By Guest Contributor Marly Pierre-Louis
I love a good adventure. So when my partner asked, “How would you feel about moving to Amsterdam?” I was game. Between the shock of making that decision and being completely overwhelmed with all we had to do, I daydreamed about what it would be like to be Black in the Netherlands. I knew about the historical love affair between Black America and Europe. Black folks, especially artists, had always sought refuge from the terrors of American racism in Europe. Stories of Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright in France painted an eclectic and humane portrait of Black life in Europe. I was thrilled at the prospect of experiencing a truly post racial existence.
At least I thought I was. Something happened as we crossed the Atlantic: I got cynical. Post racial. What a farce. From the moment we landed I became slightly obsessed with analyzing how I was being read as a Black woman – an utterly disorienting experience. I had never before been so aware of how much influence my race and gender had on the way I maneuvered through the world and how I interacted with people. Specifically, white people. Meeting my new compatriots, I searched their faces, tones of voice, and body language, hoping for hints. I wasn’t getting any of the cues that I had spent my life learning to navigate. The feeling of being somehow “race-less” was unbearable.
This realization was deeply troubling to me. It made me cognitive of what happens when we step out of the borders of the United States and are actually able to put down our racial armor but can’t. We can’t function without it. So much of my existence had been crafted as a defensive response to white racism. I identify as a radical Black, sometimes nationalist, feminist. Who was I without the white American male gaze?
I devoured everything I could find on race in the Netherlands and how racism manifested. Prior to 1975, when Suriname, one of the Dutch colonies was liberated, the Netherlands was pretty homogeneously white. So integration is a fairly recent phenomenon. Most of the Black folks who are here are migrants from Suriname or the Dutch Antilles. The marginalized groups here are not Black but Turkish and Moroccan migrants. I was told that in Europe, it’s not about race, it’s about ethnicity. My Blackness didn’t mean much to Dutch people and I was mainly being read as 1) a non-Dutch person, and then, 2) an American. Maybe post racial was possible!
The Dutch might lack the stereotypes and tropes of Black womanhood that the U.S has so painstakingly crafted over decades: i.e. sapphire, welfare mom, jezebel, etc. but they have plenty of issues of their own. In November I experienced my first Zwarte Piet season. Zwarte Piet is the Dutch version of Santa’s elf and the main character of their annual holiday celebration – a white person in Black face, curly wig, red lipstick and gold hoop earrings – in short, a coon. Hundreds of them descended upon the city for a three week period. It was, in a word … horrific.
While Zwarte Piet is the most overt manifestation of racism I’ve witnessed, I’ve watched enough BBC to know that folks here are dealing with their fair share of BS. In 2011, the Netherlands was the target of Rihanna’s rage when a Dutch magazine, Jackie, called her an “ultimate niggabitch.”
And last month, in a scene that was compared in reports to a Nazi Germany gathering, Geert Wilders, a right wing Dutch politician and leader of the Party for Freedom, asked a crowd of supporters at an election rally, “Do you want, in this city and in The Netherlands, more or less Moroccans?” To which the crowd roared back, “Less! Less! Less!”
The current coalition cabinet led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, leader of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (ironic, isn’t it?), is explicitly anti-Islam and has put structural barriers in place to make it difficult for immigrants to remain. New immigration laws mandate that non-citizens pass language and cultural tests within two years or else face deportation.
And that’s just the stuff that makes the news. I’ve heard tales of racial profiling, media discrimination, and the silencing of academics and activists of color. During the driving test for her license, a friend of mine was asked her opinion of Zwarte Piet by the instructor. When she told him she thought it was racist, he vehemently defended the tradition and then promptly flunked her. Riding on public transit without a ticket is called “zwartrijden” — literally, “Black riding.” A friend explains that when Black folks get on the tram, they sometimes hear people joke, “Ook al koop je sen kaartje, je rijdt sowieso zwart.” Translation: whether or not you buy a ticket, you’re still “riding Black.”
This country is far from post racial.
Honestly though? Aside from some suspicious looks every now and then, I truly haven’t experienced much overt racism firsthand. What I’ve realized is that my status as an American expat has sheltered me. My partner and I are both here under “highly skilled migrant” visas. My privileged status has kept me from being confronted by structural racism and not knowing any Dutch has protected me from microaggressions. I exist in a bubble.
My self care plan has been to construct an existence and identity outside of both the white American gaze and the Dutch one. It hasn’t been easy but it has been liberating. I’m no longer allowing my obsession with how I’m being read as a Black woman to dictate who I interact with and how I interact with them. I’ve fully embraced the expat experience and it’s been refreshing to feel like I can be MYSELF here. Myself meaning, Marly, the multi-dimensional individual, rather than Marly, the accumulation of white stereotypes + white fear + white liberal guilt x the entire Black race. I’ve made friends with Dutch, Romanians, and Italians. In my conversations with this multi-culti crew, I’ve never felt like a spectacle, I’ve never felt exoticized, undermined or underestimated.
My bubble is fragile.
A few months ago, I was at an event with some friends. Someone they knew came over and they introduced me to her. She was white and quite tall so I assumed she was Dutch. At one point, she referenced something American and when I asked her where she was from she said “Arkansas.” For a split second, the post racial(ish) safe space I had constructed for myself collapsed, I felt exposed. Not only was she a white American, but a white American from the South – like the Paula Dean South! I couldn’t help but feel like my humanity was once again, in danger. I’m hiding from American racism in European racism — it’s a tricky space to navigate.
And it’s an ongoing struggle. Every now and then I catch myself looking at someone sideways determined to anticipate how their racism will manifest. And whenever it does, I feel a perverse sense of triumph. The world is once again as it should be.
Marly Pierre-Louis is a writer and community cultivator currently biking through the rain in Amsterdam. She is interested in intersectional feminism and sexuality.
The post Self-Healing From American Racism appeared first on Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture.
By Arturo R. GarcíaAn ESPN analyst is involved in what could be one of the most interesting stories of the year — depending, in part, on whether the network decides to cover it.
Doug Glanville is among the many former pro baseball players who contributes to the network’s Major League Baseball coverage. But he’s also penned columns for The New York Times and Time, on top of writing his own biography. But it’s his work this week for The Atlantic that has garnered attention.
Instead of covering his life on the baseball field, though, his column this week discussed his experience with a more commonplace aspect of life in America: racial profiling. Outside his own home.
This past February, Glanville wrote, he was clearing snow from the driveway of his Hartford, Connecticut home — located roughly 20 minutes from ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol — when he was approached by a police officer from West Hartford:
I noted the strangeness of his being in Hartford — an entirely separate town with its own police force — so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?”
All of my homeowner confidence suddenly seemed like an illusion.
It would have been all too easy to play the “Do you know who I am?” game. My late father was an immigrant from Trinidad who enrolled at Howard University at age 31 and went on to become a psychiatrist. My mother was an important education reformer from the South. I graduated from an Ivy League school with an engineering degree, only to get selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft. I went on to play professionally for nearly 15 years, retiring into business then going on to write a book and a column for The New York Times. Today, I work at ESPN in another American dream job that lets me file my taxes under the description “baseball analyst.”
But I didn’t mention any of this to the officer. I tried to take his question at face value, explaining that the Old Tudor house behind me was my own. The more I talked, the more senseless it seemed that I was even answering the question. But I knew I wouldn’t be smiling anymore that day.
After a few minutes, he headed back to his vehicle. He offered no apology, just an empty encouragement to enjoy my shoveling. And then he was gone.
And it’s not like Glanville lives in a “rough” neighborhood, either; he states in the column that he lives near not only Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, but Gov. Dannel Malloy and one state senator. Hartford police soon confirmed that the West Hartford officer was outside his jurisdiction, something that was not mentioned in a statement released on Tuesday by the latter department.
Instead, West Hartford police said the officer was looking for a “Black male, in his 40′s, wearing a brown jacket and carrying a snow shovel,” who had allegedly broken the town’s ban on door-to-door soliciting by asking a homeowner if he could shovel snow from their driveway for a fee. That person was later located and given a verbal warning.
“While the officer’s actions in searching for the suspicious party were completely appropriate, we wish he had taken the extra time to introduce himself to Mr. Glanville and to explain the purpose of the question,” the West Hartford Police’s statement read. “We have discussed this with the officer and will work to remind all of our officers of the importance of good interpersonal skills and taking time, when practical, to explain their actions.”
Before sharing his story with ESPN or the Times, though, Glanville continued his conversation with West Hartford authorities:
In my case, the officer had not only spoken to me without respect but had crossed over into a city where West Hartford’s ordinance didn’t even apply.
But as we spoke, I found myself thinking of the people who have to deal with far more extreme versions of racial profiling on a regular basis and don’t have the ability to convene meetings at Town Hall. As an article in the April issue of The Atlantic points out, these practices have “side effects.” They may help police find illegal drugs and guns, but they also disenfranchise untold numbers of people, making them feel like suspects … all of the time.
In reaching out for understanding, I learned that there is a monumental wall separating these towns. It is built with the bricks of policy, barbed by racially charged anecdotes, and cemented by a fierce suburban protectionism that works to safeguard a certain way of life. The mayor of West Hartford assured me that he championed efforts to diversify his town, and the chief of police told me he is active in Connecticut’s statewide Racial and Ethnic Disparity Commission in the Criminal Justice System. (He also pointed me to a 2011 article he wrote for Police Chief Magazine, addressing many of the same issues I raised.) I hope their continued efforts can help traverse this class- and race-based barrier, which unfortunately grows even more impenetrable with experiences such as mine.
Glanville’s encounter points to intersections of not only sport and race, but class and profiling, and of law and stereotypes. But a quick check of ESPN’s online listings for him shows that the topic hasn’t been broached. If Glanville is up to it, here’s to hoping it spurs a more in-depth discussion on these issues on the network. Considering that the network covers athletes’ legal issues as thoroughly as it would the average ballgame — a positive, it should be said — Glanville already offers ESPN exactly the kind of person who can approach these issues with the kind of nuance they deserve. Even if, unfortunately, he can rely on his lived experience in doing so.
[Top image via Doug Glanville's official Facebook page]
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Parts of India and China have much more black carbon soot in the air than earlier studies had shown. Black carbon is the charred remains of unburnt fossil fuels, biofuel, biomass and coal plants. The pollutant hangs in the air and is a health hazard. According to a new study, the presence of black carbon is twice or thrice more in parts of these countries than what previous studies had shown.
A study to identify hot spots of human plague in Latin America has found that the disease was present in 14 of the 25 Latin American countries between 1899 and 2012. Human cases of plague still persist in 18 countries. Twelve of these 18 counties have an average altitude higher than 1,300 m above sea level. The analysis could help countries prioritise areas which are at a greater risk of getting affected with the disease again. PloS Tropical Neglected Diseases, February 64
The first global inventory of flu strains in birds has identified 116 avian flu strains in wild birds. The inventory is based on a review of over 50 published studies. The number of strains found in wild birds is twice the number of strains in domestic birds. The study shows that the diversity of bird flu strains is more in some regions of the world. Understanding global bird flu strain diversity would help in devising strategies to control the outbreak of the virus in humans which is becoming increasingly common. PLoS ONE, March 5
A global map to assess the impact of fishing on unintended victims, or by-catch, has been created. The map is based on hundreds of studies published during 1990 to 2008, and takes into consideration the kind of animals caught as bycatch, the gears they were trapped in and the areas of high incidence. The study shows that marine mammal by-catch (such as dolphin) is the highest in the eastern Pacific and the Mediterranean ocean, while sea turtles are caught mostly in the southwest Atlantic, eastern Pacific and the Mediterranean oceans.
Responsible governance, economic security for the maximum numbers and ecological sustainability are the three key challenges facing the country today. Ashish Kothari deconstructs the Congress, BJP and AAP manifestos to see what these parties promise on these fronts.
Chances of the ocean warming phenomenon getting stronger are 30 per cent, suggests forecasting company
There is a 40 per cent chance that rainfall in 2014 would be less than average and a 25 per cent chance that there would be a drought, says a forecast released by private weather forecasting company Skymet. The agency has also predicted that there is no chance of excess rainfall this year.
India will receive 94 per cent of normal rains and all four months of the rainy season (June to September) will individually also receive less rain.
Reviving stormwater drains is the only way to protect cities from water-logging during monsoons
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has recently directed the municipal bodies of Delhi and other authorities responsible for maintenance of stormwater drains to protect them from encroachment and pollution. NGT has also come down heavily on hospitals for releasing toxic pollutants into stormwater drains. The tribunal's order came in response to a petition filed before NGT by Manoj Mishra, a retired Indian Forest Service officer, and Madhu Bhaduri, a former diplomat, opposing covering of stormwater drains.
By Arturo R. García
Finally, the chickens came home to roost on Scandal‘s penultimate episode of the season.
Unfortunately, they came for the writers.
While it’s natural for this episode to serve as the introduction for multiple points of tension heading into the finale, the whole turned out more overcooked than the sum of its parts. And for this show, that’s saying something. Let’s take each of them one-by-one.
1. It’s six days before the election!: As we’ve talked about in the past, the lack of attention to any notion of a campaign (past dramatic speeches every now and then) during this stretch of the season made hearing this the biggest surprise of the episode. (So much so that the writers apparently felt the need to have everybody remind us over and over). Nobody’s asking this show to turn into a documentary, but the campaign process literally takes years. So setting this episode so close to the election felt like an albatross trying to fly its way to plausibility, not knowing the eight-episode structure for this arc clipped its wings from the outset.
2. Sally and Leo have an evil plan!: The lack of an actual campaign also undercuts Sally’s sudden attempt at an underhanded Hail Mary. Viewers barely saw her get over killing her husband, and now she’s trying to land the killing blow on Fitz’s campaign? Her candidacy barely has a reason to exist at this point. Also, it would’ve been nice to see how Leo set up his deal with the Evil High-Schooler; nobody on this show is exactly a good person, but one hates to think he’s like a political Woodeston when he’s off the clock.
3. Maya has an evil plan!: This was actually the highlight of the episode. The feint — tricking everyone into thinking she and Adnan wanted to blow Fitz up at his campaign stop — was well-constructed, the revelation that it was her who killed Senator MacGuffin felt earned, and Khandi Alexander more than delivered in her spotlight moments. Not only that, but the shot of Maya sneaking into the OliviaCave while Huck and Quinn were en flagrante crassus — some super-spies they are — was a rare moment in this episode where the show’s style outshone its attempt to pile on narrative substance.
4. Olivia and Fitz and Jake and Olivia!: At one point, Jake served as a serviceable counterpoint to Fitz. But since becoming Command, he’s devolved into the other side of the melodramatic coin. It’s not even clear anymore whether he has a real reason to want to be Olivia besides, she’s there and she was there and she won’t ditch both of them altogether. And now, instead of one lovelorn argument per week, we get two. That’s screen time that, to put it mildly, might have done more service to other characters.
5. Harrison’s trapped! Rowan is dying!: If I had to guess, I’d say both will pull through — after all, if Rowan were going to die, he would have done so at the end of this episode. But we’ll see how that all plays out.
Meanwhile, Racializens, what’s your predictions for next week?
The post Open Thread: Scandal 3.17, “Flesh and Blood” appeared first on Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture.
Mainstream political parties do not give sufficient opportunity to women so that their representation has remained poor. Voters, however, view them as equal performers, as a recent survey has shown. Prabhu Mallikarjunan presents some interesting findings on the issue.