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Racism Files

Racism Files

Is It Better To Raise a Black Child in the US or Abroad?

August 10, 2015
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In the US, black kids get harassed and murdered by police. In Korea, black kids are shunned. Which is better?

This is part of the Racism Files series. Read the FAQ here.

I came across this YouTube video by an adorable married couple (J Hearts J) who talked about where they should raise their future child.

He is from Korea, and she is American. After living in Korea for a while, they decided to move to the US. In the 15 minute long video, they debate about one of the reasons for doing so: raising a mixed race child, and whether this would be easier in the US or Korea.

On Friday, 19 year old Christian Taylor was killed by a rookie police officer in Arlington, Texas. Yesterday, police in Indianapolis, Indiana  killed 15 year old Andre Green. Green is the youngest black child to be killed by police since 12 year old Tamir Rice died last year in Cleveland, Ohio. Black children are more likely to be disciplined at school even though they are not more likely to misbehave. Teachers have lower expectations for black children. Black kids are also incarcerated at much higher rates. And once they become adults, the statistics about incarceration and police brutality only become worse. I’ve heard black people talk about moving abroad, or raising their kids abroad because of the way we’re treated here, and I don’t blame them.

But racism exists everywhere, and one way or another, black/darker skinned people are treated like shit all over the world. Korea is no different. A foreign teacher wrote this comment on the YouTube video:

I am an English teacher in Korea now. My experience with having mixed students in the class (Korean and Filipino) or just darker skinned students have over all been negative. The students tease them and they seem to be a little more uncomfortable in the class and around their peers. When it is time to do pair work or group work the other students complain. It’s sad and unfortunately, even though you as your child’s mother will hope to have a greater influence on your children than their peers… at a younger age that’s usually not the case. The teasing and taunting will be stressful to the child no matter how many times you tell them they are beautiful…I do also see your point about America. Things are not very good over there but speaking on terms of your child having friends and not being teased… America might be better. Korea is getting there though on accepting other races.

I was considering taking a job in Korea earlier this year, but I was kind of dreading it because of everything I see whenever I Google “racism in Korea.” For example:

So, where would I raise my child? Probably in America. It’s not perfect over here, but we try. I’d rather live in a place where ethnic and racial diversity are valued, where people of different races and cultures at least make an attempt to get along, rather than a place where I or my child would feel like outsiders everywhere we go.

So, which is better: to live in a society like Korea where you won’t get killed, but will be discriminated against and treated like an outsider? Or to live in the US, where racism is openly discussed and where POC have a community, but where the police and some white people will shoot you dead at the drop of a hat?

Let me know in the comments, and watch the video below. (Don’t forget to turn on the subtitles.)

 

Racism Files

Racist Street Art on Menta Storefront in Malasaña, Madrid (NSFW)

July 28, 2015
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For the very first post in the Racism Files series, I’d like to give a huge shout out to Ben and Francheska, a British-American couple living in Madrid, for sending me this picture of the Menta storefront that makes me want to punch my computer screen. Via Ben’s Instagram:

(This is a part of my Racism Files series. Please read the Racism Files FAQ here.)

 

I mean, what in the actual fuck? Like, someone actually sat down and thought about this, maybe drew a sketch of it, and was like “yeah, this painting is going to be awesome.” Some of you may see this and think that there’s no issue at all. But listen. When a person of color says something is racist, you kinda want to believe them. Just because you don’t see it that way, doesn’t mean it’s not true. Especially if you’re not a person of color, when you say something isn’t racist, you kinda sound like this:

Ben and Francheska called it out on Instagram, which led to a heated debate with lots of whitesplaining. People were saying, among other things, that it wasn’t racist, that the store owner and artist just love black culture, that the woman is purple, not black, that what is racist in the US is not racist in Spain, and that they were racist for calling it out. The artist (Fatima de Juan) commented on the post, saying that the image is actually a caricature of herself:

Hello believers! She’s not even black, is a caricature of myself, a twerking writter, I’m a graffiti writter, she paints with her ass and is an irony, I paint what comes out of my ass. This is not offensive at all, it’s ridiculous. I hope that animal advocates do not be offended for having made dinosaur shoes. Anyway…

This is some next-level Rachel Dolezal shit, because the artist is white. But more about her later.

Menta posted this statement:

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The store owners thanked customers for coming to their defense after Ben and Franceska called the image what it is: a racist caricature. They say that Ben was the one who has a racist and sexist point of view, and that Menta “will always be a multiracial space” that supports artists, and that the artist deserves everyone’s support. The last sentence says “Ladies and gentlemen, open your mind. The world will thank you for it.”

Sometimes, we have to learn the history and context behind things in order to realize that they are offensive. So if you don’t find this image offensive, keep reading.

Did the artist mean to offend black people? Is she a raging racist? Probably not. But you can be racist without intention, and without being malicious.

Why is this offensive? Well, it’s quite obviously a sexualized caricature of a black woman. But why is that offensive? The same reason why drawing a similar caricature of a Jewish person or an Asian person is offensive. You can’t draw caricatures of races, especially people of color. It’s offensive because it represents the stereotypes that society holds against a race of people.

Black Stereotypes and Black Humanity

White people have been using images like this to mock and subjugate black people for many years. Black stereotypes have been present in all types of media for decades (minstrel shows, vaudeville, blackface, cartoons, movies, music.) If you aren’t familiar with the history of black stereotypes, please click on those links to learn more, and watch the video below. Black people are presented as jokes and stereotypes simply because that’s what society has thought, and still thinks of us. We’re one dimensional and simple: We are not allowed to be fully human, complex, or diverse.

The artist behind the work above is Fatima de Juan, a graffiti artist and graphic designer. Here’s some more of her work, taken from her Instagram. It looks like she has an obsession with objectifying the black female body.

 fatima2 fatima3

fatima4 fatima5 fatima6

fatima7 fatima8  fatima9

Now, look at these old stereotypical images of black people, many of them from cartoons that are currently banned, and tell me if you see the resemblance, especially with the exaggerated lips and eyes.

stereo1stereo3stereo4

stereo5stereo7stereo8

 

stereo9stereo10 stereo2

All of these images, both the old illustrations, and the artwork by Fatima de Juan, represent stereotypes of black people, specifically of what we look like and who we are: animalistic, primitive, and hypersexual, for example.

These stereotypes are offensive because they reflect the idea that black people aren’t considered to be complex humans. In the case of the storefront photo, and many of de Juan’s illustrations, the black woman is nothing but her sexualized body. She is an object, something used to make de Juan’s art look “urban”, not a real person. The idea of black people being denied complexity and humanity also manifests itself in real life and has very serious consequences.

Slavery is the most obvious example of black people being denied humanity. Slaves were literally considered to be subhuman and scientists would do research to prove how subhuman black people were. Caricatures of black people look the way they do because artists purposely drew them to look like monkeys. Even though slavery has ended, racism still exists, and black people are still denied our humanity in some ways.

Being denied our humanity can have deadly consequences. Here are just a few examples:

1. Cops and the general public see black children as older and less innocent than white children. Tamir Rice, a 12 year old who lived in Cleveland, was playing with a toy gun at a park last year. Police were called and when they arrived, they barely got out of the car before they shot him to death, no questions asked.

2. White people perceive black people to be more tolerant of pain. This is called the racial empathy gap and researchers believe it helps explain racial disparities and discrimination.

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One of the many products you can find at the Menta shop.

3. People perceive black people to be more guilty. There are too many statistics to cite here: black people are more likely to be pulled over, stopped and frisked, arrested for the same crimes as whites, incarcerated for the same crimes as whites, given longer sentences for the same crimes as whites, be shot at or hit by police officers…

4. Black people are perceived to be less intelligent and competent. There are studies that show that resumes with “black sounding” names get fewer callbacks from potential jobs.

The bottom line is…

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One of Menta’s old storefront paintings, also by Fatima de Juan.

I could go on and on. My point is this: Innocence, sensitivity, intelligence, fragility, complexity, beauty, goodwill…These are all characteristics that black people are not considered to have because we are not considered to be fully human or complex. So when I see an image like the ones drawn on the Menta storefront,  a caricature of a black woman, a caricature of me, yes, it does piss me off. Because that’s how we are seen–not as whole, human beings who can feel pain, and be innocent, and be beautiful, and get a good job. But as less than human, shells of people, only to be “appreciated” when white people need labor, or entertainment, or an “urban” hairstyle, or sexual fantasies, or someone to use as target practice.

By the way, you can’t just make a caricature of yourself as a black woman when YOU ARE NOT BLACK. You do not have to live in a black body every single day of your life. Being black is not just an identity that you can put on and take off like clothing.

I did live in Madrid for 8 months, but being that I’m from the US, I know more about American racial history and politics, so everything I’ve said so far is very US-centric. But I still think it matters even though this painting is in Madrid. First, because American media is very popular and influential around the world, so often, people in other countries learn stereotypes about black people from American media.

Conguitos, a popular candy in Spain.

Conguitos, a popular candy in Spain.

Second, I believe that white supremacy operates very similarly all around the world, which is why I wanted to start the Racism Files series in the first place. Black people are also discriminated against in Spain. (The racial hierarchy in Spain, and in Europe in general may not be exactly the same, but I do think it’s similar.) Which is why an image like the one above is alarming.

Please feel free to send me anything racist you come across during your travels, whether it’s street art, an experience, a news story, or anything at all. Thanks again to Ben and Francheska.

Racism Files

Racism Files FAQ

July 21, 2015
From a December 2014 Ferguson solidarity protest in Madrid. Image by Keziyah Lewis.

1. What the hell is Racism Files?
It’s a collection of news articles, think pieces, videos, personal experiences, etc, of racism that happens in countries other than the US, plus my commentary.

2. What’s the point?

Too many people believe that the US is either the ONLY racist country, or the country with the MOST racism. This is absolutely not true. The difference is that in the USA, we talk more openly about racism, and we’re generally not afraid to admit when there is a problem. Things aren’t perfect here, but at least we try. It seems that people in general think that racism doesn’t happen in other countries, but it does. To think that European colonization hasn’t had an effect on former colonies’ concept of race and skin color is absolutely absurd. All over the world people buy skin lightening products so they can be light enough to get a partner or pass an interview. All over the world, darker skinned people are systematically discriminated against. All over the world, white tourists are praised like they are celebrities, while black tourists are attributed with negative stereotypes. Of course, I’m generalizing, but there is truth to what I’m saying. That’s why I’m starting this series here on the blog, to show people that racism isn’t just an American thing.

3. Are you trying to discourage people from traveling?

No, not at all. But I think people should be informed/prepared before they go somewhere, don’t you? Lately, with all the horrible racial police brutality in the US, I’ve heard black people talk about wanting to move to other countries where they’ll feel safe. I get that. But black people are hated all over the world. The only reason why we’d be safer in other countries is because of a lack of guns.

4. Before talking about racism in other countries, you should talk about racism in your own.

No kidding. Look at my writing. I write about racism. I’m a black person from the United States. Trust me, I’m well aware that racism is pervasive here. The point of this series isn’t to say that the US is better than other places. Just that racism is a world wide phenomenon and that white supremacy has done serious damage on all corners of the planet.

5. You’re racist for bringing up racism.

No, and you’re silly. As Jon Stewart once said, you can’t “he who smelt it dealt it” racism. If someone says that it’s raining, that doesn’t mean that they caused the rain.

6. Do you hate white people?

No, I hate white supremacy. I hate that I grew up hating my skin color/hair/facial features. I hate that a police officer in my country can kill me at any time and just get away with it. I hate that I’m 3x more likely to go to prison than a white woman. I hate that, if charged with the same crime as a white woman, I will get a longer sentence. I hate that blackness is only celebrated when pieces of black culture and black beauty are adopted by white people. I hate that I got made fun of for having big lips, but suddenly Kylie Jenner plumps hers up and now full lips are cool. I hate even though there is a black family in the white house, people all over the world still cannot believe that a black tourist can be American or western. I hate that my ancestors were stolen, chained, packed into ships, and brought over to this hemisphere to be sold as property. I hate that people don’t understand that slavery has everything to do with how messed up things are today. I hate that we’re told to get over it. I hate knowing that as a black woman, I will be subject to both racial and sexist harassment online. I hate that a presidential candidate actually said that Mexican immigrants are rapists, and he still gets to run. I hate that a white man can walk into a historical black church and shoot 9 people to death and people will continue to fly the Confederate flag with pride. I hate that I grew up on land that was stolen from Native Americans.

These are just some of the things I hate. These things happen because of white supremacy. If you are white, you personally benefit from this system, even if you are not racist yourself. Even if your ancestors didn’t own slaves. Even if you’re poor or have other conditions that aren’t privileges. White privilege is a thing.

 

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