In This Week’s Retro-Racial News: Noose, N*****s, Lynching

5 04 2015

Among this week’s news headlines:

CBS News: Duke finds person responsible for hanging noose on campus, April 2, 2015

CBS News: Duke finds person responsible for hanging noose on campus, April 2, 2015

WashPost: University of South Carolina student suspended after racist photo goes viral, April 5, 2015

WashPost: University of South Carolina student suspended after racist photo goes viral, April 5, 2015

Guardian: Black woman's 'lynching' charge: an unsettling tactic to punish activism? April 5, 2015

Guardian: Maile Hampton’s ‘lynching’ charge: an unsettling tactic to punish activism? April 5, 2015

Retro-racial not Post-raciala noose on campus, a USC student caught snapchatting the N-word, and a 20-year old African American activist charged with felony lynching?

How is the person who hung the noose “taking responsibility,” as the CNN headline reads, by remaining nameless and faceless?

How do the official university rhetoric of intolerance of racial intolerance and quick explusions of overtly racist individual students and fraternities work together to disavow the anti-blackness that pervades American universities on a much deeper and more systematic structural level? (This includes the UC system (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), where black student enrollment in 2010 was 3.6% at the undergraduate level and 2.7% at the graduate level).

How do laws supposedly originally conceived of to protect blacks from racist white vigilante violence get re-purposed to persecute Maile Hampton, a black activist at a protest against police killing black people?

How do we, as Common urges, “forget about the past as much as we can and let’s move from where we are now,” or simply “adapt,” as actor Isiah Washington suggests, when the specters of the past remain very much present, for example, in the expressions of young (white [and honorary white]) people and in the structural dehumanization of young blacks?

How does an approach of disavowal/respectability/accommodation bring where “we are now” that much closer to the racism that is constantly being disavowed?

What is truly at stake in this ongoing disavowal?

Ecuadorian Artist takes 1″ off the top of England’s Highest Mountain and they want it back

31 03 2015

Artist Oscar Santillan removed a 1″ rock from the summit of Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak, and placed it on a plinth in a London gallery to create an artwork called “The Intruder,” but locals accuse him of vandalism and want their mountain back.

Via the Telegraph:  Oscar Santillan placed the stone on a plinth to create an artwork called 'The Intruder' (Cascade)

Via the Telegraph: Oscar Santillan placed the stone on a plinth to create an artwork called ‘The Intruder’ (Cascade)

Santillan describes his work:

What I have done is a small suggestive gesture that reflects on the way in which humans have imposed their cultural categories over nature.

The description of the work at Copperfield Gallery:

The artist has taken the uppermost inch of the highest mountain in England.

An entire nation’s height is modified and its landscape redefined by means of a single precise action. The artist explores the way in which human categories are imposed on nature: the largest, the tallest, the most powerful.

Just curious:  How is it that when a white male American gorges a 1500 foot trench into the side of a natural canyon and dumps the 244,000 tons of removed rock into the canyon, it is called “Land Art,” but when a Latin American artist removes a 1-inch rock from the top of a reportedly odiferous 3,200 foot peak (Mt. Diablo is 640 feet taller, and much cleaner, by comparison), it is vandalism?

In the same way that a white male German pilot can deliberately crash a plane, killing 150 people, and it is anything but terrorism as he’s pictured smiling in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, and yet by contrast, as Zak Cheney-Rice points out, “black victims — like Michael Brown, who never killed anyone at all — are presented as scowling, threatening ‘thugs.'”

By the same logic, it makes sense then that Englanders would get upset when a Latin American artist removes a 1″ rock, while the British Museum—one of the largest repositories of art looted from around the globe during imperial and colonial rule—refuses to repatriate any of its massive collection of stolen goods (because there would essentially be nothing left in the museum).

White Fragility, or “Why White People (and Orientalists) Freak Out When They’re Called Out About Race”

30 03 2015

There’s a piece on Alternet by Sam Adler-Bell, “Why White People Freak Out When They’re Called Out About Race,” that seems appropo to some of the responses posted to this blog recently. Have you heard of the term “white fragility“? In a 2011 journal article, Robin DiAngelo, professor of multicutural education at Westfield State University and author of What Does it Mean to Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy, came up with the term “white fragility”:

a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include outward display of emotions such as anger, fear and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence and leaving the stress-inducing situation.

Sam Adler-Bell interviews DiAngelo about her work on “white fragility.”  DiAngelo:

I do atypical work for a white person, which is that I lead primarily white audiences in discussions on race every day, in workshops all over the country. That has allowed me to observe very predictable patterns. And one of those patterns is this inability to tolerate any kind of challenge to our racial reality. We shut down or lash out or in whatever way possible block any reflection from taking place. Of course, it functions as means of resistance, but I think it’s also useful to think about it as fragility, as inability to handle the stress of conversations about race and racism. Sometimes it’s strategic, a very intentional push back and rebuttal. But a lot of the time, the person simply cannot function. They regress into an emotional state that prevents anybody from moving forward.

Sound familiar? We see an obvious parallel between “white fragility” and the hostility of U.S.-based area studies (and its graduate students lol) to any methodology (e.g. cultural studies) that would make explicit its colonial epistemological structure towards Asia and Asians.  DiAngelo’s last words in the interview sum it up:

The arrogance of white people faced with questions of race is unbelievable.

Read the full interview here, or download a pdf of her journal article, “White Fragility.” Extended audio interviews with DiAngelo are linked here, “Why all white people are racist, but can’t handle being called racist: the theory of white fragility.”

Welcome to Starbucks, Let’s talk Race

23 03 2015

Via twitter:  Best response to Starbucks telling employees to discuss race with customers

UCD Pepper Spray Cops let go, Katehi still in office

21 03 2015
Via the Davis Enterprise: Pepper-spraying pair no longer UCD officers, 3/20/2105

Pepper-spraying pair no longer UCD officers but keep pensions.

Via the Davis Enterprise, 3/20/2015

The UC Davis police lieutenant who became the target of a worldwide outcry, John Pike, and a second officer who doused Occupy UC Davis protesters with pepper spray, Alexander Lee, are no longer employed by the university. […]

Pike, whose annual salary was $121,680, remained on paid leave for eight months after the Nov. 18 incident….  He remains entitled to retirement benefits. […]

Pike also was identified by a former colleague, Calvin Chang, who is gay and Asian-American, as using a homophobic slur.

[Chang’s 2005 harassment and discrimination suit against the UC Davis Police Department for repeated harassment over racial and sexual orientation was scheduled for trial, but settled out of court in 2008 with Chang—not Pike—agreeing to resign.]

A task force on the pepper spray incident headed by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso and an outside security firm, Kroll Associates, placed as much blame on Chancellor Linda Katehi and other top campus decision-makers as on police, but the bigwigs remain in office without any disciplinary action, despite a petition with over 116,000 signatures calling for Katehi’s resignation.

Katehi’s Silent Perp Walk, November 2011

(via, by Xeni Jardin)

In the video above, UC Davis students, silent, with linked arms, confront Chancellor Linda Katehi just one day after the incident. It’s hard to tell exactly how many of them are present, but there they are, a huge crowd. They’re seated in the same cross-legged-on-the-ground position their fellow students were yesterday just before Lt. John Pike pulled out a can of pepper spray and pulled the trigger.

Related Post: UC Davis: Faculty call for Katehi resignation; Katehi’s Walk of Shame (and more) (11/19/11)

W. Kamau Bell and Elmwood Café launch ‘implicit bias’ training initiative

17 03 2015

Via Berkeleyside

At community forum in Berkeley, W. Kamau Bell and Elmwood Café launch ‘implicit bias’ training initiative

Via Berkeleyside:  W. Kamau Bell and Melissa Hudson Bell at the community forum on race held at Willard Middle School in Berkeley on Friday March 13, 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos

Via Berkeleyside: W. Kamau Bell and Melissa Hudson Bell at the community forum on race held at Willard Middle School in Berkeley on Friday March 13, 2015. Photo: Pete Rosos

At a community forum held in the wake of a well-publicized accusation of racism at a Berkeley café, a new initiative was announced to help train local businesses in handling implicit bias.

An estimated 300 people turned up to Willard Middle School Friday night to take part in the public discussion prompted by the incident which happened when comedian W. Kamau Bell and his wife, Melissa Hudson Bell, were at the Elmwood Café on Jan. 26 this year.

The comedian, who is African-American, made public on his blog how he was asked to leave the café on College Avenue while he was talking to his wife and her friends, who are all white, at an outdoor table.  Read More

Sadly, no event like this is complete without post-racial color-blind racism:

Among the 1,152 comments left on Berkeleyside’s coverage of the case, some have suggested the waitress may have assumed Bell was soliciting and he would have been asked to move on regardless of his color. Others criticized the comedian for grandstanding in his blog post detailing the experience.

At the forum, an audience member asked Bell, via a written question, what made him so sure the Jan. 26 incident was a racially motivated act, and not one directed at the homeless population that is to be found around the café. Bell responded: “So what if I was homeless? Even if I’m homeless I’m a black homeless person — you can’t take that part away from me.”

He said if someone you know says they were subject to racism and you question them, “you have just lost a friend.”

Orientalist trolls are not our friends.

#NotJustSAE What do a Racist Frat Party and the Asian Art Museum have in common?

10 03 2015
Culture as Costume cutouts

Culture as Costume Cutouts!

Above left is from a racist “Border Patrol” fraternity party in Texas last month; above right is from the opening for the SEDUCTION show at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, also last month.

From the Daily Texan:  Guests wear ponchos, sombreros and construction gear at 'border patrol' fraternity party, February 9, 2015.

From the Daily Texan: Guests wear ponchos, sombreros and construction gear at ‘border patrol’ fraternity party, February 9, 2015 (click for Daily Texan article).

You might expect this from a fraternity, but . . .

You might expect this kind of cultural appropriation from a fraternity, but . . .

. . . at a public museum in a city home to one of the largest Asian populations in the United States?

. . . at a public museum serving one of the largest Asian populations in the US?

Ponchos and sombreros at racist "Border Patrol" part at UT Austin last month (Photo: Julia Brouillette/The Daily Texan)

Culture as Frat Party Costume:  Ponchos and sombreros at racist “Border Patrol” part at Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at UT Austin last month, via SFgate (Photo: Julia Brouillette/The Daily Texan).

Culture as Costume as ongoing practice:  Screengrab from Asian Art Museum's flickr album of Maharaja Family Fun Day in 2011 (click for more).

Culture as Costume as ongoing practice: Screengrab of families playing “dress up” with Asian culture (pixellated here to protect the innocent), from Asian Art Museum’s flickr album of Maharaja Family Fun Day back in 2011 (click for more).

Orientalism is structural racism. Structural racism is racial bias that operates across institutions and society to produce systemic inequality.  It is maintained through a culture that normalizes and replicates everyday racism.  Whether at a frat house or a public museum, racial ideology is propagated through popular ideas and myths that perpetuate racial hierarchies.

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