Movie Friday: Jason Chu

I’m in Ottawa at the Eschaton2012 conference. Well… I guess right now I’m about to take a tour of the Supreme Court building, but that’s what I’m up to this weekend. I’ll be live-tweeting the event, so if you’re not following me on Twitter you should be.

Yesterday I talked about the conspicuous and consistent absence of voices of colour from stories that recognize their (our) agency in civil rights struggles. While black or brown faces might be present in stories, but it’s rarely to acknowledge that we were the architects, at least in part, or our own ascendancy from second-class to… well… whatever we are now.

It is hard to talk about this issue without pointing out the notable and near-complete absence of actors of Asian descent from anything but the most stereotypical roles. Again, roles when a group’s foreign-ness is their chief identifying feature only serve to perpetuate their ‘other’ status. This issue came to a head recently when La Jolla Playhouse cast a multi-racial group in a play set in China: [Read more...]

Eschaton-bound

I am currently in some form of en route to my nation’s capital, the city of Ottawa, where I will be at the Eschaton2012 Conference giving a presentation entitled Don’t Go In There! Talking about race and racism in the time of the zombie apocalypse. There will be no surprises in it for those of you who are regular readers of my blog, but maybe the visual element (and the soothing sound of my gilded voice) will make it all the more impactful.

I’ll be shuffling around downtown Ottawa on Friday afternoon. If anyone’s interested in saying hello, but can’t go to the conference, I’ll have a bit of time. Fire me an e-mail and I will try to organize some kind of meetup before the start of the evening’s events.

Here’s a picture of a dog I saw one time:

A dog painted to resemble a tiger

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The accuracy of the elephant’s tail

If you want to make sense of a lot of what it happening in US national politics, I’ve found Chris Hayes’ show Up! to be a consistent source of diverse and thought-provoking analysis. As an avowed and unashamed ‘man of the left’, he manages to break issues out of the left/right divide and instead field panels with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, from a Wal-mart striker to the CEO of Bain Capital. I consider him to be an indispensable voice in political discourse, and his show is a regular watch for me (and when you consider how little time I have to watch TV these days, that’s saying a lot).

One of the things that I like most about his show is that, whether consciously or not, consistently puts people of colour at the table to discuss things that aren’t “the black perspective on” whatever issue is being discussed. It’s a refreshing change from how I am accustomed to seeing black folks being involved in discussions – as though their (our) race was the only relevant topic about which we could speak intelligently. In the face of this unfortunate trend, Chris (and, seemingly, the other producers at MSNBC) books his panels in such a way as to occasionally make white people a minority presence around the table, even when not discussing a race-specific issue.

It is with this in the background that I take issue with a recent segment in which he showered unreserved praise upon Tony Kushner, writer of the screenplay for the movie Lincoln. Chris was glowing in his praise for the script and the movie itself, and Mr. Kushner obviously did not object. The reason why this love-in was so disappointing is because I read a number of the critiques of the film from writers and historians of colour, and they consistently complained that the movie, in keeping with a long-standing Hollywood tradition, almost completely wrote out black people from the story. And so it was with more than a little joy that I saw Chris tweet a link to this article earlier today: [Read more...]

“Real” Women Deciding Which Women Are “Real”

A post by Jamie

Yesterday evening, I received a letter directing my attention to a women’s organization in Canada (called REAL Women of Canada, formally established in 1983), that presently seeks to undermine a private member’s bill. The bill proposes changing the Canadian Human Rights Act, such that discrimination against trans* people will be considered a human rights violation; and changing the Criminal Code of Canada, such that aggravated assault, battery, or murder perpetrated against a trans* person will be considered a hate crime. Once again, for clarity, RWoC finds this proposal troubling and vehemently oppose it. You can even read RWoC’s brief in PDF format (if your stomach can handle it by the end of this writing). But first! Why do they call themselves REAL?!

Our name defines our aim.  The word REAL is an acronym which means Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life.

(from their website)

I advise strongly against giving that website too much traffic (or any at all, really). That’s how they make money, and then they use it to promote a barely repackaged vision of the ideal family that harkens back to 1950. It’s also pretty clear that for females who aren’t busy popping out babies, you’re not a real woman whose needs should be heard by the government (think that “for Life” part is just a coincidence? Think again.) It might be advisable to have a barf bag handy for the rest of this post, which deals with the brief they published on why they think Bill C-279 shouldn’t be allowed to pass.

[Read more...]

A textbook example of racial privilege

Those of you who have been reading for a while know that I am a big believer in the power of diversity. I’m not only referring to racial diversity, but I am of the belief that our racial identities inform our day-to-day experiences and the lens of how we see the world. A variety of experiences means a diversity of perspectives, which means in turn that any problem can be approached with a variety of solutions. It just makes sense – a group is smarter when it can rely on a variety of skills, even if the problem doesn’t have an explicitly racial component to it.

As a result, I am a supporter of affirmative action (AA) programs as a method of creating a more adaptable, agile, and smarter workforce. Whether that workforce is in academia or industry, we all benefit from being surrounded by people who are capable, but who also have life experience and perspectives that give us a better chance for a multi-faceted problem-solving approach. At the same time, I recognize (as do most supporters of AA programs) that it’s a non-perfect approach to the serious problem of racially supremacist systems. We have a history that has, at times explicitly, given the bulk of the benefit to some groups at the direct expense of another, resulting in a lopsided distribution of wealth, education, political power, and popular perception. There’s no way to re-balance the scales without someone feeling like they’ve had something taken from them.

Of course opponents of AA say that rebalancing the scales thusly is manifestly unfair. What we should do, they say, is just start treating everyone according to merit, thus ensuring that those who are “most qualified” will succeed. If we take race out of the equation entirely, we won’t be giving unfair advantages to one group, but nor will we be taking away opportunity from those who happen to be in a group that, once upon a time, had members that were wicked. By forcing race into the equation, affirmative action is being just as racist as those wicked ancestors were, just in the opposite direction!

Henry Yu explains the problem with that line of reasoning with a parable: [Read more...]

Two views of black masculinity

Circumstances have once again robbed me of the time and energy to dig too deep into blogging. Part of this is a massive paper that I have just finished – it looks at whether or not mandatory childhood vaccination is legally, ethically, and scientifically justified in a Canadian context. Part of it is prepping for my Eschaton2012 presentation that I will be giving in Ottawa this weekend. Part of it is prioritizing my personal relationships above blogging, given how much of a time suck these other two things have been. At any rate, no post for you today.

In lieu, I want to highlight two essays on a topic I’ve had some call to think about recently. The first is by Robert Reece, perhaps better known to some of you as PhuzzieSlippers, a former guest on the SERIOUSLY?! podcast*: [Read more...]

Tom the Dancing Bug gets ‘traditional’

After the election, Fox News’ resident zeppelin opined:

The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff, they want things. And who is going to give them things? President [Barack] Obama.

He later “clarified”:

If you look at the exit polling, you’ll see that a coalition of voters put the President back into the oval office. That coalition was non-tradition, which means it veered away from things like traditional marriage, robust capitalism, and self-reliance.

Instead, each constituency that voted for the President — whether it be single women, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, whatever — had very specific reasons for doing so. [...]

Traditional American voters generally want a smaller government in Washington, more local control, some oversight on abortion, and believe in American exceptionalism.

Tom the Dancing Bug (a.k.a. Ruben Bolling) sets Bill straight: [Read more...]

Movie Friday: Equal Opportunity Enforcement

Here in BC, policy-makers and law enforcement agencies are starting to ask themselves some serious questions about our approach to marijuana (and if they’re not, they should be). After the marijuana legalization votes in Washington State, cross-border drug trafficking is going to change character in a significant way. Considering how much of BC’s economy is fueled by drug money, and how much we spend trying to prosecute gangs that make money from weed and other, more dangerous drugs, it’s going to become a serious issue.

But one simply cannot talk about drugs and law enforcement in the absence of a deep understanding of how white supremacy and plutocracy operate in the War on Drugs. ‘Batman’ explains: [Read more...]

The terrible burden of religious persecution

Part of the reason I have such a difficult time taking complaints about the “persecution” of Christians in North America (and indeed, most of the world), is because by degrees they demonstrate again and again that they have simply no fucking clue what persecution looks like. To wit:

Jamaica’s public transport authorities have banned lay preachers from addressing commuters in public buses. Jamaica is a predominantly Christian country, but many passengers have complained about the noise and disturbance. Drivers have been instructed to politely warn religious ministers that they are no longer allowed to evangelise fellow passengers. Preachers say the decision infringes freedom of speech and religion.

No, Jamaican dickhole priests, your rights are not being infringed because people are telling you that you’re not allowed to push your superstition to people riding the bus, on their way to actually doing something worthwhile in the world. Your rights are intact. You can still say whatever you want, you’re just not allowed to do it with absolutely no regard for the feeling or comfort of other people. You know, like a non-sociopath.

I am reminded of this comic: [Read more...]

The freedom of religion

I have to admit that I have a massive throbbing hate-on (read it again) for the phrase “freedom of religion”. It is an over-used canard that really has no useful value. The protection of a right to freedom of conscience, along with similar protections for speech, ensures that any religious belief or practice is protected. Carving out a specific protection for religion is redundant.

What it is a reflection of, as far as I can tell, is a cultural obsession with the totems and taboos of worshipping various failures of rational thought. We fetishize our ignorance, call it “religion” or “faith”, and then incessantly remind everyone how important and central it is to the human experience, to the point where people don’t know how you could possibly live a life without it. So of course it has to have special protection. After all, if we don’t protect something so essential to human functioning, how could we have any rights at all?

Bullshit.

And yet, we continue to do it. We enshrine it in our laws, we plaster it on bumper stickers, we even create entire government ministries to oversee it. An office, by the way, overseen by a person who is capable of saying stuff like this in public:

In too many countries, the right to believe in and practise one’s faith in peace and security is still measured in blood spilled and lives lost. This is not an abstract debate. Blasphemy laws target religious minorities.

And then saying this:

Nothing is easy. And you really only get one chance to get it right. We know that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion.

Oh really, Mr. Baird. Thanks for pointing that out. Let’s look at a couple of blasphemy law cases then, shall we?

Greek Church charges playwright, actors, with blasphemy:

The actors and creative team behind a play that depicts Jesus Christ and his apostles as gay face charges of blasphemy in Greece, according to court officials.

The production of Corpus Christi, a 1997 play by U.S. playwright Terrence McNally, was greeted with protests by priests and the right-wing Golden Dawn movement during its run in Athens in October. The Greek-language staging was eventually cancelled earlier this month.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus launched a lawsuit against the production and called for charges of “insulting religion” and “malicious blasphemy.”

Because, and I think the whole international community can agree, there’s nothing more important happening in Greece right now than cracking down on people who insult religion. Even though the play is about political corruption. None of that in Greece though…

India arrests two for Facebook status:

Police in India have arrested a woman they say criticised on Facebook the shutdown of the city of Mumbai after the death of politician Bal Thackeray.

A woman friend who “liked” the comment was also arrested, they said.

The women, accused of “hurting religious sentiments”, were released on bail after appearing in court in the town of Palghar, police told the BBC.

Yes, it would be just awful if people were allowed to express dissatisfaction at things that are tangentially related to deeply held religious beliefs! Don’t you get how deeply they’re held, you guys? Deeply! Like… really deep!

It seems to me that religion isn’t exactly under existential threat here. If anything, it’s got quite a bit of muscle to flex. And while the supposed goal of this “Office of Religious Freedom” is supposed to be about protecting minority groups, Minister John Baird expresses this ‘freedom’ in explicitly faith-y terms. Not a freedom to believe and practice according to the dictates of one’s own conscience, but a freedom to “draw upon one’s faith to contribute to the greater good of society—something greater than oneself.”

I’m, it hardly needs to be said, skeptical.

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