WPC Lecture Notes Series | Second Thursday Workshop | Redacted

I’ve had a stressful/ annoying few days. The facilitators of one of the Thursday workshops I attended in 2013 at the WPC-14 saw the tidied up lecture notes I originally posted a few years ago as part of a lecture notes series. I guess they saw the lecture notes regarding their workshop on 8/20/2015, three years after the original workshop had been posted. They contacted me asking me to remove the entry due to copyright violation. It kind of surprised me because I was pretty sure I hadn’t violated any copyright, and because I had properly credited them.

Apparently they believed I had recorded their lecture with a/v equipment. Again, surprise: Washington is a two-party consent state, and that’s against the law, so: No. Also, I think, against WPC regulations, so, again: No.

Also, a waste of my phone battery.

Plus, I studied Journalism, worked for the student newspaper, type an average of 80 wpm, and the WPC allowed laptops. I had no need for a recording device. I had me. I wish I could take it as a compliment to my writing and note-taking skills, but let’s face it: It’s been three years since the workshop in question. Unless they were recording us without permission for their research, their claim is ridiculous and un-provable. Memory is fallible. There’s a three year gap, and I know for a fact that I missed a lot of information in those workshops. It was frustrating.

But maybe it is illegal to post lecture notes? I’ve heard some rumblings in the field of copyright law about professors suing students for posting lecture notes online, so I looked it up. Right now, like a lot of copyright law, you’re generally safe as long as you’re not making any profit, which I am not. The ads seen on this WordPress site are because I am utilizing the free (for me) WordPress platform, which the WordPress company runs ads on to support the ability to provide a free blog platform. At least, that’s how I assume it works.

But still. I was cool with removing the entry. I did respect them as academics at the time they contacted me, and they seemed like nice enough people in the one (professional/ academic setting) I had met them in three years ago.

Plus, there are legitimate reasons for academics/ professors to be concerned about their lecture notes floating around online (students cheating/ plagiarism/ etc.). And when they originally contacted me all of 24 hours earlier, I did genuinely feel badly for overstepping my boundaries.

So I agreed to delete the text of the entry and edit it to reflect that, according to the wishes of the workshop facilitators — who would remain unnamed — I would be removing the detailed notes for Thursday’s workshop, along with an apology for overstepping my boundaries.

I chose to do that because it was efficient/ lazy/ low effort, and also it kept the lecture notes series complete and whole while honoring their wishes for anonymity.

I was in the midst of drafting a rather long entry detailing how I had come to the decision to post the lecture notes, the amusing shorthand mistakes I made that led me to doing deeper google research on the workshop in question, which had led to the lecture notes having the additional advantage of being supported by research (I abbreviated their research topic “SSS” in my notes, which was … confusing when I came back to them later), and an apology for overstepping my boundaries.

The apology basically acknowledged that they’d spent decades investing their lives into this research, and I’d just listened to an inspiring workshop and spent a few hours a week editing and cleaning up the lecture notes to anonymize the work shop participants. I was trying to honor them and amplify their voices, and had clearly overstepped my bounds in doing so, and I was sorry. The apology, like this entry, did not name names or reference the research or name-check the workshop in question. There were several other workshops that day — ah, the anonymity of being one in a crowd of many.

While I was drafting the entry, less than 5 hours after I responded to their most recent e-mail (and less than 24 hours after I responded their first one), I received yet another terse email from the facilitator of the workshop in question, telling me that deleting the original text of the entry and removing the tags, their names, and any reference to their work wasn’t good enough. She then threatened me with a lawsuit and told me that she was glad I could no longer afford to attend the WPC, and that I am a bad ally.

She also told me that it wasn’t about whether or not I was making money on this blog (i.e.: copyright infringement), it was about personal privacy: That this is about the personal rights of the individual and whether or not they were being recorded (which she wasn’t, as I had already assured her, multiple times — unless taking notes on a laptop now counts as recording someone), and whether they consented to their personal information being online.

She referenced (as she had multiple times) a vague WPC policy about privacy. I’m not entirely sure which one she means. I’ve combed the WPC site up and down and haven’t found a specifically worded privacy policy, although I’ve found many other policies, such as the Accountability and Taking Action and Mission and Values, as well as the Community Agreement, all of which are what inspired me to share my lecture notes, in the spirit of collaborative learning and sharing the information we learned at the conference with a wider audience. She did not provide the specific conference policy she was referring to in any of the 6 emails she sent over the 24 hour period.

It may be the Community Agreement one, which is why I edited my notes to remove the identifying information of any of the conference attendees when I posted the workshop notes. I assumed that the workshop facilitators would be proud to stand by their presentations. Unfortunately, because I did not post my lecture notes from the WPC until 6 months (in some cases up to a year after) after the conference itself, I had long since thrown away the handouts from the workshops, and could not find the contact information for most of the facilitators online — including the facilitators in question.

And, as I stated, as soon as the facilitators contacted me, I removed the entry from public view with the intent to edit it to completely remove the original text and replace it with a notation that the (anonymous) facilitators of the (unnamed) workshop had requested removal of the text, and issue an apology for overstepping my boundaries.

Honestly, I really did think that editing the original entry to entirely delete the text they objected to and replacing it with new text that in no way named them or their research would honor their wishes while retaining the integrity of placement in the lecture notes series and keeping everything orderly.

I admit I did not take into consideration that the facilitators in question are … advanced in years and perhaps not as familiar with how internet programs such as blog platforms work.

Even so, I was shocked and stunned by their reaction to what I thought was a very reasonable response. I responded in as timely a manner as I could while engaged with family activities they were interrupting. I locked down public access to the post and responded politely to their e-mails.

Yet they clearly expected me to drop everything without hesitation and respond unquestioningly and uncritically to their demands, bowing and scraping to their authority.

When I did not move fast enough to comply with their exact demands (deleting the entry rather than privatizing and editing it), they became litigious and insulting. Gleefully reveling in the fact that my economic class prevents me from partaking in the same academic opportunities they enjoy? Telling me that a real ally of the WPC would just comply with their demands without hesitation? Who does that?

I don’t want to die on this hill. Deleting the entry is not a battle I care about fighting. I have some … anxiety and mental health issues around organizing things. So I take some extra medication and schedule an extra therapy visit. Whatever. It really doesn’t matter to me in the long run, and it clearly does matter to them.

The edited entry that would have taken its place is also trashed, bc it was a lot more apologetic and even toned, and I’m feeling impatient and pissy right now with how quickly they stepped to pulling class and academic rank. I don’t need this level of stress in my life, and I don’t really want to waste the time and energy on this bs.

These classist elitist tone-policing academics who revel in the poverty of others have already e-mailed me 6 times in a 24 hour period, and have already conceded in that short time frame that this isn’t even about a copyright violation but about their discomfort with their research and name being mentioned on a non-academic public blog and threatened a lawsuit, all because I didn’t “snap to” and “fall in line” with their exact orders quickly enough.

At this point, the only logical conclusion I can draw is that they do not feel comfortable standing publicly by their research, in which case I am doubly happy to honor the wishes I was already acceding to.

Admittedly, my opinion on the quality of their research and their ability to separate academic rigor and emotional bias has taken a rather substantial hit over the past day, and I no longer feel comfortable endorsing them at all. Also my opinion on them as individuals. But they would probably say the same of me, so we’re all even.

So … Thursday’s second workshop lecture notes of the WPC conference that I attended three years ago have been removed at the request of the facilitators. The original entry was completely deleted, not merely edited. So that’s where we’re at.


Edit: I edited this entry a few days later to correct a few grammatical issues, and wanted to add a few thoughts on the anonymous scholar thing.

When these guys first contacted me, I was excited — as always — to have the opportunity to talk to fellow academics and equals (as I viewed them). I may not have a doctorate, but since I don’t subscribe to that whole degree valuation thing anyway, that doesn’t particularly matter to me. To me, a doctorate indicates that someone has a certain specialization of interest in a field — it does not mean I should automatically bow and scrape to them in all matters, or defer to them as an authority or my social and moral superior.

They were, naturally, reserved and standoffish in their language in the emails, yet polite and professional. Because we are strangers, because they were being professional, because they were irritated with me yet having to ask a favor of me. Although they were polite, and although I am well aware of the effect of projected ‘tone’ in email, I felt I had a reasonable sense of what they thought of me.

I had, after all, had the opportunity to observe them lecture at a workshop for an hour. My original notes on the lecture were peppered with observations on their interactions, (the blonde one stayed in the background, spoke so softly that I didn’t catch her name, and seemed apologetic about her presence at the conference — not sure if because of her race or gender; the woman of color was an older woman used to getting her way and leading the discussion, something of a steamroller in personality, and brought up her religious beliefs frequently, often with an evangelical tone).

It’s true they can read this blog to get a sense of my personality. I suspect that one of them might have the personality to put aside her hurt at our disagreement and do so with an academic, fair eye — although I suspect she would deem it not worth her time. The other, if she read my blog, I suspect would do so only in the hopes of finding some damning piece of evidence that fulfills her expectations about my character, and would quickly grow bored of the exercise and let it go because she has more important things to do.

Anyway, after the whole thing went down and they transitioned so quickly to threatening litigation and taunting me about my inability to enjoy the same opportunities as them, I copy-pasted the e-mails into a word document to work through them and try to figure out what their deal is.

As a note, emails are not considered private, so thank the gods I have no concerns there if they get any freak-out privacy concerns.

As I went through the emails, I realized part of the problem is the age difference. I recall the woman of color, the one leading the correspondence, as being rather elderly. When she was insistent that I “delete it entirely” and got angry about the “right to personal privacy and consenting to her name on the internet” it was the type of angry ranting that 70 year old tea party people who don’t know how to use the internet do. I don’t recall her being that old — I thought she was in her 50s or 60s — but I suppose anywhere over the half-century mark is old enough.

It is possible she didn’t understand that even just removing the post from “published” status would give it the appearance of being deleted, from her point of view, even though it would technically be a “draft” in my blog. Also, in a blog, you can restore “deleted” posts from the trashcan. It seemed clear from the way that they phrased their acceptance of my word that they didn’t actually believe I did not tape record them — so if they actually understand how the internet worked, why would they believe I deleted the blog post?

They had clearly signaled they believed me to be a dishonest person, even though I was doing my best to deal fairly and honestly with them while spending time with family and on a motorcycle trip. With the frequency of her emails, she was also signaling something else to me: That I needed to fall in line and acquiesce without question or hesitation to her social and moral authority in this situation. They have the doctorates, they have the education, and therefore they feel they have the right to dictate what the unwashed masses can and cannot say.

This definitely one of the reasons I decided not to pursue a doctorate path, despite the offers of sponsorship from some of my professors during my final years at Evergreen. I mean, the other huge contributing factors were the stress on the family and the massive student loan debt accrued through higher education.

But the ridiculous degree valuation — this ivory tower academia sense of insularity, that knowledge is to be hoarded instead of shared. This is why I rejected becoming officially one of their peers in academia. I know I have the intelligence to go toe to toe with most doctorates (in the humanities — I don’t pretend to be able to hold court with scientists!); I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that. If an academic needs a piece of paper to recognize that in someone … that’s a problem. That tells me way more about the supposed academic than it does about me.

I still do not understand where these particular team of professors were coming from — I did feel their research was worthwhile, and if I was an academic with similar research, I would have been happy to stand publicly by it and see it discussed by everyday people. But then again, I do believe that education should be readily accessible to everyone. I frown on ivory-tower academia and disapprove of the economic restrictions and financial debt that are crushing the dream of higher education.

I must accept the cold reality that we are diametrically morally opposed: I believe in collaborative learning, and they believe in restricting information. I believe in freedom of information, it would seem that they do not. I believe in treating all people, regarding of economic situation or education level, equally. Their treatment of me clearly signaled they felt my economic situation and education level made me their inferior.

Then I followed their email address to the website of the college they teach at and a whole new dimension to it opened up. The totally religious lady who was constantly evangelizing her religion at the WPC? She’s Catholic! Dude! They’re Catholics, teaching at a private Catholic university for religious interests! Of course they don’t want their research associated on the blog of a dirty filthy atheist, we’re gross.

Now I’m just amused at the whole thing. Religion is funny and makes people act in weird ways.

… At least, I hope that’s it. Religious discrimination sucks balls, but at least it’s better than wanting the lecture notes removed from the blog due to classism and ivory tower academic insularity.

Because their copyright claim on the lecture notes is debatable at best, especially once I complied with their demands (and then they were just being controlling about how exactly I structured the ensuing content on my blog) and absolutely no-one, anywhere in the USA, has the “right” to have one’s name removed from the internet. You can like it or dislike it, but that’s the way it is.

Tax Justice | Saturday Workshop 3 | WPC-14


Notes & Copyright

[Personal Note: This is the last workshop of the weekend, so the last of the WPC-14 workshop posts. I may post my final paper for the associated independent study course, as well.]

Tax Justice

Facilitators: Jax Hermer and Zeke Spier

Facilitators introduce themselves. Jax is here on behalf of an organization called Resource Generation, which helps affluent youth use their funds for social justice. Zeke works with a social justice group (don’t recall the name) and works with a lot of diverse racial/ class groups who often deals with these types of questions.

They asked us to go round the room and introduce ourselves by name, preferred gender pronoun, and why we’re here.

Jack (prefers male/ he) is an accountant by trade. He loves numbers, hates taxes. Says numbers/ accounting are neat and orderly, but taxes are political and not at all orderly or sensible.

Me (female/she) interested in social justice, has an accountant in the family so kind of here sideways.

Then they all spoke too fast and I didn’t get their names.

Wxx (pref: female/ she) likes accounting and numbers | Wxx (pref: female/ she) is a Greener student helping with the budget and learning about taxes, has become interested in politics and the rhetoric around it | Aprilla (pref gender neutral) interested in taxes/ how confusing they are/ why don’t they make sense/ why is she still getting refunds? | Wxx (pref: female/ she) feels like she has a Robin Hood mentality toward taxes and wants a more nuanced understanding | Wxx-– wants deeper understanding of taxes; doesn’t get it | Wxy (pref: male/he) wants a deeper understanding of wealth, race, and taxes | Kitti (pref: female/ she) says taxes and social justice dovetail with both of her jobs and she has an interests in the subject. | Linni (pref: female/ she) reflected on the unequal distribution of wealth and the inequality in our country, and is interested in learning how taxes impact that | Pat (pref: none, does not believe in gender pronouns) is trying to have an economic theme to his workshops and this workshop fit for this timeframe | Kris (pref: female/ she) says this is pertinent to her life right now as she is going to college in NYC and feels like people think of welfare in terms of government funded programs, but not corporate tax breaks. | Aaron (pref: male/ he) is interested in learning more data to back up his beliefs about the tax system and what those more knowledgeable than him are doing about it.

Zeke explains why they asked about preferred gender pronouns (which is that it’s the polite and respectful thing to do, and that it’s presumptive to assume you can tell someone’s gender identity by looking at them), and says Disclosure: They are not tax experts and cannot give tax advice. Then he and Jax begin introducing terms and definitions.

Taxation Terms & Definitions

  • TAX:  It is something we have to pay to the government. Required to fund government services.
  • RACIAL WEALTH GAP:  This is the disproportionate distribution of wealth held by white people and people of colors. Result of discriminatory laws and policies that unfairly benefit the group in power.
  • FLAT TAX SYSTEM:  When everyone pays the same amount of tax, regardless of income or wealth.
  • REGRESSIVE:  Where the tax rates decrease as income rises. Regressive taxes in Washington state would be sales tax, and a Federal regressive tax is payroll tax, which caps out at a certain income and does not charge taxes for income above that amount.
  • PROGRESSIVE:  When the tax rate increases as the amount taxed does.
  • TAX BRACKET:  This is the rate of percentage at which the top amount of income is taxed.
  • MARGINAL TAX RATE:  Pay the same rate at each tier of income (for instance, imagine tax rate is 10% up to $20,000 but 8% for 21-40,000 and 5% for 41-60,000. So if you earn $60,000, the first $20,000 wld be taxed at 10%, then the amt after that would be txed at 8% and 2% consecutively.). US uses marginal tax rate system.
  • CAPITAL GAINS TAX RATE:  Taxes paid on earnings from investments, which in US is much, much lower than the taxes paid on income and property.
  • EFFECTIVE TAX RATE:  Percent of income actually paid after deductions and exemptions are calculated. It is how much you actually paid in taxes at the end of the day, after everything is accounted for.
  • DEDUCTIONS:  Before you pay taxes on income you get to take certain deductions (property taxes or charitable giving or having kids). Deductions are for taxable income.
  • EXEMPTIONS:  Certain activities that are not taxed, like municipal bonds, mean that the income is not taxed either. Exemptions are for non-taxable income.
  • ESTATE TAX:  Inheritance tax, essentially. It is not taxed at all below 5 million. An accountant did clarify that while the inheritance itself is not taxed, the gains/ income/ investments from it can be taxed.

Zeke say it’s complicated on purpose, and that’s part of the racial and class disparity inherent in the tax code. People who have access to accountants and lawyers can game the tax code, but people who don’t have that access can’t figure it out on their own and are hosed (financially speaking). Also Zeke says the argument commonly used against an Estate Tax is that it’s basically double taxation, which is unfair. He says this is a new idea, historically speaking.

Zeke and Jax unveil a graph with three lines on it. The purple line traces the stop marginal tax rate from 1913 – 2013. The pink line traces the amount of the wealth that is held by the top earners (the 1%). The green line traces union membership. Zeke tells us the first Federal income tax was written in 1913. At that time, the Marginal Tax Rate was 20%, and 18% of the wealth in society went to the top 1%.

They split us into groups and ask us to discuss amongst ourselves what historical events may have occurred to causes the spikes and dips on the graph.


My group consists of an Accountant, the girl who likes accounting and numbers, and a dude who came in after the introductions. The numbers girl says she doesn’t know much about history, but she guesses wars and stuff caused most of the dips. I gave a brief overview of my understanding of the wars, taxes, and union movement since the introduction of the Federal tax code. The accountant said he was already familiar with the history. The groups then merged back for the class presentation.

Presentation: First Quarter | 1913-1938

During this time, we saw WWI, the growth of industrialization and manufacturing, the birth of radical social justice movement in response to income disparities; unionization; the New Deal, the Stock Market Crash, and the Great Depression.

Zeke says before the income tax was implemented in 1913, the government collected duties and tariffs to pay for their wars and programs. The top spike of a 75% MTR in this time frame was on incomes of about $77 million or more a year. It was about paying for WWI, and the government asking the extremely wealthy to chip in and do their part. That was seen as a patriotic duty. He pointed out that although Social Security and Welfare were passed, they primarily benefited white workers. Colored and agricultural workers were excluded from the programs and protections.

During this period, the MTR gets as high as 75% and as low as 25%. The amount of wealth going to the top 1% was as high as 25% of societal wealth and as low as 20%. The idea of lowering taxes to strengthen the economy is not a new idea. It is a very old one. It happened during this era and did not help — in fact, it deepened the income inequality and contributed to the Great Depression. He also touched on the unionization and labor movement through the Flint Sit-Down Strike, and how the labor movement improved the income equality situation.

Second Quarter | 1938-1963

This era saw the Spanish Civil War and Hitler/ WWII. Ideals of patriotism and contributing to the war effort were present in financial discussions and the rise of the labor movement. After the war, the GI Bill allowed many white veterans to get college educations, house, property, and so on. After WWII was the threat of the Cold War/ red scare, and the anti-communist/ labor sentiment. This was also when the Civil Rights Movement really took off.

During this time, the top MTR was 94% on incomes about 2.5 million. In today’s money, that means you could earn 10 million on top of that, and you would only get 5 million of that earned 10 million. The unionization rate at this time was as high as 29% of the population. The amount of wealth going to the top 1% went as high as 10% of societal wealth and as low as about 8%.

This era saw a very high MTR, relatively low income inequality, and racial income inequality gap increasing. This is the time when the white middle class really grew. Someone suggested that the economic security accompanying this rise is what gave white folks the space and lack of stress to focus their attentions and emotions on the Civil Rights Movement and racial equality.

During this time there was full employment and high employment. The workers had more power, which meant the wealthy/ businesses/ corporations had less. They had to negotiate with workers. 1953 saw the lowest unemployment rate in history (2%).


Another attendee pointed out that this time frame is when the international monetary fund was created/ started, and that this fund facilitated the eventual outsourcing and exploitation of workers.

Zeke and Jax are questioning/ doubtful of this assertion, stating the impact of the international monetary fund is seen in the next quarter.

Attendee backtracks, says it started in the 1950’s as a positive way of restructuring other nations, but the seeds and power structures were there for the future worker exploitation.

An accountant says the extremely high MTR created incentive for the wealthy to keep their money in investments and such in order to hold onto the wealth and pay fewer taxes. Further, many of the extremely wealthy began sequestering their money into the corporations they owned in order to grow their wealth in a non-taxable way — a move that led to the growth of the corporation.

Return to Presentation

Jax/Zeke take control of the discussion again and refocus on their lecture. They specifically address race, the Japanese internment and the dispossession of Japanese farms/ homes/ businesses occurred in this era. This was also when the rise of the Bracero Program occurred, a government program to bring in Mexican workers on temporary visas as farm and agricultural labor, which meant they could not unionize or their visas would be revoked and they would be deported.

Third Quarter | 1963-1988

Vietnam War; explosion of social justice movements (anti-war, Civil Rights, feminism); lack of access to gas lines and gas shortages; the oil embargo, massive inflation; 3 recessions in 12 years; Regan broke the unions (Air Traffic Controllers); corporations began getting involved in politics and policies.

The top 1% is angry about the high amount of taxes they’ve paid and their funding for social programs for poor people. Reagan tapped into this anger by introducing the myth of the Welfare queen and the claim that poor people were gaming the system. By feeding their anger, he gained their political and financial support. They used the Southern Strategy (racism) to get poor white people to vote against their own best interests. This was also when promotion of the “me” generation with an eye to reducing/ preventing social justice and student movements was strong. Reagan and his ilk introduced the concept of “Trickle Down Economics.” The popularity of this idea tied into the growth of the political ideal that all taxes are bad, no matter what. Historically, that was considered a very unpatriotic view, but Reagan and the angry wealthy introduced concepts like the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and financial deregulation with taxes as the bogeyman. This era also saw the war on drugs and resultant mass incarceration of minorities.

During this time, the top MTR was as high as about 70% in the 1970s and as low as 60%. Unionization started the era at a high of 18-20%, but dipped as low as about 16% by the late 1980s. The amount of the nations wealth going to the top 1% was about 8-9%.

FOURTH QUARTER | 1988-2013

NAFTA, which connected to the international movement of exporting jobs. The repeal of Glass-Steagal in 1999, which led enabled financial institutions to get into their creative protections and risky investment strategies. The Tech Boom bubble and crash in the 1990s, and the mini bubble followed by the post 9/11 crash. 9/11, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The housing crash in 2008 — which was the single biggest decrease in wealth in the Black American community in the entire history of the US. Black American wealth had been seeing a steady increase/ dip/ increase pattern since 1964, and their wealth was primarily concentrated in housing and property. White people’s wealth tends to be more in investments. With the housing crash, Black Americans saw a 3-1 loss of wealth comparative to whites. Welfare reform in 1996, the restructuring of the bankruptcy laws, the Bush tax cuts, etc. etc. Lowest union enrollments ever, rising cost of tuition, and explosion of predatory lending practices.

In this time, the MRT has gone as high as 35% and as low as 25%. Income disparity has seen as much as 20% of social wealth go to the top 1%, and union membership has been as low as 10%.

Discussion | Personal Impact and Future Visions

XX:  Most concerned about tuition and the impact on students. She is going to increase her participation in social movements and protests.

XX:  Is union and is working on some union initiatives.

XY:  Social movement and justice are improving and there should be more change than ever, yet 53% of people still vote republican and he is confused.

Me:  Yay union, don’t throw baby out with bathwater, need to organize retail sector.

Class Goals

  • Work on local stuff like the initiative regarding Washington income tax.
  • Educate students on tax history, and keep learning for ourselves.
  • Figure out different way to fund education rather than through property taxes.
  • Get involved with tax reform movements.
  • Encourage financial literacy.
  • Educate and organize the youth.

Healing Orientalism: An Exploration of White Supremacist Spiritual Practices | Saturday Workshop 2 | WPC-14


Notes & Copyright

Healing Orientalism: An Exploration of White Supremacist Spiritual Practices

Facilitators: Chilan Ta and Michelle Kleisath, April 13, 2013

[Personal Note: My stupid tablet unexpectedly turned off and I lost first 1/2 hr of notes. Basically, there are two presenters. Chilan Ta came to Buddhism through her family and culture; Michelle Kleisath came to Buddhism through travel and curiosity.]

Kleisath relates how living in Tibet and then Seattle highlighted the differences between Tibetan/ Asian Buddhism and American Buddhism. She found herself wondering why Tibetan/ Asian Buddhists do not meditate, but it’s so central to American Buddhism. Sought answers, and was really disturbed by the answers. The white American Buddhists were dismissive of the understanding/ awareness/ faithfulness of Tibetan Buddhists in their answers, saying things like Tibetan Buddhist didn’t really understand their own religion, or took it for granted and weren’t very faithful. Kleisath was disturbed by this and began investigating the issue for her thesis. She shared two personal experiences that illustrating cultural differences between American and Tibetan Buddhism.

Experience the First

An Asian friend went to the home of a white American male, and walked in to see Tibetan decor all over the walls. She feels small and shamed at seeing how much of her cultural history he is aware of, and how she doesn’t have that kind of culture and history in her own home. She feels like less of a Tibetan, and intimidated by his knowledge/ fascination with her culture.

[Personal Note: I imagine this would be like going to India or Japan and discovering that they are intimately aware of aspects of my country’s religious and historical events in a way that wasn’t even on my radar. I’d feel really off kilter and a bit panicky that someone might ask me a question thinking I’m an expert when I’m really not.]

Experience the Second

Another Asian friend went to the home of an American woman, and needed to use the bathroom. When she went in the bathroom, she couldn’t use the toilet because her hostess had placed a statue of Buddha right above it. She was in great discomfort, and could not explain to the hostess how sacrilegious and awful it was for fear of rudeness.

[Personal Note: It is also kind of odd that Westerners are so happy to hang pictures of Jesus in their bathroom. I wouldn’t shit in front of my husband, so why an image of my god? Seems disrespectful. I’m  an atheist and I wouldn’t put someone elses’ religious iconography in my bathroom.]

Kleisath explains the history of cultural approbation and imperialism regarding Buddhism. Sacred caves in China, British explorer discovers giant statues of Buddha and cuts the heads off to take back to Britain, heads now in British museums and archives. Wealthy elite use the Buddha heads to decorate their homes/ show how well traveled and cultural they are. Jump forward a few decades to the Vietnam war. Elite white men joined the Peace Corps to dodge the draft. This put them in Tibet during the transformative social movement in the US and the trauma of Vietnam. Same time frame has elite young Asians dealing with the trauma of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and they joined forces. The elite Americans pushed/ campaigned through college programs etc. to get the Tibetans (people and culture) imported to America, which is how we ended up with Americanized and misunderstood ideas of Buddhism as taught through the lenses of the elite/ wealth experience.

Small Group Discussion

My group: Zach, Dylan, Bob, myself. All white middle-upper class. Zach and Dylan do not practice Buddhism and are surprised at the history just shared; they were unaware of it. Bob does practice Buddhism (apparently a sort of Christian/ Buddhist mixture) and claims to know most of the history just presented. He is uncomfortable with their casting of American meditation (kneeling/ sitting, mindful contemplation) as an American interpretation, not a traditional Buddhist practice. He is uncomfortable. Says the lens he is hearing this through is a lens of questioning why you’re engaging in Buddhism and the value of meditation. Says he came to workshop because he felt confronted by title and wanted to lean into that discomfort. He says so many mainstream religions have oppressed and practiced cultural approbation, but the spiritual is still valuable and meditation is very meaningful. He feels uncomfortable with negativity toward Buddhism.

I shared my history/ perspective on religion, and my relief that they are not casting Buddhism as either wholly good nor wholly evil. Said it’s good to question narratives and whenever anyone represents a belief or culture as wholly good or wholly evil, they are purposefully ignoring facts that derail their version of truth.

Dylan pointed out that presenters are not saying to stop meditating, just to stop referring to it as a “traditional Buddhist practice.” Points out that she stated several times that meditation as Asian Buddhists practice it is very different from the American Buddhist tradition of sitting and practicing mindfulness.


Summary of Lost Notes

Basically, we broke for total workshop discussion. Someone liked the presentation and someone didn’t. Someone mentioned the commercialization and approbation of Buddhism and other religions without any deep understanding. Someone said they were involved in one of those interfaith movements that promotes picking and choosing the religious traditions you find most valuable, and this presentation has changed his perspective on his participation in this group. Someone said they really liked Buddhism and it helps their mental/ psychological/ emotional health, and they do not want to stop practicing it just because it’s cultural approbation. Someone else got really angry and confrontational about their terminology of the Tibetans in this history as “elites” and became super yelly about how they suffered and lost a whole lot. Someone who works in therapy talked about mindfulness within the therapy community as a means of dealing with oppression. Someone else pointed out that you can be elite and still have suffering/ oppression happen in your life, and it’s important to realize and recognize that mentioning or acknowledging the elite aspect does not discount the later suffering.

Back to Presentation

Ta supports this by talking about her ancestors. They came to America in part because of the cultural revolution in China, and the shrinking gap between the wealthy/ elite and the poverty stricken when communism came in. Her family fled communism, and were only able to do that because their elite status provided them with the wealth, means, and connections to escape. In this way, they were both elite and oppressed.

Ta talked about the baggage of conservatism, racism, sexism, etc. in Asian spaces, and how they can be very damaging. People often don’t recognize this aspect of Asian culture because they have romanticized the perceived spiritual/ connectedness of the culture.

[Personal Note: An Asian spin on the nativism/ noble savage trope?]

Then she talks about how meditation as Americans practice it totally be beneficial and good and valuable, but it is MISTERMED when it is sold and marketed and referred to as “traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation,” and that undermines both the actual Buddhist religion and its traditions by ascribing false actions/ meanings/ and values to it. Cracked an off-hand joke that I didn’t completely hear — something about how maybe the elite young white guys learning Buddhism had trouble standing still, so they sat instead and that’s where the difference came from.

Several self-identified American Buddhists in the audience are still confrontational/ upset/ aggressive about the lesson, which is apparent through their mutterings, but they do not actually try to argue back to her.

Kleisath wants to share a final story/ twist. Kleisath and Ta are actually partners and live together. When they first moved in was when Kleisath had just returned from Tibet, and she had put all her baggage on the walls as a means of dealing with how much she missed it. Ta was kind of weirded out by it, but had the attitude of okay, if it makes you happy. Over time, Kleisath realized how uncomfortable and unhappy this made her Buddhist and Tibetan friends, as well as her partner. Made her re-assess why she was doing it, and what meaning it had for her. She decided to take it all down, and shared with a laugh how Ta had not helped her put any of it up, but she sure did help her take it down!

Ta takes over the story and explains how the removal of Kleisath’s Tibetan baggage/ decor left the walls bare and clean, and opened up a space in her home where she finally felt relaxed and able to breathe or even fart in her own home without having Buddha staring down at her. By opening up that space, Ta was finally able to start reaching out and connecting to her own cultural connection with Buddhism forming a mode of neo-traditional practice that links her to her family, race, and heritage while shedding the racism, sexism, and oppression endemic to the religion. She says neither American Buddhism nor traditional Asian Buddhism had afforded her that opportunity, but by creating their own space they were able to create their own traditions.

The Only Good Indian Mascot | Saturday Workshop 1 | WPC-14


Notes & Copyright

The Only Good Indian Mascot is a Dead Indian Mascot

Facilitators: Cornel Pewewardy and Shilo George, April 13, 2013

Started with Pewewardy loudly hitting a stretched-skin drum with a leather mallet and ululating in traditional Native American vocalization.

[Personal Note: The drum beats startle me each time. A white audience member is vocalizing with him, apparently singing along. Am I supposed to be vocalizing? Are all of us? Is this expected; desired? I feel awkward and uncomfortable.]

Pewewardy finishes with his song and says a blessing or thought of some sort in his native tongue. Switches to English and introduces himself. He is Comanche and Kiowa. Pewewardy states that regardless of race or culture, it is important to be aware of the history of the lands and the cultures of those lands. He says it is also important to know the stories and histories of your own past, and how you came to the land. The song was a traditional Native American song that is apparently basically a national anthem of sorts for the Native peoples of this land. It is song that celebrates strength and resistance, and mourns loss. He introduces Shilo George, his female co-presenter, who is Tsistitas (Southern Cheyenne-Arapaho). She is a board member of OIEA (Oregon Indian Education Association).

[Personal note: My middle school, Chinook Middle School, used to have an Indian mascot. The year I attended, they changed it from a Chieftain-style stereotype to a totem emblem that was designed by Chinook tribal members working with the middle school students and staff. There were a lot of assemblies and stuff. It was a really cool discussion to have as an 8th grader, and not one I think most 8th graders have. Also, I just now realized I commented on Pewewardy’s last name as interesting/ unique to fellow attendee and I am a retard.]

They counted off around the room: 1, 2, 1, 2. Had all the 1’s form a circle, and all the 2’s form a circle outside the 1’s. Pewewardy says this is “circle methodology” which is an indigenous way of knowing. After this will be the presentation/ slideshow, which Pewewardy hopes will engage not only our consciousness but our “disconsciousness,” which he hopes will help engage us on a social justice and active consciousness level. He also lays out some “culture protocols” for the lecture/ presentation, which is basically to not interrupt and to hold our questions until the end of the presentation. They pass out some blank cards they say we will use at the end of the presentation.

 Slideshow: The Only Good Indian Mascot is a Dead Indian Mascot.

Thesis: The possessive investment in whiteness to maintain American Indian mascots in American schools, media, and sport culture. We must consider and expand our awarenss of and understanding of this issue.

Nomenclature Used:

  • Post-Indian, not Indian. This is very important, Pewewardy stresses. He is post-Indian. He asks we call him by his given name (Namanah; Comanche). States that Indian and Native American and American Indian are terms that were applied to his people by the invading dominant culture; that all the terms (even the p.c. ones) have been invented by the dominant culture.
  • Honor Culture Protocols: Use of terms: Indian, Native, American Indian, Native American, First Nations People and Indigenous Peoples are issues of tribal sovereignity and self-determination. Says inclusivity is a threat to tribal sovereignity, and they don’t want to abide by PC terms coined by the dominant culture to be more inclusive. Points out that they cannot even speak/ pass on their native tongues anymore because English is the language of power — treaties are all in English.

[Personal Note: Brings to mind White By Law and the plight of the Mashpee.]

Slide: Cartoon depicting two modern white kids and a traditionally dressed Native man. The kids are asking the Native which team or corporation (mascot) he is representing.

Crowson’s View by Richard Crowson

Pewewardy asked (and answers) where Indian mascots originated from. It started in the early 20th century animal mascots were spreading among European and American boarding schools as a means to raise team spirit/ school solidarity. The use of Native American imagery as mascots was born out of the confluence of these events. The Native Americans were considered to be less human than whites, and more similar in mind/ manner to animals — therefore they easily fit into the practice of using animals and animal imagery as mascots. Further, when the Native American boarding schools would play against other boarding schools, the commentators/ announcers would refer to those teams as, “the Indians coming onto the field.”

Pewewardy expands on practice of Native American boarding schools. It was an attempt to prove American Indians could be educated and made civilized in a controlled and well-regulated environment. In the 1920s and 30s, an influx of white settlers into lands set aside for Native American tribes forced an exodus of Native American youth from their tribal lands. In many cases, these youth were removed from their homes and placed in boarding schools or with families that forced a native erasure of their cultures.

[Personal Note: That’s the Mormon/ Lamanite intersection right there.]

Pewewardy shows 3 slides naming colleges that have dropped their Indian mascot imagery/ names. No time to write down names; he clicks through too quickly. Talks about the machinery of whiteness:




He says people see and look at these mascots through a gaze (lens) shaped by the dominant culture perspective rather than the indigenous perspective. Pewewardy points out that even when colleges get rid of the mascots, they do not try to actually change the conversation by bringing in Native curriculums, teachers, or indigenous histories.

Pewewardy moves onto white identity performances and the exploitation/ approbation of Native culture. Says it’s all about Imperial Nostalgia, and worse, it’s effecting the Native youth in America. Cites when Native American communities invent Indian communities/ identities; when they manufacture signs and ethnic images for the purpose of reliving and re-enacting the past of the American Wild West as it is projected to them through the lens of whiteness.

Examples of this would be when Native Americans term themselves things like “Beaver Nation,” “Grizzly Nation,” or “Otter Nation.” These are recent inventions, and they reveal the influence of the dominant white culture on the Native culture. Native youth are creating new identities based on the reflection of the white lens.

Pewewardy then introduces the white master narrative in language, tropes, and idiom. There is the romanticized myth of “going Indian” or “going Native.” This is a very popular myth in the Euro-American imagination; see Last of the Mohicans, Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, and the more recent sci-fi spin on the trope, Avatar.

He then (very quickly) reviews some of the stereotypes applied to Native American imagery. Clicked through the slides super-quick, but this is what I was able to write down:

  • The sad alcoholic
  • The New Age Shaman/ Medicine Man
  • The Wise Guide
  • Kemosabe Theory (idea that the Native American theory can only be a helpful subordinate or sidekick, not the hero)

He then address the language of savagery:

  • The only good Indian is a dead Indian.
  • Low man on the totem pole.
  • Better dead than red.
  • Kill the Indian, save the American.
  • Honest injun.
  • Indian giver.
  • Noble savage.
  • One little, two little, three little Indians

Explains the last one — apparently comes from a children’s rhyme that used to read: One little, two little, three little n*ggers, and was changed when that was no longer p.c. — Indian was apparently a valid solution?

George took over presentation to discuss the issue of Native approbation, starting with the earliest introduction for most American kids: Halloween costumes. She takes us through a series of advertisements found online for the costumes, showing that the description of the item is often just as — if not more — degrading as the item itself. Advertisements tell the would-be purchaser that they will, “learn about culture with this Native Indian warrior wig,” or that, “this adult sexy Indian will bring spirits to their knees!“, or that parents should, “prepare little warrior for tribal council with papoose bunting!“. These advertisements minimize the cultural background and erasure of these cultures, while pretending to celebrate it.

Further, they teach the white dominant privilege of seeing this as “not a big deal” from a very young age; telling youth through both word and action that Native issues are not “real” issues, and this is all just a fun game. On top of that, the sexy female Indian costume minimizes and erases the on-going and current tragedy that is the high rate of sexual assault and rape inflicted on Native women, primarily by non-Native men.

She talks about Stanford. Apparently they retired their offensive caricature of the Stanford Indian mascot back in 1958, but Stanford alumni brought it back in 2010. She shows an image of the mascot: A stereotyped caricature of a running Indian with a large, hooked nose; breechcloth; raised tomahawk; two feathers; and war paint stripes. The reason Stanford alumni brought it back was because they believed their nostalgia and perception of the mascot as “harmless” outweighed any other issues: They see it not as cultural approbation but as their right to use.

She talks about how this is an endemic view in America; that the Native cultures have been scooped up by a Wild Wild West/ Americana mentality, and many like to claim a Native presence/ influence. Cites as an example Scappoose, OR. In the 1890s, over 90% of the Multnomah tribe was decimated by fever. The remainder were scooped up and relocated by the US government. This occurred before the settlers even came into the area. Yet even though the white settlers actually never dealt with interacted with the Multnomah tribe, they have a strong pride of the stereotypical/ dominant white lens version the region’s Native American history.

George talks about how in the 1990s, great strides were made in addressing the offensive nature of these mascots, and many of the mascots were retired. Now we are experiencing a backlash of white nostalgia and a push by whites to bring back the offensive mascots.

Language and Justifications of Native American Mascots

Trope of the Noble Savage — white people claim they are honoring the culture, and point to the nobility/ beauty/ manliness of the imagery to illustrate how it’s a compliment.

cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz

cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz

Redskin – This term refers to the bloody membranes of Native scalps brought back for bounty/ reward by trappers and colonists during the Westward expansion of the United States. The bloody membrane was red in color and associated with all the other wild animal pelts brought in for bounty, therefore termed a “red skin.”

[Personal Note: I did not know that. I thought it was because people were saying Indians have red skin. It makes no sense, but neither does calling me white or Chinese yellow or Africans black. Also, the casual addressing of settlers and scalping seemed to be news to many in the room — I saw a lot of raised eyebrows and shocked looks.]

Public-Use Images: Public-school icons — including sports mascots — are open to community use. Community members can do whatever they like with those images, use them as they see fit, and spread them throughout the community, regardless of how racist or problematic the image may be (and also regardless if the school has retired it).

She then shows a slide with a cartoon depicting caricatures of other minority races, and the tagline: Let’s spread the fun. The caricatures each have a “team name” underneath them, ie: Seattle Asians, Detroit Africans, Los Angeles Hispanics, and Cleveland Indians. The caricatures depict the most outrageous versions of the stereotypical art that has been historically used in America to illustrate these races.

by Tony Auth

cartoon by Tony Auth

[Personal Note: What would a white caricature look like? Would this as effective, less effective, or more effective if the artist chose to depict a white stereotype as well?]

George proposes strategies of change: Social Media, Research papers, speaking out, news articles, etc. She also admonishes us that inaction is still an action — it is the action of complicity. Reminds us that silent racism deserves attention as well.

Pewewardy takes over, says allies should know their own cultural history and have an awareness of their past. It’s important to know where you come from and how you got to where you are.

[Personal Note: I can’t help but think of many of my white-presenting friends who claim Native American or Eastern Spiritual traditions, which they say they have a right to do because a) a spiritual awakening occurred, b) family rumor of distant ancestry, or c) they say they have permission from an actual Native person.

I always wonder why they feel the need to seek out and borrow from other people’s romanticized cultures instead of tracing back through their own cultural history and traditions. Everyone has dark shadows and light places in their past — just because the so-called white cultures have cast a larger shadow doesn’t mean I have to turn my back on my ancestors to appreciate and accept other cultures.]

Then he introduces his article on the defensive tactics and attributions on dodging the dialog of cultural diversity. These tactics are grouped into four subcategories:

  1. Avoidance
  2. Disavowal
  3. Dismissal/ patronizing
  4. Recentering

They return to the example of the Scappoose Indians and a proposed Indian Mascot ban. Talk about the objections/ arguments raised against the ban, and how they meet the above criteria: crab theorist (insults/ taunts/ use of sarcasm); claim that whites are honoring them; please give me a break (whiners/ oversensitive); the strategy of innocent gestures; the distracter (whites bringing up Indian casinos & implied financial success  to subvert discussion from the topic of mascots).

Pewewardy says language has changed, and political correctness is now commonplace. Says people are developing tools/ arguments against this shift by casting political correctness as weak/ namby-pamby/ state control. The tactic of attacking allies for being “politically correct run amok” is a distraction intended to subvert the topic under discussion rather than address it.

[Personal Note: I have always felt like people who argue against political correctness are arguing for their right to use hate speech. I don’t understand why being polite and considerate has become so maligned.]

Drawing on Rhea Almeida’s 2013 work of Hierarchies of Power, Privilege, and Oppression, and James Banks’ Levels of Multicultural Integration, they created a graphic with a “circular multi-level cultural integration approach.”

It says to change the dialog, we need to start/ build from these spaces: a Contributions Approach (focus on heroes, holidays, discrete elements of cultural contribution), move to an Additive Approach (discussing content and concepts in relation to the Contributions), segue into a Transformative Approach (the structure of the curriculum to change the students understanding of concepts and cultures), and lead into a Social Justice Action Approach (which empowers students to participate in conversation/ dialog and create tangible change).

Touched briefly on institutionalized backlash against the movement, such as some House and Senate bills (Senate Bill 215) in Oregan that would erase native culture and limit the conversations.


  1. White allies, how do you work within your communities to address Native American mascots?
  2. Are there Indian mascots in your community that no-one is talking about?
  3. If so, why?


Guy — Jefferson County, KY is a mascot-free zone. Had a contest with students to pick a new mascot. Wanted to put out there that mascots also are an issue because they engender violence, and that even the attempt to change mascots can result in real and serious violence brought against those leading the conversation.

Dr. P — Acknowledges the violence and the resistance, both physical and psychological. Says his own career in academia was stalled because of this kind of resistance; that dominant culture did not want to read or review his papers. Says the resistance to the discussion can cause very real harm and damages to the lives of those pushing the conversation.

Lady –In OK, a lot of white people compare their feelings of viewing mascots such as the Vikings in a positive light, and wonder why the Natives can’t be likewise pleased/ flattered by the situation. She wants to know how to concisely address that.

Dr. P — Says he will provide online resources for her to look up.

S. George — Adds that a very short answer would be to point out that the histories and power dynamics of the cultures in question are very different.

Dude — Asks if, by erasing negative mascots, will we actually erase negative ideas about Native Americans in the media?

Dr. P & S. George: Response is summed up by them saying they don’t control the media, but believe the influence of such a change would be a focus on the more positive representatives that are currently overlooked/ overwhelmed by the negative representations that dominate the conversation.

S. George brings up two common ways people derail discussions: Trickster (the person is conscious of the issue, but pretends ignorance in order to spark a reaction). Van Winkle (the community/ person is stuck in an antiquated mindset/ era and is not aware of the issue).

Man — He talks about assigning papers to her students about the role of mascots, and references some Seminole College debate. (?)

Dr. P — (apparently in response to Seminole reference?) Says some Native Americans will buy into the mascot thing, and that’s an issue of politics and money. Basically the dominant white culture infiltrates the tribe and offers money/ favors to buy their tribal endorsement of the names/ images, which then makes it “okay”. This can cause inter-tribal conflict and is a problematic issue within the Native American communities.

Hippe chickie — Wants to know how she can honor lands and history without co-opting culture. Dr. P asks her to clarify, and she asks, “What if [she] goes to Pennsylvania, for instance, and started teaching and talking about the tribal lands and native cultures of the area — as a non-local white person, is she co-opting their history and culture by teaching about that land and history herself?

Dr. P — Basically says it’s fine, no problems. It’s remembering and honoring the culture/ history, and it’s fine to honor the histories and realities of the spaces we share.

[Personal Note: On that last question, I was super confused. I thought she meant, like, re-enacting tribal rituals, or maybe repurposing certain Native practices/ artwork for personal spiritual growth or pleasure, and I was thinking, “Uh, yeah, that’s totally problematic.” Then she busts out with talking about history as potentially problematic/ native approbation, and I was like, uh, okaaay . . .

Maybe the line is obvious to me, and that’s where my confusion lies, but there is historical memory and empathy, where you research and interview and cite stories and teach a balanced and truthful and often painful or confronting history that does not romanticize or idealize any specific culture or path.

Then there’s cultural approbation, where white guilt leads to painting whites as solely bad and all the cultures they colonized/ enslaved as solely powerless victims who were connected with the earth in an idealized manner.

This is still good vs. bad, we’ve just flipped the narrative from a conquering hero defeating savages (or rescuing noble savages) story to a narrative about the heroic victim eradicated by greedy, evil whites. Both narratives are one-dimensional and flawed in their presentation. For whites to ignore or deny their own histories in order to adopt one-dimensional idealized versions of the cultures and histories they have colonized, enslaved, and erased is not the solution!]

Youth & Financial Education | Saturday Keynote | WPC-14


Notes & Copyright

Keynote: Youth and Financial Education

Speaker: Jacob I. Swindell-Sakoor, April 13, 2013

Opened with an older American Japanese woman whose name I did not catch. She speaks about her hopelessness during WWII. Quoted her mother’s words at the time: “In 20 years, we may have nothing left but the memories of how we conducted ourselves during this difficult time.” Shared how this thought/ view has stayed with her and influenced her actions/ reactions through her life.

Next speaker is Dr. Sidney, who introduces Jacob, a 10th grader at Brooklyn Friends School. Jacob is a Merit scholar, student ambassador, and orchestra member. Very involved both in school and in community in diversity and anti-racial activism. He is the first youth keynote speaker at WPC. Jacob’s topic is:

Youth and Money.

Jacob talks about how as a kid, he thought the ATM was a money dispenser. He shares an amusing personal anecdotes of his youthful misunderstanding about the use and value of credit cards.

He then segues into statistics regarding debt and youth — credit cards, student loans, etc. How debt increases life stress, can damage education completion, how the students carry the debt with them through their lives and it negatively impacts them long after the debt is ignorantly accrued in their late teens/ early twenties. He cites statistics and studies to support his arguments.

Jacob asks the audience (of primarily white-collar, educated adults) why this situation exists. He answers his own question, proposing that it exists because kids do not understand finances and do not know how to use a credit card. He explains that kids today are not taught to understand the value of a credit card, or what the taxes/ fees/ interests can do. He says that when the first credit card offers come rolling in, kids have not been taught how to factor in the hidden costs, and so they don’t.

Jacob proposes that financial education classes for high school students with focus on debt and credit cards should be added to existing curriculums. He says that unless a high school student student is interested in economics, they are not taught this stuff. He points out that it is just assumed kids will know/ figure this financial stuff out on their own when they reach adulthood. Many adults view this information as a “life lessons” type of thing.

Jacob points out that, unlike in generations past, the process of “figuring it out,” through trial and error can cause life-long financial damage.  Many 19 and 20 yr olds, when getting their first credit card, get into a “swipe-it” mentality and don’t stop to factor in the value of what they’re actually spending. He points out that this type of financial mistake can occur regardless of class or of the financial situation of the parents.

He reiterates that both teachers and parents need to educate youth in high school years on finances and economics. Continuing on, he adds that it’s not all teachers’ faults for neglecting this are of education, it’s also the concept of value. He asks the audience: What are youth spending their money on?

Explains: Jacob receives $15 allowance a week and has worked summer jobs. He likes to buy nice clothing, musical equipment, food, fun stuff, etc. Says the problem with his income and spending habits is that he does not differentiate between his wants and needs, because his parents take care of his needs. Because he does not have to worry about the needs, he gets into bad spending habits where he indulges his wants first and foremost.

He says most kids — whether earning income or taking in allowance — have the subconscious expectation their parents will provide a roof of their head, food on the table, and other basic necessities of life, so they can spend what money they do have/ earn they can spend lavishly. He explains that many kids don’t realize how much their parents actually make, or where the income goes. His friends end up spending their money to emulate the celebrities they admire, and end up running up debt.

He points out that most people are not making 6-7 figure salaries, yet are spending as though they are. He shows the statistics illustrating that in the bottom 15.2 percent of poverty lines, they are still spending via credit as though they have plenty of money and wealth.

Continues on, more carefully, to insinuate that financial ignorance is not just a youth problem — that many ADULTS don’t understand finances, debts, loans, credit cards, saving. He insinuates without outright stating that adults are modeling poor spending habits to youth.

[Personal Note: Is it his own youth and because he is addressing a room of adults that makes him skate around this statement?)]

He comes back to the primary point, arguing that students should be taught about savings, about investing in self and in ones own dreams. Something is just not worth it unless you actually have the money to spend on it; credit is a bad idea especially for the financially non-savvy. There is always a better option.

To illustrate his point, he draws on the example of some headphones called “Beats,” which he tells us are actually not great quality headphones, but are [apparently] very popular and [I guess] look cool [or something]. “Beats” headphones cost about $300-$350.

[Personal Note: What the fuck? Who spends upward of $400 on fucking headphones? Are they painted in diamonds and unicorn shit?]

Jacob says quality headphones used by professionals can run $100-$150. So the wiser choice for someone wanting to spend money on headphones is to go with the less “cool” but financially wise choice.

[Personal Note: All due respect to his arguments of financial ignorance and so on, but this should just be a no-brainer, really. Quality should always be among the top concerns in evaluating any purchase. It doesn’t matter, for example, if Item A is $10 cheaper than Item B if Item A falls apart on you and stops working within the week, but Item B was built to last.]

Says as a youth, he gets irritated when adults brush off kid concerns about finances etc by saying, “You’ll have time, you’ll figure it out.”

To a wave of laughter in the audience, Jacob calls such attitudes, “blatant institutional adultism,” but he’s clearly only semi-joking, despite how the statement is received. He further states that adults are doing a disservice to youth by brushing off their financial education and assuming they’ll learn through their mistakes, as they go, from life.

[Personal note: Jacob is a little classist in his statements, which is forgivable given his age and experience. He clearly does not take into account adults who lack the financial connections/ teachings to pass on in the first place. He also does not take into account youth who drop out of high school in order to take low-wage jobs to support their parents/ siblings/ households.

He is correct in that money, debt, and the management of it can make or break a life. He is correct that to let the kids screw up their lives with debt that they may end up carrying for decades later, long after they’ve moved past the mindset and youth that engendered the debt, is a disservice to our children and is morally wrong. We need to teach our kids. I need to teach my son. I need to teach him the value of money, financial management, and economics. I need to teach him to distinguish between wants and needs.]

Announcements: Norma Johnson’s poem available in next WPC journal, also can contact her through http://www.allinspirit.com.

The Power of Words | Friday Workshop 3 | WPC-14


Notes & Copyright

The Power of Words: Concentration Camps USA

Facilitators: Stan Shikuma and Mako Nakagawa, April 12, 2013

This is about how words shape perception and therefore the progress of social justice. When we look at the histories we study in class, they don’t tell the whole story, or even most of it. Talks about concept of Revisionist history, then introduces speakers.

Larry Matsuda was born in the Minidoka Idaho Concentration Camp. He was number 11464D, born an enemy of the state because of his race. Says, “We looked like the enemy, and we became the enemy because of that.” His parents were born in Washington state. His family originally came from Hiroshima, so in WWII, his family was either in a Japanese Internment Camp or in Hiroshima about to be nuked. Matsuda shares a poem he wrote about his experience and understanding/ struggle with his personal history relating to this conflict. His parents had shared stories of pain, shame, poverty, desert winds, smoke, and oppression at Minidoka. When he went to visit Minidoka as an adult, it was a rich and beautiful land. During their internment, the Japanese had irrigated the land with the Snake river, and it is now green and luscious farmland. After the war ended, Minidoka was broken up into lottery pieces for returning WWII veterans — but no Japanese American veterans ever qualified for or won that land. No veterans of color did. It all went to the white veterans. There were no reparations made for the wealth, land, and history stolen from the Japanese families. Larry writes poems to understanding his meaning of this conflict. The Japanese American community was raped by Uncle Sam, and they reacted like rape victims with silence, shame, fear, and an inability to speak up.

Poem: For All The Government Tookby Larry Matsuda.

He finishes the poem by assuring us that despite the imagery used in the poem, he did not steal a rock from a Federal park, because that would be a crime and punishable by time in jail. He wants to clarify that he was given the rock by a nearby farmer, and says such is the power of words.

Quick review of camps history:

In 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, which kicked off active US involvement in WWII on both fronts. In Jan/ Feb 1942, under pressure from West Coast military officials, Pres. T. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066, which gave the military approval to detain anyone the military considered a threat. Even though the order did not specifically name the Japanese, it was only used on the West Coast and only against persons of Japanese descent. No one of German or Italian descent was ever interned, on either coast.  On March 26, 1942, US military began removing Japanese Americans from their and detaining them. By June/ July of 1942, everyone Japanese American in Arizona was detained. Initially the government put the Japanese Americans in temporary detention centers in fair grounds/ campgrounds/ etc. (Puyallup). Eventually, the Japanese Americans were moved into 10 permanent concentration camps — 2 in AZ, 2 in CA, 2 in AR, 1 each in ID, CO, UT.

These camps were not about protection of citizens or from attack. They were about racism and the denial of civil rights. Only Japanese Americans were detained, even though the US was also at war with Germany and Italy. No German-Americans or Italian-Americans were ever rounded up. This was about race and discrimination — the enemy who didn’t look like “us”. Had nothing to do with age, gender, social status, or citizenship. Everyone was removed and sent away. Government sent away anyone they considered Japanese. If you had only one great-great grandparent, the government considered that to be Japanese.

The camps violated several constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. Japanese were also often not considered to possess the rights of citizens, because they were not allowed to naturalize, despite having lived in the US for several generations.

[Personal Note: Makes me think of illegal immigrants who are living in US now, often paying taxes — property and sales, if not income — yet are not afforded citizenship rights. This situation, protected and perpetuated by the laws of the land, allows for them to be exploited and mistreated in employment situations, and provides no recourse.]

The second oft-ignored issue with these camps is the loss — the theft — of property rights and wealth. The government decreed that everything had to be left behind. Families had anywhere from 2 days to 2 months notice, and everyone knew the score. Japanese Americans were trying to get cash, protection, or storage for a lifetime of investments and memories, and exploitation of their situation was rampant.

The loss of education plays into this as well. Many Japanese American youth had to leave school, and many more lost out on college. This, too, impacted the post-war recovery for the Japanese American people.

Businesses were lost. Before WWII, 70% of Seattle hotels were owned or managed by Japanese Americans, and 400 Japanese Americans owned farms in White River valley. The Pike Place Farmers market was founded by Japanese American farmers, and used to be packed with them; over 80% of the vendors were Japanese American. After the war, 0% of the hotels had Japanese American owners or managers. Of the farmers, only 40 or so Japanese Americans returned to their farms. In the years after the war, the Pike Place Farmers market had no Japanese American vendors.

It is notable that the organizations of white farmers, or grange owners, were one of the biggest supporters in the removal of Japanese American farmers. The Japanese American farmers were competition to the grange owners, and the war-fear aligned with their personal business interests in removing the competition.

The US government eventually (over 20 years later) offered a partial reimbursement to Japanese American families for their loss and suffering. In total, the US government paid out $38 million in reparations, or about 10 cents per dollar lost. The government did not return any of the stolen property or businesses.

The third dimension of the Japanese American internment is the psychological toll. This was a massive betrayal of the American Japanese people by their government, their communities, and their people. The American Japanese felt ashamed of where they were during the war. They did not want to admit they had been sitting in a concentration camp because their government had locked them up. There was a lot of questioning themselves — could they have done something different? Was the government right? Were they somehow a threat without realizing it? Could they have been better, somehow, better Americans, better citizens, better workers?

In the post-war years, alcoholism was rampant. There was a backlash against their cultural history, as well. Parents and grandparents did not teach their children Japanese, or dress them in kimonos. It felt dangerous; it felt like making them different from “Americans.” American Japanese questioned their place in the US, wondering if they weren’t American enough. The American concentration camps and the validation of them by their government caused American Japanese citizens to suffer a post-war self-suppression of identity; an overcompensation in cultivating an American identity that came at the loss of Japanese heritage.

Words are very important, and can be used to reveal of hide truth. On a personal level, we can call each other out of support each other; but on an institutional level, it is harder — almost impossible, actually — to do that. When a euphemism is used in a poem, that’s one thing — but when the government uses euphemisms and plays around with the meaning of words, that’s dangerous. This is why we must change the conversation about the American concentration camps; this is why we must change the language we use.

[Personal Note: I am going to try to write “American Japanese” instead of “Japanese American” throughout my notes. It’s hard, and I don’t even know if it matters, but somehow it feels like the verbal habit of putting “American” after “Japanese” perpetuates assumptions about their patriotism and loyalties — the sort of assumptions that led to this miscarriage of justice in the first place. I think when we refer to Americans, we should maybe start trying to put the “American” part first, and the cultural/ racial tag second.]

CampsIdaho: Minidoka | California: Tule Lake, Manaznar | New Mexico: Poston, Gila River | Utah: Topaz | Wyoming: Heart Mountain | Colorado: Granada (Amache) | Arkansas: Rohwer, Jerome

Mako speaks. She is a teacher at an elementary school. She started her education in an American Concentration Camp for Japanese citizens. She talks about how Eastern Americans know less about the camps than Western Americans. Then she talked about some of the common misconceptions people have expressed to her about the camps, such as:

  • American Japanese citizens were pampered in the camps; living in luxury and ease as the government took care of them.
  • American Japanese citizens were placed in the camps for their own protection, because people were so angry at the Japanese following Pearl Harbor.
  • American Japanese were placed in the camps because it was militarily necessary.

 Each of these misconceptions are provably wrong.

[Personal Note: Beyond being provably wrong by just a quick review of the facts and history, they’re poor arguments from just an emotional or logical standpoint! I can’t believe there are people who find these to be valid excuses under any circumstances!]

Mako talks about how in the camps, a friend told her mother, “If a fence leans in, it’s there to keep you in. If it leans out, it’s there to keep others out.” The camp fences leaned in, but that wasn’t the only indication they were prisoners. There were guard towers and soldiers with guns who watched the inmates, and barbed wire throughout the camps. These were not camps of luxury or protection, and they were not even militarily necessary. If it was militarily necessary to imprison citizens because they happen to share a heritage with the enemy, why did we not imprison German or Italian citizens?

Mako talks about how the words we use to discuss this era perpetuate the myths of luxury, protection, and necessity. When we say “evacuation” or “relocation,” it sounds like we are moving a population out of danger. Those are words we say when hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes occur. When we say terms like “relocation camp,” it covers up the reality and seriousness of what the camps were. Relocation sounds like something temporary, like maybe they detained the American Japanese for a month or so and interviewed them a few times, then relocated them to a safe house once they were deemed non-threatening. These terms are euphemisms, and we need to discard them and name it what it is.

Another euphemism was the wartime habit of calling the American Japanese citizens “non-aliens.” A non-alien is a citizen. It’s that simple. Calling the American Japanese citizens “non-aliens” was recognizing their citizenship and right to constitutional protection while simultaneously “othering” them and shrugging off their rights. An example of this is how curfews in Seattle during WWII were explained. The curfews were allegedly protection from “German nationals, Italian nationals, and Japanese nationals and descendents.”

Another euphemism was the name for the temporary camp at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. The government named it Camp Harmony. It sounds nice, like a kid’s summer camp or something. Sounds friends and nice, not like a camp where the unwilling inhabitants had to sleep in animal stalls, where the shacks lacked heat and running water, where gun-laden soldiers patrolled barb-wire spiked walls.

Mako begins describing the long process of getting the Japanese American Citizens League to agree to a proposal to remove certain terms from being used to describe their history. The goal of this proposal is basically to start by having the JACL recognize the proposal’s validity. From there, the plan is to push to get the accurate/ historically correct terms used in schools, museums, film, and literature.

When they submitted the proposal, the biggest resistance was on the disagreement of what terms to replace the old terms. JACL could all agree on what terms needed to be replaced, but it was harder to agree on the terms that should replace them. Many felt that the term “concentration camp,” should be reserved for the Jewish torture/ death/ extermination camps, and is a term reserved for the Jewish experience. There will be opposition to this term if they try to move forward with the proposal. Other terms suggested:

  • Internment Camps: This is a problematic/ euphemistic term because internment in a time of war is when citizens who are at war with a country are interning citizens of the country they are at war with. The American Japanese were citizens of America, not Japan. America was interning American citizens who shared a heritage of the country America was currently at war with, not actual citizens of that country.
  • Japanese War Relocation Authority Camps: another euphemistic term that side steps around the truth. There were actually two types of camps for those of Japanese heritage living in America during WWII. One was the “Japanese War Relocation Authority Camps” aka “Relocation Camps” aka “Internment Camps.” These camps were managed by Executive Order 9066 and abided by the decisions/ orders of the US Secretary of War. The other type of camps were managed by the Dept. of Justice, and abided by the Geneva Convention.

In the first type of camp, American citizens of Japanese heritage were detained by the American government on spurious and unconstitutional grounds.

In the second camp, Japanese citizens were detained by the American government — also on spurious and, in my opinion, unconstitutional grounds — but the detainment of Japanese nationals who happened to be in America is a detainment that has historical and legal precedent.

Mako then outlines the history of the term “concentration camp,” which (she points out) was in use before WWII and the Jewish Concentration Camps. She also points out that through the war, the American Concentration Camps detaining the American Japanese citizens were referred to as Concentration Camps by government officials up through the chain of command and including President Roosevelt.

Since WWII, the term “concentration camp” has been ingrained as a term that invokes the Holocaust and the Jewish experience. Because the JACL tends to shy away from confrontation and fears offending others, and because the Japanese experience at the hands of their government does not compare to the Jewish experience with the Holocaust, the Japanese people often feel as though they are complaining about a toothache in comparison to a tragedy. At the same time, the American camps were concentration camps, according to the usage of the term pre-WWII and even post WWII. We refer to such camps when discovered in war torn or dictatorial countries today as concentration camps. Concentration camps are the illegal internment and detainment by a government of its own citizens; the citizens said government is supposed to protect. Even so, because of the history and the post-war usage of the term, it is still a very touchy term and many people object to the JACL’s proposed shift to “American Concentration Camps” in lieu of “Japanese Internment Camps.”

[Personal Note: Again with power of words — saying American Concentration Camps makes it an American thing; a thing America did and must own and acknowledge. Saying Japanese Internment Camp makes it a Japanese thing, a thing that very sadly and unfortunately happened to Japanese people. It becomes a discussion not about the American complicity and silence in this travesty of justice, but solely about the Japanese suffering with almost no acknowledgment or acceptance of who fucking caused that suffering and all the citizens who just stood around and let it happen.]

Mako explains that JACL is mostly aimed at changing the language of history in educational institutions, government, media, etc. etc. They are about pointing out the euphemisms; explaining the problems with them; using and encouraging the use of accurate terminology; and erasing the misinformation that’s out there.

Pertinent Quotes:

“What we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat,” — George Orwell

“What we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.” — George Shaw

What happened on American soil during WWII is a scary and horrific thing. The fact that it happened once means it can happen again. We need to learn from this history. This can never happen again. We need to speak up, all of us — American Japanese citizens and their white and non-white allies — and share these stories to prevent this miscarriage of justice from ever occurring again.

We need to change the language, strip the euphemisms, and name this history for what it is. We need to do this if we have any hope of preventing a repeat. After 9/11, American Arabs began to experience a similar experience of being othered and feared by their fellow citizens. The hatred and fear leveled at American Arabs echoed the hatred and fear directed at American Japanese a few decades ago. If we do not stop this hatred in its tracks, if we do not name it and reveal where it can lead, then we risk the same fate for others.

Introduce two films. One is 10 minutes long, one is 3 minutes long. The 10-minute one was a newsreel released by the War Activities Committee explaining the detainment and internment of American citizens. It utilizes euphemistic and misleading language to the max. The second film is 3 minutes long, and is direct, grotesque, and racist as hell. They’re both as racist as hell. Be prepared.

Newsreel (10 min)

Title Screen: Distributed and Exhibited Under the Auspices of the War Activities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry.

Narrator: Milton Eisenhower, younger brother of Dwight Eisenhower.

Text preview recounting recent events leading up to internment. Narration start. Gist of narration:

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the West Coast became a potential combat zone. Government authorities feared the danger of Japanese citizens and aliens alike, and what they would do if Japan invaded the West Coast. The Government was not happy about having to do this, but felt it necessary. Initially, they were most concerned with espionage and sabotage. They thought Japanese fisherman might spy on ships and naval yards; or hotel owners might spy on military bases. Many Japanese lived near oil wells. Eisenhower says that for US protection, the Japanese Americans were told to move.

Narration assures that Japanese Americans were happy and helpful in doing so, that they “cheerfully” helped fill out paperwork and worked with the government as soldiers assisted in the migration. Narration states that Japanese Americans saw this relocation as a civic duty and a way to help in the war effort. Narration states that the US Army guarded and impounded the belonging of Japanese Americans for safekeeping. At one point, the narration refers to the camps as pioneer communities, and draws on the American imagery/ language of settling the west (opportunity, hardship, individualism). Narration praised the Army for providing enough food for everyone.

Both narration and imagery portray the Japanese as happy, busy citizens. Onscreen, they are disembarking from buses and waving at the camera with a big smile; farming land; cleaning houses. The narration gives an account of the Japanese happily adjusting to life in the camps. Says they formed churches and schools and even spent time weaving camouflage nets for the armies use/ benefit. Narration then recounts how Japanese were relocated to permanent camps the Army had built for them — manages to make it sound like a favor — and again invokes the ethos of American Western tradition in the choice of language: The camps were on “raw” and “wild” land that the Japanese Americans would get to “tame and reclaim.”

Narration describes conditions of the camps, casting them in positive terms. Says the guards were “only” on the parameters of the camps; that the Japanese had full run of the inside and internal dynamics. Shows imagery of Japanese men in coveralls with heavy farm tools heading out a gate, and narrates a story of how Japanese Americans were full of American work ethic and how many eagerly undertook the production of rubber and farmland to help in the war effort. Says others were allowed to seek private employment, and these cheerfully went to work on sugar beet fields to help the US with worker shortages. At the end, FDR’s voice narrates over, stating that through their hard work and sacrifice, Japanese Americans will “earn back” their freedoms; an implicit admission that they’d possessed such freedoms to lose.

Post-Film Discussion

Discussed language and imagery of propaganda. Noted how the film had been purposely structured to look like a documentary, but was in fact staged propaganda. The shots were planed; the Japanese told when to smile and where to go. In the discussion, someone mentioned that Japanese laborers earned $12/ month, while doctors and professionals earned $19/month.

[Personal Note: I googled it. During WWII, the median annual income of a white American was $2379, while the median annual income of a non-white American was $1249. For whites, this breaks down to a median of $198.25 a month; for non-whites it is $104.08 a month.]

After WWII ended, the government transported the Japanese to wherever they wanted to go. Some tried to go home, but their property, homes, and businesses were usually gone or in someone else’s hands. Very rarely, the neighbors had protected their homes while they were gone — such instances were not the norm, though. Still, these moments were help and hope when it was most needed, and it gave hope and strength in the face of such bigotry and cruelty.

Newsreel/ Advertisement (3 minutes)

Starts with imagery of American soldiers running over a hill in the thick of battle. Then shows pictures of iconic American cities, asking if war could happen here, here, and here. Flashes to an image of a gun, and states that, “Every gun kills a Jap,” flashing to an image of a Japanese corpse killed in battle as the sentence ends. Repeats this motif with a few other weapons, each time reiterating that, “Every [weapon] kills a Jap.”. Urges viewers to get a job that will help the war effort by making munitions.

Post-Film Discussion

Brief class discussion about how crazy racist the film is. I think we’re all stunned. It’s pretty Starship Trooper-y; hard to wrap our heads around the reality that people took this kind of thing seriously and never batted an eye.


Mako then talks a little about the long journey of getting their language-changing proposal approved by the JACL and the issues they ran into. The proposal was approved at the district level, but not voted on (neither approved or rejected) at the national level because it was thought a similarly-worded resolution had already been passed. Research failed to turn up the alleged passed version of the resolution, so the National Board decided to vote again and it was passed unanimously.

The next step was to get it passed by the council, but it was tabled instead. Fear of offending the Jewish Americans. The council offered a compromise: They’ll pass it, but only if the term American Concentration Camp is dropped. They are unwilling to drop the term. The resolution is tabled for a year so they can talk with the Jewish Americans about the term.

Ultimately, the proposed compromise had the resolution changing a “would” to a “should” and said to propose two alternative terms that could be used in addition to “American Concentration Camp.”

The resolution passed with 82 votes, but implementation of it has been slow. There have been many stalls and delays along the way. At one point, an exhibit about the Japanese incarceration was scheduled to be shown at Ellis Island. Jewish Americans got word that the title of the exhibit would be American Concentration Camps. They objected, and a debate grew around the issue. Ellis Island said if they couldn’t settle down, they would just close the exhibit without opening it at all. A senator came to the defense of the JACL, and facilitated a roundtable discussion between the Jewish Americans and JACL. Together, they agreed on a common definition of concentration camps:

A concentration camp is where people are imprisoned

not because of crimes they have committed,

 but for who they are.

They also agreed that in recent years, concentration camps have existed in the Soviet Union, Cambodia, and North Korea. Despite several differences, they all had one thing in common: A powerful majority removed a discriminated minority from the population and imprisoned them.

Despite the discussion/ agreement, a Jewish leader in the community wrote a letter asking the JACL not to pass the (already passed) resolution. In response, JACL included a copy of the letter in their JACL conference handouts that year. Action facilitates more discussion. This is an ongoing issue, and we need to add our voices to support this resolution and implement change in our educational systems to encourage the use of accurate and correct terminology.

An attendee brings up that the term “concentration camp” is itself considered by many Jews to be a euphemism for what were in fact death/ extermination camps. Another attendee says she appreciates the discussion and context of European concentration camps. She feels it is too bad there is controversy regarding the Jewish and Japanese dialog on this issue. She also point out that the European death camps were not just for Jews, but that the Queer, Gypsy, Disabled, and Atheist communities were impacted as well. Their stories and voices are often silenced by the dominant narrative of Jewish extermination. Her point is noted, but neither classmates nor presenters really expand or provide their own commentary on her apparent view that Jews are hogging the narrative. Then we sang a round of Bing Crosby’s Don’t Fence Me In and closed the meeting.

Social Media & Social Justice | Friday Workshop 2 | WPC-14


Notes & Copyright

Social Media and Social Justice

Facilitators: Names unknown, April 12, 2013

I was trying to get to another workshop, but it was full. This was right down the hall, not full, and the title sounded interesting. Unfortunately, because I was looking to go in a completely different workshop, I was a little late and didn’t catch the facilitators names. I looked in the program, but could not locate this workshop title.

Note: The descriptions of the speaker are based on the race/ gender each speaker identified themselves as. In instances where they did not explicitly identify their race/ gender, I went with how others in the room spoke to and about them. I thought identifying the race/gender of the speaker would provide background into the perceptions/ experiences/ privileges (or lack thereof) that inform their statements.

Group Discussion

Hispter Wxy: Expresses concern about the irony/ authenticity of using social media given the ethics of big corporations.

Bxx Presenter: Says social media is a reality of the modern age and we need to use the tools available to us.

Hipster Wxy: Doesn’t want to teach his students to converse about social justice through social media and have them think that’s enough.

Other Attendees: Several other attendees point out that social media allows newbs to tiptoe in at their own comfort level and start conversations that need to be held. At the same time, several express concern about flash-in-the-pan activism and that social media participants may not completely understand or be aware of the issues under discussion. Mentions of the recent and popular FB trend of changing one’s profile to an equals sign were mentioned, along with concerns that people were just changing their profile because it was the newest trend.

Bxx Presenter: Says some people may just jump into a discussion or change their profile because it’s the newest trend, but it’s still good to see the conversation and start it and participate in it.

Hipster Wxy: Has concerns that it’s too shallow and supports a corporate enterprise saturated in privilege and that students are learning to mediate their conversations through platforms that are not in their service.

Bxx Presenter: Points out that as a queer woman of color, everything she does is in a culture saturated by white privilege and a dominant culture that is not in her service, and that doesn’t mean she stops trying. That you have to use the tools available to you.

Wxx Attendee: Brings up Anonymous and the Arab Spring usage of Twitter. How social media gave voice and conversation to people who couldn’t speak openly in their communities, or at all, and these social media channels can facilitate not just the conversation but the action. She acknowledges that slacktivism is a concern, but says we should address the issue head-on and marry social media to activism.

Wxx Attendee 2: She says English is the language of “the man,” and that language matters and it’s important that we’re calling social media a tool because that’s changing the meaning of words.

Bxx Attendee: Says as times change, we use the mediums available to us.

Bxx Presenter: Brought up how the internet can work as a buffer zone, and how even though it can be distancing and prevent a lack of engagement, it can also provide space and room to consider and engage with the conversation in a less emotionally reactive way.

Wxy Attendee: Says he shares Hipster’s concerns, but points out that Bxy Presenter has a good point in using the tools available to us. He brought up the fact that MLK organizers used landlines they knew were likely tapped, but that didn’t stop them. He also pointed out that those phones were owned by the corporate power Ma Bell, who certainly didn’t have their interests at heart, but you use the tools you have.

Wxy Attendee 2: Adds that there may be a concern of the “whisper phone” effect — conversations lost in translation through the countries and languages . . . but you use the tools available to you.

Wxx Attendee 3: Summarizes the discussion by noting that there seems to be a consensus that you use the tools available to you.

Wxx Attendee 4: Her concern is that these movements seem so quick to start, but just as quick to die. They are flash in the plan. Whatever issue was the hot topic last year is now forgotten. She says it easy to start movements, but how do you continue the momentum once they’re started?

Bxx Presenter: We just need to keep the conversation going and keep bringing up the conversation. We can’t let it be forgotten in the information overload.

[Personal Note: I think this was an incomplete answer, personally. A better answer would have been to not let the conversation drop, and to use the platform to move the conversation that has been started into the physical space and engage them on a personal and activist level.]

Two Wxx Attendees:  Something about poetry slams and the value of social media. One of them says FB is an equalizer for people of all races and classes, and the other talks about how social media will open up the conversation and open up opportunities to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access.

Wxy Presenter: He brings up the technology gap and how underprivileged and working class people don’t always have access to these conversations. Then he talked about how the internet started out as an information space, became a social space, and is now becoming a capitalist space, which limits access further since they’re putting up paywalls and hiding information behind financial barriers.

[Personal Note: I am all for freedom of information on the internet, but this rant is seriously just completely unconcerned with the reality that well-trained and intelligent journalists need to be paid and that newspapers are dying.]

Lxx Attendee: She talks about how some of the social media sites are a place to put a face to a story. Brought up a blog about a guy who likes to take selfies, and how his friends are very negative and mocking about it. She said he takes the selfies to infiltrate the dominant LGBT narrative, which he feels does not represent his queer experience, and by putting his face and voice out there is making a space that represents him in the queer movement. This brings up questions regarding vulnerability and the ability to sculpt our identity on social media sites.

I brought up doxxing and sexism/ gendered threats.

Bxx Presenter: Addresses the reality of doxxing, and also brings up the “just Facebook” concern. (I think that’s another version of what I call the “just internet” fallacy — when people dismiss poor manners and or cruelty/ cyberbulling/ trolling because it’s “just the internet.”

[Personal Note: I want to add in response to the whole “English is the language of the man” claim that recent linguistic studies have noted that the English language has changed more in the past 10 years (since rise of internet) than ever before, and it is now incorporating slang from various languages worldwide. You could see language as being co-opted from “the man” though the medium of social media conversations.

I also want to add that the best way of addressing the fear of slacktivism is to use social media to start the conversation, then organize locally and create a space for personal activism.

I also want to address the “just FB/ internet” excuse by stating that we need to treat people online with the same respect they deserve in real life. We need to teach this to our youth. We need to stress that the internet IS real life; it is not fake.]

Wxx Attendee: She talks about teaching kids to interpret and critique the information they are getting. She says kids learn to interact through nonverbal cues, and since they’re not getting these nonverbal cues on the internet, we are seeing the result of that disassociation in more pronounced cruelty and bullying.

Wxx Attendee: She talks about dealing with bullying in her large school district and how it’s changed in the past 10 years. She says before, students who were bullied could at least escape it for a few hours while they were home, but now it’s a 24/7 problem. She also said her school district is trying out a new program where kids can bring in their personal media devices, but she’s concerned about the disparate impact this program may have on kids who can’t afford this sort of technology.

Bxx Presenter: Says maybe her school district could look into getting tech grants so those kids could have devices.

Wxx Attendee: Asks if the kids would have to replace any devices they received through the tech grant that are damanged.

Bxx Presenter: Says she doesn’t know, but she’s heard there are tech grants and if she looks into tech grants the district might find some answers.

Wxy Presenter: He talks about social justice and the growth of individual and personal excess of electronic devices. He suggests we can share or donate our excess technology; maybe get together and give away our excess devices — an iPhone drive!

[Personal Note: I feel like they don’t actually know what they’re talking about. At all. I feel like they organized a few events successfully on Twitter, and they now feel like they’re experts, but they aren’t. They don’t have any answers — they don’t even seem to have anticipated the questions!]

Bxx Presenter: Shifts the conversation to ask if anyone has questions about the mechanics of the different social medias — how to use them, what to say or post, what to do.

Wxx Attendee(s): One asked about Twitter and how to use it. Another suggested the website http://www.breakdrink.com as a resource for learning Twitter.

Bxx Presenter: Said Twitter is microblogging, and you only get 140 characters to say what you need to say. It’s short and concise. It’s used as both a means of facilitating semi-private concersations and keeping in contact with friends through private conversations. In a social justice framework specifically, Twitter lets users share articles/ media/ content with a comment about their thoughts and a hashtag to connect to other users. Hashtags allows users to use shared interests to connect and converse, to find each other at real-world events, and to keep a running conversation/ commentary on events as they happen.

[Personal Note: Their information mostly just focuses on Twitter and FB. They’re not even addressing other sites; no mention of Tumblr or Reddit or anything. What’s up with that?]

Wxx Attendee: Wonders if hashtags expire?

Both Presenters: Not sure, actually.

Bxx Presenter: Sometimes she looks through her hashtag history for past posts and can’t find them. It seems like sometimes her hashtag history just up and disappears, and it can be kind of concerning/ sketchy. She also says everyone should brand themselves when online, and we’re all brands. Apparently her brand is #(her initials).

Attendees: More questions and answers about hashtags. The general consensus is basically that the point of the hashtag is to be as concise and searchable as possible; it’s like keywords. A college professor raises her concerns about how social media is effecting writing. Another attendee says the No Child Left Behind act has effected writing skills even more, and then there’s just a bunch of generic muttering that schools don’t teach writing anymore and kids these days rwar rwar rwar. Then there’s another question about the point and purpose of hashtags, which the presenters again have trouble asnwering.

[Personal Note: Regarding this damn hashtag discussion — when they talked earlier about emotion and the lack of connection on the internet, hashtags are one of the answers. Hashtags have multiple levels of meaning — yes, they’re a “tag” for the post, and they’re a search term, but they’re also a commentary, a quip, or a statement of reaction/ opinion. Hashtags are an emotional connection.]

Wxx Attendee: Are there any sites you think are inappropriate to use for social justice activism?

Bxx Presenter: Can’t think of any, and says she needs to talk to the younger generation about what sites they’re using and the new tech available.

[Personal Note: Dude. Certain parts of reddit, like the subreddits that celebrate racism, sexism, domestic violence, and child pornography? Maybe avoid the b/chan boards? Consider that LinkedIn is technically a social network, but if you’re trying to start a conversation or organize an activist event, you’ll probably want to go elsewhere? I can’t believe this presentation.]

Wxx Attendee: When you’re looking at doing social justice online, what should you do to counteract the closed garden/ echo chamber effect? Is there a point to the conversation if there’s not discussion, just agreement?

Both Presenters: The conversation is always valuable to have, and we need to keep having these conversations.

Attendees: A bunch of different people brought up websites like Tumblr and Pinterest and some other social media hubs. The presenters acknowledged they exist and said they probably add to the conversation as well. Then someone else brought up a concern about social media overtaking real-life face to face interactions and how to counteract that when we’re in real-world activist spaces.

Bxx Presenter: Says that can be a concern, and she heard about a game that might help. When you’re at a restaurant or something, have everyone stack their phones in the middle of the table and whoever grabs their phone first pays the tab.

[Personal Note: Seriously? I can’t believe this shit. Actual solutions:

  • Set up a sign at the entrance stating that this is a tech-free space and ask that they respect this.
  • Don’t provide wi-fi and choose a building with poor cell reception.
  • Have a “cell-phone check” — like a coat check, but (clearly) with cellphones.
  • When opening the meeting, try asking the attendees to turn off their cellular devices and actively engage.
  • Alternatively, go through a little exercise at the beginning of the meeting that involves having everyone take out their cellphones, turning them onto airplane mode, and having their neighbor check it. Make up a funny/ jokey punishment for anyone caught with their cellphone on and in use.

Talk About Class | Friday Workshop 1 | WPC-14


Notes & Copyright

Talk About Class: Using Children’s Books to Spark Conversations

Facilitator: Ann Sibley O’Brien

Ann introduces herself by stating that she’s both a first time attendee of this conference and a first time workshop presenter. She said she grew up on a mission as a white girl in Korea, which meant she had a very othered and highly racialized childhood. Her high status and the admiration of white people meant her experience wasn’t a negative one, though, just one that really highlighted how different and special she was. Like being a princess, she would guess.

Her upbringing was a very odd experience for her, and it made her very conscious of race and class in both perception and interaction. When she returned to the states, it was with a heightened awareness of race, and she kept trying to put together why her focus on and awareness of race was so different from that of her peers in the white community, which led to her work in children’s books. She’s both a writer and an illustrator of children’s books, and is active/ involved in the concerns of the children’s book world. She is involved in questions like wondering why the number of books about children of color are so low (proportionally speaking) and why the authors of such books are so overwhelmingly white (like her) rather than being people of color. She is wondering why colored voices aren’t given a space to tell these stories.

She’s been looking since college for models of dealing with race in the white community in a way that is effective and promotes change, rather than inciting defensiveness and shutting down. She worked with a coalition model that evolved out of relationship co-counseling. Originally, she was invited last year to give a workshop on children’s books and race, but had to cancel because she had the flu. She was re-invited this year, but asked if she could do it on class instead. Even though her interest and expertise is in race, not class dynamics, she said sure — so she wants us to know this workshop is going to be structured a little differently as we collaborate and share our resources, tips, and knowledge. Since this is her first workshop and conference, she’s still trying to figure out a framework and structure for this. Her end goal is to equip anyone in here with a slightly expanded toolbag to approach conversations explaining race with children. And class.

Fundamentals: She wants to know what our script is. Interrupts herself again to clarify that she’s trying to balance the experience in the room with her presentation, and is totally okay with interruption. Gets back to starting the presentation, such as it is. She says we need to break the silence. Class, even more than race, is just not discussed in the US. Children are left to absorb the world around them, and have no names or voice or permission to understand it. They’re left on their own to try and figure it out, and internalize a lot of misconceptions and attitudes the adults around them are unconsciously modeling to them.

She said the first “R” children learn is race and racism, and talked about a social worker who observed a very diverse daycare and interaction of the students. What the social worker found was that kids are picking up everything the adults around them do and say — both conscious and unconscious — and that they are internalizing those relationships in regards to race — and class, probably — and mimicking the adult behaviors and assumptions in their own play.

When we talk with young children, we need to break it down to the simplest terms. She asked us to think in 20 words or less what we want to communicate to children about class and classism.

Mine: Sometimes people judge other people for how much they earn. Sometimes people say people who earn less money are worth less to the world. That’s not true.

Classroom Responses Shared w/ Group

Class is something you’re born into that will influence your life. — Wxy

Some kids have less or more than you and it doesn’t make them better or worse, and you should be grateful for what you have. — Wxy

What do you really need, do you have enough, and are you okay with that? — Wxx

Class is something you gain through experiences, life experiences. It’s not what you’re born with. — Bxy.

Your family’s cultural and racial story forms your life and is your heritage. — Wxx

You always have a place at the library, and we will help you and find what you need or want. — Wxx

Every person matters. Some people get treated as if they matter less, and that’s not fair. — Presenter.

The presenter talks about a particular approach she finds useful when helping transracial adoptive parents or white teachers who have never had discussions about race. This approach apparently introduces the conversation in non-confrontational way that reduces defensiveness and anger. She calls it, “Mirrors and lenses,” and it was inspired by a book about identity development as mirrors of how we believe society sees us.

Mirrors are what other people show us about who we are; the reflections about ourselves that we see.

[Personal Note: I think my mirror is warped]

She talked about dominant identities of race and class, and the marginalized experience. Since a majority identity is often considered normative, it is common for the marginalized experiences to have a stronger identity around that difference.

The majority tends NOT to identify their race (or class) as key part of their identity, because on a cultural level it’s accepted as the default. Minorities strong identify with differentiating aspects of their identity in part because it has been so pointed and discussed on a daily basis

[Personal Note: Consider role of bipolar diagnosis and mental illness awareness in my own identity.]

When someone from a dominant group tries to talk with someone from a minority group, they may have ingrained behaviors about not discussing race or money because it’s considered rude, and says we need to overcome this discomfort.

  • The development of unconscious bias. 80% of white people have a positive bias toward the white race, regardless of their commitment to social justice. The brain has two main functions/ processes: sorting and associations.
  • Sorting is when you sort things into categories based on similarities.
  • Associations are things where you look at someone and associate them as similar or different than you, then sort them according to that. So if you’re raised as white middle class, that’s the default association and creates an unconscious bias. We need to address these biases young with our children to break the silence about racism. It’s the same idea with classism and other forms of discrimination.
  • Contact theory — using books that will engage the reader and change people’s minds about cross cultural discussions, as well as reduce the fear/ discomfort kids might have in crossing group lines.

Wxx Attendee interrupts to say she thinks the Presenters 20 words or less thought should have ended with, ‘. . . And it’s not fair and we can do something about it.‘. She says instead of leaving children with the notion that the world is unfair, we should tell them they can and should change it.

[Personal Note: Gotta admit, this idea makes me uncomfortable. I don’t see how lying to kids and pretending the world should and can be fair is okay. It will always be unfair in some sense or other. That’s not a good or bad thing, it’s a fact of reality. Instead of pretending we can make the world fair and equitable, I feel like it’s more important to acknowledge that sometimes life sucks, but it does for everyone. We need to help each other and be a community, to help not only the people we love but also strangers when they’re down. We need to recognize no-one is immune from tragedy and bad luck, and to help each other get over the unfair bad times.]

She then asked the group as a class to raise their hand to answer the following questions, and that we could raise our hand more than once.

“Were you raised with less than enough; more than enough; or enough?” [P.N. I raised my hand for the last one.]

“How many have crossed class lines and are now living differently from how you were raised?” [P.N. I raised my hand.]

[Personal Note: I was raised with “enough” as white professional middle class, and married across class to working class/ blue collar and “less than enough.” Over time, we’ve transitioned to “enough.”]

Presenter says our relationship to money throughout our life, and our changing financial status through our lives, will inform attitudes and values we hold about class. An attendee then suggested one means of starting the conversation about class with kids would be to ask what “enough” means. Presenter asks how we talk about class to kids.

How Group Talks About Class

We go around the workshop and each attendee discusses how they talk to children about concepts of class and poverty. Fair warning: Lots of classism.

Wxx Teacher:  She read her class of affluent students a book called How to Steal a Dog, and it just shocked the kids that there are poor people in the U.S. They had thought no-one in the U.S. could want for anything. Additionally, her school also often hosts fundraisers and drives and volunteer opportunities to help the less fortunate, which gives the kids lots of opportunities to volunteer and participate in social justice activism.

Bxy Teacher: He says he makes sure to teach his kids to address the adults in their lives with the same amount of respect. Says he talks to his kids about their habits of address, and how the affluent kids refer to certain adults (teachers, professionals, etc) as Mr. or Mrs. Lastname, but call their janitors, babysitters, and cafeteria workers by their first names in a familiar manner. He says this betrays a difference in perception and lack of respect, and talks to his students about that. As a result, his kids now call all adults, regardless of class, by Mr. or Mrs. Lastname.

Bxy: He thinks the previous guy’s point is a really good one, and it’s important to show respect to all adults no matter what their job is, even if it is in the service industry and the affluent kids are being served by adults.

Bxx Teacher: Brings up donations and how when her school donates, she tells the affluent kids not to donate stuff they’re tired of (oh, I’ve had this doll for a while and I’m bored of it, so I’ll donate it instead of throwing it away), but to purchase new items specifically for donation.

Wxx Teacher: Said none of the 5th grade children at her school are allowed to have their parents “rescue” them; ie: if the kids forget homework or lunch, their parents aren’t allowed to bring it to them. She says this is because affluent students only have this opportunity because they can have a stay at home parent, and kids in poor school districts wouldn’t have this ability, so it’s to teach the kids how to relate to poor kids. She says the schools gives a workshop at the beginning of the year to teach the parents “how to survive 5th grade,” so everyone is aware of the program and knows to be prepared.

[Personal Note: What the f**k? This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, and it assumes all jobs are 9-5. I don’t get how preventing kids from calling their parents for homework or lunch is helping them understand classism. I’ve never heard of anything like this in any of the areas I’ve lived, and I’ve lived in some poor-ass areas. Also, what about after-school events and fundraisers and school fairs? Are they changing the times of those? Because one thing I have noticed about working class parents is that their hours are all messed up, so they have a hard time being able to make events, fundraisers, school fairs, and parent-teacher conferences. Those things are actually important; homework isn’t. If the kid doesn’t get it in the day of and the parent can’t find time to bring it by the school, they just send it with the kid the next day.]

Wxy Teacher: Talked about how his 6th graders — also affluent — don’t really understand the concept of money/ value, so his lessons have been focused on helping them understand terms like “poverty” and “wealth” and giving them the context of value and wants vs. needs.

[Personal Note: What kind of 6th grader doesn’t understand basic terms like poverty, wealth, and the value of items? This is all so foreign and weird.]

Bxy Teacher: Stands up and says he’s seeing a lot of classism and affluence in the room

[p.n. thank god someone else noticed]

and says some of these “awareness” solutions have nothing to being poor. He says his student’s parents would never be prevented from coming to school to bail out their kids, and that’s not even an issue for poor families. Says it’s weird that wealthy people see that as a discussion about class. Adds that poor is not being able to get a ride to school because you missed the bus, and tells a story about a 6th grade student who rode the city bus to school because he was late and missed the school bus. Ripple of shocker murmurs goes across the room at the idea of a child riding the city bus, and the lady next to me says under her breath that she doesn’t even know how to get on the bus.

[p.n. this is just surreal]

Wxx Attendee(s): Says poor people are more creative with their resources than wealthy people, and that should be pointed out to affluent kids. Another woman says we should teach affluent kids what basic needs really are, because a lot of them have no idea and can’t discern between a need and a want. Another person says it’s a really common view to think that working class/ poor people are always in need, and that people with money are supposed to be their helpers/ saviors, and this is a classist view in and of itself. Says lots of working class and poor people make do perfectly fine with what they have and don’t need wealthy people to swoop in and “save” them, they just need some awareness and compassion.

[p.n. I guess it’s an easier solution to tell yourself that poor people are super creative with their resources and happier with less than it is to try and change the system. The status is not quo.]

Presenter: Going into the book evaluations, says in general not many children’s books are about class or poverty, and that ones that do exist address it from a standpoint of change and trauma: They are about stress, loss, and the change of material circumstances. She also says most children’s books are written from a default perspective of white professional middle class. Then she read a book out loud to us.

Book: Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyath

Basically, a little girl living in an apartment in the inner city looks around and sees the graffiti and broken glass and trash, and decides to find something beautiful in her neighborhood. She goes to the diner and is made a fried fish sandwich; she talks to her friends who present their various toys; she talks to the neighborhood shop owner who shows off his display of fruit; she listens to the singing and laughter of children on the playground; her neighbor shows her his smooth, pretty luck stone; and her aunt lets her hold her giggling nephew. Then she goes home and looks at the dirt/ graffiti/ broken glass. Get’s a broom and a mop and cleans it all up. Swears to plant flowers in the courtyard someday. Then her mom comes home from work, and she asks her mom what her something beautiful is, and the mom names the daughter.

Questions: What’s beautiful in your life? What little things make your heart sing? How can you improve happiness and beauty around you? How can you create beauty? This book illustrates power plus agency. Ask yourself, does she have “enough”? What is “enough”?

[Personal Note: They’ve actually done studies on this. In the United States, “enough” is generally an income of about $70,000 or so, give or take a little depending on the specific area. That is enough to pay the bills, put food on the table, and have a little extra. When happiness surveys are done, the happiness/ lack of stress plateaus after $70,000. Under this amount, the amount of stress and concern about bills and finances harms everyone and reduces their happiness. Above that . . . they’re fine. I feel like this class is kind of romanticizing poverty, and erroneously equating abject poverty with an income of, like ~$60,000 or something, where belts are tight but things aren’t that bad and a little thriftiness goes a long way.]

The presenter notes that there are almost no contemporary books about rural settings, that most books set in the countryside or on farms are set during the Great Depression or something.

Wxx Attendee: Points out that many children’s books are about kids rescued from poverty by magic — cites Matilda and Harry Potter. She says we should find more books that don’t rescue kids from poverty with magic, but instead show how to deal with it.

[Personal Note: Clearly she hasn’t had to actually live in poverty. Escapism is a way of ‘dealing with it’. Also, Johnny Tremain started out in relative affluence and social standing and dropped into disability, poverty, and shame. Calico Captive has Miriam starting out as a member of a well-respected and well-regarded family in the settler community, and drops her into a captivity, slavery, and poverty. In each of these situations, they adjust to their new circumstances and begin to improve their lives, but neither book ends with them acquiring their old circumstances.]

Bxy Attendee: Says we should take the lens of society and turn it into our mirror — look at how others see us.

Presenter: A key thing for kids to learn is they have a richness in poor communities that is not there in wealthy communities. Poor kids living in poverty in Africa, for instance, always have adults present to offer emotional support, but a lot of wealthy kids in the U.S. don’t have that kind of presence and support and spend a lot of time alone.

[Personal Note: I can’t even process the insanity anymore. See, guys, it’s totes better to live in poverty than in wealth, because poor people have, like, people around to offer emotional support! I mean, rich people may have all that money and clean water and food and electricity and shit, but they’re all lonely and sad in their pretty marble mansions.]

Then we partnered up and talked about how to talk to kids about poverty in the future and I booked it the hell outta there because they’re all crazy. (Crazy in that their perceptions of the world seem irreparably warped, not in the sense that they are actually mentally ill. Every mentally ill person I’ve met has had a stronger grasp on systems of inequality in our society than these so-called sane people.)

Crossing Class Divides for Allies | Friday Keynote | WPC-14


Notes & Copyright

Keynote: Crossing Class Divides for Allies

Speaker: Betsy Leondar-Wright | Friday, April 12, 2013

Leondar-Wright is a professional middle-class ally against classism. Starts speech out with a slideshow illustrating class bias. First slide is an image of a flyer in MA — has a back-view picture of a slovenly, fat man in a too-short shirt and ill-fitting pants with his butt crack and belly hanging out. He’s wearing a baseball cap, has whiskers, and has a piece of grass/ straw hanging out his mouth. The text says, “Don’t let the rednecks ruin our schools and cripple our library.”

Leondar-Wright states that white working class men get a bad rap from liberals and progressives. She says liberal voters tend to blame our social issues on white working class men because of the very small (but loud!) subset who vote conservative/ tea party/ republican, and hold racist, sexist views. She reminds us that they are a subset, though, and a small one at that, and that there are many potential social justice allies among the working class.

Though white, working class men are stereotyped as racist or bigoted, they are in fact more likely to have diverse workplaces than middle class professionals are. Furthermore, white professionals in positions of power are the ones who have the ability to perpetuate institutional racism/ sexism/ classism, not working class men.

Leondar-Wright talked about the language of classism; how people insult or compliment each other by referring to class. Insults include calling or comparing someone to a redneck, low-life, white trash, or trailer trash. We often compliment someone by saying they are/ did something classy or are a class act.

On classism.org, they have a contest for the most classist comment of the year, and we might be surprised by how often liberals/ progressives win. In 2004, the most classist comments were chosen when a Halliburton truck driver was detained in Iraq. The liberals and progressives blew up news stories and comment threads attacking the trucker for working for Halliburton. Many blamed the trucker, saying it was his own fault for “choosing” to work for Halliburton and stating that if he was beheaded or tortured it would serve him right. The trucker was working for Halliburton because his wife needed surgery and it was the only good-paying job he could find — this didn’t matter to the libs/progs, who felt he should have quit and that he’d brought his misfortune upon himself by working for such a company.

 Levels of classism

  1. Cultural
  2. Interpersonal
  3. Institutional

Leondar-Wright points out that classism is the insult that justifies the injury. Blaming the victim for their economic state. She says income inequality is growing while class mobility is shrinking. People born into working class families are more likely to still be working class when they die. She laid some statistics down on us.

Faces of Poverty

  • 13% of whites live in poverty.
  • 35% of blacks live in poverty.

 Number of families born into poverty in 2011

  • Whites > 4 million in poverty (most poor families are white, because the population in the US is still predominantly white)
  • Blacks < 2 million in poverty
  • Latinos < 2 million in poverty

[Personal Note: The percentage of poverty/ impact of poverty is higher for the populations of color because there are fewer people of color per capita in the US. Basically, imagine a sample population of 3,000 people. If 2,000 of the population are white, 500 are black, and 500 are Hispanic, the ratios of poverty would be 260 white people (out of 2,000) living in poverty, 175 black people (out of 500) and 175 Latino people (out of 500) living in poverty. There’s a lower percentage of whites in poverty, but a higher population density to draw from — the disparate impact of communities of color increases the percentage of PoC living in poverty.] 

Education is supposed to be how we level the playing field; it’s supposed to be the key to mobility. It is not. Schools are funded through property taxes, which means poorer kids get poorer schools, and wealthy kids get better schools. Elite and private colleges admit more students from the top 2% of wealth in this country than from the bottom 50%. At four year colleges with no class affirmative action policy, poorer applicants of all races get NO lift relative to the more affluent applicants.

Racial affirmative action slots are filled with elite foreign students of color or students of color from wealthy families. Working class students — both of color and white — are routinely discriminated against.

For example, legacy admissions. Legacy admissions are blatant classism. Children of alumni make up 1 – 25% of the student body at selective colleges. This is more than the amount of students allowed in from racial affirmative action, athletic scholarships, and geographic admissions combined.

Leondar-Wright urges us to look into the legacy policy at our colleges and make it a scandal if one exists. If legacy admissions were abolished, there would be many open slots.

Leondar-Wright says that just as reaching a world w/o classism requires eliminating racism, uprooting racism requires tackling class and classism. Says our default culture is the middle class culture, and this creates bias in our organizations to their very bones. Middle class professionals run the non-profits, are placed on boards, run businesses, are the management and supervisors, and hold the power: These are college educated middle class people who run things. People with high school diplomas or Associate of Arts degrees are made support staff, with little or no input into the policies and voice of the organization. If a working class voice is wanted or needed, they are often brought on as unpaid advisors. The middle class professionals say, “We want to hear your voice,” and bring them on as unpaid support.

This practice is defended by claiming that college education confers certain skills that are needed. She allows this may be true in some cases, but asks why we don’t train people within our organizations, instead of requiring them to have a degree.

Leondar-Wright points out that approaches to eradicating racism are often infused with professional middle class culture. For instance, the language we use in talking about racism.

Racism frame: Bigotry.

The implied cause of bigotry is prejudice, discrimination, and hate that is caused by institutionalized white supremacy.

The implied solution is increased education and awareness.

She points out that it’s saturated in the language introduced in college classes. The working class is discriminated against as being white supremacists. Anti-racist activists use language that alienates and discriminates against the working class by implicitly and explicitly blaming them for the perpetuation of racism and discrimination.

She says we also need to lose the college jargon. Language like, “supremacy,” “imperialism”, “hegemony,” “neoliberal,” and “white privilege” are terms learned and predominantly used in college classes. She asks the audience to consider why saying, “white privilege” might be a bad idea when addressing working class and poor people?

Because privilege also means wealth and luxury, and that is the definition most people are familiar with. The concept of privilege as discussed in college classrooms by middle class progressives and liberals is completely different. A white working class person will hear the word “privilege” and think “luxury”, and they are very aware of the lack of luxury in their own lives. To have a middle class college guy telling a working class guy that he’s privileged is just . . . insulting.

She then asked the attendees how we would describe this conference to working class friend without using the words “privilege” or “supremacy,” or any of those types of terms.

[Personal Note: I would say, “It was this thing where a bunch of like-minded people got together to talk about racism and how it effects everyone in society, and to come up with ways that white people and black people can recognize and combat racism as allies.”]

Leondar-Wright points out that as tough as this economy has been for poor white people, it’s been ever harder for people of color. This is a reality the working class white male can relate to.

In college classes, they tell us to take the emotion out of our voice. They tell us to remove personal stories from our writing, and encourage us to use big words and new concepts. Leondar-Wright points out that these are bad communication practices no matter who you’re talking to; they are alienating.

She talks about how in her book, they share personal family stories. For instance, she talks a lot about her dad, a WWII veteran who benefited from the GI Bill, and uses that to segue into talking about how vets of color were excluded from GI bill benefits. She says we need something in this country like that GI Bill again, but this time for everyone.

Language isn’t the only issue, though. It’s also about our practices, how we “do diversity.” There are ways we practice diversity that work well in professional middle class settings, but bomb in working class settings. For instance:

A company held a “Diversity Day” at all their offices and stores. The professional middle class staff loved it, but the low level working class staff groaned at the idea of spending a day just talking about it. They wanted to know why the company needed one dedicated day; why they couldn’t just start doing the right thing. The concept of a diversity day was one brainstormed, proposed, and implemented by white middle class college educated professionals. Working class people often feel that middle class allies spend a lot of time talking and not a lot of time doing.

A certain town had an LGBT group founded by black and white working class gay men. They were representing the LGBT movement in the community. The middle class college educated members of the LGBT community felt that the working class men were not representing the LGBT community well. They said the working class men were unprofessional and made the movement look bad. Ultimately, the working class men were replaced by middle class college-educated white professional who had “diversity skills.” This example highlights how middle class professionals often see working class people as incapable of speaking for themselves or fixing their own problems: they do not believe the people who have the problem possess the skills or knowledge to fix the problem.

She then introduced four typical professional middle class approaches to diversity that bomb with working class people.

Ideological litmus tests.

Ex: A professional middle class group working on a social justice issue wanted to limit membership in the group to people who shared their exact ideological values (for instance, a group of gay atheists insisting any gays in their group also had to be atheists). Working class people are baffled by the intentional exclusion of potential allies.

Over emphasis on racism as internal dynamics.

Ex: Professional middle class people tend to talk about racism problems in the organization or workplace they’re in, rather than on a larger social scale.

More talk than action.

Working class people see the professional middle class allies as having too much of an emphasis on workshops and special sessions to discuss the issues, and too little on actual action.

Ideal of “interrupting” oppression.

The white ideal of interrupting or calling out oppression. The working class says the calling-out culture (which they see as finger pointing) stems from elite educated activists feeling entitled to sit in the seat of judgment and critique other.

This doesn’t mean we should stop calling out oppressive and discriminatory speech, but instead of getting lecture-y, we need to connect and relate. Connect before correct. Use human connections and respect to make your point, don’t talk down to people.

Then she lists some strengths from the working class heroes who are something to be. (song reference is my addition). They show understanding of the action behind how changes happens. They show strength and solidarity.

  • Emphasize discrimination in wider society, not only within group culture — the harms done in society as a whole.
  • Focus on concrete action with outcomes that benefit a particular people of color. Everyone is enthusiastic about concrete action with visible results.
  • Discussions of racism need to be integrated into working meetings, not just special workshops. In a working meeting, introduce brief mentions of oppression or discrimination in everyday language.
  • Be attentive to preserving the unity of the group; form a larger shared context of shared goals and solidarity.
  • If you disagree with someone and call them out, use camaraderie language, ie: “Hey, man, that wasn’t cool. That was actually really messed up. I love ya, but you gotta cut that shit out.”

She finishes her speech by encouraging us to draw on old labor movement activist traditions of brotherhood, friendship, and solidarity — all for one and one for all.

[Personal Note| added 2015: I remember that I had been feeling a vague sense of frustration with the conference until I heard Leondar-Wright’s speech. I walked out of her keynote with tears streaming down my face. It felt raw and personal, like hope and possibility. A speaker at this conference who actually offered an active solution for changing the future together, as brothers and sisters with arms linked together in solidarity. It felt like someone who recognized that classism was the real enemy, and race was a tool being used by the elitists to arbitrarily divide us and pit us one against the other; as it had been since colonial times. She was the first person at the conference who seemed to actually be talking about the effect of classism on race, and it was incredible.]

The Commercialization of Asian American Stereotypes| Thursday Workshop | WPC-14

Note: These workshop notes are extremely in-depth. I had my tablet with me and I type fairly quickly at ~80/wpm. The original notes also utilize my preferred shorthand techniques, which I’ve obviously expanded into the full words/ sentences here. So these notes do cover the entire presentation, not just the highlights.


Notes & Copyright

For the Love of Money: The Commercialization of Asian American Stereotypes

Facilitator: John D. Palmer | April 11, 2013

The historical/ colonial relationship between Asians and the US was formed largely around three factors:

  1. Earning respect from Western powers.
  2. China and Japan as allies to the United States.
  3. Trade and opening up a market for American goods. (The tea at issue in the Boston Tea Party was Chinese tea.)

Japanese Americans were different from the  transient Chinese immigrant populations. The Chinese immigrants came to earn wealth, then took that wealth back to China. They did not want to stay in America and did not consider themselves American. Japanese immigrants, however, considered themselves American and wanted to not only build wealth, but become American citizens.

This is seen in the history of the “picture bride,” where Japanese men would choose a bride based on her photograph and either go pick her up to bring her back to America, or have her brought to America by ship. Chinese, on the other hand, wanted to return home to marry and build their lives.

[Personal Note: I am not sure how accurate this statement is. At the least, it strikes me as disingenuously broad.]

In 1910, the Japanese Imperial Army defeated the Russian Army. President Teddy Roosevelt negotiated the Japanese-Russian peace treaty, by specific request of the Japanese. President Roosevelt actually won a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating this treaty. A key element of the treaty negotiations was improved treatment of Japanese Americans. Japan told Teddy Roosevelt that they would not sign the treaty unless America started treating the Japanese people in America as citizens. As a result of these negotiations, Teddy Roosevelt desegregated American schools for Japanese students almost 50 years before Brown vs. Board of Education. This allowed Japanese Americans advantages in education that other minority Americans did not have access to.

Early Chinese immigrants were gold miners, railroad workers, and laundry workers — low wage and exploited. Employers would pit the minorities against each other, claiming that Chinese were driving down wages (would work for $1 an hour, leading to accusations that they were driving down wages), so the Chinese immigrants faced threat and violence from the white minority immigrants like the Irish. The 1930 fire in San Francisco Chinatown was a result of the Irish hated and violence against Chinese, which was fanned by neo-liberalist design.

The 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor erased the Japanese favoritism in America. The Chinese Americans were now favored, as the US and China became allies. The peace treaty favors negotiated by Teddy Roosevelt disappeared, completely gone. In 1942, Executive Order 9066 approved the internment of Japanese American citizens.

Image credit: PBS website – The Supreme Court | Law, Power, and Personality

[Further research:442nd Regimental Combat Team — the most decorated combat unit, because they were sent on the most dangerous assignments.]

During this time, the Japanese Seattle flower shop owners were evicted from their houses and shops. Their belonging were looted, their business stolen, and their homes occupied.

Example of a Japanese flower shop in Seattle, Washington, circa 1940s, owned by the Habu-Kabota family. Image credit: Dorpat SherrardLomont

One important thing to remember is that while the dominant reality was betrayal and theft by their government and neighbors, there were some happy stories.

There was a neighborhood in Seattle where the white neighbors of a Japanese family promised to look after their home and flower shop while they were gone. For the 4 years this family was in the camps, the white neighbors kept their promise. They maintained the house, yard, vehicles, and shop. They put aside the money earned from the shop for their return. When the enforced imprisonment of Japanese American citizens was lifted, many chose not to return to their former homes. This family did, however, and found everything as they had left it. Untouched, undamaged, unlooted — and a savings account of 4 years worth of earnings was waiting for them.

Stories like this are important and necessary to share, because they illustrate how white allies can utilize their privilege in times like these. They teach us how to act and respond in times of tragedy. Another example is the professors at the University of Berkley, who recommended and sent their Japanese students to programs on the East Coast in order to save them from the camps.

Asians In Cinema up through 1950s and 1960s

In Hollywood cinema, Asian women are shown as either submissive, delicate, obedient flowers or as prostitutes. The roles of Asian women onscreen are usually filled by Asian actors.

Frances Nuyen as Liat in South Pacific, 1958

The Hollywood portrayal of Asian men is problematic in a different way. They were usually portrayed as greedy, uneducated, and oversexed. White male actors were relied on to fill the roles, with the use of caricatured stereotypes (bad accents, buck teeth, squinty eyes) to convey the ethnicity.

Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, 1961. Image Credit: EthicsAlarms

Rise of the Model Minority myth

After more than 100 years of immigration exclusion, the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 was passed, allowing Asian immigration to the United States. The first wave of Asian American immigrants were the wealthy/ upper class Chinese, Japanese and Korean. They were middle class, educated, and well off. They matched the values and education of middle class America, and fit in more easily than if they had been poor or uneducated.

Further, the first generation of immigrants did not want to make waves. They wanted to fit in, they wanted their children to attend good schools and succeed. They did not want their children to be “un-American” or different. They learned English, they taught their children English, and they insisted on speaking English even at home. They didn’t like to feed their kids traditional foods from at home — Palmer relates how many 2nd generation Asian kids recall their parents eating traditional foods like Kim Chi at the table, while providing a separate meal of American-style foods for the kids. They did not want their kids to smell different, or eat different foods, or speak a different language than their American peers.

They wanted their kids to fit in, not attract attention, and succeed. This led to Asian American immigrants and their children choosing to overlook racism and insults, both blatant and subtle. Aware of the sacrifices of their parents, the children preferred to pursue success rather than equality. They internalize the discrimination and remain quiet to it. They are told by their parents and culture that Asian American discrimination is not that big a deal. They are happy most of the stereotypes seem positive, not negative like the other minorities. They are not as bad off as the other minorities, and are okay with being held up as proof that racism is gone. They don’t want to get the negative racist attention.

The problem is, the Asian American youth were getting negative messages both at home and through the media about the value and character of Asians, and these messages created a lot of identification issues and internalized the cultural stereotypes about Asians. They wanted to succeed to pay back their parent’s sacrifice, but they also questioned the value of their culture/ history.

Asians In Cinema through 1970s

In the 1970s, more positive ideas began to emerge regarding Asian roles: Takei in Star Trek with his calm, logical demeanor and unaccented English, Bruce Lee and the rise of martial arts films.

George Takei as Lt. Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek.

Even the Calgon commercials popular in the 1970s showed a more positive view of Asians (apparently the commercial referenced involved a Chinese laundry with white patrons. The white patrons were exclaiming over the quality of the cleaning, and the Chinese business owners spoke in unaccented English and were clearly educated. At the end of the commercial, the punchline was the white patron asking how they got the shirts so clean. The Chinese owner looked into the camera and said the only line spoken in a heavy accent, “Ancient Chinese secret.” Then Calgon jingle and slogan, I guess). It seemed like the silver screen could go in a positive direction, but it ultimately did not.

Instead, Hollywood began casting white actors as the hero in martial arts films, while the few Asian roles cast were as the villain. Bruce Lee was even asked to hide his ethnicity, and the backslide in Hollywood representation of Asians increased even as the rate of Asian American immigrants was rising.

Persistent Social Myths about Asian Americans.

  • Forever Foreigner
  • Model Minority
  • Tiger Mom

Forever Foreigner — this is the idea that all Asians are 1st gen immigrants.

Palmer relates a common incident for him. He meets someone new, and they ask where he is from. In unaccented English, he responds that he is from Ohio. They then ask where he’s originally from, to which he responds (again), Ohio. Depending on the cluelessness of the asker and Palmer’s mood that day, this cycle of questioning can apparently go on for a while. Palmer points out that no-one approaches a white person and tries to find out when/ where their ancestors immigrated and from what country, or doubts their being raised in America. 

[Personal Note: Relevant YouTube video]

Model Minority — this is the idea that Asian Americans are an example of what all non-white minorities can achieve with a little effort.

It does not examine the disparate impact of the historical circumstances: In the case of Black Americans, they were forced to arrive in bonds of slavery, and then persecuted through Reconstruction, Black codes, and Jim Crow. Despite being citizens of America, they did not have a basis of wealth, nor were they provided means to acquire it. Institutionalized racism made progress and the acquisition of wealth and education difficult (if not impossible) for most Black Americans. In contrast, the bulk of the Asian American population arrived in the 1960’s already primed for success. They were from wealthy backgrounds, had the benefit of Western-influenced education, and arrived post-Civil Rights Acts. Disparate impact — situation do not compare.

Tiger Mom — the Tiger Mom idea starts in the 1980’s with the media focus on the “super minority.”

Magazine and newspaper articles celebrated the Asian moment. Pres. Reagan called Asian Americans exemplars of hope and inspiration. Top schools around the country had high rates of Asian American students. President Bush praised Asian Americans for their dedication to law, work, and education.

 Asians In Cinema through 1980s

1980s saw the silver screen emasculation of the Asian American male. Asian Americans were finally being cast in Asian American roles other than villain, but they were still not cast as the hero. Martial arts films cast white actors as the hero, and Asian American actors as the love interest (female) or the support system/ sidekick (male).

Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid, 1984. | Image Credit: The Guardian

Other films relied on Asian American characters for comedic value. Male Asian American characters were written for laughs — Long Duck Dong in 16 Candles or Takashi in Revenge of the Nerds. They were effeminate, harmless, silly. Not a threat. Asian Americans were not written or cast as jocks or masculine men.

Gedde Watanabe as Long Duk Dong in 16 Candles, 1984 | Image Credit: NPR

Women were still cast and portrayed as exotic and submissive or as prostitutes. Hollywood profits on the grief and tragedy of wartime prostitution, mocking their experiences and the decimation of their country by American-perpetuated wars and American troops.

“Black Blouse Girl,” My Lai, 1969 by Army photographer Ronald L. Haeberle | The moment captured is the moment between sexual assault and massacre.

Side note: When Hollywood casts the female love interest as Asian, the white guy gets the kiss, while the Asian guy (if he’s even in the competition) does not. One of the only kisses on Hollywood silver screen given to an Asian American male was to Jackie Chan in one of the Rush Hour films — he gets a peck on the cheek.

1980s Stereotypes

  • Submissive/ Obedient Asian woman
  • Sexual/ prostitute Asian woman
  • Tiger Mom

Submissive/ obedient — Fetishization of Asian women as submissive/ obedient women who prefer to have a man in control.

Idealizes Asian women as exotic and delicate flowers.

Sexual/ prostitute — As portrayed in many war films, it is the stereotype of the oversexed Asian prostitute eager to please the white man.

Often also portrayed as amoral/ greedy/ duplicitous. The popular quote, “Me so horny me love you long time,” epitomizes this trope. Palmer notes this trope is particularly horrifying, given that wartime prostitutes are more often than not forced into that circumstance because of the war and the presence of soldiers. American troops come over, destroy their home which results in these women being forced into prostitution to survive, then go back to America and make movies about the devastation they wreaked on these lives.

Social Issues and Asian American Culture

1. Marriage:

Asian Americans have the highest rate of any minority for marrying out of their race. Part of it goes back to the Japanese internment. The Japanese wanted to be American; they considered themselves American citizens, but they were imprisoned anyway. The post-internment generation of Japanese married out of their race in extremely high numbers in order to confirm their Americanism.

Rate of Asian American miscegenation is rising in each generation, and more are marrying out of their race every year. Palmer stresses he’s okay with miscegenation and does not have a problem with marrying out of race, but adds that this trend shows the internalized beliefs Asians have about Asian Americans as partners.

All this detracts from the threat of minority and supports the cultural representation of Asian Americans as the model minority.

2. War on Drugs

Concurrently, in the 1980s, Reagan’s war on drugs was targeting Black and Latino men. The law said 5 grams of crack cocaine brought a minimum sentence of 5 years in prison. 5 grams is the size of a nickel, and was very cheap. Easy to acquire, easy to conceal, and easy to plant. Police would do exactly that — if 5 grams of cocaine were dropped on a minority during an arrest, it ensured their incarceration and removal from the street. Over time, the penalties increased, and prison sentences went from 5 years to life for possession of crack cocaine.

Cocaine was popular in the 80s and used by all classes, but powder cocaine was the realm of wealthy white kids. Crack cocaine was associated with poor people, especially poor minorities. When the elite white or Asian kids did powder cocaine, it wasn’t seen as a problem. Example/ life comparison: When college kids finish finals week, it’s an accepted tradition that they party. Everyone knows there will be alcohol, weed, maybe even a little powder. Everyone looks the other way, sees it as blowing off steam — a reaction to the stress of finals week.

One of 5 frat boys arrested at Columbia University in 2010 for allegedly selling over $11,000 worth of drugs to undercover cops. | Image Credit: Gawker

When Black and Latino people break under the stress of institutionalized poverty, unemployment and discrimination and turn to drugs such as weed or crack cocaine as a relief from their stress, it is seen as validating negative stereotypes about their race(s) as a whole, and is attributed to the flaws of their race.

Image Credit: Betches Love This

What was the benefit of the war on drugs to white America? Prisons. Building and maintaining prisons, hiring guards and housing prisoners saved the economy of upstate New York, and many other dying rural areas. Locking up Black and Latino men saved white communities. Raising prison sentences from 5 years to life created job stability as the Black and Latino men were warehoused into old age.

Accusations of racism in the policies were answered by holding up the success of Asian Americans — they were held up as a law abiding, educated, and successful minority; proof of America’s post-racism and the myth of individualistic merit. The claim was, “See — minorities can succeed if they want to.

3. Black Decline in America

Palmer also points out that low income schools in slum/ ghetto neighborhoods often have guards, guns, and wire. Says society is training and acclimating the students/ inmates to a life and future in prison. Compare with middle class/ affluent schools preparing their students for college/ workforce.

Palmer states that Asian Americans are the root cause of Black decline in America. Asian Americans immigrated in droves and set up new businesses. They hired within their racial communities, but didn’t hire Blacks. They drove down wages and overall employment, and their success in America allowed whites to cast Asian Americans as proof America was not racist and minorities could succeed. The contrast of Asian American success highlighted the struggles of the Black and Latino communities, confirming in many minds the existing negative stereotypes about Blacks and Latinos.

The tensions were fed and inflamed by the media, pitting minority against minority.

Example: Latasha Harlins and Soon Ja Du.

Latasha Harlins

Latasha Harlins was a 13 year old Black girl shot to death in 1991, shortly after the beating of Rodney King. Harlins had entered a Korean corner grocery owned by Soon Ja Du. She walked around the store but did not purchase anything. As she started to leave the store, Du stopped her and accused her of stealing a carton of orange juice. Harlins denied the accusation and turned to leave. Du shot the 13 year old child in the back of the head, killing her. Du was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, but did not serve a single day of prison time. Instead, Du served her sentence through fines and community service, but remained a free and active member of the community.

In the same time frame as Harlin’s murder and Du’s “sentencing”, the LAPD officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. The Black community began rioting in response to the news, but it is telling that they did not riot in the wealthy/ affluent parts of the city — the rioting broke out against Korean shop owners and in Chinatown. News coverage showed the race riots; and highlighted the violence Blacks and Latinos were perpetuating against the “model minority”.

There was no coverage of benevolence or assistance across race, such as when an elderly Black man stopped the beating of an Asian youth by stepping between the youth and assailants and telling the assailants they would have to go through him to get to their victim; or when a Latino priest warned and protected his Korean neighbors.

When the O.J. Simpson trials were televised, racial tensions were again exploited and misrepresented in media coverage. Judge Ito was portrayed as weak, indecisive, and emasculated.

Media coverage and representations also like to highlight the opposition of Asian Americans to Affirmative Action — the rejection of Affirmative Action by a minority is used by whites who reject the validity of affirmative actions as validation/ proof that it is unnecessary and not wanted.

The media coverage narrative that claims Asian Americans oppose Affirmative Action usually features stories and statistics claiming that Asian Americans are over-represented in higher education, and so “lose out” on Affirmative Action.

Palmer allows that there are many Asian Americans who do not believe they benefit from Affirmative Action, a perception fed and increased by media coverage representing this as the common opinion of Asian Americans. He thinks there is a philosophy of personal gain/ what’s in it for me? when considering Affirmative Action, which is the wrong way to approach it. It’s not about the individual situation, it’s about improving the community as a whole. The misrepresentation of the value and benefits of Affirmative Action is meant to pit minorities against each other so they won’t notice/ care about the greater inequities.

The Stained Glass Ceiling

 The glass ceiling is not just a gender issue. There is a glass ceiling for minorities; even Asian American minorities. Whites in America are making more. Only 29% of Americans get a B.A. degree. Of that 29%; 52% are Asian Americans and 32% are Whites. The remainder are Black and Latino — despite the higher rate of B.A.’s, Asian Americans still bring in less income than whites.

Asians In Cinema through 1990s – Present

In the 1990s the silver screen representations of Asian American culture is still casting white actors in the positive Asian-inspired roles. Asian Americans are still cast in the supporting roles of wise mentor/ sidekick/ comedic relief. 1990’s also sees the rise of the Indian American grocer stereotypes. The Asian women fall in love with the white hero and the Asian American male continues to be emasculated on the silver screen.

The 2000s sees both positive changes and the continuation of negative trends. On the plus side, Hollywood is breaking racial lines on the silver screen and casting more Asian American actors than ever, and in more positive roles. Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Margaret Cho, Kal Penn.

[personal note: also Steven Yeun as Glen on Walking Dead; Harry Shum Jr. and Jenna Ushkowitz as Mike Chang and Tina Cohen-Chang, respectively, on Glee?]

There are rising representatives of Asian American culture in both t.v. and film, as well as in the world of sports. Palmer named a bunch that went over my head, but I did catch Ichiro something and Lin. Further, the current Asian American silver screen representations are less demeaning/ caricatured, more vibrant, and more diverse.

On the downside, there are still far more negative stereotypes represented in popular culture than positive ones. There is still an erasure of strong, successful male role models — in The Last Samurai, the protagonist hero was played by a white male. In 21, a film based on a real-life card counting event that was later recounted in a best selling book, the card counting crew of 6 was played by 4 white actors and 2 Asian American actors. In the real life event that inspired the book (and later, film), all the card counters were Asian American — a fact recognized by the book, but not the film.

In romance and gender dynamics, the Asian American woman are still most frequently cast as submissive/ shy/ nerdy/ sweet/ exotic, and the white male lead still gets the kiss and the girl.

Further, when blatant racism does occur, Asian Americans are told it is just a joke/ they are being too sensitive/ get over it/ get a sense of humor. Examples include an ESPN story about Jeremy Lin with the headline, “The chink in their armor?”; or a 2006 airing of The View in which host Rosie O’Donnell cracked a joke about the Chinese perception of Danny DeVito which included a string of, “ching chong chang,” to imitate Chinese people talking.

In sports, too, Asian Americans are praised for success — but not too much success. Examples include Michelle Kwan apologizing for her success when she beat out white competitors to represent America in the Olympics/ figure skating; and the media representation and coverage of Kristi Yamaguchi.

Q & A

Jess: Asks question about the immigration exclusion act, and whether in its historical absence, the result would be a far different version of American racial demographics.

Palmer: Doesn’t think so, because of the different immigrant cultures. The Chinese liked to come in, make money, and leave. The Japanese preferred to stay, but the numbers of immigrants do not support the theory that our racial makeup would look radically different.

[personal note:I don’t think this answer really addressed the question. I feel like he actually didn’t listen or maybe just didn’t “get” what Jess was asking.]

Older Asian American Female: On the ESPN/ Lin situation — she had heard the writer/ editor did not realize/ know the term “chink” was derogatory. She thinks this could be a good sign — the newer generations do not know the old insults and slurs, and surely that’s a sign of progress and improvement. Thoughts?

Palmer: The PC generation has grown up to be the “Hush” generation. They’ve been trained to distance themselves from racial questions through a lifetime of the adults around them saying, “Shhhh,” when they ask questions about a non-white minority, especially in public places. The result is a generation of youth who are uncertain about race and uncomfortable talking about it. They don’t know how to engage or how to address/ respond to racial differences. Even so, there is still clearly a subconscious cultural awareness about the racialized language of oppression — would that writer had chosen the headline, “The chink in their armor?” for Kobe Bryant? No. So there is a subconscious awareness of racial slurs and the power they have. The Hush generation has questions, but they’ve been trained to silence and the silencing of dialogues across racial lines. They are paralyzed by fear and guilt — fear of appearing racist and derogatory, guilt about their cultural heritage. They fear engaging in racial discussion.

[personal note:I’ve always termed the sort of clueless/ unconsidered questions that can arise from ignorance of racial issues “accidental racism”. I know there are probably better terms in my books.]