Monday, August 28, 2006

Honorary Whiteness and the Meaning of American

From yesterday's Washington Post Op-Ed Page ... a response to George Allen and his Macaca mess. A great essay.

On Becoming A 'Real American'
By John J. Thatamanil
Sunday, August 27, 2006; Page B07

From adolescence on, I heard a constant refrain from my Indian
father: "Don't ever believe that you're really American." I found
his advice peculiar, especially as I had been living in America
since age 8 and had largely forgotten my time in India. To him, it
didn't matter that the only language in which I could think a
complex thought was English. It didn't matter that the only music I
listened to was Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees and Billy Joel.

My father's dictum infuriated me, in part because I took his comment
to be racist. Did he mean that only white people count as real
Americans? What about African Americans, let alone Indian Americans?
I have insisted ever since that in America, what makes someone an
American is citizenship, not race or ethnicity.

This month -- after hearing Sen. George Allen call an Indian
American, born in this country, "macaca" -- I better appreciated my
father's sober wisdom. What he meant to say is now apparent: "You
will never be accepted as truly American." Education, meaningful
work and financial success can get immigrant minorities only so far.
For some, whiteness will always be a prerequisite for being
American. Conveying that message might not have been Allen's intent,
but it certainly was the effect.

What's the lesson to be learned from this episode? Must South Asians
and other immigrants resign themselves to second-class status -- at
least in the eyes of some? Of course "class" is the wrong word here.
Indian Americans are, statistically speaking, the wealthiest
immigrant group in the nation. We do experience discrimination and,
on rare occasions, violence, as some Sikhs did right after Sept. 11,
2001. But discrimination has not had marked economic consequences.
It is more often experienced by South Asians as a subtle matter of
failed recognition: We are either rendered hyper-visible, marked out
as different as S.R. Sidarth was made to feel by George Allen or, in
other circles, rendered invisible because we are accorded the status
of "honorary whites." Membership in that exclusive fraternity is
granted so long as difference is suppressed.

The Allen incident offers evidence that America is not now or likely
to ever be a color-blind country. How are South Asians to live with
this truth? Resignation is not the answer. Vigorous political
participation is. My youthful intuition that what makes me as
American as any Mayflower descendant is citizenship -- not race or
ethnicity -- was only partly on the mark. The piece of paper that
validates our identities as American citizens can do only so much if
we do little to struggle for recognition.

There is also a second lesson to be learned from this incident.
South Asian political engagement cannot be driven solely by the
private interests of a single racial or ethnic group. America's
obsession with color has a long history that South Asians forget at
their peril. Indian Americans and other affluent immigrant groups
would do well to remember the civil rights struggles of African
Americans and others without whom a racially inclusive American
nation would have been impossible. The Immigration and
Naturalization Act of 1965, which opened the door to people from the
Eastern Hemisphere, must be recognized as the fruit of a larger
struggle to expand the meaning of the term "American," a struggle
fought on our behalf before our arrival.

The aspiration to honorary whiteness -- motivated by the hope that
success alone will entitle Asians to equality within American life --
betrays the memory of that long conflict. Only by making common
cause with African Americans, only by joining with other immigrant
groups that have not been as fortunate, can South Asian immigrants
resist America's troubled racial history and embrace its best
aspirations for a truly democratic and inclusive future. That is a
legacy I hope to transmit to my 8-year-old daughter, who is herself
a lovely perpetual tan, a combination of my brownness with the
lighter tone of her Ohio-born mother, who is herself part German,
part English and part Native American.

In the near term, what this means is that Americans of color should
work together to ensure that politicians who can see the many shades
and hues of American life only as exotic, foreign or even un-
American have no role in shaping our common future.

The writer is assistant professor of theology at Vanderbilt Divinity
School in Nashville. He is the author of "The Immanent Divine: God,
Creation, and the Human Predicament. An East-West Conversation."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How Low Can We Go

Pretty damn low, I'd say ... have you checked out what's in store for the next season of Survivor?

New 'Survivor' divides groups by race

"Get ready for a segregated "Survivor." Race will matter on the upcoming season of the CBS show as contestants will be divided into four tribes by ethnicity. That means blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians in separate groups.

The announcement was made on CBS' Early Show. Host Jeff Probst says the idea "actually came from the criticism that 'Survivor' was not ethnically diverse
enough." He says the twist fits in perfectly with what "Survivor" does, saying the show is "a social experiment. And this is adding another layer to that
experiment." Probst says contestants had mixed reactions to the racial divisions.

This time the new Survivors are stranded on the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. The castaways include a police officer, a heavy metal guitarist, an attorney and a nail salon manager. The new season of Survivor debuts September 14."

Have you ever seen the great movie, "Network" - I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore?" The film was a blistering satiric condemnation of network television in the 1970s.

Thirty some odd years later and it looks like a quaint documentary.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Racist, Anti-Semitic Hall of Shame

First was Mel Gibson. Well, okay, he is sooooo last week and has been done to death by folks far more eloquent than me.

Then, we have Senator George Allen and the Macaca Incident.

This fellow over here with the yellow shirt - Macaca or whatever his name is - he's with my opponent," Allen said. "He's following us around everywhere.

After mentioning that Webb was in California on a fundraising trip, Allen exhorted the crowd: "Let's give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."

Then today, wowee ... a triple-threat, a vertiable hat-trick of celebrity biogotry at its finest. This time? Hooyah! Former Atlanta Mayor, Civil Rights Activist, and recently quit WalMart spokesman, Andrew Young. I'll let you read his rant verbatim.


Mel can blame his demons with the bottle ... Senator Allen simply plays stupid ... but Andrew? He wasn't drunk or stupid, so what's his excuse? Old age?

Pregnancy Metaphors for Adoption - Who Benefits?

Perhaps because I had one child by birth, I didn't view the adoption process in the same light as pregnancy, except for the excruciating waiting part. I didn't see the point of trying to breast feed an infant who was already 4-5 months old. I just didn't feel the need to replay the birth experience reframed via adoption. My interest was, plain and simple, in parenting.

Had I never been pregnant and/or birthed a baby? Then, I dunno. Maybe.

Check out this is a brilliant, insightful post from the KAD behind Twice the Rice.

As Good As The Real Thing

When you're done, print it out and keep it handy. Refer to it often. I promise you'll be a better parent having read it and taken its message to heart.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Push a button and get a tune - on my shirt!

From CNN Newswire --

South Korea wants musical clothes

I'm thinking the world is already too damn noisy, but hey, I'm old. What do I know?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hate, it's everywhere

One of my kids yelled down to my basement office to tell me there was someone at the door. Cursing under my breath since it was a dozen or more interruptions of my morning, I mumbled to myself up the stairs.

At the door was a Howard County police officer. Our neighborhood and part of the greater Clarksville/Columbia community woke up to spray painted hate on their homes, cars, and property.

"Did you hear or see anything last night or early this morning, m'am?"

I didn't nor did my husband. I wish I had, though, so I could do more than just feel disheartened.

Our house was left unmolested but the ugliness of racial, ethnic, religious, and gender hatred is everywhere today, even on the handpainted sign with our community name.

I never think "why us" since why not us? I simply think, "Yes, today it's our turn."

And how sad is that...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Chinese Mother Considers the Adoption Option

I happened to see mention of this on the APC Yahoogroup list. This is an intelligent, thoughtful blog about tough subjects. This particular post was written by a Chinese woman who, unable to have children, pursues domestic adoption.

I believe you'll find it as moving as I did.

UPDATED LINK: My apologies as I had the wrong code here.

The Long Road to My Baby

Friday, August 04, 2006

Changes in the Korean Adoption Program - First, you breathe

The announcement of the Korean government's most extensive changes to its international adoption program in many years has caused, understandably so, much apprehension and anxiety among prospective and in-process adoptive parents.

First, let's all take a big cleansing breath. Good, now we can continue.

So far, here's what we appear to know:

** Korea is looking to promote domestic adoption, perhaps in part because it's looking at a serious population shortfall in the not so distant future. Therefore the bulk of its new initiatives are built to support keeping more of its children at home -- allowing singles to adopt, upping subsidies to adoptive parents, and campaigns to change the hearts/mind of Koreans about adoption as a positive way to grow families.

This is only for the good. However, in what I've read I've seen nothing about support for single women who want to raise their babies on their own. Perhaps this is the next phase.

** The biggest change right now is the delay in babies being made available for international adoption. To allow Korean families first opportunities to adopt, babies will not go into the international program until they are a minimum of 5 months old. This will mean that babies will definitely be older coming into the system. My guess is that the youngest babies will be a minimum of 8-9 months old before traveling to US and other international adoptive parents.

Now here's the flip on this. While the rate of domestic adoption for healthy infants has modestly increased, Korean families are not adopting children with special needs at the same rate. (I believe that US families adopt children with special needs more than from any other country. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong on that.)

So I'm wondering where this will leave these kids, infants or no, in the new scheme of things. I'm not sure if children with special needs will come under the same time delays. (My son was diagnosed with a mild club foot at birth. Not an issue for us, didn't even think twice about it. How many times, though, might he have been passed over not being "perfect" before being released for international placement?)

** Looks like adoption agencies, Korean and US, were thrown offguard by the speed of the initiative. SWS, from parent accounts, now has dossiers on hold until November. Eastern, Holt, and KSS continue to move the paperwork. Do stay in touch with your agency about all matters.

** Should you stick with the Korea program or perhaps move to another international adoption program? This is a personal call. But here's what I would do in various circumstances:

** If I had already started the process, I'd stay put.
** If I'm comfortable with the idea of adopting an older baby, young toddler, I'd stay put.
** If I can live with a little uncertainty about timelines, I'd stay put.

Ultimately, you need to look at what attracted you to the Korean program in the first place. If what we know now hasn't changed your original criteria, I'd stay put. Otherwise, you may want to consider other international programs.

And please, just keep breathing...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sins of the Father (and no more about Mel after this)

Just to give y'all context for Mel's vitriolic, anti-semitic tirade ... check out what Mel's dad had to say about Jews, the Catholic Church, and a bunch of other stuff.

Mel's Dad

Who said the fruit doesn't fall far from the vine?