July 05, 2005
# The Celebrity Liberal View

Is it possible for rich Europeans to address African poverty without understanding colonialism, racism, corporate plunder, illegitimate debt run up by dictators and handed to corporation, or the humanitarian catastrophe that the IMF has imposed? If that's possible, then it must also be possible to conceive of an entire campaign to eliminate poverty in Africa that ignores the many African social movements, and assumes that it knows what is good for Africa better than Africans do. And if that's doable, then why not just go ahead and praise the people who are imposing this mess on the third world to the heavens?

Welcome to the UK's Make Poverty History campaign.

It's all very sensible.

posted by dru
December 29, 2003
# Conscious Hip Hop vs Gangsta Rap?

I just got a copy of Mos Def and Talib Kweli's 'Black Star' album, and while doing some reading about Mos Def, came across this interesting excerpt of an interview for a book on Tupac, of all things.

Mos Def, praised as one of the leaders of "conscious rap," refuses to think in such narrow terms. "They've got their little categories, like 'conscious' and 'gangsta,'" says Mos Def. "It used to be a thing where hip-hop was all together. Fresh Prince would be on tour with NWA. It wasn't like, 'You have got to like me in order for me to like you.' That's just some more white folks trying to think that all niggas are alike, and now it's expanded. It used to be one type of nigga; now it's two. There is so much more dimension to who we are. A monolith is a monolith, even if there's two monoliths to choose from." Mos Def sees the danger, however, in having only one dimension of the black experience get airplay, which in present terms is usually of the bling-bling or thug variety. "I ain't mad at Snoop. I'm not mad at Master P. I ain't mad at the Hot Boyz. I'm mad when that's all I see. I would be mad if I looked up and all I saw on TV was me or Common or the Roots, because I know that ain't the whole deal. The real joy is when you can kick it with everyone. That's what hip-hop is all about." [...] Mos Def is careful to avoid accepting the praise -and the typecasting- of corporate interests that deny the complexity of black identity and culture. "They keep trying to slip the 'conscious rapper' thing on me," he says. "I come from Roosevelt Projects, man. The ghetto. I drank the same sugar water, ate hard candy. And they try to get me because I'm supposed to be more articulate, I'm supposed to be not like the other Negroes, to get me to say something against my brothers. I'm not going out like that, man."

posted by dru
May 06, 2003
# Slave Trade in Australia

The Guardian reports that while the Australian government is spending billions constructing and maintaining maximum security facilities in which to store refugees, officials are overlooking a whole other set of immigrant workers who are essentially enslaved. Non-white people who arrive in boats and ask for asylum are locked up in facilities like Woomera and deported, but young women from the Phillipines and Thailand who are forced into prostitution, and workers from South Africa who are paid $100 for three months work are overlooked.

This seems to be a side effect of the horrible conditions that await people who officially request asylum: people who work as slaves, or those who are in a position to testify about it, are so afraid to be caught that there is little possibility for legal recourse. The privileges of white people in Australia are protected, both by ensuring that non-white immigrants can't work legally, and by delegating the worst work and the worst working conditions to those who manage to avoid places like Woomera. Selective, racist enforcement of fascistic immigration policies doesn't only keep people out, it keeps the people who are in quiet and unwilling to resist abuse or exploitation.

According to the report, though, the use of pseudo-slave labour is being used by right wing officials to weaken the construction unions, among others. So while white Australians may benefit from the influx of labourers who will accept any conditions not to get caught, it is undoubtedly the rich Australians who benefit disproportionately. David Fickerling, the Guardian reporter who wrote the story, puts it even less delicately than I do:

Let us be charitable. Perhaps, just perhaps, someone might have recognised that - were it not for the cruel conditions under which they are living - a decent population of hard-working, committed immigrants might even be good for the country.

And without them, what would people do when they needed a bathroom tiled on the cheap, a shonky watertower built, or fancied screwing a heroin addict with the body of a child?

posted by dru
by Dun murry

Who is this Journalist no record at the Guardian and as I live in Australia it is quite obvious that he has no knowledge of Australia or what he is supposedly writing about. If this is the type of C**P journalism you are you are going to sully the ethernet with, goodbye. Get your facts right or forget it. Oh there are prostitutes but they were pros at home in Thailand and the Phillipines. Of course this was published previously so Plagarism?


April 29, 2003
# World Music

David Byrne: I hate world music

White folks needed to see Leadbelly in prison garb to feel they were getting the real thing. They need to be assured that rappers are "keeping it real," they need their Cuban musicians old and sweet, their Eastern and Asian artists "spiritual." The myths and clichés of national and cultural traits flourish in the marketing of music. There is the myth of the untutored, innocent savant whose rhymes contain funky Zen-like pearls of wisdom — the myth that exotic "traditional" music is more honest, more soulful and more in touch with a people’s real and true feelings than the kid wearing jeans and the latest sports gear on Mexican television.

There is a perverse need to see foreign performers in their native dress rather than in the T-shirts and baggies that they usually wear off stage. We don’t want them looking too much like us, because then we assume that their music is calculated, marketed, impure. Heaven forbid they should be at least as aware of the larger world as we are. All of which might be true, but more important, their larger awareness might also be relevant to their music, which in turn might connect it to our own lives and situations. Heaven forbid.

posted by dru
March 07, 2003
# White History Year

The Onion: White History Year Resumes

"Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. are all well and good," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist at a banquet celebrating the arrival of White History Year, "but now is the time to reflect on the accomplishments of such whites as Babe Ruth, Alexander Graham Bell, and Presidents Washington through Bush. Let's use these next 11 months to remember the other American history."

Whites have contributed so much to this country," Frist continued. "Did you, for example, know that a white man, Jonas Salk, discovered the cure for polio? It's true."

(via Daily Churn)

posted by dru
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February 03, 2003
# Gujarat

BBC: Gujarat's Muslims live in terror

Unofficial figures say more than 2,000 people have died, the vast majority Muslims killed by Hindus who constitute more than 80% of the state's population.

Independent reports accuse hardline Hindu organisations of orchestrating the violence with the support of India's ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.

Fresh deaths are still being reported almost every day and an estimated 150,000 Muslims are still sheltering in relief camps.

No one has been held responsible yet, though the Palestinian ambassador to India was asked to leave the country after he attended an event where speakers condemned the violence in Gujarat.

Remember: if it's state terrorism, it's not terrorism. Or maybe: if it's terrorism, it's not terrorism unless going after it with guns blazing serves US interests.

For an elaboration, read Arundhati Roy's talk at the World Social Forum last week. She reckons:

It is not a coincidence that the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Disinvestment Minister — the men who signed the deal with Enron in India, the men who are selling the country’s infrastructure to corporate multinationals, the men who want to privatize water, electricity, oil, coal, steel, health, education and telecommunication — are all members or admirers of the RSS. The RSS is a right wing, ultra-nationalist Hindu guild which has openly admired Hitler and his methods.

posted by dru
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January 09, 2003
# Spirit?

The US Air Force has christened a new plane with the name "Spirit of Strom Thurmond". I'd gag, but instead I'll remark that Aaron McGruder probably hasn't been spending a lot of time thinking of new material for Boondocks lately.

posted by dru
December 08, 2002
# depressing or wonderful? you decide.

Annual military spending globally is over $780 billion. The US alone accounts for over $343.2 billion in military spending annually.

What the World Wants is a simulation project that attempts to calculate the cost of various basic needs of humanity, which include:

Eliminate Starvation and Malnourishment
Provide Health Care & AIDS Control
Provide Shelter
Provide Clean Safe Water
Eliminate Illiteracy
Provide Clean, Safe Energy: Efficiency
Provide Clean, Safe Energy: Renewables
Retire Developing Nations Debt
Stabilize Population
Prevent Soil Erosion
Stop Deforestation
Stop Ozone Depletion
Prevent Acid Rain
Prevent Global Warming
Remove Landmines
Refugee Relief
Eliminating Nuclear Weapons
Build Democracy

According to their reckoning, all of the above would cost (annually) approximately 30% of the world's annual military spending. If we go with their estimates, it would take ten years for stable versions of all of the above to be put into place.

They also have fun comparative costs. For example, eliminating starvation would cost approximately 55% of what Americans spend on weight loss programs each year.

Each category is accompanied by an account, with references, so it's possible to dispute each one, and I have no idea if the estimates are realistic or not. I hardly need to point out, though, that that is most definitely not the point.

If the over-developed world didn't attach all kinds of self-interested strings to "aid for Africa" deals like NEPAD, then something useful might get done with the relatively tiny sums that we devote to foreign aid. Of course, most of what counts as foreign aid consists of direct or indirect subsidies of western business. Whether we make aid conditional on changes to economic policy or just hand it over to US companies (e.g. lucrative contracts for textbooks in Afghanistan, then and now), the little money that is supposed to be doing good is mostly funneled back to Wall Street or its other G8 equivalents.

I won't pretend that anything like a ten year devotion of 30% of military budgets to humanitarian programs is possible, but every once in a while, it can't hurt to stop and ask: what if we actually wanted to do something about the world's problems, and not just look like we're doing something?

Heck, the US could do this on its own, and end up with more power and economic clout than any military initiative could ever achieve. It would be a great way to shut up all those pesky European "anti-Americans", leave the vast majority of the world's population in awe, and defuse the rage of those who support terrorists. And who could attack so generous a country without pissing off all the people who benefit from these programs?

I am, of course, dreaming, but it's worthwhile to ask why this is the case.

Why am I dreaming, you ask? Good question. Three quick answers: racism, fear, ignorance, and an overwhelming asymmetry in access to politicians. Those are themes that have been and will be expanded extensively.

(What the World Wants links via Beyond Greed)

posted by dru
December 07, 2002
# LoTR and Race

This was bugging me this summer while I was reading Lord of the Rings for the first time: the story is about as racist as it gets, and there's no getting around it. (via Laughingmeme)

This genetic determinism drives the plot in the most brutal manner. White men are good, "dark" men are bad, orcs are worst of all. While 10,000 orcs are massacred with a kind of Dungeons and Dragons version of biological warfare, the wild men left standing at the end of the battle are packed off back to their homes with nothing more than slapped wrists.

We also get a sneak preview of the army that's going to be representing the forces of darkness in part three. Guess what: "Dark faces... black eyes and long black hair, and gold rings in their ears... very cruel wicked men they look". They come from the east and the south. They wield scimitars and ride elephants.

posted by dru
by mark

Since I first read LOTR around 35 years ago, and was not brainwashed to see racism in everything that could possible be interpreted as such, I wonder if LOTR is ruined for some, who can only see color and PC/Socialist symbolism in the work? Too bad, there is a great deal of good influence in these books.

by mark

Since I first read LOTR around 35 years ago, and was not brainwashed to see racism in everything that could possible be interpreted as such, I wonder if LOTR is ruined for some, who can only see color and PC/Socialist symbolism in the work? Too bad, there is a great deal of good influence in these books.

October 29, 2002
# Alt-Rock's racist standard

Onion AV Club: White on Both Sides: Alternative-Rock Radio's Race Problem

Still, what makes alternative radio's unofficial ban on black hip hop especially appalling is its eagerness to embrace white hip hop. The Beastie Boys has long been an alt-rock staple, as well as one of the few current acts that can get straight-ahead, non-genre-mixing hip hop on these stations. This year in particular has seen the floodgates open for genre-mixing white hip hop, with Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Eminem, and Everlast all scoring crossover success and major airplay. But alt-rock radio's embrace of hip hop is extraordinarily limited, meaning that the cartoonish antics of Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock qualify as alternative, but not the work of black rappers making music with ambitions beyond commercial success.

posted by dru
October 23, 2002
# Israel: hard line on the outside, soft and self-critical on the inside

Robert Fisk: How to shut up your critics with a single word

Thank God, I often say, for the Israeli press. For where else will you find the sort of courageous condemnation of Israel's cruel and brutal treatment of the Palestinians? Where else can we read that Moshe Ya'alon, Ariel Sharon's new chief of staff, described the "Palestinian threat" as "like a cancer ￐ there are all sorts of solutions to cancerous manifestations. For the time being, I am applying chemotherapy.

"Where else can we read that the Israeli Herut Party chairman, Michael Kleiner, said that "for every victim of ours there must be 1,000 dead Palestinians". Where else can we read that Eitan Ben Eliahu, the former Israeli Air Force commander, said that "eventually we will have to thin out the number of Palestinians living in the territories". Where else can we read that the new head of Mossad, General Meir Dagan ￐ a close personal friend of Mr Sharon ￐ believes in "liquidation units", that other Mossad men regard him as a threat because "if Dagan brings his morality to the Mossad, Israel could become a country in which no normal Jew would want to live".

The recent wave of me-too articles condemning anti-Semitism by academics is a bit too much. I'd be much more willing to listen to the daily screed that appear warning against anti-Israeli views going too far on two conditions:

1) that the academics who are being accused of being anti-semitic be named, and quoted with some semblance of charitable interpretation and context;

2) that these columnists show some concern about anti-arab hate crimes in the US and Canada, which, according to a recent report, "declined from nearly 10 a day to under one a day" in California alone. An improvement, if one hate crime per day is considered acceptable.

The alarmist rants (by well known and respected columnists, of course) that I have read have done neither.

posted by dru
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October 14, 2002
# Non-whiteness in the media

The Black Image in the White Mind, a book by Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki

1. While Black actors are now more numerous in film, it's an open question as to how well they're being represented. In the top movies of 1996:

Black female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 89%.

White female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 17%.

Black female movie characters shown being physically violent: 56%.

White female movie characters shown being physically violent: 11%.

Black female movie characters shown being restrained: 55%.

White female movie characters shown being restrained: 6%.

posted by dru
October 13, 2002
# Race and Music

Norman Kelley: Rhythm Nation: The Political Economy of Black Music
A four-part series.

Today, most analyses of black culture are processed through the theoretical prism of the Frankfurt School's "cultural industry" paradigm or through the theoretical template of cultural studies, where the lexicon of post-structuralism thought can be dropped on any subject, provided one uses the requisite "acadospeak" to obfuscate the fact that nothing of real importance is being discussed.

Rather than analyzing the trajectory of black music through the music industry, today's new jack intellectuals have been more interested in discussing or breaking down the high/low distinctions of culture. They are more interested in "interrogating" certain "privileged discourses," than in the nuts and bolts of the music industry:

• how artists are recruited,
• how contracts are structured for maximums profits for records firms,
• how much firms spend on the production of an artist's CD,
• whether rap artists make their living solely by selling units or doing performances (a situation similar to that of blues musicians),
• how musicians lose their copyright to their music,
• the lack of royalty payments, and
• the incredible monopoly of the Big Six.

posted by dru
September 24, 2002
# Mainstream Racism

Neale put together a rather unsettling selection of racist madness from the Little Green Footballs weblog (which has been plugged by columnists in the National Post, among others).

posted by dru
September 23, 2002
# hyphenated american

Anil Dash on why he "makes an issue" out of race.

"Where are you from?"


"No, but I mean, where are you from?"

I grew up near Harrisburg, it's towards the middle of the state.

"Okay, but where are you, ya know... from?"

My parents were born in India.

"Oh, okay."

posted by dru