Tag Archive | "racism"

Osocio – We’re A Culture, Not A Costume


From Thomas Megginson…

When I was a kid, ethnic stereotypes often made their way into Halloween costumes. It was a more innocently ignorant time, when dressing as a “Mexican Bandito”, and “Indian” or a “cannibal” was seen as OK.

Here, for example, is a scene from a costume party in the 1983 comedy Trading Places.



It is no longer okay. Especially not in the present era, where multicultural communities and digital media put us in contact with each other every day. It was bad enough when a bunch of white kids reinforced each other’s ideas about cartoon stereotypes of other cultures. It is even worse when those cultures have to see themselves lampooned.

That’s why I think this campaign by Ohio University’s Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS) is a needed one. Particularly considering the current climate of racism in the United States (as elsewhere in the developed world) against immigrants in general, domestic ethnic minorities, indigenous people and most recently against followers of Islam.

While a campaign like this will not stop racism, it can at least encourage people who are shy to speak out against hurtful stereotypes they see at parties to do something about it. And maybe then these caricatures, which continue to reinforce xenophobic myths and distrust about what “those people” are like, can start to be denormalized.

From the Eternal Sunshine blog, “These posters act as a public service announcement for colored communities. It’s about respect, human dignity, and the acceptance of other cultures (these posters simply ask people to think before they choose their Halloween costume). Although some Halloween costumes aren’t as racist as the blackface minstrel shows back in the day, they harken to similar prejudices. What these costumes have in common is that they make caricatures out of cultures, and that is simply not okay.”

After the break: “Ghetto” African-American, Indian Chief, Geisha and Bandito.

Posted on: Osocio
Ohio University called Students Teaching Against Racism (STARS)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (blog)


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Coming Home


From Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…

Almost 98% people of Bangladesh are Bengalis and they speak the Bangla language. The minorities include Chakmas, Khasi, Santhal and other tribes numbering more than a million (about 1.2% of total population) who mostly live in the various hilly regions. Chakmas are ethnically Tibeto-Burman, and are closely related to the Himalayan tribes. According to history, they are originally from Arakan (present Rakhine State of Burma) who hundreds of years ago wandered and settled in different parts of India and Bangladesh.

In recent months many Bangladeshi indigenous people have taken the streets holding meetings, human chains and rallies, demanding constitutional recognition of their population. The ‘indigenous’ debate arose after some remarks of a special parliamentary committee working to amend the present constitution reverting back to the 1972 constitution. There was no reference of tribal or indigenous people in Bangladesh’s first constitution of 1972 where it was mentioned that Bangladesh would be the land of Bengalis.

The parliamentary committee said that it would recommend recognizing them as “small ethnic groups” and questioned: “Would Bangalees [Bengalis] be termed ‘intruders’ or ‘invaders’ if the ethnic groups are called adivasi (indigenous)?”.
The state minister for cultural affairs Pramod Mankin said:

“There is no question that indigenous people would receive constitutional recognition. The debate is in how will they be recognised.”

“The government is reluctant to recognise indigenous people as “indigenous” as it questions ethnicity of the country’s native Bangalees.

Monjurul Haque at the Indigenous Bangla blog writes [bn] about the complexity of the situation:


The authorities are telling – “The people of the hills are not indigenous people. As constitution of Bangladesh applies everywhere, Bengalis have equal rights to lands in the hills.” The people of the hills are also citizens of Bangladesh (not indigenous) – that is also reminded in the constitution. They are sending destitute Bengali settlers to the hills on the ground that “the Chakmas have settled in the hills from their origin – Arakan region of Barma, so they are also settlers”.

It may be mentioned here that the tribals in Bangladesh have been subjected to human rights abuse for long by the Bengali settlers.

Shimon Baskey mentions [bn] what the people of the hills think on this issue:

Since ages our own language, culture, beliefs and rituals are the same, nothing has changed. We are people of this land. Our forefathers did not settle in someone else’s land or were inhabited there by someone. They were the first settlers by clearing forests and preparing lands for cultivation. They already had been living there for generations long before boundaries were demarcated.

Sarkar Amin recognizes [bn] the plights of these people:

Mong Mong, I first met you in a hill of Bandarban. I am bengali and you are from a tribe. You are a painter and I am a poet. We become friends at once. Was there a pain deep inside your innocent smile?

There is a crisis. The people of the hills want constitutional recognition of their population. They want to be termed as “indigenous”. They want implementation of the peace accord. But the ruling elites of Bangladesh do not want recognition of equal rights of the people of the hills. This is the main reason of the pain and the crisis.

Jewel Bin Jahir reminds [bn] how the indigenous minorities feel as their language, culture and beliefs are neglected in the constitution:

We had not tried to prove our supremacy by our Biju, Baisu, Karam Wanna, Sohrai (festivals and rituals). We had not tried to impose our Sangsarek, Laleng, Sharna centric beliefs to anyone. We had not tried to overwhelm other languages of the world by our Achik, chakma, Kokborok, Thar, Munda, Santali languages.

But still our Haba-Zoom(plantations), forests and ditches are being dispossessed. Our mother tongues are being ignored. Our own beliefs are deemed as impure, illogical by influential and imposing beliefs.

The debate further escalated as the foreign minister of Bangladesh commented recently that the term “indigenous” for the people of the hills in Bangladesh is a misnomer:

“In the constitution, all minorities were recognised generically as minorities, and through the 15th amendment, the present government has categorised them as ‘ethnic minorities’ and no longer only as ‘tribal’ people.”

She also said:

“Giving a special and elevated identity to enfranchise only 1.2 percent of the total population of 150 million by disentitling the 98.8 percent cannot be in the national interest of Bangladesh.”

She reminded about the 4000 year old tradition of the Bengalis in this land:

“The ethnic Bengalees are not colonial settlers, neither are they foreigners or non-indigenous to their own native land and never will be.”

Biplob Rahman, a journalist and a blogger protests [bn] the government’s stand that there is no indigenous people in Bangladesh. He quotes from Chakma King and member, UN Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues, Debashish Roy’s recent rebuttal [bn]:

If the government recognizes “indigenous people” then this marginalized and underdeveloped 1.2% population will have a legal ground to fight for their rights. However, this recognition will not give them any special rights.
Biplob reminds that the incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had given statements on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People several times terming the people of the hills as indigenous people.

He quotes an article of a local newspaper [bn], where it was reported [bn] that:

It has been learnt that if the “indigenous term” of any minority population is established then a country is subjected to sign several declarations of United Nations. In that case United Nations can intervene to investigate attacks on human rights of the indigenous population. So the Bangladesh government has taken this stance (of not terming them “indigenous”). In this issue all the major and influential political parties of Bangladesh share same ideology.
Mithusilak Murmu notes [bn] that at present there are certain quotas in the Government services and public education institutions for the indigenous people and wonders whether the present proposal of the Government will lead to change in the practice of the issuance of “indigenous certificates” for the population of the hills.

Around 370 million indigenous people in 70 countries of the world are subject to marginalization and mistreatment. These people in Bangladesh and elsewhere are facing similar problems and are fighting for their identity, land and way of life.

First Published in Global Voices Online


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Racism Alive And Well in South Africa


Orania President Carel Boshoff, (left) Meets African National Congress youth league President; Julius Malema (center), and Deputy chair Francois Slabbert

From African Corespondent Hassan Isilow…

CAPETOWN, When South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994 ending the cruel era of Apartheid, the world thought racism had come to an end.  But shockingly 16 years after the end of apartheid, racism has remained alive in the rainbow nation.

The country’s three main racial groupings; Black, White and the coloreds are still holding to their racial prejudice.  For instance, in the Northern Cape, there is a small Town called Orania that’s occupied entirely by whites only.

“We are not re-creating apartheid in South Africa by having our own Town, but we are simply seeking to protect the Afrikaner Values” Carel Boshoff IV, leader of the Orania community and grandson to the late Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd (popularly known as the architect of Apartheid) told Africa witness in a telephone interview.

The small whites only Town, was built in the 1990’s towards the end of Apartheid and is located on the banks of the Orange River surrounded by extended areas of the Karoo. Orania is a small speck on the map in the desert like Karoo region, situated on the dusty banks of the Orange River in Northern Cape Province.

“This is intolerable. How can whites only have a Town in a multi-ethnic country like South Africa which is still recovering from Apartheid? This is a silent form of Apartheid” Mike Wadula an angry resident of Cape Town told Africa witness.

He said Government should intervene and stop the segregation in Orania. But Carel Boshoff IV, Orania’s boss said they are not racists.” “We don’t practice any form of racism in Orania, we are just protecting our Afrikaner culture which is under threat” Carel who is the son to the Town’s Founder told Africa witness.

He said non-whites can visit but will have to stay in the Town’s guesthouse, adding anybody wishing to move into Orania has to first be approved by the managing body.   In Orania, poor whites are employed to do menial jobs formerly meant for blacks during the Apartheid era.

Whites only graveyard

Orania is not the only racist Town in South Africa. In the Western Cape, there is another small Town called Swellendam which still maintains some Apartheid policies. In Swellendam whites have their own cemetery and non-whites are not allowed to be buried there. However, in June 2010, history was re-written when a seven year old daughter of a peasant farm worker was forcefully buried in the white’s only cemetery causing uproar among the conservative white community.

“This Town is so racist. A lot still needs to be done for People to change their ideology of hatred” Ali Kaka told Africa witness.

He revealed that the fight between races in the small Swellendam Town is far from over. “ it’s a pity that whites in this Town still consider themselves as superior compared to others” the Asian trader told Africa witness.

Racism at Universities

Racial discrimination remains widespread at most South African universities, despite many policies aimed at redressing the bitter legacy of Apartheid. In 2008 four students at the University of Free State made a racist video that created an international uproar. While during the same year in April, it was reported that black students at the University of Johannesburg had allegedly been assaulted by their white counterparts while at a university bar.

Xolani Mkhwemnte chairperson of the South African Students’ Congress told the Johannesburg based Star newspaper that black students at the university’s Kingsway campus had been beaten by white students in a bar at a hall of residence. He said the harassment of black students walking home at night and the verbal and physical abuse of senior black student members had become common.

While in Cape Town, Mohammed Bulhan, a second year student of information technology at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology cries foul. “Students in my class are divided along racial lines; whites sit alone, blacks alone and coloreds. I’m a foreign student, so I’m left in a dilemma on which group to choose” he told Africa witness

Bulhan also claims some students don’t want him to join their academic discussion groups because of his race. “I’m bright in class but I was shocked when I joined a certain discussion group and racist students told me to delete my name from their discussion group” the demoralized foreign student recalls.

On the other hand, White students are also affected by racism, In January 2007, Ernst Roets spokesperson of the organization Solidarity Youth ,was quoted by the South African Press Association (sapa) saying   “White students were being overlooked in favor of poorly achieving black students in the awarding of bursaries”

Ernst said Universities were also discriminating against white students, denying them entry although they did better than their black counterparts.

“We have proof of instances in which white students with excellent results were refused entry in favor of black students with greatly inferior marks,” he told the South African Press Association (Sapa)

He named the University of Pretoria as one of the universities discriminating against white students.

An official at the South African institute of race relations, which is the leading independent research and policy organization in South Africa, told Africa witness, that racial discrimination will take some time before it completely fades out, since it started in 1652 with the arrival of the Dutch settlers.

“Racism is a reality in this country and it will take a pretty long time to finally end since it started in 1652” he said.

Additional information obtained from SAPA


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Move, You Chink!


From Special Guest Patrick Park…

There was that one, preppy white boy who would always have the “balls” to come out of his way to call me a Chink. What is a Chink though? Is it just the general term one human being uses to call upon another human being if that person is Asian? Or did he call me that because he was in front of his friends? I mean, did he even know what he was calling me? Perhaps it was due to his upbringing. Nonetheless, “There goes the Chink!” is all I ever heard from his mouth.

Oops, correction; I missed one. The other crisp quote was, “Fucking move, Chink. White Power!”

Doesn’t that sound great? But yes, besides the quotes, there was something that got on my nerves as well. What pissed me off was that he always sported a light-colored polo from Abercrombie… always. And back in the day, that meant he was either rich, spoiled, or both. Furthermore, he would always pick on my friend because she tried protecting me. But the fact about her was that she was white–just like him. Well, that was my life. And maybe that “stuff” would still bother me, but it took the seven-thirty flight and left. Where did I learn to stop having racist douche bags bother me? At Stone Mountain, of course. Something I noticed through eighteen years of my life is that identity is definitely shaped by culture (Latterell xix). Just learning about the Japanese invasions of the Koreans pissed me off as a child. Watching soccer and baseball matches between the two nations were always extremely nerve-racking and competitive. Hell, it still is today. It’s either I was born with it, culturally influenced to the heart of the country, or a little bit of both (Latterell xix).

Anyways, I will tell why this strikingly pertains to me even more. Well, when I was around the age of sixteen, I went to Stone Mountain with my parents, grandparents, and my brother. Now as we were settling down, an African-American kid around the age of twelve came up to us waving and said “Ko-ni-chi-wa,” which is hello in Japanese. Oh, I flipped shit. I was wreaking havoc; I yelled to him that I was Korean and that he was a racist fool. Yes.. Sadly, I misinterpreted the situation. I thought since Stone Mountain was where the Ku Klux Klan had originally developed, everyone there was racist. But my parents told me that all he wanted to do was greet me since he proudly wanted to incorporate what he had learned in a real encounter. But I took it as a slur. Nonetheless, I realized what I did was, indeed, wrong. And I realized that even though having a cultural background is great, sometimes, circumstances are misunderstood because of how situations are only interpreted in one way by society. I mean, if students from school didn’t come up to me and say Konichiwa as a mocking curse, I might not have unleashed my inner devil on that poor twelve year old kid.

If there is one cliché that needs to be used in this situation, it’s that ignorance is bliss. It is perfectly valid in the sense that there is an innocent type of racism. Just as a young child mimics his older brother to fit in with his brother’s friends, that’s precisely all that young, African-American child was doing. He was trying to fit in with my family so everyone could just get along, just like in a society without hate–a perfect society. That’s why this Stone Mountain encounter was the point of my life where I realized I just had to let certain things go. I had to accept certain occurrences that already happened, and I could not reject the inevitable incidents that were on its way.

Latterell, Catherine G. Remix: Reading + Composing Culture. Second ed. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.


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This is Post-Racial America?


From Larry Wohlgemuth…

Republicans have been declaring for more than a decade that we now live in post-racial (and by implication prejudicial) America. Actually it should be stated as post-racial/prejudicial, because that insinuates that we have moved past all petty prejudices to a point of frank, open and honest discussion on issues that affect us all. That means we’ve moved past bigotry based on nationality, gender, religion or any of the myriad of preferences which identify us as individuals. It implies that no one any longer looks down his or her nose at anyone else.

I would like to believe it to be true, but the racial/prejudicial period ended too easily for me to accept it on its face. When something has been as institutionalize as have our prejudices, it generally ends with thrashing about and gnashing of teeth rather than a whimper. Yet the Republicans have declared it, so it must be so, right? It begs the question, who did the Republicans think they could convince that we had entered this utopist and idyllic post-racial/prejudicial world?

I wondered if they are talking about 30-year-old Anthony Hill of Winnsboro, SC, or possibly James Byrd, Jr. of Jasper, Texas when they refer to this as a post-racial society. Hill was dragged to death behind a pickup truck driven by 19-year-old Gregory Collins of Newberry, and Byrd was dragged to death in 1998 behind a pickup truck by three men, Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer and John William King. I’m sure that the fact these two murders took place in what were considered as highly racist states in pre-post-racial/prejudicial times is merely a coincidence, just as was the fact that the victims were black and the perpetrators were white. This is just how things play out in a post-racial/prejudicial society.

Then there’s Dr. George Tiller, gunned down in his church for having the audacity to perform abortions, a procedure that is legal in the United States. However we can be sure in this post-racial/prejudicial society that a mentally deficient man like Scott Roeder would never have considered Dr. Tiller’s vocational activities when he walked into that church with a loaded gun and shot the doctor dead in front of the congregation. Once again, we can be sure that this didn’t happen because of prejudice, because the Republicans have assured us that we are now a post-racial/prejudicial society.

And we have the good Dr. Laura, who although she’s white felt entitled to use the N-word 11 times in a five-minute span on her radio program because black comedians on HBO and Showtime do it. You see, in a post-racial/prejudicial society we’re all free to use any words we choose, because we couldn’t possibly be making a racist innuendo. No, we’re simply exercising our First Amendment rights, and besides, we know this wasn’t a racist remark because Dr. Laura told us so several times right after she said it. If you can’t trust Dr. Laura in these post-racial/prejudicial times, then who can you trust?

Finally there are the cases of Lawrence King, Matthew Shepard, Danny Overstreet, Philip Walsted, Sakia Gunn, Glenn Kopitske, Scotty Joe Weaver, Daniel Fetty, Jason Gage, Ryan Keith Skipper, Roberto Duncanson, Sean William Kennedy, Steven Parrish, Lateisha Green and Seaman August Provost, among many others, who were killed, but not for being gay. It seems that their attackers admitted that the victims’ homosexuality was the impetus for the attack, but in a post-racial/prejudicial society we have to take their admissions with a grain of salt. After all, they can’t possibly be aware of the post-racial/prejudicial dynamics that are taking place around them, making their attacks of the non-racial/prejudicial type. I mean, even the case of Ronnie Antonio Paris Jr., a three-year-old boy killed by his father because he was afraid his son might be gay, that’s just the way straights and gays interact in the post-racial/prejudicial era.

Okay, it’s pretty clear that we are not in a post-racial/prejudicial time based on what’s happening around us. So what’s going on? I mean, why are the Republicans working so hard to convince us that something exists when it obviously does not?

In this country there are only 5%, maybe 10%, of the people that are actually Republicans, and the rest are posers although they don’t realize it. To be a Republican means being a capitalist, and only a tiny fraction of people fit the description. The problem is, part of being a Republican is being able to look down your nose at other people, and the vast majority of the Republican Party are just working assholes like you and me, so there was some work that had to be done. It was necessary to create a significant enough underclass so that the idiot who makes $10 per hour working on an assembly line and watches Glen Beck can actually feel superior to somebody, and therefore a member of the Republican club. Minorities fill that bill nicely, thank you very much, but as the line of separation blurs so does the ability of the moronic masses in the Republican Party to look down on someone. Feeling superior is a crucial tenet to making the pseudo-Republicans believe they really are part of the club.

So how do they make this work? They behave even more racist and prejudiced than in the past, and then repeat over and over again that this is how things are in a post-racial/prejudicial world. They know if they say it long and loudly enough, and nobody objects, there’s a chance people will start to believe it. The problem is that genie is out of the bottle and they can’t regain control, try as they might. If the illusion of superiority ever leaves the working class schlemiels of the Republican Party they might quit participating, or even worse become Democrats. It’s a lot of work making a guy who earns $10 an hour believe he’s in some way superior to a brown person with a PhD.

So the Republicans will continue lest 70% of their party come to the realization that they are superior to no one. It would be a devastating blow for them. As a result we can expect to see more blatant racism followed by still more disingenuous, wide-eyed denials that racism was the intent. Without it their party shatters into 1 million pieces.

The one good thing is that the Republican demographic is dying, literally, and I have to be honest about the fact that it bothers me little. There are some people that just don’t deserve to waste our oxygen.


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Racist Bitch? Who Gets To Decide?


While listening to Dr. Laura’s racist meltdown the other day I was reminded of a recurring episode from my childhood involving my brother. Like all siblings we competed with each other, which inevitably led to physical confrontation. Being two years older and considerably larger, they usually ended with me imposing my physical will on him, and he would run crying to mom.

He’d be screaming all the way that I hurt him, and my response would be, “That didn’t hurt, that didn’t hurt,” all the while telling him to be quiet. Then there was the moment of truth where mom would listen to the facts and make her decision. My brother’s claims and my protestations had precious little to do with her judgment. Unable to appreciate that our tiny house allowed her to hear everything that transpired, we’d both state our cases passionately. Generally her rulings were just, although there was a time or two that she missed. Regardless, neither his claims nor my protests ultimately had much impact on her ruling, but what I learned was I didn’t get to decide whether my actions were hurtful. It begs the question, what the hell makes Dr. Laura believe she gets to decide whether her behavior was racist?

Dr. Laura is a hate filled, homophobic, xenophobic, religious wingnut, titty-baring bitch, and I’m working very hard to be as kind as possible. She’s the spawn of Satan sent to cause immeasurable pain and suffering on the world. That said, let’s look at her actions.

On the radio she goes into a complete meltdown, using a pejorative racial epithet repeatedly, deluded that she was helping a human being of the race she was denigrating. Eleven times in five minutes she used the N-word, rationalizing that since black comedians on HBO and Showtime use it that she should be able to use it, too. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we’d suggest that she was just trying to open a heretofore off-limits dialogue. The thing is, when it comes to hatred it’s never reasonable to give a person the benefit of the doubt. However there was one thing that I did find amusing in this reprehensible display of ignorance and bigotry.

When the caller, an African-American woman who was obviously timid and self-conscious, finally mustered the courage to confront Dr. Laura, she responded much as I did all those years ago. She exclaimed, “That’s not racist, that’s not racist,” as if it was her decision to make. Just as I’d done all those years ago, she was living with the misconception that ultimately it was her right to determine whether her actions were inappropriate. The difference is that I was only seven years old, and based on the crevices in her face she has to be at least 80, and should know better. The sad truth is, despite being a psychologist, she actually believed that it was her right to decide whether her behavior was hateful and racist. The problem is, we’re seeing that same conduct from the borderline personalities on the right every day.

Look at the teabaggers and you see this dynamic in action all the time. They walk the streets with signs depicting Barack Obama dressed as a tribal African with a bone in his nose, or one that reads “Monkey See, Monkey Spend,” yet they act like none of us are capable of reaching our own conclusions. They protest vociferously any suggestion that they might be racist, xenophobic or homophobic, all the while acting racist, xenophobic and homophobic.

It’s like walking in on your three-year-old who has cookie all over his face and hands, and when you ask him he denies having been in the cookie jar. You know he’s lying, and he knows he’s lying, yet somehow in his tiny, marginally functioning intellect he’s convinced that he’s really telling the truth. The problem is that we have a large number of adults, capable of doing adult damage, who are functioning intellectually and emotionally at the level of a three-year-old. The question becomes, what are we to do about it?

Since I already started this by being less than politically correct a judgmental asshole, I don’t see any sense in ending it any other way. If someone was destroying his life with addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex, we’d feel compelled to intervene on his behalf. We wouldn’t allow him to careen out of control without throwing him a life preserver. We need to do the same with Dr. Laura and the teabaggers.

I propose a stupidity intervention. It’s time we approach them with our concerns that they are so totally ignorant that we’re worried they might forget to breathe, and that they need to get help. The first thing we’d do is use parental controls on their televisions and lock them out of FOX News, forcing them to get their information from a variety of other sources. The second would be to require them to attend a class about the Constitution of the United States. Finally, and most importantly, we’d demand they spend 10 hours a week as a minority at a gathering of people from another race or ethnic background. I know these are extreme measures, but we live in desperate times.

If you have someone that you’re worried about, please don’t stand by and allow them to slide into the abyss. Confront them and tell them that you really wish they would go for help. It’s the only merciful thing to do.

From Larry Wohlgemuth…


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72 Virgins… Really?


From Larry Wohlgemuth…

72 virgins is the going Islamic rate to get a man to drive a car filled with explosives into a group of Americans. It must be true, it has to be true, because that’s what our leaders have told us. They want us to believe it’s about the deviant sexual desire of a Muslim, nothing more, nothing less.

I’ve wondered about who would believe that. Amazingly I hear it from people who occupy high stations in life, and not just from the ignorant, wallowing masses. I’ve heard doctors, lawyers, preachers and teachers repeat this claim; totally convinced of its truthfulness. It begs the question, do people become suicide bombers to cash in on a promise of an eternity frolicking with 72 virgins?

My first adult experience with propaganda was Idi Amin. His brutality was never in question, however during his rise to power it wasn’t mentioned in the Western press. His ascension was supported by Western forces eager to get their hands on rich Ugandan mineral deposits. We needed “our son of a bitch” in charge, and only when his demands for a larger cut became inconvenient did the Western press refer to him as “the Butcher of Africa”. Rumors that he was a cannibal were part of the plan to demonize and remove him from power.

In 1990 Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait for slant drilling into Iraqi oil fields. He’d received the okay from George Bush I via April Glaspie, who said the United States viewed it as strictly an “Arab matter”. Immediately upon the invasion we spread wild rumors about 300 babies in incubators being removed from hospitals and killed by Iraqi forces. This was the justification used for the first Gulf War. Known as “the Butcher of Baghdad” (sound familiar) he was eventually hunted down and killed.

There are others, like Manuel Noriega and Augusto Pinochet, but the story’s the same. Empowered by the West to facilitate the theft of resources, only to later be demonized and deposed. The reality is that they got greedy and demanded ever bigger shares, and the West dispatched and replaced them with men willing to work for less.

Fast forward to today’s rhetoric and it’s obvious things have not changed. Outlandish claims are made about the Islamic people in the Middle East that we are expected to believe. They hate our freedoms” and “72 virgins” are the most used. It’s a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign, courtesy of Edward Bernays, designed to influence your beliefs about Muslims. It works because people are too lazy to consider its irrationality. Given that the American Taliban can get one of their unhinged members to walk into a church and shoot a doctor, anything must be possible, right? But let’s consider an alternative.

In the 1953 coup in Iran the CIA helped overthrow the duly elected Mossadegh government and installed the Shah and his American trained SAVAK secret police. A 1963 CIA-backed coup in Iraq brought the Baath party and eventually Saddam Hussein to power. There’s the first Gulf War in 1990, a decade of bombings in the no-fly zones in Iraq throughout the 90s and finally the second Gulf War. As a result millions of Muslims are dead and tens of millions have been injured or otherwise damaged. I can’t imagine what it would be like on my wedding day to see my family and fiancée all lying dead as the result of a bomb. Or my door being kicked in and my wife being dragged away by a secret police force to be beaten, tortured and raped. Or digging through a pile of rubble to retrieve the lifeless body of my three-month-old baby. (WARNING: Graphic Content)

When I was a young man my blood would boil; either for sex when I was horny or revenge when I had been hurt. You could have promised me 72,000 virgins to no avail, but if I had just buried half of my family someone could have convinced me to strap a bomb on my back to kill the people responsible for my pain. I lived for revenge, and I don’t think people in that part of the world are fundamentally any different than me in this regard. They kill because we killed first.

Our government wants us to turn people into cartoon characters, stereotypes, so we won’t consider the ramifications of our actions. In World War II they were called the Krauts and Nips, in Korea it was Chinks, Vietnam was Gooks and now it’s Hajis. The government spreads stories about 72 virgins, but you can’t convince me that they’re any different than we are. They want to fall in love, get married and raise children in what they hope to be a better world, just like we do, and anything else is complete and utter nonsense.

They’re just like us because they ARE us; we’re all one. If our leaders can’t get us to see them as subhuman we would no more pick up a rifle and kill them than we would our own parents, grandparents, spouse or children. By reducing their status it validates our entitlement to exterminate them. Don’t let them do that to you. Your humanity is your birthright, and no one can take it away without your permission.

When we realize we have more in common with the people we are shooting than the people instructing us to do the shooting, then we will own our humanity and the world will know peace, and not before. I say the time is now.


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A White Boy’s Rant on Racism



Racism is both a tragic and fascinating human phenomena that, despite the improved liberal tolerances of our new global village, continues to thrive in societies the world over. As RELATIVTY has discussed at length before, East and West, Third or First world, racism is always there; sometimes beneath the surface and sometimes in our faces.

For some, a critical and forthright discussion of race is much more acceptable when it comes from an often maligned and marginalized slice of a society’s minority. But what if you are a member of the majority? What if you a member of a racial group whose history includes ugly acts of racism and prejudice?  Are there boundaries to respect? Are there certain issues too sensitive to approach? 

RELATIVTY Online staff came across the above video of a young American asking these very questions and more. With its history entrenched in slavery, The United States has always been a hotbed of racial tension, ready to burst into flame at any given moment. Watch a rather frank discussion of one man’s perspevtive of such an atmosphere and see if you agree.  


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Brown Eye for the White Guy: The White Man’s Burden


RacismFrom Dubai Correspondent James O’Hearn…

In 2005 I married a wonderful young woman named Nerissa D’Souza. Her family is Goan, and though she is Indian by nationality, she spent her entire life in Dubai. When I moved to Dubai in 2006, I moved in with her family, and by 2007 I had become a “traditional” Indian son-in-law, that is, I became the sole earner supporting a multi-generational family.

Embracing my “Indian” identity, I learned to eat spicy curries every day, I fell in love with cricket, I learned to name the major political parities in India and speak at some length about their policies, I became able to hold forth on the differences between the many different religious, cultural and lingual groups in India, and I learned to love Bollywood movies. But even though I am now far more “Indian” than my in-laws will ever be “Canadian,” I have only ever been merely tolerated, not accepted by them.

So what does this have to do with race or racism?

Before I moved to Dubai, my wife and I were in desperate straits. Prevented from finding work on account of a visa mix up, my wife had to stay at home while I worked three to four jobs at a go, dropping jobs and getting new ones wherever I could eke out a few more dollars. After our first child was born, and freshly out of university with a mountain of debt, we hit the wall, so to speak. We had no money left, not enough coming in, and could see no way of rectifying our situation but for one – we had to leave Canada.

When I arrived in Dubai, a few months after I had sent my wife and child ahead of me, I was a nervous wreck. With only a couple hundred dollars to my name, living at my in-laws, and upon their kindness, I felt lower than I had at any point in my life. Yet my wife was entirely unconcerned. Why? Because, as she told me, soon after I arrived, I was “white,” and we were in Dubai.

Three years earlier, when I had lived in Japan, I had my first taste of what it was like to be a “minority.” Words like “minority” and “mainstream” get tossed about so much in Canada, with such specific associations, that it took me a while to see myself as the minority. In Japan I encountered racism every day, from mild examples to extreme xenophobia. But Japan is very homogeneous, and Japan has a long history of fearing and avoiding outsiders, so I didn’t think much of what I saw. The racism was never specific, just a matter of those who exhibited nihonjinron (Japaneseness) and those who did not. You were wither nihonjin or gaijin – Japanese, or Foreign.

But in Dubai, when I again found myself in a minority situation, where the locals only account for up to 10% of the population, the dichotomous nature of racism I found in Japan morphed into something more along the lines of a shattered mirror, with innumerable facets reflecting each other, but each being separate and unique. Here it seemed that race or racism as not something widely spoken about or acknowledged as a social ill, but was actually a functioning aspect of the societal fabric, ubiquitous and universal.

My wife’s faith proved justified, when, inside of a month, I landed the best paying job I had ever had, a job where in only three years I found my salary rising to a level beyond what I could ever hope to earn in Canada. I chalk it up to luck, and serendipity, but sometimes there is a part of me that wonders if I was the recipient of this bounty not because of extensive credentials or experience, but because of how I looked, and how I spoke. Then again, I had experience in the field, and my employer-to-be was facing a sudden manpower shortage. But still, from some of the comments and attitudes I later encountered from other colleagues, I had to wonder, because regardless of the truth of the matter, it is the perception of that truth that carries weight day to day.

As a Canadian, and a product of that education system, it bothers me sometimes, even though I have proven myself at work over and again since being hired, that others might think I am where I am now not so much because of who I am, but because of what I am. But whatever my feelings are in the matter, the fact is, my situation is accepted as the norm here.

A Keralite colleague of mine was shocked, not too long ago, to find out that not only did I not have any “lands” or “houses” in Canada, but that I had debt. As she told me, she had assumed that because I was white, that meant I was wealthy. She had never questioned why I was hired or my qualifications for the job, and simply assumed that I “should” have that job.

Though she worked the same job as I (but in a different department), and earned the same income, and even though what she earns is ten times what I earn in terms of relative purchasing power parity, she did not even really need the money because her family was very wealthy in Kerala. I, on the other hand, desperately needed that job to support my family, to start to make some headway so that we could build a better life for ourselves. From my perspective, I saw my colleague as being privileged, and felt more than a little envy. Yet even with that in mind, my colleague still felt there was some sort of hierarchy at play, that regardless of wealth or upbringing, race really and truly mattered – that everything aside, perhaps I was the one to be envied.

In Canada, my colleague would be considered the “minority,” and I would be seen as a privileged member of the mainstream. Here I am seen as a privileged member of the “minority,” and she was seen as just an “Indian.” And in there lay the irony.

Few in Canada would know this, but there are about as many Keralites as there are Canadians in this world, even though Kerala is about half the size of New Brunswick. And when you take into account the diasporic nature of Keralite society, there are probably more Karalites than there are Canadians by a good margin. With this fact in mind, in the context of globalization, words like “minority” and “majority” really begin to lose meaning, but what about concepts like “race” or “racism?”

Racism, in the North American conception, is a matter of the privileged actively thinking or acting against the less privileged. In terms of academia, racism relates to the white male patriarchy, and pretty much the rest of society. While anyone can have a racist thought, only a member of the majority can be a racist. That is, only a member of the privileged majority can discriminate or alter their actions towards others due to race (meaning also culture/creed, etc) and have those actions be considered racist. That’s because the discourse on race and racism has, over time, devolved to being an issue of black and white (figuratively speaking).

But is that correct? Is that true? If not, then who, really, is a racist? What, then, is racism? What sort of behaviour would qualify as being racist in nature?

When I go shopping with my wife, when we go to a jewelry store, I am often asked to stay hidden, outside, and around the corner. The reason being that if the salesman does not see me, and does not see that my wife has a “white” husband, we will pay half as much as we would otherwise. And when we walk in public, and get into an argument, when my wife yells at me or castigates me in public, I have to restrain myself from replying in kind because to my wife it would appear as if I was talking to her like she were a maid. Why? Because to others, the sight of a white man talking harshly to a brown woman would be seen as such.

Regardless of my being her husband, and the love, children, and experiences we share, the colorblind nature of our relationship falls away the moment we step into public view. We both have to play roles, roles which change and evolve depending on who we talk to or interact with.

By conforming to these unspoken dictates, does that make my actions racist, or examples of common sense? By avoiding being seen by a South Asian salesman in the knowledge that my wife’s colour and nationality will help us get a better bargain, I can hardly claim to be “colourblind,” because I acknowledge differences in race, and I alter my actions towards other based on those differences, which is what racism is.

Which makes me what?


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The Tragic Comedy of Bloody Tea Bags


Do you ever wonder why Americans can’t pass a healthcare reform bill? Do you ever wonder how in the world George W. Bush, after lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and showing four years of overall boobery, was actually re-elected for a second term? There are plenty of intelligent people living in the United States of America but unfortunately, they’re are also a lot of uninformed and easily manipulated toy soldiers. This clip shows how debate on healthcare degenerated into religious, racial, xenophobic nonsense that includes the IRS, global warming, the end of America, abortion and more. Groups of people who called themselves “Tea Baggers” passionately united against Obama’s plans in protests across the country – problem is none of them really knew why they were there. They were only told they had to be. If there was ever a downside to democracy, undoubtedly the best form of government ever invented, this is it.


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Picturing RELATIVITY- see all photos


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Does the fact that Barack Obama is black and the son of an African Muslim contribute to the radical nature of those who oppose his policies?

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