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First they’ll criticize our slang. Make us seem uneducated for using it, when the reality is they’re mad we can code switch. Then they’ll use our slang mockingly. Like they really don’t want to use it, but it’s so absurd they can’t help themselves. Then they’ll make money off our slang, t-shirts, cups, bracelets, etc. Then they’ll convince us it was never really ours. It’s been public domain forever.
Feel free to replace the word “Slang” with neighborhoods, and music too."
as a poc adoptee, let me tell you there is no better way to start your day than having to argue publicly with your white adoptive mom about whether or not the racism you experienced is valid.
I didn’t realize how strong and thick my armor against racism had grown until the day I realized I didn’t have it anymore. We were parking outside the Seward Cafe, and a man walked right up to our car and said, “Chinaman, This is my country!” and although I used to be able to just brush it off by thinking, “What a crazy freak!” this time I could not because I have lived 9 years in Korea without people being racist against me (although they are to other people), and because of that I have lost my skills to deal with street racism, and those words hurt just as much as they did when I was a kid, before I had accumulated 30 years’ worth of armor and mental acrobatics to protect myself from everyday life. This happened the day after I got my receipt checked at the door at Walmart and my bag emptied to make sure I wasn’t stealing anything, which was the day after exactly the same thing happened at exactly the same Walmart. Living with discrimination erodes a little bit of your human dignity every day. The fact that we need so much armor to get through the day, and that we have to teach our children to act for the sake of safety rather than the sake of their dignity, and the fact that if I had a child, my child would have seen me targeted and humiliated rather than talk back to that man because I was concerned for my safety — makes me so, so angry.
a thread soon formed with people adding their own experiences with racism. and i added my own comments with some of my experiences with racism growing up in the states, including a reference to a racist question that my uncle (mom’s younger brother) used to ask me every time i saw him:
i remember kids (and even a TENURED PROF AT MY UNIVERSITY) making gibberish noises imitating what they thought asian languages sounded like, yelling at me to go back to my country, pulling back their eyes at me, i had my own uncle asking me where he could “get two little girls like you” every time i saw him, i had people asking me if my vagina was sideways way before i even understood what that could even mean, i had people giving me weird “compliments” like “pretty as a lotus flower” or crap like that, people asking me if i was chinese or japanese, which was still better than the many people who called me a chink and jap. my sister said she had a little girl follow her into a bathroom stall to see if hers was the same… this is just off the top of my head. (and for reference, i lived in maryland, tennessee, indiana, and illinois)
i should mention that i’ve already written (here) about my uncle and his insistence on asking me this question every time i’ve seen him and how i was finally able to tell him to get stuffed at the age of 30.
what is not included in that previous post is that even AFTER that visit when i made my displeasure with my uncle’s question clear, my mom asked my uncle to repeat it in front of jinwoo (as a cute family story!) on my next visit when i went with him to the US and he met my family for the first time. this is how oblivious my white parents are to racism and their dismissive attitude toward my clear expressions of boundaries as it relates to race.
so after i brought it up again in that comment, my mom responds:
Ur uncle loves u and he was never making fun of u.
i think carefully for a full twelve minutes on how to respond. i am basically boiling angry at this point, but part of me thinks i should address this privately, not publicly. but i decide no. i can’t just allow this to stand publicly. i’m tired of being the accommodating one, it has clearly gotten me nowhere so far. still, in an act of enormous restraint, i only answer:
how do you still not recognize that as racist?
to which my mom responds, flat-out:
It was never racist.
oh ok, thank you white mom for invalidating my feelings on the racism that i experienced. this time i think for a good thirty minutes. i do not want to publicly thrash my mom but i have made my decisions about not continuing to sugarcoat discussions with race with my family anymore. and i answer:
mom, i’m not going to keep arguing with you about this publicly. if you don’t think that was racist then that’s deeply frustrating. did he ever ask that question to anyone else but sharon and me? (i.e. my white brothers and sisters) no. does that mean i think he’s a horrible person and i hate him? no. does it mean i’m going to pretend it wasn’t racist and humiliating every time i heard it? not any more.
no word from her (either publicly or privately) since then. my guess is that she is feeling sorry for herself and won’t initiate contact for awhile. still trying to decide if i should call or text her for the holidays.
you handled this beautifully. big props.
From Lorde to Macklemore, it’s a sentiment that’s galling for its popularity: white artists need to stop using the wealth signifiers of rap music to gesture at their self-important “anti-consumerism.” What Allen misses as she washes rims in a kitchen decorated only with bottles of champagne is that it’s not anti-consumerism when it only targets one type of consumer.
Rap owns a unique history soundtracking the triumph of financial success in a country that long barred black Americans from that success. It shouldn’t be an opportunity for white artists to wax superior. Beyond poor taste, it’s the myopia of latent racism that’s more anxious about gold chains on a rapper than an Armani tie on a hedge fund analyst.
Similarly, Lily Allen’s response to sexist industry demands for thinness becomes entirely ineffectual when it lashes out against women who succeed despite those demands. Allen is not savily critiquing the world of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus, she’s resentfully bemoaning not getting to enjoy the same success.
“Hard Out Here” is the opposite of Mileywave. Instead of using black women as props to further her career, Allen blames them for its stagnation. In full-sleeved dresses Allen mocks her inability to twerk amidst women of color in body suits who launch into exaggerated dance moves, licking their hands and then rubbing their crotch. Her older white male manager tries to get to her to mimic them. Meanwhile she sings, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you/‘Cause I’ve got a brain.” Cut to black women shaking their ass, so much for sisterly solidarity."
I finally processed the information on the leads for the top 250 grossing films (I’m going to do 500 in all), and I have some really, really great facts:
- Of the films, 209 starred a straight white man, or had a straight white male voice actor. This translates to 83.6% of all these films having a straight white male protagonist.
- This left only 41 films with a protagonist who was a person of colour and/or woman (no films had a queer protagonist). This translated to 16.4% of all the films.
- "So what? Straight white men are the majority group in America." a) no, the largest demographic group in America is actually technically straight white women, and b) not by 83.6% they fucking aren’t.
- If we look at American demographics (America is where these films are being made and mostly marketed for, after all) we find that only 31.3% of people in the USA are straight white men, while 68.7% are not.
- This means that 31.3% of the US population is recieving 83.6% of the representation, and the remaining 68.7% majority are squabbling over the remaining 16.4%. That’s unbelievably, amazingly shit.
BUT: The world isn’t split into straight white men and everyone else, so let’s break this down further. Of the 41 films left over for the rest of us:
- 10 starred a straight black man. (8 of these leads were played by Will Smith.), making up 2.5% of all the films.
- 26 starred a straight white woman, making up 10.4% of all the films.
- 2 films starred straight South Asian men, making up 0.8% of the films.
- 1 film starred an East Asian man and 1 starred a Middle Eastern man - 0.4% of the films each.
- A grand total of ONE of the 250 highest grossing films of all time stars a woman of colour. Scraping in at number 242, and made in 1995, it’s Pocahontas; which is racist as fuck and demeans the memory of a real Native American woman. Fantastic. It’ll also probably have fallen out of the top 250 by the next year, while no other films with WoC leads seem likely to replace it.
- This means that huge demographic groups are missing. 16.3% of people in the US identify as Latin@, and not a single film on this list has a Latin@ protagonist.
- Roughly 10% of the US identifies as LGBT+. None of these films has a queer protagonist.
- The reason that these films are so high grossing is because of the marketing they recieve. Studios are putting all of their money into films with straight white men, preventing casting of women and people of colour and just generally fucking people over; but this isn’t any necessary indication of what people are willing to see at all. It’s worth noting that the single most successful actor on that list is Will Smith. People are clearly willing to pay out money to watch Will Smith doing stuff, and studios are backing this and enabling more and more films of Will Smith (and his son) doing more and more stuff. His popularity shows fairly clearly that cinemagoers are definitely willing to watch (and probably actively demanding of, seeing as people of colour and white women are more likely to go to the cinema) men of colour in film, and the success of franchises such as Twilight and The Hunger Games shows audiences backing white women (women of colour have yet to be given a real chance). As such, we can definitively say that this is especially a problem with Hollywood, and withe the people making these films - a problem which obviously needs to change.
Tl; dr: Representation in Hollywood is really, really shit.
- Straight white men are 31.3% of the population, 83.6% of the leads. Lucky bastards.
- People of colour are 28.6% of the population, 6.4% of the leads (2.8% if you remove Will Smith, thanks Will.)
- Women are 51% of the population, 10.8% of the leads.
- There’s no intersection here. If you’re a woman of colour, a queer woman and/or queer person of colour, then you’re getting fuck all.
Just in case you had any doubt of just how little representation most of the population are getting.
1. White terrorists are called “gunmen.” What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”
2. White terrorists are “troubled loners.” Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.
3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.
4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.
5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe.” Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.
6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.
7. White terrorists are never called “white.” But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.
8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.
9. White terrorists are alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. Other terrorists are apparently clean-living and perfectly sane.
10. There is nothing you can do about white terrorists. Gun control won’t stop them. No policy you could make, no government program, could possibly have an impact on them. But hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent on police and on the Department of Defense, and on TSA, which must virtually strip search 60 million people a year, to deal with other terrorists."
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