Space Race Matters

NASA Astronauts

One of the bitter ironies anti-racists face when working to end white-supremacist thinking and action is that the folks who most perpetuate it are the individuals who are usually the least willing to acknowledge that race matters. (bell hooks, Teaching Community, 2003, p. 28)

You may be wondering what 7 astronauts have to do with a quote about anti-racism work from bell hooks. I too would be curious. Well, let me attempt to fill in several bits of context and hopefully you’re wonder will be satiated.

Last week, while checking out a NASA-related post from one of my favorite blogs, the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture Blog,” I happened to observe that none of the 7 astronauts for NASA’s latest space shuttle mission were people of color.

There were already 15 comments on the post. Most of the comments praised the ingenuity of NASA or extolled the fantastically big pictures on the post/site. I decided to post a seemingly innocent question regarding the racial makeup of the 7 astronauts in picture #23:

The pool of astronauts isn’t the most diverse is it?
7 white people. 6 guys and only 1 woman. Where are the astronauts of color??? ~Eric Stoller

I had no idea that my comment would generate a shower of racist rhetoric and inflammatory comments.

Continue reading Space Race Matters

Life@Lane student blog

Lane Community College Eugene Oregon Student Blogs
Life@Lane is a “student moderated blog” at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. I happened to stumble upon the site while checking out some summer classes at LCC. The blog is prominently advertised on the Lane Community College homepage.

I scrolled down through several posts and was intrigued by a post titled “Would The World Be Better With Women As Leaders?” The post basically says that women are emotional and therefore are not capable of being leaders. Jeffrey, the writer of the post and student at Lane, states in a response to a comment that “i don’t think my gender is superior i just don’t think women would be a good world leader.” Unbelievable. How can Lane Community College support this blog? How can Lane Community College stand behind this overtly sexist post/comment?

Here is the initial blurb about the blog via the LCC Marketing and Public Relations Office:

Life at Lane Student Blog

LIFE@LANE, A STUDENT MODERATED BLOG, launched from Lane’s homepage. Topics are generated by Lane’s Student Service Associates. Student blogs are common at four-year institutions. Lane is among the first community colleges to host a student blog. The purpose is to provide a communication tool primarily for current and prospective students and to increase “community” access.

How in the hell does this blog “increase ‘community’ access”? Student blogs are a common method of providing student insights into the student experience at a college/university. Student blogs are supposed to build community. They are not supposed to perpetuate stereotypes. It seems that Jeffrey, the student blogger at Lane, wanted to generate controversy and not build community. Marketing and Public Relations officials at Lane Community College should post an apology on the Life @ Lane blog, fire Jeffrey, and start moderating the commentary of the Life@Lane blog. I highly doubt that this is how they want life at Lane Community College to be represented.

Are you kidding me?

cw show aliens in america is sooooo racist

Wendy and I were watching television last night when we happened upon an advertisement for a new CW show, “Aliens in America.”

Here’s the synopsis from the CW site:

“Justin Tolchuk is a sensitive, lanky 16-year-old just trying to make it through the social nightmare of high school in Medora, Wisconsin, with the help of his well-meaning mom Franny, aspiring-entrepreneur dad Gary, and his popular sister Claire, who is sweetly unaware of how good-looking she is. When Franny signs up for the school’s international exchange student program, she pictures an athletic, brilliant Nordic teen who will bestow instant coolness on her outsider son. However, when the Tolchuk’s exchange student arrives, he turns out to be Raja Musharaff, a 16-year-old Pakistani Muslim. Despite the cultural chasm between them, Justin and Raja quickly develop an unlikely friendship that just might allow them to navigate the minefield that is contemporary high school. It’s going to be a very interesting year for Raja, Justin, his family and the entire population of Medora”

Wendy and I looked at each other in disbelief after watching this commercial.

Continue reading Are you kidding me?

Racism bothers me too

I’ve been reading a lot of news reports about a racist party in Delaware. On May 5th, several members of the Phi Sigma Pi honors fraternity at the University of Delaware held a racist party in which white students dressed up as stereotypes of Latinos.

The “South of the Border” party held on Cinco de Mayo featured white students with racial epithets on their shirts.

Continue reading Racism bothers me too

bell hooks at Lewis & Clark College

bell hooks photo

Here is the audio recording from bell hooks‘ talk at Lewis & Clark College from February 1, 2006 [88 MB MP3].

Racism as treasured tradition

While searching for the identity of a racist, homophobic, pro-chief hate e-mailer, I came across this gem of a statement from the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s President:

Statement from UIAA President Loren R. Taylor

The University of Illinois Alumni Association is supportive of the Board of Trustees in light of its difficult decision concerning the Chief Illiniwek tradition. We recognize the board’s responsibility to act in what it believes to be the best interests of the University as a whole. At the same time, we respect the emotional impact this announcement is having on the alumni and friends who treasure this longtime University tradition. Illinois loyalty has never been constricted to one issue or dependent on any one activity, and, as a community, I believe we will emerge from this period stronger, closer and more committed to our shared fundamental values.

Loren R. Taylor
President and CEO
University of Illinois Alumni Association

Translation: The University of Illinois Alumni Association respects the longtime racist tradition of chief illiniwek at UIUC and is sorry for the emotional turbulence that losing the mascot has caused to the dominant majority at UIUC. Our white privilege, racism, and othering of Native folks will continue to make us closer and more committed to our shared fundamental values.

Glacéau + Racist Voicemail Redux

A week ago I blogged about Glacéau’s racist voicemail message. Upon publishing the post, which included an audio recording of the voicemail, I received an interesting comment from Lauren.

Continue reading Glacéau + Racist Voicemail Redux

Chief Illiniwek Will No Longer Perform

UIUC has decided to discontinue Chief Illiniwek….

Absent from the official UIUC response is any mention of the ethical reasons for eliminating the “Chief.” Labeling Chief Illiniwek as a positive tradition, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees has done little to address the racism of this “tradition.” Chief Illiniwek may be finished. However, racism, stereotyping, and oppression seem to unfortunately be going strong amongst the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. The board seems more concerned with losing money from alumni and re-gaining access to lucrative post-season collegiate athletics.

This sends a terrible message to all white students at UIUC. The University and its Board have made it clear that listening to people of color and their allies does not matter. I’ve included the full text of the press release from the University of Illinois. Nowhere in the release is it mentioned that the Chief was a racist caricature that stereotyped Native Americans.

Continue reading Chief Illiniwek Will No Longer Perform

Glacéau + Racist Voicemail Message

Glaceau Vitamin Water

My friend Reagan sent me an email last week about the voicemail message at Glacéau.

I placed the message in my “to blog about” pile:

Call this number: (718) 746-0087. It’s for Glaceau, maker of drinking water products (“Hydrate responsibly.”) On the other end, you’ll get their voicemail system, narrated by some dude with a horribly fake Asian accent, doing kung fu schtick.”

A beverage company in New York, Glacéau makes Vitamin Water, Fruit Water, and Smart Water. Apparently, Glacéau received enough complaints about their voicemail that they decided to change it. A member of a higher education association listserv received a response from a customer relations specialist from Glacéau:

We’re sorry to hear our outgoing message has offended you. Our intention with our message system (and all of our points of contact with consumers) is to communicate key information about our products and company in a light-hearted way. With that said, we have taken the negative
feedback about the message seriously and have replaced it with a new one. We welcome your feedback on the new version and hope you will continue to share your thoughts on the company and our products.

I missed hearing the live version of the voicemail. The new message was in place when I called. However, a friend of mine recorded the message. It’s unbelievable that a company would have such a racist, stereotypical caricature as their official voicemail message.

When did “light-hearted” become marketing speak for “racist caricature”?