What is Whiteness?

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. As some may know, I run a blog on mixed race identity called I Am Hapa (“hapa” being the Hawaiian word for half) and while I haven’t been posting on it much, my friend Grace recently wrote a guest post for it. In fact, her post and my other friend Kiyomi’s post have two key pieces I want to focus on today. Grace talks about passing—in her case, being half-Black and passing for White—and in Kiyomi’s, the enduring shame that is intrinsic to being mixed.

Both posts mention our hometown, a strange bubble of New Jersey that is pretty much half-Black and half-White as Grace notes. It was less unusual to be mixed race growing up there, but for sure, people would see me with my White father and ask where I was adopted from. As an adult, I still get the question, but worded differently: where are you from? Jersey. No, where are you really from?

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Election Grief

Election Grief

This week has been a lot. I don’t need to recap it for you, we all know what happened. Instead, I’ll give you a walk through of the past 48 hours.

I woke up, I put on my equivalent of a pantsuit (dark jeans and blazer) and I voted. I voted blue across the board, which doesn’t actually say a lot when there are no non-Democratic candidates in Boston. I went to class, I relaxed and moved through my day because I thought we had it in the bag. I went to the liquor store to buy some rosé and champagne, because I expected I would be popping them early in the morning when CNN called the election for Clinton. I thought we had it in the bag.

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The White Privilege of Occupying

 

You may have noticed your Facebook friends “checking in” at Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. No, they didn’t all plan a trip without you, and if you’re lost, go read this CNN article to get caught up and come back. Given this development, and the stark difference between the treatment of Standing Rock protestors and Ammon Bundy and Co., we’re going to revisit the idea of White Privilege as it pertains to protesting. Or in this case, occupying land.

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Coat-Switching 101

As the days grow shorter and the weather grows colder, it’s time for coat-switching! What, you may ask, is coat-switching? It is a term, according to movie critic Peter Howell, “which means deliberately shifting cultural traits and vernacular to suit different circumstances”.

If you’re repeatedly re-reading this, it’s because the term used here is actually code-switch, as in Code Switch by NPR. Code-switching is something practically every minority does, but it’s perhaps best known within the Black community. To be more technical, it’s a linguistic term for switching between languages; think Spanglish. And increasingly, it’s being used by educators to help Black students view Black English as a legitimate language and not as “slang”. To quote Dave Chappelle, “every black American is bilingual. We speak street vernacular and we speak job interview.”

You don’t consciously learn it, but by living in a White-dominant culture, you learn workarounds to a system that devalues your own background. This affects minorities across the board–“Your English is so good” is something many Asian Americans and Black Americans have heard in life, although usually for different reasons. The assumption here is that the Asian person’s English is good for an immigrant, the Black person’s English is good for a Black person. Both assumptions are as harmful as they are ignorant.

Peter Howell’s mistake was hearing code-switch (a concept practically every person of color is aware of, at least subconsciously) as coat-switching. In fairness, it does make sense–you’re changing coats/identities depending on who you’re with. The editor of NPR’s Code Switch weighed in too, tweeting this last night:

In fairness, Howell edited his article after realizing his mistake. But the error connects to the larger idea that White America is really out of touch with what minorities see and experience; Fusion ran an article yesterday about this exact issue, focusing on white youth and youth of color. Until we can get people on the same page about what’s going on in the country, we’re going to keep having these major divides.

Further reading:

Slate’s Lexicon Valley has a great podcast episode exploring the history of Black English that’s worth a listen.

Stanford’s Geoffrey K Pullam wrote on Black English being seen as a language back in 1999–so no, this isn’t a Millennial “Everyone’s special” thing.

The Laziness of All Look Same

As an Asian American growing up in the New York area, I love Jeremy Lin. I don’t even like basketball, but it was exciting to see someone who looks like me on television in any capacity, let alone sports. My brother has his Lin Knicks jersey, and I swore this season I would get into basketball enough to follow the Nets for Lin alone. So I was intrigued when the New York Times ran an essay yesterday by sports correspondent Andrew Keh called ‘I Was Never Jackie Chan, and I’m Not Jeremy Lin‘. It’s a great read, and quick, but if you haven’t seen it yet, Keh writes on the reality Asian Americans face being compared to other Asian Americans.

“An absence of reference points for Asian identity in popular culture has helped create a perpetual stream of hackneyed encounters, for men and women, children and adults,” writes Keh.

He notes, in a way that’s both humorous and infuriating, that he looks nothing like Jeremy Lin. He’s just an Asian guy.

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Voter Intimidation is Illegal, Yet Trump Still Calls for it

Let’s play a game! If you can successfully answer the following direction, you get to vote in this upcoming presidential election. If not, too bad.

Draw five circles that one common inter-locking part.

Confused by the usage of “that” instead of “with”? Confused about how to draw five circles that only overlap in one place? Confused as to what this has to do with your voting rights? This question was on a Louisiana Literacy test (from 1964) considered to be impossible–and to be taken in 10 minutes. You can take it at Slate or take a slightly less frustrating version at the Civil Rights Movement Veteran’s Website.

Thankfully, voter literacy exams aren’t used any more to disenfranchise Black voters but worry not! There are still ways to suppress voters. For example, by harassing minority voters at the polls, demanding to see proper identification from minority voters, or threatening violence on minority voters.

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Punctuation Matters, Period.

Punctuation Matters, Period.

Breaking news: Ben Carson is NOT the only Black doctor in the United States. I repeat, Ben Carson is not the only Black doctor in the United States.

If you’ve been following the story of Tamika Cross, a Black doctor who was rejected upon attempting to administer medical aid on a Delta flight last Sunday, you know the basics. If you missed it, here’s the gist.

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