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White Anti-Racism: No Hairshirt Necessary

Good Hair Comes from India!!!

Chris Rock’s trip to Chennai, India was one of the most intriguing parts of Good Hair. Apparently, the vast majority of hair used in human hair weaves comes from India. Most of it is bought from Hindu temples that perform sacrificial tonsures (head shavings). (An interviewee did speak about the black market hair trade but I found him to be a less than credible source.) The hair is then bought by weave manufacturers who sort it, wash it, comb it and assemble it into tracks of hair.

thanks to sunnyshairandwigs.blogspot.com for the great photo!

I had an unnecessarily negative reaction to this information. Because I associate most products made in India or Southeast Asia solely for American consumption with capitalism, colonialism and destruction of local environments and knowledge, I hastily assumed that evil was at play within this transnational hair trade. After thinking more though, I really can’t see any problem with this. Tonsuring has existed as a Hindu ritual for much much longer than human hair weaves have become a profitable commodityCitizens choose to be tonsured as a self-sacrifice to Lord Vishnu, so one can’t really argue that they forced into this or unfairly compensated. The temples do profit off of hair sales, but the profit defrays overhead costs and supports charitable operations. I suppose the temples are not always upfront with the shavees about the fact they sell the hair, but the hair-buying weave-making industry isn’t underground so no one is being duped. Moreover, Indian people own and operate the weave companies which ensures that the profits go back to the community. Whether or not said profit is fairly distributed, I don’t know, but either way it doesn’t seem to be a capitalist enterprise more evil than any other.

To learn more about the collection, manufacturing and distribution, go to Sunny’s Hair Blogit has a great Q&A by an American online hair vendor traveling to India to see the process first hand.

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Race and Obesity in Philly

Soda, Candy, Hoagies!

Nia-Malika Henderson of Politico reports on Michelle Obama’s appearance in Philadelphia yesterday to discuss the national obesity epidemic as it is manifested in Philadelphia.

Though I know childhood obesity is a problem for Americans of all races, my localized experiences¬† have lead me to associate the issues of race and obesity. Whites are not the majority in my city (most estimates as of 2000 say 41% of Philadelphians are white though others say up to 45%) but–not surprisingly–they enjoy better housing, employment, education and health than others. Blacks are approximately 43% (44% if the mixed race population is added) of the city’s population and account for about 40% of the city’s workforce. Despite the essential contributions the black population makes to the city, it experiences twice the unemployment rate of whites and considerably worse health.

Philadelphia has a long history of obesity. Its longstanding position on Top 10 Fattest City lists (#1 in 1999!) is usually explained by excessive consumption of cheese steaks and soft pretzels. These ‘delicacies’ originated in South Philly, originally a melting pot of Irish, Italian and other European immigrants. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Current Events, education, Personal, Philadelphia News, , , , , , , , ,

NJ Department of Transportation sued for race-based discrimination

Very interesting article here about African American owned bus companies suing the NJ Dept of Transportation for allegedly treating the companies with excessive harshness in the frequency, level of scrutiny and consequences of inspections. By the end of the month it will be decided whether or not the case will go to the US District Court, reports Kitty Caparella of the Philadelphia Daily News.

I’ll be very interested to see where this goes!

It seems like there is a lot of evidence of excessively harsh treatment on record. The proceedings also include the NJDT’s lead inspector admitting to making VERY racist comments on the job and saying that “he had used racial slurs on ‘bad days’ ” and that “We all do it once in awhile…I’m not an angel… If someone says they didn’t, they’d be a liar.” [oh really?!?] The inspector is alleged to have said “N*****s run junk” a comment that is not just a racist slur, but a judgment about a peoples’ ability to perform successfully on the job which, to me makes it much more of a problem. How will this sort of hateful speech be judged in court. Is it illegal to say such hurtful things at work? (An actual, not rhetorical, question. Better informed legal insight, anyone?)

Filed under: Philadelphia News, Politics, , , , , , ,

My New Job

Zoe and I caught up the other night over dinner. I had been almost completely out of touch with my friends for the past few weeks because I was between cell phones and because I was adjusting to my new job. It was great to talk about my new job with Zoe because she hadn’t already heard about it and because I value her opinion. She asked me if the start of this blog was directly related to the start of my new job. It is definitely coincidental, but the blog really happened because I had a nice amount of free time between jobs than because I explicitly intend(ed) to blog about my new job. That said, both the start of my job and of my blog are definitely related to my realization that social injustice pre-occupies my thoughts and that I am most compelled to respond to injustice that feels close to home. For me, as a white female citizen of Philadelphia (which as of 2000 was 43% black, 42%white, 5%Asian, 5%other, 3%mixed race) the type of injustice that is most frequently and immediately visible is the centuries old anti-black white-supremacist American racism.

After working at the Academy of Natural Sciences for a few years I became confident that a.) the thing I liked most about work was communicating successfully with a wide variety of people and that b.) I spend more time thinking about race than any other issue I consider important because race issues seem to have a more immediate bearing on my life than any other sort of social issue. Looking to leave the museum career path and hoping to get my foot in the door with a community oriented non-profit in Philly, I applied to an administrative assistant job at a non-profit that runs charter schools in the city. Read the rest of this entry »

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