Pop Culture Roundup: Racism on the Runway, Listening to HIP-HOP

There’s racism on the high fashion runways. It’s so egregious, even the New York Times wrote about it. Rachel does a nice job discussing it over at the Tavern.



And, today in class, we’re screening Byron Hurt’s excellent film, “HIP-HOP: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” which he describes as a “loving critique” of Hip-Hop music and culture. Most of the film is about the misogyny and homophobia in rap lyrics. Hurt does a much better job dealing with sexism and misogyny, which he’s clearly thought a lot about, than with homophobia, which he seems uncomfortable discussing. Lots of bonus points for trying though. The part about racism in the film is when he interviews white kids who are hip-hop fans. One of the white kids says that she listens to hip-hop so she can “experience another culture” that includes “drive bys” and, in perhaps the most telling white-kid moment in the film, a white guy refers to Byron Hurt as “colored.” Great moment to capture on film for all it says about white appropriation of Black culture and what the phrase “I’m not a racist” looks like on film. I’ll add this film to the video page later today. Definitely worth ordering for your library.

Racism Beyond the U.S. & “The Hand”

The Canadian Globe is reporting on a clash between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators yesterday:

Assault charges are pending after white supremacists and anti-racism protesters clashed during a demonstration. About 15 Calgary Aryan Guard members gathered at city hall yesterday. They were protesting a Canadian law that lets Muslim women vote in today’s municipal election wearing a burka. Tensions boiled over when a member of the anti-racism group pulled down a bandana covering the face of a member of the Aryan Guard.

This incident intrigued me, not only because of my research on white supremacists, but also the issue of the burka and what Ghassan Hage has written about as

“the function of the hand in the execution of nationalist practices” (White Nation, 2000, Ch.1).

Hage writes that the tearing off of scarfs, or hijabs, is one of the most commonly reported acts of harassment directed at Arab and Muslim Australians, according to the National Inquiry into Racist Violence in Australia. Hage’s focus in the rest of that chapter, and throughout the book (which I highly recommend), is that “the hand,” pulling off the scarf, is part of a nationalist (rather than racist) practice in support of a “fantasy” of a white nation in the face of a multicultural society. Part of what intrigued me about the story from Canada reported above is that it flips this, and here, “the hand” is deployed by the anti-racist protestors to remove the masks of the Aryans and disrupt their disguise.

Racism in Education: High School, College Roundup

More evidence that racism is alive and well in the North, in urban areas, and not something exclusively in the distant, Southern, rural past appeared in the New York Times today:

The police and city education officials said yesterday that they were investigating the appearance of a racial slur on a bench that was to be used by a Harlem high school football team at a game on Saturday at Staten Island Technical High School. Besides trying to determine who was responsible for the slur, school investigators were looking into the response of Staten Island Tech faculty members, said Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. The coach of the Harlem team, sponsored by Wadleigh High School, accused two Staten Island Tech faculty members of trying to trivialize the incident.

And, for the national view on higher ed racism, Vox Ex Machina is keeping a running tally of the College Racism Roundup.

What seems clear from the both the details of the Staten Island incident in which faculty members were reportedly trying to trivialize the incident, and the pervasiveness of the racism chronicled over at Vox ex Machina, is that the academy itself is racist.

Documentary Film & Video for Teaching and Learning about Racism

I’ve been writing and thinking about the potential of digital video at places like YouTube for subverting dominant, controlling images over at my personal blog, Thinking at the Interface. I also use a lot of documentary films and videos in my teaching. I’ve been experimenting with how to include digital video here at Racism Review. Originally, I’d wanted to include a separate video blog here, but the blogging software won’t allow me to do that (and I don’t have the coding chops to hack the software and bend it to my will). So, I’m just going to do what everyone else does, and periodically include a digital video here (via YouTube) as I run across them. And, on the additional page called “Videos” linked above, I’ll keep a list of documentary films and videos that are useful for teaching and learning about racism. I’ve got a few up there now as a preliminary list. If you’ve got a title, please drop a comment here and I’ll add it to the list.

Anti-Semitism Uptown

More nastiness coming out of Columbia University. Earlier this week, the noose, and now this reported in the New York Sun today:

Anti-Semitic vandalism was found in a bathroom at a Columbia University building yesterday, two days after a noose was found hanging on a black professor’s office, university and police officials said.

Peter Awn, a comparative religion scholar and Dean of General Studies at Columbia “distressing” in an e-mail to students yesterday.

“These kinds of hateful crimes directed against the Jewish community or any other individuals or groups will not be tolerated.”

I couldn’t agree more with Professor Awn’s statement. And, yet, can’t resist the opportunity to point out what a problematic word “tolerated” is. If we follow the semantic path set out here, we end up arguing for “no tolerance for intolerance.” We need new ways of talking about what it means to be “against” racism and anti-Semitism.

“Free the Jena Six” Shirts Banned From Schools

<P>After the recent highly racialized events in Jena, Louisiana, high school and college students around the United States have shown their support for the black students in Jena by wearing various “Free the Jena Six” t-shirts. Although this is seen as innocent by some, school officials at several schools around the country have viewed the shirts as “disruptive” and as potentially causing conflict on their campuses. Thus, in late August a group of Jena High School students were banned by Jena High School from wearing to school shirts that voice support for the six accused students. According to an MSNBC Report, Roy Breithaupt, the local school superintendent, banned the shirts, stating that the slogan on the shirts might cause school problems.

Other schools around the country are following a similar path in not allowing students to wear the Jena-support shirts to school. Recently, a student in Tennessee was not allowed to enter the school while wearing her “Free the Jena Six” shirt. According to a school administrator, the shirt could “cause a problem.” It is important to mention in both of these cases, there are no standard uniforms to be worn to these schools. The Tennessee student is currently in the process of appealing this decision.�

More Nooses and Vows to Fight Racism at Columbia

The New York Daily News is reporting on another noose incident, this one from a Brooklyn Detective. This is from John Marzulli’s article (linked above):

A Brooklyn detective says he found a noose hanging over his locker at an Emergency Service Unit squad – which some cops allegedly call the “Slave Ship” because of the large number of black officers assigned there. Gregory Anderson, 45, a former Marine who served in Operation Desert Storm, has filed a federal suit claiming he was run out of the unit after he complained about racial discrimination at Squad 8 in Williamsburg. Anderson, a 14-year veteran, claims his partner, who also is black, was called a “n—–” by a white cop. Anderson also says he was denied overtime tours because of his race.

Uptown at Teacher’s College, the professor who was the target of the noose incident, Professor Madonna Constantine, spoke at a rally of approximately 200, and is quoted in the New York Sun today:

“Hanging the noose on my door reeks of cowardice and fear on many, many levels,” Ms. Constantine said at the protest yesterday, drawing cheers from the crowd. “I would like the perpetrator to know I will not be silent.”

And, as the NYPost and the Gothamist there are some reports that the police are including another faculty member in their list of possible suspects, which would be surprising and disappointing (though perhaps not surprising to those familiar with vituperative academic politics). No matter who it turns out to be the perpetrator, it doesn’t diminish the fact that the noose – like the burning cross – is a particular kind of speech act being used here to invoke racial terrorism.

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A Spate of Noose Incidents

I’m still involved in a marathon of faculty meetings, classes, and student conferences that promises to continue for several more hours, but am taking a short break to post a link to this link to Mike Nizza’s post on The Lede, his New York Times-sponsored blog. Nizza does a nice job of bringing in two of my favorite sources on hate crimes-related stories, the Southern Poverty Law Center (where I did my dissertation research) and Brian Levin at UC-San Bernardino, whom I met a couple of years ago at a conference here in New York sponsored by the ADL. Here’s a selection from Nizza, after referring to the nooses hung in the Jena 6 case, he writes:

“In addition to other racially charged incidents, an article in USA Today noticed nooses in almost a dozen recent news reports. The Lede tracked down a bunch of them: At a Home Depot store in South Elgin, Ill.; on the campus of the University of Maryland; in a police-station locker room in Hempstead, N.Y.; at two Coast Guard facilities; at high schools in North Carolina and South Carolina; and at least two cases of nooses with black dolls in Pittsburgh.

Initial reports on yet another noose incident may be linked to an academic dispute. A noose was found hanging on the door of a black professor at Teachers College, part of Columbia University, our colleagues at The City Room report.”

He then goes on to reference Mark Potok’s (of SPLC) assessment that there are typically around five (5) “noose incidents” a year, then quotes Levin as saying:

“Copycat offenses are most often committed by men under 22 who are bored or drunk and looking for attention…”

And, I’m guessing that’s the case at Teacher’s College. Nizza concludes with this:

Whatever their motives, this much is clear: in the wake of the Jena Six case, when nooses ignited a town and then a nation, officials are not suffering noose incidents gladly.

And, while it’s true that “officials are not suffering noose incidents gladly,” the real story here is that the students and other faculty at Teacher’s College are not standing for this. Indeed, as Seattle in Texas suggested here awhile back, students staged a walk out today from classes in protest. That should be the lede.

NYC Ivy League Noose

I’m dashing off to a long day of teaching and faculty meetings, so really only have time to alert readers to this story from here in New York City. It seems that the “noose,” as a symbol of racial terror is making a comeback beyond Jena. Reports are, it’s been used at the Ivy League Columbia University Teacher’s College. Here’s the story as local news channel NY1 is reporting it this morning:

Columbia University Officials, NYPD Investigate Noose Incident

School officials and the NYPD are investigating a possible bias crime at Columbia University after a noose was found hanging from the door of an African American professor at the Teacher’s College Tuesday afternoon.

University officials say they are outraged.

“All we learn in class is how to be multicultural, how to be understanding, how not to do things like this,” said one Columbia student.

“I can’t believe it. Especially in light of the whole Jena 6 thing going on, I wouldn’t expect it to go down here,” added another.

“I think it is just a reflection of what’s happening today in America. There is a race problem in the 21st century,” added a third.

“I think it is very tragic that it happened, but I think it is a very good launching point to start discussing some very serious issues that occur in the university,” added a fourth.

Students learned about the incident through a school-wide email from Teachers School President Susan Fuhrman, in which she says: “The Teacher’s College community and I deplore this hateful act, which violates every Teacher’s College and societal norm.”

Police have no suspects in the case.

I will have more to say about this later, but for now, let me just say that all those people who were talking about how racial politics haven’t changed “down South” need to re-examine the Northern flavor of white racism. Looks pretty similar from where I sit.