Brad Pitt and Black Hair

A stunning reason why White parents are frequently incapable of dealing with the ramifications of adopting a non-White child: in this month’s Esquire magazine, Brad Pitt says,

For white people who might be having a little trouble with black-person hair, Carol’s Daughter is a fantastic hair product. We got it for Z. Now her hair has this beautiful luster. And it smells nice, too.

Right. Because Black hair is usually dull and smelly. Looking for nicer looking hair with volume? Frisør Oslo is your best bet if you’re in Norway’s capital.

Imagine what happens when Zahara starts asking why her Mommy and Daddy are a different colour than she is.

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"Jap" Cars


I think politicians should be required to take racial sensitivity classes before they start campaigning. Seriously. Not to protect the minorities they will otherwise inevitably offend — you can't get a racist cat to change its stripes, and while 'Macaca-gate' was pretty insulting, people of colour are more offended by the racist legislation than the racist language. No, politicians and related professionals should undergo racial sensitivity training because they seem to be too stupid along with their racism.

A bare month after Macaca-gate, former Minnesota Representative Mike Osskopp, now acting as director of Representative John Kline's campaign in Minnesota was caught on camera yelling a racial slur to passing cars. As cars drove by, Osskopp shreiked to the drivers that they were driving “Jap” cars. (Click on this link to view the video, courtesy of Inside Minnesota Politics.)

Idiot. There's a camera on you. The idiocy of racism is only compounded by the idiocy of racism with a camera on you.

“Jap” is a racial slur that was frequently used during WWII to villainize Japanese troops (although it originated earlier than that, pretty much as soon as the Japanese landed in America). Not only was it used as a slur by troops fighting Japanese soldiers, but was used at home during the oppression and internment of Japanese American citizens and even against non-Japanese Asian Americans by those who couldn't tell the difference.

“Jap” was later used by the killers of Vincent Chin, uttered moments before Chin was fatally beaten by Ron Ebens and Michael Nitz in 1982. Incidentally, this hate crime was fueled by the same anti-Japanese sentiment that resulted from foreign vs. domestic automabile manufacturers feuding that seems to have triggered the Osskopp Incident earlier this week. Also, Ebens and Nitz did not spend a single day in jail for their killing of Chin.

Non-Asians still defend the usage of this racial slur, particularly in the automobile industry where there is still heavy competition between foreign and domestic car companies and fans of certain car manufactures have canonized the use of “Jap” to refer to foreign-made vehicles. Perhaps this was what Osskop was referring to — but that doesn't negate the slur's historical usage. Before there were cars, in fact, there were racist White Americans uttering the word “Jap” as rationalization to disenfranchise, dehumanize, maim, and murder Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans who, at the time, were, because of their status as “Japs” afforded no legal rights of their own. “Jap” is a reminder of our community's historical treatment as animals (and indeed, the treatment was extended to all Asian Americans regardless of our ethnicity) and should not be tolerated in today's society.

Osskop released a statement of apology yesterday, trying to pass the blame by claiming ignorance:

“I apologize if my words offended any Americans of Japanese descent, including my sister-in-law,” Osskopp said. “I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and used a phrase commonly used in my youth, but which is now inappropriate and offensive.”

Note the typical desperate response by a member of the mainstream when accused of racism. Osskopp first denies that the words themselves were racist, instead apologizing for the offense rather than the trigger. Secondly, Osskopp uses the “I didn't know it was racist defense” coupled with the “don't blame me, blame my parents defense”, describes how he is now a better person for having been educated in how not to be racist (or at least how not to be racist in front of a camera), and we even learn the interesting yet completely irrelevant factoid that Osskopp has a Japanese American sister-in-law, which must acquit him of any racial wrongdoing, right? I mean, after all, he's got Asian in his family; he's got to be worldly!

Thankfully, Kline has publicly condemned Osskopp's remarks, but I'm betting that's nothing more than lip service. After all, we're talking about the same region that sparked statewide backlash against Hmong immigrants a year ago when Chai Vang was convicted for the shooting deaths of six White (and probably inebriated) hunters after a language problem and inter-cultural tension escalated into a violent confrontation.

Ultimately, Osskopp will get away with a proverbial slap-on-the-wrist and no one will remember this incident in a month (if they know about it now). It certainly is unlikely to hurt Kline's campaign, and it's hard to imagine the largely monochromatic population of Minnesota being up in arms to defend the Asian American community from rampant racial slurs in the same vein as “macaca”.

It only goes to show you how desperately we need to become involved in politics. In roughly a month, two racial slurs directed against our community have come to light, and yet we have very little recourse with which to make a lasting political consequence.

This kind of behaviour from our nation's politicians will only continue so long as we continue to do nothing to stop it.

Cross-Posted: APA for Progress

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Live-Blogging Survivor: Cook Islands, ep. 2

Welcome to the second installment of Jenn-subjects-herself-to-a-travesty-of-television, wherein I will be live-blogging the second episode of Survivor: Race Wars. If you happen to be in my timezone, feel free to turn on the show and keep refreshing this page to watch my comments come in.

The episode re-cap is on, reminding of what happened last week. Major themes? Some of the castaways are uncomfortable with the Race Wars theme, a girl named Flicka (who I am assuming, given that name, must be part-pony) let a chicken the White tribe stole from the Asians escape into the wilderness, and the Black tribe voted out Seku, their self-proclaimed leader who was, until that point, doing his best to “shatter” stereotypes by saturating us with the lazy Black man stereotype.

I am now watching the opening credits for the first time, and am surprised that Burnett didn't take the blogosphere's lead in introducing the tribes as the blogosphere has taken to doing: by the associated race rather than with these silly names. “Puka Puka”? Is that supposed to be reminscent of vomit or Pokemon?

As we wait for the commercials to go finish, I'm going to let you guys know that this time I actually have the CBS Survivor website open in another window. Hopefully, this will help in identifying the castmates this time, such that I can stop calling them “that Asian guy” and “that older Asian guy”.

We return from commercial break to watch the Hiki tribe (that'd be the African American tribe — incidentally, I got several search terms pulling up this site looking for the colour of the Hiki tribe: that would be yellow, guys) attempt to use their new flint to start a fire. They couldn't seem to get their fire started, despite having the flint — suggesting that maybe they really needed to win that fire-starter kit from before. Nate (the lone man, albeit somewhat effiminate) tries for a long time to get the fire going, and finally gives up, only to have Rebecca try it for a few minutes and get it going (editor's note: it might have helped Nate to actually have some kindling under his flint as he tried to light it). It was a blow to sexism, apparently, that a woman — a woman — started the fire.

Then the African American tribe — which Rebecca described as under more pressure because they were the African American tribe — danced around their fire.

Aitu (the Latino tribe) describes themselves as doing well — and certainly they are probably among a minority (no pun intended) in actually being able to catch fish without needing the fishing line and hook. They say they caught nine fish and some clams for food. After Cristina explains how she is a cop who was shot earlier in her career, the Aitu tribe get together and build a chicken trap, catching one of the wild roosters running around the island.

There seems to be a hint of tension between Ozzy and Cristina, although exactly what the concern is is unclear.

Puka, the Asian American tribe, outdoes the Aitu tribe's chicken trap in designing a smaller, more compact and efficient trap involving a box and a stick. Yul and Becky seem to be bonding over their “Korean-ness”. Becky says that Yul is like her, “op-pah” (sp?) or older brother — and I'm sure Probst was watching that piece of film and still raising an eyebrow over the existence of different Asian ethnicities at all. Probst must have been thinking, “They have their own different languages?!? This has got to make the social experiment even cooler! Maybe we can mate Yul and Becky and see what their little Korean children are like!!”

After Chicken Thief returns from exile, the Raro tribe is already falling to pieces, four days into the experience. They did get a fire going, but they apparently spent a second night partying rather than building a shelter. Perhaps they were thinking hot sweaty sorority-girl/frat-boy sex on the muddy jungle floor was going to keep them warm for 30 days.

Back at the Latino tribe, the tribe continues to impress by catching fish without the line. Billy, the rather husky guy on the tribe, regales us with his philosophy on camp etiquette, which can be summarized by the following: don't do shit and try to feed off your tribemates' work. Billy says that he feels inexperienced in catching fish and so doesn't want to do anything to help.

Some of the women take Billy aside and tell him that they want him to fit in, and Billy responds that he's never felt part of the “Hispanic culture”, and that “metal is his culture”. That sounds an awful lot like self-denial; no matter what room Billy walks into, I'm sure his peers will see him first as brown before rocker.

Oh, shit, Mr. Miyagi is at it again. Cao Boi comes in with his “magical powers”, as Jenny describes it, to cure her of her sunstroke. He actually massaged her temples to remove the migraine and then marks Jenny with the same mark as he marked the guy from last week.

However, later that night, Mr. Miyagi starts making racist, anti-Asian jokes, including one that starts with “What do you call a Vietnamese who has three dogs?”. He says “a joke is a joke, right?”, but Yul and the rest immediately retaliate (and rightly so) arguing that such jokes only perpetuate stereotypes of Asians to those who don't know about insider politics. It's a valid point, but were I the Puka tribe, I would've just kicked Mr. Miyagi out of the shelter.

You think making fun of Asians are “small”? See how small your balls get after you spend a night in the freezing cold. Them healing hands won't be much good then, will they?

Over at Raro, we see that the White folk actually were busy and built a cute little shelter in the lee of a rock, that looks something like a stable. Well, Flicka will feel right at home.

Meanwhile, the castaways learn that this is some sort of bondage-inspired reward+immunity challenge. All I caught was an image of handcuffs and something about the entire team being as one. Orgy? I have a feeling the White team will have the edge; they have, after all, been practicing for five days. Meanwhile, over at Aitu, Billy, like an idiot, is acting more and more like a loner, wandering off as the rest of the tribe reads the treemail and strategizes.

At the challenge, Chicken Thief (or one of his male cohorts — shit, you know them frat boys all look alike) shoots a thrilled look to his tribemates, and I just had to wonder if some yucky slur shot through his head. He just looked a little too happy for that to have all been just a “we got an edge in the game” facial expression.

The challenge reward are a pile of tarps. Again, the details of this challenge are a little too complex to explain, all I know is it involves a Reading Rainbow portion wherein Probst reads us a bedtime story, followed by a leg-race through an obstacle course in which all four participating tribe-mates are tied together. Importantly, at the end of the race, the tribes must reassemble the Reading Rainbow book from memory. Of note is the fact that Billy of Aitu immediately volunteered himself to sit this challenge out, further indicating that he has some form of snuff-wish on this gameshow.

The Asian American tribe takes a lead in the challenge and show some good team unity in crossing the rope bridge. I'm starting to be reminded of the model minority myth, 'cept I'm pretty sure it didn't include rope bridges. Fitting into this “we have photographic memories, but we're not stereotypes, dammit!” thing Puka has going for them, Puka initially is named the winner of this challenge.

Raro, the White tribe, immediately become infuriated and protest loudly. “We won!” sputtered Candice (I think). So, of course, Probst sided with the White tribe and declared it a draw (the way it was edited, it certainly seems that when Probst yelled that they had to be on the mats, Puka made it on first). Yeah, 'cuz the Asians don't deserve to win, outright, twice in a row. That's racist!

Aitu chooses to exile Yul following their loss at the challenge. I'm not too sure why. Maybe a hot, virile Asian American man was deemed too threatening. All I know is, Yul is certainly the poor woman's Daniel Dae Kim. If I weren't practically married, I'd swoon.

So, thus far — the African American tribe and the Latino tribe both lost because they were too stupid and too physically weak (i.e. lazy). Stereotypes? Bashing? Not a chance.

Yul wades over to Exile Island where he considers seeking the immunity idol. Incredibly, he manages to actually make sense of the two clues and finds the immunity idol. Let me just say: holy shit! Model minority jokes aside, that was an incredible feat considering the serious lack of clues he got.

Yul is a frickin' superhero. He is a Super Survivor, in the mould of Tom from a couople seasons ago. He shall have to be henceforth named (S.A.M.) Super Asian Man. If Mr. Miyagi is the one-dimensional, “Chop-Chop” shame of Asian Americana, S.A.M. is our Stepford Husband.

The question now is whether S.A.M. will tell his tribe. He shouldn't. He really shouldn't. But I bet he'll tell Becky. 'Cuz, y'know, they've got a Korean unity going on over there (not to mention sexual tension).

Alright, so the Latino tribe is flipping out trying to figure out who will get voted out next. Burnett is trying desperately to create some supense, but if Billy survives this Tribal Council, I will eat my keyboard. It comes to light that J.P., a sort of teutonic-looking frat-boy type, actually threw the challenge in order to try and have Billy eliminated. Moron — Billy is a lazy bastard, but manpower is important this early on.

Then Billy drops a very odd bombshell, suggesting that he has stalker/sociopathic tendancies. He tells Probst and his tribe that he “fell in love with Candice” (of the White tribe) and that they mouthed the words “I love you” to each other at the challenge. What. The. Hell?!? Considering that most castaways have to introduce themselves following the merge, suggesting that they don't get a chance to meet each other before hand, this is just truly bizarre.

I'm not sure I follow the story, but it's certainly interesting that Bizarre Billy falls for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed White girl from the other tribe (who we saw earlier cozying up to one of the frat boys on her team). The ostracized man of colour starts chasing after the first woman he sees who fits the traditional Westernized beauty image? Typical. Bottom line: Bizarre Billy's story is creepy. Not cute. Not romantic — creepy.

Well, Bizarre Billy gets voted out in a decidedly unsuspensful vote. Did he actually have a thing for Candice? Inquiring minds must know! Following Bizarre Billy's departure, Probst actually lectures the Latino tribe on work ethic (I would be offended if my offended threshold hadn't already been reached at the opening credits) and Bizarre Billy is ever-more characterized as “the lazy one”.

Some thoughts on this episode: first, it's clear that Burnett was well aware of the controversy that would surround Survivor: Race Wars. Burnett clearly edited the preview for this episode to up-play the racial tension that surrounded Mr. Miyagi and his Asian dog-eating jokes, but that segment was actually surprisingly low-key with no follow-up after the tribe tells Miyagi to shut up. Second, it's clear that the Asian American tribes are completely intent on not destroying stereotypes, but in fact perpetuating the model minority one, making them this season's early front-runner. And finally, will we be able to get through a single episode in which the African American tribe doesn't dance?

Also noteworthy: Bizarre Billy perpetuates the Burnett agenda by arguing that he didn't belong in the Latino tribe (thereby suggesting that he actually is trying to surrender his identity as a Latino entirely) and would've fit in better in a “heavy metal” tribe. Oh, Billy, don't give Burnett any ideas. Next season, it'll be Top 40 vs. Hip Hop vs. Heavy Metal vs. Country vs. Trance musicians all stranded on a deserted island somewhere off the coast of Thailand, in which they will compete for challenge rewards including an electric guitar with no amplifier and a dual drum-set fire-kit stuffed full of live hamsters.

Next week: The tribes octopus-wrassle, Parvati is a 'ho (will they finally deal with the fact that Parvati has an Asian Indian name but is on the White tribe?), and Miyagi tries to win coon-of-the-year.

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Free Yunjin Kim

I'm shocked that nothing has been done yet. This tragic violation of basic human dignity and justice demands that we devote our full attention to this, the most pressing of issues facing us today. This is more important than the Iraq War, more important than the November elections, more important than the impending premieres of the Fall 2006 TV season.

We are the petitions? The T-shirts? Angry Asian Man decrying it all as racist? We need to send our message straight to the top decision-makers in Hollywood. We need to shout at the top of our lungs. Say it with me now:

Free Yunjin Kim!

Before there was a motley band of possibly-dead, possibly-guinea-pigs-in-a-top-secret-scientific-study misfits stranded on a mysterious island full of polar bears and coconuts following a devastating plane crash somewhere between Australia and L.A., Yunjin Kim was one of Korea's superstar actresses. She was a leading lady in the mould of Gong Li, Audrey Hepburn or a young Susan Sarandon. She was respectable, decent, and a talented actress.

And then she decided to try to do the transition to America.

All of a sudden, Yunjin Kim is being put on display like some sort of pet, wearing practically nothing, and all with that same vapid “fuck me” expression on her face. What happened?

First, there was Arena magazine which boasts an image of Yunjin with a thumb in her crotch. Then came Stuff magazine (where they didn't even bother to clean poor Yunjin off, just leaving her all half-nekkid and muddy), which advertised itself as revealing images from the women of 'Lost', but was really just an excuse to showcase a six page spread of Yunjin pictures followed by some blurry photos captured by paparazzi of a few of the other female castmates at Awards shows. Stuff even included one image with Yunjin looking unconscious — suggesting that Yunjin be sexualized in a “come rape me while I'm sleeping” kind of way.

Hell, Yunjin's captors even trotted poor Yunjin out to take the cover photo for Golf for Women magazine. Golf for Women?!? That's not Michelle Wie! We don't all look alike!!

It just goes to show you: it doesn't matter how great an actress you are, or how famous you are in another country. In America, if you want to be a famous actress of colour, the only way to do it is to be hypersexualized and dehumanized, to fulfill the racialized fantasies of the typical White male viewer. Take a look at Bai Ling, who was forced to give up her Chinese citizenship to make a pseudo-smart political drama about Chinese repression, and is now stuck playing the same Asian dominatrix in six or seven different Mel Gibson movies.

Asian American women don't need to see the same hypersexualization of our female role models, over and over. Yunjin Kim is just as palatable being a smart, strong capable Asian American woman who doesn't need to strip silently for money.

Please, Hollywood — free Yunjin, before it's too late.

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Cosplay with Caution

With Halloween rolling around, I'm mentally steeling myself for the bombardment of nigh-racist masquerading that we'll see in the next few weeks. Every year, some Halloween company inevitably reinvents the wheel with yet another racist or Asiaphilic interpretation of the East and our people (this year, I've already seen a line of “geisha girl” dresses which, incidentally, are modelled after Chinese chi-pao).

People of colour are no less culpable; last year, I went to a Halloween party at a local night club and saw no less than four BM/WF interracial couples with the Black man dressed in an orange jumpsuit and the White woman dressed as the cop.

However, costuming occurs year-round at some other events, and as the summer wanes, we are coming to the end of a plethora of science-fiction/comic book conventions that took place around the country. One of the popular parts of these events are the fans who take great pains to create (or purchase through online vendors) replica costumes of their favourite characters.

And while it seems like all fun and games to dress up as Rogue from the X-men or that White Mage from the Final Fantasy game (the special costume in the third act for the second cut-scene, not her generic costume — get it right!), these costumes are not without its own level of racial fucked-up-edness.

Upon returning from this year's GenCon, Yeloson reported seeing not one but several instances of racially White fans donning blackface to emulate the Drow race of dark elves from the Dungeons and Dragons world. He managed to snap a picture of one of them find a picture of one of them online:

Upon seeing this image, I was reminded of the countless anime fans who lambasted me when I spoke out against Asiaphilia and the ninja/samurai fetish. By definition, these genres are worlds of fantasy, willingly divorced from reality, and as such, the fans of these genres seem to desperately protect the fantastical aspects of these worlds.

And yet, it is impossible to consider images such as the one above outside of reality. Conventions like GenCon do not take place in alternate universes where racism does not exist, and in this case, one cannot help but find the burnt cork tint of the woman's skin reminiscent of historical blackface. Yes, the woman imaged above was emulating a fantastical race, but it was nonetheless the use of makeup to emulate a race of darker skinned, inherently evil, beings. In this case, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery.

And certainly not when the same woman is then seen cooperating with other convention attendees simulating a public lynching.

Update (9/18/06): Thanks, again, to Yeloson who commented on this post and directed our attention to this fabulous post by Bryan Thomas written six years ago about Halloween and White privilege insisting that racialized costumes be celebrated during this holiday. At a party, Thomas encountered a group of three White people who donned Black makeup and leather/animal skins to emulate what was later described to him as a “head-hunter”. One even wore a bone through her nose.

I enjoyed in particular Thomas' recounting of the “head hunter”'s initial reaction to being challenged on his costume.

So his smile vanishes.

He drops the innocent bit.

He's been messing with me.

Waiting for me to say something.

“Look, I'm not stupid,” he says. “I thought about this before I wore it out tonight. I don't see what the big deal is.”

Yeah the smile's gone, but the teeth are still there.


Angry teeth.

The audacity — the “head-hunter” was not repentent. He was not dismissive. He was angry.

From the description, his subsequent use of a reference to Al Jolson, this man knew what he was doing. This was no accident, no coincidence of racial mockery, no pretense at ignorance. This man had chosen this Halloween 2000 to make a blatant mockery of another race, and to dare others to call him out. This was his cry of rebellion against political correctness, his personal statement that his Whiteness should grant him the privilege to offend whomever he felt like.

With his statement that, “[l]ast year I went out for Halloween as a woman. Dressed as a woman! I didn't offend any women. You know who was the only woman who got offended? My wife! Cuz more guys were hitting on me than her…”, he even suggests that the reason Thomas is upset is that his caricatured makeup is more authentically Black than Thomas' actual racial identity, just as the head-hunter was “more womanly” than his wife in the previous year.

The parallels are obvious. Those in the racial majority are striking back against racial minorities. No longer just content to enjoy their privilege, they are actively pushing the boundaries, seeking to offend and get away with it, willfully refusing to consider the human story behind each bias-related incident. They can't (but more importantly, don't) imagine that every burnt cork applied to the skin, burns an emotional pain for people of colour.

Why should they care? After all, we're ruining their fun.

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