“But I’m Not Racist; I Have Black Friends” – An Answer

I bet you’ve heard someone use that statement as a defense, at least once in your lifetime. Heck, “I have black friends” even made the Urban Dictionary as a phrase used to qualify racist words and behavior.

When it comes to playing the race card, there is little doubt that “I have black friends” is right up there with the Joker and a sibling to “I’m not racist but…” on most days. But ultimately, there’s been a failure on our part to communicate that racism is not merely about relationships, words or emotions. These are merely elements or tools used to entrench racism. Having racial and ethnic minority friends does not excuse racist words and behavior. Someone who uses the “I have black friends” card is misinformed and misunderstands racism as just individual acts.

In fact, racism is not merely prejudice or bigotry. It is not merely a belief or a doctrine that can be corrected by having friends who have a slightly darker skin color. Racism is discrimination backed by institutionalized power. It is systemic. Racism is an ongoing inter-related set of social processes, backed by actions and discourses, that favors a dominant group over other legally constructed minority groups.

I wonder if a racial minority accused of racism can get away with saying “I’m not racist, I have white friends!” Probably not.

So what do we do about the tea-bagger who has a black friend? We must confront individuals about their offensive words and acts in a way that forces us to also confront the system. It is probably more strategic to say “I think what you said or did was racist” rather than “you are racist.” The former focuses on actions whereas the latter targets the actor. If s/he says “I’m not racist, I have black friends,” it is easier to counter that you aren’t talking about her or his interpersonal relationships with racial and ethnic minorities. You are talking about how her or his words and actions perpetuate racism.

Photo Credit: the Italian Voice

New Prop 8 Study Dispels Exit Poll Data on African American Voters

A new study by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force finds that CNN exit polls overstated Black support for Prop 8.

Based on polling data funded by Equality California Institute and conducted by David Binder Research, the study found that voters who supported Prop 8 were primarily influenced by:

  • Ideology – 82% of voters who identify as conservatives voted “Yes”
  • Party – Republicans voted more than 80% in favor of Prop 8
  • Religiosity – 70% of weekly church goers voted “Yes”
  • Age – 67% of voters born before World War II voted “Yes”

The study also showed that race was not a driving factor in the election, as was purported by the National Election Pool (NEP) poll which said 70% of African-Americans voted for Prop 8. Our study found the number closer to 57% to 59%.

One of the most important–and rewarding–findings was the movement in all groups, except Republicans, toward support for full marriage equality. From 2000 to 2008 we moved Californians 9% in support of same-sex marriage – an amazing change in such a short time!

I am hoping this gets out more and helps to counter some of the gay-black divide that occured due to the CNN exit poll results showing that 70% of Blacks voted for Obama. Of course, there is alway work to be done in minority and poor communities to raise awareness about homophobia and why people are fighting for ‘marriage equality.’ But the reasons for opposing homosexuality have more to do with a complex intersection of categories (class, education, religious affiliation, emasculated and sexist culture) than mere ethnicity.

Wtf Hollywood ! Analyzing the Proposition 8 Vote

Around 10 pm last night, when the Prop. 8 votes trickled in, I already knew we had lost this time.

Reason? Los Angeles was struggling quite early on with the ‘No on 8’ losing by more than 7 percentage points. We would never win without Los Angeles.

Kelly Picks a Fight over at OurChart:

Los Angeles County ended up in a 50-50 tie, but the hard data gives Yes 21,000 more ticks. WeHo? Silver Lake? What the hell happened down there? Santa Barbara County went for No with 53%! Mendocino, Humboldt, Sonoma, Marin, Alameda, San Mateo and San Francisco counties all topped 60% on the No side, but L.A. couldn’t even get over the 50% mark?!? That’s embarrassing.

Did West Hollywood forget to vote? Or was it too busy out campaigning for Obama in Philadelphia and other battleground states when it should have poured more time and money into the No on 8 campaign?

61% of California voted for the ‘first’ black President but 52% voted to eliminate basic civil rights.

That is a problem.

Don’t get me started on the 75% African-American women, 54% Latino male, 52% Latino female vote in favor of Prop. 8. It hurts when we spend our time fighting for civil and equal rights for ALL, only to not have that ‘favor’ returned. A certain racial gender gap seems to have developing on this issue – 53% of white women voted against the ban whereas 75% of African-American women voted for it. Whether or not that can be attributed to the lies by the ‘Yes on 8’ campaign is uncertain.

There are significant changes from 2000 when majorities of all racial, ethnic and income groups supported the ban.

In 2000, 4,579,386 (61.2%) voted for a gay marriage ban in California while 2,897,689 (38.8%) voted against it.

The numbers are still pouring in but 8 years later, last night, 5,163,908 (52%) voted for the ban whereas 4,760,336 (48%) voted against it.

Mad props to the Asian-American community for giving us a 51% vote against Prop 8. It’s a community that has often disappointed me in the past. Hopefully, I can say that I am proud to be Asian Indian and that we stand against discrimination.

We also won majorly with the first-time (62% against 8 ) and youth voters (61%) and lost majorly among the elderly voters, 61% of whom voted for the Proposition (similar to Prop 22 in 2000). That gives us hope. The arc of justice is bending on our side–a lot of bigots have their one foot in the grave.

The key is education60% of post-graduates voted against the ban whereas only 44% of high school graduates (only) and 43% of those in college or dropouts opposed the measure. This also correlates well with income levels — obviously the higher your education level, the more your income. So people earning over 100K were more likely to oppose the ban while low-income voters were more likely to support it.

We can only move forward and hope to change the 2-4% deficit in our favor come the next elections.

I know a lot of progressives, including myself, believe that marriage should be unconstitutional for everyone. But like I have already noted, political ideology is not a reason to deny a particular social group their civil rights. This constitutional ban along with the ones in Arizona and Florida and 26 other states, serves to perpetuate ‘separate but (un)equal’ in American society, and we must ALWAYS vote against that.

This is not over.

Attorney General Jerry Brown insists that the 18,000 couples wedded between May 15 and Nov 4 are still legally married in California and he will fight to keep that intact.

San Francisco City Attorney is already mounting a legal challenge to Prop 8. A 64-page suit has been filed with the CA Supreme Court.

See a listing of Anti-Prop 8 rallies tonight.

TOI Article – 'Why Blacks outrace Whites'

This was supposed to be posted in the “Olympic season” but better late than never.

Why Blacks Outrace Whites

I think any study that starts with the central assumption that there is some great tangible genetic difference between a “black” or “white” person is bound to leave out other possible socio-cultural, geographical or evolutionary biology explanations. I have friends and family who tend to believe that “blacks are faster and stronger” due to the high concentration of successful black track and field athletes (and all ‘Asians’ are smart and good at math and so on) and the mainstream media does not help to question such beliefs and binary modes of thinking. This is dangerous since it serves to cement a ‘difference’ between ‘racial’ groups that does not exist.

Race is socially-constructed, hence there has to be an alternate explanation for why a certain ‘racial’ group seemingly performs better. All things being equal, there is more genetic variation between two people of different heights than between someone with dark skin as opposed to someone with fair skin. Inputs and other studies welcome — I think this merits further research on my part post-exams. Enjoy the read (full article here):

In the last three decades, athletics, like all sports, has become more and more globalised. Athletes from many small countries are participating in international competitions, and technologies are more freely accessible, although at steep costs. In this levelling of the playing field, the rise of black power has stunned the world once used to seeing only whites on the podium. What is behind this polarization? Is it in the genes or is it the desire to win?

It has come under huge scrutiny by scientists and sociologists in the past decade. Over 200 scientific studies have been carried out and many more are going on. The association of skin colour with a genetic structure suited for athletics has not been established. This is more so because among the black athletes, there are two very distinct categories — those from East Africa, who dominate long distance running, and those of West African ancestry who dominate sprints.Most athletes from the Caribbean and North America belong to the latter category as their ancestors were taken to the New World as slaves between the 15th and 19th centuries. The average West African weighs 30kg more than average East Africans, who are small with thin legs and arms.

Read More …

DNC Day 3 – Democracy is Melting

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Most people believe in change only when they can see it, measure it, maybe even evaluate or experience it.

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Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese (Ligorano/Reese), in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, presented The State of Things, an ice sculpture of the word “Democracy.” According to Nora and Reese:

“The sculpture is emblematic of our times – our democracy is in danger of wasting away at an imperceptible rate. What stands out – is that for the amount of time most people view art – 1 minute or less – the sculpture won’t seem to change, yet by day’s end, it will be gone – disappeared, like so much of what is happening to the values and institutions that make America a great country… This piece focuses on the impact of the War on Terror… and how it has transformed American society.”

You can watch an accelerated video of the ‘melt-down’ here:

In the following video, Angela Davis talks about experiences from her own life and how she can discern that change has occured

How Does Change Occur? When ordinary people can see themselves as agents of social change, form a collective consciousness, and recognize that they have the power to change the social realities.