Tags: culture, discourse/language, knowledge, marketing/brands, media, race/ethnicity, charity, stereotypes, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This clip comes from the creators of Radi-Aid, which is a group that seeks to draw attention to the problematic ways charity media campaigns often represent aid recipients from Africa. As was vividly Illustrated by Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign, many charity and relief organizations manufacture images of Africa that foreground extreme instances of poverty and dependency. Images of malnourished children and primitive housing are propped up as the monolithic representations of the entire African continent, and more often than not, a white Western aid worker is shown interacting with black, African children, delivering her compassion with a warm embrace. The above video begins with what seems to be a poor black child walking along a rural dirt road, At first, it appears to be just another fundraising video, but then a director yells "Cut!" The child is revealed as an actor, and soon it becomes clear the video is actually a spoof of the fundraising campaigns aimed at a saving Africa. All joking aside, the video works quite well as a means of drawing attention to the fact that when well-meaning charity campaigns deploy stereotypical imagery to gain the sympathy of Western audiences, they may be doing more harm than good to the African communities they depict. Organizations like Invisible Children claim to be concerned about the well being of millions of Africans, but it is arguably just as important to consider the message these campaigns promote to millions of people in the West. To be blunt, the images of starving and dependent Africans in these fundraising campaigns may trigger sympathy and donations, but the campaigns do not cast the Africans they claim to represent in a dignified light and leave viewers with a lasting impression that Africans lack agency. In contrast, whites are depicted in the campaigns as compassionate saviors, and as I wrote in an earlier post, it is truly an unearned privilege for Western whites "to be able to wade through the media pool each day, soaked by the various incarnations of this narrative, a day full of subtle reminders of one's intrinsic goodness and extraordinary abilities."
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: children/youth, crime/law/deviance, discourse/language, gender, immigration/citizenship, inequality, intersectionality, media, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, sex/sexuality, stereotypes, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: Star Jones briefly hosted a live talk show from August 2007 until February 2008, and in one of the show's segments she covered the story of Kelsey Peterson, a 25-year-old teacher who sexually assaulted her 13-year-old student, who happened to be an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. The above video features a telephone interview, where Jones asks Peterson's attorney, James Martin Davis, whether he believes it is possible for a 13-year-old child to give consent. Martin responds, "I resent the word 'child.' You're baby-fying this kid. This kid is a Latino machismo teenager...Is there anyone in the world who has a higher sex drive than a teenage boy." Jones admonishes Martin for his casual racism and ends the interview. In a follow-up segment, she invites the attorney for the victim, Amy Peck, and scholar Marc Lamont Hill to discuss the racist exchange, as well as the impact of racial thinking on the case. Although Star Jones and her guests largely frame the interview in terms of race, this video offers a nice foray into a larger discussion about how multiple dimensions of inequality intersect to shape the way people experience the criminal justice system and whether victims of crime become the recipients of public sympathy. Jones suggests a useful thought experiment by asking people to imagine that the race and gender of the participants are reversed. The question can be usefully posed: How would the story be discussed and reported by the media and interested parties if the victim was a young white girl and the perpetrator an older Latino man? Also, what difference does it make that the teenager was an undocumented Mexican immigrant, and how might the current discourse surrounding Mexican immigrants shape sympathy for the victim?
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: art/music, bodies, consumption/consumerism, culture, disability, discourse/language, inequality, knowledge, disability porn, stereotypes, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this four minute video from the Swiss company Pro Infirmis, five people with visible disabilities arrive at an artist's studio. After introductions, the artist begins measuring the dimensions of each person's body. His team then begins sawing into a collection of store mannequins, and once dismembered, the mannequins are reconstructed so they more closely resemble the body designs of the artist's new models. After some polish, the new mannequins are unveiled and eventually displayed in stores along one of Zurich's main streets, just in time for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The project's title is a rhetorical question and a command, "Because Who Is Perfect? Get Closer." Indeed, no one is perfectly able-bodied. Whether visible or invisible, on some level it is true that all bodies can be said to have "malfunctions," but the deeper reason no one is perfect is because the idea of what constitutes perfection is itself elusive. Yet, most people go about their daily lives seduced by the illusion that distinguishing "able-bodied" people from "disabled" people is as straightforward as distinguishing apples from oranges. For instance, there is a Thor fandom that celebrates Chris Hemsworth's shirtless body as the epitome of perfection. Mall shoppers too routinely evaluate clothing for themselves and others by first seeing it draped over what is supposed to be a mold of a perfect body. Capitalist institutions, from the Hollywood film industry to clothing retailers, routinely place the able-bodied ideal on a pedestal, implicitly exalting a particular type of body as the standard by which all bodies must be evaluated, and it is on this point that the Pro Infirmis video is both refreshing and subversive, for it takes what are assumed to be imperfect bodies and places them in a space typically reserved for perfect bodies. These new mannequins of unfamiliar proportions stop passersby in their tracks and encourage them to reconsider the types of bodies that belong in storefronts, but while the video captures a useful disruption in the usual discourse on bodies, in my view it fails to truly provoke onlookers to reassess their casual assumptions about bodies as either working or broken, and as either worthy or unworthy of representation. No, the video leaves this binary cultural logic unscathed. For instance, one finds in the video that "able-bodied" mannequins are the clean slate from which "disabled" mannequins are born. There is a manufacturing montage that puts to rest any radical doubts as to whether these two species of mannequin have anything in common. Finally, when displayed in the Zurich storefronts, the altered mannequins remain almost hermetically sealed from the original mannequins, which have been scuttled away for the event. To truly "get closer," as the video commands us to do, I think it is important to collapse this casual, Manichean distinction between the able-bodied and the disabled. A truly radical video might instead show the old mannequins displayed alongside the new ones, and the displays would be left in place long after the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was over.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: discourse/language, immigration/citizenship, inequality, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, war/military, comedy, beauty standards, colonialism, eduardo bonilla-silva, imperialism, institutional discrimination, new racism, slave trade, slavery, white privilege, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this short clip, comedian Aamer Rahman explains that a lot of white people don't like his comedy. Rahman is an Australian stand-up comedian, best known as one half of comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet, and much of his material is a not-so-thinly-veiled critique of white supremacy. Here, Rahman notes that he is often accused by whites of engaging in "reverse racism," a charge which leads him to openly ruminate about what it would take for a person of color to do something racist against a white person. He explains that his sardonic jabs at white society would be racist if he traveled back in time, convinced leaders in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America to invade and colonize Western Europe, and begin exporting their natural resources. These new colonizers would then set up a trans-Asian slave trade where white laborers become one of the resources exported to giant rice plantations in China. The experience of being colonized would ruin Europe over the course of several centuries so that whites would want to leave Western Europe and settle in the homelands of the black and brown colonizers. In their new countries, whites would be forced to navigate social institutions that privilege people of color. Rahman concludes that if after hundreds of years of such colonization and institutional racism, he got on stage to crack jokes at white people's expense, then he would be guilty of "reverse racism". All laughing aside, the joke is actually an incisive, sociologically-informed analysis of racism. Rahman correctly describes racism as something more than just an instance of one person discriminating or being cruel to another person (TSC remarks on how comedians are uniquely positioned to level social critiques here). "Instances" of racism are so named because they are the products of a system of power--a system that derives its strength from a colonial history and a system that is encoded deeply within the workings of modern social institutions. To accurately label a practice as racist, one must take into account the historical and social context within which the practice occurred. Thus there can be no such thing as "reverse racism"; there is only racism, and in a context where people of color lack institutional power, they simply cannot be racist. The sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has recently noted that the growth in charges of reverse racism by whites is in fact evidence of the emergence of a "new racism", which seeks to operate in a more covert manner and attempts to confound understandings of racism by decontextualizing the way race works in and through contemporary institutions.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: biology, bodies, class, crime/law/deviance, demography/population, disability, discourse/language, gender, health/medicine, immigration/citizenship, intersectionality, lgbtq, nationalism, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, science/technology, sex/sexuality, institutionalized discrimination, eugenics, subtitles/CC, 11 to 20 mins, 21 to 60 mins
Year: 2012; 2013
Length: 15:05; 17:25
Access: YouTube (clip 1; clip 2)
Summary: The eugenics movement has a long history in the United States. A popular misconception is that eugenic thinking and the associated practices were uniformly abandoned after the Third Reich's genocidal intentions were laid bare at the end of the Second World War. In point of fact, eugenic ideologies and practices have been recalcitrant features of American social institutions right up until the present day. In her book American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism, Nancy Ordover remarks on the resiliency of the ideology, "Eugenics..is a scavenger ideology, exploiting and reinforcing anxieties over race, gender, sexuality, and class and bringing them into the service of nationalism, white supremacy, and heterosexism." In earlier decades eugenicists could openly discuss stemming the "overflow" of immigration, as an effort to "dry up...the streams that feed the torrent of defective and degenerate protoplasm." The language of eugenics would eventually change, but the core ideas have remained; socially deviant groups and socially undesirable conditions are seen by eugenicists as biologically determined. The above clips are news stories, which draw attention to two recent manifestations of eugenics policy. The first clip chronicles the experience of an African American woman who was legally sterilized in the late 1960s in North Carolina after giving birth to her first son. The clip reports that between 1929 and 1974 approximately 7,600 North Carolinians were sterilized for a host of dubious reasons, from "feeble-mindedness" to "promiscuity." But while North Carolina's victims included men, women, and children, Ordover's research points out that the victims were overwhelmingly women and African American (by 1964 African Americans composed 65% of all women sterilized in the state). The first clip, then, is an example of how eugenics became institutionalized with the force of law, but the second news clip examines a case of institutionalized eugenics in California, which existed without the explicit consent of law. In 1909 California became the third state to pass a compulsory sterilization law, allowing prisons and other institutions to sterilize "moral degenerates" and "sexual perverts showing hereditary degeneracy." By 1979, when the law was finally repealed, the state had already sterilized as many as 20,000 people, or about one-third of the total number of such victims throughout the United States. One learns from the news clip that between 2006 and 2010, 148 women were sterilized by doctors who continued to be guided by the precepts of their eugenic ideology.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: community, culture, discourse/language, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, social mvmts/social change/resistance, sports, politics of representation, symbolic representation, racism, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Access: South Park Studios
Summary: In this short clip from the animated television series South Park, Jimbo and Chef argue over whether the town flag should be changed. Keeping the flag unchanged might be seen as a noble cause for Jimbo and the other white residents of South Park, but given that the flag depicts the lynching of a black person, most viewers of the show will recognize the flag for the racist relic that it truly is. Working as satire, the racist flag controversy is clever misdirection, for the episode is really taking aim at much more polarizing issues, such as the display and celebration of confederate flags, and more pointedly, the widespread use of Native people as sports mascots. Jimbo and Chef briefly discuss the Cleveland Indians at the 45 second mark, but the controversy over the Washington "Redskins" is also relevant. Begun by the Oneida Indian Nation, there is a growing movement to end the use of the racial epithet currently used as the team's name. For the many people who have trouble understanding why Native Peoples are offended, the South Park clip suggests a useful thought experiment. Suppose the town and its flag were real. The depiction of a lynching victim would likely be offensive in its capacity to trigger public memories among Blacks of a particular form of racial violence that prevailed in the U.S. at the beginning of the twentieth century. Second, the flag would also likely be an uncomfortable reminder of the violence blacks must still face today, which in at least one form persists as racist policing, Finally, it should be obvious that the fact any community would proudly hang such a flag would be a slap in the face of the black community, who would rightfully perceive that their trauma is less important than preserving some image on a town flag. Like the fictional South Park flag, the "Redskins" name is offensive in that the slur recalls the white racism and genocidal policies imposed on Native peoples. The name triggers public memories among Native peoples regarding the U.S. government's campaign to annihilate and drive tribes from their homes. As a slur, "Redskin" seems to have fallen out of favor, but racism toward Native peoples continues and the association of the slur with the nation's capital certainly does nothing to engender hope that times have changed. Finally, as with the South Park flag, the continued use of the slur is a slap in the face of Native peoples, who rightfully perceive that their trauma is less important than preserving the name of a sports team. Symbolic representations, such as those that make their way onto flags and bumper stickers, are always born from relations of power; namely, who has the power to represent whom and what is the effect of those representations (Note that we also consider the question of who has the right to represent whom in another post).
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: aging/life course, children/youth, crime/law/deviance, discourse/language, health/medicine, inequality, media, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, crack, cocaine, drugs, moral panic, war on drugs, 06 to 10 mins
Access: New York Times
Summary: In their book, Policing the Crisis, Stuart Hall and his coauthors investigate what was reported to be a sharp increase in muggings that occurred in Britain at the start of the 1970s. In fact, despite much public concern, a rash of criminality could not be verified, leading the authors to consider a far more likely scenario, that British society was gripped by something called a moral panic. "When the official reaction to a person, groups of persons or series of events is out of all proportion to the actual threat offered, when 'experts', in the form of police chiefs, the judiciary, politicians and editors perceive the threat in all but identical terms, and appear to talk 'with one voice' of rates, diagnoses, prognoses and solutions, when the media representations universally stress 'sudden and dramatic' increases (in numbers involved or events) and 'novelty', above and beyond that which a sober, realistic appraisal could sustain, then we believe it is appropriate to speak of the beginnings of a moral panic." The public fear about widespread muggings in Britain can be likened to the sudden swell of concern in the U.S. regarding the spread of crack cocaine in the 1980s. Unlike muggings, cocaine use was truly on the rise, but in many ways the dilemma was similarly blown "all out of proportion." The above video chronicles the role played by the media in exaggerating the scale of the cocaine problem and the dire health consequences predicted for the children of women who used the drug. As expressed by one politician, there was a belief that crack babies would "overwhelm every social service delivery system that they come into contact with throughout the rest of their lives." As the video explains, many people born to mothers who were addicted to crack have been able to lead lives free of the health complications foretold by newscasters. So if the actual threat posed by the growing use of cocaine was something different than the one portrayed in the media, why did the moral panic about "crack babies" take hold in the public consciousness? One explanation is that the preliminary research, which first raised the issue of potential health consequences for these children, coincided with President Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs. As the legal scholar Michelle Alexander notes, in an effort to secure funding for the new war, Reagan actually hired staff in 1985 to publicize the emergence of crack cocaine, and a national tragedy involving "crack babies" was just the kind of story they sought to promote. A second explanation for why the moral panic took hold ties in the fact that the War on Drugs has been a racist war from the very start, and the idea of a scourge of crack-addicted pregnant mothers aligned well with long held, racist stereotypes of black welfare queens who raise children in crime-infested neighborhoods.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Jose Antonio Vargas talks about immigration reform
Tags: community, discourse/language, immigration/citizenship, marriage/family, assimilation, intermarriage, spatial concentration, 11 to 20 mins
Access: The Washington Post (Part 1 - Part 4)
Summary: At a post office, I recently overheard a Ghanaian child translate the prices for his parents. This was all happening while the Chinese cashier repeatedly yelled out that they needed to pay extra for something or other. The little kid struggled to string together phrases in English, and both the parents and employees seemed relieved when the whole ordeal was over, somehow vaguely proud of the child’s budding communication skills. I see so much of my childhood in that Ghanaian family. Doing the language limbo hits close to home for me, having grown up first generation Latino in California. Translating menu options for my parents and answering the phone when they didn’t recognize the number on our caller ID became standard protocol. Weaving in and out of English and maneuvering through this dizzying dialectical maze is something I still encounter today; and I know I am not alone. In June of this year the US Senate passed an immigration reform bill that promises to provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S. The bill's passage also brings up questions of assimilation, which refers to the process of immigrants adapting to their new society. Contrary to an opinion held by many, it is possible to quantify how well immigrants make the transition to their new homes. For instance, sociologists sometimes measure spatial concentration, or the degree to which immigrants live apart from the native-born population. Sociologists also look at the degree to which immigrants socially integrate with native-born folks, irrespective of geographic distance. One way to do this is by examining rates of intermarriage between immigrants and natives. Another way is to examine the degree to which immigrants have access to natives or naturalized citizens. Drawing from The New Immigrant Survey (2003), sociologist Guillermina Jasso and her colleagues recently reported that 72% of immigrants in the United States with legal permanent resident status have ready access to natives or naturalized citizens of the United States. Thinking again about the Ghanian child, one of course can also look at language as a measure of assimilation, but it's important to keep in mind that language is a two-way street. To foster a sense of community, some have argued we must press for assimilation by demanding that new immigrants speak English. What is often lost in these discussions is that native English-speaking Americans can also foster a strong sense of community by embracing the rich immigrant history of the United States and learning a second or third language. It is useful to consider assimilation and the ability of Americans to build community in light of the turbulent history of formal immigration policy. This four-part series from The Washington Post provides a nice discussion of the past 30 years of policy changes.
Submitted By: Sal Ramirez
"Alive in Joburg" depicts an alien encounter to explore prejudice
Tags: crime/law/deviance, discourse/language, immigration/citizenship, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, science fiction, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: One of the most important and poignant components in a discussion of immigration issues is necessarily the processes of othering that occur when the legal and social legitimacy of a particular immigrant group is called into question. Xenophobia, anxieties about assimilation or the lack thereof, beliefs that a group of immigrants are hopelessly different, assumptions about immigrants causing rising crime rates and an overall lower quality of life for their neighbors, and discursive aspects such as the use of the words "illegal" and "alien" all come into play. In this short science fiction film, Neill Blomkamp (director of the movie District 9, which was based on this same film) juxtaposes a story about extraterrestrial refugees in Johannesburg under the apartheid government with real interviews with Johannesburg residents about refugees from Zimbabwe. This film can be used to open a discussion about the deeper meanings and connotations of words like "alien" when applied to human beings. What are the fears that such words represent and reproduce? What images and ideas do these forms of discourse call up in people's minds? What are the practical consequences of immigration threat discourses? And what real-life equivalents can students think of in terms of immigrant groups defined by others by their race, ethnicity, religion, etc.?
Submitted By: Sarah Wanenchak
An Asian woman gets asked, "Where are you really from?"
Tags: discourse/language, immigration/citizenship, inequality, nationalism, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, microaggression, perpetual foreigner syndrome, racism, substantive citizenship, white privilege, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In the U.S. people are often asked where they are from, but Asians, Latinos and other people of color often share the distinction of being confronted with a follow up question: "No, I mean where are you really from?" It is useful to examine what this common exchange reveals about how whites draw on race as a means of navigating and reasserting symbolic boundaries between insiders and outsiders, or between substantive citizens and non-citizens. This ridiculous scenario is humorously reenacted in the above comedy sketch, which features an Asian woman sharing a casual conversation with a white man. The man asks her where she is from, but after the woman explains she is from San Diego, the man becomes confused and attempts to clarify, "No, I mean, where are you really from?" His awkward questioning about the woman's "true" origin is a symptom of what law professor Frank H. Wu refers to as the "the perpetual foreigner syndrome." As Wu points out, when a person asks, "why aren't you married?" they are clearly signaling a measure of disapproval, and similarly, the question, "Where are you really from?" communicates something more than a curiosity about one's place of birth (see also, "My, you speak English so well!"). The question constitutes an effort to catalog a person on the basis of a perceived racial difference, but the effect of asking the question is exclusion, and as such, it can be understood as a microaggression, a term that refers to the “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color” (Sue, et. al. 2007). The comedy sketch also serves as a means of broaching an important discussion about how this type of symbolic exclusion is part and parcel of a much broader historical pattern. To name just one particularly vulgar example, during the Second World War, Japanese Americans living on the U.S. West Coast were forced from their homes and relocated to concentration camps. Irrespective of whether they immigrated or were born in the United States, high ranking military officials and state representatives joined media columnists in amplifying the viewpoint that Japanese Americans were perpetual foreigners who could not be trusted. Despite living in the United States their entire lives, many assumed Japanese Americans were not really Americans.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
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