Code Switch
12:24 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

A Roundup Of Writing And Reporting About Race

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 4:18 pm

We spend our days looking at coverage of race and ethnicity. And there's often more good writing that we can explore. So we just wanted to take a moment to round up some of the reporting that's caught our eye of late.

Why I Stay Closeted In Asia, written by a Taiwanese writer using the pseudonym Connor Ke Muo, is about a young man's decision to not puncture his parents' illusions about his sexuality or his life in America. He doesn't stay quiet out of trepidation, or at least that's not solely the case. Instead, he's granting his parents their polite fictions; they love him but live in a different world. It would be really easy for an essay like this to be earnest or end too neatly. This doesn't.

" 'I wouldn't know how to deal if you were, you know, that,' she said.

" 'I wouldn't know where to start. All night I thought, What now? Should we move out of town?'

" 'I wouldn't disown you if you were,' she said. 'Not like if you married a f- - - - - - mainland Chink.'

"These were the people I loved. They said 'Chink' and they said 'faggot.' "

Over at Salon, Olivia Olivia tells another story about the relationship between adult children and their parents. Olivia recalls how her mother's job as a domestic worker for rich white families filled her own home with fancy detritus — "if a rich child didn't like his or her toy, it was mine," she writes. But her mother's job didn't grant her access to their worlds, and often, it robbed her of her mother's affections.

"My mother could not raise us. I could not afford my mother's care. I was competing with a handful of extremely wealthy women from Palo Alto, Atherton, Mountain View and Menlo Park, for what could have been my mother. When she came home she was controlling, abusive, vindictive. Cheeky white children had tried her patience for hours on end and she had none left for me. I would not be attending any extracurriculars or having a home-cooked meal. I had been pushed out of the market for my own mother so that a white woman somewhere could raise her well-rounded children. I got the sour ends, leftovers once again, of someone else's memory of a great nanny."

Our colleague Debbie Elliot checked in on the young New Orleanian virtuoso Trombone Shorty, whose new album is No. 4 on the Billboard jazz charts but whose music defies any kind of neat categorization.

The New York Times profiles Suzan Shown Harjo, a 68-year-old member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes who has been trying to have the Washington Redskins change their name for decades and who has "become something of a godmother to the cause of eliminating disparaging mascots."

Relatedly, Rick Reilly, the famously treacly sports columnist now at ESPN, ticked off a lot of people last month when he argued that lots of Native Americans had no problem with the Redskins name. (Specifically, he said the push to change the name even though the move would be unpopular was like putting the dissenters on a reservation. Holy false equivalence, Batman!) The principal source of Reilly's column was his father-in-law, a Blackfeet Indian whom Reilly said didn't want the name changed. Except now that same father-in-law is saying that Reilly misquoted him and that he thinks "Redskins" is a slur and he does in fact want the team's name changed. Reilly says he stands by his version of the events. Awkward holidays ahead!

The Onion, on point as usual, weighs in on the fight over the Redskins' name and mascot.

The folks at 8Asians dig into the decision made by many Asian-American/Pacific Islanders to self-segregate on college campuses.

Kanye West: insufferable braggart and musical genius or insufferable braggart and musical genius who kind of has a point about racism? Discuss.

And our play-cousin Jasmin Garsd drops in on La Mala Rodriguez and the women reshaping Latin hip-hop.

"Mala's lyrics are sexual and feisty, but, unlike mainstream female MCs in the U.S., she doesn't brag about wealth. In 'Galaxias Cercanas' ('Nearby Galaxies'), she raps — 'I was birthed strong, I was raised strong, I walked strong and I've always talked strong.' [Latin music blogger Juan Data] says the absence of materialism has to do with the social context that produces Spanish-language rappers. 'In the U.S., materialism is a value that is popular, accepted and celebrated. In Latin America, not so much,' he says. 'It also has to do with the rap industry itself. The truth is in Latin America nobody, with the exception of Calle 13, has gotten rich off of hip-hop. So bragging about wealth would be bizarre, and it's also considered in extremely poor taste in our culture."

Alright, y'all: What are you reading about race and culture? Share with us in the comments.

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