the South (coming to Southern U next Fall!) and part of the development funds allows you to include a travel component. So I am visiting various sites that relate either to the works I'm teaching or because I'm curious to see if Asian Americans have been at all involved or included in certain parts of Southern history--like the Montgomery bus boycotts. My guess is no--but you never know. In my limited experience in doing this kind of research, you find Asians in the South popping up in the most unexpected places.

I've got a still camera and a flip camera and will be recording parts of my journey--some of which I'll share in this space. But for now, I want to leave you with part of an essay (the first 2 paragraphs) I wrote for a Southern U. campus publication because it explains, very succinctly, the dangers of TWA: traveling while Asian. And I must tell you that already I've had the experience described below happen last night night at dinner--but I'll save that for another post (although I have written before about why asking someone who looks like me where you're from becomes such a fraught question in this post and again in this other one):

"The question that I am asked most often and that I most often dread is a seemingly innocuous inquiry: Where are you from? While this question appears context driven, 99% of the time, even while traveling abroad, what the person really wants to know is: What is your ethnic ancestry? What type of hyphenated, immigrant, ESL Asian are you? Indeed, this is the question that almost everyone who is Asian in America has usually been asked at one time or another. If my interlocutor is familiar with the “brand” of Asian I claim, what typically follows is a litany of everything they have experienced about that particular Asian culture. In my case, because I am Chinese American, I have heard about the trips people have made to Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Or their favorite Chinese dishes. Or they will practice random Cantonese and Mandarin phrases with me, expressing keen disappointment when I confess that I speak neither language but have, instead, as a native English speaker, studied French and Spanish in college.

I dread these inquiries and subsequent interactions because they are not designed to find out about who I really am; instead, these questions feel like an interrogation into how well I represent my race. Does my reality as a Chinese American woman match my questioners’ idea of what it means to be Chinese in America? Will I live up to their understanding of what it means to be an Asian person? Do my answers jibe with their previous notions of who Asian Americans, Asians in America, or perhaps simply just Asians are?"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Recharging my batteries

Because I'm trying to keep semi-anonymous on this blog, I can't tell you exactly where I am or where I've been, but I can tell you that on Thursday I left my little Southern college town and headed for a big city to attend a conference of folks working in my field. And on Saturday I left this big city for a small college town to attend a different conference of folks working in my field (Spring is conference season for those of you not in academia, or at least it seems to be chock full'o symposiums and colloquiums and conferences in the areas I work in).

And I have to say that after the really weird talk I went to (which I described in THE UGLY section of this post) I feel really invigorated. Regardless of what your field of discipline is, most of us are experts in a very narrow way and usually there's only a handful of people at our universities (if we're lucky) who are also in our field/area of study. So the fact that I got to spend 3 days among people who talked the same language that I did. And I don't mean academic jargon (although there was a fair amount of that going on) I mean in terms of caring about the same issues I cared about--in this case, racial and ethnic and class and gender and sexual issues. It was exciting to hear about people's research--to ask questions both during the large Q&A sessions and in private moments over meals and coffee. And it was invigorating for my own research to present my work and get feedback and to be asked smart questions from smart people (which include a fair number of students, both grad and undergrad). And my favorite part is meeting new colleagues--getting to share our work together and have vibrant discussions.

I felt like I was recharging my batteries. And quite frankly, my batteries had been feeling pretty low. It can be isolating being the only one at your university. And in my case, I'm the only one who works in my field--which means while I have sympathetic and intelligent colleagues whom I speak with cross-discipline, I don't have a colleague who works in my exact area who understands the specific issues that I am working on.

All of this has got me thinking about the ways that we all need to recharge our batteries. For me, because I am so invested in issues of race and working on anti-racist theories and practices, it means being with others who are like minded. And again, don't get me wrong--there are plenty of folks at Southern U. who are. But given the nature of our busy lives, it's hard to get together to share intellectual work or talk about our own scholarship and how we are trying to be scholar-activists in our own small ways. But at conferences you get this concentrated body of people who are all in the same space for a period of time who are all there for the same reason and it's really a wonderful way to remember why I do what I do.

And in non-academic settings, it's important that I recharge other batteries that I have--for my sense of emotional well being, physical well being, spiritual well being.

How do you recharge your batteries--and especially if you are interested in issues of race and anti-racism, where do you go to find that sense of camaraderie?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What about Tiger?

Regular readers of this blog may be wondering why I've been relatively silent about the Tiger Woods Debacle. I don't know exactly what else to call it. The Tiger Woods Affair? Makes it sound like The Thomas Crown Affair (anyone remember that movie? I actually liked the remake with Pierce Brosnan and Renee Russo, but I know that's off-topic).

Anyway, I know I've written before about whether or not Tiger deserves his privacy and/or how much scrutiny we should be focusing on him.

And then, about 2 weeks ago, we got Tiger's statement and apology:

Of course, various people weighed in--some critical of Tiger, some willing to be more measured in their assessment of him, and others who are critical of the public scrutiny and why the general public seem so obsessed with Tiger Woods.

So what do I think?


In many ways, I agree with the editorial that describes our "love affair" (obsession) with Tiger. I mean, yes, I'm a golf fan, but because I work on issues of race, I'm of course interested in the ways in which Tiger, as a mixed-race black-Asian golfer has stormed the white bastion of country clubs and PGA tournaments to dominate a sport that has such a racist (and sexist and homophobic and classist) past.

But...there is also a part of me that recognizes that we're talking about men chasing little white balls with long sticks on overly manicured grass. And yet, in the research I've done, the golf course is a power field--quite literally. There's so much power brokering that goes on, it'd be silly for any of us to dismiss golf as a sport and as a major brokering place for deals, large and small.

So thinking about the ways in which Tiger is part of this world--how he has shaped contemporary golf and how, in turn, golf has shaped him--and why folks are so obsessed about when he's going to return to the PGA--as if the PGA's success hinged on a single person. It is worth thinking about and especially in the blog out post-affairs, it's worth considering how his image has changed--and the ways in which he may be re-racialized. I still haven't read enough media coverage to weigh in completely about this, but there's something especially about the ways that people want to talk about his Buddhism that strikes me as a bit Orientalist. I can't quite put my finger on it--or more accurately, I'm not ready to really work it all out in this blog, but I do think that honing in on his Buddhism and connecting it to his mother seems a way to re-empahasize his Asianness.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Washington D.C. becomes the 6th place in the nation where same-sex marriages can be performed and legally recognized! Hallelujha! Hallelujha! Shout outs to Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont (Oh California, why aren't you on this list???!!!).

Let me just quote from this New York Times article, because it really says so much about why same-sex marriages are critical for so many:

“I became a naturalized U.S. citizen in mid-’90s,” said Cuc Vu, a native of Vietnam who held the third position in line with her partner of 20 years, Gwen Migita. “But this is really the first time that I feel like I have the full rights and benefits of citizenship.”


Please check out Tami's excellent rant at What Tami Said about the annoying verbal tics that non-African Americans insert into their conversations with black Americans (you know, the "Girlfriends!" and "No she didn't!" and "Holla!" type comments that the interlocutor somehow mistakenly believes make him/her hip and down with black vernacular culture. FAIL!)


For professional reasons (remember, I'm pre-tenure) I can't divulge the specifics of this scenario, but I can say that the following interaction happened at the end of a talk recently and was made by an Older White Woman (OWW) who is not affiliated with any university. At a certain point in the Q&A I had brought up a topic that lead me to talk about institutional racism and the ways in which eugenics were used as a means of perpetuating biological racism against non-white poeple, specifically black people, in this country. I had also, at a different point in this talk, self-disclosed that I had grown up in California.

OWW (to me after the talk is over):
"You know when you teach your eugenics class you should tell your students who the REAL racists are: people from New York and CALIFORNIA! (she looks pointedly at me)

Me: (speechless) WTF???!!!!

OK, I didn't really say WTF, but I think I expressed it with my eyes and with the brush off I gave her by turning away from her and speaking over her head (she was kinda short) to an undergraduate standing behind her. After all, when someone has just called you a racist because you are from California, what are you supposed to say? The woman was in her 70s--it's not a fair fight. Better to just ignore her, I thought, then to create a scene in which I am accused of elder-bashing.