Archive | April, 2013

A better response to Suzy Lee Weiss

23 Apr

From the e-pages of Racialicious, a worthwhile blog to read, for those of you who don’t know it: “To (All) the White Girls Who Didn’t Get Into The College Of Their Dreams” by Kendra James (

Here’s just a snippet:

There’s an arrogance in high school students that manifests during the college-application process, but it’s an arrogance that correlates with already existing racial and class privilege… It’s hard to understand that despite working hard for four years, you may not get into your first choice of school. It’s easy to look for someone to blame, and it’s easier still to want to place that blame on groups of people who can so easily be scapegoats for your problems…and historically always have.

Snap. Thank you, Kendra.

(Btw, I knew there was a WSJ connection! Suzy’s sister used to work there.)

** Thanks to my colleague NS for the link.

What makes the news

19 Apr

As I’ve read about the deaths at the Boston Marathon and listened to my community play back what they’ve absorbed from the news, it has struck me that the first piece of information I gleaned, and the one I keep hearing, is that Martin Richard was only 8 years old.

Martin has been at the top of my internet searches and on the tips of my community’s tongues. Krystle Campbell and Lu Lingzi take a little more scrolling.

Let me be clear: by no means am I arguing that the senseless death of an 8 year old isn’t tragic. It is. And so are the senseless deaths of a 23 year old graduate student from China and a 29 year old local Massachusetts woman.

So I’ve been struck, not only by what makes someone’s death more noteworthy (or newsworthy), but how who they are shapes our responses to their loss.

Take for instance, the online comments on this Washington Post article “Boston University identifies third bombing victim as Lu Lingzi” (

I am so sad for this young woman and for her parents so far away in China. To think that they poured their life’s work and love into raising this daughter–their only child under Chinese government policy–that she was apparently so accomplished, and that they let her follow her academic dream half way around the world–to us, here in Boston–never to return. It’s just heartbreaking. Her poor mom and dad! (MaldenJen)

While this comment seems authentically sympathetic, the aside (“their only child under Chinese government policy”) takes an intentional detour. Within these dashes, MaldenJen leverages Lu’s death as an opportunity to critique policy. And unlike the invocation of gun control laws in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, I don’t see how Chinese population growth policy is relevant to the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Yet that’s where MaldenJen  goes with Lu’s death. Notably and disturbingly, MaldenJen doesn’t mention the bomber(s) as the obvious and direct cause of the tragedy: it’s as if the Chinese government is really to blame for making this situation heartbreaking. (And if we’re to follow this logic, should Martin’s parents be less heartbroken over his death since they still have a daughter?)

Even more notable and disturbing to me are the comments that followed MaldenJen’s post:

The one-child policy doesn’t apply to government employees and the otherwise well-connected, so please save your energy on that score (spellmistress).

Government employees are indeed subject to the one child policy. They can lose their jobs by having a second one. The well connected is another matter of course, but they seem to have different rules in all societies. Malden made a very thoughtful comment, and jerks like you ought to get a life (luxembourg1).

Notice anything about these responses? Like the absence of any mention of Lu?

With one set of dashes, one woman who died at the marathon is obscured by our perspectives on, (mis)understandings of, and political slant on China.

Meanwhile, Martin’s death somehow remains more individual, more specific and more human, both in the press and in our responses. And thait’s not just because of a difference in age. It’s about everything we see when we read the names and see the pictures of those who have made the news, and the meaning and value we attach to what we see.

The humanity of the Boston bombing

18 Apr

I’m still processing the Boston bombing, and the fear, anger and suspicion that the bombing has stirred. As much as our outrage and terror is about Boston, it’s about humanity: I’ve heard one too many people say the world is going to heck in a handbasket. And the blame lies with “these days,” as in everything has gotten so bad “these days.”

As I struggle with my own fear and identification with this particular tragedy (I’ve run Boston, and I’ve had the joy of seeing my partner, sister and friends cheering me on along different race routes), I’m thankful that I found this statement from actor Patton Oswalt. I hope it’s helpful to you, too.

Boston bombing Oswalt

I would only add that after you look “violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance” in the eye, take action: name it, stand with others in the face of it, poke it in the eyes, tell other people not to give up. Do something. Because not doing anything is actually doing something, too.

Blogs you’re reading

17 Apr

Today, I just want to know: what other blogs, newsfeeds, tweets and other media about identity, diversity and equity are you reading actively?



Actually, that’s not sarcasm. It’s just hate

16 Apr

As news broke about the Boston Marathon yesterday, columnist Erik Rush tweeted:

Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon!

I had never heard of Rush before, who writes for WND, which touts itself as “America’s Independent News Network.”

Of course, this started a tweet war, with someone posting back, “Are you ALREADY BLAMING MUSLIMS??” to which Rush responded, “Yes, they’re evil. Let’s kill them all” (

Writing his response off as “sarcasm, idiot,” Rush went on to defend his position, tweeting:

Hypothesis proven: Libs responding to “kill them all” sarcasm neglect fact that their precious Islamists say the same about us EVERY DAY.

Did you see that? Did you see what Rush did?

That’s a world-class bait and switch right there. The issue is whether he was blaming Muslims without evidence, and Rush deftly changed the subject to an attack on liberals for not having a sense of humor and for choosing Islam over “us” (and under that cover, he managed to take another gross and defamatory shot at Muslims). It’s a classic redirection to justify prejudice–if only by refusing to acknowledge the prejudice in the first place.

And scarily enough, it works. (Evidence: Rush can tweet accusations loudly and proudly.)

So say you were on Twitter reading this. How would you respond? What do you have to say, and how you could you say it effectively? Maybe you’re not going to convince Rush of anything, but remember, the Twitterverse is watching.

On “terrorists”

15 Apr

If you’ve been following the news about the bombs at today’s Boston Marathon, you’ve heard the “t” word: terrorist. Beyond the news, which is understandably scant right now in terms of answers, I’m hearing it all over casual conversations:

In an e-mail exchange, a friend wrote, “Someone told me that it was a terrorist incident.”

In an online chat, another friend asked, “Do we know if it’s terrorists?”

And my response has been, “What else would we call it?”

This bombing, like any bombing, is an act of terror, plain and simple. The feeling in my gut and heart tells me that.

My second response has been, “Do you mean: did ‘people outside the US’ do it?”

In both cases, the answer has been yes.

And as yet another friend argued that the movie theater shooting in Aurora, CO was “a very different type of act” than what he refers to as “terrorism,” all I could say was, “No, it’s different people. Still terror.”

So I’m writing today just to ask you to help stop the racism and nationalism that are triggered instantly, powerfully and (in some minds) justifiably when it comes to acts of terror. It’s in moments like this when we reflexively grab onto stereotypes and prejudice (that we “know better” than to express in our daily lives). And so it’s in moments like this when we have to practice and help each other to think, speak and be the people we want to be.

As we wait in the wake of this tragedy, let’s do what we can not to deepen hatred and fear.

The script on entitlement: flipped

12 Apr

On yesterday’s post (how to respond to an accusation that people who receive government assistance believe they’re entitled to it), a technique I often use is flipping the script.

What I mean: if you step back and consider the presumption underlying a statement like Romney’s, sometimes it’s helpful to reverse the roles and look at the issue from the other side.

As a professor from my graduate studies once asserted: how you frame the question determines the possible answers. And sometimes, as with Romney’s assertion, there’s a fundamental problem with the frame. It’s skewed and obscures the full canvas. So give it a flip.

I can best illustrate what flipping Romney’s script would look like with this:


So today, here’s an invitation. Find a popular cultural script about a group of people and try flipping it. See what happens. Would love to hear what you discover.

* Thanks to my colleague SK for the image.