Tag Archives: race/ethnicity

Parodying Native Appropriation in Marketing


Before Halloween, I posted a video where Erin Gibson satirizes the way women’s costumes are overwhelmingly a “sexy” version of something…anything. Commenter HP took issue with it, wondering whether it satirized or challenged the topic in a useful way, rather than, in HP’s term, “pinkwashing” it — that is, presumably critiquing sexism but doing so in a way that looks nearly indistinguishable from the cultural trend supposedly being critiqued.

I thought about that when I saw a video my friend Captain Crab posted. The video features actor Graham Greene, a member of the Oneida tribe, and spoofs ads for Lakota, a brand of arthritis pain-relief medications that appropriates Native American imagery:

While it clearly parodies the Lakota brand and ads, I can’t quite decide how showing Greene then trying to sell his own product fits in — does that undermine the message about appropriation of native cultures? I sort of felt like it did, turning it more into laughing at this idea that everyone’s trying to sell you something. After all, Greene’s product refers to him as “Dr.,” so who is he to criticize sketchy marketing methods?

What do you think? An effective commentary on use of elements of Native American cultures in marketing?

Black Intellectuals and Artists on Sexism in Hip Hop


In this ten-minute Black Tree Media video, sent in by Janet F., black intellectuals and artists debate sexism in hip hop. The video features over a dozen perspectives — Stanley Crouch, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Ben Chavis, Nelly, T.I., Chuck D, MC Lyte, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Mike Jones, Master P, and Kim Osorio — and covers a lot of ground.

My apologies if the video is preceded by a commercial:

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Historical Trends in Voter Turnout

Made in America‘s Claude S. Fischer posted this figure depicting the percent of the voting-age U.S. population who voted in presidential elections, 1824-2008:

The figure shows radical shifts in the percent of the voting-age population that turned up at the polls, putting the recent Obama bump in perspective.  Fischer narrates two of the trends:

Americans streamed to the polls at rapidly growing rates during the antebellum years (the upwardly slanted oval) probably because: competitive two-party politics emerged; barriers to voting such as property requirements were lowered; states added more polling places so rural voters did not have to travel as far; a growing spoils system provided more government goodies for the victors; and the parties made elections entertaining – parades, fiery speech-making, and well-lubricated election days… By the 1880s and ‘90s, voting rates hit about 80 percent.

The downward oval is accounted for, in part, by women.  Women were granted suffrage in  1920 but, as Fischer says it, “…it took a while for women to get into the habit of voting.”  The drop started before this, however, so there’s more to it.  Fischer continues:

One factor was declining party competition; the Republican and Democratic parties retreated to different regions of the country.  In addition, two general sorts of innovations helped discourage voting: changes in rules and changes in incentives

Native-born, upper-middle-class, largely Protestant Progressives were able, after much struggle, to reform election rules in many places… The new rules narrowed suffrage by, for example, requiring voters to be citizens, to register long before elections, and to pass literacy tests to vote. Other rules eliminated straight party-line voting… and even party identification on ballots, making it more difficult for less-educated voters to know whom to vote for. These moves raised the barriers to voting and helped drive down participation in the North. (In the South, of course, new Jim Crow laws essentially prevented any blacks from voting.)

Progressive reforms also eliminated some of the incentives people had to vote… The arrival of the secret ballot in the late 19th century eliminated the easy opportunity to sell one’s vote…

The institution of civil service employment reduced other financial incentives to vote …many Americans voted in order to get jobs for themselves, their relatives, or their friends. The fewer the positions filled by political appointment, the less the incentive to vote…

…government reforms also made it harder for the parties to raise money… [and t]hat, in turn, reduced the hoopla – the parades, bands, and such – and the free goodies that parties could dispense on election day. By the time women got the vote, a lot of the fun had gone out of voting. Turnout rates fell to about 50 percent.

Read Fischer’s full postfor his thoughts on why Americans do and don’t turnout to vote today.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Kimberle Crenshaw on Post-Racial Politics

In this 9-minute GRIT TV video, Kimberle Crenshaw, a law professor who coined the term “intersectionality,” discusses what’s wrong with a “color-blind” approach to politics:

Via Racialicious.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

“Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things”: Deconstructing Muslim Stereotypes

Many of you may have heard about NPR’s decision to fire commentator Juan Williams last week after he appeared on The O’Reilly Factor and made the following comments:

Look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Williams was widely criticized for the remarks after video of his appearance showed up on a number of liberal websites, and NPR quickly fired him, arguing that his comments about Muslims discredited him as a commentator (more on that below).

Muriel Minnie Mae, Duff M., and an anonymous contributor all let us know about the site Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things, created in response to the incident. The site deconstructs the idea of “Muslim garb” by showing…well, pictures of Muslims wearing things. Examples from the site include Ismail Merchant:

Husain Abdullah:

Zeb and Haniya, Pakistani folk singers:

Siti Nurhaliza Taruddin:

Omar Fadel (in, as the website points out, the traditional Muslim fedora):

Dalia Mogahed, the sister of one of my former students:

You get the idea. New images (with awesome captions) are currently going up every few minutes, and it’s a great example of the diversity that exists among Muslims, variety that tends to get ignored in stereotypical depictions of Muslims (who are often conflated with Arabs and Middle Easterners, though the world’s largest Muslim population — over 200 million — is in Indonesia and only 20% of all  Muslims live in the Middle East and North Africa).

Even in the cases where individuals are wearing something that others might identify as clearly “Muslim”, such as hijab, is it fair to say they are “identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims,” as Williams stated? Is it that Dalia, above, is stressing her Muslim identity above all else (say, more than being a professional, with the suit, or a married woman, with a wedding ring) by covering her hair? Or, perhaps, does covering her hair make individuals who are uncomfortable with Muslims unable to see her as anything but “first and foremost” a Muslim?

Side note: Since this post brings up the whole Juan Williams situation, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that a number of commentators argue Williams’s comments are being unfairly decontextualized with a selectively-edited video. If you watch the full segment, he starts out with the comments above (the only part that got widely distributed), which indicate a personal discomfort with Muslims, but goes on to disagree with O’Reilly, saying that we don’t blame all Christians for the actions of Timothy McVeigh and that the concern should be not about Muslims, but about extremists. William Saletan of Slate says,

I’m not saying Williams is the world’s most enlightened guy. He’s wrong, for example, about the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero. And it’s certainly unsettling to hear him admit that he worries when he sees Muslims in distinctive dress. But admitting such fears doesn’t make you a bigot. Sometimes, to work through your fears, you have to face them honestly. You have to think through the perils of acting on those fears. And you have to explain to others why they, too, should transcend their anxieties or resentments and treat people as individuals.

Here’s the full video, so you can judge for yourself — is Williams justifying his admitted fears, or arguing we have to work past such prejudices?

China as a Strategic Political Threat


Latoya Petersen at Racialicious highlighted an interesting campaign ad. Funded by Citizens Against Government Waste, it features a future in which China has succeeded the United States as the world’s super power. It is supposed to frighten the reader by forecasting a world in which China rules America (cue ominous music and satisfied evil chuckling).

What is interesting to me is the assumption that drives the commercial: that the U.S. should be a super power, that it is naturally so (so long as it sticks to its founding principles), and that it would be wrong for China to be more powerful than the U.S.   The idea that self-satisfied Asian people would be in charge adds racist oomph to the threat.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Columbus Day-Themed “Bros and Hos” Party at Harvard

Adrienne at Native Appropriations reports that this year Harvard University fraternity Sigma Chi threw a Columbus Day “bros and hos” party titled “Conquistabros and Navajos.” Get it?

Perhaps it’s too much to expect student in the Ivy League to be sensitive, but Harvard students are supposed to be smart, right?  Not so much.  Adrienne points out their bizarre illogic: how exactly does it make sense to have a party that mingles Navajos (from the American Southwest) with pilgrims (who lived in the American Northeast) and Conquistadors (who arrived after, not with Columbus) and cowboys (who, as we know them, would come hundreds of years later)?

And while we’re at it, why not expect them to be sensitive.  Adrienne reminds us, again, patiently…

1. Glorifying and making light of the atrocities committed by the “explorers” of the Americas is just as bad as glorifying the Nazis and the Holocaust, and not something to be taken lightly.

2. The theme is using a generic stereotype of an Indigenous person (in this case “Navajo”) to represent thousands of tribes and communities throughout the Americas, each with their own unique culture and history. The Indigenous groups who encountered the conquistadors are not remotely the same as Navajos in the southwest, and by lumping them together, the party contributes to continued stereotyping of Native peoples as one monolithic group — consisting of hollywood stereotypes of war paint, feathers, and buckskin.

3. Encouraging party goers to “dress up” as American Indians and Indigenous Peoples puts Native people in the category of a fantasy character — something that no longer exists, or never did. Columbus, Conquistadors, and Pilgrims are all situated in the past, but Native peoples are still here, are still alive, and still Native (and yes, cowboys are still alive, but they are not systematically oppressed and facing continued colonialism). It is also condoning dressing up in racial drag, and I would bet Sigma Chi might get in a little trouble if they hosted a blackface party.

But no one would do that, would they?

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Race/Ethnicity and Gender of Late Night TV Guests

Dmitriy T.M. sent in a link to an interesting breakdown of the race/ethnicity and gender of guests on a number of late-night talk shows, found at Edlundart.

Edlund explains the methodology:

The data for this graphic was gathered over 6 weeks in August and September of 2010. Numbers are based on guest lists as presented on Late Night Lineups. Determining race/ethnicity can be a rather dicey and imprecise activity, and it’s also worth noting that the relationship between census and guest numbers is not a pure one – for example, some of the guests I counted as white are British white people who are visiting the United States.

Of course, a few guests were neither White, Hispanic, Black, nor Asian. These guests were left out, as their numbers were insignificant on the whole…

Edlund also points out that since The Daily Show only has one guest per night, it has a much smaller dataset than the others, so the lack of diversity may be somewhat overstated due to such a small sample.

Here are the results for race (presented as % of all guests); the small dots show the percent in the Census, the wider bars the percent on the show:

Here is the same data but for the top-billed guests only, where the over-representation of Whites goes up even more for most of the shows:

Here’s equivalent data for women:

And, again, for just top-billed guests:

As Edlund says, these data both reflect and reinforce broader cultural patterns. Given that Whites still dominate the political system, for instance, it’s not surprising that political guests would be disproportionately White; and if more movies have male stars than female stars, guest spots will reflect that as well. But at the same time, these shows include people from a range of industries/careers, and their selection of guests helps raise the profile of some individuals more than others, potentially contributing to more opportunities and star power for them. So they don’t just reflect existing realities; they amplify them.

It would be great to get more info on how an individual is selected when there are multiple possibilities — say, you have a movie with several prominent cast members. In that case, are there patterns related to race/ethnicity and gender in which person is most likely to get booked?