Monthly Archives: April 2010

Study: Colorblindness and Racist Attitudes

My fellow sociologist blogger Jessie at Racism Review has an excellent writeup on a new study conducted by education professors Brendesha M. Tynes and Suzanne L. Markoe entitled, “The Role of Color-Blind Racial Attitudes in Reactions to Racial Discrimination on Social Network Sites.” In studying the notes written by people on popular social networking sites such as Facebook, the authors find that people who have colorblind racial attitudes were actually less likely to find racial theme party images offensive. The abstract of their study reads:

This study examines associations between responses to online racial discrimination, more specifically, racial theme party images on social network sites and color-blind racial attitudes. We showed 217 African American and European American college students images and prompted them to respond as if they were writing on a friend’s “wall” on Facebook or MySpace.

Reactions to racial theme party images were not bothered, not bothered-ambivalent, bothered-ambivalent, and bothered. A multinomial logistic regression revealed that participants differed in their reactions to the images based on their racial group and color-blind racial ideology. European Americans and participants high in racial color blindness were more likely to be in the not bothered reaction group.

Further, these students were more likely to condone and even encourage the racial theme party practice by laughing at the photos and affirming the party goers. Conversely, those low in color blindness were vocal in their opposition to the images with some reporting that they would “defriend” a person who engaged in the practice.

Blackface party at Clemson University on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

For those who have been reading this blog for a while, these findings should come as no surprise. Nonetheless, I am grateful to Professors Tynes and Markoe for doing this study and articulating the the relationship between having colorblindness and racist attitudes. We only have to look at the recent controversies about the racial tensions at the University of California campuses and other colleges around the country (along with past incidents of blackface racism) to see real-world examples of how being colorblind really means being racially blind.

Hopefully this study will help make all of us see that as an individual-level and interpersonal perspective and ass an institutional basis for public policy, colorblindness is not only a dismal failure but in many ways, hinders our nation’s quest for true and meaningful racial/ethnic equality and justice.

Jeff Yang’s Profile of an Asian Male Porn Star

This past weekend, I was invited to give a talk at Syracuse University as part of their celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (although APA Heritage Month is actually May, many colleges celebrate it in April because their finals and end of the semester is at the beginning of May). I had a great time there as I got a tour of their beautiful campus from my guide Jonathan, had lunch with many Asian American student leaders, and interacted with numerous staff and faculty.

I also had the opportunity to finally meet Jeff Yang, who was also invited to give a talk on the same day. Jeff was publisher of A. Magazine, one of the most popular and influential Asian American magazines during its run from 1989-2002. Since then, Jeff has published several books including co-editing Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology and is widely recognized and respected as an expert on Asian and Asian American pop culture. I have admired Jeff’s work for a long time but only finally got the chance to meet him at Syracuse.

Keni

Jeff and I had a great chat over dinner and he mentioned to me that in one of his recent columns for the San Francisco Chronicle, he profiled Keni Styles, the only heterosexual male porn star of Asian descent. I understand and respect that many people have different (and strong) objections to pornography and I’m not here to defend or promote porn. Instead, I only to point out that many of Keni Styles’ observations on Asian Americans have a lot of sociological value (full transcript is here). Some examples from Jeff’s article:

“I get tons of e-mails from Asian guys who want to get into porn, and I always e-mail them back saying, ‘If you really did, you’d be doing it,’” he says. “Nothing is blocking anyone from getting into this business — Asian, white, or black.” It’s obviously not an industry for everyone — the physical challenges are demanding, the lifestyle can be grueling and, for those prone to the worst temptations, self-destructive. But Styles thinks that the real barrier Asian men face, in porn and in society, is in no small part self-created.

“I often interact a lot with Asian American guys in online forums, talking about the issues they face. And many of them really feel hard done by American culture — they feel unattractive, they feel defeated,” says Styles. “While I have a lot of empathy, there’s a sense in which this is self-inflicted. I didn’t grow up in the States; I don’t know first-hand what they’ve been through. But I can say, I didn’t have an easy street of it myself, and you know, I’ve overcome.” . . .

[F]or someone who works with it every day, Styles’s attitude toward his penis is remarkably blase. “The whole size issue is ridiculous,” he says. You don’t just [have sex] with your penis, you use your whole body, your attitude, your presence. The moment you say, ‘Oh, I’m X inches long,’ you’ve let society win the battle of thinking it matters. And it just doesn’t. I’m not the biggest there is, and I’m not the smallest, but I’ve never measured my penis against anything other than a girl’s vagina. If it fits and she’s happy, I’m happy.”

As I describe elsewhere on this site, Asian American men have been subjected to a lot of demeaning stereotypes by the mainstream media and on the group level, are frequently overlooked and marginalized when it comes to dating and marriage. Having said that, Styles make some very good points in terms of recognizing the barriers in front of you but then doing something about it, instead of just internalizing the stereotypes and the racism and living your life with an implicit or even explicit self-defeatist attitude.

With that in mind, I think that Asian Americans as a whole but particularly males can learn from this approach. However, I don’t recommend that we become porn stars, or embrace the whole “playa” womanizer persona, or that we need to act hyper-masculine and risk making fools out of ourselves. Nonetheless, there are many ways in which we can personify our sense of pride and confidence and break out of the “traditional” roles we’ve been limited to, or have limited ourselves to.

Yes, there are still plenty of institutional barriers out there for Asian Americans and other historically-marginalized groups to overcome. But we’ve encountered them before, we’ve mobilized our individual and collective resources to confront them, and we’ve lost some battles but have won many others. Through it all and within many walks of life and personal endeavors, and we’re still here and moving forward.

Updated List of White Backlash Examples

Following up on my earlier post entitled “White Backlash: Yes, It’s Real,” I will use this post to maintain a continually updated list of news stories that highlight and exemplify various examples of this kind of direct and indirect anti-minority, anti-’foreigner,’ and pro-’traditional American’ mentality and behavior that is increasingly on display throughout American society. The list in in reverse chronological order (most recent stories first). Also, feel free to mention any other examples I missed in the comments section at the bottom.

  • Islamophobia Reaches a Fever Pitch (August 2010)
    Racist and xenophobic opposition to a mosque near Ground Zero and calls by some Christian leaders to burn the Koran on 9/11 illustrates America’s rising hatred of Islam.
  • “Yup, I’m A Racist” T-Shirts for Sale (July 2010)
    Celebrate Independence Day 2010 by proudly proclaiming your racism and do your part to make racism cool.
  • U.S Hospital Fires 4 Filipina Nurses for Speaking Tagalog on Their Lunch Break (June 2010)
    Four Filipina ex-staffers of a Baltimore City hospital haven’t gotten over the shock of being summarily fired from their jobs, allegedly because they spoke Pilipino during their lunch break. . . “They claimed they heard us speaking in Pilipino and that is the only basis of the termination. It wasn’t because of my functions as a nurse. There were no negative write-ups, no warning before the termination,” [Nurse Hachelle Hatano] added.
  • South Carolina State Senator Calls President Obama a “Raghead” (June 2010)
    Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts refers to President Obama and Nikki Haley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate of Indian descent: “We’ve already got a raghead in the White House, we don’t need another raghead in the governor’s mansion.”
  • Arizona Passes Law Censoring Ethnic Studies Programs (May 2010)
    On the heels of the law that critics argue would legalize racial profiling against Latinos, Arizona’s new anti-ethnic studies bill “prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.”
  • Alabama Governor Candidate Declares “We Speak English” (April 2010)
    Tim James, Republican candidate for Governor of Alabama, releases a TV ad in which he declares, “This is Alabama; we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it” (you can watch the actual ad at the link above).
  • Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration (April 2010)
    Arizona’s new legislation would allow police to question anyone suspected of being an unauthorized immigrant. Critics charge that it basically amounts to legally-sanctioned racial profiling and plan demonstrations, boycotts, and lawsuits to protest and block its implementation.
  • Asian American Legislator Receives Racist Threats After Questioning Palin Visit (April 2010)
    California State Legislator Leland Yee summarizes the racist threats he received from Sarah Palin supporters after questioning her planned visit to a Cal State University campus.
  • John Jay College Accused of Bias Against Noncitizens (April 2010)
    The Justice Department files a lawsuit against John Jay College of Criminal Justice, accusing it of violating provisions of immigration law by demanding extra work authorization from at least 103 individuals since 2007.
  • McDonnell’s Confederate History Month Proclamation Irks Civil Rights Leaders (April 2010)
    The Governor of Virginia revives a dormant proclamation that April is “Confederate History Month,” with the initial version of his proclamation omitting any mention of slavery.
  • Male Studies vs. Men’s Studies (April 2010)
    A group of White male academics are trying to create a new academic discipline that highlights the ways in which males (by implication, White males) are apparently an underrepresented and oppressed group in contemporary American society.
  • Racist Fliers Distributed at UW-Oshkosh, St. Norbert College (March 2010)
    An example of how White supremacist hate groups are increasingly capitalizing on this White backlash.
  • UC Regents Sorry for Acts of Hate on Campuses (March 2010)
    Summarizing numerous racist incidents at numerous University of CA (UC) campuses, students and faculty try to get the UC Regents to see that racial ignorance and intolerance is a serious and endemic problem.
  • Meeting Space for Muslim Students at Brandeis is Vandalized (March 2010)
    On the heals of the racist incidents at the University of CA campuses, a newly renovated meeting space for Muslim students at Brandeis University is vandalized.
  • The Year in Nativism (March 2010)
    The Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes notable recent hate crimes against immigrants in 2008 and notes that nativist extremist groups have more than tripled in number, from 144 in 2007 to 309 in 2009.
  • Justice Department Fights Bias in Lending (January 2010)
    Under a new initiative from the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department begins targeting the rising predatory practice of “reverse redlining” aimed predominantly at minorities in which “. . . a mortgage brokerage or bank systematically singles out minority neighborhoods for loans with inferior terms like high up-front fees, high interest rates and lax underwriting practices. Because the original lender would typically resell such a loan after collecting its fees, it did not care about the risk of foreclosure.”
  • New Basketball League for Whites Only (January 2010)
    The “All-American Basketball Alliance” announces plans to create a minor league basketball league in which “only players that are natural born United States citizens with both parents of Caucasian race are eligible to play in the league.”