The Soft Racism of Apu from “The Simpsons”
On the continuum of racist things, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon initially seems but a minor transgression. Apu is the good-natured owner of the local convenience store on “The Simpsons,” the beloved cartoon that recently began its twenty-ninth season. In his best moments, he’s one of the few sane, hardworking people on the show. He sees the world askance, like a critic softly lampooning the casual bigotry of those around him. He represents a different kind of American Dream than the one on display throughout the rest of Springfield, the town where the series is set, and where so many seem to fail upward. It’s hard to be too mad when Apu cuts corners, too, wiping clean a hot dog that’s fallen on the floor and putting it back out for customers, for instance.
But Apu’s most distinguishing trait is his accent: theatrically thick, as though someone is luxuriating in all those exotic curled “R”s and the nasally twang. The thirty-four-year-old comedian Hari Kondabolu, who grew up in Queens, among immigrant accents from all over the world, describes Apu’s voice as “a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” A few years ago, Kondabolu recorded a segment for W. Kamau Bell’s nightly show, “Totally Biased,” in which he griped about Apu’s influence on South Asian representation. The riff struck a nerve, and Kondabolu went on to make “The Problem with Apu,” a short documentary that revolves around Kondabolu’s obsessive quest to confront the actor Hank Azaria, who voices Apu, and to reason with him. (Azaria, the descendant of Sephardic Jews, also grew up in Queens.) In the movie, which will air on TruTV on Sunday, Kondabolu talks to other children of immigrants who work in comedy, including Aziz Ansari, Aparna Nancherla, and Hasan Minhaj, and explores their vexed relationship with this character who once seemed to define the parameters for South Asians onscreen. In an early scene, we see Kondabolu performing at a comedy club;
Canada army recruiters at transgender job fair ‘racism’
A Canadian transgender job fair organised by a former Kenyan refugee has been criticised for inviting military recruiters.
Biko Beauttah said she asked the army to the event to honour her grandfather, who was a Kenyan major general.
But other transgender-rights activists say having the military there is an “affront” to their community.
Despite the criticism, Ms Beauttah said the fair will go ahead in Toronto on Trans Remembrance Day on Monday.
Ms Beauttah moved to Canada in 2006 from Kenya, where she said transgender people face discrimination and violence.
She said she spent her first three days in Canada in immigration detention, followed by six months in a refugee shelter.
But finding work in Canada has proved difficult because of transphobia, she says.
Currently, she is an activist and board member at Pride Toronto.
“I decided to throw myself a job fair and my community will benefit well,” she told the BBC.
“All you need is an idea and you can literally change the world.”
The fair will feature 15 employers, including bookstore chain Indigo and Toronto-Dominion Bank.
The Canadian Armed Forces is sending two personnel to find possible transgender recruits.
The presence of the military has irked some members of the transgender community.
Transroots Toronto, a group for transgender people of colour, says the job fair is a “racist act”.
“Given the ongoing history of military and police violence against trans people, and of police indifference to anti-trans violence generally, having military or police present at an event specifically for TPOC (Trans People of Color) is an inherently violent act,” Transroots Toronto wrote on Facebook.
The group also criticised Ms Beauttah for hosting the event on Trans Remembrance Day, which it said was a “day of mourning”.
It is organising a protest outside the job fair.
But Ms Beauttah remains undeterred.
No, whites do not face discrimination en masse today
A recent poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard’s School of Public Health found that a majority of white Americans, 55 percent, feel there is discrimination against them in today’s world. Smaller percentages are able to pinpoint a specific example where they were personally discriminated against, for instance, when applying to jobs or being considered for promotions.
The idea of anti-white discrimination is not just untrue, it is spectacularly wrong. Whites are overrepresented in pretty much every area of life – government, media, academia, and the corporate world are all filled with white people. There are some professions where minorities have more representation, such as professional sports, but these are extreme and rare exceptions to the rule. It’s tempting to chalk the belief in white discrimination up to the grievance politics of political correctness in the last several decades, but this anti-white fear goes much deeper than that. This belief in anti-white discrimination runs deep in American history.
Emily Ekins, a research fellow and pollster at the Cato Institute, recently released an extensive report on the state of free speech and political expression. There are many telling things about the report: For one, about 58 percent of people feel that political correctness prevents them from expressing their beliefs. Along this same line, 73 percent of Republicans have felt the need to self-censor.
This fear on the part of conservatives is fed by a sense that conservative opinions, particularly those of straight, white men, are being marginalized on college campuses. It’s no secret that college campuses are overwhelmingly liberal, as roughly nine percent of faculty members identify as either conservative or very conservative. There have been some egregious cases of academic malfeasance at places like Middlebury College and University of California, Berkeley, among others. This doesn’t mean there is an actual bias against straight, white men, but given man’s propensity for tribalism, it can definitely feed the perception of one.
Commentary: Ed Gillespie forgot there is more to Trump than racism
After Republican Ed Gillespie lost the race for Virginia governor on Tuesday, the president tweeted: “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!”
That was the problem: Ed Gillespie did not embrace Trump or what he stood for enough.
He forgot that there is more to Trump than just racism: There is also corruption and incompetence.
He did the first part just fine. His MS-13 commercials were exactly the sort of nightmarish dog-horn that is Trump’s specialty. But he forgot: that is not all that “Trumpism” is. Otherwise we would not need a special new -ism for it and could just say “racism.”
No, Gillespie barely even tried. Where was the paranoia? Where were the unhinged rants about wire-tapping? Where were the attacks on the legitimacy of the free press? There was, naturally, some gleeful disregard for fact, and those lines about sanctuary cities were Trump-ish, but there could have been much more. Just to show he was trying. Where were the conspiracy theories? Where was Alex Jones?
At no point in the campaign did Gillespie invite any interference from Russia! And he calls this embracing Trump? Where was the nepotism? Where was the dubiously ethical self-promotion? Where was the total apathy towards governing? Where were the unexpected fits of temper that required constant management? I didn’t see Ed Gillespie out on the road emitting a continuous stream of personal insults that, although spoken aloud, sounded somehow misspelled, but I did miss the debate, so it is possible that it happened. He had a whole campaign to do it, and did he insult a single gold-star widow, or even hint at mocking a disabled reporter? What kind of Trumpism is this, really?
Black-on-Black Racism at Cornell
A Rasmussen poll taken in 2013 asked American adults, “Are most white Americans racist?” “Are most Hispanic Americans racist?” and “Are most black Americans racist?” Of the three groups, the winner was blacks.
Thirty-seven percent said most blacks were racist; 18 percent felt most Hispanics were racist, and 15 percent said most whites were racist.
Thirty-eight percent of whites felt most blacks were racist. Even blacks agreed, with 31 percent saying most blacks were racist, while 24 percent of blacks thought most whites racist and 15 percent believed most Hispanics were racist.
This brings us to the Cornell University’s Black Students United and whether the organization is engaging in racism — against blacks. The BSU complains that the prestigious Ivy League school admits too many blacks — from Africa and the Caribbean. “We demand that Cornell Admissions to come up with a plan to actively increase the presence of underrepresented Black students on this campus,” the BSU student group said in its demands. “We define underrepresented Black students as Black Americans who have several generations (more than two) in this country.”
Hold the phone. Isn’t the mantra of modern higher education “diversity,” “inclusion” and “overcoming disadvantage”? If so, the black African and Caribbean students would seem to nail all three.
Maybe the problem is that it is tough to explain why so many black foreign applicants outperform America-born blacks on what some call “culturally biased” standardized tests. A 2007 study by Princeton and University of Pennsylvania sociologists examined the standardized test scores of black students enrolled at 28 selective universities. As to the SAT, the test most colleges use as an important factor in offering admission, the study found that foreign-born black college-bound students earned a statistically significant advantage on SAT scores, averaging a score of 1250 (out of 1600) compared to 1193 average points for their American black counterparts. This explains, in large part, why first- or second-generation black immigrants made up 27 percent of the black student bodies at colleges nationwide. In the Ivy League, black immigrants comprised 41 percent of black students.
‘Airbnb of colour’ promotes segregation and can only makes racism worse
I feel sort of ignorant because until last week, I didn’t realise versions of Airbnb for people of colour was a thing.
Ignorant because services like Noirbnb have been around for at least a year, and more are cropping up all the time, but I have somehow managed to miss this trend.
In case you didn’t know, these alternatives have come into existence because there have been a number of high-profile reports of host racism on Airbnb in recent years.
Like the woman who had her reservation cancelled at the last minute because she was Asian, for example. Or the ones aired out via the #Airbnbwhileblack hashtag.
These experiences are prompting travellers of colour to build and seek out alternative platforms where there isn’t a possibility of being discriminated against.
My ignorance has perhaps stemmed from the fact that as an ethnically Chinese woman, I’ve never experienced racism while travelling, so I have never felt the need for an alternative platform.
The few times I’ve used Airbnb have all been positive and the hosts I’ve had were more than helpful.
The host I had in Bristol followed up to check I had a good time; the one I had in Santiago, Chile, was very keen to share his tips of the city with me; and the one I stayed in with my parents in Valencia even walked with us to the taxi stand so we wouldn’t get lost.
Maybe I have been very lucky in my travels to date, because the same experience has clearly not been shared by everyone.
The fact is, some travellers do feel like we need Airbnbs of colour.
To be clear, Airbnb is actively trying to promote diversity. As well as a clearly sign-posted anti-discrimination policy, they have also recently hired a Director of Diversity and Belonging.
Talking to my sister about racism: ‘People your age seem so much more aware’
When my younger sister Fizzy tells me about her experiences of racism as a student, they’re both familiar and strange. It’s been six years since I graduated from the University of Cambridge, where I tended to explain racism away. It just seemed a part of life at the archaic institution – which was recently criticised for its lack of diversity by MP David Lammy.
My sister, who studies at Southampton, a newer university, has also experienced racism. She has encountered people who have openly used racist language, and is often asked to speak for Muslims or people of colour.
Fizzy responds to racism differently than I did. She has moved into a house with all non-white housemates in her second year, for example. Meanwhile, I never had a choice to be anything but a minority; I had one black friend at university and he graduated the year after I arrived. Most of my white friends lived in all white houses at university – and we thought little of it.
Prejudice at university was something I didn’t start exploring until long after I’d left. When I was at Cambridge, it was students in white tie who’d make the headlines, getting pissed and smashing things up. Today, it’s students of colour, such as Lola Olufemi and Jason Osamede, who have been targeted for protesting against white privilege, or wanting to “decolonise” an overly white and male curriculum in their posts as minority officers.
Back then I lacked the political awareness to frame my experiences. But my sister, 21 years old and immersed in a world of ongoing political debate on social media, knows exactly what’s happening to her. I can’t work out which is worse. We speak intimately and at length when I visit, to try to understand what it is about university that can make it such an isolating place for people of colour.
Here’s how Australia can act to target racist behaviour online
Although racism online feels like an insurmountable problem, there are legal and civil actions we can take right now in Australia to address it.
Racism expressed on social media sites provided by Facebook and the Alphabet stable (which includes Google and YouTube) ranges from advocacy of white power, support of the extermination of Jews and the call for political action against Muslim citizens because of their faith. Increasingly it occurs within the now “private” pages of groups that “like” racism.
At the heart of the problem is the clash between commercial goals of social media companies (based around creating communities, building audiences, and publishing and curating content to sell to advertisers), and self-ascribed ethical responsibilities of companies to users.
Although some platforms show growing awareness of the need to respond more quickly to complaints, it’s a very slow process to automate.
Australia should focus on laws that protect internet users from overt hate, and civil actions to help balance out power relationships.
Three actions on the legal front
At the global level, Australia could withdraw its reservation to Article 4 of the International Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Such a move has been flagged in the past, but stymied by opposition from an alliance of free speech and social conservative activists and politicians.
The convention is a global agreement to outlaw racism and racial discrimination, and Article 4 committed signatories to criminalise race hate speech. Australia’s reservation reflected the conservative governments’ reluctance to use the criminal law, similar to the civil law debate over section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in 2016/7.
New data released by the eSafety Commissioner showed young people are subjected to extensive online hate. Amongst other findings, 53% of young Muslims said they had faced harmful online content; Indigenous people and asylum seekers were also frequent targets of online hate. Perhaps this could lead governments and opposition parties to a common cause.
Rise of far-right AfD party worries refugees
Berlin and Hamburg, Germany – “Why are you here? Go back to your own country,” a man on the street once yelled at Hussam Al Zaher and his sister Samer, who was donning a hijab.
The two Syrian siblings had been exploring Hussam’s new hometown, Hamburg.
Since moving to Germany in October 2015, rebuilding his life from zero has been an uphill battle.
“I think it’s fear of the unknown,” says 29-year-old Al Zaher, referring to the racism he suffers. “Most people who resent refugees don’t really know us.”
While Germany has been the most welcoming European country in accepting large numbers of refugees, recent developments have caused some concern for asylum seekers and rights groups.
In the September federal election, Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term, but her victory was overshadowed as the anti-refugee and anti-Muslim party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), gained 12.6 percent of the vote. The AfD is the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag in post-war Germany.
“I hear a lot about the rise of right-wing extremism in Germany, and it’s making me feel uncertain about my future here,” says Al Zaher.
The journalist fled from Damascus in October 2014.
After a year of toiling for 15 hours a day at a clothing factory in Istanbul, he embarked on the perilous journey that tens of thousands of Syrians made before him.
After crossing the Aegean Sea in an overcrowded boat to Greece, he travelled on the Balkan Route.
Along the way, Al Zaher met fellow weary travellers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, bound by one ambition: the hope for a better life than the one they left behind.
He is now one of 1.3 million asylum seekers who have arrived in Germany since 2015.
“The beginning was really tough,” he recalls. “I felt lonely; I didn’t speak German and very little English.”
UK Rights Group Calls for Fight Against Islamophobia as Anti-Muslim Crimes Surge
UK anti-racism advocacy group Hope not Hate emphasizes the need for active measures to combat Islamophobia in the country amid reports of the rising number of hate crimes against UK Muslims, the group’s spokesman told Sputnik on Monday.
“Our own findings painted a worrying set of views which will require significant effort to address, both at a community and wider level. There are organized efforts by those within the far-right to capitalize on and exploit these (anti-Muslim) feelings, but clearly far more needs to be done to combat the scourge of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred,” Nick Ryan said.
The Press Association reported earlier in the day, citing police figures obtained by the Freedom of Information requests to UK law enforcement, that the number of hate crimes against mosques and other Muslim places of worship across the United Kingdom more than doubled between 2016 and 2017. In August, Hope not Hate published its “Fear And Hope 2017” report revealing the surge in violence against the Muslimsover recent months.
UK anti-racism advocacy group Hope not Hate emphasizes the need for active measures to combat Islamophobia in the country amid reports of the rising number of hate crimes against UK Muslims, the group’s spokesman told Sputnik on Monday. “Our own findings painted a worrying set of views which will require significant effort to address, both at a community and wider level. There are organized efforts by those within the far-right to capitalize on and exploit these (anti-Muslim) feelings, but clearly far more needs to be done to combat the scourge of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred,” Nick Ryan said. The Press Association reported earlier in the day, citing police figures obtained by the Freedom of Information requests to UK law enforcement, that the number of hate crimes against mosques and other Muslim places of worship across the United Kingdom more than doubled between 2016 and 2017.