Thursday, June 18, 2009

national Reviews: Another pictorial attack on Sotomayor

And this time, the image attack is on Latinas, Latinos and East Asians (I'm being kind, if not accurate, by allowing that the artist would distinguish between the various Asian groups. After all, the popular racist notion is that "they all look alike."


The Huffington Post headline blares "National Review Perplexingly Depicts Sotomayor As Asian." The articles writer, Jason Linken, says"It seems that the National Review has confused their ethnic stereotypes, or their religions, or maybe they just wanted some sort of two-fer, because their 'Wise Latina' cover story presents Sotomayor as an Asian, in some sort of Buddhist pose." blogger writes, "Ah yes, porque a Puerto Rican can’t be wise draped in a Puerto Rican flag, eating a bacalaito, and shaking her big ass. And anyway that would be a Puerto Rican stereotype. Much better to use an East Asian physical stereotype and Asian model minority/smart stereotype, no?"

No, er, I men, yes! :) Better for the National Review to use an East Asian physical and "model minority" stereotype -- or so their editors thought. I don't think those wise white men (heh:) at the National Review are confused at all. I think they're (not so) effortless genius is the product of trying to dodge cries of "racism" by relying on "Asian" stereotypes -- and not stereotypes of Latinas/Latinos, which -- since Sotomayor's nomination for Supreme Court Justice -- a slightly broader audience of people in the U.S. appear to more readily take issue with (Maybe I'm giving non-Latina/Latina folks in the U.S. far too much credit here -- I'd love some feedback on this particular assertion). I mean, you can't represent black presidents as escaped gorilla's that get murdered by white police officers and you can't portray black presidential hopefuls as cartoon figures in traditional Arab dress and their life partners as militants doing the "terrorist fist bump" without a white man's job being threatened:) though not stripped from him. At least, National Review editors appear to think that racial/ethnic stereotypes of East Asians won't ruffle as many feathers. So, why not go with buddhist imagery! Makes total sense. Not. Generally speaking, I don't think most non-East Asian, non-Chinese, non-South Asian, and Central Asian folk living in the U.S. take offense to racist, sexist (etc.,) stereotypes of the aforementioned groups. Whereas, an obviously minstrelized depiction of a popular African American figure would elicit ire and intense criticism, minstrelized imagery of various Asian groups (as well as Middle Eastern, Muslim, Arab, and indigenous/Native American groups) would not lead most folks to bat an eyelid.

(I made up the word "minstrelized" :) Let me define minstrelsy for you -- or rather, I'll let Global Oneness define "minstrelsy" for you:)

"Popular entertainment perpetuated the racist stereotype of the uneducated, ever-cheerful, and highly musical black well into the 1950s....

Minstrel-show characters played a powerful role in shaping assumptions about African Americans. However, unlike vehemently anti-black propaganda from the time, minstrelsy made this attitude palatable to a wide audience by couching it in the guise of well intentioned paternalism.[64] Black Americans were in turn expected to uphold these stereotypes, or else risk white retaliation. Some were even killed for defying their minstrelsy-defined roles. Louis Wright, himself a black minstrel, died after being lynched and having his tongue cut out for cursing at some whites who had thrown snowballs at him.[65]"

Allow me to further support my claims:) about the widespread indifference with which racist portrayals of Arab peoples, Muslims, and indigenous/Native American people are met:

1) A popular, crude and staggeringly racist stereotype of indigenous/Native American people:

I mean -- seriously. I know how pervasive, insidious, and unexamined racism is by most white people -- but I still have a hard time believing that anyone -- even white folks:) -- could successfully convince themselves and then argue that this image is not racist and offensive, mainly to the group it targets. But, then again, the people who defend these types of images don't care about the views, feelings, or history of the groups that call for the abolition of them (this link presents you with an opportunity to sign a petition demanding the removal of the Cleveland Indians logo). And there is PLENTY of money to be made on people's indifference, lack of empathy, and conscious and unconscious and unexamined racism.

2) A MadTV skit -- brought to you by FOX Television! -- mocking Al Jazeera, a major news network, and important news source, owned and operated by Arab people for people in the Arab World:

Wow. This one hurts my heart. And my gut. Arab caricatures chanting "Death to America" and MadTV's actors in blackface! God help us. ("blackface" is defined and discussed here)

3) Which is not to say that racist stereotypes of blacks and Latinas/Latinos aren't abound in the cultural mainstream -- they are -- and they are also routinely ignored -- by white folks and people of color, including blacks and Latinas/Latinos themselves, who occasionally are the creators of said images.

Tyler Perry's beloved Madea films are a fine example of that which I speak. Here's a clip from Madea Goes to Jail:

There's a lot more I could say about films like these that are made by black artists, do well in the box office with a multi-racial audience, provide opportunities for black actors and other black professionals in a white dominated entertainment industry, while also mobilizing racist stereotypes. The subject is a complex one. For brevity's sake, I will save that discussion for a separate blog post:)

Then there's Hancock:'s Latoya Peterson entitles her blog critique of this film: "Will Smith: Flip-Flop wearing, Alcoholic, White-Woman Chasing [Black] Superhero?" So, yeah, the films got its problems:)

And Tropic Thunder:

Actually, make that "fuck me." 

Cuz that's what this film does -- it discursively bends black folks over, and forces us to take it in the rear quite non-consensually.

I hate this fucking film. A festival of white racism in blackface packaged as post-racialhipster cool that excessively wealthy white men used to get even wealthier. Fuck that. 

But this blog started with a discussion of the National Review cover caricaturing Sotomayor and her statement that "I [Sonia Sotomayor] would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life."  The white boys really hate that one:) Her words should remind us where this all started for the Rush Limbaugh's, Sean Hannity's, and Bill O'Reilly's of the world. She -- this proud, brilliant, successful Latina -- pissed these white boys off. They and their fraternity of followers -- which include white women and a few folks of color -- are, subsequently, using their institutional power in the government and media to heap racist and sexist attacks on her.

As I've said before. She will be nominated. The Supreme Court's politics, and thus, the Court's verdicts and role in making federal policy will change. White supremacy, and it's footsoldiers -- however wealthy they are -- will not and cannot stop that.

Why is it important to identify, critique/discuss, and actively work to purge such imagery from the U.S.'s cultural, social, political and economic spheres?

Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology, provides a useful response to this question in a text he provided the Jim Crow Museum (an online source): "1) during the period of Jim Crow, 1877-1965, racist images of Blacks permeated American society as evidenced by the proliferation of anti-Black everyday items; 2) anti-Black caricatured items were used to support anti-Black prejudice and discrimination; and, 3) Jim Crow-like images are still being created and distributed."

It is useful to substitute Pilgrim's reference to "racist images of blacks" with a more general reference to "racist images of people of color" -- and his racially specific reference to "anti-black" imagery and prejudice with a racially specific reference to "anti-Latino/a" or "anti-Asian" or "anti-Arab" (etc) imagery and prejudice.

Racist images of people of color and prejudice against people of color is ubiquitous in U.S. society as is "evidenced by the proliferation" of everyday racist items that attack East Asians, the Chinese, South Asians, Central Asians, Middle Eastern peoples, indigenous/Native American groups, Latinas/Latinos, and blacks.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another high-tech lynching: Sonia Sotomayor cartoon

When I first saw this image -- originally published here, at The Oklahoman, about a day ago -- I was pissed. 

Just pissed because, you know, blatant, unapologetic racism is unsurprising. Another white cop shot a black cop last week Thursday night -- my gut and my mind are still meditating on that tragedy.

But then I looked at it again. And you know what -- isn't this exactly what Republican politicians, their supporters, and the neo-conservative media is doing to Sotamayor right now. 

Isn't this exactly what the Republican gang in congress will do to her at her confirmation hearing. 

Won't they rhetorically lynch her -- like FOX News has done constantly since Obama nominated her.

So, this image, like so many others we've seen since Obama became a serious contender for presidential office, represents something very real -- though much denied -- for Obama's opponents, for Sotomayor's opponents -- for those white folks that believe their rights, their power, is being stripped away by the scurge of Affirmative Action -- by deluded white liberals and deluded liberals of color who have downed too much of that subliminally socialist liberal kool-aid.

This image is another ugly birthchild of white supremacist thinking and behavior.

Lynch the bitch.

Lynch her in print. Lynch her with words. Beat the shit out of her in our racist imagination because we can't do it for real. Not like in the old days. When you could lynch her for real. So lynch her now, in this way, and make her family, her supporters, and everyone that looks like her watch. Make them as uncomfortable -- as sorry, sad, scared, and angry -- as we are. Because we (think we) are losing control.

Well, they -- the wealthy neo-conservative white male oligarchy -- is losing some control.

And I, for one, am not angry or scared (for once:). I do feel sorry and sad.

Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed. She will be the first Latina, and third woman, to serve as a Supreme Court judge. Some things are changing.

So, mostly, I am ecstatic. Because her appointment is a big deal:) Sotomayor will be in a position to help make institutional changes as part of a Court that has been predominantly conservative/Republican -- before she occupies a seat on it, that is.

Please contact The Oklahoman or call them at  (405) 475-3311, and tell them what you think about their cartoonist's depiction of Sotomayor's upcoming confirmation hearing.

Ask them, "What's up with white Republican's and their nostalgic urge to throw lynching parties?" 

Thanks to Feministing, I know that the Oklahoma Women's Network Blog has more to say here.

Also: Because of my blog's format, which I can't figure out how to change, the cartoon is partially cut off. The crude and arguably racist representation of Obama (a sombrero for goodness sakes?) is saying,"Now who wants to be first."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Killer cops: racist patterns

This is Officer Omar Edwards, his partner/wife, and two beautiful children.

A few nights ago, Officer Edwards -- off-duty, and therefore, plainclothed -- sprinted down a street in Harlem, NY -- gun in hand. He pursued a man who had just broken into his car.

"'Police, drop the gun!" [Officer Andrew] Dunton yelled. Edwards stopped about 15 feet away from them and - without a word - turned to face the three cops," who were also plainclothed.

That's when Dunton opened fire six times [at Edwards], officials said."

Three of the bullets Dunton fired pierced Edwards' body... he died in a hospital bed the following night.

Dunton and two other officers had pursued Edwards. All three men said that Edwards looked like a criminal.

He was plainclothed.

He was running down the street.

He had a gun in his hand.

He was black.

What else could he be?

And the officer who gunned him down... he is white.

"The [New York Police] [D]epartment was investigating whether the officers had identified themselves or demanded that Officer Edwards drop his weapon before Officer Dunton opened fire."

As a civilian -- I am left wondering a myriad of things. Even if Dunton hadn't said he was an officer -- and he damn well should have. But even if he didn't. Even if Dunton didn't tell Edwards to drop his weapon -- why did Dunton fire his gun six times? Why not five times? 

(Was it the sixth bullet that killed him?)

Why didn't Dunton stop firing after the first bullet hit Edwards? Or the second? I mean... am I supposed to believe -- is the public supposed to believe -- that Edwards did not fall after being shot once? Are we supposed to believe that Edwards, a police officer, would not have lowered his gun or dropped his gun before Dunton shot him? That is -- if Dunton truly did tell Edwards that he was a police officer. 

Or is it possible that Dunton shot Edwards without warning him. Or shot Edwards in the back as he ranaway. I mean -- why else would Dunton have had cause to shoot a person? What could Edwards have possibly done to give a police officer a reason to shoot him -- if he, in fact, knew that the person confronting him was a police officer -- and that confronting officer had a gun... wouldn't Edwards comply with the officers demand to relinquish his weapon?

Critics of those who ask questions like these will say that people like myself can't understand what it's like to be a police officer. A police officer in a life and death situation. A police officer has seconds -- or less than that -- to decide what to do. To save lives. To save themselves.

“Rest assured we will find out exactly what happened here and see what we can learn from it so it can never happen again,”
said Republican Mayor Bloomberg (and eight richest man in the United States, by the way -- which makes him the richest man in New York City -- a net worth of 16 billion . Why the hell is mayor?! Doesn't he have a software company to run! Damn). "The only thing that can come out of this is to improve procedures so perhaps it doesn't happen again."

We will find out exactly what happened.

And see what we can learn from it.

So it can never happen again.

Well -- let me save you a bit of time, worry and intellectual labor Mr. Bloomberg. The thing that exactly happened -- that "we" can learn from so it never happens again -- is a thing that black parents teach their black boy and girl children about. A thing that black people, like myself, already know -- cuz if we didn't -- we might get shot by a police officer making a routine traffic stop -- and we are the driver or passengers of that car -- and we reach for a drivers license, or car insurance, or registration -- or anything. If we reach for anything under that police officer's gaze without moving carefully and telling that white officer what we are doing every half-inch we move -- we could get shot.

"[U.S. Representative Charles] Rangel [a Democrat and a black man] apologized this week for an earlier comment about President Barack Obama needing to be careful when visiting Harlem, apparently alluding to the shooting. He was answering a reporter's question about what Obama should do when he visited the city Saturday with the first lady.

Good point, Rangel! And damn good advice.

So, most of us black folks have our Ph.D. in how to avoid getting shot, beaten, arrested or harassed by police officers -- Still, in spite of our Ph.D.'s on how to survive living in a white supremacist society that is guarded and defended by gun-toting, baton wielding, predominantly white male police force that is always acquitted for murdering innocent unarmed civilians, since  the 1970s, an unknown number of us unarmed black folks have been murdered by police officers -- and thousands upon thousands of us have been beaten -- millions of us arrested and harassed. (Please note: A 1994 Crime Control Act requires the Attorney General and police departments to publish statistics on police shootings but police departments don't cooperate -- and neither the Attorney General, or the State Department to which the Attorney General belongs, or the federal government that houses it try to force police departments to cooperate.

Historian Fox Butterfield says, "This lack of accurate statistics makes it virtually draw meaningful, big-picture conclusions about deadly encounters between the police and the civilian population, including the fatal shooting...of an unarmed black man in Cincinnati [2001], an incident that incited days of violent protests and vandalism. Without a national barometer, there is no conclusive way to determine whether this or other incidents around the country — like those involving Amadou Diallo in New York [1999] and Rodney King in Los Angeles [1991] — represent racially based police misconduct, or any kind of trend at all.")

So, that thing that more white folks should learn about in order for black folks -- the ones with and without badges -- to avoid  being "unjustifiably" murdered -- that thing, that lesson is about unconscious or conscious white racism. Specifically, the way in which conscious and unconscious white racist fantasies or ideas about people of color -- can make a white person a murderer -- and make a black or brown person dead. 

There are scientists who have tried to measure it -- measure that thing that makes white people shoot at innocent black people. They've done studies. They learned that white folks and black folks will shoot at a black person quicker than they will shoot at a white person. Interesting, huh. And get this, when the target was black, more white folks will pull the trigger even quicker  than black folks did. No matter who the shooter is, then, black criminals will die a lot quicker than white criminals. Of course, black innocents will also die a lot quicker than white innocents.  Though, a black/brown person's chances are about 75% better if the person aiming at them is black. Comforting isn't it. I have yet to read or hear about an unarmed white person being gunned down by police officers.

The world is safe!

Well, actually, the white world is safe.

The white world is safe from all black people -- criminal and non-criminal -- because white folks are far more likely to shoot down a negro -- whether they are breaking the law or not -- simply because the person pulling the trigger is white -- and the person who is getting shot at is black.

So, rest easy.

Unless you're black.

Then you fuckin' have to worry about walkin' around -- day or night -- inside the peripheral vision of a white police officer or any white person, for that matter, with a deadly weapon.

Cuz if you're black, you just may not make it home.

This story began with Officer Omar Edwards. A newly married, young father of two children -- one child less than  year old; the other child just over a year old. 


"My son is dead, my son is dead," Edwards' heartbroken mother, Natalia Harding, told a friend while she held her son's babies. "They killed my son."

Officer Edwards isn't the first black officer to be murdered by a fellow officer -- a fellow white officer. The Rev. Al Sharpton said that there was "a growing pattern of black officers being killed with the assumption that they are the criminals.”

A pattern of murders.

In January 2008, a [black] Mount Vernon officer, Christopher A. Ridley, 23, was killed by [a white] Westchester County...[Officer Frank Oliveri] in downtown White Plains as he tried to restrain a homeless man whom he had seen assault another person." According to a lawsuit filed against Oliveri, the Westchester D.A. and other Westchester officials, Oliveri shot Ridley in the head at point-blank range, and then subsequently, hid Ridley's badge in his car.

And in February 2006, a New York City officer, Eric Hernandez [Latino], 24, was fatally shot by...[white] fellow officer, Daryl Massey, 26,] while responding to a 911 call about a fight at a White Castle restaurant in the Bronx."

A pattern of white police officers subconscious? unconscious? conscious? racism manifesting as lethal violence against black police officers.

So, even if -- technically -- you are on the "right" side of the law -- the "white" side of the law -- you're still a target for racist police violence. 

You know... if it's dark. 

Or if it's light. 

And if your gun's unholstered.

 Or if your gun is holstered.

And if you're running down the street. 

Or if you're walking down the street. 

If you're black. 

If you're brown.

Then you just might be fucking dead.

Because sometimes.

White cops can't distinguish between black cops, brown cops --

And criminals.

If you're one of these un-fuckin' lucky black cops. Or brown cops. Then your  family is stripped -- suddenly -- of a father. A brother. A son...

You're gone. And they are grieving. Forever.