Sans Cilice

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White Anti-Racism: No Hairshirt Necessary

On the potential of color talk

“Why you and Ms. Shannon both light-skinned?” asked Alicia (not her real name) last Wednesday. Shannon is one of my employees. I’m white and she’s black. Not only that, I’m about as white as white can be– Irish descent, fair skin that sunburns in minutes, bright blue eyes, dirty blond hair (currently dyed brunette). Shannon has light/medium brown skin and dark brown African American hair. I think some would say she’s light-skinned and others wouldn’t. But, there’s really no need to examine our skin shades further; the point is that while Shannon and I may have any number of things in common, skin color is just not one of them.

—Long post! Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: education, Personal, Philosophy & Theory, Society, , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Arrest Has Been Made!

An arrest has been made in relation to the Walmart Racism even discussed below.

All things considered, I doubt this incident will become important historically. As stupid and base as I’m sure the speaker is, and as rightfully offended as so many are, I don’t think the impact of this event will be strong or far-reaching. Nonetheless, it’s my moral duty to prolong the bad publicity for Walmart.

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

Racism at Gloucester County Walmart


Overt indisputable racist intimidation is alleged to have happened at a Gloucester County, NJ Walmart. Obviously this act has not been condoned by the company, but I’m totally fine with hastily (re)judging Walmart’s forest for this tree.

If you aren’t sure about your feelings towards Walmart, give “Walmart:The High Cost of Low Prices” a chance. I wonder if Walmart will aggressively silence this issue like they have charges of sexual discrimination.

Filed under: Current Events, Society, , , , , ,

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.

Filed under: Movies, Pop Culture, , , , , , , , , ,

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 and My New Blog

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a definite coincidence between the start of this blog and the start of my new job. While each new beginning is reflective of my interests and attitudes, I think the explicitness of the connection between the two is fading. A note before continuing: The student body of the school I work at is, approximately, 95% black and is located in a predominantly black neighborhood of West Philadelphia. I should have mentioned this obviously relevant information in the previous post about my job.

I had brainstormed about starting this blog for a few days before starting my job and actually created it a few days after my job began. Though I never expected that my job would afford starkly revelatory, emotionally gripping and neatly packaged racial anecdotes– the likes of which probably only exist in hackneyed cinematic dramas about tragically well-intentioned white mentors and ‘exceptional’ black students– I did expect that my experiences were bound to yield as much food for thought as my old office job at Philly’s natural science museum. Indeed my experiences do yield food for thought, but it is of a totally different kind. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Personal, , , , , ,

“What are you doing for others?” Response #1

To continue on MLK: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

1. I call out other people’s racist (and sexist and homophobic, etc.) bull-shit, regardless of whether they are my close colleagues, loose acquaintances, good friends or family members. This is a small action that makes a subtle but real difference. Many people believe in speaking out against things that they don’t support, in the abstract, but few bother to speak up about things they find unjust on a smaller more personal scale. Obviously this action does not immediately or directly make anyone’s life better. It’s not a terribly flashy form of activism, but, especially in the work place it makes a real difference by promoting greater awareness of racism (and homophobia, sexism and religious/ethnic intolerance) in it’s more discrete forms. The benefit of greater awareness in the work place is not that it makes the newly aware individual a better or less-culpable person– in fact, in instances like these, I’m really not all that concerned with redeeming that person’s well-being or moral standing.

Awareness is important because it decreases the likelihood that the person in question will  make the work place uncomfortable for people of color (or gays, or women, or Muslims, etc.) by uttering witless or overtly racist remarks. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: activism, Personal, Society, , , , , ,