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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White people have difficulty recognizing our emotions, but we can recognize white people’s emotions.

From the updated post White people are different from people:

In fact, group status may moderate cross-cultural emotion recognition accuracy (see Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002a; and Wolfgang & Cohen, 1988, for a discussion). For example, members of minority cultural groups may recognize emotion expressions displayed by individuals of the majority cultural group more efficiently than members of the majority can in return recognize expressions of the minority group (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002a). Furthermore, in some cases, an out-group advantage occurs such that members of minority groups recognize the majority’s emotion expressions better than they recognize their own (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002a). For instance, Asian Canadians have been shown to be more accurate when judging intense emotions displayed by Caucasian compared to Asian expressers (Bourgeois, Herrera, & Hess, 2005).


Related post:

Where in Asia should they build an xkcd school?

A portion of the profits from xkcd: volume 0 will be donated to three literacy projects in Asia: building a School Room (pre-school); building a Reading Room (library); and funding a Local Language Publishing Program. The charity Room to Read is now polling the public to decide where in Asia these three projects should take place.

The School Room (pre-school) will be built in Sri Lanka, but the four regions to decide between are: Nuwara Eliya, Moneragala District, Mannar District, and Matale District.

The Reading Room will be built in either Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, or Nepal.

The Local Language Publishing Program will in either Laos, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, or Cambodia.

How do you decide which locations to vote for? Are you connected to any of these regions?

The deadline is May 17th, 2010 at noon EST. Vote here: How Should We Donate $53,000 of xkcd Book Profits?

White people lack empathy for brown people, brain research shows.

New research from the University of Toronto-Scarborough shows that white people’s mirror-neuron-system fires much less, if at all, when they watch people of colour performing motor tasks, and I’m not at all surprised. For years, I just assumed that this was true, and that someone just had to do a study to prove it.

After the United States invaded Iraq and massacred tens of thousands of Iraqis, worldwide terrorist recruitment skyrocketed, as well as terrorist attacks targetting the U.S. and coalition countries. Terrorist leaders cited the Iraq invasion and the deaths of Iraqis as the reason for the attacks. However, White Americans did not buy it, believing it to be a smokescreen for some other reason. It must be Islam, they reasoned, as they grasped at straws.

I then realized that the vast majority of White Americans could not empathize with brown people at a very basic level. For most White Americans, the death and violence of thousands of brown bodies was just part of some abstract ethical argument to position oneself as morally superior to the United States. For most White Americans, brown people dying just meant flickers on the television screen about something happening far away. They didn’t feel the overwhelming anger and sadness they would normally feel when someone they know dies without reason. They couldn’t see the full reality of what death means, when the people who die are brown.

I have seen white people complain online that they cannot see the facial expressions of (East) Asian faces. For many white people, East Asians are like emotionless robots who are efficient at machine-like things like number crunching. Some white people argue that while East Asians may be able to play musical instruments beautifully, they play music without soul.

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Black Coolness is higher-status than Asian Dorkiness.

''Power to the people. Black power to black people. Yellow power to yellow people.''The Racialicious post, Talking About The Things We Do To Each Other, is an important intra-POC conversation about tensions between black people and (East) Asian people (or rather between non-Asian black people and non-black Asian people). This is an incredibly complex topic, and I will have to respond to this issue through multiple posts.

Firstly, however, I must strongly disagree with Thea Lim’s characterization of East Asians:

I had a long convo with my friend L about this last week, where he said that East Asian students always gravitate towards white students, whereas African American students will usually stick together. The more we talked about it, the more I realised that he thought East Asian students do that because they aspire to whiteness, and because they can – economic privilege or light skin privilege allows them to do so. I was surprised to realise that he didn’t get it – East Asian students gravitate towards white students as a means of protection from the particular kind of racism that East Asians experience; where they are always made to feel as if they are from somewhere else.

Not only does this not apply to me as a (non-black) Chinese Canadian, but this whole situation does not apply to the schools I attended growing up. Perhaps it is a class difference and/or regional demographic difference, but the situation that Thea describes would be impossible at the public schools I attended.

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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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Canada is multicultural, not anti-racist.

Mollena sells actual RACE Cards (TM) to play. (Photo by Colm McCarthy)Canada is an officially multicultural country, but multiculturalism does not address racism.

The Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Institution shows six stages from being a monocultural institution to becoming an anti-racist multicultural institution. Canada appears to be at Stage Three:

3. Symbolic Change: A Multicultural Institution

  • Makes official policy pronouncements regarding Multicultural diversity
  • Sees itself as “non-racist” institution with open doors to People of Color
  • Carries out intentional inclusiveness efforts, recruiting “someone of color” on committees or office staff
  • Expanding view of diversity includes other socially oppressed groups

But…

  • “Not those who make waves”
  • Little or no contextual change in culture, policies, and decision making
  • Is still relatively unaware of continuing patterns of privilege, paternalism and control

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