Race and Ethnicity


Kanazawa is Grounded for a Year by LSE

Flickr: indiekidsdontdance

The London School of Economics.

In May of this year, Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics penned a controversial blog post for Psychology Today asking, “Why are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” Kanazawa was widely condemned for his views and Psychology today removed his post from their site, then fired him.

Meanwhile, students at the London School of Economics called for Kanazawa’s dismissal. According to Racialicious, which published an update to Kanazawa’s situation, the students didn’t get the outcome for which they were hoping:

The LSE has now published the findings of an internal investigation into the affair, ruling that Dr Kanazawa had “brought the school into disrepute” and barring him from publishing in non-peer-reviewed outlets for a year.

The inquiry, details of which were released to staff on 15 September, also concludes that he had “ignored the basic responsibility of a scientific communicator to qualify claims made in proportion to the certainty of the evidence”.

It found that “some of the arguments used…were flawed and not supported by evidence, that an error was made in publishing the blog post” and that Dr Kanazawa had not given “due consideration to his approach or audience”.

In addition to the 12-month ban, he will not teach any compulsory courses this academic year.

Racialicious’ Andrea Plaid characterized this reaction as a “slap on the wrist.” What do you think?

Osama bin Laden is Dead: D.C’s South Asian Muslims React

Flickr: Chris.M.G.

Locals celebrate in front of the White House, Sunday night.

Afshan Khoja, a Muslim of Pakistani descent who lives in the DC area, was in tears after President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.

“It wasn’t because I was happy about bin Laden’s death, it was because suddenly all the things that September 11th have done to me, my religion and my country, came back to me: The fear of being asked questions while traveling; the immediate requirement to defend my religion not only when people asked why Muslims hate America, but also when terrorists did anything that could remotely be associated with Muslims; the feeling that somehow, I’ll always be ‘the other’ in America.”

Mou Khan, a Bangladeshi-American, also found herself reflecting on September 11th, after learning of bin Laden’s death.

“I remember exactly where I was when I first heard that a plane had struck one of the towers of the World Trade Center. My memories are deeply personal, like when a schoolmate I didn’t know called me a terrorist…now, confronted with the news that Osama bin Laden, the man behind the tragedy, has been killed, I find myself conflicted.
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The Power of Perception, the Privilege of Passing

On Friday, Elahe published a post about how fluid racial identity is for people who identify as Hispanic or Latino. Recently, the New York Times unintentionally reminded us of such fluidity when it profiled four local pundits who’ve “made it” despite their youth and facility with new media–all of them were male, “white” and friends with each other. The well-circulated piece, which starred Ezra Klein, Brian Beutler, Dave Weigel and Matt Yglesias touched a nerve:

Rebranding myself as Matteo Iglesias to help evade mockery for all-white, all-male NYT profile of "young" pundits.

But wait, there was more, as Elahe pointed out when she quoted Yglesias in her post:

When the New York Times recently did a piece on me, Ezra Klein, Brian Beutler, and Dave Weigel exactly zero people complained about the massive over-representation of people of Latin American ancestry that reflected. People saw it as a profile of four white dudes. Which is what it was. But my dad’s family is from Cuba, Ezra’s dad’s family is from Brazil, and Brian’s mom’s family is from Chile.

DCentric reader Keith posed an interesting question, in response to that clarification:

Isn’t there a difference between being a White-skinned Latino who identifies as Latino first and foremost and having a Latino and White parent and being White-skinned? I don’t know that any of these bloggers self-identify as Latino…

My initial reaction to Keith’s query: “not really”. Every day I am reminded that how I choose to identify myself is largely irrelevant to the people I encounter, because their perception of my appearance trumps–and thus influences–my reality. I may classify myself as a second-generation, South Asian American of Malayalee Christian descent, but that is almost never what others see.
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DC9 Death Continues to Cause Pain, Confusion

Flickr: Andrew Bossi

A memorial for Ali Ahmed Mohammed, at the entrance of DC9 on October 24, 2010.

In the early hours of Oct 15, 2010, Ali Ahmed Mohammed tried to enter DC9, a local nightclub located on a block unofficially known as “Little Ethiopia“. When he was denied entry, he picked up a brick and hurled it through the club’s window.

In response, five of the club’s employees chased Mohammed and, depending on which version of events you believe, either beat him to death or roughly restrained him, triggering a cardiac arrest.

After a witness reportedly claimed to have seen DC9′s employees attack Mohammed, Cathy Lanier, D.C.’s Chief of Police, characterized the situation as “vigilante justice“. The five employees from DC9 were arrested on murder charges that were eventually dropped. Mohammed’s death was ruled a homicide.

The story seemed to polarize parts of the city, with fans of the nightclub expressing support for DC9 and its employees while the city’s prominent Ethiopian community decried the attack on one of their own. Even today, five months after Mohammed’s death, some Ethiopian Americans are hurt and confused.

News of the controversy has spread as far as Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, where Abubeker Mohammed, a 29-year old D.C. cab driver with no relation to the man who died, was visiting when he first heard about it.

Mohammed said if the situation were reversed– if the club’s employees were Ethiopian and the man who died was white– then it “would be news all over the U.S. They’d never let them out of jail. Unfortunately, the guy who died was an immigrant. Ethiopian, black, Muslim…he had everything possible going against him.”

Hemen Solomon, a woman who lives in Columbia Heights added, “It breaks my heart that there’s no justice. Who can we turn to?…You struggle to make it here, to have a better life, and all you have is a dead body to take back to where we come from.”
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Salvadoran Women in D.C. via Metro Connection

Metro Connection: Kate Sheehy

In case you missed it– last Friday’s Metro Connection had a “Visitors” theme and examined everything from D.C.’s Most-Missed Monuments to Temporiums or “pop-up shops”. One story got my attention and might be of interest to DCentric readers: “A New Life: Salvadoran Women in D.C.“.

The D.C. region has the second-largest Salvadoran population in the United States. For the past 30 years, primarily men have been coming over, and sending money to family members back home. That money has helped pay for the education of a number of young women. But these women often have difficulty finding a job in their home country, so many head north, with plans of sticking around long enough to save up and go home. But Kate Sheehy introduces us to women who have come here and stayed, in hopes of improving their lives.

Second-largest! I thought we’d have the largest population in the country. It turns out that distinction belongs to Southern California.

The City Paper’s Profile of Ali Ahmed Mohammed

Ali Ahmed Mohammed stopped existing on October 15. I use that odd phrasing because of something striking I have noticed– white people tend to say “he died”, while Black people use words like “he was killed”. Almost four months after a death which is still shrouded in mystery, the City Paper’s feature, “Something Happened at DC9. Who Did it Happen to?” doesn’t provide any additional information to those of us who wonder how Mohammed died or why.

So this is what the piece does do; it humanizes Mohammed while providing details about a man who has either been vilified or martyred, depending on whom you ask. This is what it does not do: assign blame. Maybe we’ll never know what happened, but if you are interested in one of the city’s most prominent immigrant communities, the article is worth a read:

One thing to know about Little Ethiopia: It’s not little. Decade-old census figures place the number of Ethiopians in the region at about 30,000, but community members suspect the real number is considerably higher—at least 100,000. It’s the largest Ethiopian community outside Ethiopia, says Andrew Laurence , president of the Ethiopian-American Cultural Center and the neighborhood’s unofficial historian.

Like the demographic that congregates there, Little Ethiopia has been growing. Today, Laurence says, it encompasses a “traditional border of 18th Street in Adams Morgan from Columbia Road to Florida Avenue over to 9th Street along Florida (U Street) to 9th Street and then down 9th Street to Q Street and over to 7th and Q Street.” Of course, Ethiopians aren’t the only ones who flock to the 1900 block of 9th Street NW. DC9, with its appeal to white hipsters, and Nellie’s, a gay sports bar on the corner, reflect two other populations with a growing presence in the neighborhood.

Laurence says D.C. became a hub for Ethiopian immigrants starting in the 1970s, “when Haile Selassie was overthrown.” The Marxist military regime that took over began killing off elites and intellectuals, Laurence says. Many fled to America, which had supported the deposed monarchy. The immigrant population was initially centered in Adams Morgan, near the former home of the Ethiopian embassy.

“Black people don’t like the cold.”

Flickr: DDOTDC

A Capital Bikeshare bike.

Now reading: “Biking While Black?“, Rend Smith’s take on a controversial Greater Greater Washington post, which theorized that one of the reasons why Capital Bikeshare wasn’t popular east of the Anacostia was because…”black people don’t like the cold.”

The African-American blogger who wrote the GGW piece, Veronica Davis, provided a list of seven reasons why the bike-sharing program wasn’t catching on, but most readers zeroed in on part of her final point: “Seasonal usage”.

“I was basically called racist,” Davis says…

The last reason on her list, “seasonal usage,” prompted Davis to write a sentence that eventually earned a strikethrough from GGW editors: “In general, African-Americans, which make up the large majority of the residents east of the river, are averse to colder temperatures.”

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Regarding Roots– Literally

Flickr: stevendepolo

Since I avoided the internet for the last few days of 2010, I’m catching up on all my favorite blogs. This post, “‘Good Hair’ on C.P. Time.” from PostBourgie, reminds me that though I intended to, I still haven’t seen the notable Chris Rock documentary about hair:

This seemed to be the reaction that Rock was nudging the audience toward, even as he seemed to assiduously avoid taking an explicit stance. We watch as a principal ingredient in hair relaxer eats through a metal can, before cutting to a little girl of about three or four who has already started getting her hair permed — the opening night audience in Brooklyn gasped loudly and tut-tutted at this — before seeing how the hair used to make expensive weaves sold stateside is literally shorn from the heads of poor people in South Asia as part of a religious ritual…

That last bit about South Asian temple hair is something I end up discussing almost weekly with someone. The offering occurs at Tirumala Venkateswara Temple, in southern India.
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More on Brown-on-Black Racism

Flickr: Chaymation

My “DMV Masala“-post– which was about my interaction with an African-American cab driver who was interested in my ethnicity because her own niece was half-Indian– inspired four of you to comment! That’s no small feat here at DCentric, where I’m more likely to hear crickets than reader reactions– I kid, I kid. I hear silence, not bugs. Anyway, one comment from American RogueDC deserved to be highlighted:

I remember very well having my heart broken by a co-worker (an Indian woman) whom I thought was a friend. We had worked together for more than ten years. One day, while viewing some photographs she was sharing of her female relatives taken during her baby-shower (I in fact had just given her my gift for the baby), I said, “You should introduce me to some of your nieces.” Her reply was simple, “You are too dark!” Until that moment, my being an African-American man who is only slightly darker in skin tone than her had never “seemed” to be a problem.

How painful, to be so crudely and immediately rejected by a long-time friend. The first thing I wondered was whether the woman was first- or second-generation.

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