Seller of Japanese American Incarceration Artifacts Revealed | #StopRago

A painting included in the Eaton Collection, by an anonymous artist.
A painting included in the Eaton Collection, by an anonymous artist.

Last week, New Jersey-based Rago Arts and Auction House came under fire with news that they had been consigned by an anonymous seller living in Connecticut to sell a valuable collection of nearly 450 Japanese American incarceration artifacts — most of them commissioned black-and-white photographs and hand-made artpieces created by incarcerees. Many of the pieces were donated to famed art historian Allen H. Eaton with the understanding that he would use them in a public exhibition to draw attention to the injustices of the camp, but not for sale or profit. When Eaton died, the collection was passed down to his daughter before making its way to the family of the anonymous seller who planned to auction the collection piecemeal through Rago on Friday.

As news of the planned sale — which was scheduled for auction on Friday, April 17 — made its way to the public, many within the Japanese American community were understandably outraged. Many within the community (including several who found pictures of relatives, and family heirlooms, within the Eaton collection) spoke out vocally against the sale, which amounted to profiteering off the pain of survivors of American concentration camps. A Facebook-based social media campaign (“Japanese American History: NOT For Sale“) sprung up with the goal of halting Friday’s auction, and to propose an alternative solution to the public sale that would honour the original intent of the collection.

Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation — the group responsible for maintaining the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center at the site of the Heart Mountain incarceration Camp where many of the items in the Eaton collection were obtained —  gathered pledges to make a cash offer of $50,000 to Rago Auction House. Bafflingly, that offer was turned down.

It seemed that Friday’s auction would go on as planned until on Wednesday, HMWF notified Rago of their intention to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of the sale, and actor George Takei also independently intervened. By Wednesday evening, Rago announced that the auction of the Eaton collection had been cancelled, and that a resolution would instead be negotiated with representatives of the Japanese American community (including Mr. Takei).

Throughout the unfolding of this story, one thing has remained unknown: the identity of the Eaton Collection’s consigner. Friday evening, the New York Times revealed that the seller is John Ryan, a sales and marketing employee for a credit card company, who lives in Connecticut.

Continue reading “Seller of Japanese American Incarceration Artifacts Revealed | #StopRago”

10 brief thoughts on Colbert’s entire show responding to #CancelColbert

There's no way to NOT see this eagle as ridiculous.

 

Tonight, Colbert Report had for the first time an opportunity to respond to the 72h trending hashtag #CancelColbert. I caught the full show.

After the show, here are my full thoughts — on the ep and the hash-tag — in no particular order:

Continue reading “10 brief thoughts on Colbert’s entire show responding to #CancelColbert”

Stereotypes and Me

… Since I've broken my blog (damn you, Internal Server Error!) and am waiting for my host's technical support to swoop in and save the day, I'm going to take some time to address the challenge issued by RaceChangers in which we are invited to reflect on how we stereotype in our day-to-day lives.

Reflect by answering the following questions in writing:

  • Was there a time that you made a generalization and were proved wrong?
  • Do you find yourself subscribing to any stereotypes now?
  • If you do find yourself giving in to any stereotypes, why do you think you believe them to be true?
  • Can you point to any instances where the stereotype does not hold true?

Do I make generalizations? Damn skippy, I do. And I bet you do, too.

Back in this Social Psychology class I took in undergraduate, even though I was a piss-poor student in this class, I was challenged to consider the basic processes of thinking and communicating that make up the complex art of thinking. Although humans boast one of the largest and most complex brains of animals on this planet, we are still inundated, day-in-and-day-out with lots of cacophonous stimuli, out of which we must filter some form of meaning.

The visual stimuli, alone, that we receive are simply so vast that we couldn't spend all of our time pondering what we see until at least we identify the thing we're looking at based upon all possible criteria that might affect our decisions. This would be evolutionarily unsound — as cavemen being chased by sabre-toothed tigers, natural selection selected out those silly creatures who needed to consider the information more closely before deciding that the tiger was a tiger. Instead, what we have come up with is a process of generalizations in which we take some of the most superficial information we can find, that seems to largely fit our perception of a meaning, and quickly judge our surroundings based on those criteria. For example, we need only glance at a car, note its four tires, general metallic appearance, windows, and general shape to identify it as a car and not, say, a train. We don't need to look under the hood to be sure that it's running on car-parts and not train-parts.

No place is this more evident than in young kids, who have yet to create the generalizations upon which we rely. Their generalizations are instead faulty, and based upon their limited experiences. A toddler might see a dog for a first time and be taught that it is a dog. The toddler will codify the dog's fur, four legs, busy legs and ears and call it a dog. Now, face the toddler with a cat, and based upon the same generalization that allowed the toddler to recognize a dog, it will call the cat a dog, until we interject and correct the generalization to one that is more appropriate and precise.

In adulthood, we depend upon our generalizations to survive the day, and to understand our environment in a timely and reasonable manner. When it comes to racial matters, we use generalizations to understand race: a person with dark skin is recognized as an African American, a person with slanted eyes and yellow-tinted skin is recognized as an Asian American. This is why I distrust anyone who claims to be colorblind: it is impossible to not see skin colour and to interpret it as such, unless you are some new, unique breed of human (in which case your brain needs to be studied in closer detail, since you seem to have achieved an evolutionary feat that generations of our species have not).

That all being said, that doesn't excuse racial generalizations as acceptable, particularly when they are imprecise or hateful. I don't begrudge someone seeing me and judging me to be of Asian descent, but it is when my Asian descent participates in another generalization that renders me book-smarts-not-street-smarts, overly-sexualized, kung-fu fighter, green-tea drinker or some other stereotype when things go awry.

The problems here are precision and consequences. Are most Asians yellow-tinted or brown-tinted with slanted eyes? If we're talking East Asian, predominantly yes. However, most Asians are not martial artists or sexual stereotypes, so the generalization is imprecise.

Furthermore, we are not cavemen running from sabre-toothed tigers anymore. Though nature might demand that we continue to generalize, this does not justify the use of generalizations to unfairly marginalize or disenfranchise a group of people based on one's own stereotypes. We have simply created a more civilized society than that, one in which everybody is entitled to certain basic human dignities — including individualism and humanity. It's not difficult to see how a stereotype easily robs a person of those basic tenets, rendering them faceless and mute.

So, back to the original question: do I make generalizations? Absolutely. I've made race-based generalizations that include the assumption that people of a certain race will sympathize with race activism or be more likely to subscribe to one point of view over another. I've made gender-based generalizations that cause me to believe (wrongly) that women will inherently understand and agree with feminism. I've made age-based generalizations that cause me to be startled when entering a class in which I am seated next to a student older than 30. I've generalized that political conservatives are full of shit.

Am I frequently wrong? Except for that very last one, you bet. (Just joking, you crazy right-wingers, just joking! You know I love you, too!)

And, though I struggle not to let my generalizations become a full-blown stereotype than can affect the way I treat others, it's an inevitably uphill journey to constantly challenge my generalizations.

However, it's also an ongoing struggle which I believe we all should embrace. The problem of racism and stereotyping is not aided by hiding one's head in the sand when confronted with thorny problems that call to question one's own morality; instead, racism and stereotyping should be treated as a reason to remain cognizant of race relations issues, and a chance to realize that we are all fully capable of being in the wrong, and there's no real right answer.

WordPress

That's it — I think I've had enough. Blogger has been impossible for me lately. I have been virtually unable to publish posts in a timely fashion, and comments haven't been appearing like they should. Blogger is having an impossible time connecting by ftp to my server, and at this point, I can barely publish any new content.

I've been thinking for some time that I should migrate out of Blogger, and as of this morning, I've decided I might start the move. I've downloaded WordPress and will be trying to work with it to launch as smoothly as possible. I will keep my Blogger archive pages online so that links to old posts will not lead to broken links, but, since I've never done this particular transition before, I'm hoping it won't go too badly.

Wish me luck, and hopefully next time you guys visit this site, I'll finally be able to post content in a sane fashion.

RaceChangers

If you've found a little downtime this weekend, please check out RaceChangers, a new blog by Jen and Carmen over at Racialious.com which posts an “assignment” each week and encourages targeted discussion of race issues based on the “assignment”.

Assignment 1 was to read “Troublemakers“, an article at the New Yorker about stereotyping and generalizations, that include racial profiling. Please take a gander at the article and post your comments over at RaceChangers.