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Moving forward

How do you go forward when you know that just like the majority of every generation before ours, the majority of this generation is also going to act like a bunch of stubborn mules holding up the status quo of racism, oppression, and colonialism with their willful ignorance and silence in the face of injustice.

If this generation was born in the 1880s instead of the 1980s, they’d all be sitting on the sidelines while a few “radicals” demanded women have the right to vote. If this generation was born in the 1940s, they’d all be sitting back while “troublemakers” got ketchup and mustard dumped on them at segregated lunch counters.

Bystanders enjoying the fruits of the radicals who came before them.

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O'Reilly surprised "there was no difference" between Harlem restaurant and other New York restaurants

O’Reilly surprised “there was no difference” between Harlem restaurant and other New York restaurants

I know that this article is old news, but some people never learn.

SUMMARY: Discussing his recent dinner with Rev. Al Sharpton at the Harlem restaurant Sylvia’s, Bill O’Reilly reported that he “couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.” O’Reilly added: “There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea.’ “

This article sums up the response to these comments back in 2007.

O’Reilly is not necessarily a racist, according to law professor Anita L. Allen, of the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied and written on race relations. Rather, she told ABC News, he is ignorant, the product of a still-segregated country where black and whites seldom socialize.  …

David Canton, assistant professor of history at Connecticut College who specializes in black culture, said O’Reilly’s comments represented “colorblind racism.”

Canton draws a distinction between “overt racism” — like the use of the n-word or Imus’ comment — and “colorblind racism,” which is “more complicated.”

“O’Reilly is surprised that he can go to a black restaurant supported by blacks that runs as efficiently as it does,” said Canton. “African-Americans do not operate businesses and the few who do have screaming and crazy behavior. Positive behavior is whitelike.”

“I tell many of these suburban kids that you have been socialized as racists and sexists, and we are here to talk about it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you are a bad person or have a bad parent or minister.”

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, agrees that O’Reilly’s comments should be a “teachable moment.”

It is a teachable moment, if the person who uttered the words are willing to learn.

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Israel Did It!

Those of you that follow Targostown know that I recently came back from the Gaza Freedom March. This weekend, we all were notified that a fellow activist, Shannon, went missing/was abducted somewhere either near the Taba Border crossing between Israel and Egypt, and last anyone heard she was spotted in Dahab, Egypt. All of this was in the facebook post.

A friend of mine reposted it on her facebook wall and above you’ll notice the comment I pointed a red arrow at. J commented “Why does Israel kidnap people like this?”

SO many things wrong with that comment! Where do I even begin?

  • First, if J even read the title of the post, it says that the woman is missing/abducted in Egypt!
  • Second, if this person actually cared about Shannon, he would’ve read the brief post which says nothing about Israeli authorities capturing the girl. In fact, the evidence points to someone who resides in Egypt as this is where Shannon made a cryptic call to her family asking for money deposited to her account, and the money was withdrawn from an ATM well within Egypt’s borders. Why the IDF would be gallivanting around the Sinai when Mubarak is only too happy to oblige the IDF with his own forces is beyond me.
  • Next, it’s these sort of idiotic, anti-Semitic, knee-jerk comments that make the entire situation more difficult. Just like the tea-baggers in the US discredit themselves by holding posters of Obama with a bone through his nose at rallys, J discredits any legitimate grievances he might have by showing that no matter who is really to blame, J will always blame Israel.
  • And lastly, when was the last time anyone heard of Israel kidnapping white American peace activists? They have been arresting protesters more frequently but as far as I know, they aren’t hitting up their ATM cards.

Just had to get that rant off my chest. Israel is wrong on many political issues, but unfortunately, some Israelis I talk to are right in that some people in the international community will hate them for almost anything they do. For some it might be antisemitism. But it appears to me, this prejudice is because Israel is perceived now as the “oppressor,” especially after Op Cast Lead! Kind of like Obama trying to appease the GOP. Not gonna happen. So lets keep it civil people! Only legitimate criticism!

White Ambition in Egypt

The locals I talk to here say that diversity is what Cairo’s all about. People of all races are here [its true] and accepted for who they are. Except for the daily “China! China! China?” or “Ko-ni-chi-wa” calls after me, I would say that its relatively accurate. And those calls are mostly by salesmen trying to get my attention and lighten my wallet. But I don’t want to generalize – I’ll be writing about my own Egyptian stereotypes in a blog post coming to you soon.

But one thing I have noticed…really everywhere during my travels but it strikes me the most when I’m in a non-Anglo majority location, is that many stores still have only white manikins. It usually doesn’t bother me, but there is a manikin in Cairo, specifically near me on 26th July street, that is pervasive. Really any store selling children’s clothing has these in their windows – I have not seen one children’s clothing store that has different models. At least 5 store fronts so far. Believe me, it gets creepy after 1/2 a city block of Bride of Chucky look-a-likes follow you with their cold, dead eyes.

Bride of Chucky

One of the many manikins that infest children’s clothing shops here in Cairo. Look familiar?

So my question is – what is the deal? Is it that white = neutral? I certainly have not seen many live blue-eyed blondes outside of the Gaza protests. Is it that whitening skin creams are as popular here as I hear they are in Asia? I just know that next time I’m buying clothes for a baby shower, I will only patronize stores that either A. have a diverse group of manikins to represent all of their customers’ natural likeness or B. have the headless non-natural colored manikins that are indeed the only neutral way to go.

Asian and Pacific Islanders make Palin uncomfortable

Palin says Hawaii, where she quit college after one semester, was a little too perfect to get any studying done. But her father said differently. “According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made [Sarah Palin] uncomfortable: “They were a minority type thing and it wasn’t glamorous, so she came home.””

Read it in context here: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2009/12/07/091207crbo_books_tanenhaus?printable=true

OTHER Americans

CircleMaybe it’s only me, but I think white Americans all have a time in their life they have had to decide what to call a black person. [I do not know if black people have this inner discussion with themselves – I am guessing not, but I’ll ask.] Do they say black person? Colored person [for their sake, I hope not]? African American? For some people, this conflict of which label to assign happens every time this person is confronted with a applicable situation. For others, they have finally decided on one label and stick with it.

I have noticed that the parlance, at least in most polite and professional circles, has settled on African American.

Other labels, people seem to have less difficulty with. Hispanic Americans? Latino Americans? Mexican Americans? All are acceptable right? And Asian Americans are easy. We all know Oriental is not on the table unless its made of porcelain. Native Americans. Muslim Americans. Those are the big ones right?

As I have used these terms to describe the different people in my world, I started to notice that all these people were being described as sub-sets of Americans. The only Americans that don’t have some “other” in front of them are white Americans.

So at my office, I began a brief experiment by referring to demographics by color and not by origin. No one was African American, etc. We were white or black. White Americans and Black Americans. Equals. 8% of white American children have asthma. 13% of black American children have asthma. It was working already!

Then a friendly colleague asked me how I would describe myself. Well, being 1/2 Polish and 1/2 Chinese, and to most Anglos, looking 100% Chinese, I guess I would describe myself as Asian American. Oh, but I caught it right away. I am not an OTHER. I am just as American as my 100% Polish friends. Probably even more American than the one with dual citizenship with Poland. But what to call myself? With a smile, I said maybe we could try yellow American…and after a fit of laughter it was clear that that wouldn’t be acceptable in any politically correct fantasy world I could cook up.

So as of now, I am left only with questions. If I’m going to be stuck calling Asian Americans such, then will I also be able to transition to calling white people European Americans? Maybe I’ll try that, and if I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, Reverend Joseph Lowery’s little rhyme at Obama’s [first] inauguration makes me smile. 🙂