Hilarious video for Mixed-Race Asians – bishop cd miller

This is a hilarious video (I think) regarding our ethnic, racial, national, cultural labels. Bishop CD says: “Am I a Hapa? Am I too old to re-frame myself!” Hilarious!! What’s ‘Hapa?’  Why ‘re-frame?’

The term ‘Hapa‘ is a newly-circulating label for mixed-race Asian-Americans and perhaps, nowadays, including all mixed-race and multi-ethnic Asian identities. It is an old Hawaiian term for mixed-race Hawaiian Asians. However, this term is increasingly becoming popular to note this very diverse group. As most of us understand identity in the present, the old categories have become increasingly irrelevant in many ways, as we delve into the politics of identity and the re-positionings of power toward justice.  So as we discover terms that are new that circulate, that touch upon ourselves, we may struggle.

Further commentary follows the video!

Miller say’s “I’m too old to re-frame myself!” Heard that!! But in seriousness, we must and we shall……or we cling to the old words that are no longer useful in some ways. However, I feel that all labels, making us into objects, are tools for some kind of jockeying for power, control. Having ‘no identity’ is also a label and stinks of dominant privilege and disconnectedness. So we must re-frame, if not for ourselves, then for others who necessarily suffer because of the bodies that are marked by territory, social class, nation-state hierarchies, gendered norms, sexual orientation secrets and revelations, words that define but never grasp, yet tear our bodies into pieces. Go on Bishop CD Miller! I’m of your generation too! Continual re-frame!! How many frickin’ times do we have to question how others view us, define us and label us? And then what do we do to ourselves? and to our ancestors? What of them? Who were they? How do they live in us and through us today? However, labels will never define us. Labels, however, if we must use them, must be for social justice in this cruel, cold, fiery world full of secrets and displacements, torture and loneliness, ecstasy and understandings. Well….I’m almost too old…….. Bishop CD Miller says often that she is ‘White, Black and Filippino.” My own father says he is African-American, but we are aware of his Cherokee heritage. My mother’s mother was Austrian-Chinese mixed. Between the three of us, we have been through many continents, cultures. But what has been the label? Is there a need? It depends.  As Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Jacques Derrida, and others help us to think into our words and the structures of reality, they also ask us to understand the play of power and justice, disempowerment, ignorance, and the making of objects through labels, through which our world is largely organized.


Comedy and Social Change: Russell Peters & the Creativity of Racisms

The following is a YouTube video, an edited one done by horsi 06, of Russell Peters, a South Asian comedian.  It is edited in the same spirit as I post things here on my blog.  The video makes some important points about racism and how it functions in continuity, yet looking differently as it moves today into the future.  It does NOT go away, but changes form.

The postmodern/modern era, in which we find ourselves today, is not the same as 100 years ago.  Capitalism and individualism have afforded many channels and paths for racism to go underground, traveling through consciousness and social realms, institutions and intimate relations in creative ways that are often unrecognizable.  This is the globalization era, the era of masking, the era of side-stepping, the era of looking good but not being good.  And goodness squashes ‘badness’ in internal struggles that are genocidal within ourselves.  It won’t go away.  It comes in different forms.  If we practice not working with it, we may not ourselves perpetrate directly, but we perpetrate indirectly.   It changes form because we don’t work and struggle with its eradication.  We largely ignore it.  The video asks not to get defensive, which is the usual stance people get into when even saying the word.  But if you are one of the people who are with me on this blog, by-in-large, in its spirit of social change, then you will enjoy this video.

The editor says he/she is not preaching, but inviting reflection–which is what I have said about my entire blog, from the outset.  So in kindred spirit, I offer this video to you and we can invite the contradictions of our realities and also our present failures.  At the same time, we invite laughs.  This guy is a great comedian!!  In speaking about this in the realm of comedy, we can begin working on these things, to see ourselves and to reflect and then work.  Racism is a constructed thing that we’ve internalized.  And remember……racism is not the same for everyone, even though people may use the hatreds and the words.  Some people and groups have privileges in its construction and this makes for position and power-relations that need to be addressed, not just racism as some kind of hatred.  Many people practice racism without hatred, although it is about superiority (culturally, political position-wise, socially, etc.) always.  Let’s listen, see, work!

Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー : Hip-hop; indigenous Ryukyu Anime

Samurai Champloo サムライチャンプルー is the name of the Anime television series in 2004-2005 that has proven to be one of the most globally popular in Japanese entertainment history. For one reason, anime–the Japanese animation story-telling genre, is now more global. It is one of the few things that are recognizably Japanese and enjoyed by Europeans, much of Eastern Asia and in the United States and Central and South America.

However, another element that has made it popular is its use of hip-hop music and cultural themes, along with Okinawan indigenous traditions including spiritual themes. It is truly a fusion work. And like much of anime in Japan, there are commentaries on the past and the future in the present, spiritual paths, human and spiritual and ecological values, tradition and modernity.

Samurai Champloo is ground-breaking in some ways, combining the traditional story-telling with slapstick comedy and hip-hop with indigeneity. The story unfolds–during the Edo period, or Tokugawa era (1603-1868), mixing punk culture references; censorship issues of the period–for example: by DJ hip-hop ‘scratching’ replacing the topics that were censored during the Tokugawa government; and  graffiti art and rap with hip-hop beats accompanying the scenes, bringing different histories into harmony. Past and present, youth and ancestors, ‘history as now’ play together for a modern young audience. Factual historical events, people and ideas of the Tokugawa period are the backdrop.

The story: Two independent warrior-men, very different from each other: One a wild and rough-hewn man and the other one who is refined and graceful and was trained by one of the top samurai teachers of the period, are thrown together in a fight where they are sentenced by the authorities for execution. They are helped to escape by a flighty woman Fuu, who tells them of a man she must find who ‘has the fragrance of sunflowers.” This fascinates the two fighters and they are made to promise her not to fight and to help her find him. The incredible journey begins…..

The story is filled with nature spirits who assist and watch them, guides and other aspects of indigenous spiritualities of the Ryukyu and Southern Japanese histories, long suppressed by dominant powers in Japanese history from before the Edo period. Life and death, secrets, transformations, violence, memory……..

Fun & serious: ‘Ninja’ ‘Queer’ and ‘Nigga’: Say What??

I know that some of us do not know what is going on with youth.  And I know some of us do not know or really care about ‘older’ people and the elderly.  They’ve lived their life, now you are living yours.  There is no history that has anything to do with some of us, in our present thinking.  I also understand that not all the words used  ‘within’ a historical culture are known.  Languages have always changed, always been fluid.

The use of the term ‘nigga’ by the African-American community has stirred debates and reflections in communities that have come into contact with African-American urban youth.  The subject has become a way to speak of racism and its heritage and the subject of empowerment and the use of words–‘how’ words are used instead of tight definitions.  The use of that word has also touched on the subject of forgetting history and respect/disrespect discussion.

The historical meaning of ‘nigger’ was meant as a derogatory, condescending, humiliating and spirit-breaking word directed at African-Americans in the United States.  The older generation can hardly stand to hear that word nowadays, even as political correctness may have drowned that word out of public spaces.  The word is still used in private by white and Asian and Latino people I know who still hate African-American people and black-ness.  The word still exists.  Young African Americans now use ‘nigga,’ a slightly slanged word which is most often used by them to mean different things.  ‘M-nigga’ refers to ‘My Nigger’ and is a friend, a buddy, a confidant.  But the word is also used to mean the old meaning toward each other when seen fit.  The word has the same underpinning, even as ‘nigga’ is a perversion of the demeaning meaning and meant to change that meaning into a positive connotation.  Another aspect is its inclusion/exclusion dynamic.  ‘Nigga’ can be used only by the insiders.  Not outsiders.  The control of the word is used by the group.  In this way, the older term, controlled against that group, is reversed.  However, the use of the ‘N’ word still is retained whenever it is seen fit – but by the insider group, not anyone else.  We can get to ‘internalized oppression’ in another essay.

Young African-Americans are taught that Martin Luther King should be respected and to understand history.  But young Black people in the US, born after 1970, let’s say, only know this through their parents and what the textbooks now say about the Civil Rights movement.  The relationship people have to their own past is cut-off.  They do not see any people being relegated to the backs of busses.  They do not see too much overt discrimination as told to them through the Civil Rights movement.  Because the African-American movement and the people and families themselves have been fractured in many ways, torn-apart and individualized the  US courts, schools, and institutions such as the social work institution — what was before, is hardly recognized.  The burn-out rate of social workers is extremely high because their intentions to improve the lives of the underclass African-American lives cannot happen with the rules and regulations — derived from assumptions of the ‘not-yet-fully-assimilated’ kind, coupled with the bureacracy meant to bury things in papers and computer blips.

The use of ‘nigga’ will continue until other words come into the cultural domain of disenfranchised groups.  For many Black youth that I speak with in the United States, the ability to buy more things (consumerism); watch more television; have more personal freedom away from their working single parents (I’m just presenting one scenario of many); and have basketball stars and hip-hop music videos and sports stars thrown into their consciousness as high places and goals and realities, moves the young mind away from the fact that there is the oppression of seeing those as the ONLY things that are the dream–the ‘good life.’  In other words, oppression exists but is not seen as oppression.

Their mothers straighten out their hair.  Kinky African hair still will not do in the US.  Do white women buy African-American wigs to ‘look good?’  Although there are movements to empower African hair-dos for women, by-in-large, it is still needing ‘acceptance’ by the so-called ‘American’ community.’  It is controlled by the amount of money certain businesses and corporations can make.  The more black it looks in tradition (i.e. kinky hair, more urban black language slang, different clothes, etc.) the less money it can make because the more wealthy consumers (who are mostly white and middle to upper class) are the ones who can afford to buy things.  ‘Nigga’ is a form of both resistance and a form of continuity in culture.  The ‘wealth’ of African-American-ness, is primarily sequestered in sports and entertainment.  To say it in a very politically-incorrect imagery–we are still doing black-face.  The difference is now we can make billions of dollars.  It is just consumed into capitalist systems of income production.  Boundaries of race-relations are more open now, but racism goes more underground and more covert, passive-aggressive, taking on different shapes within each of us, and in the ‘other.’

Now let us switch to some interesting slang related to this discussion.  The term ‘Queer’ has had a similar history for non-heterosexually-determined people when it comes to derogatory, violent word-labels.  Most  US American older gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning people were called queer in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.  The word was also meant to humiliate, condescend and demote, legitimizing further violence.  If that person was queer, a person had the right to beat them up.  The police often did and often did not go to the homes of domestic disputes of gay couples because of their homophobia, heterosexism.  Being queer was painful.  So in a similar fashion to the ‘N’ word for an older generation of Blacks in the US, ‘queer’ is not a word appreciated within the older generation of LGBTQIQ people nowadays.  But now, queer is meant as an empowering identity.  Even as being called ‘gay’ is still double-edged (proud of gay culture but when a person calls someone gay accompanied by a mean-spirited limp-wristed gesture – it is hardly empowering), queer has moved into the domain of non-sexually identified and free-from-heterosexism ideas.  The word ‘queer’  is somewhat disputed in the primarily male ‘gay’ communities but is more-or-less accepted as another identity label.

In the Asian-American community, we’ve heard ‘ninja‘ used.  Problematic because it is a Japanese word and does not represent ‘all Asians’ as if that would be possible.  And to say the least about Japan’s relationship to the rest of Asia as a former colonizer and brutalizer, as much as Japan has been a ‘modernizer (the two usually go hand-in-hand in most, but not all, cases).

The term ‘ninja’  忍者 or shinobi 忍び, describes the covert agent/mercenaries during the Japanese feudal period, who had special skills in espionage, sabotage and were said to have ‘mysterious’ skills   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninja.  Nowadays, ninjas circulate in video game landscape, the anime and manga worlds which are now globalized.

The below video is a humorous look at this entire discussion, told through the lens of Asian-Americans using ‘ninja’ as a slang word for a certain buddy-relationship as well as a word to demean within that context.  It’s a laugh, a question, a reflection.