The Problem With Latinidad

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science, United States on 2019-09-18 01:03Z by Steven

The Problem With Latinidad

The Nation
2019-09-16

Miguel Salazar

A growing community of young, black, and indigenous people are questioning the very identity underpinning Hispanic Heritage Month.

Every September 15, a flurry of independence days across Central America—in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—kicks off National Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration of Latin culture that lasts through mid-October. For Latin Americans and their descendants, the month is a time to celebrate shared cultures and customs across nationalities. For others in the United States, it provides an opportunity to educate Americans about a growing demographic that, like most minorities, has long been relegated to the margins of US history and, over the past half-century, has worn many hats—“Latin American,” “Hispanic,” “Latino,” and most recently, “Latinx.” Now, however, a growing number of writers, activists, and academics are questioning the very underpinnings of this common identity, an idea known as Latinidad (loosely translated as “Latino-ness”).

Historically, the forging of this ethnic identity has been understood as a necessity in the face of white supremacy and anti-Mexican Juan Crow laws. In response to recent events, it’s been useful for raising awareness of migrant family separations, Washington’s insistence on militarizing borders in Mexico and Central America, and mass shooters warning of a “Hispanic invasion” of the United States. Even so, its most vocal critics, who are often young and black or indigenous, have not minced words in their critique of what they see as an exclusionary identity fabricated by—and for the benefit of—white and mestizo elites and the American political class.

I spoke about the recent rejection of Latinidad with the journalists, organizers, and thinkers at the forefront of this conversation. We talked about what determines who is allowed to claim the term, what purpose it serves, and whether the identity is useful as a category anymore…

Read the entire interview here.

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Why Colin Kaepernick Matters So Much

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2017-11-04 19:34Z by Steven

Why Colin Kaepernick Matters So Much

The Nation
2017-11-03

Dave Zirin


Colin Kaepernick on December 24, 2016. (Robert Hanashiro / USA Today via Reuters)

Why has he become a symbol of hope and resistance? It’s complicated.

Some legends are told
Some turn to dust or to gold
But you will remember me
Remember me, for centuries

Last night, my eighth-grader daughter went to see the band Fall Out Boy in concert—no comments on a 13-year-old’s musical tastes, or I will smite you. Behind the band, as they played their hit song “Centuries,” was a massive flat-screen image of Colin Kaepernick.

It’s remarkable to think that just two years ago, when Kaepernick turned 28, he was in the middle of his worst season as a pro, injured and only playing nine games, with his team exploring trade options even though he was just two and a half years removed from being a play away from leading his team to a Super Bowl. (It’s worth noting that even his worst season involved his having a quarterback rating higher than 13 players who have started for teams this season.)

On the day of his 30th birthday, it’s time to retire questions like, “Why does he deserve a spot on a roster?” If you’re still asking that, then I doubt you’ve read this far, but I’ll just say that Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Cam Newton—winners of four of the last seven NFL MVP awards—think he should be on a team, and if you want to disagree with them, have at it…

Read the entire article here.

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The NFL’s War Against Colin Kaepernick

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Justice, United States on 2017-06-09 01:19Z by Steven

The NFL’s War Against Colin Kaepernick

The Nation
2017-06-08

Dave Zirin


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick after a victory against the Rams in Los Angeles, California, on December 24, 2016. (Robert Hanashiro, USA Today via Reuters)

Leading media members are carrying on a disinformation campaign against the greatest political lightning rod in sports.

We have heard a farcical parade of excuses by NFL owners and executives for why free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unemployed. “He’s not 100 percent committed.” “He’s more concerned with activism.” “He’s a distraction.” “He will only sign with a team if he starts.” “He wants too much money.” Even, “I am concerned about his conditioning now that he is now a vegetarian” (Real NFL players, if you haven’t heard, floss their teeth with steak gristle and drink testosterone shakes drained fresh from a bull’s balls.)

Their foot-massagers in the media—especially much of the team at Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback page at Sports Illustrated—have dutifully repeated these assertions with metronomic regularity.

Yet as each of these claims has been debunked by journalists actually communicating with Kaepernick and his people, they all continue to be reiterated. In other words, what is happening is a cycle of disinformation, carried out by media members who might as well wear the NFL brand tattooed on the small of their backs…

…The truth is ugly as sin. The NFL is denying Colin Kaepernick employment not because he isn’t “good enough” but because he is being shut out for the crime of using his platform to protest the killing of black kids by police. This makes the league’s right-wing billionaire owners’ silk boxers bunch up…

…Kaepernick’s pariah status is about sending a shot across the bow at every political athlete—particularly black athletes—that they better toe the line. The owners are again sending the message—just like when they tried to “influence” research on the effects of brain injuries in the sport—that the lives of players simply do not matter to the National Football League

Read the entire article here.

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The classifications that we claim to derive from nature and then ascribe to people and groups are confining to any human spirit: We are all injured by racism.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-09-18 22:27Z by Steven

To begin to undo the work of racecraft is to insist on the subjective—on one’s own individuality, and that of all others. After all, racism’s most insidious wounds are not of policy, economics, or even life and limb, though those do of course hurt, but of the psyche. The classifications that we claim to derive from nature and then ascribe to people and groups are confining to any human spirit: We are all injured by racism. So in that way, calling for the end of white supremacy necessitates calling for the end of whiteness itself, which, thankfully, might be well understood nowadays. In the fullness of time, we may also come to understand, in a life-giving manner, that the end of whiteness must also mean the end of blackness, brownness, and any other colorness.

Matthew McKnight, “Black as We Wanna Be,” The Nation, September 15, 2016. https://www.thenation.com/article/black-as-we-wanna-be/.

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Black as We Wanna Be

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, United States on 2016-09-18 17:45Z by Steven

Black as We Wanna Be

The Nation
2016-09-15

Matthew McKnight, Assistant Literary Editor


Frederick Douglass, February 21, 1895. (National Park Service, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, Washington, DC)

Stauffer, John, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier, Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (New York: Liveright, 2015)

Fields, Karen E., and Barbara J. Fields, Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (Brooklyn: Verso, 2012)

Trying to remedy racism on its own intellectual terrain is like trying to extinguish a fire by striking another match. The fiction must be unbelieved, the fire stamped out.

In her 2003 book Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag explored some questions about the ever-evolving technology of photography and what it does to us, particularly when it’s used to capture moments that would normally make us avert our eyes. “Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order,” Sontag wrote, “are those who could do something to alleviate it—say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken—or those who could learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be.” Sontag spends much of the book discussing war photography; scant pages mention images and cruelties closer to home.

In the modern American context, there remains perhaps no more insidious cruelty than the belief—constantly manipulated and reinforced—that race is a natural and constant thing, something that should have any bearing on how we choose to organize our society and our lives. And though the convergence of racism and the photographic impulse isn’t new, the recent pictures and videos of killings by police officers have given renewed life to the questions that Sontag explored—and those she didn’t. Indeed, these images raise fewer questions about the act of looking at them than about the ways in which we view ourselves.

To modern eyes, the photographic portraits of Frederick Douglass are not so remarkable. Douglass was almost always photographed seated, wearing a dark suit, alternately staring directly into the camera and looking off to one side. As he abided by the portrait conventions of the era, only his skin color would have made these portraits remarkable in Douglass’s own time. The real joy of Picturing Frederick Douglass (2015)—a collection of 60 portraits, taken between 1841 and 1895; his four speeches on his theory of photography; and a critical essay by Henry Louis Gates Jr.—is to study his constancy. The changes in Douglass’s facial expressions across all of the portraits are mostly imperceptible: He looks serious, defiant, and proud.

The final portrait of Douglass was taken on February 21, 1895. He’d died the day before. That image shows him lying on his bed in Washington, DC. It is mostly a spectral gray-white. His hair and beard, his clothes, the bed linens, and the wall in the background all appear to be about the same color. There’s a faint outline of his profile, and with his hands crossed over his abdomen, he looks as dignified as ever…

Read the entire article here.

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Like Dalmia, I self-identify as belonging to more than one culture. I have fought for at least a decade with newspapers about how my national and ethnic origins should be described.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-08-25 16:06Z by Steven

Like [Shikha] Dalmia, I self-identify as belonging to more than one culture. I have fought for at least a decade with newspapers about how my national and ethnic origins should be described. I reject the hyphen (the term “hyphenated identity” was first struck by Horace Kallen in his 1915 essay “Democracy Versus the Melting Pot”), which looks far too much like a minus sign to me: black minus British, Irish minus American. Always, I ask to be described as British and Sierra Leonean. I did this after many years of being described in various ways: British-born Sierra Leonean, British of Sierra Leonean origin, or—erasing my Scots mother from the picture altogether—simply as Sierra Leonean. (Notably, never have I been described by British papers as Scottish.) But I am both. I belong to both worlds; not just culturally but physically, I move between them. I have family in both, own property in both, have paid taxes in both. I now live in the United States, where I also pay taxes. As a so-called transnational, I belong to a growing class of people.

Aminatta Forna, “Your Nationalism Can’t Contain Me,” The Nation, August 25, 2015. https://www.thenation.com/article/your-nationalism-cant-contain-me.

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Your Nationalism Can’t Contain Me

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2016-08-25 15:53Z by Steven

Your Nationalism Can’t Contain Me

The Nation
2016-08-25

Aminatta Forna


Aminatta Forna. Photo and Illustration by Jonathan Ring.

I’ve held three passports and claimed many identities, all at once. I am the future of citizenship.

Those of us who call ourselves British and were of age in 1990 will remember the Conservative politician Norman Tebbit and his so-called “cricket test.” Immigrants from India, Pakistan, and the West Indies, said Tebbit, should support teams from Britain and not from their countries of origin or ancestry. Anyone who didn’t shouldn’t consider themselves British. “Which side do they cheer for?” Tebbit asked. “It’s an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?”

I was reminded of Tebbit’s test on a recent visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The hotel bartender, hearing my accent, told me his favorite soccer team was Manchester United. I know little about soccer, but enough to know that Manchester United is a Premier League club, possibly the Premier League club, and attracts a global following—659 million fans, according to data provided by a market-research company hired by the team. The company reckoned there were 108 million Man U fans in China, 35 million in India, 33 million in Nigeria. Many treated the overall figure with skepticism, but nobody doubted that a soccer club based in a northern English city had achieved a massive international fan base. The young bartender was from Mexico, an immigrant to the United States, and had never been to Britain. I asked him why he supported the team, and he said he was a big fan of Wayne Rooney. He admitted, though, that a friend had recently been talking to him about another British team, Aston Villa, and he was thinking that he might switch allegiance…

…Way back, tribes were key to survival. Humans joined into groups, pooled labor, shared care of their offspring, protected each other from wild animals and from rival tribes. Tribes were about resources—maximizing, protecting, sharing. You were a member of your tribe by birthright, typically by being born to other members of the tribe and in the tribal lands. But when it was beneficial, the tribe welcomed more people in; at other times, it might decide that limiting membership was in its best interests. The Jim Crow “one drop” rule, by which a person’s race (in this case, read “tribe”) was determined according to whether they possessed a single drop of African blood, is a case in point…

…Anxieties about shared loyalties continue to vex, even concerning those not suspected of international terrorism. Writing in The Week in January 2015, the columnist and Reason Foundation researcher Shikha Dalmia said: “Today, a new twist on this old worry has emerged. It concerns so-called transnational immigrants like me who like to maintain what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose parents are Indian émigrés, last week derisively called ‘hyphenated identities.’ If you want to be Indian, stay in India, advised Jindal, who himself gave up Hinduism, the religion of his birth, and embraced Christianity.”

Like Dalmia, I self-identify as belonging to more than one culture. I have fought for at least a decade with newspapers about how my national and ethnic origins should be described. I reject the hyphen (the term “hyphenated identity” was first struck by Horace Kallen in his 1915 essay “Democracy Versus the Melting Pot”), which looks far too much like a minus sign to me: black minus British, Irish minus American. Always, I ask to be described as British and Sierra Leonean. I did this after many years of being described in various ways: British-born Sierra Leonean, British of Sierra Leonean origin, or—erasing my Scots mother from the picture altogether—simply as Sierra Leonean. (Notably, never have I been described by British papers as Scottish.) But I am both. I belong to both worlds; not just culturally but physically, I move between them. I have family in both, own property in both, have paid taxes in both. I now live in the United States, where I also pay taxes. As a so-called transnational, I belong to a growing class of people…

Read the entire article here.

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Across the Border

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2016-07-22 14:40Z by Steven

Across the Border

The Nation
2016-07-21

Michael A. Elliott, Professor of English
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia


William Henry Ellis, (Photo courtesy of Fanny Johnson-Griffin)

A new biography of William Henry Ellis reminds us how much we still don’t know about the elusive history of racial subterfuge in America.

When, in 1912, James Weldon Johnson published his sly and searching novel of racial passing, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, he did so anonymously, leaving readers to assume it was a factual account of a light-skinned African American crossing the color line to travel in the world of whiteness. In the aftermath of its publication, Johnson took pleasure in listening to others puzzle over its authorship. He even had “the rarer experience,” as he later described it, of being introduced to someone else claiming to have written the book. The story, it seems, was too good not to be true.

In the long era of Jim Crow, fact could be as strange, if not stranger, than fiction. At precisely the same moment that Johnson was enjoying his literary ruse, a fellow New Yorker calling himself Guillermo Enrique Eliseo was frantically trying to keep his financial interests in Mexico afloat as that country convulsed under wave after wave of political revolt. With each new regime, the businessman sought to curry favor and press for new investment opportunities, but the changes were so rapid that he struggled to find the proper currency in which to pay his taxes. Many of those who knew Eliseo presumed him to be a Mexican from near the US border (though others thought he was Cuban, or even Hawaiian), a well-traveled gentleman active in Latin America’s quest for modernization.

Had Johnson known Eliseo, he might have nodded in recognition. Eliseo had been born as an African-American slave on a South Texas cotton plantation in 1864, just as the entire social order of the region was being transformed by the conclusion of the Civil War. Over the course of a lifetime, Eliseo—or, as he was more commonly known, William Henry Ellis—built both elaborate fictions and an impressive network of business interests that spanned North America and beyond. His biography is the subject of a new book by historian Karl Jacoby, with a title that gives away its story: The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire. Ellis’s life and Jacoby’s reconstruction of it remind us how much we still don’t know about the elusive history of racial subterfuge in America…

Read the entire article here.

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Jump at de Sun

Posted in Articles, Biography, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-05-09 01:33Z by Steven

Jump at de Sun

The Nation
2003-01-30

Kristal Brent Zook

Anthropologist, novelist, folklorist, essayist and luminary of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston dazzled her peers and patrons almost immediately upon her arrival in New York City in 1925, when she made a show-stopping grand entrance at a formal literary affair, flinging a red scarf around her neck and stopping all conversation with her animated storytelling and antics. “I would like to know her,” declared Langston Hughes. She had a “blazing zest for life,” opined celebrity writer Fannie Hurst. Annie Nathan Meyer, a founder of Barnard College, did them one better: She promptly offered Hurston entrance into Columbia University’s sister college, making her the first black student to attend Barnard.

Over the course of her life, Hurston would publish several dozen essays, short stories and poems, and seven books, including her notoriously deceptive (some would say ingeniously “dissembling”) autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road. Nine more books–essays, folklore, short stories and a play–would appear in print posthumously, following Alice Walker’s “rediscovery” of Hurston in the 1970s. According to Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters and a professor at the University of Southern California, this resurrection of the long-forgotten writer has yielded over 800 more books (including sixteen for children), articles, chapters, dissertations, reference guides and biographical essays about Hurston over the past three decades. That some 2,000 spectators showed up at Central Park last summer for a reading of her work is further evidence that Zora mania continues to be in full swing….

…On the other hand (and herein lies the rub), Hurston also believed that “all clumps of people turn out to be individuals on close inspection,” and that “black skunks are just as natural as white ones.” And she had absolutely no tolerance for the suffering protest narratives such as those offered up by novelist (and nemesis) Richard Wright. But “can the black poet sing a song to the morning?” she demanded in a 1938 essay. No, she laments, answering her own question. “The one subject for a Negro is the Race and its sufferings and so the song of the morning must be chocked back. I will write of a lynching instead.”

And there are other troubling inconsistencies. Those of us of racially mixed parentage, for example, might wonder whether we would have qualified for Hurston’s affection as “authentic” black folk. That she placed a premium on “pure” Negroness was apparent in her attacks on colorist prejudice among the light-skinned black elite (W.E.B. Du Bois was not well-loved by Hurston for his championing of the talented tenth); her disparaging remarks about “a crowd of white Negroes” on their way to Russia to make a movie about black America who had never been “south of the Mason-Dixon line”; and her “color-conscious casting” of an “authentic” Negro concert with “no mulattoes at all.” (Godmother Mason was also pleased by this banning of the “diluted ones.”)

She was a black nationalist, say some. Indeed, her complicated opposition to Brown v. Board of Education flew in the face of everything the “race leaders” of her time fought and died for. Though she was not a segregationist, Hurston found the assumption of Negro inferiority deeply insulting, according to both Boyd and Kaplan. “It is a contradiction,” as Hurston put it, “to scream race pride and equality while…spurning Negro teachers and self-association.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Thank You, Melissa Harris-Perry

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2016-03-01 01:42Z by Steven

Thank You, Melissa Harris-Perry

The Nation
2016-02-29

Dave Zirin


Melissa Harris-Perry (You Tube)

The most diverse, intellectually bracing show on network news was treated as expendable, and its host would not have it. She and her show will be sorely missed.

This weekend, a show that mattered to its audience as few programs on the vanilla ice-milk buffet that passes for news do, The Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC, was canceled, and it’s a tragic as well as angering turn of events. “Ties were severed,” as an MSNBC executive put it, after Melissa, who I am proud to count as a colleague, sent an email to her staff explaining why she would not be hosting her show this past weekend after several weeks of having the program pre-empted for election coverage. The “scorching” email, now public, is being cherry-picked in articles, particularly the part where Melissa wrote, “I will not be used as a tool for their purposes. I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head.”…

Read the entire article here.

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