Code Switch
10:17 am
Wed October 23, 2013

A Roundup Of Stories On Race and Ethnicity

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 2:23 pm

We're reading and writing about race all the time here at Code Switch, but we don't get to blog about everything we see. Here are some stories that are worth your time.

A Brooklyn Street Fight Over Biggie Smalls. After he was killed at the age of 24 in 1996, Biggie Smalls, (né Christopher Wallace) has become a kind of mascot for Brooklyn, the New York City borough from which he hailed. Biggie's early years as a drug dealer there before his rap superstardom have been much mythologized — he was an active participant in that myth-making, of course — and murals about the late MC dot the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. The homages do double duty: they nod to the area's rougher pre-gentrification days, while also bestowing some street cred (or proximity to it) to the post-gentrification newcomers.

But not everyone is having it.

A community board in Clinton Hill (one of those neighborhood names created and popularized by real estate agents looking to rebrand a certain area) blocked a move to change the name of a corner in the neighborhood to Christopher Wallace Way after they looked him up and found him too criminal and too fat for their tastes.

"He started selling drugs at 12, he was a school dropout at 17, he was arrested for drugs and weapons charge, he was arrested for parole violations, he was arrested in North Carolina for crack cocaine, in 1996 he was again arrested for assault, he had a violent death and physically the man is not exactly a role model for youth," Lucy Koteen, a community board member (and doula) told DNAAinfo. "I don't see how this guy was a role model and frankly it offends me."

Could there be a story that better exemplifies Brooklyn in 2013?

Turmoil at Grambling State University. Earlier this season, when Grambling State sacked Doug Williams, the head coach of its storied but struggling football program, it sparked a player revolt that has shaken up college sports. Williams' former players decided to protest his firing and the shoddy condition of the facilities at the historically black college by sitting out and forfeiting a game against Jackson State — a move that might one day be viewed as a watershed moment in the organizing of student-athletes.

Other issues included lengthy bus trips (1,200 miles round-trip to Kansas City and 1,500 to Indianapolis) and what the players regarded as poor conditions in the football facility. ...

"I'm proud of them boys," Williams told USA Today via text. "They took a stance."

The players have since called off their boycott against practicing and playing games, but they'll still have to deal with the school's financial woes. The school has lost nearly 60 percent of its state funding, and it has an endowment of just around $4.5 million. (To put that in perspective, Grambling's operating budget for 2011-2012 was $27.2 million.)

That financial picture has prompted ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski to wonder if the university should scuttle its football program.

Things happen. The Berlin Wall disappears. Enron disappears. Lehman Brothers disappears. So why can't a football institution like Grambling State football disappear too?

It can, and perhaps it should. If a university can't afford its football program — and it appears that proud, tradition-rich Grambling can't — then it's time to punt. Or, at the very least, downsize.

Grambling wasn't founded because of football. Football was founded because of Grambling. But its players have exposed a financial truth that can't be ignored: Grambling lacks significant television revenue, ticket revenue and alumni/booster revenue. Its financial model doesn't work. That's why the weight room floor is an embarrassment. And why there is mold on shoulder pads. And why the coaching staff is low on numbers.

Latinos want a leader, but are meh on 'Latino.' Do Latinos prefer to be identified as "Latino" or "Hispanic"? According to a new survey, about half don't care either way.

The poll by the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project found that most didn't identify themselves by a larger pan-ethnic descriptor like "Latino" or "Hispanic" first, instead opting for their family's country of origin — Mexican, Salvadoran, Cuban, and the like.

Maybe not surprisingly, then, respondents thought that Latinos of different nationalities had different priorities. Fewer than half (about four in 10) said that the Latinos in the United States share "a lot" of values.

But most respondents — a whopping three in four, in fact— felt that the Latino community needed a leader, even though a sizeable majority says that they couldn't say who's currently the most important Latino leader in the United States.

Yeezy the code-switcher. Kanye West has been getting a lot of attention for the speaking voice he affects when he appears in more mainstream outlets. (Actually, the commentary has been like: "Why is Kanye speaking in that white voice???")

He actually talked at length about why he code-switches in an interview with the San Francisco radio station WiLd 94.9 a few days ago. In typical Kanye fashion, he was at once insightful and hard to follow.

It was a classist move that even when you get invited to certain dinner parties or even when you're in certain magazines it's still like a Dinner for Schmucks situation. Are they inviting you to be a part of what you're doing or are they inviting you to laugh at your teeth? And ask you a million questions like, 'Oh, those are cool teeth.' And then we have our thing that every time we do it, we give 'em the white voice. It goes both ways, but we're right now in a crash of the classes.

Brown boys are cool, brown girls are 'ghetto.' Aboubaca Ndiaye at the Atlantic dove into new research by the University of Buffalo's Megan Holland that found that because of stereotypes about their supposed athleticism and coolness, boys of color had a much easier time socially at predominantly white school in suburban Boston than minority girls did.

But Holland's study wasn't the only one that found this phenomenon. Northwestern's Simone Ipsa-Landa looked at a program called Diversify, an "urban-to-suburban racial integration program." She found that boys of color got social cachet "even as they were constrained to enacting race and gender in narrow ways." In other words, they were received as cool, but they could only act in certain ways to be seen as cool.

The girls on the other hand? "[They] were stereotyped as 'ghetto' and 'loud'"—behavior that, when exhibited by the boys in the program, was socially rewarded," Ndiaye writes.

In the case of the girls, the urban signifiers that gave the boys so much social acceptance, were held against them. While the boys could wear hip-hop clothing, the girls were seen as "ghetto" for doing the same. While the boys could display a certain amount of aggression, the girls felt they were penalized for doing so. Ispa-Landa, in an interview, expressed surprise at "how much of a consensus there was among the girls about their place in the school." She also found that overall, the girls who participated in diversity programs paid a social cost because they "failed to embody characteristics of femininity" that would have valorized them in the school hierarchy. They also felt excluded from the sports and activities that gave girls in those high schools a higher social status, such as cheerleading and Model U.N., because most activities ended too late for the parents of minority girls. Holland notes that minority parents were much more protective of the girls; they expressed no worries about the boys staying late, or over at friend's houses.

Alright, gang. What are you reading about race and ethnicity that should be on our radars? Share with us in the comments.

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