Building Power at the Intersection of Race and Electoral Politics

Representative Ayanna Pressley speaks at a podium during a press conference as Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib look on.

By Guest Contributor: Sudip Bhattacharya

After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset primary win against the establishment Democrat in New York’s 14th Congressional District, I contacted my Democratic Socialists of America chapter to see how I could help. Prior to Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, I had hesitated in officially joining the DSA. I believed it offered little for black and brown communities like mine. However, watching clips of Ocasio-Cortez speaking on issues important to working-class black and brown people while knowing that she was endorsed by the DSA, forced me to rethink my previous assumptions.

Ocasio-Cortez, and others like Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib also forced my colleagues and students at Rutgers University to reassess what they may have thought about politics. More students are now receptive to discussions of socialism and feel emboldened in positively changing the U.S. political system. My own family members and friends have become obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez and those like her — they read whatever they can about them and share clips of them on social media.

However, as I’ve continued to help organize around issues like housing with our Central Jersey DSA chapter, I also recognize the limits of electoral politics in significantly improving peoples’ lives, especially for black and brown communities. After all, in New Jersey, we have Democrats dominating the State Assembly and a Democrat as Governor — and yet, living and working conditions for many black and brown residents continue to deteriorate. Therefore, it is necessary to reevaluate the role of electoral politics in building socialism. I argue that when examining electoral politics, we must center our analysis on black and brown people in the U.S. Doing so reveals that electoral politics shouldn’t be summarily dismissed, but ultimately, our goal must be to build constituencies among people of color that remain independent of either political party. Only with this strategy can we apply pressure to policymakers — regardless of their partisan affiliation and campaign promises – to better the lives of black and brown people.

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Orange is the New Black and Recidivism: The Need for Accurate Media Representations of the Many Causes of Incarceration

Actor Danielle Brooks as Taystee in Netflix's Orange Is The New Black (Photo credit: Netflix / Orange is the New Black)

By Guest Contributor:Rachel Ko

About 50,000 people a year exit incarceration only to enter immediately into homeless shelters; legal restrictions and discrimination against individuals with criminal records are often to blame. As has been well-documented, the incarceration rate for African Americans is more than six times the incarceration rate for white Americans. African Americans also make up more than 40 percent of the homeless population, despite representing only 13 percent of the general population.

Even though general statistics don’t simultaneously track the effects of race on incarceration and homelessness, anti-Black racial stigma amplifies the measurable social impacts of both. Individuals released from prisons are more likely to be re-arrested for misdemeanor offense they commit in order to survive on the streets, but many scholars have failed to sufficiently connect recidivism, homelessness and incarceration.

A more successful representation of these connections is the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black. Through Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson, a compassionate, intelligent, and likeable African American character, Orange is the New Black sheds light on the lack of rehabilitative resources and support systems that cause re-incarceration of individuals suffering from poverty. Taystee’s story shows us that crime is not a single action; rather, it is a series of events and complex social factors.

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Respect Must be Earned: BTS’ Journey Towards Gaining its Stripes in Black America

K-pop group BTS

By Guest Contributor: Monique Jones (@moniqueblognet)

A version of this post first appeared on Just Add Color.

When I first wrote my article about BTS coming to the American Music Awards, I was excited to see this famous K-pop group that I’d heard so much about. I was happy that they would have the chance to perform on a major international stage like the AMAs. I believed that this appearance would serve as the biggest stepping stone yet for K-pop’s eventual domination of American airwaves. As I wrote on Twitter after BTS’ performance (and after I saw the crowd whipped into a frenzy), this must have been what seeing the Beatles for the first time was like.

BTS has been on a roll since their big AMAs debut. They’ve hob-knobbed with R&B it-boy Khalid, and they have released a track featuring Desiigner and Steve Aoki,”Mic Drop”. Everything’s going well; or, it’s going well for BTS, anyways.

The rest of K-pop, however, still hasn’t really “made it” in the States. While one might speculate as to the many reasons why K-pop has failed to penetrate the American music landscape — language barriers; stereotypes about Asian performers held by music executives; general American disinterest towards international music that isn’t British or Canadian — one major reason deserves more discussion: K-pop, as a whole, has a race problem.

So, how is BTS overcoming it?

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Charlyne Yi Recounts Racist Remarks from Writer and Director David Cross

Charlyne Yi (left) and David Cross (right). (Photo credit: IMDB)

This story was updated on October 17, 2017, October 18, 2017, and October 20, 2017 with new developments. Please scroll to the bottom for updates.

Charlyne Yi — the award-winning actor, comedian, writer, and musician best known for her role as a series regular on House, her voice acting work on Steven Universe, and her starring role in Paper Heart which she also wrote — took to Twitter earlier this week to describe her first encounter with writer, director and actor David Cross.

In a series of four tweets, Yi — who is mixed race Filipinx and Korean American — describes how when she first met Cross, Cross made fun of Yi for her appearance. When she didn’t respond, Cross reportedly said: “What’s a matter? You don’t speak English?? Ching-Chong-Ching-Chong.” Cross went on to mockingly challenge Yi to a karate match.

At the time of the encounter, Cross was over forty years old, and already an established comedian, writer and TV and film actor with several stand-up comedy specials already under his belt. Yi was a veritable newcomer to the comedy and acting scene, and was only about twenty years old.

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Racist “Dirty Chinese Restaurant” Mobile Game Pulled by Developers After Community Backlash

A screen-capture from the upcoming mobile game “Dirty Chinese Restaurant” by game developers “Big-O-Tree”. (Photo credit: YouTube / Big-O-Tree)

Last week, I posted about “Dirty Chinese Restaurant”, a mobile game in development by a newcomers Big-O-Tree Games, based in Markham, Ontario, Canada. The video game’s trailers and website content suggested that the restaurant simulation game — which was planned for release in the Apple and Google mobile app stores — was a grab-bag of offensive and racist anti-Chinese stereotypes. I wrote about how I was particularly disgusted by the game’s concept as a Chinese Canadian who grew up in the same area as the game developers.

The game was the target of widespread backlash from Chinese Canadian and Chinese American activists. Chinese American elected officials even weighed in. Representative Grace Meng wrote a statement on Facebook deriding the planned game, and both she and recently re-elected New York City Councilman Peter Koo took to Twitter with further criticism. New York State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky also used Twitter to call the game “disgusting and unacceptable.” In Canada, Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne — who is also the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party — tweeted that the game “does not reflect the value of Markham,” and the mayor of Markham, Ontario, Frank Scarpitti, called the game “appalling”.

Now, Big-O-Tree Games has decided to pull the planned game, and has issued a formal apology to the Chinese community. They have also removed all of their hosted web content related to the game from the internet.

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