We got diversity all wrong!!!

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Europe, Media Archive on 2017-04-01 01:48Z by Steven

We got diversity all wrong!!!

Dirty Movies: Your platform for thought-provoking cinema

Victor Fraga, Writer and Publisher
London, United Kingdom

Brigitte Mira and El Hedi ben Salem in Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

Liberals like myself like to embrace and demand diversity, but we often come up with flawed arguments; Fassbinder has taught me that this can backfire with catastrophic consequences – Victor Fraga reflects on the 1974 classic ‘Fear Eats the Soul‘, as the film reaches UK cinemas

Diversity is not as straight-forward as it seems. We liberals like to think that it is a mandatory requirement for a multicultural, modern and sophisticated society. Yet we often come up with arguments that only serve to perpetuate the most reactionary and short-sighted rhetoric. For example, during the Brexit debate, the discussion around immigrants was almost inevitably linked to their financial and social contribution, something along the lines: “EU citizens have been paying taxes for years, they don’t claim benefits, and so on”. This is a dangerous fallacy.

It’s as if our tolerance of foreigners was entirely contingent on money and, to a lesser extent, social functionality (“they are our nurses, our train drivers, etc”). We have thereby stripped tolerance of its fundamentally altruistic nature. It’s as if we suddenly decided that tolerance has nothing to do with kindness, hospitality or high-mindedness. I have learnt from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 classic Fear Eats the Soul (which is out in cinemas this weekend) that this is a very serious mistake with very pernicious ramifications. Tolerance founded upon economic/ vested interests will develop into an ulcer and kill…

Read the entire article here.

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Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand (review)

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-30 01:48Z by Steven

Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White by Michael Tisserand (review)

Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society
Volume 1, Issue 1, Spring 2017
pages 117-120

Christopher Jeansonne, University Fellow, Graduate Teaching Associate
Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy
Ohio State University

Michael Tisserand, Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White. Harper, 2016. 550 pp, $35.

Michael Tisserand’s Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White, a work of passion and sagacity, not only gives a comprehensive overview of Herriman’s oeuvre but insightfully situates it in personal and socio-cultural context. Krazy Kat is perhaps one of the most lauded newspaper comic strips of all time, and yet this is the first book-length biography of its creator. Nine years in the making, Tisserand’s book has been much anticipated by scholars and fans of the artist. As suggested by the double meaning of the title, Tisserand argues that an awareness of Herriman’s complex racial background is central to reading both Herriman’s life and his work. Herriman was listed as “col.” (or “colored”) on his New Orleans birth certificate and “Caucasian” on his California death certificate—and these two arbitrary classifications form the frame to Tisserand’s study.

Tisserand’s prose has a lively clarity learned from a career working extensively as a journalist, and this comprehensive biography will certainly be sought out by both academic and lay audiences interested in newspaper comics, or comics in general. As an exhaustive historical account of Herriman’s life, it will be an indispensable resource for scholars working in sequential art; thanks to Tisserand’s meticulous research, even those deeply familiar with Krazy Kat will cull new insights from the details he has unearthed. Perhaps most importantly, this comprehensive and nuanced account of Herriman’s life and work in parallel in a single volume reveals new depths to the “komplexities” of the Krazy Kat with whose challenges many of us thought we had already grappled.

Part 1, “Watta Woil,” opens with an account of the posthumous uncovering of Herriman’s ambiguous racial heritage by scholars in the 1970s, and the debates that ensued: How reliable was this information? To what degree was Herriman aware of his racially mixed background? What is the relevance of racial identity for understanding Herriman’s work? Tisserand ends the opening chapter with a question that resonates throughout the rest of the book: “Did this revelation, whatever it was, find its way into his wondrous comics? Is it a source of the wonder?” Tisserand then describes in detail the complicated web of Herriman’s mixed-race ancestry and the challenges his ancestors faced during the post-Civil War and Jim Crow eras; some of the most powerful moments in this section are provided by the concrete, personal, and tragic features of the racist and reactionary post-slavery Deep South. These challenges finally led to his parents’ decision to move to California and pass as white. Throughout the remainder of Part 1, we follow Herriman’s early life and schooling, and his budding interest in a life of drawing comics—opportunities, Tisserand notes, that he may not have had as a “colored” youth in the New Orleans of the time.

Part 2, “The Greek,” traces Herriman’s development as a professional cartoonist. For many hectic years he lived like a bi-coastal yo-yo, moving from Los Angeles to New York and back again as he switched jobs from newspaper to newspaper. He worked in the macho world of first-generation newspaper comics, with cartooning greats such as Tad Dorgan and Jimmy Swinnerton, building a name for himself with his inventive sports and political comics even as he struggled to find an audience for his numerous daily strip comic ideas. In this period Herriman’s work became increasingly concerned with social pretense, language, and mistaken or fluid identities, and central motifs such as minstrelsy began to take hold. While careful to note that “at times his comics did not rise above the ugly stereotypes of the day,” Tisserand also provides insightful readings of the ways Herriman was already challenging racism and complicating notions of racial identity even in his early comics (188). Particularly memorable are Tisserand’s passages on the “impussanations” from Herriman’s short-lived Musical Mose strip (in which a black musician poses as a Scotsman), and his cartoon coverage of interracial boxing matches, most notably…

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When saying you’re black and being black are two different things

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, Social Justice, United States on 2017-03-28 18:45Z by Steven

When saying you’re black and being black are two different things

The Washington Post

Baz Dreisinger, Associate Professor of English
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Rachel Dolezal faced a backlash when it was revealed in 2015 that the NAACP and Black Lives Matter activist was not black, as she presented herself to be, but in fact white. (Colin Mulvany/Associated Press)

Baz Dreisinger, a professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is the author of “Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture” and “Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World.”

Back in 2015, I was fascinated by the scandal that swirled around Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP and Black Lives Matter activist who turned out to be a once-blonde white woman from Montana passing herself off as black. Dolezal went further than that: She said she wasn’t posing as black but actually was black — because she feels black. I made the rounds on the talk shows at the time, having published a book about the cultural history of such reverse racial passing, and avidly tried to explain notions of transraciality.

Now Dolezal has published a memoir, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World.” I hesitated to review it. Expending intellectual energy on one woman’s racial hoax seems a luxury of the pre-Trump era. And Dolezal’s increasingly bizarre story seems more tabloid fodder than a subject for serious analysis. But then I read her book, and the educator in me felt compelled to speak out. Dolezal has written an important book, one that belongs on syllabi as a case study in the mechanisms of white liberal racism. She has provided a teachable moment to expose the dodgy ideologies she may not even realize she’s espousing…

Read the entire article here.

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The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts by Amber D. Moulton (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Law, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-25 22:36Z by Steven

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts by Amber D. Moulton (review)

Journal of the Early Republic
Volume 37, Number 1, Spring 2017
pages 183-185
DOI: 10.1353/jer.2017.0015

Terri L. Snyder, Professor of American Studies
California State University, Fullerton

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts. By Amber D. Moulton. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015. Pp. 288. Cloth, $45.00.)

In this sharply focused study, Amber D. Moulton examines the battle to overturn the Massachusetts statute banning interracial marriage, originally enacted in 1705 and repealed in 1843, and offers a penetrating analysis of early arguments over the right to marry. Each chapter critically foregrounds existing studies of miscegenation law, and the epilogue usefully links the legal histories of interracial and same-sex marriage. Long before Loving v. Virginia (1967) or Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), some antebellum activists in Massachusetts argued that marriage was a constitutional right and an essential element of social and political equality. The claim of equal rights alone did not carry the day, however. As Moulton demonstrates, the most persuasive arguments against the law were rooted in appeals to moral reform rather than in demands for racial civil rights.

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights is a skillful blend of legal history and lived experience. In her first chapter, Moulton offers a history of the ban and analyzes its consequences for interracial families. Colonial Massachusetts, following the lead of the slave societies of the Caribbean and the Chesapeake, banned interracial marriage in 1705. The statute was expanded in scope and severity in 1786 and remained in place until 1843, when it was overturned. Despite the legal prohibition against interracial unions, women and men of different races continued to marry in Massachusetts. The legal ban was clear-cut in theory, but interracial couples pursued varying strategies in their marriage practices. Some couples gained the protection of legal marriage when they wed outside of Massachusetts and returned to the colony or state as husband and wife. If partners could not be legally married, they established informal unions and protected children through carefully delineated inheritance strategies. Others shunned the law altogether. However, once an informally married interracial couple came to the attention of the courts—particularly when they or their children petitioned for support—their union could be voided and their children declared illegitimate. Class was a clear factor: The poorest couples were more at risk for having their claims to wedlock invalidated. Moreover, the official ban on interracial marriages sometimes existed in opposition to local culture. At least some interracial couples who attained middling status appear to have been accepted in their neighborhoods.

Subsequent chapters investigate the range of advocates who fought against the ban on interracial marriage. In some of the more fascinating examples in her study, Moulton investigates and highlights the transmission of activist aims in African American families. In 1837, for instance, African American activists made the right to interracial marriage a plank on their antislavery platform; some of these activists were either spouses in or children born to interracial unions. The study is also strong in its analysis of gender. Regardless of race, women activists who opposed the ban were charged with indecency. Some opponents claimed that political petitioning in support of interracial marriage—and the racial mixing it implied—was anathema to white femininity. However, some women activists countered that interracial marriage protected women. Marriage, they argued, was a bulwark against licentiousness (which could lead to promiscuity and prostitution), provided the security of patriarchal family structure, and offered official legitimacy for children of these unions as well.

Rather than claims of equal rights, then, the most persuasive arguments in overturning interracial marriage prohibitions in Massachusetts were rooted in the values of traditional marriage and gender roles, patriarchal ideologies and feminine duty, and the importance of Christian morality. At the same time, unforeseen events, such as the Latimer case, which aroused indignation over southern demands that Boston’s officials hunt fugitive slaves, galvanized public opinion in favor of overturning the law. Ultimately, prohibiting interracial marriage was viewed as immoral, unconstitutional, and unjust, as well as a uniquely southern encroachment on individual freedom from which northerners wanted to distance themselves. Despite its innovation, however, Massachusetts did not become a model for the nation: Twenty years after that state legalized interracial marriage, over…

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Identity Crisis

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Judaism, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Religion, United States on 2017-03-24 01:07Z by Steven

Identity Crisis

Washington Independent Review of Books

Helene Meyers, Professor of English
Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas

The “white Jewish” question posed in The Human Stain.

Emma Green of the Atlantic started a firestorm recently with the article “Are Jews White?” Taking for granted that Ashkenazi Jews have assimilated to whiteness, Green used the white Jewish question to wonder whether the rise of the so-called “alt-right” (read racist, misogynist white supremacists) is upending Jewish security in the U.S.

Green’s provocative title question caused quite a bit of tumult on Twitter. Predictably and understandably, Jews of color replied, with much amusement and some angst, “No.” Some white Jews responded, “No,” as well, citing anti-Semitism and/or Jewish distinctiveness. For once, this group agreed with the likes of David Duke, who tweeted in all caps “NO — JEWS ARE NOT WHITE.” Some white Jews and blacks unequivocally replied, “Yes,” citing white privilege as decisive.

While the answers to Green’s question from Jewish-American literature are all over the map, Philip Roth’s The Human Stain brilliantly depicts the continuing effects of “so arbitrary a designation as race” on those who choose or are assigned the off-whiteness of Jewishness…

Read the entire essay here.

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A Tale Which Must Never Be Told: A New Biography of George Herriman

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-19 14:32Z by Steven

A Tale Which Must Never Be Told: A New Biography of George Herriman

Los Angeles Review of Books

Ben Schwartz

George Herriman, a Life in Black and White
By Michael Tisserand

Published 12.06.2016
560 Pages

ON MARCH 4, 1913, Woodrow Wilson took the oath of office and became our 28th president. While we remember Wilson for his internationalist foreign policy and progressive labor laws, he was also the first Southerner elected since the mid-19th century, and his racial policies reflected it. Wilson saw Jim Crow as the necessary remedy to the aftermath of the Civil War. As president, he normalized his revanchist views from the White House by expanding segregation of federal workers. Not surprisingly, 1913 also saw a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. An excerpt from Wilson’s revisionist writings proclaiming the Klan “a veritable empire of the South” even appears in D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, a box-office smash which Wilson personally screened at the White House, the first American film ever shown there.

In that reactionary atmosphere, on October 28, 1913, in the New York Evening Journal, William Randolph Hearst debuted a new comic strip, Krazy Kat, by one of his favorite cartoonists, George Herriman. It starred Krazy, an androgynous cat in love with Ignatz, a brick-throwing, cat-chasing mouse. They lived in Coconino County, Arizona, desert mesa country, and Herriman shifted their backgrounds panel-by-panel — night to day, day to night, mountain to desert to town to river — with no rhyme or reason. They spoke in a patois of slang, Elizabethan English, Yiddish, Spanish, French, and tossed off literary allusions. When asked once about his basic upending of the natural order of cats, mice, dogs, time, and space, Herriman summed up his Weltanschauung: “To me it’s just as sensible as the way it is.”.

Krazy Kat’s whimsy caught on quickly in the Age of Wilson, and its large and devoted fan base ranged from high society to poets to school children to the president himself. What none of them knew then was that George Herriman was black. He passed for white most of his life. And what we can only see now, thanks to an authoritative new biography of Herriman by New Orleans historian Michael Tisserand, is that, as far removed from social commentary as Krazy Kat may appear, race was as much on George Herriman’s mind as the president’s…

Read the entire review here.

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A Good Fellow and a Wise Guy

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, United States on 2017-03-13 01:41Z by Steven

A Good Fellow and a Wise Guy

The New York Sun

William Bryk

Book Review
A Pickpocket’s Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York
by Timothy J. Gilfoyle

George Washington Appo, the once notorious Asian-Irish-American petty criminal who flourished during the last quarter of the 19th century as a pickpocket and swindler, had pretty much faded into obscurity at his death in 1930, aged 73. Even the street where he lived, Donovan’s Lane (better known as Murderer’s Alley) is gone, buried with the infamous Five Points slum beneath the federal courthouses in Foley Square.

Appo resurfaced in Luc Sante’s 1991 best seller, “Low Life,” which briefly presents him as a buffoon, incompetent even as a crook. If Timothy J. Gilfoyle’sA Pickpocket’s Tale” (W.W. Norton, 460 pages,$27.95) serves any purpose, it corrects this slur on Appo’s reputation. Appo practiced pick-pocketing as others practice dentistry or law: He was a thorough professional who picked thousands, if not tens of thousands, of pockets during his career, usually making as much money in a day as the average workingman then made in a year. He was imprisoned four times for pickpocketing, all while still relatively young. He apparently accepted jail as an inevitable cost of doing business…

Read the entire review here.

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‘Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White’: A life as unorthodox as his comic strip

Posted in Articles, Biography, Book/Video Reviews, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-12 02:21Z by Steven

‘Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White’: A life as unorthodox as his comic strip

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Wayne Wise

Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White” by Michael Tisserand.

Ignatz Mouse: “Hey, this isn’t black coffee!!!”

Krazy Kat: “Sure it is. Look unda the milk.”

Krazy Kat,” created by George Herriman, is one of the most influential comic strips of all time. Centered around the iconic love triangle of Krazy, Ignatz Mouse and Offisa Pupp, the feature ran as a syndicated newspaper strip from 1913 to 1944. To a modern audience the strip can be difficult to understand, if not impenetrable. The pacing and sense of humor of 100 years ago feel foreign to current trends. There are references that were common at the time that are lost to us now. The language used is an idiosyncratic patois of nonsense poetry.

The backgrounds, while beautifully rendered, are a constantly changing surreal backdrop. Characters frequently broke the fourth wall, commenting directly on their status as cartoons. The title character, Krazy Kat, was of indeterminate gender, referred to with shifting pronouns, sometimes within the same sentence. As a whole, Krazy Kat was an ongoing challenge to the reader’s perception of definitions and boundaries.

Creator George Herriman was born in New Orleans in 1880. In the latter part of the 19th century his family moved to Los Angeles where his father worked as a tailor and George began his art career, eventually becoming one of the most famous and celebrated cartoonists in history. This is a distinction that would not have been possible if the truth of his life had been known at the time.

In 1971, while researching Mr. Herriman for an entry in the Dictionary of American Biography, professor Arthur Berger discovered a previously unknown fact. On his birth certificate Mr. Herriman was listed as “colored.” It had always been assumed that he was a white man. Mr. Herriman, to use the terminology of the time, “passed for white” his entire life, at a time when his color would have prevented him from many, if not all, of the achievements he is known for…

Read the entire article here.

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Lost Boundaries (1949)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-11 23:51Z by Steven

Lost Boundaries (1949)

Visual Parables: A leading resource for faith-and-film reviews and study guides

Ed McNulty

Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 39 min.

Our content rating (1-10): V 0; L 1; S/N 1.

Our star rating (1-5): 4

Philip Roth’s novel and the film made from it, The Human Stain, were both very much on my mind when I came across at a Hollywood Video store the video of this 1949 film about a “Negro” man and his wife who pass for white for twenty years. Seeing that its producer also was the producer for Martin Luther, I felt that I was led to this discovery, and so purchased it. Turns out this is a good film, based on “a true story” from Reader’s Digest. Made in the same year as the other film exploring the same theme, Pinky, Lost Boundaries is not as well known, possibly because the former boasts a better-known director (Elia Kazan) than Alfred L. Werker and a far more star-studded cast (Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore, Ethel Waters and William Lundigan. The star of Lost Boundaries was the debut film of an actor who would go on to renown, Mel Ferrer. Like Jeanne Craine, Ferrer was a white playing a Negro, standard Hollywood procedure, even for major Asian roles, as in The Good Earth or Shangri La

Read the entire review here.

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Eric Nguyen Reviews Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s ‘The Land South of the Clouds’

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, United States on 2017-03-09 02:53Z by Steven

Eric Nguyen Reviews Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s ‘The Land South of the Clouds’

diaCRITICS: Covering the arts, culture and politics of the Vietnamese at home and in the diaspora

Eric Nguyen

Author Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith.

diaCRITIC Eric Nguyen reviews The Land South of the Clouds, Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s newest fiction novel.

Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith returns to familiar territory in his second book, The Land South of the Clouds. Readers of his previous book, The Land Baron’s Sun, will be acquainted with many of the subjects here: the Vietnam War, the loss of homeland, and even a character, Lý Loc, the elderly patriarch based on Smith’s grandfather who sees his old ways of life dramatically changed when the Communists come to power. But whereas Smith’s first book largely focused on life in Vietnam in the aftermath of war, The Land South of the Cloud explores what life is like for those who left.

The book opens up in Los Angeles. It is June 1979. The Iran hostage crisis is only a few months away and so is the release of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in American theaters and ten-year-old Long-Vanh is watching his mother, Vu-An, leave as her husband, Wil, sleeps. “You can tell them I’m dead,” she says before asking Long-Vanh to keep her departure a secret and boarding a cab. Torn between loyalties, Long-Vanh races to his sleeping father but is interrupted by the unexpected return of his mother. It was a practice run, she says, before telling him again, “Don’t tell your Dad.”…

The Land South of the Cloud is frank in its depiction of being biracial in a country that often sees only black and white when it comes to race. Like the nameless narrator of James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, Long-Vanh isn’t so much as straddled between two worlds of race as alienated by them. Unlike Johnson’s narrator, though, Long-Vanh can’t pass as one race or the other. The result is an experience marked by both outsider status and shame. For Long-Vanh this means being treated as an anomaly at worst or an exotic object at best. As a child, he is called a “yellow nigger” by other Vietnamese kids. As an adult, Long-Vanh notes:

Women were always curious about my kind, and they wanted to know what it was like to sleep with someone like me.  To them, I was something of a curiosity, someone they could lay claim to, like a token, and say, “I’ve slept with one of them.”

Long-Vanh is never truly comfortable with who he is…

Read the entire review here.

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