We cannot name ourselves without Othering ourselves in the White Gaze.

In Bad Romance: Feminism and women of colour make an unhappy pair, Sana Saeed writes:

“Women of colour” beautifully illustrates the exact problem I discovered with feminism, as a woman who did not fit the mainstream criteria for being just a Woman. As a “woman of colour,” I am not just a Woman. I am a woman with a little something extra; there is a difference struck between women like me and white women. There is no Woman. There are no Women. There are two groups: women and “women of colour.” This tidily, and unfortunately, translates into the “us” and “them” categorization.

Because this distinction is made and has been proudly appropriated by “women of colour” without much criticism, this presumption that the white woman’s identity is a sort of “foundational” identity for all women is prevalent within feminism.

According to Loretta Ross, however, the term “women of color” was coined in 1977 among some black and other “minority” women in Washington, DC as “a solidarity definition, a commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed women of color who have been ‘minoritized’.” Ross says, “Unfortunately, so many times, people of color hear the term ‘people of color’ from other white people that [PoCs} think white people created it instead of understanding that we self-named ourselves.”

However, regardless of its history, Sana makes a salient point: the term “woman of colour” suggests “a woman with a little something extra”, which implies that whiteness is the default.

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Commercials conflate whiteness with modernity.

In Romanticizing Ancient Chinese Wisdom at Sociological Images, Lisa Wade writes:

This 40-second commercial for HSBC bank, sent in by Michelle F., is an excellent example of the way that non-white and non-Western people are often portrayed as more deeply cultural, connected to the past, and closer to nature than their white, Western counterparts. Sometimes this is done in order to demonize a culture as “barbaric,” other times it is used to infantilize them as “primitive.” In this case, it romanticizes.

[…]

Running on both English and Chinese language channels, the commercial contrasts the wise Chinese man with the young, white man. The music, the boats, their clothing and hats, and their fishing methods all suggest that the Chinese are more connected to their own long-standing (ancient?) cultural traditions, ones that offered them an intimate and cooperative relationship to nature. Simultaneously, it erases Chinese modernity, fixing China somewhere back in time.

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White culture rejects the agency of Asian women.

White culture humanizes white women more than Asian women. Racist stereotypes about the alleged submissiveness of Asian women convince even white women that Asian women lack agency. While most white women recognize the paternalism of a government deciding that women are incapable of exercising our personal choices responsibly, most white women think of Asian women in this way. According to most white women, Asian women need to be rescued from our own follies through the interventions of benevolent white folk.

White history teaches white people that white culture is the pinnacle of civilization. Because of this, most white people assume that social justice can only originate from white people, and that it must be taught by white people to brown people in order to achieve worldwide equality. Even white liberals have this colonial mentality and attempt to “civilize” brown people in other countries or at home. Unconscious white supremacist beliefs are so entrenched that most white feminists simply assume that gender equality must have originated from white imagination, when the history of North American feminism can be traced to Iroquois culture. The idea that white culture is not the most socially advanced is unimaginable to the vast majority of white people.

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Québec wants to make niqabi women illegal.

The creeping racism and eroding of civil liberties of Arizona makes me worry about the Quebec Provincial Bill 94 to exclude niqabi women from social services, employment, health, and education.

If you are Canadian and if you are not, you can take action against Bill 94. If you are emailing or writing to a government official, you can make use of the Non/No Bill 94 Coalition Statement.

Update: There is a Sample No Bill 94 Letter to Premiere Jean Charest

Multiculturalism displaces anti-racism, upholds white supremacy.

Dr. Sunera Thobani, of the University of British Columbia, criticizes the discourse of multiculturalism in Canada (transcript):

I think multiculturalism has been a very effective way of silencing anti-racist politics in this country. Multiculturalism has allowed for certain communities—people of colour—to be constructed as cultural communities. Their culture is defined in very Orientalist and colonial ways—as static, they will always be that, they have always been that. And culture has now become the only space from which people of colour can actually have participation in national political life; it’s through this discourse of multiculturalism. And what it has done very successfully is it has displaced an anti-racist discourse.

You know, I teach and I have young students of colour, they come, and they completely bought into this multiculturalism ideology. They have no language to talk about racism. They know that if they talk about racism, they will get attacked.

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Auto-exoticism is Asians performing Chinese New Year for a non-Asian classroom.

Once a year, dmp and her mom performed Chinese New Year for her 98% non-Asian elementary class. Afterward, she went to her grandparents’ house and celebrated Têt, the real New Year’s.

dmp writes:

I learned a new word today. Auto-exoticism (n.): the idea in which the minority culture accepts and internalizes perceptions of itself from the dominant culture. It is performance intended for consumption, it is a sign given to minorities to express their minority status. It is touting Chinese take-out (that isn’t really Chinese) over your family’s home cooking and tossing around fortune cookies (and those weren’t actually Chinese either) and associating yourself with being “Chinese” (even though you aren’t) because it made you more understandable, and calling your family’s most important holiday Chinese New Year because it’s a catch-phrase that everyone understands.

Link: At Home We Called it Têt

(via Who I am When I’m (not) With You)

The Orientalist Riff is an example of white culture and tradition.

The typical white liberal assumes that non-white people have more “culture” than white people, and may express “envy” as an attempted compliment. Given that white liberals feel that they are denied access to the non-white culture which they “envy”, it is likely that their “envy” is directed at the imagined culture of non-whites, rather than culture (or loss of culture due to white cultural imperialism) as experienced by non-white people.

One example of the white-imagined culture of people of colour is the Oriental Riff, or rather, the Orientalist Riff:

AAAA, G-G, E-E, G.

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